In 2018, many things went well for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor's North American touring businesses, both those shows run together, and those run apart.
New Japan continued to draw several thousand fans for a handful of shows in California and Ring of Honor broke records for their total attendance and per show average (albeit with signs of stress at the box office after WrestleMania weekend).
Last year's combined War of the World's tour included a record attendance in Lowell, sellouts in Toronto and Royal Oak, Michigan and another strong showing in Chicago:
Per the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
5/9/2018 Lowell, MA 1,900
5/11/2018 Toronto, Canada 1,400 (sellout)
5/12/2018 Royal Oak, MI 900 (sellout)
5/13/2018 Chicago, IL 1,800
Things had been going so well for both companies last year that one had to question if they needed to work together anymore at all.
Perhaps New Japan could continue to draw strong numbers (far above an average ROH show) and expand beyond California? Maybe ROH could focus on The Elite, and those with domestic exclusivity, as those seemed to be the stars with the most buzz.
Several months later, the landscape has changed. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has captured a good deal of the buzz that NJPW and ROH had among wrestling's most ardent fans.
Both companies have stumbled out of the gate with poor attendance numbers in North America. Putting aside the long planned Madison Square Garden show, both brands need a "win" and fast. War of the Worlds may be their best option. If the shows draw an average of less than one thousand fans, it may be time for both organizations to rethink expansion strategies.
The 4-show May tour is being played mainly in "safe" markets that Ring of Honor regularly runs including Buffalo RiverWorks (which sold out last time with 1,000 in attendance) on May 8th, Toronto in the Ted Reeve Arena on May 9th (the company drew 1,300 last time in the market) and Chicago's Odeum on May 12th (drawing the aforementioned 1,800 last year). A new venue for Ring of Honor is the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It can accommodate up to 6,200 spectators, depending upon its setup.
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