Monday, January 18, 2016

A few thoughts on the possible NJPW migration

Nearly half these men could be in WWE by the end of February.
While I was focused on the Top 10 wrestlers of 2015, news came out that WWE had started a raid on New Japan Pro Wrestling's talent pool. AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows of the Bullet Club were in WWE's sights as a future main eventer on the main roster and a new tag team in NXT respectively. Perhaps a bit more surprisingly, Shinsuke Nakamura was also in the WWE rumor mill, as the Japanese star was planned as a possible surprise entry in the Royal Rumble match.

The amount of Shinsuke fan art is
kind of crazy.
I didn't see it as quite as big a surprise. When Nakamura first planned to go on his international excursion (a regular path growing New Japan stars take before securing an upper card spot on the card), rumors of WWE interest were already around. Of course, unlike most rookies that had barely been given a spot above openers, at this point Nakamura was already an IWGP Heavyweight champion, albeit one with an incredibly short time with the belt. But his excursion proved far shorter than most (though he did train with then-IWGP Brock Lesnar for a short period of time) and he returned to New Japan without any visits to the United States.

In the time since Daniel Bryan's first WWE title reign, he made it clear though that Shinsuke Nakamura would be a dream opponent of his. WWE even published articles about it, even as NJPW stars became better known in the United States thanks to Ring of Honor appearances and later NJPW on AXS. While most people didn't think Nakamura would hop from his home promotion to WWE—a company with a poor history using Japanese stars—his position as the endless second tier champion made it clear he was never to return to his position as ace for the company, having been supplanted by first Hiroshi Tanahashi and now Kazuchika Okada. With his natural charisma and physical style, he seemed a sure fit for WWE should he stay healthy.

And as Royal Rumble looms this Sunday, chances are strong that at least one of the four stars will make his debut at or right after the event. AJ Styles has apparently already wrapped his contract with the company, Nakamura has been stripped of his Intercontinental title and is using the current CMLL crossover cards as a farewell tour. Anderson and Gallows may last a little longer as though Gallows contract is currently up, Anderson is contracted through February. They could end up with one last shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team belts before exiting the Bullet Club and NJPW.

Of course, only Nakamura and Gallows have officially announced plans to leave New Japan, and neither have made a WWE signing a 100% sure thing. If and when any of these men make their WWE debut though, expect big things from them. They have proven time and again they have every tool in the world to put on great matches time after time after time.

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