Asian News 9/21

WWE Invades Japan

World Wrestling Entertainment, the U.S. firm that produces the weekly programs “Raw,” “SmackDown,” and “ECW,” is making a concerted effort to export its story-line brand of professional wrestling to Japan.

The WWE held the SummerSlam Festival at a Tokyo theatre Sept. 14. Fans paid 3,500 yen ($33) each to watch recorded WWE pay-per-view events on giant video screens. Though the videos are available in Japan for home viewing, events like SummerSlam offer more to die-hard wrestling fans, with personal appearances by foreign wrestlers, booths selling WWE merchandise and interaction with other fans.

Earlier this year, WWE set up an office in Japan. It is the company’s only overseas office aimed at a single country.
Professional wrestling became popular in Japan in the mid-’50s after it was introduced by the Korean-Japanese wrestler Rikidozan, a failed Sumo wrestler who went to the U.S. and became a star on the pro-wrestling circuit.

Rikidozan took full advantage of two social phenomena: the advent of television and lingering despondency over Japan’s loss in World War II. He would bring American wrestlers to Japan and defeat them on television, turning himself into a national hero and making pro wrestling a national obsession that is still strong.

While professional wrestling is still considered a sport in Japan to a certain extent, the WWE’s programs are much more entertainment-oriented. WWE hopes to attract new fans in Japan who may not have much interest in conventional pro wrestling.

Experts say this may be difficult unless WWE makes cultural adjustments. As with all celebrities in Japan, the popularity of professional wrestlers has much to do with public access to them as people. Pro wrestlers regularly appear on TV in settings that have nothing to do with wrestling, such as quiz shows, talk shows and music shows.

Moreover, TV networks have become more interested in newer martial arts forms like K-1 and Pride at the expense of professional wrestling.


Tokyo A-Go-Go

On Sept. 6, Avex Entertainment recreated the legendary Juliana’s discoteque in the waterfront area of Tokyo, attracting a capacity crowd of 3,000 people with hundreds outside unable to get in.

Juliana’s epitomized the go-go “bubble” period of Japan in the early ’90s, when people had money to burn on account of insanely high real estate and stock prices.

The original Juliana’s, owned jointly by Nissho Iwai (now Sojitsu Corp.) and the British leisure firm Wembley, was located in the Tamachi area of Tokyo from May 1991 to August 1994.

It was famous for its hordes of “body-con girls,” young women dressed in skimpy, skintight outfits waving large feather fans and dancing in formation atop “otachi-dai,” raised platforms set in the middle of the disco reserved for only the best-looking women in the club.


China Festival Dates Announced

Dates were announced for the two major fall music festivals in China.

The Midi festival will take place Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, while the Modern Sky festival starts Sept. 30 and ends Oct. 2.
As both are held in Beijing and will run almost simultaneously, competition for patrons is greater than has been in the past.

Thanks to the Olympics and the attendant security crackdown, there hasn’t been much in the way of live music in Beijing for the past several months, making local interest in the two festivals acute.

Neither event has booked any foreign acts, and Shanghai entertainment blog Shanghaiist noted that local acts may be asked to choose one festival over the other, especially given the fact that Midi had not secured a permit for its festival at press time.