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NJPW President Takami Ohbari On The Challenge of International Expansion

January 23, 2021 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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PWI recently released a digital-only special Inside NJPW, which features an interview with NJPW President Takami Ohbari on the challenge of trying to expand the company internationally. Here are highlights:

On the pandemic stopping plans for NJPW America: “Well, as we were growing our business globally, the idea behind NJoA was to have a place for our contracted talent to be able to wrestle overseas, and to create an opportunity for wrestlers based outside of Japan to wrestle for NJPW while they are overseas. Before the COVID pandemic hit, we were able to do that to the point where we had touring routes set up across the whole of the United States, and we have staff and partners over there that have the know-how and the tools to produce constant touring events.

Now, live tours are obviously on the back burner at present, but, with the help of our amazing sponsors at LEC, we’ve been able to produce NJPW STRONG on a weekly basis, and that’s gone a long way [in] achieving what the original goal for NJoA was in the first place. Pre-pandemic, we were also planning to open a physical Tokon Shop for fans to visit in LA, and, although COVID has delayed those plans somewhat, we have been able to launch Tokon Shop Global and have fans all over the world support NJPW remotely.

The pandemic has delayed our plans globally, but by no means has it put a stop to them. We’re already making preparations to go all out as soon as the global situation is resolved; things overseas move at a tremendous pace, and that will mean I will take a more direct approach with things in NJoA in the near future. Having said that, we have an incredible team of dedicated and very capable employees over in the States, so it’s entirely possible for me to manage our business in both Japan and America at the same time.”

On the problem with expansion right now: “Absolutely. Our global advance is something that’s incredibly important to NJPW, and it is continuing. Obviously, it’s live events where we are most visible, and, without live crowds, it can appear on the surface as if things aren’t moving. But rest assured that a lot is going on behind the scenes as we speak.”

On goals for 2022: “Our mission as a company is to bring joy and strength to people through professional wrestling. It’s been important to us not to let that “Strong Style” spirit that’s been part of our identity for nearly 50 years be extinguished by the pandemic, and we’ve worked to do all we can so we can achieve our mission both during and after COVID.

In the immediate future for us as a company, it’s important to be able to increase our earnings through means that aren’t affected by limited crowd sizes or empty arenas, in other words through online shopping and better monetization of our content. In 2022, when we celebrate 50 years as a company, NJPW will be able to bring together what we can do as a live event powerhouse, and these newer earnings sources, which I think will make us stronger and more profitable than we ever have been. If we can continue our plans for events in the U.S., then the plan will be to have events happening in Japan and internationally simultaneously, and having fans keep on track of everything live.

We want to create stars that make NJPW a popular brand on both sides of the Pacific and beyond, which will only serve to make our content more valuable worldwide. If we keep on track with our plans for our 50th year, then I see a clear route to regularly earning in the 10 billion Yen (approx. 100 million USD) range annually, and that’s where you’ll see large-scale events in Japanese stadiums and big U.S. arenas like Madison Square Garden on a regular basis.”

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NJPW, Joseph Lee