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New Japan says COVID travel bans won’t impact Wrestle Kingdom

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New Japan Pro-Wrestling ‘Wrestling Dontaku’ Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Two years into the pandemic, and with the surge in cases caused by the delta variant behind us, it appeared that things were slowly returning to something like their pre-COVID normal for Japanese wrestling.

But with fear rising about the omicron strain, it’s looking like hopes that wrestlers from around the globe would be able to come and go from promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling were premature. On Monday (Nov. 29), Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a ban on all new foreign entries into the country. Returning Japanese citizens and foreign residents are still be able to return, but will again be subject to strict quarantine requirements.

Over the past week, that’s led to concern about the already announced matches for NJPW’s biggest annual event, Wrestle Kingdom. In particular, there were questions about the night two main event pitting British wrestler Will Ospreay against the winner of night one’s IWGP World Heavyweight title match between champion Shingo Takagi and G1 Climax winner Kazuchika Okada.

During an interview with Tokyo Sport, New Japan President Takami Ohbari said he’s confirmed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that wrestlers with work visas will be considered to be re-entering Japan, not as new entries. That means Ospreay, and others who could land on the January 2022 cards such as Jeff Cobb & David Finlay, should be able to make the Tokyo Dome shows (and Jan. 8 in Yokohama Arena, although the NJPW vs. NOAH theme of the third Wrestle Kingdom 16 date probably means gaijin talent won’t have a big presence on that show).

Ospreay seems to confirm Ohbari’s update:

So you can remain excited for that match. Stay safe & healthy while you do.