As New Japan Pro Wrestling expands its touring footprint in the United States, it must play a difficult balancing game. On the one hand, it must support its primary market of Japan and on the other hand, it would like to grow in other markets, especially the United States. A shutdown of the United States government has made this balancing act nearly impossible.
Previous major events in 2017 and 2018 held in in California included most of, if not all, the major stars that American fans have come to expect from the NJPW brand. The NEW BEGINNING USA 3 show tour is occurring at the same time as THE NEW BEGINNING in Sapporo. Essentially, the American show is serving as the "b brand" tour. However, up to a week out, one could only subtract names announced for the Japanese tour and speculate on most of the potential matchups. Once the company did announce the card, there was general disappointment due to the lack of star power and Japanese talent. The company had to further clarify that issues related to administrative challenges in obtaining visas due to a government shutdown.
New Japan had been upfront about an expected split in crews from the very moment of the tours announcement on its American language website. This lowering of expectations aligns with smaller venues (or setups) than have been attempted on American shores by the company in the recent past.
A quick analysis of ticket sales shows that things have gone well at the gate.
The Globe Theatre in Los Angeles on January 30th only has standing room tickets available. This venue holds 600 for PWG but may hold 1,000+ depending upon the configuration.
The Grady Cole Center on February 1st in Charlotte, NC is sold out. The venue can generally host up to 3,000 but the setup for this event appears to be 1,000-1,200.
Finally, Nashville's War Memorial Auditorium (not to be confused with the larger Municipal Auditorium) has sold out of Ringside, Arena A, and Balcony A seats. Arena B section has tickets remaining but Balcony B has few seats left according to New Japan's website. The venue's website lists 1,661 as maximum seating for a theatre configuration and 2,044 for an open floor.
New iterations for a brand are often met with high expectations (no matter if the promotion is forthright in explaining that not all of the talents will appear). The company has done well with modest venues that would have likely featured a mix of mid card Japanese talent, dojo students and perhaps some Americans but with weaker cards than expected, will fans come back the next time the brand tours in the market? Only time and quality of show will provide the answer.
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