The ‘Ace’ of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi, recently recounted the 2005 company takeover by video game company Yuke’s and how it changed New Japan for the better.
Yuke’s may be a familiar name to wrestling fans, having developed video games for the WWE since the year 2000, and are currently developing AEW’s first console game.
However in 2005, the company elected to take a majority stake in New Japan Pro Wrestling, acquiring Antonio Inoki’s 51.5% share and thus, taking control.
When discussing the takeover, Tanahashi, who had his differences with Inoki, spoke of his frustrations of the NJPW founder’s penchant for card tinkering:
That stuff really frustrated me, but it taught me the patience you need to have as a pro. That to be a 100% professional you have to take every single thing that gets thrown at you. When he nixed the match I was supposed to have with Nakamura saying it wouldn’t draw, part of me wanted to scream that the fans had literally voted for it. But when you think about what Inoki would often say about the eight circles of fandom, it was something that only resonated with the core.
Yuke’s involvement appeared to foster an environment in which Tanahashi could evolve into ‘The Ace’.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that his first IWGP Heavyweight Title reign came less than a year into the Yuke’s administration.
When recollecting the changes felt under the new management, Tanahashi felt that Yuke’s were simply giving back to an industry that had been a consistent bread-winner for them:
Well, first of all, they never said a single thing about what happened in the ring. They left that stuff up to us, and we were able to wrestle just as before. What they did was reform everything behind the scenes, and put the management system back in order. They really helped out, and it was purely out of love and gratitude; here was a company that had gotten big largely because of videogames about pro-wrestling, and here they were giving back. You know, had Yuke’s not lent a hand, the history of professional wrestling would be very different indeed. And to look at it from the other side of things, I came along right at the perfect time for Yuke’s as well.
Having set the promotion on its path to past glories, Yuke’s would sell the company to current NJPW owners Bushiroad in 2012.