As reported by WON, WWE is in talks to work with All Japan Pro Wrestling for the launch of NXT Japan. The idea has been an open talk in the industry of late and was confirmed recently when AJPW President Jun Akiyama confirmed he will be a guest coach at WWE’s Performance Center in May. The vision of NXT Japan has always been a possibility with Triple H wanting to form a new type of territory system world wide starting with the launch of NXT UK. Other countries that have been openly talked about include India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. While Dave Meltzer reports a deal could be done this year there are roadblocks in the way. WWE has been attempting to purchase a company in Japan (previous rumors of Pro Wrestling Noah and Dragon Gate) nobody has been willing to sell. This leaves AJPW in an interesting position. It has not been confirmed yet whether or not talks revolve around the sell of All Japan or if WWE would be striking a deal similar to ones with Progress, ICW, and wXw. There is fear in the industry and among fans of the potential of WWE moving in to the Japanese market. While NXT UK delivers a solid product and WWE was eventually able to land a television deal for the program, there has been no denying other promotions in the United Kingdom have taken a hit. While it would be next to impossible for WWE to make AJPW/NXT Japan the number one product in Japan over NJPW, the global brand of WWE does carry weight. NJPW has recently lost its American Television deal (AXS) and has yet to find a replacement to make their product more visible in the United States. AJPW/NXT Japan would immediately have a further reach into a market the NJPW has been struggling to reach. Another key issue is WWE’s talent hoarding. While you will not see names like Okada, Tanahashi, Ospreay, Ibushi, etc jump ship you do run the risk of smaller talent that builds out the depth of your roster jump under the WWE bandwagon (rumors of SANADA have been discussed for a year now) where deals are being offered for five years. With WWE signing every talent that is available and not talent sharing with anyone they see as competitors it will put more pressure for companies to build more stars or spend money they do not have to stay afloat.
What to Expect If A Deal Is Made?
WWE would want to have AJPW be there own version of NXT. Triple H has a formula that he is happy with and one should not expect him to stray from that vision. The benefit to working with AJPW as opposed to starting from scratch as they did in the UK would be having ready made stars with a built in fan base. Among others, AJPW has two ready made stars in current champion Kento Miyahara and challenger Jake Lee.
It would also be likely to see some familiar faces from WWE show up in AJPW. This has been something WWE has done with Kassius Ohno, Finn Balor, Oney Lorcan, and Pete Dunne among others. Triple H likes having the ability to rotate faces between his NXT brands to keep things fresh but also draw more eyes to the newer brand that does not have a large following yet. Things become interesting in Japan where loyalty may lead to roadblocks. When WWE launched NXT UK we immediately saw Finn Balor be a part of Takeover to give the brand name recognition. But things are very different in Japan.
What Not To Expect With AJPW/NXT Japan.
WWE has several names very well known with the Japanese audience. But do not expect to see Nakamura, Kushida, Finn Balor (Prince Devitt), AJ Styles, Gallows, or Anderson making appearances with the brand. While all made their name in Japan, their loyalty to NJPW and their roster would likely lead to them not wanting to work with a direct competitor. The door would always be open but dont hold your breath on seeing former NJPW stars showing up in an AJPW ring anytime soon. Also, any potential deal would not include AJPW’s tape library.
As mentioned by Dave Meltzer, NTV owns the library for AJPW and does not appear to selling anytime soon. Any deal for the library would involve licensing the footage which is something WWE historically has not done outside of clips to use in their own documentaries.
At the end of the day this deal appears to be happening. WWE is hell bent on a world wide Takeover and Japan is the next prize for Triple H and crew. All Japan Pro Wrestling has everything WWE needs to make a smooth transition in to the Japanese market and WWE has the tools to make AJPW a more viable product. Japanese fans appreciate in ring detail more than any other fan base and the same formula we see with NXT and NXT UK may not work in Japan. The leadership put in place or kept in place in AJPW will ultimately determine if this venture is a success. Personally I am excited about the potential of a deal. While I do not want to see WWE run the entire wrestling market, the ability to see current AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Miyahara more often is exciting to me. AJPW is home to a group of amazing talent who deserve a bigger platform to perform on. And hopefully their presence on the WWE Network forces NJPW to ramp up their efforts to land a tv deal in America and provide more appealing cards for tours in the United States. While a deal appears to be coming for NXT Japan to launch this year the only question left is, Are You Ready?