NJPW released the full cards for the upcoming G1 Special Shows in Long Beach in July, and of course, the first thing die-hard NJPW fans do is gripe, moan, and complain. Honestly, this didn’t surprise me at all. As New Japan fans, of course we want to see the Japanese talent that the promotion is known for…not some watered down show with Ring Of Honor guys and old WWE names.
But, guess what, folks? These two shows aren’t for die-hard NJPW fans who just happen to live in the US. This is bigger than that, so let’s just all step back and take a breath, ok?
This is about New Japan cultivating a base in the US and testing the waters when it comes to a US expansion. This isn’t about pandering to current fans. This is about attracting new fans to the product. It is about expanding and growing the brand in a whole new market. And, to do that, NJPW needs to start off a bit different.
Whether we like to admit it or not, Billy Gunn and Cody Rhodes have bigger name recognition in the US than Minoru Suzuki and YOSHI-HASHI. Michael Elgin and Adam Page are more well known to US wrestling fans than even Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. That’s just how it is, and for NJPW to get a foot in the door in the US market, they are going to have to cater to US wrestling fans, not US fans of Japanese wrestling.
So, quit pitching a fit over what your expectations were compared to what actually is.
This has been the plan all along, and if folks had been paying attention, they would have known this. The plan was never to transplant the NJPW roster to the US. It was never to bring the whole roster to the US for these shows. These are exhibition shows so that the company can test the waters and try to get something going on a small scale in the market. Reopen the LA dojo down the line. Cultivate talent that is based here with some names from the main Japanese roster coming over for short tours or even long tours (Kidani has said even up to 6 months), to build the brand over the next couple of years.
It would be a localized product. If in Japan it’s 75:25 Japanese, there 75:25 American would be the best mix I think (Japanese/American wrestler ratio). For the New Japan product we run now, there’s still video. The plan would be to have California as a base and run tours in the area in a similar way to how we run things here (in Japan), with a few shows further afield.
For the Japanese talent, there are all sorts of options. Some guys may want to tour there, some may want to spend half the year here. Still others may want to take two years or so and move out there. There are lots of ways around that and I’m open to opinion from the wrestlers.
Remember, this is just the first step. This isn’t a NJPW tour of the US. It is two shows in Long Beach. It’s the first baby step in a bigger plan, so everyone just needs to calm down and remember that. These shows and their cards aren’t going to cause NJPW any long-term issues when it comes to selling out shows in the US. They aren’t going to cause expansion plans to come to a screeching halt just because Mr. Ass has a match with Tana. Fans aren’t going to turn away in droves just because Cody has a match with Okada (even though it does make some of us nauseous).
They are looking to attract new US fans, and they do that with recognizable US names. Give it a chance and stop with the bitching, moaning, and complaining right off the bat. It’s a whole new ball game now, and they need to grow…and we need to see the bigger picture.