In the early hours of October 18, there came news that seemingly came out of nowhere. All Japan held a press conference announcing that Zeus had acquired 100 percent ownership of Osaka Pro Wrestling, the company he debuted in back in 2006, and that he would be leaving All Japan at the end of this year.
Zeus has been Inaugurated as CEO of Osaka Pro Wrestling.
As a result, Zeus will leave All Japan Pro Wrestling on December 31st, 2021.
All Japan Pro Wrestling will support Zeus's activities.
We look forward to your continued support for Zeus. #ajpw #ajpwint pic.twitter.com/lRU5tTVFhv
— AJPW International (@ajpwint) October 18, 2021
It should be noted that Osaka Pro never actually died. While it has only run one show since the pandemic started, in 2019 they ran eight shows. That is a far cry from the 300 they ran as recently as 2013, but it never stopped running. So it is not a complete resurrection of a dead promotion.
The press conference itself was a rather interesting affair. On All Japan’s website, the announcement isn’t that Zeus is leaving the company but that he is becoming the CEO of Osaka Pro. All Japan’s President Takeki Fukuda and Director Toshiki Toeda were all smiles at the press conference and had nothing but nice things to say about Zeus.
I have no secret insider knowledge of all of the goings-on here, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would say that there is probably more to this story than is being let on. While Zeus says he hopes to have All Japan work with Osaka Pro in the future, and that he would appear in All Japan again after January, nothing was confirmed, meaning no official working agreement between the two companies was announced. Given the friendliness of this press conference that highlighted what Zeus is going to be doing instead of where he is leaving suggests that a decision of an alliance between the two companies has already been made or is close to being reached. After all, this is not something that Zeus decided to do last week. He says he first got the idea to take over Osaka Pro this past May and actually bought the company in August. During that time, Zeus wasn’t buried in the booking unlike in the lead-up to Yusuke Okada’s departure from the company at the beginning of 2021.
Ultimately, time will tell if this prediction is correct.
The next question is what does Zeus’ departure mean for the All Japan product? I will be provocative here and say that it presents an opportunity, but it will be up to those running All Japan to make something of it.
I would argue that Zeus is one of the most underrated wrestlers in Japan. While his matches against Kento Miyahara got plenty of eyeballs on them, Zeus is a great worker in many different situations that have gone underappreciated.
That leaves a hole in the card in a company that has struggled to add depth to their roster in the recent past.
That being said, Zeus’ departure is hardly anything resembling a crisis. He had reached his ceiling in the company. He could be a tag champ, and he could challenge for the Triple Crown. He even won the Champion Carnival last year. His own Triple Crown reign didn’t light the world on fire and the company quickly went back to Miyahara. In short, he was an upper midcarder that you could plug into the main event a couple of times per year.
Zeus leaving, frees up space for younger wrestlers to move up the card, and All Japan, to its credit, has managed to cultivate a core of young wrestlers and still has more training in their Dojo. And with Zeus’ salary now off the books, I expect that it will be announced on All Japan’s January 2, 2022, show in Korakuen Hall that Shotaro Ashino has signed a contract with the company. And if (and as more months go by, it seems like a big if) Naoya Nomura returns from injury any time soon, then Zeus’ absence will be hardly noticed from a match quality perspective.
Zeus returning home to Osaka Pro presents All Japan with the opportunity and the excuse to shake up their booking. But that will come down to if those running the show seize the moment. While All Japan as of late has shown some promising signs of new directions, there have been so many false starts and abrupt reversals over the past several years that I am always wary of making long term predictions about this company.
However, it’s clear that those running All Japan really want the company to grow, as they have recently entered into an agreement with Total Promotion Agency Status, a marketing and event promotion firm that has done work for major Japanese companies like Panasonic, Sony and Square Enix. But no amount of flashy advertising for upcoming shows is going to replace the basics of wrestling – namely creating and pushing new stars, especially when older ones leave the territory.