What wrestling company will have offered the most PPV’s by the end of 2013?
The answer is New Japan Pro Wrestling, which served up nine internet PPV’s in August alone, with the bold decision to offer up the entire G1 Climax tour in one bundle for $150 bucks. For those that were able to afford it, the shows ended up being a massive bargain (at roughly $16 per show), as the tour produced multiple Match of the Year contenders, three or four Best Major Show of the Year contenders, and was widely considered one of the best G1’s of all time (if not THE best).
In July, for the Kizuna Road tour, New Japan tested the idea of offering not only the traditional monthly PPV, but also the Korakuen Hall set up show at a discounted price ($15). It appears that this pattern will continue, as the Destruction tour features three total PPV’s – two ‘Road to Destruction’ Korakuen Hall shows on 9/5 & 9/14, and the Destruction event on 9/29. The price structure for the three shows is scaled to match the importance of each event, with the 9/5 show, with no major singles matches or title bouts coming in at $10, the 9/14 show, which features a CMLL World Tag Team title defense and a main event where the main event competitors for the 9/29 show face off in a tag match for $15, and the big show of the month with the usual $25 price tag on the 29th.
New Japan is hot, and they know it, so they aren’t shy about asking for your money. But to this point, they’ve earned it, with a run of shows that rivals any of the top runs in wrestling history from any promotion. But are people willing to spend money multiple times per month, even with the very fair scaled pricing structure? I’m not sure.
While it may not be the most scientific of methods, the discounted Kizuna Road set up show from Korakuen, with a Prince Devitt vs Gedo main event, easily had the least twitter activity for any PPV show New Japan had produced up to that point. The 9/5 show featured a shocking lack of buzz leading up. How this correlates to actual buys I don’t know, but I think it’s safe to say that the lack of interest shown on twitter and message boards would indicate that these shows do not do well for business.
Destruction on 9/29 may show if New Japan is truly over saturating the market. We can chalk up the Korakuen shows lacking interest to being seen as inferior, not important, or both. But a B-level “big” show like Destruction, which will feature a main event where the outcome is in zero doubt (Satoshi Kojima challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight title against Kazuchika Okada), is exactly the kind of event that would show signs of over saturation taking its toll, if that were indeed the case. The problem is that this is very hard to analyze, because good luck finding out what the buys for any of these shows are. Dave Meltzer reported figures for the earliest shows, but in hindsight those were likely just totals of people who ‘liked’ the USTREAM page, not the actual amount of people who bought the events. Meltzer has stopped reporting buys, probably because he doesn’t trust any of the figures that occasionally make the rounds. So intangible things like twitter activity & internet buzz is really all we have to go on.
While we may not know definitively how well these shows are doing business wise, let there be no doubt that aesthetically almost every New Japan PPV has been a home run. Considering the lineup, my expectations for this show were low. But it still looked like it could be a lot of fun, with two 8-man eliminations style tag matches on top, and an undercard featuring a few young lions who rarely crack the PPV lineups.
1. KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley vs. Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu
Hardcore New Japan dorks (hey, I’m guilty as charged) were hyped for this one, because it featured Tanaka & Komatsu, two young lions who are WON Awards ‘Rookie of the Year’ eligible, making their PPV debuts. Good chain wrestling to start. Lots of hope spots and babyfire fire that you would expect from young lions facing veterans. The crowd was way into the young lions, popping for all the comebacks. The story was Time Splitters out wrestling their younger opponents at every turn. The big transition spot was Komatsu powering out of a KUSHIDA keylock and making a hot tag to Tanaka, who cleaned house. Korakuen was loving this, and Tanaka looked good. Crowd went pretty crazy when Tanaka used a backslide on Shelley for a two count. The Splitters regained control and Shelley hit the Automatic Midnight on Tanaka for the win. This was a lot of fun, and it was refreshing to see some new faces in the junior tag mix. **3/4
2. Yuji Nagata & Takaaki Watanabe vs. Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI
Watanabe, another young lion, is slightly higher on the pecking order than Tanaka & Komatsu, having taken part in this years Best of the Super Juniors (and predictably going winless). As reported by Voices of Wrestling first, he’ll also be headed off to America for a year long excursion starting in October, first on the NWA/New Japan Texas tour, then based in New Jersey with Pro Wrestling Syndicate. Iizuka went after Hiroyoshi Tenzan, who was doing commentary, during the entrance. My feed dropped for a long time, but from what I saw Watanabe was the babyface in peril while I was gone. He made the hot tag just as my feed came back. Nagata didn’t do much besides cleaning up after that hot tag. Watanabe was isolated with YOSHI, hit some elbows, but got hit with a lariat. Then YOSHI used a swanton for the pin. I can’t rate this because I missed too much of it with my feed issues. Watanabe really shined from what I did see. NR
3. Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Karl Anderson, Tama Tonga & Rey Bucanero
Tonga & Bucanero will be challenging Liger & Tanahashi on the 9/14 show for the CMLL World Tag Team titles. Liger also holds the GHC Junior Hvt Tag titles (NOAH) with Tiger Mask. The crowd was hot for this. Well, they were hot for Liger & Nakanishi. Tiger Mask, not so much. Lots of fast paced action, almost like a Dragon Gate style six man. Nakanishi in particular really shined. Liger hit a palm strike followed by a brainbuster for the pin on Bucanero. Everybody worked hard. Fun match. ***
4. Togi Makabe & Captain New Japan vs. Prince Devitt & Bad Luck Fale
If you had a dollar for each time Bullet Club has defeated some version of a Captain New Japan tag team, you’d have enough money for one of these Korakuen Hall PPV’s. It’s getting tedious. Bullet Club needs to move on to a new target, or they need to find a challenger for Devitt’s IWGP junior title (yes, he still holds it, and last defended it against Gedo in July). You’ve seen this match a dozen times. Devitt pins CNJ after a double stomp from the top after the usual shenanigans. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just been there, done that. Yawn. **
Bruce Tharpe & Rob Conway appeared on the big screen before intermission. Tharpe was great as usual. Conway called out Jushin Liger. Liger came out to the ring and accepted. So Liger is the next NWA World Title contender. Cool.
5. Special Elimination Match I: Shinsuke Nakamura, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Jado vs. Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin, TAKA Michinoku & Taichi
The first elimination match was CHAOS vs Suzuki-Gun, as they continue their heel vs heel feud. Suzuki-Gun ambushed them before the bell. S-G worked over Jado forever. He survived three ankle lock attempts from Suzuki, but was finished with the Gotch Style piledriver. After that, it was rapid fire eliminations. Apparently you could be eliminated by going over the top rope, and that’s how the next five went, in this order: Suzuki, Yano, TAKA, Taichi, Ishii. This left Nakamura with Shelton. Nakamura hit a second rope Boma Ye, but got caught with a Paydirt when he tried a second one. Shelton was the sole survivor, scoring his third pin over Nakamura and setting up the IWGP Intercontinental title match on 9/29. Fun match. ***
6. Special Elimination Match II: Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito, Tomoaki Honma & BUSHI vs. Kazuchika Okada, Masato Tanaka, Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo
Elimination match #2 was Okada leading the other half of CHAOS against a team led by his challenger on 9/29, Kojima. This was BUSHI’s first match back since leaving for Mexico after BotSJ. Honma & Gedo started things. Okada & Kojima tagged in, and a loud, and I mean LOUD, O-ka-da! chant broke out. This company is crazy if Naito beats Okada at WrestleKingdom. Naito got the first two eliminations, first tapping Gedo with the Pluma Blanca, which was met with complete silence, then tossing Tanaka over the top. Tanaka cracked Naito in the head with his Singapore cane, allowing Yujiro to toss him out. Yujiro then pinned BUSHI with the Tokyo Pimps. Speaking of BUSHI, he sure escaped All Japan at the right time, huh? Kojima pinned Yujiro with a lariat. Okada dumped Kojima to a big pop. Okada was left with Honma. Crowd got behind the underdog, but Okada hit the Rainmaker and that was that. Again, lots of fun, which was the theme of the night. ***1/2
No matches of the year, not a classic show, just a lot of fun. Nothing was bad, and everything was entertaining. Well worth the $10 price tag, and some nice groundwork laid for Destruction. It was also good to see guys like BUSHI, Bucanero, Honma, Jado, and the young lions featured a bit.