The promotion was founded by Antonio Inoki in 1972 after his departure from the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance promotion. The first NJPW event took place on March 6, 1972, in Tokyo. Inoki would serve as the president of the promotion until 1989, when he stepped down to pursue a political career as a member of the Japanese House of Councillors. The promotion was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) from 1975 to 1985 and once more from 1992 to 1993. NJPW was briefly reaffiliated with the NWA in the late 2000s to the early 2010s as well.
Also known as "Shin Nihon Puroresu", NJPW is considered the top wrestling promotion in Japan and is comparable to WWE in the United States in terms of popularity in the country. They promote events throughout Japan with their biggest event being their annual supercard held every year on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome, currently billed as Wrestle Kingdom; this serves as Japan's version of WWE's annual WrestleMania event.
In the past NJPW has worked with WWE, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), Global Force Wrestling (GFW), and Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), among others. The company currently has working agreements with three foreign promotions—Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) in Mexico, Ring of Honor (ROH) in the U.S., and the British Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW). Occasionally, NJPW will also host cross-promotional matches with other Japanese promotions, such as All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and Pro Wrestling Noah.
The promotion is currently owned by Japanese card game company Bushiroad, which parlayed its entry to the world of professional wrestling into a best-selling trading card game, King of Pro Wrestling, and appearances from NJPW stars in its various franchises.
The promotion also has its own governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix, shortened as IWGP. NJPW currently has eight titles: the IWGP Heavyweight, IWGP Intercontinental, IWGP United States Heavyweight, IWGP Junior Heavyweight, IWGP Tag Team, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team, NEVER Openweight and the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships. It also holds several tournaments each year, including the G1 Climax, World Tag League, New Japan Cup and Best of the Super Juniors.
The promotion debuted a new series called NEVER in August 2010, designed to be a series of events spotlighting younger up-and-coming New Japan talent and feature more outsider participation in the promotion. The final NEVER event was held in November 2012.
On January 4, 2011, New Japan officially announced the NJPW Invasion Tour 2011: Attack on East Coast, the promotion's first tour of the United States to be held in May 2011. The tour featured shows in Rahway, New Jersey on May 13, New York City on May 14 and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 15, as well as cross-promotion with American independent group Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW). As part of the tour, NJPW introduced a new title, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. On January 31, 2012, Yuke's announced that it had sold all shares of New Japan Pro-Wrestling to card game company Bushiroad for ¥500 million ($6.5 million).
New Japan aired its first internet pay-per-view, the fourth day of the 2012 G1 Climax, on August 5, 2012. The October 8, 2012, King of Pro-Wrestling pay-per-view marked the first time viewers outside Japan were able to order a pay-per-view by the promotion through Ustream. On October 5, 2012, New Japan announced the creation of the NEVER Openweight Championship, which would be contested for on the NEVER series. A two-day tournament to determine the inaugural champion was held between November 15 and 19, 2012.
In February 2014, New Japan announced a partnership with ROH, which saw the promotion return to North America the following May to present two supershows; Global Wars in Toronto and War of the Worlds in New York City. During the tour, New Japan wrestlers also took part in an event held by Canadian promotion Border City Wrestling (BCW). A year later, NJPW and ROH announced another tour together to produce four more supershows; War of the Worlds '15 on May 12 and 13 in Philadelphia and Global Wars '15 on May 15 and 16 in Toronto.
In June 2014, New Japan announced a partnership with the new American Global Force Wrestling (GFW) organization helmed by Jeff Jarrett. In November 2014, GFW announced that it would be broadcasting NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome on pay-per-view in the United States as a four-hour event. Also in November 2014, the American AXS TV network announced it had acquired rights to rebroadcast a series of thirteen episodes of NJPW matches from TV Asahi. The series premiered on January 16, 2015, airing weekly on Fridays. Averaging 200,000 viewers per episode, the show was considered a success, leading to AXS TV and TV Asahi signing a multi-year deal to continue airing the show. In June 2016, the show was also acquired by the Canadian Fight Network. On December 1, 2014, NJPW and TV Asahi announced NJPW World, a new worldwide streaming site for the promotion's events.
On July 18, 2015, NJPW announced the "New IWGP Conception", a global expansion strategy centered on their international partnerships with CMLL, GFW, ROH, RPW, wXw and the NWA as well as holding more shows in Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan. Also announced was the Lion's Gate Project, which would feature NJPW rookies as well as up-and-coming outsiders working trial matches in an effort to earn a spot in the promotion. Finally, it was announced that there were plans to take the company public with a listing on the stock market within three to five years.
On December 21, 2015, NJPW announced the creation of its seventh active title and the first six-man tag team championship in the promotion's history, the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship. On January 5, 2016, NJPW announced a partnership with the Amuse talent agency with the goal of making the promotion's wrestlers internationally recognized stars in the vein of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
In March 2017, NJPW partnered with the New Zealand-based Fale Dojo, a pro wrestling training facility run by NJPW performer Bad Luck Fale. NJPW will utilize the partnership as an opportunity to scout talent from Oceania. The following month on April 24, 2017, it was announced that NJPW would co-present the Japanese qualifiers for the Pro Wrestling World Cup tournament hosted by the British What Culture Pro Wrestling (WCPW) promotion.
On May 12, 2017, NJPW announced the creation of a new title: the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, with the inaugural champion to be crowned during the promotion's G1 Special in USA shows in Long Beach, California on July 1 and 2. Four days later, NJPW held a press conference to announce plans to establish a subsidiary company, including a dojo, in the United States. A Los Angeles office was scheduled to be opened before the end of 2017, with a dojo scheduled to be opened at the start of 2018. NJPW's second American event, Strong Style Evolved, took place on March 25, 2018, also in Long Beach. In November 2017, NJPW signed a television deal with Discovery Communications, which would see the company's programming brought to 70 million Indian homes through DSport. In 2017, NJPW produces the best matches of the year. In January 2018, NJPW announced the four-show Fallout Down Under tour, the promotion's inaugural tour of Australia spanning from February 16–19. In March 2018, New Japan opened the NJPW LA Dojo with Katsuyori Shibata serving as head trainer and ROH wrestler Scorpio Sky serving as assistant trainer. On May 13, 2018, New Japan hired its first foreign president, Dutch businessman Harold Meij.