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Changing of the Guard: Harold Meij to Leave NJPW

September 29th, 2020, has been an historic day for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Not only have we seen action from the company’s 30th edition of its world-famous ‘G1 Climax’ tournament but, in a surprising turn of events, New Japan President/CEO Harold Meij has revealed that he will shortly be stepping down from his position and will be leaving NJPW.

The company posted the following statement on their website:

At a meeting of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s parent company Bushiroad’s board of directors today September 29, 2020, a change was announced in NJPW’s directorship. This change will take effect at the beginning of NJPW’s 50th year of trading on October 23rd.

The timing is indeed striking. Although it ultimately won’t derail the G1 Climax, the tournament could potentially overshadow it. There could be increased scrutiny on angles and booking decisions from fans and media alike, as people look for new directions for the company in every forearm smash and win and loss. This in turn might distract from the stories that are actually being told in the G1.

There is some speculation that the relationship between Meij and New Japan did not run in the direction either party was hoping for. The focus for New Japan under Meij’s command was to grow their expansion into the US market, and while NJPW did hold a very well received G1 Supercard in New York last year in conjunction with Ring of Honor, as well as seeing the successful online launch of the NJPW Strong show (filmed with the aid of the United Wrestling Network’s production facilities), designed as a further strengthening of the ‘New Japan of America’ division.

On the flip side, some of New Japan’s biggest stars in the likes of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega left the company under Meij’s watch; both the Bucks and Omega have commented on how they tried to maintain a relationship with New Japan as they were exiting, but that New Japan were not interested. There is also the fact that New Japan’s big US TV deal with AXS TV fell to pieces after New Japan supposedly refused to work with Impact!, a promotion owned by Anthem, also the parent company of AXS TV. Both of these were seen to be factors in slowing the momentum of New Japan’s expansion into the American market.

How fair is it to lay all the blame for this on Meij’s shoulders? The sour relationship with Impact! Stems from the way they treated Okada when he was on excursion back in 2010, 8 years before Harold Meij took his position as President/CEO. And as for the Bucks and Kenny Omega, I believe they would have always taken the opportunity to leave and be their own bosses on their “change the world” mission.

At the same time, Meij, as the President/CEO, has to accept the fact he could and indeed should have led from the top by rebuilding a relationship with Impact!, who after all, are under different management now as opposed to 2010, and should have worked to maintain a relationship with the Bucks and Omega. Certainly, a relationship between AEW and New Japan would be beneficial to both parties. And with Dynamite airing on TNT, it would certainly help New Japan get that additional exposure on mainstream American TV it will need to help its expansion along in that market.

Either way, the legacy of Harold Meij is likely to rest on the fact of the failure of the company to expand into America to the extent they desired. Dave Meltzer has said that Meij’s goal was to get New Japan up to $100 million in revenue but was unable to do so without a major US TV deal. With that in mind, it possibly says the most about New Japan’s attitude towards the future that the man set to replace Meij as President/CEO is Takami Ohbar, President of New Japan, on October 23rd—the 50th anniversary of New Japan Pro Wrestling trading as a business.

We’ll keep you posted as and when further developments occur.

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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