New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom, will air on American television on Jan 6th, 2018 at 8pm EST.
This is a mere 48 hours from the actual live event. Some say this is a move that will likely cannibalize their pay-per-view business as well as their streaming site, New Japan World. However, I believe this is a brilliant stratagem that will likely garner incredibly positive results.
New Japan made great strides to gain a more international audience. To spread their influence outside of Japan, they’ve pushed the Bullet Club faction, some of the most infamous American bad boys in wrestling today, to the moon. They’ve forged a strong working relationship with Ring of Honor, one of the higher profile U.S. promotions. Rumors are swirling about NJPW being willing to do business with Impact Wrestling. This is astounding as New Japan still seemed to harbor ill feelings towards the promotion. TNA completely mishandled their mega star, Kazuchika Okada, years ago. Okada is currently the IWGP Heavyweight Champion and is known as the best wrestler in the world today.
Even though they already ran the risk of having too many championships, New Japan created a United States championship. Holding a tournament here in the United States was a given. But putting the title on Kenny Omega, who is the most popular North American wrestler there (and the OTHER best wrestler in the world today) was a stroke of genius.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is not in any financial dire straits, so people can lower their pitchforks and torches. Pay-per-view cannibalization was something to worry about five to ten years ago. The market and the media in which people consume that market have changed. Outside of Japan, there are only about ten to fifteen thousand subscribers to New Japan World. Even an event the caliber of Wrestle Kingdom likely wouldn’t have caused a huge uptick in subscribers.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is doing what most televised wrestling promotions are unwilling to do. That is, be patient and play the long game. But that won’t be a problem, as Gedo, the head booker and matchmaker for NJPW, is the master of slow burn, logical booking. Even though Axs TV is only in about 30% of American homes, this event still has the potential to have more eyes on it than even WrestleMania, on the WWE Network. Let’s hope New Japan Pro Wrestling makes the most of it. Wrestle Kingdom 12 will be live at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan on Jan 4th, 2018.
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