SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
-Kenny Omega announced to Tokyo Sports that he is leaving NJPW. You can read the article here
NJPW announcer Chris Charlton translated Omega’s comments as to why he’s leaving NJPW on Twitter. Omega gave a storyline explanation for leaving NJPW. “There is no real place for me to fit, so it’s best for me not to be in (NJPW),” said Omega. “I can’t be there working under Tanahashi. I don’t think he’s surpassed me, don’t think he’s better. If we can, I want to face him again. But I need time away, and not just from New Japan.”
Omega’s contract with NJPW expires as the end of January. Although word is out that Omega is still deciding between WWE and AEW, sources tell PWTorch that Omega will end up in AEW. The ending of the latest episode of “Being the Elite” that was posted last night also pointed to Omega signing with AEW, as the group said their goodbyes to Marty Scurll, who is under contract to ROH. Omega mentioned that he lost his phone with the countdown timer on it until he was a free agent. You can watch the episode below:
(Radican’s Analysis: Nothing is official yet, but I would be surprised if Omega ended up signing with WWE, despite word being out that he’s still deciding between WWE and AEW. Nothing is decided yet and things can change at any time, but Omega taking some time away from NJPW and AEW not expected to launch until late May or early June certainly seems to point towards Omega going back to NJPW at some point given what he has said about Tanahashi. Omega can’t announce his signing with any company at this point, as he is contracted with NJPW through the end of January. Omega also tweeted out a picture that said 1-1 in reference to his record in singles matches against Hiroshi Tanahashi in NJPW. Between Omega’s worked statement to Tokyo Sports and his tweet, it would seem that a rematch between both parties would happen at some point in the future. The timing works out for when I would think NJPW could potentially revisit a working relationship with AEW after their joint show at MSG and around the time AEW launches.)
-AEW will not have a working relationship with NJPW. Both parties were scheduled to meet over the weekend and Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported that NJPW has decided to not work for AEW for the time being as they will continue to focus on working with Ring of Honor ahead of their big G1 Supercard co-promoted event at MSG during WrestleMania weekend.
(Radican’s Analysis: I don’t think this is the end of this story. It seems like ROH and NJPW are working together well behind the scenes right now. According to PWTorch sources, ROH management likes working directly with new NJPW GM Michael Craven, who is the head of talent relations in NJPW and is also in charge of NJPW’s international expansion. Craven was the target of criticism from several foreign talents working in NJPW several months ago. Talent wasn’t happy with his way of doing business and pointed out that he had no previous experience in wrestling. On the other hand, not all talent was upset with the new regime in place, as Tama Tonga came out on Twitter at the time and said many wrestlers were happy with the new regime in place in Japan. It will be interesting to follow this story going forward, as all three companies stand to lose out if they aren’t exchanging talent. AEW isn’t supposed to really launch until they get a TV deal and all indications are that the company will be up and running by late May or June at the latest. NJPW may be saying no now, but things can change and it wouldn’t shock me if certain AEW talents would be allowed to work in NJPW and vice-versa at some point in the future.)
-It was a call from NJPW management to have a tighter Wrestle Kingdom show. Many people were surprised that some of the undercard matches were so short, but Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer is reporting that it was a call from new President Harold Meij’s regime to have shorter undercard matches with only the main event getting a lot of time.
(Radican’s Analysis: Many people I talked to in recent days were surprised about how short the matches on the undercard were at Wrestle Kingdom, as all of the matches stayed under 20 minutes and most stayed under 15 minutes. Only the Jericho-Naito and Omega-Tanahashi matches went over 20 minutes on the main card. It will be interesting to see how fans respond to NJPW events not having longer undercard matches going forward with only the main events getting a lot of time. It did seem like NJPW had been slowly introducing this concept into their programming, as there was an overall trend of G1 Climax tournament matches not going as long as they usually do in 2018.)
-Chris Jericho posted a picture on Instagram announcing that longtime NJPW referee and U.S. liaison Tiger Hattori had worked his last Tokyo Dome match at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Hattori has been instrumental in helping NJPW work with talent outside of Japan for many years. You can see Jericho’s post from Instagram HERE. Hattori bowed to the crowd after the Cody vs. Juice Robinson match at Wrestle Kingdom 13. The announcers hinted that that it might have been Hattori’s last Tokyo Dome show, but Jericho’s post seems to confirm it.
-Rocky Romero announced that he has signed a new multi-year deal with NJPW on Twitter. You can see Romero’s post below:
Romero is a key player behind the scenes for NJPW coordinating U.S. talent and holding other duties as well. He has worked closely with Tiger Hattori behind the scenes in recent years. In front of the camera, Romero has transitioned to a managerial role for the most part, as he manages Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) in the junior tag team division in NJPW.
Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer is reporting that Juice Robinson has also signed a multi-year deal with NJPW. Robinson became a two time IWGP U.S. Hvt. Champion after beating Cody at Wrestle Kingdom 13.
(Radican’s Analysis: I haven’t heard when Hattori is ending his time as a referee and whether or not he will continue working behind the scenes for NJPW once he stops officiating, but Rocky Romero does a lot for NJPW behind the scenes, so this is a great singing for them, especially when it comes to their more ambitious plans to expand into the U.S.
Since Harold Meij took over as President, NJPW has become more aggressive in expanding their U.S. touring schedule. With G1 Climax 29 starting in Dallas, it’s a big sign that NJPW is becoming much more aggressive with their touring plans in the U.S. NJPW is also running three shows in the U.S. during their New Beginning Tour in Japan, which will stretch management and talent really thin, especially in the U.S where they have a brutal travel schedule having to fly from L.A. to Charlotte and then bus to Nashville in a three day span.
The main concern I have is that the product will be watered down across the board and with the matches announced for The New Beginning tour in Japan, my concern appears valid, as the only real notable match coming out of those announcements is IWGP World Hvt. Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi defending against Jay White in Osaka on Feb. 11.
Another change in philosophy under Meij’s regime is signing talent to multi-year deals. In the past, NJPW has usually signed talent to one year deals that expire at the end of January. With Romero and Robinson signing multi-year deals, NJPW is giving themselves more freedom when it comes to having talent under their control and not having to worry about WWE raiding their roster.)
-NJPW held a post-Wrestle Kingdom 13 press conference yesterday. The biggest news coming out of the press conference is that KUSHIDA will be leaving the company when his contract expires at the end of January. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported last month that WWE was interested in signing KUSHIDA. You can read NJPW’s article on the press conference HERE
(Radican’s Analysis: This news wasn’t unexpected, as it has appeared for awhile that KUSHIDA was going to leave NJPW when his contract expires. It will be interesting to see what he’s able to do in WWE, as he doesn’t seem to be a great fit in NXT and he would likely be forgotten if he was added to 205 Live. This might be more of a signing by WWE with an eye on the long-term payoff, as the company is likely to add NXT territories all around the world and KUSHIDA would be a perfect fit for NXT Japan if it ever gets launched.)