3 Takeaways From New Japan Pro Wrestling’s First U.S. Show

New Japan held its first solo U.S. shows this weekend.
New Japan held its first solo U.S. shows this weekend. NJPW

On Saturday night, New Japan Pro Wrestling held its first solo show in the United States at Long Beach, California. The hype for the show was big, with tickets selling out in two minutes for both Saturday and Sunday’s shows. With the momentum that NJPW has built with five-star matches on almost a monthly basis, the U.S. was ready for the promotion to make their invasion.

Saturday’s show broadcasted on AXS TV in the U.S. and on New Japan’s over-the-top service, New Japan World. The expectations were high for the card as this would be America’s first real glimpse, both live and on television, of this product that is very different than the WWE’s current stale product.

This article will not go through every single match from the show. Instead, we will examine three takeaways from the show, which went for almost four hours with an intermission midway through. Let’s begin with the crowd.

Long Beach May Have Been The Right Place To Hold The Show After All

There were some people when the shows were announced that had doubts about having the show in Long Beach. It’s not Los Angeles, but other places mentioned for the show were New York City or Chicago. The idea was why not have the show in a wrestling hotbed like the Allstate Arena (Chicago) or Hammerstein Ballroom (New York) in front of “smart” fans who know the product. Saturday night showed that Long Beach was the right call.

The crowd was hot all night and even during matches like Ishii vs. Naito when it started slow, the crowd’s energy was felt. The reactions to the matches and the wrestlers made the show seem like a big deal, and the fans appeared to be into everything about the show (even the out of place Billy Gunn). During the broadcast, Jim Ross mentioned that there were fans from over 30+ states in attendance, not to mention from around the world, which no doubt helped Long Beach’s economy as well. It was a good night for Long Beach, California.

Kenny Omega Is Professional Wrestling Right Now

While the WWE trots out Roman Reigns as their number one guy, New Japan Pro Wrestling has their number one guy in IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada. But NJPW also has “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega, the Canadian-born heir to the throne in New Japan. Omega and Okada have had two five-star matches already in 2017 and during Saturday’s show, he had another Match of the Year candidate against Michael Elgin in the IWGP U.S. Title tournament.

Omega is building a reputation for putting on good matches and giving great promos, which has many calling him the best wrestler/performer in the world. Omega spurned the WWE and stayed with New Japan earlier this year, and with that move, it could be a sign that a run with IWGP Heavyweight Championship is in his future. If you haven’t watched a Kenny Omega match, do yourself a favor and watch Omega vs. Okada from the Wrestle Kingdom 11 from this past January right now.

New Japan Is A Far Superior Product That The WWE

This is a debatable topic to many. Some fans feel the WWE product has gotten stale and unwatchable while New Japan continues to up their game with every single show they have. The New Japan World service may not have has many subscribers as the WWE Network, but its subscribers have been growing since the Omega/Okada match at the beginning of the year. Fans have realized that wrestling doesn't have to be entertainment with buffoonery, but instead an athletic matchup with a battle between good and evil.

While fans of New Japan without New Japan World get matches weeks to months after they happened on AXS TV in the U.S. (if you even have that channel), the thirst for more NJPW is growing as the promotion look to make U.S. trips more regular. That presents a problem to the WWE, as it tries to improve their product now that a feasible competitor is trying to get into the market that the WWE dominates. Will this improve the WWE’s product? Probably not, but New Japan will continue to gain fans and increase interest with their exciting style with something for everyone.

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