While many hoped the second half of the New Japan Cup could be salvaged, the remainder of the tournament has been canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Japan. The first half of the tournament was canceled last month, with the second half scheduled to occur between 3/16 and conclude on 3/21.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) announced the decision on their website following a meeting with the Japanese Health Ministry. According to CNN, Japan has come under immense international scrutiny for how they’ve handled quarantine and testing efforts. On 3/4, Japan recorded 33 new cases of the virus, which is the highest one day increase since the outbreak began.
“We apologies to fans who were looking forward to the remainder of the New Japan Cup. Ultimately, the health and safety of our fans, wrestlers and staff, as well as society at large is our utmost concern, and we will make announcements about events scheduled after March 22 upon careful monitoring of this developing situation,” The site reads
NJPW is not the only Japanese promotion to cancel events. All Japan Pro Wrestling, DDT, Stardom, and Dragon Gate have also canceled events due to the coronavirus outbreak. The cancelation of significant events across the country has prompted speculation about the status of this year’s summer games. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on 7/24 in Tokyo.
The winner of the New Japan Cup would have challenged IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito on March 31 at Sakura Genesis. In years past, the tournament winner gets to pick which title they challenge for. However, it made sense to streamline the victor’s prize since Naito holds the two top singles titles in New Japan.
New Japan already had to shift their booking plans by moving the annual G1 Climax tournament from its traditional summertime calendar to the fall due to the Olympics Games. Now, they’ve canceled the second biggest tournament of the year.
There is no word yet as to the status of Sakara Genesis on 3/31. Even if the event goes on, it will be interesting to see how New Japan adjusts since the show is built around the winner of the New Japan Cup challenging for the title. It’s kind of like holding the Royal Rumble event without a Royal Rumble match.
The Wrestling Observer noted these event cancellations hurt the Japanese wrestling promotions more that it would if WWE had to cancel their events. New Japan earns the bulk of its revenue from ticket sales while WWE is propped up by billion-dollar television contracts.
There has been talk of canceling this year’s WrestleMania in Tampa, Flordia. Despite WWE’s hefty cushion, such a cancelation would be a financial hit. WrestleMania draws a broad international audience who travels from all over the world.
WWE has stated they will not cancel the show, but that is impossible know right now. Flordia has had 20 cases of the coronavirus with the first two emanating in Tampa.
Even if New Japan took a cue from Nippon Professional Baseball and held their events in empty arenas, most, if not all the foreign talent wouldn’t be able to work the shows due to their country’s travel adversaries.
The economic impact on not just professional wrestling but the entertainment industry is a real shame. If people stop spending money, industries will suffer. In the end, health and safety are paramount. Wrestling is small potatoes in the larger scheme of things going on around the globe. Hopefully, things will improve moving forward.
Be safe out there and wash your hands.