In 2015 New Japan Pro Wrestling gained major popularity outside of Japan through being on US pay-per view. New Japan tapped into a market they have struggled to tap into for 25 years. The relationship with ROH certainly helps NJPW in the USA, as well as other countries like Canada, Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and so forth. But with more eyes on the product it means the product is subject to a lot more criticism from wrestling fans across the globe. In 2015 I became 100% invested into the New Japan product and was a New Japan superfan. In prior years I sort of knew what was going on but never watched the program much like how I am with TNA. For the first 6 months of being a New Japan fan I loved everything that New Japan offered except the booking, but that has always been weird though. After the 6 month point I started fully understanding what New Japan was all about and began to develop some minor dislikes about the company. Those minor dislikes of 8 months ago have turned into pretty big dislikes in the present day. I still LOVE New Japan and they are probably my favorite company for in-ring quality on their big events. NJPW is my #3 favorite company in the world and I will always be a fan but there are many things in and around New Japan that aren’t good for business and personal enjoyment. I am going to go over the biggest blemishes within the company and say what they should be doing instead.
Can we please get rid of some of the old blokes that can’t move anymore? Please! I understand that if you go through the New Japan dojo you have a job for life, but in the case of Manabu Nakanishi and Hiroyoshi Tenzan their jobs within New Japan Pro Wrestling shouldn’t be in-ring performers. I respect the hell out of Nakanishi and Tenzan. They have been going hard at this sport for almost 25 years. Tenzan more than Nakanishi but they look in so much pain when they wrestle and it looks like they are having no fun at all. I’m not against older guys in NJPW at all as I will get into a latter paragraph. Jushin “Thunder” Liger is 51 and is still amazing, guys like Nagata, Kojima, Tiger Mask and even Minoru Suzuki are older men but still can go. When you have guys like Tenzan and Nakanishi going out in the ring to ‘wrestle’, it’s hard to consider New Japan a flawless promotion. Tenzan wrestled 107 matches in 2015, working nearly every tour! If you want to keep Tenzan and Nakanishi in the ring that’s fine, but don’t put them on every goddamn tour. I even like seeing Nakanishi and Tenzan every so often but I don’t want to see them on every show. Make them special attractions and hide them in tags a few times a month on the larger shows. The speculation is that Nakanishi, Nagata, Tenzan and Kojima may be headed to All Japan Pro Wrestling in 2016 to help Akiyama out. I love All Japan and If Nakanishi and Tenzan come in; it may draw a few more fans, but it will hurt the in-ring product. For numerous reason I don’t believe Nakanishi and Tenzan should be wrestling very many dates in 2016. I know it won’t happen though.
Currently you’re probably thinking I hate old wrestlers (which is so far from the truth), but I think doing what I am about to propose would boost attendance at the larger shows.
Bringing in New Japan legends from the past is almost guaranteed to draw fans. Like I said, it should be on rare occasions and only at big events. I am not proposing wheel-chairing guys from the 70s out to work a 10-man tag with Captain New Japan. I am proposing getting legitimate legends in for matches. A ton of veterans still make independent dates in Japan so why can’t NJPW do it? It would appeal to the generation of fans that aren’t as invested into the product as they once were because of NJPW becoming more of a ‘sports entertainment’ wrestling promotion which is for the better. A guy like Tatsumi Fujinami would work great. He still looks incredible and is a very good mat technician. Riki Choshu is another good one, he looks very old but can still throw a mean lariat. The most obvious choice to bring in would be Wrestle-1 owner Keji Muto. He got a tremendous reaction on the final night of the G125 when he was a guest commentator. He is 53 and essentially has no knees, but he can still go, and he does bust out a moonsault on rare occasions. The same should be said with Nakanishi and Tenzan. Give them a job in the office and let them work the pay-per view every month. Takaaki Kidani, who is basically is the owner of New Japan Pro Wrestling, stated in January that NJPW plans to use more of the legends because it’s the 45th Anniversary of NJPW. Who knows. Inoki may come out of retirement? Joking. That will NEVER happen.
The young lions debate is always a big talking point surrounding New Japan fans. Personally, I think they shouldn’t be made out to look like jobbers for numerous reasons. Firstly, it’s because young lions matches are always so predictable (NJPW in its entirety is pretty predictable). You are guaranteed that every match a young lion is in he will lose. Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu were the best house show wrestlers and most consistent performers in New Japan but they always lose. Way back when, there used to be a Young Lions Cup featuring all the young boys. Now they are slotted in the opening match position on any given show. It is very rare that a match featuring a young lion goes longer than 10 minutes, and when two young lions face off against one another you can guarantee it will go less than 10 minutes and more than likely be a 10-minute time limit draw. I do like what they are doing with the “Lions Gate” project and I hope that leads to more focus centered around the young lions.
New Japan in recent years has really not done much cross-promotion with companies in Japan. They send one guy a year to work DDT’s Sumo Hall show but that’s it. A business relationship with Dramatic Dream Team would help both parties tremendously. DDT is one of the fastest growing promotions with some of the best talent on the earth. A feud between NJPW and DDT would be fantastic and would breathe fresh air into NJPW. Many people label DDT as a comedic promotion which is true, but they do put on very serious matchups all the time. One of their top guys is Yukio Sakaguchi, who is a former mixed martial artist. It would be like a modern day ECW vs. WWF feud, where all the hardcore fans would cheer for the underdog and pray for them to be triumphant. It’s a great dynamic as well because the DDT fanbase dislikes the NJPW wrestlers with passion. Watch the Ken Ohka & HARASHIMA vs. Yohei Komatsu & Hiroshi Tanahashi match from November, and you will know exactly what I mean. Everyone has wanted HARASHIMA in New Japan for a long time and this would be a nice introduction into the company for him. He could possibly get a deal like Kota Ibushi. You’re crazy if you don’t want guys like Sakaguchi, HARASHIMA, Shigehiro Irie, Kudo and even Antonio Honda in New Japan. I want Toru Yano vs. Antonio Honda please.
I watch just about every NJPW show that drops, and everyone would agree that there is a lot of sameness within the product. So, a solution to this would be to use more Japanese independent guys. The indies in Japan are on fire at the moment. I actually anticipate shows like BJW and BASARA making tape more than I do with NJPW. The talent is unbelievable and the best thing is that most of the companies work with one another so that they can all succeed. Instead of giving us the same goddamn six man tags on every tour why don’t you book guys like Daisuke Sekimoto, Ikuto Hidaka, Kotaro Nasu, Isami Kodada, Masato Tanaka, etc, who are all excellent and would make boring six man tags a lot more interesting. In summary, New Japan should beef up the house shows more which leads into my next paragraph.
New Japan Pro Wrestling house shows are so painful to watch. 60% of the roster phones it in and does close to nothing during their respective matches. WWE performers give as much if not more effort on the house shows than they do for TV. I don’t want to compare the two, but If I could choose going to a WWE or NJPW house show I would choose WWE because theirs would be a much better atmosphere. I know all the guys would give 100% effort. You would be more likely to find a needle in a haystack than to find a singles match on a NJPW house show. I seriously have no clue why they cannot put singles matches on house shows. Sure I don’t want to see Okada vs. Shibata at a house show but there is no problem putting Jay White up against Jushin Liger or Tiger Mask vs. KUSHIDA. That hurts no one. Plus it would sell more tickets. Best of all…it would generate more buzz around the product.
I AM SICK OF SEEING BAD LUCK FALE, TAMA TONGA & YUJIRO TAKAHASHI vs. TORU YANO, KAZUSHI SAKURABA & YOSHI-HASHI.
If I ever have to watch another stupid six man I may have to reevaluate my life decisions. Instead of a stupid six man like that why can’t we just get Tama Tonga vs. YOSHI-HASHI? That’s a match that won’t be main eventing the dome anytime soon so what’s the problem in putting that on a house show? Putting, say, four singles match on every card makes sense for a ton of reasons. For one it would let the older guys rest up. For two it would make me more excited to watch and thus spend more money thus making NJPW more profitable. Finally it would make the Japanese folk that attend these shows very happy. We at least get a choice of watching and not watching. They have to watch the same multi-man tag matches every month.
This isn’t really a gripe but more of a reality. New Japan NEEDS to make new stars. The star power on these New Japan shows have dwindled down a fair bit recently and NJPW panicked and made Kenny Omega one of the top guys (which should of happened 2 years ago). Guys like YOSHI-HASHI, Tama Tonga, Jay White, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima and even Liger have been on the undercard for a very long time now and they are all so talented. NJPW needs to start to push them or re-push them once again in the case of Nagata, Kojima, and Liger. I am not saying Tonga should be IWGP Champion, but beating him nearly every show isn’t good, and he has everything you want in a top star. It’s sad, but I don’t think that will happen. The NJPW main event scene in 2016 looks to consist of Okada, Tanahashi, Ibushi (hopefully), Goto and Makabe. It shows that other than Okada, NJPW hasn’t made any stars in a long ass time.
In closing I want to say that I love New Japan Pro Wrestling. It may sound like I came off very negative towards the product, but I could write a 10,000 word article on how much I love New Japan. A lot of NJPW faithful may dislike this but that’s fine. I wanted to put it out there that there are some areas in which NJPW aren’t perfect. There are a ton of casual NJPW fans that will only watch every so often and love Okada, Tanahashi, and Nakamura — and won’t understand most of what I just said. I watch nearly every NJPW show that makes tape so that’s why I am so critical towards the product just like I am with WWE or BJW. Thank you for reading.