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Exclusive: AJPW-WWE NXT Partnership Set to Continue

4 months ago Design by M. Ish | Monthly Puroresu

Design by M. Ish | Monthly Puroresu

Exclusive: AJPW-WWE NXT Partnership Set to Continue

Plus new insights on AJPW’s reasons for involving WWE and Actwres girl’Z

By: Max Everett

It’s been an interesting time to follow All Japan Pro Wrestling as of late. The promotion started the year center of focus for its apparent working relationship with WWE, bringing in NXT star Charlie Dempsey for a handful of matches – including a challenge for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship held by Katsuhiko Nakajima. The deal, brokered by Simon Inoki with William Regal, was met with a degree of internal uncertainty.

Several talents announced their departures thereafter, in spite of the net positive and future potential of a WWE partnership outlined by President Tsuyoki Fukuda.

Simon Inoki has previously made it clear he isn’t working with AJPW in an official capacity, only acting as a consultant to secure Dempsey’s excursion to Japan. However, a source within All Japan recently told Monthly Puroresu that Inoki has continued to be an active presence behind the scenes, appearing at the office and at recent events run at Korakuen Hall. Another name said to have significant involvement in consulting President Fukuda is Roger Mikasa of Actwres girl’Z.

Our source believes Inoki is working directly with Fukuda who then communicates ideas unilaterally to those in the promotion. In a recent interview, President Fukuda was quizzed on the existence of a consultant, before weaving in and out of the current affairs in AJPW and his various inspirations. After reaching out to All Japan via email, we received translations of the interview back.

President Fukuda Waxes Philosophical

“I asked a well-known spiritual medium from heaven to see what was going to happen to the company,” Fukuda told “Show” Yasuaki Otani, a veteran reporter on the Tokyo scene. “‘The person who symbolizes All Japan Pro Wrestling,’ I had several opportunities to be invited to consult with. This is a true story, but it’s my private experience in a place that has nothing to do with professional wrestling, and I followed the advice I received there. However, we were told that we actually received co-operation from WWE/NXT, and a business partnership was decided with Actwres girl’Z, and that our daily numbers have steadily increased in a short period of time.”

Fukuda tied the idea of promotional cooperation to a period where he had concerns over the future of AJPW and the Triple Crown Heavyweight title.

“I [at one point] started to see my limits, and I started running out of money, and I thought, ‘Is this the end of All Japan Pro Wrestling and the history of the Triple Crown?’. Just when I thought I had no choice but to give up, I started working with an American organization,” he said before sharing the advice he had received from his consultant, “I consulted a person and the first thing he said was, ‘Pro wrestling is no longer as popular as it used to be,’ he knew everything about the current situation without me having to explain it to him. I was thinking, new forms of entertainment like martial arts have increased, so it’s inevitable that this is a trend of the times. He gave me advice on the spot, and I heard an unexpected idea saying, ‘Fukuda, shake it off!’. I started implementing it last year and it turned out to be a success, and the efforts of the players and employees have started to produce results, and I am blessed to be able to continue running the business even now.”

Katsuhiko Nakajima in NXT?

Our source in AJPW disclosed that there were at least tentative plans to have Katsuhiko Nakajima make the return trip to NXT. However, no deal has been cemented to send him over yet. What’s worthy of note is that while Nakajima reigns as Triple Crown champion, he is not exclusively signed to AJPW, and would be free to negotiate a deal with WWE of his own accord.

President Fukuda addressed Inoki’s role in liaising between AJPW and NXT, suggesting Inoki was continuing to consult with WWE on Nakajima’s behalf, lending hope to more opportunities between the two promotions.

“Nakajima is a freelancer and currently competes in the ring every day. We believe that we have a direct relationship with Nakajima and there is no manager or management company between us… Simon [Inoki] is the point of contact for WWE/NXT players from All Japan, and of course there are many people in WWE. Beyond that, there are upper management, right-hand and left-hand teams, etc., who give instructions and I’ll take advice. But I don’t know the details about Nakajima. I apologize.”

Fukuda was also questioned on the nature of the AJPW-WWE working relationship, with it being pointed out that it’s rare to see a WWE-signed talent make an external excursion.

More WWE Talent En Route to AJPW?

Our source suggested Monthly Puroresu that the NXT to Japan excursions shall continue, with two wrestlers set to be brought in for the Champion Carnival series starting in April. It was noted that details are still surfacing with key decisions to be ironed out, but the move would mark a significant financial outlay for the promotion.

“My hope has been to see All Japan Pro Wrestling’s talented and promising wrestlers succeed on the world stage,” Fukuda said. “I want to see that happen in reality, not just a dream. I will continue to do my best to provide bright, fun, and intense professional wrestling.”

Two names who couldn’t see the positives in this change in direction were Shuji Ishikawa and Black Menso-re, who worked as talent on-screen and as matchmakers behind the scenes. Ishikawa  cited irreconcilable differences, confirmed by our source who added they left in protest, citing Japanese wrestling traditions were not being upheld.

There’s a lot of situational context to consider within AJPW and its new direction. There are concerns among fans and wrestlers over the security of the lore-rich Triple Crown title which Katsuhiko Nakajima holds. The champion has been described by those within AJPW as “problematic,” pulling stunts during his title reign that have translated as more confusing than narrative enriching, and his promos touting himself as the champion of Strong Style have led to questions over his standing in the organization. Meanwhile, the family of Antonio Inoki recently sent a cease & desist regarding Nakajima’s antics surrounding the usage of Strong Style. Not to mention his status as a visiting player, which risks a potential departure while Nakajima reigns atop the company in its most vital role.

2024 is an exciting year for All Japan, with many fluid situations which can swing either way, including the purported relationship with WWE. WWE infamously planned its own expansion into the Japanese market following the opening of NXT UK, but that would never transpire owing to the rigid following in Japan’s historic domestic outfits. Following reports that the promotion has opened up on the idea of working with others to expand into the region, there is an opening and a natural speculation that President Fukuda is transitioning to a Sports Entertainment-styled product in an attempt to put his promotion in the shopping window for such a relationship with the conglomerate.

At the very least, it looks as though AJPW is looking to continue its departure from the brand’s roots, potentially a stab at filling the niche in an otherwise sports-centric space dominated by its peers.

Amid Turmoil, Anonymous AJPW Star Says Action Will Be Taken To Normalize The Organization