I’m not going to get too excited, but anything that could deviate from the norm in professional wrestling is enough to get the mind spinning out of control. PWInsider is reporting that WWE has formed a working relationship of some sort with one of the largest and more storied promotions in the Far East: All Japan Pro Wrestling.
I’m also not going to attempt a brief history of AJPW or in-depth analysis of their roster. Check their Wikipedia page, and you’ll get an overview of the company that was founded by The Giant Baba, one of the most famous names in Japanese pro wrestling, and how it’s had some ups and down in the last decade since the founder passed away in 1999.
What I will do is wax poetic on the possibilities this presents to WWE, and how it could make a major impact on the company’s future plans.
Triple H has made it no secret that he intends on continuing to expand internationally. Sheamus is his pet project. HHH signed one of Mexico’s biggest acts, Mistico, and brought him into the WWE as Sin Cara. This isn’t just to improve the WWE product, but to sink deep hooks into the international market.
WWE already sells out arenas in Japan during occasional tours, but that is as much for novelty as it is for brand appeal. NJPW is the promotion in Japan that draws the most eyes, but what if WWE could establish a greater presence on a monthly or weekly basis among the TV audience? This could increase PPV buys internationally, TV licensing fees, merchandise sales, etc.
Talent-sharing WWE mid-carders and occasional main eventers with AJPW for the promotion’s bigger shows could accomplish this, creating a greater familiarity among the audience with characters not named John Cena. Bringing in Japanese stars to WWE programming for short runs in the mid-card or tag division could infuse life into some stale programming, even if briefly.
Which brings us to dream match possibilities that WWE loves to produce. Keiji Mutoh, better known to American audience as The Great Muta during a two-year run with the NWA/WCW in 1989-90, is arguably the greatest legend in the history of Japanese professional wrestling. At 49 years old, he still performs occasionally for big shows.
Inducting Keiji Mutoh into the WWE Hall of Fame for his contributions to pro wrestling internationally would be a major sell in foreign markets. The potential for him to be confronted by a WWE heel and perform a match at WrestleMania on a national scale in America for the first time in two decades would be a great moment. Triple H hasn’t shown to hold the same WWE superiority complex of his father-in-law, and he is a known sucker for wrestling history.
Triple H also has gone to great lengths to reshape WWE’s developmental system, moving FCW out of Florida and rebranding it NXT. He’s pushing more seasoned veterans down to developmental to work matches with the company’s brighter young prospects to develop continuity and allow them to learn from the guys on the bigger stage.
The opportunity to develop wrestlers in multiple environments has to be on their mind. With the success of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, I’d hope WWE would recognize what they are missing since the end of the territory days. No longer are they hiring Chris Jericho types that have performed internationally and learned a number of styles.
Punk and Bryan each cut their teeth overseas and beyond American borders. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they have been so successful. Sending developmental talents to Japan for a few months to work AJPW shows would open them to larger audiences internationally, while still not overexposing them to American viewers.
There is an understandable concern that WWE doesn’t want to promote Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose or Kassius Ohno to the WWE roster right now because of the old “creative doesn’t have anything for you” excuse. So send them to Japan for 3-4 months to keep things fresh.
In all likelihood, none of these possibilities will occur. This working agreement won’t amount to much of a footnote. Anything that comes from it will be underwhelming and significantly less cool than things we could come up with here.
Such is life as a WWE fan.