There’s no denying it – New Japan is all the rage right now in the Twitter wrestling world. (Twrestling? Can we make that a thing?) Wrestle Kingdom 9, though I haven’t seen it, was a huge success, and people are clamoring for more. More New Japan, more focus on wrestling in WWE, more, more, more.
The most common trend is wondering when WWE will see NJPW as competition, especially if they wind up getting an American TV deal.
Not so fast, friends.
Do I want Japanese wrestling on my TV? Absolutely. I’m all for competition, because wrestling is never better when there is something to be won. But I wouldn’t break out the Monday Night War shirts just yet. New Japan has a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to become a viable US option. Let’s explore some, shall we?
The Language Barrier
This is the big one, folks, and good ol’ JR isn’t going to be able to solve it on his own. Whether its through closed captioning or translation, New Japan’s major obstacle is that American fans are going to have a hard time dealing with their wrestling in a foreign language.
Despite what everyone is saying about the focus being on the wrestling, there is still a part of each of us that desires to know the motivation and the thought process behind each action, match and feud. New Japan will have to find a way to convey that in as easily accessible a manner as possible if they want mainstream success.
On Twitter right this second, there are discussions about how this time in WWE compares with the WWF of the early 90’s, which was the impetus for the popularity of WCW and ECW. I totally get the similarities, and I do think the time is ripe for some competition in the modern wrestling market. Back in the 90’s, however the WCW and ECW wrestlers were fairly known commodities. People knew who Ric Flair was, and they may even have recognized Raven as “that Johnny Polo” guy. There was some sort of history that fans could latch onto in order to understand the new wrestling product, even if they have never watched a second of it.
New Japan doesn’t have that. The major guys in the company are, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers to the average fan. It’s going to take some time to introduce these guys on the US stage. Even longer because of the language issues.
Lucha Underground has taken off so well because, in part, of its newness. The company is starting from scratch, so as you watch, you have all of the knowledge you need to be able to make heads or tails of what’s happening. New Japan won’t have that.
Now, this is perhaps their easiest problem to solve, thanks to their new streaming service, but fans are going to need to be made aware of the history of New Japan, its stars and its feuds, and this is going to need to happen fast.
The best part of New Japan is actually what makes it so difficult – It’s completely different than anything most fans have ever seen. Given patience and time, New Japan can and will likely skyrocket into fans hearts and minds.
But there is a way to help that along.
I’ve long since believed that Global Force Wrestling needs to be a conduit that connects American audiences with the world’s wrestling action. It doesn’t need to be it’s own promotion – just be the gateway for others.
To that end, if GFW were to create a “Sportscenter” type show – one that could, in the plainest of English, serve as introduction and explanation of the goings on in New Japan Pro Wrestling – this would be a HUGELY effective way to get American fans on board.
They could do segments on individual wrestlers, do promo packages that explain feuds, do interviews, highlights, everything you would expect from a “news” show. They could also feature full length matches as well.
As I said earlier, I’m excited for competition in wrestling once again, and though I think ROH stands as a more likely foe for WWE, New Japan will certainly be a factor. Addressing these problems (perhaps through my proposed solution) would take them a long way towards becoming an American institution.
What do YOU think? Can New Japan work for US wrestling fans? What does it need to do to succeed?