WWE realizes that you cannot continue to rely on older or past stars to make it as a business. For decades, they have made some of the biggest stars in pro-wrestling history. Many left to go to WCW, ECW, Japan, or TNA, but at the end of the day, many were WWE creations. The issue is that those creations age and you have to put someone in line to replace them. Not someone fans do not want to see, but someone fans actually do want to see in a top tier position.
Then it comes to what WWE can do in the meantime. They have to bring in people that will help in the future, yes, but they also need people to help fill their roster. They have multiple shows where bodies are needed. On top of this, injuries in 2015 alone have forced WWE into a corner a lot. They lost Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, and many other top names to severe injuries.
Interestingly, WWE NXT has lost a few of their top stars as well this year in Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami. While both are set to be back soon, they will eventually jump to the main roster. Weirdly enough, NXT did not miss a beat with them out. WWE was able to book someone to take their spot, as well as bring others in to help them out. Sami and Hideo went down so Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor stepped up. WWE went and hired Samoa Joe to be part of the show as well as Apollo Crews.
Now, with many of those men going up, WWE needs to reload their roster. This is why according to The Wrestling Observer, WWE is planning to go after Ring of Honor stand-out Jay Lethal as well as top NJPW star Shinsuke Nakamura. While Lethal is only 30 years of age, Nakamura is 35. Lethal is the age WWE seems to bringing in many of the top tier independent stars. Some like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins they were able to get in much earlier, but most were around this age by the time WWE brought them in or older.
Itami and Balor alone are near the age of Nakamura.
WWE believes Lethal can be a huge star for them. His deal with ROH is set to expire soon, which would allow him to negotiate with anyone. While it does look as if Lethal is far more interested in working on the independents as he has more freedom there, the WWE offer won’t always be on the table and many believe he’ll take the deal if offered.
He would, of course, start in WWE NXT then move his way up like the norm is for today’s new stars. It used to be terrible for top stars to come in and be put down in “developmental,” however due to the fame NXT has at this point, many want to come in just to work through it alone. People like Sasha Banks never wanted to leave and Balor said he was fine with however long WWE wanted him down there. That says a lot about the comfort they have with the roster as well as the show quality. That means someone like Lethal would be more than comfortable with the idea of working NXT before the main roster.
There are some who speculate that Lethal might get a Samoa Joe type of deal where he is only signed for NXT with a potential of more if it ever comes up. However, due to his age, WWE will probably sign him to a full-time deal. However, Nakamura is a bit different.
Like Jay Lethal, his deal is coming up as well. Nakamura could sign back with NJPW at any point, but with his contract just months from expiring, it is thought that he will be exploring some options regardless if WWE wants him. Nakamura is interested in working in the United States after his work with ROH recently. So he might head this way regardless of WWE interest. WWE does have interest but his age does throw them off.
However, Hideo Itami is 34-years-old. The difference between Nakamura and Itami is height. WWE likes that Nakamura is much taller and might be easier for them to book as a top Japanese threat. Some WWE fans might believe that WWE would sign Nakamura to Samoa Joe or James Storm type of deal, but WWE seems more interested with starting him in NXT for a short period of time and then pushing him to the main roster. Itami was also set to only be in NXT for a short period of time. Sadly, the injury threw off his progress.
Being 35 and potentially 36 when he signs with WWE, the company might be pressured on what to do with Nakamura compared to others. It does make many hopeful that if they decide on Nakamura working on the main roster, Samoa Joe might also have a chance at the same.
Many believe WWE only goes after young stars so that they can build their future. However, due to the various injuries, it might be good to have some great veterans on the roster as well to counteract this problem that seems to be growing yearly. Expect more on Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura in the coming months. While ROH probably won’t fight WWE on Lethal, as they won’t be able to financially, Nakamura is another story entirely. NJPW owner Takaaki Kidani mentioned he might have to offer seven-figure deals to get people to stay. That means NJPW might offer a lot of money to Nakamura for him to stay on that WWE won’t bother to match.
If WWE gets either of them, it won’t be until at least February or March of 2016. So their WWE debuts aren’t coming very soon.
[Image via ROH Wrestling]