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 looks at NJPW Strong and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s push towards global TV licensing.
During the July 24, 2020 episode of Lion’s Break Collision, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dropped a major piece of news that hasn’t received the media traction equivalent to how big the particular project will likely be for the company.
The announcement of NJPW Strong as a weekly episodic event that will air on New Japan Pro Wrestling World (New Japan World) every Friday beginning August 7th opens a new phase of the companies international expansion.
Lion’s Break Collision showed NJPW could produce a weekly episodic program that remains true to the ‘Sports Realism’ in-ring centric NJPW style that led to their revenue boom and international expansion since 2011.
History Of Lion Event Branding In NJPW
The brand change from Lion’s Break to NJPW Strong signifies the show will center around established talent from the NJPW roster. This is clear due to the historical connotation between the ‘Lion’s _’ branding within the company.
Beginning on September 2, 2004, NJPW began producing events for Young Lions and younger dojo graduates, the initial three events were branded as ‘Lion’s Road.’
In 2016, NJPW began producing ‘Lion’s Gate’ events, and have held 13 thus far, with the last to date taking place on June 13, 2018.
Shortly after, on November 10, 2018, NJPW began producing ‘Lion’s Break,’ events that focus on hopeful NJPW talent based in North America. The events now run under the New Japan of America (NJoA) subsidiary. The ‘Lion’s Break Collision’ brand began in June of this year.
Why NJPW Strong Could Lead To Huge Revenue
From a June 2018 CNBC article detailing World Wrestling Entertainment’s new TV licensing contracts in the United States:
WWE signed deals with Comcast-owned USA Network and Fox-owned Fox Sports starting from October 1, 2019, for its programs “Raw” and “SmackDown.” USA Network will distribute “Raw” on Mondays while Fox will screen “SmackDown” on Friday as part of the five-year arrangements.
The deals will increase the average annual value of WWE’s U.S. distribution to 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBC Universal, which is also owned by Comcast.
WWE anticipates revenue from these agreements will grow from $311 million in 2019 to $462 million in 2021. The sports entertainment company has other deals to negotiate in that time frame and this could increase revenue further, it said.
While NJPW isn’t expecting to generate approximately $462 million from television rights deals in the United States, they could very well generate a sizeable amount of revenue if they were able to secure even a decent deal within the territory.
In January of this year, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) signed an extension for their Dynamite program. From Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Network:
In a deal that will make the company profitable in 2020 and beyond, TNT, Warner Media, and AEW have renegotiated and signed a new four-year contract that would keep Dynamite on the station through the end of 2023.
The four-year deal is worth $175 million, just under $45 million per year, and includes TNT having an option for 2024 at a significantly increased price.
If NJPW Strong can build off the momentum from Lion’s Break Collision, NJPW could sign a contract for the program worth between $10 million – $20 million per year, which would be a major achievement for the company in one of its secondary markets.
As stated on the Kayfabe Brothers podcast by Jonathan Ridgway, NJPW could also ship NJPW Strong to the United Kingdom and other English speaking territories for further revenue streams through content licensing.
An already produced product will be attractive to networks around the world, while NJPW can use their main roster in Japan to supplement the show on occasion.
How Will NJPW Strong Look To Draw A Viewing Audience
While travel restrictions are in place due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019), NJPW is likely to bank on the established talent they have that is currently within the United States.
Current Bullet Club members Tama Tonga, Jay White, and Kenta are established draws for the company, are currently in the US, and could bring intrigue to NJPW Strong programming while they are unable to wrestle for the main brand within Japan.
Along with the likes of Jeff Cobb, Rocky Romero, Tom Lawlor, recent NJPW Los Angeles (LA) Dojo graduate Karl Fredericks, NJPW LA Dojo Young Lion Clark Connors, NJPW LA Dojo Young Lion Alex Coughlin, Rust Taylor, and Misterioso — they have enough talent to present a high-level product.
The intrigue surrounding Bullet Club leadership since Evil won the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental ‘Double Championship’ has an interesting narrative that Toma Tonga has added to with his Tama’s Island podcast.
With several intriguing stories in the backdrop of high standard NJPW wrestling could create the buzz needed to draw in a lucrative TV partner within the United States.