Hey everyone Charles here to bring you some news that you may or may not be aware of at this time. The potential Possibility of pro wrestling NOAH splitting?
Pretty much this story has been picking up steam here in the states in particular is the story that was released by The Wrestling Observer:
|This is an early line on what could be one of the biggest pro wrestling news stories of both this and next year.
There is a lot of talk that with the NTV budget back under control, that the network will bring pro wrestling back. NTV aired pro wrestling from 1954 until 2009, with only a short break during the switch from All Japan to Pro Wrestling NOAH, at which time they still ran a magazine style weekly show. NOAH has continued to run on NTV’s satellite station, but there is a huge difference financially which has left the company crippled. The problem with Japanese wrestling as compared to the U.S. and Mexico is as much television related as MMA related.
Because Japan’s satellite channels are decades behind the U.S., television viewing is still dominated by the major networks. For example, the numbers K-1 shows still do would beat any sport in the U.S. except the NFL, the Final Four, the World Series and NBA playoff finals. But in Japan, the networks routinely pull bigger numbers for regular programming. The standards are much higher. A pro wrestling television show doing a 4.0 in prime time would be a disaster, so pro wrestling hasn’t been in prime time for years. There was an interesting lag and even before MMA got big, and when wrestling was at its peak of drawing power, there were people in Japan who predicted the fall, noting with TV at 2 a.m., the fervent audience would stay up, or tape the show, plus they could follow it in the newspapers and magazines where it got big coverage. But young kids and teenagers who grew up with pro wrestling during its television glory days in the 70s and 80s was no longer the case. In recent years, the biggest stars were still the guys who had made their names in the 90s. While NOAH had plenty of good workers, the guys people paid to see were still Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi. When the former passed away and the latter battled for his life and then battled through injuries that by all rights should have forced him to retire, the great workers like KENTA, Takashi Sugiura and Naomichi Marufuji, who themselves were all battling injuries from the style, didn’t have the name value to the masses. The combination of the smaller big show gates and non-existent television money, the company was headed for almost an inevitable fall.
Due to money being so low, the front office stopped getting their regular paychecks last week, which is usually one of those signs things are going down, although All Japan had this problem for a long time and they’re still around. A lot of the wrestlers, instead of getting weekly paychecks, are getting paid in cash at the end of the shows they work out of the gate, which may be old school U.S. wrestling, but that is not major league Japanese wrestling.
The main thing that should be noticed from all this is the fact that their really is two different view points in the promotion. Since Mitsuharu Misawa passed away back in June of 2009. The promotions has sort of been floating and not really moving one direction or another. Their has been some connection for the last year with NOAH vs. NJPW, but other than that the promotions has indeed been seeing lower attendance figures, even lower that what they report on after every event happens. There have been pictures released as of late, thanks to twitter and countless blogs, that easy show that NOAH is nowhere near selling out their bigger shows. You can clearly see empty seats, especially in the upper sections. This is sort of sad to see when NOAH has had some awesome matches throughout the years, and even this year in particular some of great matches coming from the Champion Takeshi Sugiura, as well.
So this leads me to my major point of all this, is NOAH just in need of a serious change? The answer that I can tell you is yes! NOAH has been a company since June of 2000 following the biggest split ever in Japanese Pro Wrestling from All Japan Pro Wrestling, which in fact was nonetheless due to politics between the Misawa and the future AJPW. NOAH was founded upon change. Change that Misawa himself wanted soon after Shuhei “Giant Baba” passed away on January 31st, 2009. What happened is Misawa's, who played an important role in AJPW at the time, thoughts where completely different on the subject on where the promotion should head in the present day. Motoko Baba, Shohei's wife, and a few others like Masanobu Fuchi and Toshiaki Kawada wanted to keep everything the same like Giant Baba wished. This is not exactly how Misawa wanted to run things so he left his position on the executive board, and took pretty much everyone from the AJPW roster with him to form NOAH including board members as well. All Japan would be left pretty much a fish out of water, but it would not take too long before bridges were fixed and they would rebuild.
Since then NOAH has embodied the feel and thoughts of Misawa's teaching. Misawa based the promotion sort of on his past experiences and knowledge of the 80's and 90's receptively. What we had was an emphasis on big matches, leagues/tournaments and for the most part the emphasis on the already established talents.
This all worked fined for up to the promotions first five years, but after 2005-2006 the promotion seemed to be slowly slipping from being one of the top promotions in Japan. The top tier talent in the promotion where all either getting too old or were finding themselves almost crippled due to the punishment they have sustained throughout their whole career. Kenta Kobashi was actually one of the first to find himself on the injury list when he was actually needed to help push the promotion to its fullest in the early days, but even though he came in and pushed himself he was very different in his style and was easily showing how weak he was on his legs. So even though NOAH has wanted him to be the top talent, he was just too shot to be able to take the load of a full schedule. In the case of this, Misawa took up the helm as the top talent, with other likes Jun Akiyama, Yoshihiro Takayama, and Akira Taue to name a few stepping up and helping establish the promotion. This all worked very well until after 2006, when things would begin to look bleak. NOAH would find themselves as the promotion to not be able to produce talent like other promotions like NJPW, All Japan, Zero1 and even Big Japan. NOAH was never known as the place to be taught wrestling. Even though of the top star talent in the promotion their actual Dojo was not on the same level. Only 3 young guys from 2005 class, Genba Hirayanagi, Atsushi Ao
ki & Shuhei Taniguchi even managed to stay with the promotion. NOAH in the last 5 years has not debuted a new talent since, and has not really managed to push these young men to much in the careers nor really anyone that has trained under them in the first place done much other than than a few Juniors. All of the new guys have found themselves under the shadows of those before them, and sort of led by their hands while crossing the street if I can say it that way. Really the only person to get pushed the hardest is Go Shiozaki who debuted for the promotion in 2004. Shiozaki would be the one looked at it to lead the promotion eventually down the road, due to him being backed by both Misawa & Kobashi. Taniguchi and Aoki showed promise, but for some reason where, and still are held back in some form. Though maybe it is because they have not been trained correctly to be ready now, or it is because of booking that they are sort of kept aside right now. Following the death of Misawa a lot of noise has been made in regards to if the promotion can actually maintain itself in the end. NOAH was Misawa's promotion he ran and had the final say in every aspect of what happened. What happens now, with Akira Taue placed up at Misawa's position, Kobashi placed as Vice President and at the helm of running the Heavyweights and Naomichi Marufuji, Vice-president as well, placed with the task of the Juniors. Though Marufuji gets hit with most of negativity of booking shows, he is not the final caller for the promotion, so placing everything upon him is sort of just looking for a target, in my opinion.
This has been my main gripe with NOAH is the fact that they have not built up a new guys to keep the promotion alive into the years ahead. Taniguchi & Aoki still seem to be not ready to run full force, well at least Taniguchi does not. Shiozaki has been given the belt, but his run seemed to just be a one shot, at the moment, just following the emotion of Misawa's passing. Though Shiozaki has showed that he is ready to be the top guy he is still sort of held back. I know nothing on why anything happens in NOAH the way it does, but it is apparent that NOAH does need a change. They do not have any of the talent from the 90's nowhere near 100% health, so to keep the company just on them is creating, in a sense, a slow an inevitable death for them. They new guys need to be pushed and made to be top talent or there is no future. This happens every 10-15 years in pro wrestling, or at least it should. Every promotion keeps themselves alive by getting all they can out of the old and slowly, but surely having a handful of young guys being set up to take over when the old cannot anymore. NOAH has truly found themselves at a stalemate in terms of talent. Most of their, as far as heavyweight go are over the age of 34, well actually they all are other than Shiozaki who is 28 years old turning 29 in July. Taniguchi just turned 34 on Oct. 18th. This is not saying it is too late for the older generation, but there is an unsettling void that is missing in NOAH and almost non-existent in every other promotion in Japan it seems.
Kenta Kobashi and Ryu Nakata's names are all at the head of this controversy of NOAH “potentially” splitting. Kobashi seems to be the one with the same mentality of Misawa with having a strong emphasis on loyalty on what Misawa wanted and sort of on the jobs of the wrestlers. While Nakata has been all for the workings with outside promotions like NJPW and ROH in particular and has a the promotions money in mind, especially when it comes to the older guys being overpaid. I am not saying completely that neither men have something passionate in mind, but at the end of the day pro wrestling is entertainment and is aimed to make money for the performers and everyone involved. NOAH is seriously losing money, but that is not too stick them out too much because everyone is losing money. Though NOAH is the one that is looked at as in seriously jeopardy due to behind the scenes politics and issues.
When things start to take a turn in a bad direction, sometimes it is best to hold your ground and see if things turn back for the better. If not it is time to look at a new possibilities, or what there is lacking of that brings people to the arena/gym seats. So what does NOAH need to change or do? For one they need to actually work with another promotion for good. Not just nibbling on NJPW here and there, but a full fledged partnership until they can began to rebuild their roster. With the old politics that is still between NOAH and AJP there is no telling when something may come between them two. There best bet is to work with NJPW, but would New Japan have anything to gain from something like this? If NOAH does split into two sanctioned groups could we see something formed like Kensuke Office. Just different school's of thought working under themselves as a group and coming together as a bigger promotions for the common good or will it see a complete demise of NOAH? Personally we do not need anymore promotions, especially in Japan where there are plenty already. It should be in the best interest for the split to just cause them to work with other promotions. All Japan is the obvious choice for a lot to go to if they could. Some like Morishima, Taniguchi & Marufuji could fit right in with the All Japan style of wrestling, and it would be a return for Morishima and Marufuji who trained under All Japan in the late 90's. Shiozaki, KENTA & Atsushi Aoki could possibly continue working with NJPW who have done pretty well for themselves there. As for a lot of the older generations I really cannot say anything for them. Would they stick with Kobashi, retire, or end up freelance like a few others have last year.
Can NOAH change their product this late in the game, that is a hard question to answer. Without the real backing of a future generation, NOAH would have to work hard now to begin building young talent. But is that even possible now that places like Kensuke Office, DG, and even Big Japan are being looked at as the places to go and learn how to be a professional wrestler. In the end of itall will NOAH as it is now still have something worth offering to Television that could give them a solid time slot? That is yet to be seen. Are people still interested in Japan when companies like DDT and Dragon Gate are becoming more and more popular. NOAH does manage to have good shows, but the numbers in attendance is what is effecting them. What can they do like the other promotions that would save them from splitting? Well something that has been mentioned in the media is the new partnership with NJPW & NOAH with “SAMURAIS pro wrestling” which is a new global distributing/advertising company. There is news of a show coming up in Dubai, and I would not doubt it if they will have some connectivity with the JAPW/NJPW shows next years. Though NOAH is listed on the company there has not been much mentioned to how they will be utilized. NOAH could work with ROH more here in the states, but the language barrier is always brought up as issues. Hence even why DGUSA is made up with a lot of American talent over native Japanese talent.
So I don't know NOAH splitting does seem more and more of a potential reality the more you think of it. I did not want to come off like I have something against NOAH because I do not. I have followed NOAH since day, and I will continue to do so until I can no longer.
What do you think? Will NOAH continue sailing into tomorrow or will the ships of NOAH's end up docking and moving some place new? It is just a harsh reality of where things can easily take a turn in the wrong direction. How a few choices can lead to something happening and not happening and in turn cause major changes in the future.