New Japan Pro Wrestling President Harold Meij spoke with Sports Illustrated's Justin Barrasso to discuss how the promotion is planning on pushing forward after the Coronavirus pandemic that has spread throughout the globe. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
How NJPW and professional wrestling can united the world:
The coronavirus has impacted the entire world. However, throughout our 50-year history we have experienced and overcome numerous crises, not only emerging stronger as an organization, but also as a good social beacon bringing hope and excitement worldwide. NJPW sincerely believes professional wrestling will once again unite us all very soon, sharing our passion for wrestling together.
NJPW needing to act in a manner of social responsibility in response to Coronavirus:
At this moment in time, our events, up to and including March 21, have been cancelled. Everyone involved in this situation wants to get back to business as usual immediately afterward, and we are working toward that. The situation is fluid, however, and we have to act responsibly. The Coronavirus has dramatically affected how sports and events-based businesses worldwide are able to operate. Being the biggest professional wrestling organization in Japan put a spotlight upon us and gave us a significant social responsibility. It has been our duty to not just act in the best interests of our fans, wrestlers and staff, but of society at large.
On launching the Together Project to give fans something to watch in this time:
We’ve thought about what we could do to boost morale of all our fans, and hence the ‘Together Project’ was launched. This project seeks to use our streaming service, NJPW World, to stream original content on a regular basis. This includes creating and streaming programs such as live talk shows by the wrestlers, never-before-seen matches, interviews, and the addition of wrestler commentary and point of view to their own matches, all with the goal to give fans unique content in these trying times. We were encouraged to see our first live talk session reaching the sixth highest trend on Twitter, and this content has also been made available in English, giving our international fanbase the chance to see another side of our Japanese talent.
Plans on still running Wrestle Dynasty from Madison Square Garden:
We are still absolutely planning to hold our first-ever Wrestle Dynasty event at Madison Square Garden in August to showcase the very best wrestling NJPW can offer to our fans in the USA. The slogan of the event, ‘We built a Kingdom. Join our Dynasty,’ celebrates the community spirit that has built NJPW into what it is, and that is a fervor and passion that we feel will make Wrestle Dynasty a tremendous success after we overcome the current crisis.
MSG is the ‘Holy Grail’ of wrestling venues, and our first event there in April 2019 was a big success. Our biggest event of the year, which brings the best we have to offer and culminates that year, is our annual January 4 Wrestle Kingdom event in Japan. We wanted to create and deliver a similar experience for our US fans, and therefore have established the Wrestle Dynasty brand whereby we promise to give our US fans the very best we have to offer as a similar one-time annual big event each year.
Competing with WWE and ROH on the same weekend as Wrestle Dynasty:
We believe competition is a healthy thing that will keep us on our feet, and that we cannot be complacent. Two big competitive events held in a relatively close proximity is the ultimate test of our brand’s strength, and means that we as a company must deliver the highest quality experience possible. We are confident that, like our past events, the fans that choose to come to our event will be left with an experience that lasts a lifetime.
Thoughts on a possible future relationship with AEW:
Throughout our 50-year history we have had numerous relationships with other wrestling promotions. Japanese mentality is one of loyalty. We work under a long-term principle that, ‘Once in, you’re in for a lifetime.’ AEW has made tremendous inroads and is establishing their unique brand of wrestling with their vision of what wrestling should be. We continue to watch with interest how AEW continues to evolve their brand.