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Even More On Backstage Reputation Of Harold Meij In NJPW, Said To Be ‘Divisive’

October 2, 2020 | Posted by Joseph Lee
King NJPW’s NJPW Logo New Japan Pro Wrestling, Harold Meij, Giant Baba Image Credit: NJPW

As we reported yesterday, there are multiple possible reasons for NJPW President Harold Meij’s exit from the company on October 23. These range from promising and failing to deliver a revenue of $200 million to the loss of American TV and American talent.

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that Meij had a reputation among the American talent at least, of being divisive. He was said to be disliked by them as time went by, even after making a good first impression. There was said to be “bitterness” with how he handled the talent from AEW (Kenny Omega, Cody, Adam Page, The Young Bucks) leaving NJPW to start their own company. All of them felt loyal to New Japan but didn’t feel that was mutual.

Only a few NJPW officials were told in late 2018 that the group was leaving. In addition to that, Cody, Page and the Bucks tried to set up meetings about NJPW and AEW working together but were shot down. They were then all pulled from New Year’s Dash, and eventually Omega was as well. This treatment reportedly soured the relationship between all parties (as well as having them all lose when they wanted to work together in the future), and is why we never saw an alliance between the companies. Chris Harrington of AEW also tried to work out a deal with the company at one point.

The belief was that the group, except Omega, was expendable, and they didn’t believe Omega would go as well since he lived in Japan. They felt that AEW wouldn’t do well as it had no track record and was run by wrestlers. They also felt that Tony Khan needed to come to them if he wanted to establish a working relationship.

This all happened under Meij’s watch and is believed to have hurt his reputation backstage. His track record with finance, for the most part, was said to be good, even if he set a goal that could not be achieved. The company was still able to survive the pandemic largely because of Wrestle Kingdom being split over two nights, which was his idea. He was also the one that got Kota Ibushi to sign long-term and not leave for AEW. However, there was a general feeling that he didn’t understand wrestling, even if he was a fan. Some wrestlers felt that he didn’t view the wrestlers as individual talents.

Meij’s exit was reportedly not a surprise, and had been in the works for some time, even if the date wasn’t expected.

One source who has business ties with AEW said: “My big takeaway is Ohbari taking over, I don’t think it takes much looking to see that the U.S. strategy for the last couple of years has been haphazard, and that’s being generous. So on one hand I’m surprised he’s elevated because the track record is not successful in the least. But on the other hand I am not surprised at all given he’s always felt like the heir apparent, to an extent. In retrospect, it feels like they made him CEO of NJPW America just so he had `CEO’ on his resume when Meij inevitably left. I don’t know what made Bushiroad let him go,” said another Japanese insider with extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the company. “There was a very serious power game between TV-Asahi, Bushiroad and New Japan Pro Wrestling and who knows what actually happened must be limited to a few key people.

Another noted that the shares that Meij gave up should have been a clue. While yet another source denied all the speculation about the reason for his departure, simply saying that his high salary was to blame. They also claimed that Meij was “blindsided” with the news.

Finally, a source noted that in addition to Meij’s reputation among American wrestlers, he was also responsible for Chris Jericho not returning due to Jericho’s asking price. Other people in charge may not stick by that, so Jericho and other high-priced talent could return at some point.

One AEW source said of a possible relationship: “No idea. We want to. But he was an idiot when it came to understanding the business. Hopefully things will change now.

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NJPW, Joseph Lee