New Japan a pro wrestling company based in Japan that was originally founded by the legendary Antonio Inoki in the 70’s officially announced last month that they will make their first U.S. tour in May of this year, after rumors started circulating late last year. Over the years New Japan (NJPW) has worked with many major wrestling promotions including WWF/E, WCW, TNA, and Indy promotions like RoH and Jersey All Pro Wrestling. They have also worked with MMA promotion PRIDE and other MMA groups.  While they have  done talent exchanges with these American promotions over the years this is the first time New Japan has done their own branded shows in the United States.

For the past few years New Japan has had a working agreement with TNA. A few NJPW wrestlers have appeared for TNA during the World Cup tournament, and have had short stints with the company. Various TNA wrestlers have competed for Japan with Dudley Boys/Team 3d being regular guest stars in Japan and TNA sending many of their top talent each year for NJPW’s annual January super show, Wrestle Kingdom. What makes things interesting is New Japan is planning a 3 show east coast tour in the United States and there hasn’t been any cross promotion with TNA announced so far. I wouldn’t necesarrily expect a big TV angle but at least a mention on their website or something. Who knows maybe that will happen down the road.

What is interesting is who they have partnered with for their U.S. tour.  Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) a promotion that recently celebrated it’s 13th anniversary will be co-promoting NJPW’s tour in May. While not a household name, and maybe not as well know in most circles as Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, or Chikara, Jersey All Pro has been around longer and uses a lot of the same talent. JAPW and NJPW do share a common friend in TNA.  In addition to co-promoting the upcoming New Japan Invasion tour, JAPW also co-promotes TNA’s house shows (non-televised events). I think this makes it even more odd that no big name TNA talent has been announced for these events even if it was one or two special guest stars, but there is still time for that if ticket sales aren’t what they hope them to be.

Don’t get me wrong NJPW isn’t lacking big talent on the upcoming tour. Probably the most well known current roster member by long term fans is Jushin “Thunder” Liger who made many appearances in WCW in the 90’s and has made various other one shot appearances for groups like PWG and RoH. Liger has also appeared at a few of the recent JAPW shows in anticpation of the upcoming NJPW tour. NJPW has also sweetened the pot to get fans to attend these shows. Not only will you get to see some of top New Japan wrestlers, there will also be some of the top U.S. Indy talent including some recently released WWE “superstars”. Also NJPW will crown the first ever NJPW Intercontinental champion from a tournament to take palce over the course of all three shows. The first show will take place in Rahway, New Jersey on May 13th, followed by New York on the 14th and Philadelphia at the old ECW arena on the 15th where the first ever NJPW Intercontinental champion will be crowned. Gold ticket holders will be able to get into the shows early for a meet and greet with the wrestlers.  Also prior to the May 13th show in Rahway which also is one of JAPW home bases there will be a clinic held by NJPW and JAPW where people can pay $250 to be trained by the NJPW wrestlers and be evaluated by NJPW officials for a possible spot on future New Japan shows in the U.S. and Japan.

Now most of you reading are probably asking the all important question of , Who exactly will be appearing on this tour and truth be told NJPW seems to be pulling no punches and bringing a majority of their top talent.

Matches announced so far
Friday May 13 in Rahway, N.J. at the Rec Center
Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Homicide & Low Ki

Saturday May 14 in New York City at Basketball City
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt vs. Low Ki

Sunday May 15 in Philadelphia at the ECW Arena
Rhino vs. Togi Makabe: Street Fight

Not many matches have been announced so far as a majority of the talent will most likely be involved in the title tournament, and the matches on the later shows will depend on who is eliminated from the tournament. Let’s look at who has been announced to be on these shows.

IWGP champion Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi has held the IWGP title 5 times and I would expect him to defend it on at least one of the shows on the U.S. tour. He also has some U.S. exposure wrestling a few matches in TNA in 2006 and 2008.

Gedo & Jado
4 time IWGP tag team champions

Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Liger is probably the most recognizable person on this tour. He wrestled off and on in WCW for many years and has won tons of junior/cruiser weight tournaments and titles.

Tiger Mask IV
Held the IWGP junior heavyweight title 6 times.

Satoshi Kojima
Was the first wrestler to hold the top title in both New Japan and All Japan at the same time.

Toru Yano
Yano is a former IWGP tag team champion.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion Prince Devitt
Devitt won the 2010 Best of the Super Juniors tournament.

Kenny Omega
Omega is a former PWG World Champion and the 2009m Battle of Los Angeles winner.

Homicide is a former RoH World champion as well as a tag team and X-division champion in TNA.

Low Ki
Known as Kaval in WWE and Senshi in TNA, he has held the TNA X division title and RoH World title.

Rhino has held titles in TNA, ECW and WWE, and I guess he could qualify as a TNA wrestler on the tour.

Yujiro Takahashi
Yujiro is a former IWGP tag champion and had a brief run in TNA in 2009.

Tetsuya Naito
Naito is a former IWGP tag team champion

Mitsuhide Hirasawa
Togi Makabe
Former IWGP heavyweight champion

Kazuchika Okada
Okada currently known as Okato is on a learning excursion with TNA.

Shinsuke Nakamura
Former 3 time IWGP heavyweight champion

IWGP Tag Team champions Karl Anderson & Giant Bernard
Bernard was once known as A-Train/Albert in WWE, but has vastly improved since spending the past few years in Japan holding the tag titles numerous times with Tomko and now with Karl Anderson.

Released from WWE last year, MVP recently signed a one year contract with NJPW. He held multiple titles in WWE and I’m sure his name recognition will add ticket sales to the tour.

Looking at the above list of talent there should be be some great matches on the U.S. tour and once the brackets are announced for the NJPW Intercontinental Title tournament I expect tickets to sell quick, as they are already selling well.  I plan to buy my tickets for the Philly shown soon to see the champion crowned. If everything goes well I hope to have a report after the show. Once the tournament brackets are announced I’ll be back with a follow up article.