The Wrestle Kingdom 17 press conference on December 15 2022 carried with it multiple announcements about the Tokyo Dome card on January 4, and the Road to Tokyo Dome in Korakuen Hall.
NEW JAPANESE EVENT GUIDELINES AT A GLANCE
Chants for wrestlers, boos, cheers at a typical length are allowed at full capacity
Call and response, cheering catchphrases (eg: De! Ja! Pon! Kaze ni Nare!) counting with the referee is allowed at full capacity
Lengthy chanting/singing (eg. for the entire duration of an entrance) is not allowed. Tokyo Dome will feature special sections for fans who want to show extra support.
Masks continue to be required
Guidelines to be first implemented on January 4. Events moving forward TBD and subject to judgement from municipalities and venues
President Takami Ohbari would also be on hand to relay some important information about how fans will be enjoying the action at the Dome this January, with the following statement.
‘When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, several events were cancelled. In June of that year, we resumed matches with no fans in attendance, before bringing fans back in July. After two and a half years, we now have 100% capacity for non cheering crowds, and 50% for cheering crowds. We sincerely thank all of our fans for adhering to rules and guidelines during this period.
The truth is that professional wrestling is best enjoyed with a full crowd, letting out their voices in support of their favourites, and booing rule breakers. Pro-wrestling exists because of the synergy between wrestlers and their fans, and the energy they have is the energy our wrestlers thrive on. It’s that energy that is worth the asking price for tickets and plenty more.
However, for the last two and a half years, that energy has been limited with a lack of vocal cheering apart from some exceptions. That has been a source of sadness not just for the fans, but wrestlers and staff as well. We understand the requests for fans in towns across the country to be allowed to cheer at our events, but with a 50% capacity, the economic realities of current guidelines have made that hard to implement.
So with that in mind, I would like to talk about cheering today.
Starting in 2023, we will be implementing new guidelines that will see us transition into a return, in principle, to cheering at events. Every venue that recognises this transition will have our new guidelines implemented. As the culmination of our 50 year celebrations, and with the significance of the Antonio Inoki Memorial event in mind, Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Tokyo Dome will be the first event with these guidelines in place.
In April I was a part of our events in America. I saw for myself the excitement of the crowd there, and how incredible true pro-wrestling with vocal crowds can be. That was a frustrating experience given the restrictions on Japanese crowds at the time, and I made it a focus to bring cheering back to fans starting in September, with the aim of having vocal crowds in the Tokyo Dome January 4.
During that time, the Japan Sports Agency was making its own progress and tests with vocal crowds, and in consultation with the government infectious disease council, we were able to engage in conversations about what constitutes cheering for safe events, leading to the guidelines I’m here to talk about today. Before I introduce these key points, I’d like to express my gratitude to the JSA today as well as the government council for their support and advice.
Until now, with the exception of specified events, we have instituted a policy of no cheering. This policy in principal has not changed. However, after careful consultation, we are able to redefine what does or does not constitute cheering. On November 25, the infectious disease council issued memos to venues and municipalities that helped define ‘loud voice’ cheering. Singing of songs of support, as well as lengthy or loud conversation within audiences were given as examples, but brief vocalisation at certain points such as in the event of a goal or such were allowed under the guidelines.
With that in mind, what I presented to the panel at the JSA and infectious disease counsel were the following examples of cases that occur events but that do not constitute ‘loud voice’ cheering.
-Repeated or continuous conversation with audiences members in the vicinity with a normal voice.
– Brief chants, repetition of a catchphrase, or booing with a louder than normal voice.
Both of these do not fall foul of current rulings.
Therefore ‘1,2,3 daa!’, ‘De! Ja! Pon!’ ‘Okada, Okada!’ or counting along with the referee. Calls and responses between wrestlers and fans. All these do not constitute ‘loud voice’ cheering, and are allowed in our new guidelines.
However, there are some occasions where fan actions could be constituted as loud voice cheering. Lengthy, loud vocalisations would include singing along to a wrestler’s theme tune or very lengthy chants. Essentially, anything that would be akin to singing along to a song for more than one chorus would be disallowed. That said, before the pandemic, chants for wrestlers were typically ten to twenty seconds in length, and are allowed.
In other words, the new guidelines represent an effective return to cheering at events. Having closely inspected vocal support events that we’ve staged since September, crowds have by and large clapped and stamped with their feet before organically chanting at certain points when wrestlers need support. This is nothing that represents a problem for full crowds under our new guidelines.
We appreciate there may be some concerns moving forward, and we take attendee safety as our utmost concern. As we move forward with these guidelines, we ask that attendees continue to properly wear masks out of consideration and safety. The guidelines will be put into effect starting January 4. However it is important to note that this marks a transitionary period. At the present moment in time, the guidelines are only in place for the Tokyo Dome, and thereafter will depend on individual venues as to whether they are adopted. We are immensely grateful to Tokyo Dome Corporation for their support in this matter.
Additionally, we recognise some fans may want to show support above and beyond what these guidelines offer. For those that want to engage in prolonged chanting or singing, we will offer some tickets with socially distanced seating at 50% capacity in those blocks. More information will be available online.
In conclusion, I have to express my utmost, heartfelt gratitude to the fans that have continued to support NJPW, and keep wrestling alive and able to thrive through that support and consideration for the rules.
There may be some minimal restrictions, and we do ask that masks be used, but with those rules in mind, we want everyone to come to the Tokyo Dome with peace of mind, and ready to enjoy matches to their fullest, leaving with the energy that only professional wrestling can provide. Thank you.’