Every promotion has their peaks and valleys in terms of business and creative. This last 9 years, we’ve seen the growth of NJPW into becoming the second biggest promotion in the world.
Several things have changed for NJPW in the last 3 years and NJPW doesn’t feel the same anymore. There are several factors that have contributed to this.
The Elite & The Forbidden Door
When The Elite (Kenny Omega, Cody and The Young Bucks) left NJPW to form AEW, it was a huge blow for NJPW and their US expansion. To this day, NJPW has never been able to replace them and have struggled to get attention from western fans ever since.
Another big issue was the fact Harold Meij (former president of NJPW) didn’t want NJPW and AEW working together. NJPW not taking advantage of Dynamite’s platform in TNT was a bad idea and until the pandemic is fully over they can’t send some of their major stars to AEW and promote their stuff.
Was the forbidden door opened too late? This answer depends on who you ask. The good thing is that the door is finally opened and both AEW and NJPW working together benefits every part involved. We’ll have to wait and see how this partnership evolve between the biggest promotion in the world outside of WWE.
Gedo’s booking has been weird for quite some time. In 2019 we started to see some questionable decisions, but nothing to be worried about.
One of the worst ideas since Gedo became the booker of NJPW was making EVIL into the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontiental champion. EVIL’s run was the top champion of NJPW was bad and didn’t do him any favors. A tear later and instead of being a major player for the promotion, he’s now part of the KOPW stuff and losing to Yano.
Nowadays, NJPW has no buzz at all. The shows feel soulless and they don’t have that same energy they once had,. There’s been more buzz about Yuji Nagata wrestling Moxley in AEW than the current NJPW tour. Maybe this has to do with the pandemic, but we can not deny that Gedo’s booking has not been great, several smaller promotions have outdrawn several times during this pandemic.
The IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
When NJPW announced the unification of the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental championships, it was received with mix to straight negative reaction from fans and experts.
This idea of an unification and creation of a new lineage put Ibushi into a tough situation. Ibushi become the biggest heel in the promotion despite the fact he’s a babyface. It also didn’t help that several wrestlers from the roster were burying Ibushi on promos for the decision of the unification.
Things only got worse once the new belt was presented. The reactions were negative and a lot of memes were made out of it. The championship looking a little like the infamous WWE Divas title was one of the most mentioned things after the presentation. Changing the title belt was an uphill battle for NJPW. The 4th generation of the IWGP Heavyweight title was one of the best looking championships in wrestling and it was going to be really hard to top that belt.
Getting rid of a title with such rich lineage is a mind-boggling decision to this day. Maybe in 15 years we’ll have a better look to the lineage of this new championship, but that’s a very long time and anything could happen.
NJPW right now are in a weird spot like most promotion are at some point, Should Gedo resign as booker of NJPW? Hell no. What NJPW needs is to get it’s act together to get things back on track. NJPW needs to be less like an American wrestling promotion and more like the NJPW we all loved to watch.