KUSHIDA, 35, is the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, and a stalwart of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s light heavyweight division.
As their plan for global NXT territories escalates in 2019, it would certainly make sense that WWE would be interested in KUSHIDA for a potential NXT Japan.
The Observer report confirms that the working idea inside WWE is to earmark KUSHIDA for NXT. It does not specify whether that means the current North American brand or a potential new territory in Japan.
KUSHIDA is reportedly under contract to New Japan through January 2019, and the Observer report indicates that for that reason, word of WWE’s interest should not have leaked, for fear of contract tampering litigation.
However a complicating factor there is that NJPW is based in Japan. They are not the financial juggernaut that WWE is. Perhaps for those reasons, WWE feels that litigation is unlikely. WWE appears to be approaching KUSHIDA differently than they would if he worked for MLW or Ring Of Honor.
The report also states that KUSHIDA is just one of the top NJPW names that WWE has interest in, but does not specifically mention any of the other talent that WWE may be targeting. Tetsuya Naito did mention to Tokyo Sports earlier this year that WWE had sent him feelers, however.
KUSHIDA’s Physical Condition
Something else to consider from the WWE side is KUSHIDA’s physical condition. He is 35 years old and has worked a hard style for a number of years.
As seen with Shinsuke Nakamura’s defection from NJPW, this may be a case of KUSHIDA knowing that his body will not be able to take the demands of strong style for much longer.
WWE has to be aware of that fact, and it appears as though they believe that KUSHIDA’s name value is worth the investment, no matter how much he has left in the tank physically.
KUSHIDA is a former Ring Of Honor World Television Champion, a six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, and a two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion.
In addition, he has won several tournaments in New Japan. He won the Best Of the Super Juniors tournament in 2015 and 2017, the Super J-Cup in 2016, and the Super Junior Tag Tournament in 2012.
KUSHIDA’s MAtches With WWE Talent
Among current WWE talent, KUSHIDA has wrestled both Finn Balor and Xavier Woods in the past. He faced Woods in the 2010 Super J Tag Tournament and faced Balor a number of times.
His most notable matches against Balor came in 2011 when he twice unsuccessfully challenged The Demon for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.
Would you like to see KUSHIDA in WWE?