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.