On September 25, "MOONDOM" was posted on Stardom's official website. The announcement was made only in English. At the same time, ticket purchase instructions were posted on SNS in English only. What is this? I wondered. The event will be held on October 4, and there are only a short period left until the event.
I spoke with Bushiroad Fight's president, Mr. Harada, about this mysterious information.
“This is an inbound show of Stardom. The Corona disaster has calmed down, and the number of foreign visitors to Japan is increasing. This is partly due to the weak yen and partly because prices are cheaper than in other countries. Japan is at the top of the list of countries that people from overseas want to visit, and as a tourist nation, Japan attracts many tourists. Although there may not be many people among them who like professional wrestling, we want tourists visiting Japan to come to see professional wrestling. Then, what kind of things are inbound tourists looking for? They are looking for so-called "experience products.” Women's professional wrestling is a uniquely Japanese culture. By conveying its qualities to them, we are thinking of offering wrestling experiences in the future."
What was the inspiration for the concept of MOONDOM?
“Waka proposed the idea. She can speak English, she is a good communicator, and she is smart. She is small and may have some difficulties as a professional wrestler, but she is the perfect person for the concept of an inbound show. After talking to her, I decided to let her handle it. I think this inbound show = Waka Show. I'm also leaving the matchmaking to her.”
Regarding the English-only information dissemination, he said, "Even though it is an inbound show, the customers are most likely to be Japanese. But if we transmit information in English, they will not come unless they understand it. The number of tourists will continue to increase, and we want to bring in more and more tourists through our experience products. Even people who are not interested in professional wrestling can see that there is women's professional wrestling in Japan and that it is interesting, and make it a part of their tourism experience. I would also like to see information disseminated in tourism magazines and inbound information magazines. The wrestling industry doesn't have such a big fan base either. It's not as if it's growing after Corona. We are doing reasonably well, but overall, it is not that exciting. The same is true of the entertainment industry as a whole. Conversely, there are opportunities. There is a possibility that inbound foreigners will see our products. We need to create an environment that can meet that demand. From there, they might come to the main show of STARDOM and they might even watch World (=STARDOM WORLD, video streaming service). We want to aim for a ripple effect.”
We also spoke with producer Waka Tsukiyama.
“I debuted at the Corona Disaster, so I had never competed in a venue with international fans. Recently, the Corona disaster has calmed down, and we are starting to see a few foreign fans at Stardom venues. There are many overseas visitors in the city. When I go to Akihabara, the area in front of the station is so crowded that about 80% of the visitors are from overseas. The other day on the train, I spoke to an American mother and son who didn't know where they were getting off. When I talked to them, they said they were staying for three weeks but had nowhere to go. Today they went to a hedgehog cafe, but they were wondering where to go tomorrow. At that time, I suggested that they come see a pro-wrestling match. Then the mother asked me, "How do I buy a ticket?” but I couldn't explain Pia (= Japanese ticket-buying website) very well. They knew about pro-wrestling and wanted to go. It is difficult to buy tickets using a machine at a convenience store overseas, isn't it? Also, a guy who was having a drink next to me in Shinjuku's Golden Gai bar also told me that he had nowhere to go. These experiences made me think that it would be great if we could make the content of women's pro-wrestling for people overseas. I would like to develop it as a single content, like Sumo, Kabuki, Harajuku, Akihabara, and Anime. When I suggested this to Mr. Harada, he said it was a good idea.”
Waka also experienced wrestling overseas when she participated in New Japan Pro Wrestling's New York event in September 2022.
“It was the first time cheering was allowed at the Corona Disaster for me. Even before I entered the ring, I heard "WAKA-MANIA, WAKA! WAKA! I was afraid to enter the venue (laughs). I had no experience in cheering. At that time, I realized that the atmosphere of venue in overseas and in Japan were completely different. I thought that it would be great if we could create an environment where not only Stardom wrestlers but also Japanese female professional wrestlers would want to compete overseas. That is how much of an impact it had on me. It was a different kind of fun than wrestling in Japan.”
The characteristic of Japanese women's wrestling is that "while there are cute wrestlers like Pretty Cure, there are also hot-blooded wrestlers like those who appear in Weekly Shonen Jump. Japanese female professional wrestlers have so many characters. Their personalities are clear and easy to understand for those who see them for the first time. I also think that Japanese people have a diversity of emotional expressions. Even a single emotion, such as pain, can range from slightly painful to extremely painful and unbearable. Emotions are not affected by nationality or other conditions; they are common to everyone. I think that women's professional wrestling is a content that can express this regardless of nationality.
About the name MOONDOM: "At first, I didn't have a name idea. Stardom is a star, so I thought how about of Tsuki DOM(Tsuki = MOON in Japanese) but it sounds so lame (laughs). I wanted to use a word that was easy for people overseas to remember and that wasn't in use yet. I didn't want all the content in the world to come up when people search for it; MOONDOM isn't in use, and I thought it would be a good name. A name that I could continue to use even if I one day retired and left MOONDOM. When it became another brand of Stardom, I thought it was just right with the stars and the moon."
The first event, held on October 4, was held at a smaller capacity venue with a higher admission fee. The number of matches was also limited to three.
“Eventually, I would like MOONDOM to be seen not only by overseas wrestling fans, but also by visitors to Japan who are seeing wrestling for the first time. For this first event, we tried to make it as easy to understand as possible. The first match was a hot match full of emotion, symbolic of Japanese wrestling. The second match is not only hot, but also shows the fun side of wrestling. The third match, the main event, is a match that shows tenacity and the strength to stand up even when it hurts. Since I was entrusted to produce the event, I decided to make a card that has never been seen before. If I did a card that was already on the main Stardom card, it would be meaningless for me to become a producer. So I included some surprises, such as Itsuki Aoki's first appearance and a tag-team match between Hanami and myself. I wanted to bring out people who could create a Japanese-style atmosphere. I originally thought of the absent Comomo (Momo Kogo), whom I asked to give a play-by-play guide, as a participant in the tournament. Eventually, I would like to make this a place where absent wrestlers can be active. In addition to matches, we could also do plays and live shows, and it would be interesting to have musicals in English. I would like to expand the scope of MOONDOM activities in the future.”
In the actual venue, there were some Japanese guests, but 1/3 of the audience was made up of foreigners. All the announcements in the hall were in English. Perhaps this was the reason for the atmosphere, which was different from that of normal shows. The matches were of a high level, and because the venue was small, the sounds and voices of the fighters clashing with each other could easily be heard, making the power of professional wrestling feel very close to the audience. It should also be noted that the wrestlers looked as if they were having a good time at the matches. The synergistic effect of both wrestlers and audience enjoying themselves made the event a natural outpouring of fun.
meet and greet
“Today was a great success for a first time. I started with the idea that it would be good if even three people showed up, and I heard that even AKB had only three people at their first live performance. I thought it would be OK if the first show was not so good because this show is meant to be continued, but it turned out to be a great event from the very beginning. The next time, I would like to increase the number of overseas visitors by 10 people from this time. If I increase the number of overseas costumers by 10 at each show, after six months we will have a full house with overseas customers. How to increase the number of inbound customers is an issue for the future. I have some ideas, such as putting out a schedule early and asking for cooperation from companies that have overseas customers.”
When I asked President Harada about the future development of the event, "Will you eventually hold the event at a larger venue?” He replied, "Of course!” Producer Waka said, "My dream is to hold the event at Korakuen Hall in the afternoon on weekdays. There is almost no entertainment content during the daytime on weekdays. But tourists can come even on weekday afternoons. If you want, you can watch pro-wrestling in the daytime and see another show at night. When people asked "What did you enjoy in Japan?" I hope that women's professional wrestling will be one of the many answers. For example, when you go to Thailand, you go to see Muay Thai even if you have little interest in it, right? I hope that Japanese women's pro-wrestling can become something like that. I am confident that Japanese women's pro-wrestling is interesting. Also, I would like to welcome them with the Japanese hospitality, and send them off with smiles and "thank you." I hope we can appeal to the audiences with the Japaneses’ attentive attention to detail.”
Although this new attempt by Stardom may have some bearing on the economic situation in Japan, the challenge to expand the possibilities is off to a good start.
Results of MOONDOM
October 4, 2023 at POST DI AMISTAD, Kanagawa, Japan
◯Itsuki Aoki (10’11”, Frog → Kataebi Gatame) Saya Iida●
◯Hanan & Waka Tsukiyama (10'55" Seventeen) Yuko Sakurai & Yuna Mizumori●
◯Maika & Haruka Umesaki (15’24” Michinoku Driver II → katabi kudome) Tae Honma & Ami Sorei●