NJPW President Harold Meij spoke with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated about what it's been like to put on empty arena shows, and if this year's G1 Climax is still going to take place in the fall.
Initially avoiding shows without a live audience, NJPW embraced the idea over the past few weeks as the New Japan Cup got underway. The finals take place on July 11 and it will be the first time NJPW brings in a live audience, at a limited capacity. Meij spoke a bit about what it's been having events without the fans.
"There is something inherently different about how wrestling is presented without a crowd present, and the most encouraging feedback from our fans has been how we have prevented the 'sterile' or 'empty' feel a lot of empty arena presentations have had," Meij said. "That's a credit to our production, with energetic announcing, and the ability empty buildings afford us to really hear every hit dealt in the ring. It's also a huge testament to the quality of our wrestling and wrestlers, and everybody on the roster is more motivated than perhaps at any other point in their careers."
Before the COVDI-19 pandemic, the G1 Climax — NJPW's biggest tournament of the year — had originally been pushed to the fall due to the Tokyo Olympics coming to Japan in the summer. Meij confirmed the tournament is still on the calendar, but how they will present it depends on how things evolve with the pandemic.
"As a result of the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics, we had already decided to move our annual G1 Climax tournament, which traditionally takes place during the summer months, to the autumn," Meij stated. "It is still on the calendar, although again, venues and crowd capacity will be dependent on both our own and the local governments' guidelines. As for our previously scheduled tours like Best of the Super Juniors, both fans and wrestlers alike were disappointed at their cancellation. All of those voices will be taken into account in the second half of the year as we look to present something to fans that matches, or even surpasses, our initial plans."
Kazuchika Okada faces EVIL on July 11 to determine this year's New Japan Cup winner. That winner of that match will then face IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito on July 12 at Dominion.