Backstage News On Kazuchika Okada Leaving NJPW And Outside Interest

Last night, New Japan Pro-Wrestling announced that Kazuchika Okada will be leaving the promotion when his contract expires on January 31st. However, he will still be appearing at the company’s New Beginning events on Febuary 11th, where he’s now set for one last match against long-time rival Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as the 23rd and 24th. WWE were reported to be interested in The Rainmaker back in November and it was later noted that he was set to become a free agent at the end of January.

In a new report released shortly after New Japan’s announcement, Fightful Select note that Okada met with company officials recently and it became clear by that end of that meeting that he would be leaving. Sources within the company are reported to have expected the move and remain optimistic that they can create and maintain new stars that will attract audiences across both Japan and the United States as well as fill the gap left by The Rainmaker.

Okada’s exit from New Japan is said to be amicable with no ill will from either side toward the other, leaving the door open to a potential return in the future. However, news of his departure surprised many in the company as they expected the announcement to be made next week rather than now.

Regarding his future, the outlet reports that it’s too early to determine where The Rainmaker will end up, though it appears he will have interest from multiple international promotions. AEW, where Okada has competed across both Forbidden Door pay-per-views and an episode of AEW Dynamite last October, are said to be “defintely interested” and are hopeful that they could sign him, having brainstormed ideas for him in the promotion in the past.

WWE has yet to engage in talks with him but sources there expect that, at the very least, discussions will occur. A surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble will not be possible unless Okada was given direct permission from New Japan to appear, given his contract there would still be active when the Premium Live Event takes place. It was also noted that Okada had a positive experience with TNA when he recently reconciled with the promotion and appeared at their post-Hard To Kill TV taping this past weekend.