Program title “NHK Close Up Gendai”
Theme: Right now Puroresu (Japanese pro-wrestling) is enjoying a renaissance.
- Every show you go to, you see tons of Pujoshi (Female fans of pro-wrestling).
- New Japan’s revenue has more than tripled over the last 7 years.
- They are in the midst of their global expansion, with their first ever foreign CEO, George Harold Meij.
- It’s been over 60 years since puroresu was introduced to Japan.
The purpose of this program is to change the bias of puroresu people may have.
Guests: Tanahashi and Asuka Kuramochi (former AKB member, a big puroresu fan, and co-host of the show, “Arita to Shukan Puroresu”)
Scene 1: Pujoshi
The majority of fans you see at Korakuen nowadays are pujoshi and families. (Around 02:00)
The first family they feature: Yoshikawa
- The dad is very surprised that his daughter, Mai (age 15), is so into puroresu instead of boy bands, like most other girls her age.
- Mai spends all her allowance buying ‘Weekly Pro-Wrestling’ magazine.
- Mai is intrigued by each wrestler’s unique individual personality. She loves Naito the most.
- Even though Naito is a heel character, he’s very kind to children.
- Hiromu has charisma with his very unique character.
- The image on puroresu her mom had, was ‘bloody’ and ‘scary’, but current puroresu is ‘fun’ and ‘not scary’.
Scene 2: The Dark Age
During the 2000’s, puroresu had lost its popularity to the surge of MMA.
Liger: He talks about those being the toughest years puroresu in his more than 30 year career. But Tanahashi was the light of puroresu. He is the main person who brought puroresu back.
Tanahashi promoted proresu everywhere, even very small venues and cities.
Liger: “Tanahashi never gave up, even to this day. People connect with him.”
Scene 3: BUSHIROAD
When BUSHIROAD bought New Japan, that was the start of the second puroresu boom.
The owner, Kidani, promoted New Japan on train ads and featured it in major Women’s life style magazines, expanding the reach of New Japan.
Tanahashi’s quote: “Sometimes in puroresu, you get beaten up, just like in life. So, we wrestlers show the struggle of life through puroresu”.
Kidani: What touches people’s hearts are the characters’ stories and lives.
In Osaka, they feature one pujoshi, Ai (That’s Matsu, the famous illustrator among puroresu fans).
Ai saw the ads on the Yamanote Line (Tokyo train) 5 years ago.
She first saw Tanahashi and thought he was ‘a muscular long hair ikemen (handsome guy)’, which was the opposite image she used to have about puroresu.
At that time she resigned from her work and gave up on her dream to be an animator. She became sick from over work, for a while, she couldn’t even hold a pencil. She became depressed because she felt no hope in her life if she couldn’t draw.
She went to see puroresu, and was inspired by Tanahashi’s never-give-up attitude. She says Tanahashi saves people’s lives. She started drawing again, and says she wants show her gratitude for the power of puroresu.
Kidani describes that puroresu is needed especially now because people are nervous about the future of Japan, so they need heroes.
Tanahashi says, “We pro-wrestlers run side by side with our fans (because they motivate each other).”
What Tanahashi worked on the most in order to make puroresu popular: The negative images of puroresu being to scary and painful. He wanted to make it positive, fun, and cool. He talks about how wrestlers and fans exchange their energy through fights.
Scene 4: New Japan’s Current Landscape
New Japan has about 160 shows a year.
Scene 5: Global Expansion
Meij believes the key to global expansion is video on NJPWWORLD.com.
40% of its subscribers are from overseas.
The British fan: Patrick
Meij urged New Japan to have English live commentary for G1.
Meij says, “Japanese live commentary is so emotional and passionate, so he wants to deliver the same to fans overseas, too.”
Scene 6: San Francisco
Tanahashi: “The reaction of American fans was epic. They know every single wrestler and the Japanese chants, they learn through NJPWWORLD.com”
The comedian and columnist (the guy on the right with a hat) predicts that Japanese pro-wrestling has the potential to be the next Japanese Anime (world-wide phenomenom).
Scene 7: Current Pro-Wrestling Scene
There’s a new trend of middle-aged men becoming pro-wrestlers. Most of them in indie, local wrestling companies, are part-timers, they usually are full-time office job on weekdays.
Tanahashi: “Pro-wrestling is just like everyone’s life, there are good times and bad times. But the important thing is never give up. Ishho ni Ganbarou (Let’s try, together)”