If the grapevine is to be believed, then recently-departed NJPW star Kushida will be making his first appearance in a WWE ring in the not-too-distant future.
The New Japan stalwart has enjoyed tremendous success as the Ace of the Junior Heavyweight division. Kushida has held the IGWP Junior Heavyweight Championship no less than six times, and been crowned the Best of the Super Juniors twice.
It’s fair to say that after a storied eight-year tenure, Kushida has reached his ceiling as far as New Japan goes. And the man himself has stated that his departure is simply a matter of unfulfilled ambition: “I would like to see the wide world of professional wrestling with my own eyes, from one end of the earth to the other.”
Kushida truly is one of the most talented and exciting Junior Heavyweight wrestlers in the business today, boasting an impressive range of specialisms. Prior to his pro-wrestling career, Kushida spent three years competing in MMA with Japanese promotion ZST, where he remains undefeated; it’s little wonder that Kushida’s striking and submission game is always on point.
After an impressive performance in the 2004 ZST Genesis Lightweight Tournament Kushida had a string of MMA promotions queueing up to sign him. But his heart was never really in MMA.
His dream of becoming a professional wrestler took him all the way to Mexico, where he trained in lucha libre under CMLL’s El Oriental – another string to his already impressive bow. Upon his return to Japan he was scouted by ECW/WWE legend Tajiri, who schooled him in the ways of Japanese pro-wrestling.
All of this is precisely why you’ll struggle to find a more complete competitor than Kushida. From his arsenal of submission moves to breathtaking lucha high spots, Kushida is exciting and often unpredictable to watch, and his diversity as a performer makes him the ideal opponent for a wide range of wrestlers, from fellow submission specialists to the wildest high fliers.
And while Kushida’s character work might be a little too subtle for a Western audience (occasional Delorean appearances notwithstanding) the sheer quality of his matches should be enough to convince even the most staunch of doubters.
It’s not yet certain where Kushida will end up if/when he makes his WWE debut. Both 205 Live and NXT would theoretically suit him, and both platforms would offer him a wealth of exciting opposition with which to make his name on the Western stage. Kushida has remained tight-lipped on his future whereabouts, which makes speculating tricky.
But speculating is what the internet wrestling community does best, and the smart money seems to be on an NXT debut in the coming weeks. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the red-hot matches we can look forward to should Kushida make his way to the black and yellow brand.