Bushiroad Fight President chats STARDOM-USA aspirations, STARDOM World service, NJPW, Rossy Ogawa

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/04/21/bushiroad-fight-president-chats-stardom-usa-aspirations-stardom-world-service-njpw-rossy-ogawa/

President of Bushiroad Fight discusses STARDOM and his own personal future. 

Coming up this weekend for the STARDOM promotion is their All Star Grand Queendom event which is going to feature Giulia defending the World of STARDOM Title against Tam Nakano and Mayu Iwatani challenging Mercedes Moné for the IWGP Women’s Title on the 11-match card. 

Going into the show, Bushiroad Fight President, Katsuhiko Harada, chatted with Proresu-TODAY in an extensive interview about STARDOM. Bushiroad Fight, a subsidiary of Bushiroad, operates STARDOM. 

Harada said he would like to continue sending STARDOM wrestlers to compete on New Japan’s USA shows. He would like for the promotion to run its own show in the USA in 2024 or 2025. Back in 2019, STARDOM ran Arena NYC and drew 650 people. 

For the past three years, we have intentionally not worked on pre-Corona (ventures) and other projects in the midst of a difficult economic environment due to the weak yen, inflation, etc. We have not invited many wrestlers from overseas. We did not invite many wrestlers from abroad. However, now that those circumstances have calmed down, we are starting to make some moves. NJPW STRONG of New Japan Pro-Wrestling America, a group organization of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, is based in Los Angeles, and we would like to send STARDOM wrestlers to their shows as well. If the American wrestling fans become more aware of us, we would like to have our own show next year or the following year. I think it is necessary to expand globally in the near future while consolidating our domestic operations.

Elsewhere in the conversation, Harada was asked if he was reborn, would he still want to be the manager of a pro wrestling organization. He said he would and he’s grateful for the wrestling business. Harada added that he feels he’s at the end of his time as a salaried worker but is glad he is able to wrap up his career by being in the wrestling space. 

I wonder. Even so, I am a salaried manager. After all, I am President on behalf of the shareholders, so it is my job to expand this business while listening to the opinions of the shareholders, and I have always felt that I had to do my best to carry out my duties. However, I am nearing the end of my time as a salaried worker. I am glad that I was able to get involved in this kind of work at the end of my career.

It’s very stimulating. I’ve had a lot of intense experiences of joy, sorrow and happiness that I wouldn’t have had if I had been a salaried employee in the financial sector. So I am grateful to the pro wrestling industry for giving me a truly stimulating period of time.

STARDOM’s streaming service became the topic of conversation. The interviewer brought up a scenario in which a prominent foreign wrestler comes into STARDOM and brings a big fan base with them. 

The interviewer said the server could crash and that could lead to a loss of fans. Katsuhiko Harada said that could happen and it costs a lot to provide everything on their own as it relates to STARDOM World. He said the service is facing a dilemma between the desire to raise the quality and the desire to improve the quality of the service. 

I think that about half of the viewers (on STARDOM World) are from overseas now. However, we are facing a number of issues… We are providing the service on our own. We are not in charge of the technology and operation of the broadcasting station, but we provide the service on our own, so we cannot deny that our infrastructure and quality are not up to par.

That’s right (we could lose fans if they tune in to see a foreigner with a big name and the server goes down). It costs a lot to provide everything on our own. I think that many other subscription services are also raising their prices, and STARDOM World is facing a dilemma between the desire to raise the quality and the desire to improve the quality of the service.

When it comes to STARDOM in comparison to New Japan Pro-Wrestling which are both under the Bushiroad umbrella, Harada believes STARDOM can maybe surpass them. He feels a way to expand STARDOM is to not limit their talents to just the pro wrestling space and feels they have wrestlers who could venture into the entertainment world. 

As Bushiroad Fight, we announced sales of $1 billion for the previous term, and we feel that we are on track to exceed that figure this term. In the industry, including men’s wrestling, the numbers that fell at Corona have not fully recovered. New Japan’s recent Ryogoku event (Sakura Genesis) had a good turnout, but overall attendance has yet to recover. Considering that, I think it is quite difficult for pro wrestling as a stand-alone genre. In order to expand further, I think it would be better to look at the market in terms of how to develop STARDOM, without being limited to the pro-wrestling market. STARDOM has many wrestlers who have built up their careers in various fields. Idols, stage actresses, action stars, teachers, etc., we have quite a lot of talent. I believe that they can perform their talents to the fullest in the ring, of course, but they can also express and demonstrate their power in the world of entertainment. I think there are a wide range of opportunities for them to be active. Compared to the men’s division, I believe that STARDOM can showcase various aspects of its talent, and depending on how we do it, we may be able to catch up with and surpass New Japan Pro-Wrestling… I am doing my best.

Harada would go on to explain what his role entails as it relates to STARDOM.

He deals with personal and labor management of staff, sometimes is involved in matchmaking, booking of talents and contracts but leaves majority of the match-related things to Rossy Ogawa. He meets with Ogawa on a consistent basis to discuss policies and direction. 

The staff has to do not only one job, but multiple jobs. The business model of the wrestling business is not that complicated, so it is not so much a difference in management as it is a difference in scale. Naturally, I often visit Tokyo and regional events, and I am also involved in venue management and merchandise planning. Of course, I also manage the personnel and labor management of staff, and sometimes I am involved in matchmaking, talent booking, contracts and so on. I basically leave everything related to matches to Mr. (Rossy) Ogawa, but I also have meetings with him several times a week to discuss management policies and the direction we want to take.

Yokohama Arena is playing host to Sunday’s All Star Grand Queendom and its capacity is 17,000 people. Harada commented on STARDOM running bigger-scale venues. 

He thinks it is best to use the same format that NJPW uses which is to do a tour of a region and when it comes time for the big show of that tour, run a big venue. He added that they’ve not been able to set STARDOM’s format up like that just yet. 

Right now, we hold a big event once or twice a month. We think it would be best to create a schedule like New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where each series travels to a different region and ends with a big match at a mega venue such as Ryōgoku Kokugikan or Budokan, but we have not been able to coordinate that far yet… There are still some inconsistencies in the way the schedule is set up.

When you plan sales and profits on an annual basis, you naturally come up with ideas for big events. If the timing is right, we can hold it there.

There is a preview of All Stardom Grand Queendom on the POST Wrestling YouTube channel. Karen Peterson and Bruce Lord are providing coverage of the show after it concludes.