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NJPW’s American expansion has one serious weak point: streaming

NJPW is supposed to be one of the biggest players, but its online offering to the west is far behind everyone else.


This summer, for the first time since I’ve watched New Japan Pro Wrestling, I’ve done a pretty good job of staying up to date with its relentless G1 Climax tournament. Sadly, my success has nothing to do with finally having a device that supports the company’s only streaming service app.

The glaring flaws in New Japan’s online streaming presence have long irked me, but the confluence of events in this summer mean enough is enough and it’s time for the promotion to get off its ass about streaming in the states.

Amazon Fire alone is not enough

While many could say it’s expensive to build an app for streaming media, that excuse has long since died. Just look at the folks behind IWTV aka, which just debuted its iOS and Android apps this weekend, following its Roku (the industry leader in streaming platforms in terms of number of units) and Apple tvOS apps.

That’s a conglomeration of small, modest promotions across the country, and they’ve managed to put out four full apps, while NJPW — arguably the second largest promotion in the world — has one standalone app. Yes, there are also New Japan mobile apps, but they’re only made for enabling you to cast its feed to a Chromecast.

Oh and that Amazon app sucks

After spending a month with the NJPW app (on the Fire TV Cube) I’ve come to the realization that it may be one of the worst streaming apps of all time.

Not only did the NJPW World app forget my login credentials once, but rewinding and fast forwarding — things that are quite essential when you need you save time and cut straight to the A and B Block matches — is nearly impossible to do with any precision, and the progress bar often shows an incorrect place/timestamp, more than an hour ahead of where I actually am.

Oh and that on-screen progress bar interface often needs to be manually dismissed, as it just sticks around even when you’re not using it.

Especially with WWE having caught up

NJPW World and the WWE Network both debuted in 2014, but while the latter did have a 10-months-long head start, both spent forever not doing anything to improve.

Then, this past weekend, coinciding with the monumental live event SMACKVILLE, WWE finally updated its Network. Not only does its app now fit modern smartphone screens correctly, but rewinding and fast-forwarding work smoothly now in its over-the-top box apps. At 999 Yen (~9.18 USD), New Japan World isn’t priced low enough where we can overlook the lack of maintenance.

And that’s if you can even sign up

You know that chip on the shoulder of many New Japan-loving smarks? I kinda understand it, every time I remember how user-unfriendly the NJPW World signup process is. Even as New Japan pushes inwards to American markets with its big live shows across the country in 2019, you still rely on Google Translation tools to turn the Japanese language website into something us gaijin can maybe-kinda-sorta understand.

With this amount of user hostility NJPW is very lucky it was already catering to a group of fans looking for ways to demonstrate their level of devotion. Speaking of, AXS TV is up there in those packages of channels that you wouldn’t pay for, right next to whatever fly-by-night network that Impact got bumped to during the time it took to edit this story.

But it survives because of quality of content

So I have to end this with a positive: New Japan is severely lucky that its G1 tournament has been one of the best in years, with performers like Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Tetsuya Naito and Jon Moxley putting on the kinds of matches that I can’t miss. You can even see this quality level on its YouTube channel, where post-fight promos from Mox and Zack Sabre Jr. have been highlights of my day.

Seriously New Japan, if you’re skimping on streaming to dedicate more money to paying the talent, I kinda get that. Without the roster signed now, it would be hard to get anyone to put up with your lack of a streaming solution. But think about it: if you made it easier for more people to watch your content, you might be able to grow your audience. Which means more subscriptions, money and a stronger future. Doesn’t that sound good?

Yes, New Japan has no trouble selling out venues now, when it’s first visiting Boston, New York, Dallas and other major cities. But what about in 2020, when it’s doing its second visits through?

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