Fightful reported that Kushida has left WWE after his contract expired.
Kushida signed with WWE in 2019. He won the NXT Cruiserweight Championship and had some standout matches with Walter, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunn, Santos Escobar, and Kyle O’Reilly. Following his Cruiserweight Title loss, Kushida formed a team with Ikemen Jiro and became known as Jacket Time.
Kushida’s final NXT appearance occurred on last week’s episode. He was initially scheduled to face Von Wager but was taken out in a backstage attack by Wager. Jiro took Kushida’s place in a losing effort to Wagner. His final match aired on the 3/25 episode of NXT LVL UP as Jacket Time lost to Malik Blade and Edris Enofe, with Kushida taking the fall.
There is no word if WWE offered Kushida a new contract. Reports suggest he heading back to New Japan Pro Wrestling in June. At the time of Kushida’s departure from New Japan, the scuttlebutt was not only his desire to work for WWE but to escape the confines of junior heavyweight seclusion.
Kushida is one of the best in the game today. Sadly, his days were numbered from the moment 2.0’s paint splash color palette eclipsed the prior black and gold presentation. Neither version of NXT featured Kushida consistently until the Cruiserweight Title became a factor on television.
Then championship was retired.
Wheather there was no hope of main roster asscension or they were offered less than desirable roles on Raw or SmackDown, top-notch talent such as Gargano, Cole, and O’Reilly, left the company when their contracts expired, while others like Joe, Reed, and Moon were fired.
The word was out.
WWE is going bigger, younger, and looking to train from scratch instead converting experienced hands from elsewhere. The 38-year-old decorated New Japan star who was never brought up for a dark match or considered for the main roster was the anthesis of the company’s new mold of fresh-looking superstars with an eye on the future.
If talent was the determining factor of who leaves Orlando for bigger and better things, Kushida should have been on Fox or USA long ago. The style over substance approach on NXT 2.0 is no place for a wrestler the caliber of Kushida. Still, you have to feel for the guy as it was his dream to work under the bright lights of WWE.
But as I’m reminded time and time again, in show business, the most talented guy doesn’t always get the gig.
If it’s true that Kushida is heading back to the lion mark of New Japan, it’s probably the best place for him. Many point to AEW as the preferred landing spot for the “Time Splitter.” However, signing an international talent is different from picking up an American wrestler.
AEW would have to sponsor Kushida’s work visa; otherwise, he has 30 days to find another job that will sponsor his visa or move his family back to Japan. His WWE experience coupled with age, 30-day window and AEW using as many talents as they bench make it more difficult to bet on himself a second time
If U.S. stardom is still his goal, MAYBE New Japan’s American division is in a position to hire Kushida and sponsor his visa.
I’ve never been able to get a handle on how New Japan decides which junior heavyweights move up to heavyweight. Kushida wrestling as a newly minted competative heavyweight gives the promotion fresh matches in a time where they could use a creative spark.
Kushida returning to the junior ranks is essentially a reboot that might not be as good as the original. No matter which way the wind blows on the next step of Kushida’s journey, hopefully he finds his cloud nine and delivers a staunch public service announcement stating “Allow me to reintroduce myself.”