The latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has an item that will either be an industry-changing bombshell, or a fascinating “what if?”
While cautioning that things are still in the exploratory phase of negotiations, Dave Meltzer writes “[WWE President] Nick Khan has been in talks with New Japan Pro Wrestling about WWE being the exclusive American partner with the promotion.”
After years of partnering with Ring of Honor in the United States, NJPW has recently “opened the Forbidden Door” and sent talent to AEW and Impact. New Japan has a turbulent track record with both companies. On the All Elite side, there’s lingering issues with Executive Vice-Presidents Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks. With Impact, even with new management, there’s concern based on how talent was used during a previous arrangement.
Everything seems to be going smoothly in the early phases of their current alliances, but neither company has the brand recognition of WWE. Between AEW taking away some of their biggest North American stars and the pandemic, New Japan’s growth plans have been stymied over the past few years. The ability to book Roman Reigns, or have Kazuchika Okada featured on Peacock or WWE’s 75 million+ subscriber YouTube channel could get those plans back on track.
For WWE, this is just the latest report we’ve heard they’re more open to working with other wrestling companies under Khan’s leadership than they have been at any other point this century. Meltzer writes the company’s philosophy is becoming “WWE is part of the wrestling landscape and not separate from the pro wrestling landscape.”
Regarding WWE’s motivation to work with New Japan, Meltzer believes it’s to prevent AEW from using their partnership to grow. He also thinks the current crop of talent WWE is competing to sign would be motivated by the chance to wrestle for NJPW, as many of the people currently in wrestling schools and on the independents grew up watching New Japan.
There’s no mention in the WON’s report of how this would fit with WWE’s pre-COVID plan of opening a Japanese Performance Center, and launching a regional NXT brand in the country. That plan had at various times included rumors of WWE partnering with or purchasing smaller promotions like All Japan or NOAH.
And, other than that the talks “date back to late March or early April”, there’s not much indication of where they currently stand.
So brace yourself for big news... or nothing at all. We’ll keep you posted.