New Japan Pro Wrestling President and CEO Harold Meij issued a statement in both English and Japanese on the company's current situation and its plans going forward. NJPW have recently cancelled the Best of the Super Juniors tour, and they have postponed the Wrestle Dynasty show at Madison Square Garden. Meij explained why NJPW took these measures and the cost of those measures.
"The novel coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected the entire world these past few months including all of us here at New Japan Pro Wrestling," Meij said. "As you are likely aware, New Japan Pro Wrestling has not staged an event since February 26 and we are not actively staging events at this time. We at New Japan Pro Wrestling know how disappointing it is to have to cancel events, and I personally would like to thank all of the fans for their continued support in these challenging times.
"I would like to take this time today, to talk directly, to explain the actions we have taken over the past few months and to present a road map to live events returning. This spring, events in the New Japan Cup, the Wrestling Dontaku and the Best of the Super Juniors tours were cancelled, and we have had to regrettably postpone the Wrestle Dynasty at Madison Square Garden to 2021 as a result of the ongoing pandemic. This was an unprecedented step for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 48 years of our history. While we were left with no sensible option but to take these actions, they were not taken lightly. Not only were countless fans all around the world left disappointed but so too were our wrestlers and our staff. Obviously, New Japan Pro Wrestling incurred significant financial loses with these decisions as well. I cannot overstate how painful these steps have been for us and for me personally today."
WWE and AEW have been running shows with no fans, as well as some Japanese promotions like AJPW, NOAH, Dragon Gate and Stardom. Meij addressed why NJPW has not held an empty arena show.
"There are three reasons why New Japan Pro Wrestling has elected to cancel or to postpone so many events why we have not, to date, engaged in so called 'empty arena' matches," Meij said taking out a chart. "The first and foremost reason has been to protect the health and safety of our wrestlers and staff. When broadcasting matches free of spectators for broadcast online, even if we take all of the possible precautions to maintain the safety of the venue and do all we can to ensure the staff and the wrestlers are healthy, the fact remains that safety is by no means guaranteed. Data has clearly shown high levels of infection within cities like Tokyo, and therefore, we believe that to stage events, even in empty arenas, involves a level of unnecessary risk.
"The second reason for event cancellations is connected to the ability to use the venues. Many venues in Japan are run by the municipal and prefecture governments with their management deciding to forbid events from taking place in a bid to combat the coronavirus. Additionally, as the pandemic has escalated, these venues have closed their doors, even to empty arena presentations. Since New Japan Pro Wrestling does not own or operate venues of its own, this has led to many cancellations."
The last point Meij made was about NJPW's status as a global brand and the responsibility that goes along with it. He said that the success of Wrestle Kingdom 14 has helped the company during this time of not holding shows.
"New Japan is an industry leader both in Japan and worldwide," Meij noted. "With that position comes a great responsibility. As the global society holds a magnifying glass up to us, it behooves New Japan to act to the highest possible ethical standards. We are currently living under a national state of emergency declared by the Japanese government and have been strongly advised to exercise the maximum of self-restraint when to comes to individuals and as a business. To hold even empty arena matches in these circumstances would reflect badly on ourselves and our industry, and we will not trade out reputation as a positive force for social good even in the wake of harsh economic realities. It is the goodwill that we have fostered within our audience, our partners and society that led to Wrestle Kingdom 14 this year to become a great success allowing us to continue operating in the black. That goodwill must be protected at all cost.
"There are also positives connected with an extended time away that should not be denied as our wrestlers who put their bodies on the line so consistently for so long in order to entertain thousands have now had the chance to rest, heal, recharge and get ready to come back."
Meij continued talking about the NJPW Together Project series on NJPW World and thanked fans for their continued support through buying merchandise and other goods. It was reported that NJPW is considering empty arena shows, and Meij outlined what steps need to happen for empty arena shows to happen.
"As for the future, the first step for New Japan to return to action will indeed be empty arena matches with no fans in attendance. This step will be taken when, and only when, the state of emergency restrictions have been lifted, the number of new coronavirus infections declines and when matches can take place in a properly disinfected and safe setting," Meij said. "Once these conditions are met, matches will be held in Japan as well as our Los Angeles Dojo in the United States.
"The next step after that will be beginning to welcome fans to attend events. For this step to be taken, our wrestlers and staff will undergo rigorous health checks. In addition, fans will be subject to thermographic temperature checks upon entry, masks will be compulsory and venues will be thoroughly disinfected and properly ventilated, with ventilation of smoking places for example, and spaces will be left between the seats to comply with social distancing. Although this means that venues will be half of their usual capacity at first, we will be taking the maximum of due care to ensure your health and safety and look forward to welcoming you, once again, to our matches."
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