NJPW Strong has arrived and Rocky Romero sees big things as NJPW continues its U.S. expansion.
The promotion's new weekly U.S. program is set to kick off on August 7, a continuation of sorts to the recent four-part Lion's Break Collision shows. Romero, who competed at Lion's Break Collision, recently sat down with me to discuss the Japanese promotion's growing presence stateside.
"The expansion has had some really great highs. Obviously, Madison Square Garden was a great high. The G1 in Texas was a great high. Some people thought it was a low because we drew like 6,000 people or something like that, but I think everyone on our side thought it was a complete win, like we just drew 6,000 people. That's a big deal. To bounce off of that and do MSG and sell that out was a huge deal. We would have been doing MSG this year, but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, that didn't happen. I'm hoping for next year once things are normal somewhat," Romero said.
NJPW was one of several major promotions that initially stopped doing events due to the pandemic months ago but resumed shows back in June with the New Japan Cup. Romero says NJPW was looking to make the most out of a bad situation and believes that NJPW Strong will deliver during this time.
"In the way that New Japan is, they'll take whatever the situation may be, they'll quickly maneuver it to make the best of it. We saw that in Japan when they came back and re-debut before they had the one-third crowd. They came back from that situation with the New Japan Cup and then in the U.S., to come back with Lion's Break Collision, which I think was the best pure, professional wrestling show out there. It was very simple, easy to digest, two matches, 30 minutes. Now we're going to take that and add some pizzazz to it. Obviously, with the New Japan Cup coming to the USA for the first time with NJ Strong and the names announced, we're definitely not slouching in the talent department," Romero said.
Eagle-eyed wrestling fans in the United States have noticed that Lion's Break Collision and now NJPW Strong is airing immediately after WWE's SmackDown program on FOX. Romero said the time-slot placement following SmackDown was not just some mere coincidence and in fact, served to give both U.S. and Japanese viewers a chance to watch wrestling without much interruption at a convenient time.
"I can definitely say that it was on purpose. Not only does it play in the East Coast at 10 and 7 p.m. on the West Coast, but in Japan, it's like noon or 11 a.m., early Saturday and it gets your day started with an hour of pro wrestling and then you move on with your day. The Japanese fans have really taken to the Lion's Break Collision shows because we have [Katsuyori] Shibata and [Hiroshi] Tanahashi on [Japanese] commentary, so it's been a great way for Japanese fans to see what the U.S. side has been doing and working on and how the wrestlers have been developing. I mean, look at Karl Fredericks as a great example. He really took the ball and ran with it and grew a lot in those four weeks and it's a great way for guys to get a shot when they normally wouldn't," Romero said.
NJPW Strong starts on August 7 at 10 p.m. ET on NJPW World, beginning with the first round of the New Japan Cup USA. You can check out the full interview at the top of the page.