NJPW’s President Explained Why The Company Hasn’t Run Empty Arena Matches

New Japan Pro Wrestling hasn’t put on any wrestling shows since late February, not even empty arena shows, which some other Japanese promotions have already committed to so hard they’re experimenting with adding remote crowd noise. In a new video message, NJPW company president Harold Meij explained why, and what needs to happen for New Japan to start running shows again.

Meij stated at “obviously, New Japan Pro Wrestling incurred significant financial losses” for the decision not to hold wrestling events during the pandemic so far, but the company has done this for three reasons. First, ” the protect the health and safety of our wrestlers and staff;” the high rate of infection in cities means “safety is by no means guaranteed” right now, even if all possible precautions are taken. Second, NJPW’s “ability to use venues” has been restricted since many buildings the company could use are run by the government and currently closed to events.

The third point is “NJPW’s Corporate Social Responsibility,” something Meij connects to the company’s financial success, saying:

New Japan is an industry leader, both in Japan and worldwide. With that position, comes a great responsibility. As a global society holds a magnifying glass up to us, it behooves New Japan to act to the highest possible ethical standards.

We are currently living under a national state of emergency declared by the Japanese government and have been strongly advised to exercise the maximum of self-restraint when it comes to our activities as individuals and as a business. To hold even empty arena matches in these circumstances would reflect badly on ourselves and our industry and we will not trade our reputation as a positive force for social good even in the wake of harsh economic realities.

It is the goodwill that we have fostered with our audience, or partners, and society, that led to WK 14 this year becoming a tremendous success, allowing us to continue operating in the black. That goodwill must be protected at all costs.

While NJPW has refrained from holding empty arena shows so far, Meij says these are the kinds of shows New Japan plans to initially hold when the company starts holding events again. He doesn’t give a date, but says this will happen “when the state of emergency is lifted, the number of new coronavirus infections declines, and when matches can take place in a properly disinfected and safe setting.” The state of emergency in Tokyo, where NJPW is based, is currently in place through the end of May, and New Japan has canceled all events through June 6.

When events can eventually be held with fans, Meij says there will be health checks for the staff at the shows, temperature checks and masks required for audience members, and venues will be “disinfected” and “properly ventilated,” and filled to only half capacity, with spaces between occupied seats.