The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on New Japan Pro-Wrestling's 2020 schedule. The promotion hasn't held a show since February 26 and has cancelled all of its planned events including the New Japan Cup, Sakura Genesis, and Best Of The Super Juniors 27. Wrestle Dynasty at Madison Square Garden was also postponed until 2021.
Reports last week noted that New Japan was discussing running empty arena shows in the future, and NJPW President Harold Meij set out a roadmap to return to live shows earlier today.
Meij outlined three reasons why they decided not to hold shows during the pandemic. These were as follows;
• The promotion wanted to protect the health and safety of their fans and wrestlers
• A lack of open venues
• NJPW hold themselves to the highest ethical standards and running empty arena shows would have reflected badly on New Japan and the professional wrestling industry as a whole. It would have also damaged their reputation as "a positive force for social good."
NJPW's President then said the promotion will first return to action with empty arena shows. They will only take this first step after Japan's state of emergency is over, the number of new coronavirus infections declines, and when matches can take place in "properly disinfected and safe settings." Once these three conditions have been met, matches will resume in Japan and in their Los Angeles Dojo.
Down the line, New Japan will then look to run shows with fans. Once they do so, wrestlers will be tested before entering the building and fans will have their temperature taken. Face masks will also be compulsory for spectators and social distancing will be enforced throughout the venue. Meij added that the arenas being used will be properly disinfected and ventilated.
When the promotion is able to put its roadmap into action remains to be seen. Japan is currently under a state of emergency until May 31, but there have been discussions in the past few days about lifting restrictions in up to 34 of the country's 47 prefectures. New COVID-19 cases in Japan have also declined significantly since the peak on April 11 but cases continue to fluctuate with 150 new infections having been diagnosed yesterday.