Yesterday, a report online from WrestlingINC circulated which suggested that two of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest stars, Kazuchika Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura, took part in a tryout with WWE during this weekend’s WWE Japan tour.
The WrestlingINC report is quoted below.
“There are lots of rumors coming out of WWE’s current tour of Japan that top New Japan Pro Wrestling stars Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada received tryouts in Tokyo today. We will keep you updated when more information becomes available but we do know that WWE was planning on holding tryouts in Japan this week.”
The rumor was addressed today by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Meltzer probably has more credible sources in Japanese wrestling circles than any other wrestling journalist in the world. When asked about the Okada and Nakamura rumor on his website’s message board, Meltzer first responded, “Unless the tryout ended by Noon it would have been impossible. I can’t say no for sure but if it’s yes I’ll know soon enough.” After checking in with sources, Meltzer came back with the simple statement, “Anyway, not true.”
If Nakamura and Okada, or even just one of them, had been contemplating jumping ship to wrestle for North America’s WWE, it would have been a devastating blow for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Nakamura is arguably the best performer in the world right now (WWE included), and Okada is one of the best young talents in Japanese wrestling.
Long-term, Okada to WWE at some point in the future would likely be the biggest blow to NJPW. Nakamura, as great as he is, is 35 years old, whereas Okada is only 27 years old. Okada actually has wrestled in North America before, working briefly for TNA Wrestling in 2010 and 2011. Not surprisingly, TNA failed to utilize his talent, and his time in the promotion was largely forgettable. However, when utilized correctly (see: NJPW right now), Okada has the potential to be one of the biggest stars in the world.
Okada likely figures into the future plans of NJPW for many, many years. Hiroshi Tanahashi is currently the face of the promotion, but many industry insiders feel that when Tanahashi steps aside from his role atop NJPW, Okada is likely the heir apparent.
Okada is scheduled to face IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles on July 5 at NJPW Dominion in Osaka (just a few hours from this writing, actually). Okada has won the belt before, two times in the past, but a third IWGP title reign for Okada could really propel him forward as the new face of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
[Image via NJPW.co.jp]