When you think pro wrestling, you probably think about WWE. They've been the dominant force in American professional wrestling for decades. This weekend in Long Beach, someone else is trying to make an impact — and they're from Japan.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling has been around for 45 years, providing a more grounded, athletically-based take on the storyline-driven world of pro wrestling. Recently, they've begun making moves to expose themselves to an American audience after largely being a Japanese household name — and this weekend, they're doing their first two major shows on American soil at the Long Beach Convention Center.
Los Angeles comedian Marc Warzecha worked with New Japan recently, hosting a video tour of Long Beach as part of the promotion for this weekend's shows.
"This is a very exciting time for the wrestling business, because there is a lot of energy in wrestling right now, not only around WWE, but around a lot of the other promotions around the world," Warzecha told KPCC. "What's really changing in the last few years is that, with the Internet, and with digital platforms, pro wrestling companies all over the world have an opportunity to reach fans anywhere."
Along with easier ways for fans to see New Japan's product, they've also added English commentary, are promoting several American wrestlers in major roles and have been getting major media coverage in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to ESPN. They're building around North American wrestler Kenny Omega — who has been part of what are widely considered some of the greatest matches in pro wrestling history — as well as pushing Cody Rhodes, the son of the late great pro wrestler Dusty Rhodes.
Warzecha got involved as a fan due to English commentary being hard to come by until recently.
"I started just on my own doing dubbing, sort of play-by-play announcing for some of the New Japan matches and sharing them with friends, because I wanted my friends to get as excited about it as I was," Warzecha said. "Eventually, the New Japan folks saw that and I had a chance to host this."
The goal of the video: to help fans heading down to the shows to find the venue, find parking and especially to help the large number of fans who've flown in to discover what they can go see in Long Beach. The show was an almost instant sellout, with ticket information showing New Japan that there were fans flying in from around the world.
If you want to check out New Japan, you can see it on their cable TV show that's run for the last few years on the AXS cable network. They're doing a marathon leading up to this weekend's shows, with Saturday's show being televised on AXS. Then on Sunday, you can watch that show via New Japan's streaming service, NJPW World.
Watch New Japan bad guy wrestlers Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks promote this weekend's shows in another video here: