Well, the joint Pay Per View known as “Forbidden Door” put on by All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is just around the corner and the majority of wrestling fans could give a damn about this show. For one, demand for AEW has been declining with empty arenas for shows and Dynamite’s viewership struggling to get close to 900,000 viewers. Yeah, I know, TNT just gave them an extra $50 million for their AEW Collision show but it was conditional on CM Punk being on that show and that money is spread across the rest of AEW’s deal (next 3 years). Desperate Cable/Satellite channels are handing out money for live sports content, but $50 million spread over 3 years or so is much cheaper than paying a network for re-runs or other sports leagues by a margin.
The other issue is that North American wrestling fans don’t like or don’t want New Japan Pro Wrestling. Just look at the facts:
(1) NJPW’s viewership numbers are non-existent on the AXS channel. Usually, the ratings list represent viewership of 200,000 or more, sometimes 150,000 viewers at most. NJPW’s show isn’t showing up at all on those lists, so it’s at least below 150,000 here in AXS.
(2) New Japan World, their streaming service, still has low demand here in North America. Sometimes it pops, such as when Jericho fought Omega, but it’s not gaining any traction.
(3) NJPW struggles to draw for their events, even in populous areas like California. Always plenty of tickets still available at bell time.
Now, if you read what the Observer Boys publish on a weekly basis, that propaganda would tell you that NJPW is the #1 promotion in the world. Yet, all of the facts repeatedly point to Japanese wrestling struggling to catch on here in North America no matter what our Uncle Dave keeps telling us. Thanks to Tony Khan seeking Uncle Dave’s advice, he has been drinking the Koolaid and trying to feature New Japan wrestlers on his AEW shows. Yet, it never draws.
And sure, someone will point to AEW/NJPW’s Forbidden Door being “close to a sellout” in Toronto, ON, but there are a few tickets available and the resale market is flooded with available tickets. Bunch of scalping agencies, once again, foolishly bought into the hype and are stuck with tickets that they probably can’t move for the next week and a half. There are sooooo many tickets on the secondary market and it’s going to cause someone to lose their arse on making a foolish investment. The other AEW shows in Canada are struggling to sell.
But let’s keep focused on New Japan… For years, we’ve heard the hype from the Observer Boys and all of their matches get 5 or more stars. Meanwhile, their awards are flooded with New Japan wrestlers and matches. Anytime AEW involves New Japan wrestlers, they are praised… Yet, it’s not translating into excitement by wrestling fans. Numbers don’t lie.
That is bizarre because for anything else Japan-wise, Americans LOVE IT. Since World War 2, we went from enemies to wanting anything that Japanese creative minds can create. Such as:
(3) Anime – Lots of brands and variety
(4) Nintendo – Multiple franchises and systems.
(5) Sony – Multiple franchises and systems.
(6) Many other gaming companies.
(8) Dragonball Z (or “dragonballs” as an old friend used to put it)
(9) Manga (graphic novels or comic books)
And I could go on and on and on…
Yet, we as Americans, we LOVE Pro Wrestling and are inhaling other forms of Japanese Pop Culture… Wouldn’t New Japan, All Japan, and other promotions be sought after by American fans?
It would seem like it…
But we don’t.
Because it’s not that good of a wrestling product.
Look, I’ve seen enough of their shows and matches in my day to suggest that the in-ring stuff is top notch. However, Pro Wrestling to American fans needs MORE than just matches. North American fans like seeing “larger than life” characters who can connect with the crowds with their charisma and/or promo cutting ability. If pure in-ring ability was sought after by North American fans, then Chris Benoit would have been a more successful WWE Champion during 2004. But he wasn’t… And neither were other wrestlers who were more about workrate rather than charisma, connecting with fans, or promo cutting skills.
Fact is that New Japan Pro Wrestling is just dull and boring to the majority of North American fans, including the majority of AEW fans. Whenever big NJPW wrestlers appear on Dynamite, it just doesn’t matter.
Furthermore, if you look at 2022’s Pay Per View buyrates for AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door, the buys were less than the Pay Per View before (Double or Nothing) and after (All Out). Again, NJPW just isn’t appealing to all wrestling fans.
If you go back to the past, look at Japanese wrestlers who have made it… Great Muta and Tajiri are ones who were successful for a short period of time. Why? Because both wrestled a unique style, had a unique look, and were mysterious. If you watched NWA/WCW during 1989, your mind was blown at what Great Muta was trying back then. Tajiri was fun and bought into the “sports entertainment” side of things in WWE after a somewhat violent version of himself in ECW. Fast forward to Asuka right now. Why does she get over? Because she’s fun, unique, and mysterious… All 3 of these wrestlers overcame the language barrier, too.
But others haven’t and everywhere has repeatedly tried, whether it was WCW, Ring of Honor, and now AEW. NJPW’s top stars aren’t bringing out wrestling fans like others think they would.
Wouldn’t you think that if NJPW wrestlers truly drew interest in the United States that Vince McMahon would scoop their talent up to perform in WWE? He definitely would, as seen by him repeatedly drawing to pull talent from Mexico. But he doesn’t because NJPW isn’t as big as the Observer Boys advertise.
I always GROAN when January rolls around, as Observer wannabes come out of the woodwork and declare that Wrestle Kingdom was the “greatest show ever”. Nope, not even close. Quit trying to sound “smart” and “nuanced” as a hipster wrestling fan. They can put on great shows, but they aren’t setting the world on fire. Sasha Banks is now appearing in their shows and nobody cares.
Again, the FACTS remain that Americans LOVE Japanese pop culture stuff but are NOT gobbling up New Japan Pro Wrestling. Something must be off here… Yep, what’s off is that NJPW isn’t appealing to American fans as it seems. The vocal Observer voting fans are a loud minority while the majority of wrestling fans are repeatedly saying “who?” anytime someone debuts on AEW programming.
As a major consumer of Godzilla movies, Nintendo products, other video games, and even dabble in some Pokemon… If I saw any kind of quality in NJPW shows that match my tastes & preferences as to what makes a great wrestling promotion, I’d snort this stuff right up. But it’s not that exciting… It’s all workrate and nothing else that makes pro wrestling successful.
Numbers don’t lie, folks. NJPW just isn’t pulling the numbers in North America, no matter what NJPW fanboys insist. The interest just isn’t there in North America as seen by viewership, subscription, and paid attendance numbers. Yet, Uncle Dave and AEW will keep forcing unknown NJPW wrestlers down our throats as if it’s a big deal. I’m betting on a lower buyrate for Forbidden Door than the previous AEW Pay Per View and even last year’s show. There is just nothing appealing about this AEW and NJPW relationship.
And just chill… ‘Til the next episode!