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My New Japan Experience-Part 1 (The Positives)

I started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) this year. I have seen some of the wrestlers when they worked ROH PPV and television, but this is the first year I have started watching it regularly. This post will be some personal positives and negatives

Positives

  1. Naito: Naito is the person who I want to be in my real life. I love his character. I wonder if turning him babyface would ruin him. He seems to be a strong merchandise draw just being a heel.
  2. Kenny Omega: Omega is probably the key to New Japan expansion. I do think NJPW needs an English-speaking wrestler to be at the forefront if the company wants to gain any traction in the United States. Obviously a better television deal is more important and it’s certainly possible that NJPW can get one without Omega (because he is certainly not a mainstream star even by wrestling standards), but Omega will certainly help live events and other ways for New Japan to make it’s mark in America.
  3. Depth: New Japan has a lot of wrestlers and even if many of them have had matches with each other before, there are still fresh match-ups and personally speaking even the old matches are new to me.
  4. Titles: I know many people think there are too many titles in New Japan. My philosophy is that if each title has its own identity, I will readily accept as many titles as the promotion wants to have. Another reason I like the titles is because New Japan is based in groups. To me (again personal opinion obviously), people should not align with each other long-term if in theory they are fighting for the same title. For instance Chaos would not be the same if there was no Never Openweight Title because you would have two major single titles for Goto, Ishii and Okada to fight over-the third title limits the conflict.
  5. The matches: I enjoy them…not much else to say. Okada and Omega was epic. Obviously an argument could be made that it’s overrated, especially if you look at it from the Meltzer scale of six stars-but I don’t want to get into that. I’ll just say that when the match was over, I could not think of a match I ever enjoyed more. One could make another argument that the big matches try too hard to be epic (self-conscious epic is what some call them), I understand that but I have really enjoyed the most touted NJPW matches including Shibita-Ishii, Okada-Omega, Elgin-Naito, Tanahashi-Dragon Lee and others.

Is WWE trying to make every dime?

I was thinking for the last few weeks about whether or not WWE is trying to make every dime possible or would they rather make less money because it is more important for them to be WWE (if that makes sense). There are things that WWE does that I believe costs the company money, but that is not really my question. The question is are they willingly doing things (or not doing things) that will cost them money because as I said, it is more important for them to do things their way than it is to make every dime? I can’t really think of anything obvious-but I have some ideas. I’ll give three for now and I may come back to this if I think of more.

  1. Turning Roman Reigns Heel: I am not sure that they think this will make the company money. At the same time, I absolutely will buy into an argument that they would rather make less money to have Reigns as the face of the company than make more money with someone who does not have the Reigns look. With that said, I cannot say for sure that WWE believes that a Reigns heel turn will move the needle and honestly I’m not sure either. I think there is a good chance that Reigns will get booed (which is ideal for a heel), but I am not sure it will increase any metrics.
  2. Bringing C.M Punk Back: This is a non-starter because of the lawsuit with the WWE doctor and because Punk does not want to come back. It will probably be years (if ever) before we can say that WWE is costing itself money because they refuse to bring back Punk because it is not an option right now.
  3. Even-Steven Booking: This is the one I am most interested in. One could make the argument that WWE will be better off if they protected more than 1-2 percent of the roster. WWE may think that by having wrestlers trade wins back and forth they are actually protecting the midcard and they may think that it is a necessary consequence of all the television they produce (including PPV’s/Network specials. More to the heart of the question, WWE may think that having too many wrestlers booked strongly gives them (the wrestlers) leverage that WWE feels that they cannot afford. The answer to that dilemma is just to keep 90-95 percent booked equally-even if it means a money drawing star does not break out.

A.J Styles=Jake McKinnon

I used to watch Another World (a soap opera on NBC) and my favorite character was Jake McKinnon. After Another World was cancelled, I was very pleased to find out that not only was Tom Eplin (the actor who played Jake) going to As the World Turns-but the character was moving to As the World Turns. I started watching ATWT to follow Jake’s character and I got hooked on the show even after Jake was killed off. I watched the show just about every day until it was cancelled in 2010.

Jake McKinnon is to As the World Turns what A.J Styles was/is to New Japan for me. I always used to skip the audio and the parts of the newsletter when Meltzer used to talk or write about New Japan…until A.J Styles got there. I enjoyed his work in TNA and ROH so I wanted to know how he was doing. There is one difference, I did not start watching New Japan when A.J got there, but I started following it. I became intrigued by what this Bullet Club thing was and while I did not watch it, I always made sure I knew what was going on. I actually did not start watching New Japan until A.J Styles left. The only A.J Styles match in New Japan I have seen was his match with Nakamura at WrestleKingdom. Now I watch New Japan regularly because A.J being there got me to become interested in the product and just reading and hearing about the Bullet Club and Naito and Okada and many other aspects of the promotion made me very interested so I had some background going in. Now I have NJPW World and I am very pleased with the membership (even though I wish it was easier to navigate) and am excited about the big events coming up.

I am a big fan of NJPW. I am not sure I enjoy it more than WWE, it’s close. Even though I never saw A.J’s work in NJPW (or 99 percent of it anyway), I am very glad that he ended up in the promotion. I look forward to seeing some of A.J Styles’ work there and more importantly NJPW going forward.

I Feel Like…

I should do a correct PWTorch entry every day. There are so many things that they get factually wrong. I admit that I am someone who remembers a lot and I watch the WWE Network often and Wade Keller and Bruce Mitchell don’t. Moreover, the things they do not remember are not that important for analysis of today (or the past in many cases)-but still…

For instance, I believe that Bruce Mitchell (who I am a fan of) said that Vince Russo booked the Bagwell turn in July 0f 1998 (which was a big deal or could have been because after the neck injury-Bagwell had babyface potential). Russo wasn’t booking WCW until late 1999.

Wade Keller often speaks about how Edge and Christian were just stunt guys and Edge did not really get a chance to talk until the Matt Hardy situation. Edge and Christian talked just about every week in 2000 once they turned heel. What Keller said is factually wrong.

I have a PWtorch.com subscription so if I committed to it-I could probably do a correction article every day.

As far as the Torch goes, I want to talk about this more another time-but I would say it is worth the money. If you are only willing to pay for one between the Torch and the Observer-I would still say that latter. Meltzer has too much information-both historically and in terms of today’s wrestling.

How much money do I spend on wrestling?

If this blog were more popular, I would have a poll and ask readers how much money they spend on wrestling per month. With that in mind, if we take away merchandise (I buy t-shirts or other merchandise that “speak to me”-I’ll actually list that one day), I spent more than $50 per month.

 

$10 for WWE Network

$10 for PWTorch

$10 for Wrestling Observer

$7 for ROH Ringside Membership

$8 for New Japan World

$7.50 for Prowrestling.net

 

For a freelance writer (which I am) who may go a while without any assignments, $50 is a lot, but I could not imagine going without any of the above memberships or subscriptions. I do not go to wrestling shows. I could say that my cable bill is part of the money I spend on wrestling, but I have cable (or DISH to be more specific) for more than just wrestling. With that said, I am not sure I would pay for DISH or any cable/satellite if it was not for wrestling so it certainly could be included, which would make it $150 per month (I watch just enough non-wrestling television that I won’t for the sake of this article).

 

As far as order of importance (since I’m here)

  1. WWE Network
  2. Wrestling Observer
  3. PWTorch (because of Todd Martin and Bruce Mitchell)
  4. New Japan World
  5. net
  6. ROH Ringside membership (it’s last because I can follow ROH easily with the free membership. I only have a subscription because I get discounts on Pay per Views and there are times where I want to watch the ROH show early in the week)

 

Another Moose Take

Fundamental Belief (and I was thinking about this walking home Saturday night): A good product may not be commercially successful, but a commercially successful product cannot be bad.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a big believer in analyzing wrestling through crowd engagement, especially crowd engagement that is tangible (ratings, attendance, merchandise, PPV Buys, Network subscriptions etc). With that in mind, if a product can reach some or all of those goals, then it is good. Any other viewpoint is pretentious and reeks of superiority when wrestling is entertainment which means it is subjective. There has been a great deal of criticism of the Attitude Era, the Attitude Era was good because it got people to engage with the product which is the entire point. It is not like WWE cheated or tricked people to watch-people watched because they wanted to…because there were aspects of the product that appealed to them and that is the entire point of wrestling (or at least it is for most organizations).

As far as the other side goes, there are times where a product can be good, but the platform is not there for tangible success. Actually as mainstream as WWE is in comparison to other wrestling organizations, their platform may not be there for success if they put on a good product because the company has ran off so many fans that when it actually gets good again, it may take time for people to start watching (if they do start watching).

UFC and Pro Wrestling

Yesterday (9/27/16), John Cena, the Miz and Connor McGregor all cut notable promos (all notable because they were praised heavily by observers). There is a bit of a disagreement on Twitter because Dave Meltzer said that Cena was not in the same league as McGregor as a promo which led to another instance of wrestling fans being upset with Meltzer for two things: one for dismissing Cena’s promo (which he probably had not seen when he made the comment) and secondly for comparing wrestling to MMA (UFC in particular)

I usually agree with Meltzer about wrestling business simply because he is the person who analyzes it how it should be analyzed which is metrics, I truly believe that he is probably the most objective analyst in wrestling (and is still likely the most well-sourced) which is why I pay for the observer every month. The problem here is that I think that we are well past the point where MMA and wrestling can be compared. WWE did it to themselves, but the framework has been damaged to the point…let me put it this way, while I love Talking Smack-Cena’s promo should have been on Smackdown where the largest audience can see it. What I am saying is that the best promos in WWE are not on WWE television, they are on the Network or the website. It’s not just the promos either, WWE does not take the idea of selling fights as seriously as it should (and that is an understatement). Meltzer asked when Cena drew 1.5 million PPV buys on multiple occasions, Cena’s promos are not always great (even though they have been for the last year)-but he does not have a chance with the way WWE is structured (and that was before the Network). No one does.

UFC (or MMA) and pro wrestling are not the same thing. WWE (and other promotions) can learn a lot from MMA…and maybe if they were more similar WWE would be better off. It’s just that the comparison makes less sense as time goes on.