Kushida has announced that he will be leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling on January 31st. New Japan had a post-Wrestle Kingdom press conference where Kushida made the emotional announcement.
This announcement comes after weeks of rumors of WWE’s interest in the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. With his departure from New Japan imminent, it appears likely that his destination will be WWE.
KUSHIDA: As Sugabayashi said, I will leave NJPW on January 31. This was an extremely tough condition made with Meij, Sugabayashi and Kidani. It was a very big decision in my life and I’m thankful they understood. I will head overseas and to see the world of pro wrestling.
— chris charlton (@reasonjp) January 7, 2019
Kushida lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Taiji Ishimori at Wrestle Kingdom 13. He has spent the better part of the last five years as the ace of the junior division. Perhaps the most consistent performer in the junior division, Kushida has had classic matches with Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, and Hiromu Takahashi over the years. He is a six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, alongside Alex Shelley.
WWE has advertised that new faces will be appearing on 205 Live in 2019. If the rumors are confirmed, Kushida would appear to be one of those new faces. It is unclear whether he would spend time in NXT before moving to 205 Live but these details will become clear in time.