NJPW has its work cut out to build new stars

NJPW and Japanese wrestling has lost several big names. The work to replace them builds with several opportunities on the horizon.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling Press Conference
New Japan Pro-Wrestling Press Conference / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The free agency race of 2024 has already had an impact on New Japan Pro Wrestling. Big names like Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada have already left for AEW. Women like Mercedes Mone and Guilia are also expected to land in other areas. In response, NJPW turns to former WWE performers to begin filling in the gaps which will create an interesting response heading into the future. 

Matt Riddle and Nic Nemeth picked up two big wins and championships during NJPW New Beginning. Nemeth took the IWGP Global Heavyweight title by defeating David Finlay, while Riddle defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP World TV Title. This is an intriguing swing in things as both Riddle and Nemeth were surprise WWE releases in 2023. 

NJPW lost several stars and needs to replace them quickly out of fear of losing ground and momentum. 

“This is a star driven business, and we need to make new stars,” said Tanahashi leading into the big event. “That goes beyond success in the ring as well - mainstream awareness and name value is the key to success. I want more of our wrestlers becoming household names.” 

It will be interesting to see what steps NJPW takes to reach those goals. Does that mean the company will lean on more names from other promotions in hopes to get some cache from their value. AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 3 was announced this week and will hail from Arthur Ashe Stadium, signaling the next edition of that big crossover event. Some fans are beginning to question the value of the partnership however, as more and more individuals from the Japanese company make the leap to All Elite Wrestling. 

Then there’s the question about if WWE has any place in this equation. The Triple H and Nick Khan led organization are openly looking for ways to partner with more companies from Japan. Does that mean finding a way to work with NJPW is on the table? Think about the matches and opportunities that would jump off the page if NJPW found a way to work with the biggest company in professional wrestling. That would certainly check the box toward helping the performers on the roster in becoming household names. 

There are several talented, young performers on the NJPW roster. Yes, the company has lost some of the biggest performers in the company, but this should be seen as an opportunity for NJPW to build for the future. Hopefully, this moment is cultivated in a way to seize the opportunity in a way that improves professional wrestling entirely.