A great man once said, “no one is bigger than the WWE” and yet here we are in 2019, and no one would’ve dreamed the show Vince McMahon dubbed “the next evolution of WWE and the next evolution of television history” would turn into a cultural success.
But here we are. The show formerly a ‘Rookies / Pros’ competition show now is heralded for its stories, signings, and even extensions of itself, once again expanding… this time into the Land of the Rising Sun.
Back in 2018 during WWE’s Business Partner Summit, the man behind NXT currently spoke of turning the black and gold brand into territories, with the idea that “with ‘RAW’ and ‘Smackdown Live’ calling up all of (my) NXT superstars, I quickly realized NXT needed a feeder system of its own,”. The idea was to start with the United Kingdom by developing the UK Championship Tournament and then a Performance Center. Now that idea is here, WWE has begun its move onto Japan.
But not everyone is for this idea as, per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, Mitsuharu Misawa’s Pro Wrestling NOAH has turned down an offer to be purchased by the Connecticut-based wrestling promotion. The amount or even details of the deal remain undisclosed. However, WWE has still been making moves in the direction of possibly starting an NXT Japan brand.
“They have been talking to multiple Japanese wrestling promotions” states Meltzer, “There’s talk about different people being hired as Japanese trainers, big names. I don’t want to say until I get the names confirmed but there are definitely two names that are very big that have gone around as far as them hiring. Yeah, they want to do NXT Japan, absolutely. They’ve been making moves in that direction.”
Could we see a significant power shift in Japanese wrestling? It may not come from WWE as there are rumors of New Japan Pro Wrestling launching a women’s division with the purchase of the Japanese Joshi powerhouse, Stardom, the former home of current NXT mainstay, Io Shirai.
With Reddit already going nuts about this news, and WWE already having a presence in Japan from its many tours and top stars being in the company, it’s sure to be an arms race very soon in the world of pro wrestling.
I got into Japanese wrestling very late in the game, more specifically NJPW, but I picked up on it quick. Some of my favourites, and even top-10 guys are there now: Okada, Jay White, Tama Tonga, SANADA. It’s the reason I became a Kenny Omega fan. But based on the NOAH deal falling through, and even the graphic I put up at the beginning of this post, it seems WWE isn’t slowing down any time soon on being a global powerhouse. I fully expect with such notable stars who are in WWE or wrestling for them such as Nakamura, AJ Styles, Io Shirai, Meiko Satomora, Asuka, Kairi Sane, Finn Balor, even Funaki, are all in support of this venture and will be used to the fullest extent to make sure this deal happens.