Wrestling Inc.’s own Jesse Collings was on a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast where he and Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman discussed NJPW’s expansion into North America. Collings gave his thoughts on the impact of the resignation of NJPW President Harold Meij.
“It definitely is going to have a big impact. There’s a lot of complicated aspects to the Meij hiring and his tenure there,” Collings noted. “I think if people are familiar with Jim Herd in WCW, historically, when people look back at that era, a lot of the criticism aimed at Jim Herd is, well, he didn’t come from wrestling. He came Pizza Hut or something.
“He was a smart guy and someone that I think some people liked, but he didn’t get pro wrestling, and I think some of that criticism has been aimed at Meij is that Meij was a very successful businessman with knowledge of not only the Japanese market but the American market and the European market as well. And he was a big get for New Japan. They went out there and they got a legit Fortune 500 company-level CEO to run their company, and professional wrestling companies don’t usually do that, but I think what came with that was, I would guess, a dismissiveness from the talents and from the people on the wrestling side, the booking side who were frustrated that this guy was coming into their industry.
“And by all accounts, Harold Meij was a really big fan of New Japan and liked pro wrestling and had been to a lot of shows before, so he wasn’t a novice, but there’s a difference between being a fan and being in the industry. And so I think there was some tension there. I think we’ll find out a lot more in the next year. I think people will talk more about it.”
Collings pointed out that The Elite were the focal point of NJPW’s endeavors in the United States. He talked about how The Elite leaving and creating AEW hurt NJPW and it’s perception in the U.S.
“When it comes to New Japan in the U.S., people seem to beat around the bush when it comes to mentioning this, but it’s very simple. New Japan in the United States was built on The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega,” Collings pointed out. “They were the draws for New Japan in the U.S. If [Kazuchika] Okada came to the U.S., he’d still be over.
“Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, if they came to USA, they’d be over, but the U.S. expansion, the North American expansion was largely built on the popularity of The Elite. The Elite not only left New Japan. They left and formed another company that now competes for eyeballs with New Japan and is now also an alternative to WWE, which New Japan was also staking its claim to as being the company you watched if you didn’t want to watch WWE.
“There’s no way to say it other than that took all of the wind out of the sails for New Japan in the U.S. because they lost their most marketable American talent, and those people started a promotion that steals eyeballs from them. There’s no other way around it than to say that, and I think the kind of confusion about what New Japan now is in the United States stems from that.”
Hausman noted The Elite left without a major feud to put Bullet Club over and also noted that there seemed to be friction between NJPW management and The Elite. Collings pointed out that The Elite were supposed to be on New Year’s Dash but were pulled for still unknown reasons.
“I don’t know all the details,” Collings admitted. “There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt around that, but if you remember, the members of The Elite were scheduled for the post-Tokyo Dome shows at New Year’s Dash, and they were pulled. And they have said that we were mad that we were pulled. Now, why were they pulled? A feud with management? Was there a good reason for management to pull them? Was there a bad reason by management? Was Harold Meij mad at them? Who knows?”
Hausman talked about how there was friction between Meij and talent over merchandising, and Collings noted that Hulk Hogan left the AWA because of t-shirt money that he was not receiving. He also said that Meij might have also left NJPW because he was making too much money that the company could not afford due to pandemic.
“One of the main reasons that Hulk Hogan left the AWA was because Verne Gagne was hoarding all of his T-shirt money and refused to give it to them, and Hulk Hogan’s like, ‘Those are my t-shirts!’ So it’s really always been about t-shirts,” Collings pointed out. “That goes back to Harold not being a wrestling guy.
“A person from the business world would look at that and they’d say, ‘All these guys are making money off of our product, and we’re not getting a cut of it. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to put a stop to that,’ and in the business world, you look at that and be like, ‘Well, that’s the logical business move,’ but professional wrestling’s a unique industry that has treated its talents in a very unique way. So him coming in and doing what would be considered the sensible business thing is going to ruffle a lot of feathers because it’s professional wrestling, and it’s not a normal business. It’s not Coca-Cola Japan. It’s not a toy company.
“One of the main reasons he was let go was New Japan’s taken a big hit from the pandemic, and he was making a ridiculous amount of money because New Japan was competing with Fortune 500 companies. So that’s another reason he was gone I think. It might even just be as simple as that to be honest. He was making, I don’t know, $10 million, and they’re like, we can’t afford to pay this guy.”
Jesse Collings is featured as part of Voices of Wrestling’s Best of NJPW 2020 ebook that is being released the first week of January. Colling’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.