It appears that despite critical acclaim, not everything is sunshine and unicorns in the world of NJPW. Dave Meltzer is reporting in The Wrestling Observer that many talents are unhappy with the culture shift that has taken place within the company. It is said that the new management has made the backstage atmosphere less fun and more akin to a factory.
Here is the transcript from the Observer Newsletter:
Let’s just say that the next few months are going to be very interesting. Some early contract offers made have raised some concern to go along with the issues mentioned in last week’s issue. While there is a lot of pride here for the quality of the matches stemming from the Kobe and Long Beach shows during what is usually the post-G-1 down period, and the great reaction to G-1 and its business success, but the new regime (Harold Meij and new General Manager Michael Craven) is very different and not experienced in dealing with wrestlers. There may be economics that we’re not aware of, but there was a lot about the U.S. expansion with enthusiasm, between the new dojo and running a regular California and West Coast second circuit (which I don’t think would have been a good idea) and the pull back from there, and other changes. But it feels like a lot has changed in the last 30 days. Craven, who is believed to be the head of talent relations as well as international expansion, may be the most unpopular guy among the wrestlers with the new regime. Craven I believe was the Tech Business Director at Hays Japan, managing technology recruitment for a company and had worked in IT recruitment for 20 years. He has lived in Japan since 1998, coming from the U.K. and has been involved in developing many of the top senior level technology executives in Asia. The initial reaction was that the feeling was that he talks down to the wrestlers and made strange comments and they know he has no background in wrestling, which is a very unique industry. Morale with the company was very high as you could tell by any interviews with the talent, particularly during G-1 where the level of work had led to high pride across the board with the feeling they were doing the best matches in the world and producing the best overall product. Now the morale is more weird than anything, with more uncertainty about what will happen next and less confidence than with the old administration. Another person noted that the new team has gotten off to a rough start and that all the wrestlers, both Japanese and American, are talking about how they feel like they are seen as workers in a factory assembly line as opposed to high level athletes or entertainers. The excitement so many had for working here has taken a hit. It’s really a bad time for that with the goal of international expansion and that fun vs. WWE money was a key to a lot of people, but if you lower the fun aspect, that changes the equation, and basically we’re coming in on the single most interesting and important contract season since New Japan started garnering some international growth. There are people who in the past had never even considered WWE who are thinking about it, and others who were completely committed to staying who are probably still leaning that way, but are considering the WWE option.