Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling made waves yesterday when it was announced they’d booked Madison Square Garden in New York City – one of the most famous arenas in the world and a wrestling landmark – for Saturday April 6, 2018, for an event called NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard.
— MSG (@TheGarden) July 12, 2018
The most interesting thing about the announcement is that it means that G1 Supercard will be running head to head with NXT Takeover: Brooklyn V at the Barclays Center that same night, making it not only the first real head to head battle between WWE and a NJPW event, and on WWE’s turf. NJPW has kept their US expansion to the California area for the most part (aside from other ROH co-branded events) and have just loaned several talents as needed to ROH’s Supercard of Honor, usually held over WrestleMania weekend. But this time, they’re not only running in WWE’s “home” of New York City, but inside an arena considered WWE’s spiritual birthplace, Madison Square Garden. It will mark the first time a non-WWE wrestling event has happen in The Garden since the 1960s (although WCW ran a few house shows at the Paramount Theater inside The Garden in the early 1990s). The Garden holds approximately 18,500 for wrestling events, but with the NJPW set up, it could be closer to 16,000. Considering that NJPW sold close to 10,000 tickets for the G1 Special in San Francisco, 16,000 seats isn’t out of the question, especially considering a) it’s a much larger market in New York City and b) it’s WrestleMania weekend.
NJPW hasn’t been to Madison Square Garden since 1984, when NJPW had a working partnership with the WWF, stemming from NJPW founder Antonio Inoki‘s business arrangements with Vince McMahon Sr. in the late 1970s. The WWF routinely traveled to Japan and worked with NJPW – Bob Backlund famously lost his WWF Championship to Antonio Inoki, although Inoki refused the title after Tiger Jeet Singh interfered in the contest. The WWF created the WWF Martial Arts Championship as a consolation for Inoki, who defended it several times in New York at MSG from 1979 through 1984, before the title was abandoned once Vince McMahon Jr. fully assumed control of the company. From 1981 to 1985, the WWF and NJPW routinely held the WWF/NJPW Champion Series, before McMahon put an end to those as well. They would team up once again in 1990, for the All Japan, NJPW and WWF Wrestling Summit in Tokyo, that featured Hulk Hogan vs. Stan Hansen in the main event, plus WWF World Champion Ultimate Warrior defending against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Tiger Mask, and Genichiro Tenryu vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, among others. Oddly enough, WWE just posted video from Wrestling Summit on their website on Wednesday.
The news that NJPW and ROH had secured The Garden caught many off guard, primarily because it appeared that WWE had blocked Ring of Honor earlier last month after Sinclair executive Chris Ripley slipped up and revealed that ROH was trying to book MSG for this fall. When asked by PWInsider Mike Johnson of the WWE block, CEO Joe Koff replied, “You know, I’m going to tell you Mike because you are asking. I’m not going to discuss beyond this statement because I am not going to litigate this in the press.” Koff went on to state that ROH “had a deal with (the) Garden and they then told us they were backing out after communications from the WWE. We are not able to get any other dates in any kind of discussion. I’m expecting that our lawyers will be contacting all the parties involved and the best we can hope for is that we can find resolution, and we can bring the kind of energy and excitement that ROH and our partner New Japan brings to a bigger audience and to bigger arenas to the fans of New York City.” It would appear that whatever legal hangups there were, they’ve been resolved, as the April 6 event was confirmed by MSG themselves on Friday.