Smooth’s Court is a column from Walter Yeates that will feature multiple weekly entries, including commentary from Walter on current and past events in the world of professional wrestling. This entry of Smooth’s Court looks into the example New Japan Pro Wrestling has set during COVID-19. Other entries into the series can be found at the bottom of this piece.
While New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) isn’t the only professional wrestling company that hasn’t released or furloughed wrestlers or staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, their during the current state of the world stand out.
As spoken about on the Kayfabe Brothers Podcast, several professional wrestling outlets have credited Ring Of Honor (ROH) and IMPACT Wrestling (IMPACT) for their paying wrestlers during the difficult time, ROH going out of the way to even pay those who were set to work shows that were canceled due to the virus.
…on a related note I would like to express gratitude for having just received a check for a show that is not taking place from a company I don’t have a contract with- but was looking forward to finally working with… namely @ringofhonor with a thoughtful and classy move. 💜
— katarina 😈💜 (@katarinasinfamy) April 15, 2020
However, both ROH and IMPACT are coming off scandals in recent months, that question leadership’s support for workers and not for those who have perpetuated bigotry. On the other hand, since NJPW has been under the Bushiroad umbrella has been known as a promotion that takes care of talent and doesn’t maintain the stereotypes of corporate greed as often seen from wrestling companies based in the United States.
Several of those working with NJPW took to twitter to show their appreciation for the company paying them in full during the COVID-19 pandemic.
.@njpwglobal #1 forever in my dark, evil heart
— [E L P] (@elpwrestling) April 18, 2020
I’ll say it once. I’ll say it again.
I work for the best wrestling company in the world!
— ᵂⁱˡˡ ᴼˢᵖʳᵉᵃʸ • ウィル・オスプレイ (@WillOspreay) April 18, 2020
Wrestling Observer’s David Meltzer also made a fascinating point concerning NJPW’s actions during the pandemic.
And New Japan and Tanahashi went and New Japan has contracted wrestlers who are paid, so aside from health, they fought for the guys in the small companies who are badly struggling. Can you imagine Hogan/Vince going to Congress to ask the government to help small companies? https://t.co/q6x3IfIBuu
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) April 15, 2020
While NJPW is one of the most financially successful, and one of the most financially secure promotions due to their business practices — they do not have anywhere near the short term financial resources that the WWE has access too. Despite that, they haven’t hosted any events since February 26th and are also hurting due to the pandemic. Yet, their decision to put their workers before the front office is consistent with their business approach since at least the early part of 2012 when Bushiroad purchased the company.
NJPW President Harold Meij, who handles the day to day operations of the company published the following open letter regarding COVID-19 on April 13th.
As I’m sure you’re aware, last week we announced the cancellation of the remainder of the events on the Road to Dontaku Tour. Our latest 12 cancellations from April 19 in Korakuen to May 4 in Fukuoka join other events already cancelled from March 1 onward.
I know how much of a disappointment this is to fans who were looking forward to attending these events. Ticket holders are all being refunded however, and as we closely monitor the situation with regards to events after May 4, ticket sales have been suspended or delayed accordingly to make the process as easy as possible for fans.
NJPW have been taking the ongoing global situation very seriously from an early stage. Currently over 90% of our employees are working from home as we continue to do our civic duty as a company to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We, like you, are disappointed and frustrated at not being able to present the best professional wrestling on the planet on a live basis at the current moment in time.
As a result, we want you to join us in preventing the spread of this disease. Please wash your hands and gargle regularly. If you’re in essential work, we sincerely appreciate you and ask that you take precautions to stay safe and healthy; otherwise, please stay home and watch the wealth of content available as part of the NJPW World Together Project, from archived matches with English commentary for the first time to the fantastic My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler movie. Together we can make a powerful tag team that can kick out of this, or any other crisis.
We are always proud of the greatest fan base in the world. Particularly in this uncertain environment, we are especially grateful to fans that have shown their support for New Japan Pro-Wrestling even without being able to see live events. Every Tokon Shop customer and NJPW World subscriber has our deepest gratitude, and the appreciation of every single NJPW staff member and wrestler.
Make no mistake: we will get through this together. I firmly believe that the fighting spirit of New Japan Pro-Wrestling is one that can overcome any opposition. I look forward to the day the greatest wrestlers in the world can show that spirit in the ring once more.
On April 20th, the company highlighted a campaign by Zack Sabre, Jr to help homeless individuals in the United Kingdom. The company has yet to draw attention to their troubles during the pandemic on social media.
「残念なことに自動販売機では販売していないけど、この商品のロイヤリティを俺の故郷ケント州にあるホームレス支援団体 @Porchlight1974 に寄付する」
— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) April 20, 2020
Smooth’s Court Column Series