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    Wednesday, June 10, 2020

    #CafePuro: NJPW's Post-COVID19 Plans

    New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) canceled their shows for three months after their February 26 show earlier this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, several of the company's tournaments and major events were postponed such as the New Japan Cup, Best of the Super Juniors, and Dominion.

    Image from Harold Meij's public statement on NJPW's status during the pandemic.

    Many puroresu fans were disappointed, however, they praised NJPW for ensuring the safety of the wrestlers and their staff when New Japan President and CEO Harold George Meij laid out the company's plans in a video last month.

    Some of the highlights from Meij's video were the following:

    • Wrestlers and staff are still being paid. No one has been fired due to the pandemic.
    • The NJPW Together Project campaign has been entertaining fans online while we've waited for the pandemic in Japan to be under control.
    • Once NJPW is given permission by the prefectural governments to hold shows, they will start by holding empty arena events.
    • Over time, the empty arena events will gradually allow fans into the venues until the Japanese government allows events to be held at full capacity.
    I was glad that NJPW listed down their plans while entertaining fans with the Together Project Specials. The company was transparent about the fact that they could not hold empty arena shows at the time so fans knew why we did not have any shows, while other companies such as Pro-Wrestling NOAH, DDT, and TJPW still held shows.

    After several months of waiting, NJPW held an online press conference yesterday with Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi and "The Ace" Hiroshi Tanahashi. Sugabayashi mentioned that NJPW was finally returning and will hold events from June to July.

    Here are some of the key takeaways from the online press conference:

    • The company has coordinated with Japan's National Sports Authority and started testing performers, staff, and crew to ensure everyone's health and safety.
    • Empty arena shows will be held in June to start the New Japan Cup, while the June Dominion show will be held in front of a limited audience at Osaka-jō Hall.
    • To celebrate the return of NJPW, the company will hold a special show on June 15 called the Together Project Special.
    • The New Japan Cup will begin on June 16 and conclude on July 11.
    • The winner of the New Japan Cup will face IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, who will defend both of his titles at the event. 
    • The July Hokkaido tour has been canceled.
    • All of the shows will be streamed on NJPW World.
    The press conference was brief at eight-minutes and a half, but that was enough for me to get excited for the return of the King of Sports. What was most interesting to me was the fact that we only have two foreign wrestlers participating in the New Japan Cup in Gabriel Kidd, a Japan Dojo Young Lion, and Zack Sabre Jr. since both wrestlers currently reside in Japan.

    Due to the pandemic, many of the regular names such as Jay White, Juice Robinson, and Bad Luck Fale have to go through quarantine once they return to Japan. That means NJPW will have to make do with the available wrestlers they have. However, the roster isn't stretched out too thin. We're still going to have some epic matches coming up next week including SHO vs. Shingo Takagi. There are so many interesting matches coming up for the New Japan Cup, but I'll discuss my predictions in a separate article. 

    Towards the end of the conference, Hiroshi Tanahashi appeared with a message, telling the global audience that NJPW will come back fresh and that the wrestlers will give their all with the stored energy from the past three months.

    Image from NJPW's online press conference discussing their return to live events.
    From the return of the New Japan Cup to another double title defense for Tetsuya Naito, there's so much to be excited for amidst these trying times and I can't wait to see the cerulean blue ring make its comeback for the world to see. 

    Steven Tan is a data encoder by day and blogger/podcaster by night for The Geeky Juans. You can catch him ranting about cartoons, comics and puroresu on his Twitter @steviesaidyup.
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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro: NJPW's Post-COVID19 Plans Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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