Is AEW's rise a bad sign for ROH and New Japan?
All Elite Wrestling is finally here. The wrestling promotion is produced by Cody, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega and it's financially backed by Tony Khan of Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC, had their first event, Double or Nothing, last Saturday. The event delivered on all cylinders and gave us a preview into what we can expect from AEW in the near future. The highlight of the show was the debut of Jon Moxley, formerly known as Dean Ambrose in WWE.
With their first event officially in the book, AEW has established themselves as a credible alternative to WWE. The company had already generated a lot of hype prior to the event and with it being a massive success, Tony Khan & Co. seemed to have hitten all the right noise. But, the rise of AEW means that some of the most renowned independent promotions would take a huge hit, both financially and talent wise, with Ring of Honour and New Japan Pro Wrestling being the most prominent of them.
ROH has lost some of its top stars to AEW with names like Christopher Daniels, The Young Bucks, Cody, Hangman Page and Scorpio Sky leaving the company to join the Khan-backed promotion. The promotion currently faces a talent-deficit and despite acquiring the services of Bandido and Rush in recent times, them running large shows in the near future seems highly unlikely.
ROH had a lot of buzz going to 2019, primarily due to the G1 Supercard show in Madison Square Garden but the hype has died down substantially over the past few months. AEW's rise has also played a spoilsport to New Japan's global expansion. After going through the dark ages in the 2000s, losing out its audience to Mixed Martial Arts, the Japanese promotion managed to bounce back in style in the late 2000s to early 2010s with names like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura garnering superstardom.
This period also saw two Young Lions, namely Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito, rise up to the occasion and become Superstars in their own right. But, the biggest reason for New Japan's recent worldwide growth and them making huge inroads in North America can, for the most part, be attributed to a group of renegades known as Bullet Club. The faction, founded by Prince Devitt (Finn Balor in WWE), Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale and Karl Anderson, would go on to become one of the influential groups in wrestling history.
They would later be joined by The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, AJ Styles, Adam Cole, Hangman Page, Cody and Marty Scrull at various stages. Bullet Club would become a worldwide phenomenon in a short period of time with its members holding the top prize in New Japan. New Japan's global expansion plan received more success with the hiring of the company's new president, Harold Meij last year.
The promotion sold out Walter Pyramid twice last year in record time and the promotion was looking to carry on that momentum heading into 2019. New Japan lost it's biggest gaijin (foreign) star with Kenny Omega signing with AEW with the rest of the Elite crew, who held the top championships in the promotion until the start of the year. Omega was built as the face of the company's global expansion and him winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship was a clear indication of that.
But, the departure of Omega has left NJPW without a top gaijin Superstar which is a cause of huge worry for the promotion as they have a huge show in Dallas on July 6. While names like Juice Robinson and Jay White have shown promise since Omega's departure, we don't know if they are ready to be the face of the company, as of yet. The inclusion of Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley is noteworthy and can drive lapsed fans to the product but what the company needs at the moment is a full-time gaijin Superstar who can be their biggest face in North America, which is a spot neither Jericho nor Moxley would be able to fill up.
It would be interesting to see what the future holds for ROH and NJPW. AEW's rise can only mean tougher times for both these promotions as only the strongest are going to survive in the current cut-throat era that we are about to witness.