In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, New Japan Pro Wrestling President Harold Meij touched on a number of interesting topics. It’s definitely worth a read for NJPW fans, and folks interested in how one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world is adapting their global expansion plans amid a global public health crisis (note: SI’s article was posted before other promotions in Japan resumed running shows with live audiences).
There were two things that jumped out to me, a fan in America who pays the most attention to wrestling promotions that are on television here every week and that run arena shows in big cities (during normal times).
One was his answers regarding New Japan’s announced return to Madison Square Garden. Wrestle Dynasty is booked for Sat., Aug. 22. Meij sounds confident that the U.S. will have flattened the curve of coronavirus transmission by then, allowing the show to go on. He also says he’s not concerned about their return to MSG happening during WWE’s SummerSlam weekend, and going head-to-head with NXT TakeOver: Boston. Hopefully it succeeds no matter what, because New Japan wants it to be their annual American super-show.
“We are still absolutely planning to hold our first-ever Wrestle Dynasty event at Madison Square Garden in August to showcase the very best wrestling NJPW can offer to our fans in the USA. The slogan of the event, ‘We built a Kingdom. Join our Dynasty,’ celebrates the community spirit that has built NJPW into what it is, and that is a fervor and passion that we feel will make Wrestle Dynasty a tremendous success after we overcome the current crisis.
MSG is the ‘Holy Grail’ of wrestling venues, and our first event there in April 2019 was a big success. Our biggest event of the year, which brings the best we have to offer and culminates that year, is our annual January 4 Wrestle Kingdom event in Japan. We wanted to create and deliver a similar experience for our US fans, and therefore have established the Wrestle Dynasty brand whereby we promise to give our US fans the very best we have to offer as a similar one-time annual big event each year.
We believe competition is a healthy thing that will keep us on our feet, and that we cannot be complacent. Two big competitive events held in a relatively close proximity is the ultimate test of our brand’s strength, and means that we as a company must deliver the highest quality experience possible. We are confident that, like our past events, the fans that choose to come to our event will be left with an experience that lasts a lifetime.”
As it always does given Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks’ history with New Japan, and Chris Jericho & Jon Moxley’s continued presence there, a potential AEW partnership came up. Meij’s answer is diplomatic, but non-committal at best.
“Throughout our 50-year history we have had numerous relationships with other wrestling promotions. Japanese mentality is one of loyalty. We work under a long-term principle that, ‘Once in, you’re in for a lifetime.’ AEW has made tremendous inroads and is establishing their unique brand of wrestling with their vision of what wrestling should be. We continue to watch with interest how AEW continues to evolve their brand.”
That line about loyalty is key. Meij flat out states NJPW’s commitment to their existing partners Ring of Honor, CMLL, and RevPro. But it can also be read as the company feeling that Omega & The Bucks were disloyal.
Working with AEW would give New Japan more U.S. television exposure than ROH, and Meij says they’re looking for that after ending their deal with AXS after Impact’s parent company bought that network. But there’s still not enough water under the bridge for NJPW to cross it yet.
Check out the whole interview, where the President talks more about New Japan’s expansion plans, here.