By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NJPW issued the following press release to announce the company’s return to AXS-TV.
AXS TV, a subsidiary of Anthem Sports & Entertainment, Inc., announces the return of New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) to the Network’s lineup with classic episodes beginning January 20 and all-new weekly programs premiering Thursday, March 3 at 10 p.m. ET. NJPW joins AXS TV’s fully-loaded Thursday night wrestling lineup, which also includes IMPACT Wrestling’s flagship series IMPACT! airing at 8 p.m. ET. AXS TV had previously aired a popular weekly NJPW series from 2015-2019. The official announcement was made this morning during NJPW’s premier global Wrestle Kingdom event.
The agreement gives AXS TV the option to air encore presentations of past NJPW broadcasts from its five-year run on the Network, bringing even more exclusive NJPW action to subscribers across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. The move also includes Anthem sister station Fight Network, allowing the premier combat sports outlet to share this slate of new and classic NJPW content to viewers throughout Canada, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, as well.
As a special lead-in to the fresh crop of episodes debuting March 3, the Network will air six of the absolute best episodes from NJPW’s initial AXS TV run. The commemorative block airs from January 20 through February 24, and kicks off with a presentation of 2018’s unforgettable Wrestle Kingdom 12—featuring a pulse-pounding main event matchup pitting pro wrestling legend Chris Jericho against fan-favorite Kenny Omega in a no disqualification bout for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship.
The upcoming series features all-new episodes of world-class New Japan Pro-Wrestling action, bolstering an already-impressive wrestling lineup with one hour of exclusive content compiling the absolute best moments from the iconic promotion’s most recent broadcasts. Now in its 50TH year, New Japan Pro-Wrestling has established itself as one of the most influential international promotions in professional wrestling, blending unparalleled pageantry with hard-hitting squared-circle bouts to create a dynamic experience that is uniquely its own.
The NJPW series puts the spotlight on a legendary roster of homegrown heroes, familiar North American superstars, talented up-and-comers and more, led by IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi. Other notable NJPW talent include IWGP Tag Team titlists Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi; and NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, and SHO of the world-renowned BULLET CLUB stable; as well as international standouts Will Ospreay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Tama Tonga, TJP, and many more. Additionally, the AXS TV broadcasts will feature its own commentating team, which will be named at a later date.
NJPW has been known to frequently walk through professional wrestling’s infamous “Forbidden Door,” regularly featuring high-profile athletes as part of IMPACT Wrestling programming. AXS TV viewers will instantly recognize current fan-favorites such as Bullet Club members Jay White, Hikuleo and El Phantasmo, and FinJuice stars Juice Robinson and David Finlay, who can be seen vying for gold and glory every week on IMPACT!, as well as industry trailblazers Minoru Suzuki and Rocky Romero, who have both made recent appearances on the program. The shared respect and rich history between the two promotions makes NJPW the perfect complement to AXS TV’s primetime wrestling lineup.
NJPW’s return to the AXS TV roster is marked with a stacked programming lineup on Thursday, January 20, kicking off with a throwback classic IMPACT Wrestling pay-per-view event at 3 p.m. ET. Other highlights include a special edition of IMPACT In 60; followed by an all-new episode of IMPACT!; the AXS TV return of New Japan Pro-Wrestling at 10 p.m. ET; and an encore broadcast of the IMPACT! premiere.
“NJPW was a major highlight for the AXS TV audience during its original broadcast from 2015 to 2019, and we knew the time was right to welcome them back as part of our premier Thursday night wrestling lineup,” said Frank Tanki, President of Anthem’s Sports and Music Group. “For five decades, they have provided world-class content that has left an indelible mark on professional wrestling and given a global platform to some of the industry’s greatest figures. Now, AXS TV can further deliver to our fans by sharing all the spectacle and action that NJPW is known for, when this new series debuts on January 20.”
“2021 was a landmark year in terms of breaking down the ‘Forbidden Door’ of professional wrestling,” said Scott D’Amore, EVP of Content Creation for Anthem’s Sports Group. “IMPACT and New Japan have played a key role in that, forging a strong inter-promotional relationship that resulted in some unforgettable moments for wrestling enthusiasts around the world. There is a great deal of support and synergy between the two companies, and we could not be more proud to have them back on AXS TV as they prepare to celebrate an incredible milestone in NJPW history. We are excited to continue to build on our growing relationship with NJPW, and look forward to seeing what new opportunities arise from this partnership in the future.”
New Japan Pro-Wrestling President Takami Ohbari stated: ‘Thank you to our international fans for their patience. After two years away, we’re thrilled and grateful to return to US television and evolve a prosperous relationship with a key partner to our North American strategy in AXS TV. We hope fans enjoy being immersed in the action with New Japan each and every Thursday.’
AXS TV produces the English-language version of New Japan Pro-Wrestling as a joint venture with New Japan World and in association with TV ASAHI CORPORATION.
AXS TV’s Thursday wrestling schedule starting January 20 is as follows (all times Eastern):
Thursday, January 20
-3pE – IMPACT Wrestling Classic Pay-Per-View Throwback
-7pE – IMPACT In 60
-8pE – PREMIERE – IMPACT!
-10pE – PREMIERE – New Japan Pro-Wrestling Classic Episodes
-11pE – IMPACT!
Powell’s POV: It appears that Impact’s “Before The Impact” pre-show will no longer air on AXS-TV. Either way, it’s good to see NJPW back on AXS-TV and it will be interesting to see how both shows perform in the ratings and what else comes out of the relationship between the two companies.