As KUSHIDA, 35 year old Yujiro Kushida is a junior heavyweight legend for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He’s worn the IWGP title for that division six times, and the jr. heavyweight tag titles twice. Since joining New Japan in 2010, KUSHIDA has also twice won the promotion’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament and is a one-time Super J Cup winner.
It’s no wonder he said at a Monday (Jan. 7) press conference announcing his departure from NJPW, “If there was anything left for me to achieve and do, I wouldn’t be leaving.”
That’s just one reason it’s not terribly surprising he’s leaving when his contract expires at the end of this month. He lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight belt to Taiji Ishimori at last week’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 event, then took the pin in six-man action the next night at New Year’s Dash!! KUSHIDA’s been mentioned as a WWE target for weeks now.
In addition to his recent booking, quotes like these won’t tamp down those rumors:
“As for the future, I would like to see the wide world of professional wrestling with my own eyes, from one end of the earth to the other.”
And when a question from his friend, company ace and current IWGP Heavyweight champ Hirohi Tanahashi, brought tears to his eyes:
“I do not know why these tears keep coming out, but because I made this decision by myself, I do not regret it at all. I do not know why I’m crying because I’m happy with this decision, but I think that I am crying now because it was fun and the best time of my life.”
There’s never any shortage of intrigue around this time of year, and the addition of All Elite Wrestling to the scene has made things even more interesting as New Japan contracts expire and WWE gets ready for the Royal Rumble.
What’s next for KUSHIDA? Or Kenny Omega, who spoke about leaving New Japan in a more kayfabe way this weekend?