MARTIN: New Japan to Non-Japanese Fans: Drop Dead

By Todd Martin, PWTorch staff


New Japan Pro Wrestling "Dominion" event 2017 in Osaka, Japan (photo credit Tom Leeming © PWTorch)

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In recent years as fan interest has risen in New Japan Pro Wrestling outside of Japan, fans from other countries have increasingly wanted to attend New Japan live shows. NJPW has sold out big shows in California and New York, with Australia and the United Kingdom becoming targets as well. New Japan’s biggest shows still take place in Japan and so international fans have been traveling to Japan in larger numbers for major events just like they’re traveling to AEW’s top shows and to WrestleMania each year.

New Japan’s approach to these fans has been considerably different to those of other companies. While other promotions in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States (or for that matter other Japanese promotions) welcome foreign fans like any other fans, New Japan discriminates against non-Japanese. For years, they have done this through their New Japan Fan Club.

The concept of the New Japan Fan Club is simple. Ardent New Japan fans can pay an annual fee and in return they get access to ticket presales, like ROH does with its Honor Club. Only New Japan doesn’t welcome just any fans into their club. Their rule is that you need a Japanese address in order to be a member. Needless to say, most people in Denmark, New Zealand, and Germany don’t have Japanese residences.

There’s nothing logistically requiring New Japan to deter foreign fans from having an equal shot at the best tickets to events. All that’s involved with getting tickets through the New Japan Fan Club is them mailing a fan club card to you and you then picking up the tickets at a later date. They could charge foreign fans an additional fee in order to mail the card to a foreign address, just like any international company would do. The ticket pickup process is even easier, as tickets are available for pickup at convenience stores throughout Japan. The residency requirement is plainly there to treat non-Japanese as second class fans, who aren’t given the same respect and consideration based simply on where they live.

There’s a tendency among many of us to defend this sort of thing when it’s not our society. It’s a different culture, goes the argument. However, ask yourself how fans would react if WWE announced a new policy where only fans living in America could enter a lottery to get the best tickets to WrestleMania. I don’t mean how fans from other countries would feel. I mean, ask yourself how American fans would react.

I feel confident in predicting that American fans would react with great anger towards such a policy. Even if it gave us an advantage in purchasing tickets, it would offend our basic sense of fairness and decency that our Canadian, Australian, and Mexican friends were being discriminated against and not allowed a fair shot at sitting where they want. If we apply that moral standard to our country, we ought to apply it too to Japan, a highly developed democracy with similar norms to us.

In spite of those principles, the New Japan Fan Club has continued on for years and fans haven’t complained too much. A big part of that is because New Japan’s biggest foreign fans discovered work arounds to the New Japan Fan Club. A Japanese company set up a system to provide mailing addresses for foreign fans. Those foreign fans would pay New Japan directly for the chance to enter the New Japan ticket lottery, the Japanese company would mail the fan club membership card to the foreign address, and those most hardcore of fans would have the chance to get good tickets to major events. That was, until this week, when New Japan sunk to even lower depths of bad faith towards its own fans simply on the basis of where they’re from.

When this week New Japan announced the results of its lottery for Wrestle Kingdom 2020, most non-Japanese fans got an unpleasant surprise: They weren’t entered into the lottery. The purported justification for this is a supposed ban on third party sellers, but this doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. To begin with, we’re not talking about scalpers. We’re talking about companies that take a nominal fee to help fans access the ticket lottery they couldn’t otherwise access. The third party issue could be easily avoided if they simply allowed non-Japanese to pay to be New Japan Fan Club members, making it clear it isn’t about third party sellers but about the intent to discriminate against non-Japanese fans.

If New Japan was serious about cutting down on third party sales, it could have simply stopped taking New Japan Fan Club memberships from this particular company, which they have known about for years. Instead, they continued taking that fan club money, right through recent weeks. The money those non-Japanese fans paid to New Japan was paid as part of a contract. They would pay New Japan and New Japan would provide them the right to enter the ticket lottery.

Instead, New Japan took the money but didn’t honor their end of the deal: No fans who paid for their fan club membership through the primary outlet for non-Japanese fans were able to acquire tickets on the floor for either Tokyo Dome shows. Given the volume of tickets available on the floor in multiple price sections and the uniformity of the result, it’s quite clear there was an explicit directive that those fans would be blocked from entering the lottery en masse.

This goes beyond simple discrimination. New Japan actively defrauded its own customers. They took those customers’ money explicitly for the right to enter their ticket lotteries and then denied them all precisely what they had paid for, in some cases just days after they paid New Japan for that right. If New Japan wants to deny non-Japanese fans the opportunity to get great seats for their events, that’s one thing. To knowingly accept those fans’ money while already having a hollow excuse for not providing them what they are providing that money in return for is a completely different level of misconduct. And it’s directed at the promotion’s most loyal and passionate fans.

New Japan’s bad faith is further accentuated by the fact they were in fact willing to sell to third party sellers. They didn’t block all ticket sales from the most common third party seller. Rather, they denied access to the best group of tickets and the second best group of tickets and the third best group of tickets. Only fans willing to buy the fourth best group of tickets, off the floor, were entered into the lottery. In summary: no to third party sales for non-Japanese who want good tickets, yes to third party sales for non-Japanese who want bad tickets. Some principle. New Japan is also offering some tickets through an international presale. It will be interesting to see how large, or more precisely how small, the segregated section of the floor for foreigners is.

New Japan’s rise in recent years outside of Japan has largely been driven by word of mouth. I know I’ve gone out of my way to tell friends what a great product New Japan has and how they should subscribe to New Japan World. For those of us around the world who have proselytized for New Japan and helped to spread the world about the product, it’s sad that the promotion continues to treat us as less than. They’ll treat us unequally, assume we’ll take what we can get, and take our money without feeling obligated to provide what we paid for. That doesn’t sound like a company worth fighting for. That sounds like a company that doesn’t deserve our money at all.

21 Comments on MARTIN: New Japan to Non-Japanese Fans: Drop Dead

  1. “New Japan took the money but didn’t honor their end of the deal: No fans who paid for their fan club membership through the primary outlet for non-Japanese fans were able to acquire tickets on the floor for either Tokyo Dome shows.” — Understand your anger at this and I agree with you that it was wrong for NJPW to take the money but not give the privileges indicated.

    However, some of your argument in promoting your position is weak. Especially this part: “If we apply that moral standard to our country, we ought to apply it too to Japan, a highly developed democracy with similar norms to us.” — You may wish the world, in particular Japan, worked that way, but as someone who has worked and studied (and thus lived) in Japan, I believe that wishing for another society to work like you wish it would is not really productive. This is a hard thing (especially when it comes to morals) to accept, but not everyone in the world sees things the way you and I may see them. And while it is true that Japan’s government is democratically elected, that is not really relevant to the issue we’re discussing here (which essentially is the remnant xenophobia in Japan).

    NJPW is one of the few wrestling promotions whose shows I like to watch, but even their shows embed social norms that run counter to what at least progressive-minded people in the US (and Canada) may find acceptable. As much as such things bug me, I still manage to enjoy the NJPW product. So currently I just go along with the company (NJPW) as it acts, but I can understand why anyone may feel the need to give up on it if they wish.

  2. Game over, man!

    Honestly, though. I expect a Japanese company would still primarily cater to its domestic audience (since 1972, mind you) before literally everyone else, which they’ve done a pretty good job with.

    • Kinda makes me like NJPW even more! They put their own people over some rich dickwads that wanna fly over & take a seat from someone, while probably indirectly complaining about how Japanese it is over in Japan. The “progressive” social gnats with their diversity quota, identity politics crap can’t be leverage for everything. They always seem to want- what somebody else has & will attempt to shame them into compliancy

  3. Er, no. If their rules claim that they do not accept foreign addresses for their lottery and someone uses a company to commit address fraud and join anyway, THEY are in the wrong, not New Japan. It is not a problem if they want to keep their fan club local, probably for reasons of logistics (different countries have different laws that don’t apply). So much that even companies like Netflix and others gotta have HQs in different countries to abide to their legislation. Hulu, by the way, is blocked for anyone not living in the US.
    So, it sucks that people outside Japan can’t join the Fan Club, but this is not the end of the world, nor some case of prejudice. Stop crying.

    • So you completely agree that NJPW is in the right to take people’s money under a pretense then straight up lie about it. Got it. And if anyone says anything about it they’re “crying”. Got it. Solid arguments.

  4. Your article title is hyperbolic clickbait and you should be ashamed of yourself, which is a shame because you have some fair points. It does sound like the Fan Club does have some shitty policies that should either be improved, corrected, or made more transparent.

    However, saying that NJPW is telling its foreign fans to “drop dead” is so blatantly misleading. Have some more journalistic self-respect, man.

    • First off, it’s obviously an opinion piece, so the responsibility to follow certain journalistic standards shouldn’t necessarily be expected.

      But more importantly, because it is an opinion piece, the author is giving their interpretation of what the company is doing. And their interpretation is the message they provided in the title. Without quotation marks, mind you.

      Yeah, it’s a little hyperbolic if you take it literally I guess, but most people know how the phrase “drop dead” is used, and it’s clear the author sees what NJPW is doing as a representation of that phrase aimed at non-Japanese fans.

      I guess it’s click-bait if you thought New Japan actually stated those exact words, but the article delivered context to that statement that really should have satisfied any idea the title could have given a reader. Perhaps being a little critical is warranted (though I really don’t think so), but to say they should be ashamed of themselves and have more journalistic self-respect is overboard, downright bitchy behavior.

      Just to clarify, I don’t even agree with the author. I have no problem with NJPW doing this. However your whiny comment was more annoying than this whole whiny article.

  5. Terrible journalism! Biased, floored, lazy and conceited.

    * Anyone can join the club for advanced purchases If you speak, and can understand Japanese. I do it regularly.

  6. Yes it sucks but stop whining. Baited me into the article and you made some fair points but they can cater to their domestic audience all they want.

  7. TOTAL CLICKBAIT BS.

    New Japan Pro Wrestling puts their NATIVE JAPANESE FANS FIRST? BIG DEAL. Every country should put their OWN citizens first.

    *GASP*

    What a concept!

    Go cry somewhere else.

  8. Article sounds more like its trying to rile up a hate mob and attack NJPW. Outraged much? This fan club type thing is all over Japan’s entertainment business. Your article paints you like a fake. Your article sounds like it wants the popularity of NJPW to die down. Don’t worry your wwe and the kool rising star aew will be happy to help you with your articles. Drop dead faker.

  9. You have to realize most societies are tribalistic. They put themselves first and that’s how they survive. Really the only countries that put themselves second are western countries and it’s not a coincidence western civilization is crumbling.

  10. Clickbait. It should read NJPW to foreign fans who try to circumvent their rules: “Drop dead.” Can the histrionics, my guy.

  11. It seems a sensible option from NJPW. They want to promote it as a event for young hip Japanese people to go to. Not bearded weirdos appearing in the camera shots.

    They want the screaming girls not the super foreign fan

  12. This article is wrong on so many levels it pains me to even read it. First off, if they open it up to people from other nations, the odds are great that it would lead to empty seats that could have went to a local resident. Alot of people buy tickets to a show or concert thinking they will be able to attend, only for something to keep them from attending. It makes sense to me that instead of some person from another country buying tickets then no showing, just sell tickets to somebody who will show up because they live up the road. Secondly, if you commit fraud by obtaining a false address, then you are the one at fault when the denial of tickets happens. That’s absurd for you to think that it’s unfair for the company to deny tickets to someone using a fake address. Isn’t that actually mail fraud? I know it is in the USA. And lastly, for you to act as if Americans would be outraged if WWE did the same thing but for Americans. Our country is the perfect example of selfishness and pettiness. That was the most ignorant part of your argument. You even said “our friends from Mexico”. Are you even aware that our president, Mr. Penis, is building a wall to keep Mexicans from coming here? Are you aware that alot of idiots actually support the stupid freaking wall? Come on man!!!!

  13. Hey Man, to say I’m not deeply troubled by your article, (very well written) I’d be lying. I’m a subscriber to NJPW World since 2015. I enjoy their product ten fold over what the others poorly attempt! But that type of treatment in behalf of New Japan has me questioning my support of them! Piss Poor!!

  14. Lol, Americans would be mad at a policy like that? Maybe a tiny percentage of SJW Outrage Culture babies that get Jobs writing for Vox or Daily Beast etc, might get upset. Most people just respect a companies choices and move on with their lives. Private companies can do whatever they want and even refuse service to anyone they want. People these days dont realize that they arent ENTITLED to get and do whatever they want, whenever they want.

    It’s like games “journalists” that cry that games are too hard or upset when a long time fictional game character isn’t changed to an alphabet lbgtqrstuvwxyzaapp person.

    Just grow up and move on and realize that life isnt always “fair”.

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