It is THAT time of year again, folks... You know, the 1 week where many within the Internet Wrestling Community try to ACT like they are die hard New Japan Pro Wrestling(NJPW) fans. You know, trying to put on their hipster jeans and try to sound "impressive" as a wrestling fan like Dave Meltzer. It always happens this time of year with the 2 day Wrestle Kingdom event which is NJPW's equivalent of their Wrestlemania like event.
Now, don't get me wrong with this column... If you are a legitimate longtime fan of New Japan, then I am NOT calling you out. This column isn't for you, as you're a real fan.
What I'm calling out are wanna-be fans who, for just once a year, try to impress people with their wrestling takes by suddenly appearing to like New Japan. Who are you trying to impress here? The biggest NJPW fan, Dave Meltzer? What impresses him is when you subscribe to his newsletter services.
Then, when Wrestle Kingdom happens and Dave Meltzer unleashes his "star system" that constantly awards New Japan with 5-star matches consistently and even gives 6-7 starts above that in a freakin' 5 maximum star system... Many internet marks hop onto the Wrestle Kingdom bandwagon and declare it as the BEST WRESTLING EVENT EVER that had the BEST MATCHES EVER. And then all of a sudden, there are calls on the WWE to "try and top that" as if they give a damn what NJPW does for their tiny audience. WWE will just annually host the Royal Rumble event which easily outdraws NJPW's top event. WWE will do that easily...
Let's again question that great Observer Star System again... The same guy who DID NOT give out a single 5-star match for the WWE from Badd Blood 1997 through Money in the Bank 2011 was suddenly the one giving out 6-7 star matches to New Japan over the last 5 years, most of which involved Kenny Omega. Mind you, NONE of Kenny Omega's singles matches since he left New Japan have scored 5 stars, let alone going above that. Without New Japan's in-ring technicians to sell for him, he suddenly doesn't look as good...
Point being is that despite the hype from ONE GUY's match rating system, New Japan isn't drawing in the United States. Never has, never will... They have tried to gain United States fans for years and Dave has been begging fans to try it for years via his positive Observer Newsletter reviews. It just doesn't grow... World Championship Wrestling (WCW) even had cross promotional relationships with New Japan and it still didn't matter. Promotion does well in Japan, not denying that, but it's interest doesn't stick in the United States. Never has and probably won't because of the language barrier, the style of wrestling, and presentation.
Let's run through some basic facts again:
(a) AXS show drew poorly. Not even a blip on the Cable 50 or 150 ratings listings for the day that it was on. Based upon Impact Wrestling briefly appearing on the list, all you need is something slightly above 200,000 to make the list. If the show was so great, then why does AXS no longer carry it?
(b) G1 Special at the Cow Palace failed to draw 10,000 fans. It was New Japan's only big show in the United States during 2018 and the show actually featured Kenny "6-7 Star" Omega in the main event along with many other members of the 5+ Star club on the card. The show actually emphasized American wrestlers, such as having Cody Rhodes in the main event with Omega, Young Bucks, and Bullet Club... Nope. Lots of empty seats which you can easily see from pictures.
(c) Brief interest on New Japan Worlds by Chris Jericho's 2018 Wrestle Kingdom match with Kenny Omega by about 25,000 and then the numbers went back down. Fact is that nobody wanted to retain NJPW's version of the WWE Network beyond seeing Chris Jericho's New Japan debut.
Oh, did I mention how the #1 news reporter in the United States, Dave Meltzer, has been heavily singing New Japan's praises for 30 years now? He's their propaganda arm here in the States and any business they do here, they owe a big thanks to him.
But wrestling fans, time after time, REJECT the New Japan product... Well, besides the Internet Wrestling Community hipster fans ACTING like they like it just once a year... And then in about a week, the Wrestle Kingdom hype train leaves the station and they jump back onto the WWE one for the Royal Rumble. It's a repetitive cycle each year.
HERE'S MY BIG POINT on New Japan Pro Wrestling.
If New Japan was sooooooooooo good as Dave Meltzer constantly preaches and the once-a-year Lemmings of his message also preach, then why isn't that promotion's popularity growing in the United States?
If case you haven't noticed for the last 40 years, Americans LOVE Japanese Pop Culture stuff. We LOVE IT. Everything from Nintendo products, Sony products, Pokemon, Godzilla, Dragonball Z, Anime shows, and toys... We cannot get enough of it! We are snorting lines of this stuff...
For me personally, I'm a diehard Nintendo fan and have been handing them my money for years. From the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, even the Wii U, and now the Nintendo Switch. Oh, the handhelds too... Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, and 3DS... Just keep feeding me Mario and Zelda games of decent quality and my money is yours. Right now, the Nintendo Switch has sold 68 Million units with many of their games selling in the double-digit millions too.
If you don't like Nintendo, that is OK... You're loving that Sony Playstation, baby! The Playstation 4 sold over 100 million systems and now, people are tripping over themselves to find the Playstation 5. THEY LOVE IT!
And then you have Pokemon. Now, I didn't play this much when I was younger because the Gameboy games released when I was in high school. Later, several younger co-workers from gamenights were talking up Pokemon and I gave it a try on the 3DS with Pokemon Y. Since then, I appreciate the franchise and understand its popularity and addiction. For the last 20 years, no other franchise has outsold Pokemon. Period. And then you have the Mobile Pokemon Go game which is one of the most downloaded mobile apps of all time.
Freakin' Godzilla... Think about this for a second... We went to war with Japan during World War 2 and dropped 2 Atomic Bombs on them. And then 10 years later, Godzilla films are made and with time, Americans begin to really love them even with the horrible over-dubbing of the language. Some of those Godzilla movies were absolutely terrible, specifically involving his "son" who can somehow speak. Come on, man... But Americans ate it up.
I don't understand Dragonball Z (or as an old friend used to call it, "Dragonballs")... Never will. But many do, as many video games, videos, toys, and merchandise easily sell for this Japanese franchise.
And this is on top of the huge Anime craze that Americans have for Japanese cartoons. Again, I don't get it... But it proves my point that Japanese Pop Culture Stuff EASILY sells in the United States.
So again... Why isn't New Japan Pro Wrestling drawing here in the United States?
Wrestling fans are DYING for the WWE to put on great matches and are also critical of AEW's match quality as well. Yet, based on Meltzer's ratings, New Japan consistently delivers multiple 5-star (or more) matches to you each and every year. Why aren't you importing that into your life as you do Anime shows or how much you invest into Nintendo, Pokemon, or your Playstation?
There must be something wrong with how New Japan is presented, how easily their shows are accessed, or just the mass appeal of their product.
For me with New Japan, I take the approach of "in chess, the pawns go first". When a big event like Wrestle Kingdom happens, you just wait a second to see if any matches are causing a big reaction. After that, you swoop on in and catch those specific great matches. I remember the buzz following Okada vs. Omega and it caused me to check out that match. I cannot deny that it was a great match... Both Okada and Omega worked with high energy and not many breaks in the action for 45 minutes. It was an impressive athletic contest...
But was it the "BEST MATCH OF ALL TIME". Hell no. I can name multiple matches from Badd Blood 1997 through Money in the Bank 2011 from the WWE that were better. You know, the infamous dry period of the Observer newsletter where no WWE match scored 5 stars as a rating. That would exclude the following matches that were more exciting than Omega vs. Okada, in my opinion:
- Rock vs. Austin - Wrestlemania 15
- Hardys vs. Edge/Christian - Ladder Match - No Mercy 1999
- Triple H vs. Mick Foley - Royal Rumble 2000
- Hardys vs. Dudleys vs. Edge/Christian - Ladder Match - Wrestlemania 16
- Steve Austin/Triple H vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho - RAW 2001
- Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit - Smackdown 2001
- Any of the 2001 Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle matches
- Rock vs. Hulk Hogan - Wrestlemania 18, just the spectacle of it
- Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - SummerSlam 2002
- Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle - Royal Rumble 2003
- Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - Wrestlemania 20
- Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle - Wrestlemania 21
- Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker - Wrestlemania 25
And there are probably a few from 1997-2011 that I'm forgetting...
But calling matches "BEST OF ALL TIME" goes beyond that timeframe.
-Better than Flair vs. Steamboat Trilogy? Nope.
-Better than Flair vs. Funk - I Quit Match? Nope.
-Better than Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin - Wrestlemania 13? No way.
However, even if you are critical of Dave's star system, the fact still remains that Wrestling Fans are dissatisfied with WWE and even AEW to a degree... For years upon years, we've tried to like TNA/Impact and Ring of Honor but we're rejecting it. We've tried to like NWA but after a few YouTube shows, we realized that the studio was a gimmick and maybe some of us liked hearing Jim Cornette on commentary again.
With that HIGH LEVEL of dissatisfaction with the American Pro Wrestling products of the last 20 years, which has serious seen THOUSANDS of fans not attending wrestling events PER SHOW and MILLIONS of viewers lost (from 6-8 million to now below 2 million)... The DEMAND is there to embrace a new wrestling product.
Yet, New Japan isn't the wrestling promotion sought after to fill that demand.
Again, you cannot blame the fact that it is Japanese... I have already proven to you that Americans are sending money, hand over fist, to Japan for Nintendo, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Playstation, Anime, toys, and other Pop Culture like products and services. Pro wrestling fits right into that mold of wrestling fans spending top dollar for something they like and grew up with... So why not New Japan.
Because New Japan is not as entertaining as Nintendo products, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Playstation systems, Anime shows, or other Japanese products.
Period. End of story.
So get off the damn hype train, Internet Wrestling Community... You are NOT impressing anybody with your "sudden" New Japan fandom. We don't care because the majority of wrestling fans aren't that impressed with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Never have been, never will be UNLESS the product creates an appeal that hooks fans like Nintendo does with Mario & Zelda games, Pokemon with its characters and fighting style, Playstation with its superior game system, and everything else in Japan that sells bigtime in the United States.
Numbers don't lie... AXS show's failure, New Japan World not growing here, live shows not drawing despite having "Match of the Year" candidate members on it...
It's OK to like what you like... If you enjoy New Japan legitimately, please continue your tastes & preferences. Just don't rub our noses in it as if the WWE is a total failure of a pro wrestling company. WWE has its problems and I report heavily on them... But I'll gladly take the Royal Rumble over Wrestle Kingdom any day of the week and most Internet Wrestling Community fans would too.
Numbers don't lie and the United States loves Japanese Pop Culture... If New Japan was so great and appealing to all wrestling fans, it would easily dominate the wrestling scene in the United States.
It hasn't... So stop being so damn preachy about how New Japan is better than the WWE or other American promotions. If it was, it would dominate like Pokemon. Period.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.