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Десетте стъпки на Hiroshi Tanahashi към успеха на NJPW през следващите месеци

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По-рано днес имаше пресконференция с NJPW президента Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW собственика Takaaki Kidani и NJPW директора Hitoshi Matsumoto, където Tanahashi сподели какви 10 стъпки възнамеряват да предприемат в следващите месеци за подобрението на компанията.




Pres. Tanahashi Offers Ten Steps to NJPW Success in Coming Months

June 4 saw President Hiroshi Tanahashi address media alongside Representative Director Hitoshi Matsumoto and owner Takaaki Kidani. Tanahashi reflected on six months in office and his plans for the months to come, with a ten step road map planned for future growth in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

‘It’s been six months since I became NJPW President, and over the last half year in the office and in the ring, and based on the voices of the fans and wrestlers, we would like to introduce a ten point plan for the future.’

1. Talent discovery and development

‘With more chances to shine in the ring, young talent will be able to draw in more of the fan base. In the near future you will see more chances afforded young talent to wrestle in prominent spots, and a greater effort focused on discovering and developing new talent in the bid to create brand new stars.’

— Might we see new young talent in the G1 Climax?

Tanahashi: I want to create chances for these talents, but those wrestlers have to make the most of those chances and earn those spots to answer to fan expectation. I made my G1 debut three years into my career, and I remember feeling the weight and pressure of being in that environment, and the voices that said it was damaging the brand. Still if there are people that can gut that out and show they belong…

We also have a lot of new wrestlers coming up, and I want to focus heavily on wrestlers in their 20s, early 20s especially. Okada was a champion at 23, so I want the best people in their early 20s in Japan, as well as America and the rest of Asia.

2. Elevating the value of title belts

‘Taking into account the opinions of wrestlers and fans, we want to clarify the roles and concepts of each championship belt, and raise the status of our championships. This will see various forms, but firstly, the NJPW STRONG Championships will be restored to their original roles of being defended only on American events.’

— Can you clarify exactly what might be involved here?

Tanahashi: Well, first of all, we want to make the STRONG titles American exclusive. Additionally, there have been a lot of new titles of late, and it’s important I think for wrestlers to understand what championships they want to aim toward, and for fans to understand that as well. Each title can have a role in different events, but we want the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship to consistently be the peak and have those roles take place after that.

Kidani: When NJPW was really booming in popularity, in 2017, 2018, 2019 we had seven championships. Right now there are 13. Even hardcore fans might not know who all our champions are. The more titles we have, as well, it’s felt that even though wrestlers should have more choice in terms of titles to wrestle for, they’re more likely to be only tied to one title without much movement.

This process may take time, perhaps over the next year to 18 months, but the important thing is to have the fans understand simply what each title is for and why they matter, and that will be the goal and the key to elevating that status.

— There is a double STRONG and IWGP Tag Team Championship match at Dominion, will those titles be defended separately going forward in that case?

Kidani: As I mentioned, this is a big project and some of those details will take time to iron out. The case with STRONG titles might become one where you have the rarest exception, like a Wrestle Kingdom where the titles are in Japan, but with the rest of the time on US shows exclusively, and there are NJPW events every month in the US right now. That’s meant that feuds over US titles have carried themselves over into Japan as well, making things a bit vague. So the goal is to bring the STRONG Championships more in line with what they were originally intended to be.

3. Reducing/eliminating outside interference

‘Interference has been something that has stood out in recent months, and from here will I will take a much stricter stance. If I need to be physically involved in that regard, I will be.’

— How exactly will runins be limited?

Tanahashi: We haven’t decided on concrete penalties yet, but there are important matches coming up in Osaka Jo Hall. I might be at ringside myself, and either way, fans will notice the difference by Dominion.

— And that’s something that will continue to be in place in future events?

Tanahashi: It’s the one issue that fans have expressed their displeasure with most about NJPW recently. As President, I want to take direct charge on that.

— There are a lot of voices that say HOUSE OF TORTURE matches in particular are affected in quality. Is this point in relation to them specifically?

Tanahashi: Right. There have been a lot of comments on social media, to the company, and me specifically, so as a representative of the company I want to make sure something is done.

— So in a broader sense, is this about restricting the actions of heels within NJPW?

Tanahashi: Well, wrestling and other sports have a very different approach when it comes to cheating. But if you’re cheating, even in a minor way, bending the rules, or what have you, it’s to turn things in your favour. I think there’s a line, even though it’s all bending or breaking the rules, there’s a line between that and cheating just to cheat, cheating just to take away from the match at hand. That’s the distinction I think we have to make. To put it simply, HOUSE OF TORTURE are out of line.

—It’s a very difficult point to think about when you consider breaking on a referee’s five count, or things like that. There’s an extent to where it’s all part of pro-wrestling. Let’s say a wrestler sprays mist. That’s illegal, but the fans like to see it. Isn’t it difficult to draw that line?

Tanahashi: There’s a broad approach to pro-wrestling and a loose approach to the rules, so you’re right, there’s a lot to where the fans have discretion of what they allow and what they don’t. With HOUSE OF TORTURE specifically there has been a wave of voices from the fans and that’s something that we’ll draw a firmer line on.

— Does that not fall to the referee? Should there not be a second sub referee, or?

Tanahashi: Sounds like a good idea, shall we do that? (laughs)

Kidani: Some interference, coming to the assistance of partners or teammates, some of that is part of wrestling. It’s a unique thing that only professional wrestling has. Let’s say someone’s rounding third base and heading for home in baseball and a member from the other team sprints out the dugout and tackles the guy? They’d be barred from that sport; it’s only something you see in wrestling.

But in society today, there’s a lot of challenges to people’s lives. We have higher taxes, inflation affecting cost of living, but salaries aren’t rising in response. People have a lot of stress in their daily life, and it doesn’t seem right to add to that stress in wrestling as well when it should be a release. There is a place for those actions, and in my opinion that isn’t in the main event. Maybe sometimes circumstances dictate that, but to the best of our abilities, I think that’s something that can be addressed when making matchups. Right now, it’s best for people to have an emotional release, and leave the building feeling good about things and themselves.

4. Increasing the prominence and status of NJPW Hontai

‘Hontai should be a constant force hat’s right at the heart of New Japan. With that in mind I want us to include more wrestlers within Hontai regardless of age, that want to fight with honour and sportsmanship to bring more fans to New Japan.’

— So are you recruiting for Hontai?

Tanahashi: Well, the word itself is a little strange, and there might not be many wrestlers who say ‘I want to be in Hontai!’. But a lot of wrestlers wrestle as a Young Lion, go away on excursion, come back in a certain character and choose not to be in Hontai. So yeah, to an extent, in the ring and backstage I want Hontai to be seen as an attractive option.

Matsumoto: That spirit of straight ahead, sportsmanlike fighting is something that should be at the center of NJPW, and it is something that should appeal to a broad variety of wrestlers, from newcomers to veterans and whatever faction they’re with right now.

5. Strengthening ties with STARDOM

‘We announced before that STARDOM will become a fully owned subsidiary of NJPW as of the end of June. You’ll see improved operating efficiency between the two companies, as well as improved scheduling, cross promotion, and more STARDOM wrestlers competing in New Japan in the near future as we work to grow both promotions. There will also be a Crossover event to come later this year, with more details to be announced very soon.’

6. Strengthening ties with AEW

‘I wrestled in Las Vegas for AEW on May 25, and while I was in America, Kidani and I met with Tony khan to talk about how we can continue to co-operate with one another in the future. On June 30, the third Forbidden Door event will present a lot of exciting matchups that NJPW fans will love to see.’

— How do you feel the AEW relationship will develop?

Kidani: We have a very positive relationship with AEW right now, and there is room for it to evolve further. There are things we can’t talk about just yet, but I think it’s something that can involve other departments within Bushiroad as well.

I think that this relationship has settled into something that’s a lot more stable int he long run, and a lot of that comes from Tony Khan having a deep fandom and appreciation for NJPW. He has a lot of passion for 90s guys like Hase, and the Steiners. He’s a fan, and both he and his father have an incredible business acumen. Tony Khan’s father started out making Toyota bumpers, and grew his business eightfold in a ten year span. And the Khans have had all this success not just in wrestling but American Football and the Premier League. With that acumen and their affinity for Japan, there’s a lot that can be done in the future, and I don’t think NJPW could ask for a better partner right now.

Having said that, there is the perception that NJPW is treated as a sub brand or is looked down on by AEW. Some of that perception of NJPW being behind comes from the economics at the moment. But the truth of the matter is AEW’s strengths and NJPW’s strengths are different. From development of talent from scratch, to a historical and traditional perspective, there’s a lot NJPW can offer that AEW cannot. So there’s a lot that we can do together and while much of it isn’t something we can discuss right now, there’s a lot we will do. But the idea that NJPW is the inferior partner is not correct. We are absolutely on an even footing, and that’s something we’ll prove in the near future.

7. Improving the live fan experience

‘We want fans to have the best possible experience out of the ticket they purchase, and to improve that, whether through adjusting pricing, or the number of ticket tiers available, as well as tiers with special bonuses. I also think we can do a lot to improve the fan experience outside of the matches themselves, like special food menus at the venues.’

— Do you have any particular ideas on how this can happen?

Tanahashi: There are fans that have supported NJPW for a long time, and there are brand new fans as well. It’s important that we meet the customer’s needs in that regard, in terms of pricing and other areas. For example, with the G1 Climax ticket details just being announced, having ladies’ seats for female fans, whether to put two or four people in a box, that kind of thing.

8. Improving NJPW World

‘We’d like to apologise once again for the bugs and issues that have come alongside the relaunch of NJPW World and the trouble that has caused. As the old NJPW World system was showing its age, the intent was to transfer to a new system that was better suited to a modern global audience, but this brought with it more issues than we had anticipated.

While the live viewing experience has much improved since the relaunch, there is still instability. Working alongside TV Asahi, we will address this issues to give a completely stable viewing experience, as well as better search functionality and improved archives, all within the calendar year. We look forward to your continued support.’

Director Matsumoto presented the final two points of the roadmap.

9. Improved treatment of personal information

‘In April, a list of fan club members’ names and dates of birth stored on a USB memory stick was lost, causing a lot of trouble and distress to fans.

There was no addresses, contact details or payment information on the device, and the information on board was encrypted. Though the device itself has not been found since, we have no evidence that any information has been used by third parties.

With fans’ utmost trust in mind, new policies and improved employee training is being put into place to ensure this does not happen again.

10. NJPW sponsorships

‘We want to express our gratitude to all of our fantastic sponsors.

News recently came out that one of our sponsors, LEC Co. Ltd. will be ending their sponsorship in June. We’re deeply grateful to LEC for their years of support, and they have been greatly appreciated. That said, with the strength of current ticket, content and merchandise sales, LEC’s departure as sponsors will not cause any significant damage to NJPW.

Again, we’re grateful for what LEC has done for New Japan, and we will be continuing to improve our relationships with our current sponsors as well as introducing new partnerships as NJPW continues to grow even stronger’.

Tanahashi’s 6 month appraisal

The session closed with final comments, as well as Kidani and Tanahashi’s thoughts on this six month period of Tanahashi as CEO.

Kidani: This might be something you’ve all experienced, but taking on a different form of stress to what you’re used to can really be tough to us all as human beings. I went from being a salaryman to suddenly starting my own business 30 years ago, and that was a huge stresser for me. Tanahashi’s very much used to the in ring kind, but the other one is really different to him, and we’ve seen that a little bit with his weight fluctuating (laughs).

So while there’s some things he’s still getting experience on, the facts and figures, and the board meetings and so on, he’s starting to get a hold on it, and as I’ve said in interviews, the atmosphere within the office seems very positive right now. Positive atmosphere means easier communication, which means results, and that is something that will come I think. It’s really hard to assess results after only six months, you really need a year on year assessment for that, but I will say that this is a team effort and it seems like Tanahashi has the team behind him and united in their focus. So in that sense, I’d say he’s doing very well.

Tanahashi: I graduated college and went into professional wrestling, so this is very much my first year in a regular job so to speak. Everything has been new to me, so it’s been a period of just absorbing everything at first. Then I’d go home, reflect on everything in detail, and think about how I can make it better next time. I’m happy that the owner expects a lot out of me, and I hope I plan on surpass those expectations.

Kidani’s closing comments

NJPW came into the Bushiroad group in January 2012, so we’ve had one full cycle of the Zodiac, 12 years. Before that, Yuke’s bought NJPW in November 2005, so from the next year 2006, you could say this current framework has been in place 18 years now. The peak for us was 2018–2020, and then with COVID, the reset button was pushed. I think from 2024, in this new 12 year cycle, and on for the next 18, I want us to trend towards something even greater than what’s come before. With a lot of new projects and improvements being made to look forward to we appreciate your support.

Matsumoto’s closing comments

In 2000 I started working with NJPW on World Pro-Wrestling as a producer for TV Asahi. I’ve seen tough times to work through along with Tanahashi, I’ve seen NJPW become part of Bushiroad, seen a big boom for New Japan, and seen World Pro Wrestling become a vital part of TV Asahi’s content portfolio.

Since December, I’ve been able to bring my experiences from TV Asahi across to help Tanahashi directly and in a different form. It’s been a lot of work and a humbling experience, but I feel it’s my role to make sure I support Tanahashi as much as I can, and oversee projects to the best of my ability to make sure Tanahashi’s stress levels are as lo as possible. I look forward to your support of both President Tanahashi and all of NJPW.

Tanahashi’s closing comments

This last six months has really flown by. I’ve done a klot of learning when it comes to understanding the roles of all these different departments, and trying to make their jobs easier. I’ve been giving it 100% in that area, and 100% as a wrestler as well, just like I said in the press conference when I took this role. I plan on becoming IWGP World Heavyweight Champion one more time, and surpassing every expectation anyone may have.

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