by Marc Madison
New Japan Pro Wrestling has been in existence for well over thirty years. During that time the promotion has slowly but surely evolved into one of the top two largest promotions in the world. However, this wasn't achieved overnight; it took time, and the support, commitment, and dedication of those that operate behind the scenes. Due to their efforts, and the efforts of the in-ring talent, they have conquered not only Japan, but the world as well. One may ask, how exactly this was achieved? It has been an evolution of sorts, with a number of different factors playing a part in the company's growth. These factors are ones that together have produced positive results.
An Ongoing Dedication to Growth
While word of mouth helps, NJPW’s dedication to multiple media avenues has aided in their growth. They have elevated feuds and rivalries and promoted their events through different platforms, whether it is Twitter, YouTube, their online streaming service, available via paid subscription, they aren't simply tied to one area of exposure. NJPW has been a progressive promotion that saw that in order to grow across the globe, they couldn't simply rely on television subscriptions—they needed to move from a national promotion to an international company.
By using these various platforms, before any other company, they clearly showed that they had the foresight to achieve growth by using the internet and capitalizing on adding different technical means to do so.
The willingness to grow has to be tied to the need to grow. A number of years ago, when it appeared that New Japan Pro Wrestling was suffering and may not continue to operate, it was the company's willingness to grow that made them successful. They sought out opportunities for different tours in order to bring exposure to their brand. They provide a very different product than that in North America, but they still feature feuds, storylines, and factions, the same things that make professional wrestling what it is today, and that is a form of entertainment. NJPW was willing to adopt change by bringing in fresh and different factions and storylines, which have been amongst the most notable in the world.
A little-known fact is that the invasion storyline, which was at the heart of the new World order in World Championship Wrestling, was first developed in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Another example of a successful faction would be the creation of the Bullet Club, which continues to be one of the hottest factions outside North America today, and is arguably the most successful faction in the world. This group, which originated in New Japan Pro Wrestling, consists mainly of foreign-born talent, which leads to another reason for their world conquest.
The Nurturing of Global Talent
While a number of Japanese born talent such as Shinsuke Nakamura and KENTA emerged and built a legacy for themselves outside their home country, NJPW's ability to develop talent that isn't from their country has been significant. One of the most popular and successful wrestlers in the company today is Canadian born Kenny Omega.
Omega first began to hone his craft in North America. However, when he moved to Japan and adapted the Japanese strong style manner of combat, he never looked back. It is that ability to adapt and embrace the culture that has made Omega as successful as he has been.
The same could be said about Fergal ‘Prince' Devitt, who made NJPW his home for several years, also embracing the lifestyle along with the manner of competition. These ‘foreigners' value the company, and have aspired for it to succeed on a global level.
Working Alongside International Companies
In order to succeed all over the world, NJPW didn't see other companies as competition, but approached them as allies. An example is Ring of Honor in North America, with whom the company has built a strong relationship, offering fans several cross-promotional matchups and events as a result. For example, going forward, Wrestle Kingdom, NJPW's major annual event, will feature Ring of Honor talent, and the January 2018 event will see the ROH world title defended for a second consecutive year. Events such as ROH's Global Wars has been focussed on NJPW sending their talent to compete in these events.
It isn't a matter of wins or losses for the company's talent, but rather exposure. The more talent that develop a following outside the company, the more likely those new fans are to follow them back to their home company. This is exemplified by the fact that the likes of IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, and Kushida have all garnered a following outside the country.
Finally, the company's ability to draw in notable commentators from outside the country to contribute their knowledge and provide either play-by-play or color commentary has also added to their growth. With the additions of iconic commentators such as Jim Ross, New Japan Pro Wrestling continues to add to their overall impact, and this has made them a front-runner for bringing in talent who want to be a part of the company during their careers. There is no telling how successful NJPW will be globally over the course of the next decade.
As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.