New Japan Pro Wrestling has a long and storied history of working with other companies, from WCW, to TNA to Ring of Honor, but they're still hesitant in a lot of situations.
One of the most talked about subjects in the wrestling world since last year has been New Japan's refusal to work with All Elite Wrestling and other American promotions besides ROH. Longtime New Japan star Tama Tonga is keeping a "never say never" approach, as he tells Fightful.
Plus, New Japan effectively has their own American promotion right now.
"I don’t know. I don’t want to say no and I don’t want to say yes. You never know in the wrestling business. So many things can happen. Looking at it, there’s so many things that can happen. Having a foothold in America, we already got a foothold. As in we’ve started a promotion out here in New Japan Strong. We got a dojo. We’ve done tours here. It may not be a big foothold, but it’s […] steady process. But, you just don’t ever know. I could go into some long explanation, but you just never know.
As we mentioned earlier this week, Tonga considers his friends Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows the best shot at making a relationship between IMPACT and NJPW happen, and he wouldn't m ind seeing it come to fruition.
"I’m open. With TNA, Good Brothers is about the greatest chance they got to create a bridge. Because those two, especially Karl Anderson, coming up in New Japan. He understands how New Japan works. What they like, what they don’t like. I would love to work with the Brothers. If that brings us over to TNA, we’ll see," said Tonga.
NJPW and IMPACT/TNA have had numerous issues in the past, from TNA changing IWGP Tag Champions without New Japan's approval, to the booking of Okada, among other things. Davey Boy Smith Jr. said that New Japan even prevented him from working there last year "because of Jeff Jarrett," who had long left IMPACT. Tonga, much like Davey Boy thought TNA caught shrapnel and confusion off of poor New Japan dealings with Jarrett's Global Force.
"Yes, but Jeff Jarrett was just with us about five years ago," said Tonga. "That may have been an issue with Global Force Wrestling, so I’m just trying to patch that. But, it’s difficult for a foreign company to try to go into another country and do business. You have to be cautious [of working with them]. You tried working with them, what ten / fifteen years ago and some things fell apart. That regime has gone and over with. But, the stink still follows them a little bit."
It probably doesn't help matters that IMPACT's parent company Anthem bought AXS TV, and promptly booted New Japan Pro Wrestling off the network.
Ring of Honor? Well, things seemed like they'd finally improved between ROH and NJPW as there were events scheduled with the pandemic. Tama Tonga wasn't too fond of them having Enzo Amore and Big Cass crash their Madison Square Garden match without letting them in on the surprise, though.
"So, when you try to work with ROH, and you’re trying to build that working relationship and they [pull a stunt], and he’s like, “Oh, okay.” So, everybody’s being very cautious," he said.
What about AEW?
"AEW is run by guys that came, that New Japan built or help build. So, you saw how AEW came about. So, you know, it’s hard," Tama said.
Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks specifically made a huge splash in New Japan Pro Wrestling, with countless others leaving New Japan for AEW. However, we have seen some crossover in the past year between the two companies.
Growing up in a wrestling family, Tonga understands it. His own father, Haku, went in and out of AJPW, WWF, WCW, AWA and other promotions for years.
"Look at the territories back in the 80s and that time. There was a working relationship. There was an alliance. There was a united states, all states working together. You can’t find that in promotions any more because everybody’s all selfish and trying to screw each other, and just doing whatever they’re want with their egos and shit. So, nothing can ever be done properly. The disrespect is real," he said.
Will things change under Harold Meij, NJPW's President since May 2018? Tonga thinks maybe so, but not yet.
"When Harold Meij came in -- I see a vision. I can see his vision. He’s pushing for it. But, I can’t see the changes yet. Just not yet. So, maybe give me a couple more years or a year and a little bit. Let me see after the pandemic, ‘cause this pandemic put a hamper on things," Tonga noted.
You can see Tama Tonga and dozens of other New Japan stars every Friday night at 10 PM EST on NJPW Strong, airing on New Japan World. You can check out our full interview with Tama Tonga above!