Sunday, December 30, 2012

4 Reasons Why BJW Has Survived As Long As It Has

For many years now, the claim has been made that the hardcore wrestling scene is dying. State athletic commissions in the United States have eliminated the use of "weapons" (anything that is not a part of the human body) during matches, and the two biggest companies in the industry -WWE and TNA- no longer have chairshots to the head as a part of their shows. At first glance, it would appear that the dire predictions of the hardcore wrestling scene are true.

And yet, over 15 years after it's debut, Big Japan Pro-Wrestling continues to survive, while still focusing on its hardcore niche. BJW draws very well at the 2,005 capacity Korakuen Hall in Tokyo (Japan's MSG), they have a television show on Fighting Samurai TV in Japan, and DVDs that feature the BJW product are still available across the country in the United States. Meanwhile, ECW and FMW -two other hardcore promotions that were very popular- are now merely a part of wrestling's past. Which poses the question- why has Big Japan Pro-Wrestling continued to persevere, while other members of the hardcore scene have been unable to? There are 4 reasons:

1. BJW ISN'T ONLY ABOUT HARDCORE WRESTLING: The drawback of presenting a product that focuses solely on the hardcore style is that critics are quick to claim that it is being done because the talent on the roster are not very skilled wrestlers. And regardless of whether or not the claim is true, it will often appear that it is. However, BJW blends together hardcore and technical wrestling. Psychology is displayed from the opening bell to the end of the match. Ring presence and quick-thinking is included in matches, and every move that is executed is done for a reason.

Also, BJW has spotlighted their non-hardcore division (Strong Big Japan) by giving it a title of its own: The BJW Strong Heavyweight Championship. This Championship is the third most important Championship in the company, with the BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Championship being the most important, followed by the BJW Tag Team Championship.

2. STAYING TRUE TO THEIR NICHE: In order to be very successful in business, a product must be either better or different from the competition. Even though hardcore is not BJW's only style, it's definitely their niche and main focus. The hardcore style appeals to a segment of the pro-wrestling audience, and most promotions do not focus on that style. Therefore, BJW stands out.

FMW stood out at one time as well, with their hardcore style leading to multiple FMW DVDs being produced in the United States. Eventually however, FMW changed direction, becoming a product similar to WWE, presenting a sports entertainment style as opposed to a hardcore one. FMW was no longer different, and they were not better at the sports entertainment style than WWE. FMW's product change was a blow to the company; and less than 10 years later, FMW declared bankruptcy.

3. BOOKING HOUSE SHOWS IN SMALL VENUES: Since hardcore wrestling is a niche of the wrestling market, it's potentially more difficult for BJW to make money. The same goes for all hardcore promotions, as ECW and FMW proved when they went bankrupt. However, BJW spends money wisely. Their televised events are booked in large venues, such as Korakuen Hall (2,005 capacity) and Bunka Gymnasium (5,000 capacity).

Meanwhile, BJW's house shows are booked in much smaller (and likely less expensive) venues. The televised shows in big venues attract viewers enough to buy tickets to the house shows, and with the venues being smaller, a big profit can be made if the turnout is decent considering the size of the venue.

4. THE UNITED STATES IS NOT BJW'S MAIN TARGET AUDIENCE: Even though BJW branched out in 2009 via their English website, BJW's main target audience is Japan. This is very beneficial to them, since BJW likely would not be as successful as they are now were they to make the US their main audience.

In Japan, BJW can have shows anywhere, and without having to tone done their product. That would be impossible for them to do in the US, due to many state athletic commissions and their rules regarding what wrestling promotions are allowed to do.

Also, BJW is in a very good position TV-wise in Japan, as they are on Fighting Samurai TV, a cable network that is dedicated to pro-wrestling. Although there has been interest from American networks in the BJW product, none of them were networks that would be competitive with USA (which presents WWE), or Spike (which presents TNA). Besides, even if BJW were on an American network, they would likely have to contend with groups holding extreme views that are against televised violence and would attempt to have BJW-TV removed from American airwaves. BJW has gotten around this potential roadblock however, with the product receiving American exposure on US PPV and across the country on DVD.

Harold Williams
@HWilliams13 on Twitter