There's no doubt that professional wrestling has experienced a vast amount of growth in the last couple of years outside of the WWE bubble.
The recent successful launch of All Elite Wrestling is the crescendo to what had been building up for years, and a good amount of credit for that growth lies with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Chris Jerich gave credit where credit is due during a recent appearance on the Ariel Helwani's MMA Show.
"It did start with New Japan," Jericho stated. "I'm not putting too much credit into my own credit box, but when I did the Tokyo Dome show with Omega, the New Japan World subscriptions went from 35,000 to 100,000. It was because people wanted to see that match. If you were a wrestling fan that paid attention to more than just WWE, you wanted to see that match. As a result, people started checking it out for the first time to see Jericho versus this guy, Kenny Omega. But they also saw The Young Bucks, Okada, Kota Ibushi, Rhodes, Juice Robinson, Hangman Page, Tetsuya Naito, and all these other guys.
"So, New Japan became very hot. It came to the States, they were selling out. They were (the fans) familiar with these cast of characters. Then when the Tony Khan thing came up, and AEW, you kind of knew those characters from New Japan."
As Jericho stated, many of the top names for AEW became hot commodities while starring with NJPW. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, in particular. Ring of Honor Wrestling also played a role, with Cody Rhodes holding their world championship as he began his rise to one of the top characters in wrestling following his exit from WWE.
Of course, various independent wrestling promotions throughout the country and world also played a part, notably Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in California. However, it was the exposure of NJPW that really set the pace for the growth of these characters as part of the Bullet Club.
While NJPW has been dealing with some changes after the exits of many of these top North American stars with the growth of AEW, Jericho noted he still has the freedom to work NJPW events if they don't conflict with AEW dates. He's not the only one, as Kenny Omega has also stated this in the past and Jon Moxley just got done working several NJPW shows over the summer.0comments
"I can do New Japan shows, if it doesn't conflict with AEW. I did one earlier this year, where I had an IWGP Championship match against Kazuchika Okada. I might do some more with them. But it's (his AEW deal) pretty much exclusive," Jericho stated.
[H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcript.]