NJPW Legend Kazuchika Okada Hits Free Agency: Is a Jump to WWE or AEW Next?

Kazuchika Okada, AEW, WWE
Credit: AEW

One of Japanese professional wrestling’s greatest performers, Kazuchika Okada, has revealed that he is set to end his legendary run with New Japan Professional Wrestling at the end of the month.

On Thursday night, NJPW announced that after 17 unforgettable years, Kazuchika Okada will no longer be an official member of the roster once his current contract concludes on January 31.

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In the statement, NJPW apologized to fans for the sudden and unexpected news, and while his contract is officially up at the end of the month, they did reveal the 36-year-old will still make three more appearances during the New Beginning series on February 11 in Osaka, and February 23 and 24 in Sapporo.

“I have nothing but gratitude for having been a part of New Japan Pro-Wrestling since 2007, and for NJPW bringing me from a 19-year-old kid off the plane in Mexico to the “Rainmaker” I am today. Thank you to the best of companies in NJPW, to the best of opponents that I’ve been able to face here, and to the best of fans that have cheered and booed over the years. I promise to make it rain in every match I have left, so keep watching.”  

– Statement from Kazuchika Okada

Okada is a five-time IWGP champion and has defended the legendary belt more times than any performer in the illustrious history of Japan’s best pro wrestling organization. Now, the industry will begin to speculate where the elite talent that is still in the early years of his “wrestling prime” will land next.

Will Kazuchika Okada head to WWE or AEW in March?

A case could be made that Kazuchika Okada is one of the greatest performers ever to hit professional wrestling free agency. He is the most accomplished wrestler in NJPW history, is one of the best wrestlers in the world, has a great look, and most importantly is still in his 30s.

Without a doubt, AEW is the favorite to acquire the multi-time Wrestle Kingdom headliner. Okada has long had a strong relationship with Matt and Nick Jackson, “The Young Bucks,” and their roles as vice presidents will guarantee him a great deal of control over his character in AEW.

Furthermore, he has performed for the promotion several times over the last couple of years, knows how their system and CEO Tony Khan work, and will also have the chance to return to NJPW on occasion. AEW and NJPW have a strong working relationship and that was reportedly a notable part of why fellow former NJPW star Will Ospreay decided to sign with AEW last year.

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However, WWE can not be ruled out. They can certainly offer the most money and the biggest platform. The company’s head of creative — Paul “Triple H” Levesque has long been a fan and tried to persuade him to join the company several years ago. Plus, the No. 1 company in the industry also has a long-time friend of Okada’s in former Chaos pal Shinsuke Nakamura.

WWE has yet to have a Japanese-born world champion so climbing that mountain while he is still in his prime years could be a unique challenge he may want to pursue with nothing left for him to achieve in NJPW.

After earning his journalism degree in 2017, Jason Burgos served as a contributor to several sites, including MMA Sucka... More about Jason Burgos

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