Coronavirus impacting sporting events across Japan, southeast Asia

wrestling sports

Minoru Sukuki, with steel chair in hand, prepares to smash a steel chair that is wrapped around the right hand of Jon Moxley. The bout was for the IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship during New Japan Pro Wrestling's The New Beginning in Osaka, Japan on Feb. 9. (NJPW photo)

(Ambush Sports) — With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) making health impacts across the world, Japan is making some attempts to limit exposure to the virus. Health minister Katsunobu Kato made a recent statement to the public to avoid any gatherings that are not urgent or non-essential. That impacts the world of wrestling and the shows and events that were scheduled, as well as any sporting event slated across parts of southeastern Asia.

According to Dave Meltzer from Wrestling Observer, a number of shows and events held by Japanese promotions were still held, were postponed or canceled altogether.

Bushiroad ordered that all activities surrounding World Wonder Ring Stardom (better known as simply Stardom), with the exception of a television taping, which will be treated as an empty arena show. The order is imposed until March 14.

Two shows which have undergone significant promotion — a wrestling show in Japan and an MMA show in Singapore — will be broadcast live on major streaming services in a similar fashion: within the confines of an empty arena.

Kato and prime minister Shinzo Abe met with medical experts last weekend, both stating that people should not attend these kinds of events with an advisory note to the elderly to avoid crowded places. To date, Japan has 518 cases — in which 456 cases were related to the Diamond Princess cruise liner.

Bushiroad’s main promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling, is still continuing with their schedule but issued their own set of precautions for those thinking of attending their shows:

  • They are offering refunds to those who bought tickets but will no longer attend. That option will be available through the end of March.
  • They recommended the wearing of surgical masks to cover their mouths and noses to limit exposure. Regular hand-washing and gargling were also recommended.
  • They recommended that anyone with a fever, cough or a cold, or any health complications, not attend.
  • Disinfectant alcohol sprays have been provided for each event and highly recommend attendees to disinfect their hands when entering the arena.
  • If an attendee is feeling ill during a show, they will be asked to leave.

The main reasons for New Japan continuing their schedule: Saturday’s retirement show for Manabu Nakanishi, the NJPW 48th Anniversary show on March 3, and the upcoming New Japan Cup, which runs March 4-21. However, they did cancel a birthday fan event Wednesday, as well as an autograph signing Thursday. Shows slated for Saturday in Osaka, Sunday in Nagoya, next Saturday in Tokyo, and multiple shows in Osaka on March 13 were canceled.

NJPW officials held a press conference Thursday that was initially open to the public but was revised to only allow accredited members of the press.

All scheduled meet-and-greets with NJPW talent have been canceled until further notice.

Currently, the only show still on the schedule is the March 8 show held at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, but it will be an empty arena show with television tapings and streamed worldwide on YouTube, via their Japanese and English channels beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning in Japan, airing Saturday night in the States.

Slated on the card is a Goddesses of Stardom tag team championship match as Bea Priestley and Jamie Hayter (c) take on Utami Hayashishita and Momo Watanabe, a Wonder of Stardom title bout between Arisa Hoshiki (c) and Natsuka Tora, a battle royal match and a non-title main event match between World of Stardom champion Mayu Iwatani and Saki Kashima in a lumberjack match.

Stardom owns the Stardom World streaming service, which has more subscriptions outside of Japan than within the country but puts the shows up on a couple days’ delay, in hopes to resume a regular broadcast schedule around mid-March.

One New Japan show that won’t be impacted by the Coronavirus is their return to Madison Square Garden in NYC on August 22 for Wrestle Dynasty.

ONE will be holding their February 28 MMA show inside Singapore Indoor Stadium, live at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time, before an empty arena.

The show will be headlined by Kimihiro Eta vs. Amir Khan.

Regarding other sporting events, the March 1 Tokyo Marathon was not canceled but is limited to 200 elite-level competitors in their normal and wheelchair divisional races, despite the initial 38,000+ who were originally accepted to compete.

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