New Japan Pro Wrestling has been working on expanding internationally for the past couple of years and took the next step in that process earlier this autumn when it announced NJPW of America. A big part of how the company is trying to grow in the U.S. is through touring, and the NJPW of America era has so far seen an uptick in the promotion of live events outside of Japan. Last night, NJPW more of that promotion by uploading its most recent show in America to YouTube and NJPW World for free.
The uploaded show is NJPW Showdown in LA, the event held at the Globe Theater (the current home of PWG) in downtown Los Angeles two nights after a larger event in San Jose (Showdown in San Jose.) From talking to several people who attended the show, it seems like much of the audience did not know Showdown in LA was going to be filmed, especially because a big part of NJPW’s promotion of this event was something called the Social Media Showdown. While NJPW doesn’t allow fans to video most of its events, to create buzz for this event and future American shows, “non-commercial video recording” of clips up to thirty seconds long was allowed, and the company promised to retweet posted videos from Showdown.
If you keep up NJPW-related things on social media, you probably already saw at least a clip or two from this event online, but now the whole thing is available in two different formats. On NJPW World, the event is up in one video in its entirety, which is about two hours and ten minutes long. On YouTube, matches have been uploaded individually and can be watched in order in this playlist. Showdown in LA is mostly tag matches between regular NJPW wrestlers, some of which have connections to current storylines, but most of which are just matches. There’s also an opening tag match between American junior heavyweights (TJP and Amazing Red vs. Aaron Solow and Alex Zayne), a singles match between Kota Ibushi and Ren Narita, and L.I.J.’s Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito closing the show in English and Spanish.
This whole social media strategy is pretty different from how NJPW markets shows in Japan, for international fans included. Clips from matches are only shown through the NJPW World Twitter account, and tweeted while events are in progress. From shows in Japan, one free full match is uploaded to YouTube and NJPW World every Monday, which stops being free once the next week’s free match is uploaded.
For these American shows, there’s now a full event available to watch for free, plus another YouTube playlist of full matches (seven of them) from events that were not broadcast live. Meanwhile, there is almost no advertising for these American events outside of NJPW channels and accounts online aside from posters and, with Showdown in LA, calling on fans to promote the event while attending it. It’s hard to say if this reaches any fans or potential fans who aren’t already deep enough in the wrestling bubble that they follow or hear about what New Japan is up to, but it does give the people who see it a good idea of what to expect from NJPW U.S. house shows.