It’s no secret by now that WWE is intensifying its search for new talent from all around the world. After Nakamura and Styles earlier this year, WWE has shown interest in several AAA stars (Garza Jr and Ultimo Ninja should receive try-outs soon) and is still reportedly keeping an eye on several British and Japanese superstars.
So it’s perhaps not a surprise that there are, once again, rumors concerning one of wrestling’s top workers, Kazuchika Okada. Especially since WWE signed Nakamura and Asuka has enjoyed so much success in NXT, the door seems to be open for more Japanese stars to come over and try to become the next big thing in WWE/NXT. Does that mean there is a chance to see Okada joining WWE in the near future?
Let me be very clear on this, no, there is not.
I know, some of you will say people didn’t think it likely that Nakamura would go to WWE either, but the situation is actually very different here. As I wrote last December in an article concerning the Nakamura situation: “The only reason I’m even considering the possibility of Nakamura joining WWE is because Nakamura himself said he was looking for new, bigger challenges”. That proved to be a deciding factor in Nakamura’s decision because the King of Strong Style believed he had achieved everything he could achieve in NJPW. He wanted something new, different. he was already a star in Japan, now he wanted to take over the world. The only promotion, besides NJPW, that could offer him that opportunity was WWE.
With Okada, the situation is very different. In interviews, Okada has stated that things are only just beginning for him in NJPW. In other words, Okada doesn’t believe that he has achieved everything he could in NJPW, on the contrary. Furthermore, in a recent interview, Okada stated he would never wrestle for WWE. That seems pretty clear to me.
Now I’ve been following wrestling for quite some time so I do know it’s best to never say never in this business, but, there are several factors here that play against WWE.
First of all, Okada has already had some experience with a North American promotion, and I think it’s safe to say he hasn’t really found memories about that particular stint. Indeed, in 2010 NJPW decided to send Okada on a “learning trip” to TNA. Typically, TNA had no clue about how to use the talented youngster and ended up saddling him with a gimmick that was inspired by Kato form The Green Hornet. Perhaps the best way to explain how Okada felt about the whole experience is to quote the man himself:
“All I wanted to do was wrestle, but they wouldn’t let me.”
Now some of you might say WWE isn’t TNA, but they do have kinda the same approach towards wrestling (or should I say sports entertainment) don’t they?
Secondly, if Okada wants new challenges, he doesn’t have to look farther than NJPW itself. With Nakamura and Styles gone and Tanahashi being steered in another direction, Okada is now NJPW’s true and only ace for the first time in his career. I doubt he will want to leave before proving he can handle this. Furthermore, Okada has stated several times that he wanted to help NJPW become Number 1 in the wrestling world. He can’t really do that if he goes over to WWE. Also, there have been rumors (some of them started by Okada himself) that NJPW is considering doing a weekly TV show. Okada has already stated he wanted to do everything he could to make that work.
In-ring wise, it’s the same thing, no shortage of challenges there. Okada is right on the verge of starting what I believe will be a lengthy feud with the completely rejuvenated Naito. After that, challenges from Shibata (a dream-match if there ever was one) or, possibly, ROH champion Jay Lethal are waiting. Knowing that, I doubt very much that Okada is excited at the potential prospect of facing Ryback, Stardust or Baron Corbin in short, throwaway matches (which would likely happen sooner rather than later).
So that leaves the money-factor, and here WWE is also fighting from a losing position. They did offer Nakamura “main event” money, but with Nakamura it was easier in a way, because Nak WANTED to go to WWE. They would have to offer Okada even more to convince him to sign a contract with them, and word is that NJPW has already anticipated interest from WWE by preparing a huge five-year deal for the Rainmaker (As stated before, NJPW owner Takaaki Kidani can match anything WWE is likely to offer anyway).
Finally there is Gedo. From almost the very start of Okada’s career, Gedo, quickly realizing what Okada could become, took him under his wing and helped him overcome the weaknesses in his repertoire (promo work). Gedo is Okada’s on-screen manager, but, backstage, he’s also his real-life mentor. Okada trusts Gedo implicitly (and why shouldn’t he, Gedo is part of the reason Okada became a star in the first place), so what do you think Gedo is gonna say when his pupil asks him if it’s a good idea to sign with WWE? Somehow I don’t think the answer to that one will be: “yeah! Sure! Go for it!”.
I have no doubt that WWE (or at least HHH) is indeed interested in Okada. One of the top workers in the world, charismatic, fitting the WWE mold with his 6 ft 3 in and 240 pounds and still only 28 years old, WWE would actually be foolish if they were NOT interested. Problem they have here is that Okada is not interested in them. At all. When writing the Nakamura article back in December, I left the door somewhat open and that proved to be the right thing to do. With Okada I’m confident enough to completely close that door and say: never going to happen.
Tags: Gedo, HHH, kazuchika okada, njpw, NXT, shinsuke nakamura