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Jan. 8 UPDATE: The week-long progression of the story about New Japan stars heading to WWE now includes NXT champion Finn Balor teasing a possible WWE TV debut with the Bullet Club by his side.
“I want to be in the place that is causing the most controversy and getting the most media attention and getting the most focus put on it. I did that in New Japan, I did that in NXT. And perhaps, in the future, if Bullet Club were to arrive on Monday Night Raw, there would be no better way for Finn Bálor to make his debut than with his best friends by his side,” Balor told WWE’s website in an interview discussing this week’s big story.
Balor also talked about hitting it off with Shinsuke Nakamura in Japan, plus the credentials of A.J. Styles, who is also part of the expected New Japan exit to WWE.
“A.J. Styles’s reputation speaks for itself. He’s one of the best in-ring performers on the planet, ever. To say this would be a coup is an understatement. I think the next couple of months could change the way pro wrestling is viewed for the next 10 years,” Balor said.
Jan. 7 UPDATE: WWE star Daniel Bryan has long been an advocate of working with New Japan stars. Now, guys like Shinsuke Nakamura are coming to WWE, but he might not ever get to wrestle them because of lingering health concerns.
That did not stop Bryan from tweeting his desire for WWE to “clear me already!” to wrestle stars like Nakamura, A.J. Styles, and Bullet Club members Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson.
Jan. 6 UPDATE: Shinsuke Nakamura’s departure from New Japan was confirmed by the Tokyo Sports publication, who quoted Nakamura on the decision to leave for WWE.
Nakamura, who is currently the IWGP Intercontinental champion, is scheduled to end his New Japan run at the end of January.
Tokyo Sports reported that Nakamura wants a “new challenge” and he wants to be on a world stage taking his career to “further heights” after defeating A.J. Styles in the Tokyo Dome on Jan. 4.
The timeline of Nakamura ending his run in January affects Ring of Honor. Nakamura was scheduled to for the ROH-New Japan shows in Tokyo in mid-February, then travel to the U.S. for ROH’s 14th Anniversary PPV Weekend in Las Vegas at the end of February.
– Additional perspective on the story and Nakamura’s comments via PuroresuSpirit.net.
Jan. 5 UPDATE: WWE’s website published a teaser story on Tuesday speculating on whether New Japan stars Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, and Doc Gallows have signed with WWE.
WWE did not outright say that all four have signed with WWE, leaving the story as “rumor” that the wrestlers are “in negotiations to compete under the WWE banner.”
WWE added: “The office of WWE COO and EVP of Talent Relations Triple H declined to comment on the rumors.”
January 4 Original Report
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Results from New Japan’s “Wrestle Kingdom” Tokyo Dome Show point to changes to NJPW’s roster, especially as it relates to Bullet Club. And, an even bigger story for New Japan, Big Three member Shinsuke Nakamura.
PWTorch learned earlier on Monday that former IWGP tag champions Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows and recent IWGP World champion A.J. Styles are expected to depart New Japan.
Anderson & Gallows dropped the Tag Titles to Togi Makabe & Honma at the Tokyo Dome. Anderson has noticeably dropped a lot of weight and appears to be in the best shape of his career, preparing for a WWE run.
Then, in the Tokyo Dome semi-main event, Styles lost the IWGP IC Title match to Shinsuke Nakamura. Both men had a show of respect after the match.
Styles, Anderson, and Gallows are expected to join WWE. It remains to be seen which wrestlers go to NXT and how many, if any, go to the main WWE roster.
The most interesting development is Nakamura expected to leave New Japan for WWE.
Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada have main-evented the last two Tokyo Dome Shows, while Nakamura has been right there in the mix as one of the top stars in the promotion.
WWE launched their Network subscription service in Japan on Tuesday (January 5), so WWE is looking to recruit familiar stars to go with KENTA (Hideo Itami in NXT).
Exact departure dates for all four men are unknown, but PWTorch has learned that all four have given their notices to the New Japan office.
Nakamura is scheduled for the ROH-New Japan tour in Tokyo in February, then ROH’s Anniversary Weekend in Las Vegas at the end of February.
After the news surfaced on Monday, Karl Anderson commented on Twitter that he was proud to be a part of New Japan’s Tokyo Dome Show on Monday. He added that he is “looking forward to Wrestle Kingdom 11,” but did not say that he would be part of it.
— Karl Anderson (@Machinegunka) January 5, 2016