Appropriately, 2018 has been an up and down year for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Everything looks fine on first glance. The promotion continue to set new standards between the ropes, once again delivering the most cutting-edge bell-to-bell action on the planet, particularly during G1 season. The 43,000 fans drawn to the Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom 12 comprised the biggest Japanese wrestling crowd since 2005. Revenue shot to a record $44.1 million in November, NJPW's inroads on the American market continued throughout 2018, and their global exposure has never been higher.
But scratch beneath the surface and you'll find a myriad of concerns, with reports of unrest towards president Howard Meij's leadership, The Elite's expiring contracts, the in-ring product's perceived Americanisation, and a number of key creative decisions sparking controversy.
NJPW are still on an upswing, and their general perception remains strong, but there are too many spinning plates heading into 2019. The upcoming year could well be one of the most transformational in the company's 46-year history, inside the ring and out, and their future will become a lot clearer when Wrestle Kingdom 13 hits the Tokyo Dome on 4 January.
For now, let's take some time to reflect on the year that was...
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