Takami Ohbari: NJPW Wouldn't Have Lasted If They Continued With Business Portfolio During Pandemic

NJPW President Takami Ohbari looks back on the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses how it impacted the company.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned wrestling on its head, as fans were prohibited from attending shows for months, among a number of other obstacles. NJPW and other companies made it through the crisis, but for NJPW, it was a close call.

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Speaking with Proresu-TODAY (via POSTWrestling), Ohbari reflected on the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and stated that, at one point, it felt like the company was on the verge of shutting down. He noted that Hiroshi Tanahashi once asked him how many more months NJPW would last, and he could have counted on one hand.

"It was a long time (that difficult period). I try to look at sales separately inside and outside the venue. Especially because of the Corona disaster. Inside sales are tickets and merchandise sales, which at one point were down 60 percent due to the decline in attendance. Even in the most recent year, it’s still down about 40 percent… it’s only back up to 60 percent. If we had continued with our existing business portfolio, I think the company would have ceased to exist within a few months, let alone take a major hit. The majority of our business was dependent on revenues from the venue. One day, Tanahashi asked me, ‘Boss, if this situation continues, how many more months will this company last?’ I could count on one hand. At the time, I could count on one hand. With a smile on my face, I replied, ‘Don’t worry,'" Ohbari said.

Ohbari went on to describe how NJPW tickets and merchandise decreased during the pandemic, but the company has turned it around. He stated that, in June, the fiscal year will be the second-largest in NJPW history regarding sales. Ohbari also stated that, at the moment, NJPW can barely turn a profit.

"The inside sales fell by a frightening double-digit billion yen (during the pandemic), but we are now at the point where we can cover about 70-80 percent of that amount with our outside business. As mentioned, in terms of sales scale, the current fiscal year ending in June will probably be the second largest in our 50-year history. However, ticket revenue is a fixed cost business, and after covering that, almost all of it is profit. A decrease in attendance means that only the most profitable part of the business is lost, and in terms of profit, we are just barely able to reach a level where we can turn a profit," Ohbari said.

The NJPW president also detailed cost-cutting measures the company utilized during the pandemic, including moving to a low-cost office building, price negotiations on all contracts, and low-cost flights. He noted that many employees left, and they were never replaced. Ohbari then emphasized that the experience helped NJPW grow, and the company will have a remarkable fiscal year in terms of sales.

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