Japanese women’s wrestling promotion Stardom announced that on Feb. 4 they cancelling the contract of Rossy Ogawa, who in 2010 co-founded Stardom and has served as its creative head since New Japan Pro-Wrestling parent company Bushiroad bought it in 2019.
Stardom’s explanation for the move was that Ogawa had been poaching talent and staff, although they didn’t say for whom or to what end. Ogawa posted his own statement on X, saying he was informed of the move after Stardom’s show on Sat., Feb. 3. He added that “the truth of the matter may be told someday”, but he’s “worried about the players right now.”
突然、昨日の試合後に契約解除を通達されました。事の真実はいずれ話すこともあるでしょう。今は選手たちが心配です。これまで13年間スターダムを応援ありがとうございました。これからはブシロードが作るスターダムとなります。 pic.twitter.com/vTj3giwl5z— ロッシー小川 Rossy Stardom (@rossystardom) February 5, 2024
With WWE’s recently renewed interest in partnering with outside promotions in general & the Japanese scene specifically, plus Kairi Sane’s return to WWE from Stardom and the many rumors about their interest in Stardom star Giulia, initial speculation was that Ogawa could be “poaching” for WWE. That was seemingly reinforced by a tweet-storm from AEW owner. president, and booker Tony Khan after Ogawa’s firing.
Subsequent reporting from Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer paints a more complicated picture, however.
There have apparently been issues between Ogawa and Bushiroad over creative control for months, and the two sides had agreed to part ways later this month. For whatever reason, the decision was made to “get ahead of the story” and announce the firing after informing Ogawa and the roster following Saturday’s show.
A “talent exodus” is now expected, as many wrestlers are loyal to Ogawa and have contracts expiring next month. But Meltzer’s report plainly states “Ogawa is not going to WWE”. Instead, Stardom believes Ogawa will form a new promotion. It’s conceivable WWE could work with that new promotion, as in the past they have expressed interest in working with Stardom when Ogawa was there. But it’s too early in the process for anything concrete on that.
So what is Tony Khan’s reaction about? Apparently he saw Ogawa as the reason he’d been unable to get Stardom talents for AEW shows. Given Khan’s insinuations about WWE working against him over the years and the fact two of the GIFs he tweeted dealt with spying, some are connecting the dots to Sane signing with WWE and rumors AEW wasn’t pursuing a deal with Giulia. But the Observer downplayed talk of a “Stardom-to-WWE pipeline”, specifically saying Sane’s decision to leave Stardom was simply because she knew Ogawa’s exit was planned for this year.
We’ll see what the shockwaves from this move are in the weeks to come.