Pirate Raid: New Japan Pro Wrestling loses major stars to WWE


Big names put in their notice

In what could end up being the story of the year in Japanese wrestling, several names on the NJPW roster handed in their notices in or around the WrestleKingdom 10 event on January 4rth.

During what is NJPW's version of the American Wrestlemania, "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, and the IWGP Intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura all handed in their notices backstage to NJPW. A.J. Styles also made notice that he was finishing up soon, even though he was not under contract to the company. NJPW officials did not change any of the booking of WresltKingdom and went on with things as planned for these men's matches (Anderson and Gallows fought Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma and Nakamura and Styles faced each other).

Almost immediately after the show, word was spread that these four men had all reached deals to go to the WWE in some manner (either for the main roster or their developmental brand NXT). WWE itself even posted an article on their website about the story with several "hints" being mentioned that Anderson and Gallows would be joining former Bullet Club head Finn Balor in NXT.

Nakamura confirmed his plan to join the WWE in a news report for Tokyo Sports in Japan, saying that he is staying a little longer than the others because of his status as a current champion, but would be gone by the end of the month. It appears that NJPW is positioning Kenny Omega to be his next (and probably last) opponent in the company.

NJPW ran a storyline on the show the night after WrestleKingdom where Styles was "fired" from his position as the head of the Bullet Club after what seemed to be his last match. Both he and Nakamura are expected to debut for the WWE's main roster as they are both near 40 years old and worth more money than what the NXT brand would feasibly provide them. There is speculation amongst fans that either or both could make their first appearances at the Royal Rumble event on January 24.

Adding to this, while it has not been confirmed yet, is that Bullet Club member Bad Luck Fale and one-half of the Roppongi Vice tag team Rocky Romero have also handed in their notices to NJPW as well. No word if they have reached any sort of deal with the WWE.

NJPW contracts their talent for one year at a time (unlike WWE who contracts most talent for multi-year deals) and a good number of these contracts come up in January, making the opportunity for so many stars of New Japan to opt to not resign.

Also confirmed by NJPW is that young wrestlers Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu would be leaving for their "expeditions" overseas after the current tour is done. In Japanese wrestling, it is customary for companies to take their brightest young prospects and send them to other countries for a few years to grow as wrestlers and learn different styles before returning to Japan as bigger stars. Both Komatsu and Tanaka seem to be heading for Mexico for the time being.

What effect will this have on New Japan is unknown. Komatsu and Tanaka leaving will open doors for a couple of young wrestlers to get spots in the opening matches of shows. With Styles leaving and Kenny Omega moving to heavyweight to take his place, it leaves a big hole in the Jr. heavyweight division that is already considered lacking in depth. Since Anderson and Gallows dominated the tag team scene so long, their leaving opens up the tag team division and may actually make it more competitive.

The biggest loss though has to be Shinsuke Nakamura. Although not considered the "ace" of the company, he has been one of their biggest stars in recent years. His unique presentation brought attention from all over the world to New Japan, including being a major focus on the New Japan on AXS TV shows aired in the U.S. I don't think NJPW has anyone to fill that void, or the void left on the New Japan cards as well. At least not yet.

We here at Japanator will keep you updated if more of this story develops.

Update: It appears that Rocky Romero has resigned with New Japan. He had been offered a role as a trainer for the WWE's performance center/NXT.

Update 2: Bad Luck Fale announced on his Twitter he is staying in NJPW and signed a 2 year deal.

[via WWE, 411wrestling]

Yohei Komatsu and Sho Tanaka

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Soul Tsukino
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Soul Tsukino lives in the state of Maine. When not enveloping himself in a new fiction story he also comments on happenings in the animation and Otaku fan scene. A creative writer since he was yo... more + disclosures



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