Enuhito, one of the most reliable denizens of Wrestling Twitter for Japanese to English translations, tweeted some big news later Monday night, which he sourced from Tokyo Sports:
Pro Wrestling NOAH had been, at different times, either the biggest or second biggest pro wrestling promotion in Japan dating back to not long after its debut in August of 2000. The company launched after the death of promoter Shohei “Giant” Baba caused turmoil on All Japan Pro Wrestling, leading to almost the entire roster and office staff, led by top star Mitsuharu Misawa, breaking away. The company didn’t immediately get network TV due to the nature of the deals that were made, but NOAH eventually landed AJPW’s old slot on Nippon TV.
After a few years, the combination of the network TV deal, a fresh product, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s downturn, and Kenta Kobashi replacing Misawa as top babyface led to a huge boom in business. While it’s hard to gauge specifics due to the way that numbers are exaggerated, NOAH’s two shows at the Tokyo Dome were among the biggest wrestling cards in the building’s history. They legitimately packed the stadium, and unlike other promotions, NOAH lit up the building like a Christmas tree so you could tell on TV.
The downfall of the company started with Misawa’s in-ring death in 2009. The network TV deal went away a year later due to budget cuts, which dealt a huge blow in both exposure (cable and satellite pay TV are not prominent in Japan) and direct revenue (NTV heavily subsidized all TV tapings). The company was no longer a superpower.
A few years ago, NJPW started funding the company in some form, eventually making it more obvious by sending Minoru Suzuki’s Suzuki Gun stable over to boost business. Around the same time, Super Crazy, who had worked for NOAH for years on and off, did an interview where he suggested the two promotions were one company. NJPW co-booker Jado started booking NOAH. It all appeared to be leading to something more official when NOAH’s existing TV contracts (on cable/satellite and enhanced digital broadcast channels) expired, but now, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Analysis: Clearly, there’s something missing here. NJPW was not mentioned once in the Tokyo Sports article. Maybe the idea was just to get NOAH into good enough shape that the company could find a corporate savior, but that’s not how NJPW has treated NOAH for the last couple years. There was a distinct change from NOAH being just like every other company that’s friendly with NJPW to being on that NJPW was seemingly pouring resources (both financial and talent-wise) into and was reluctant to pull those out. This should be a very interesting story to track in the next few weeks.