On November 19th, officials from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and parent company Bushiroad led a contingent of Professional Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) based in Japan during a meeting with representatives from the Japanese House of Representatives (lower house of a national bicameral legislature).
The meeting was a follow-up to a similar conference on April 15th of this year. From the official English language NJPW website:
Among the officials at the meeting were Hiroshi Hase of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Akihiro Oota of Komeito, Kazuya Shinba of the Democratic Party for the People, and Yoshihiko Noda of the Constitutional Democratic Party. Also present were Seiko Noda of the LDP, independent member of the House of Coucillors [sic] and former fighter Genki Sudo, as well as Eriko Imai of the LDP, whose eldest son is preparing for a pro-wrestling debut.
New NJPW President Takami Ohbari made the following statement during the conference:
New Japan Pro-Wrestling is just one part of an entire professional wrestling industry that has been deeply affected [by the pandemic]. Yet history has shown that professional wrestling has been able to unite the hearts of many and bring people together in the face of deep adversity. From the very early days in post-war Japan, wrestling has taught us to never give up and to keep fighting until the very end and the count of three. In the wake of the Coronavirus [COVID-19], wrestling is more important to society than ever.
That said, we are currently operating under limited capacity venues, and many fans are concerned about the health risks of events. While we have had no clusters or cases arising from events, these concerns have a deep effect on attendance, and sale of goods. As Mr. Hase has alluded to, along with the seven organizations that are present here today, we are preparing to form an industry-wide committee that can properly work in solidarity with the government. For the time being, we are deeply grateful to have the strongest possible backing in this venture.
Chief Executive Officer of RIZIN, Nobuyuki Sakakibara said the following:
I am extremely happy for this meeting to take place here today. Transcending mixed martial arts, we in combat sports, whether in a ring or a cage, represent a centuries-old samurai spirit. As we move forward, I would like for this country to continue proudly bearing that spirit and culture we represent. Here we are taking a crucial step forward in not letting this pandemic ruin the proud traditions of martial arts and professional wrestling, but rather step forth against adversity in the same way our seniors did in post-war Japan. I want to continue pushing forward in this crisis together with the members here, so that even after this pandemic is behind us, we can further our culture and pass down these traditions to the next generation.
After statements and questions the representatives, a discussion took place between the organizations, including on the measures involving the 14-day quarantine period foreign workers must currently go through upon arriving in Japan.
The following is an official list of attendees from combat promotions at the conference:
Naoki Sugabayashi (New Japan Pro-Wrestling Chairman)
Tsuyoki Fukuda (President and CEO of All Japan Pro-Wrestling)
Satoshi Igarashi (Representative Director, AJPW)
Sanshiro Takagi (Cyber Fight)
Akira Takahashi (Representative Director, Cyber Fight)
Nairhiro Takeda (Board Member, Cyber Fight/NOAH)
Tetsuya Koda (Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling)
Taishi Fuwa (Managing Director, Joshi Pro-Wrestling DIANA)
Katsuhiko Harada (President & CEO, Bushiroad Fight/STARDOM)
Hiroshi Ogawa (Executive Producer, Bushiroad Fight/STARDOM)
Shigeru Saeki (DEEP)
Hideyuki Andy Hata (CEO, ONE Championship)
Kazuhiro Sakamoto (Vice President, Japan Shooto Committee)
Lumina Sato (Chairman, Japan Shooto Committee)
The meetings highlight a drastic difference right now between the wrestling scene in Japan and the United States. While Bushiroad (parents of NJPW and World Wonder Ring Stardom [Stardom]) are competing against the other promotions in attendance, the foundation of the community is valued higher than individual dominance.
In the United States, it’s unlikely such a joint conference would take place in fear of a competitor receiving positive press. The top-flight international football league in Japan, J1 League along with combat sports has seen fans in the thousands attend events over the past several months.
Since the restart, NJPW has seen approximately 72,000 (as of November 8, 2020) fans attend events without a single case of COVID-19 transmission being reported.