Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter
New Japan’s business has improved overall significantly as they are looking at 16 percent growth from last year.
In the last fiscal year, which is summer-to-summer, New Japan grossed 3.2 billion yen ($28.8 million). They are projecting 3.7 billion ($33.3 million) for this fiscal year. They are projecting 4.5 to 5.0 billion yen ($41 to $45 million) for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
They have already more than quadrupled business since 2011, which was when they had bottomed out. It’s a tiny percentage of that of WWE.
The one place of growth that is difficult for a Japanese-based group is international syndication, as Impact even as weak as it is, has paying television deals in both the U.K. and India, the two biggest paying non-U.S. markets for wrestling, which New Japan has nothing in.
If growth continues at the same level, they’ll have their biggest grossing year ever in either 2018 or 2019.
Owner Takaaki Kidani, who held a business press conference before the open of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, noted that the one area they are strongest in is merchandise sales, saying they are doing 20 to 25 percent of what WWE does.
New Japan does far more per head than WWE, often more than $25 and up to $35 per head at house shows with big sellers like LIJ, Bullet Club and Tanahashi, while WWE does just over $10 per head on average, although much more for WrestleMania. But that is the only category they are competitive in.
Kidani said they are looking at selling out the Tokyo Dome legitimately by 2020, which would be 40,000 to 45,000 tickets sold not including comps.
He said the goal is 100,000 subscribers to New Japan World, which would make it Japan’s most popular streaming service. One of the issues is that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu don’t do any kind of numbers in Japan and it’s not as much part of the culture.
One issue is that they didn’t retain the bulk of the giant one day Tokyo Dome new subscribers. Before the Tokyo Dome show, they had 50,000 subscribers, broken down as 41,500 in Japan and 8,500 outside of Japan. The day after the Tokyo Dome show, they had 60,000, broken down as 46,000 and 14,000. Now they have 50,000, broken down as 40,000 in Japan (so they are slightly behind before Dome numbers) and 10,000 outside Japan. Then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise, as without the free month staggering things, WWE months after Mania would be well below the day before Mania numbers and wouldn’t pass those numbers until the next year. There is hope that with the Osaka and Long Beach shows that the numbers can show significant growth coming up.
New Japan World updated its site on 5/16 and it will be more accessible through Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. Plans for New Japan World are to increase live events by having more content from Revolution Pro, ROH and CMLL The AXS show is averaging 200,000 viewers, putting it still behind Impact, although AXS is also in 44 minutes homes and POP is in 73.8 million homes, so the equivalent would be 336,000 viewers or slightly more than Impact gets most weeks.
Kidani noted that the additional seating for the Long Beach shows sold out in two minutes. He said that they are now looking at running in a building that would hold around 6,000, although those who handled ticket sales based on the volume of first-day calls believed they could have sold out the 13,000-seat Convention Center adjacent to where they ran if they had the capacity.
In talking about an expansion into the U.S. market, Kidani said the advantages they have is they present the “best in ring wrestling in the world, have a long history and an original product not available anywhere else.”
He talked about trying to sell New Japan to other cable stations in the U.S. He talked about doing Japanese style tours for the American territory rather than a few big shows a year which I still feel is the better concept for this market.
He also talked about opening a dojo and creating new American stars for the U.S. market.
The estimates are that the entire wrestling industry in Japan will gross $109 million this year, which would be ahead of the $95 million that sumo is expected to gross.
Dominion on 6/11 at Osaka Jo Hall is not sold out at this point, but ticket prices were raised significantly from last year and the advance is ahead of last year’s pace when they came a little shy of a sellout. I can’t imagine with Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (although the latter bout is in jeopardy) as the double main that it’s not selling out.
Kidani mentioned that Tomoaki Honma is already back training for a comeback. He was less detailed about Katsuyori Shibata, far less than we’ve reported, just saying there was no timetable for anything. He did say that they were at an internal committee trying to improve in-ring safety due to those two serious injuries.
Takeshi Misawa, the company’s head of medical, went into more detail on Honma and Shibata.
He said that Honma has been moved from a hospital specializing in cervical vertebrae issues to a rehab hospital in Osaka. There is no timeline on how long he will have to remain hospitalized, but he has started light weight training in the gym and light running.
Misawa said that Shibata’s original condition was life threatening, but he’s out of intensive care but still hospitalized. Shibata has no trouble walking and talking, but past that, there is no timetable for anything.
The New Japan Pro Wrestling Medical Committee talked about will include neurosurgeons, spinal specialists, orthopedic surgeons and pro wrestling trainers. They said that the medical committee will be looking at limiting the number of matches wrestlers compete in during a tour if there are any health issues. Previously, the mentality was that unless the situation was severe, you worked on every show on a tour since New Japan has been very strong on the idea that if you are advertised to appear, you wrestle on the show.
Kidani noted that the goal going forward is to increase revenue and in doing so, pay wrestlers better and at the same time, for health reasons, have them work fewer dates.
The goal seems to be that they can’t pay wrestlers WWE money, but they can give them a better quality of life by having them have more time off. Another advantage for the U.K. wrestlers is they can continue to live in the U.K. between tours.
Company paid attendance through the end of April is up 21.4 percent from last year. While wrestling is by no means booming in Japan, it’s been noted that it’s hotter than it has been in probably 15 years overall.
All Japan, which has been having killer matches built around Kento Miyahara as champion as well as people like Shuji Ishikawa, Ryoji Sai and bringing in other outsiders like Daisuke Sekimoto, is up 58.7 percent this year. DDT is up 10 percent, Big Japan is up 11 percent and Stardom is up 30 percent, although Stardom is facing a crisis with its two top stars leaving.
The only company down is NOAH, which is down 29 percent after losing its affiliation with New Japan and losing Suzuki-gun as the regular top heels. For as much as the NOAH fans hated Suzuki-gun and blamed them for the bad business, and they didn’t pick business up the way hoped for, NOAH has fallen significantly without them.
For April only, New Japan was up 35 percent and All Japan was up 78 percent during the Champion Carnival tour, while NOAH was down 28 percent.