In the early 90’s NJPW entered a deal to broadcast their Weekly Pro Wrestling show in Europe with dubbed over English commentary. For many wrestling fans in Europe (those not already embedded in the tape trading scene) this was their first look at wrestling from Japan, but it was to be a short lived one. Many within the company, most notably Riki Choshu, felt that by opening themselves up to a broader international audience, inevitably the promotion would begin to cater more to international tastes. Business was very good at the time and Japanese wrestling was entering what would be its last great boom period, so Choshu’s argument resonated with many who didn’t feel that international expansion was worth the risk such a venture might pose to the promotion as a whole. While NJPW’s European broadcasts were ultimately cancelled, a couple of years later UWFi entered into a similar deal and found a sizeable audience (but nothing that could help stave off the promotion’s mounting money problems).
At lot of time has passed since those first tentative attempts to market Japanese wrestling abroad but, with the advent of the internet, it’s now easier than ever for any promotion to reach a worldwide audience. Yet there’s still a sense of reluctance from many promotions to look abroad for potential paying customers, in spite of many already having a dedicated international fan-base who do their best to follow these promotions that remain staunchly inaccessible to those outside of Japan. This is why it’s refreshing to see an internet streaming service such as STARDOM World, as while theirs isn’t the first service to welcome foreign fans aboard, it is the first to fully cater to English speakers. Having YouTube as the service’s provider ensures ease of use in a familiar interface across a variety of platforms, yet the real godsend here is the English subtitles for promos and backstage interviews, adding a layer of context to the in-ring product that was previously only available to English-speaking followers with fan-driven translation, if at all.
In the service’s infancy, the content already on offer is impressive and STARDOM have gone to great lengths to ensure there’s a steady stream of videos posted for subscribers throughout the week. Shows are uploaded (somewhat uniquely) on a match-by-match basis with the main event of each new show going up every Friday, while weekends see classic STARDOM shows and individual matches added to the service, many that have not ever been broadcast previously. I’ve found this approach encourages me to watch undercard matches I might have otherwise skipped, as it’s easier for me to find 10-20 minutes to watch a single match each weekday rather than fit a whole show’s viewing into my weekend. The content doesn’t stop with just new and classic STARDOM shows, however, as there’s also a growing series of video documentaries and in-depth interviews with some of STARDOM’s home-grown and international stars, affording viewers a greater insight into the lives and personalities of the performers.
STARDOM’s push for international fans doesn’t just stop with STARDOM World. They’ve recently opened an international shop over at http://www.we-are-stardom.com/international-store/ enabling overseas fans to easily obtain STARDOM merchandise, plus next month they will be heading to Europe to present a pair of shows in conjunction with London-based British Empire Wrestling (May 22nd) and Barcelona’s Revolution Championship Wrestling (May 25th), where the stars of STARDOM will go toe-to-toe with some of the best talent European wrestling has to offer. Presumably these shows will appear on STARDOM World, but they also offer a rare opportunity for European fans to see STARDOM’s most talented wrestlers up close and in person. STARDOM World, while presenting great value for money at just $4.99/£3.52 a month, is also an ambitious step towards greater international exposure and as the Japanese wrestling industry continues to grow and seeks to reach the heights of decades past more promotions should be following STARDOM’s cue and begin looking beyond their borders, while STARDOM themselves deserve a lot of credit for their forward thinking approach and for providing an excellent service to serve a growing fan-base that’s too often ignored by Japanese wrestling promotions.
STARDOM World is available now over at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzHuZkzGJRUtzIqIVReNLdA
For more information on STARDOM, head over to: http://we-are-stardom.com
Tickets for STARDOM Europe are available from BEW (https://www.facebook.com/britishempirewrestling/) and RCW (http://www.rcwrestling.org/)