The possibility of WWE starting an NXT Japan brand has been floating around for about a year, and the Wrestle Observer Newsletter has now reported that the company is planning on opening a Performance Center in the company later this year. According to Dave Meltzer in the WON, the announcement about WWE’s third PC should come around summertime.
Meltzer also writes that WWE “already reached out to Sen. Hiroshi Hase and Antonio Inoki about the political situation.” This probably refers to WWE trying to navigate setting up shop in Japan as an international company rather than something about wrestling politics. Inoki, who worked with WWE when the company had a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1970s-80s and has been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, was a member of the Japanese National Diet from 1989-1995, and again from 2013-2019, when he retired from politics. Hase has never worked for WWE (but did wrestle in the U.S. for WCW) is currently part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet as the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, as well as an elected member of the Diet. Hase and Inoki’s most recent appearances in the wrestling world were at NJPW’s Tiger Hattori’s retirement as a referee earlier this week, Hase in person and Inoki via video message.
This report of a Performance Center in Japan comes after many setbacks for WWE. The company tried to buy Stardom as a foundation for a women’s division, but Stardom was bought by Bushiroad (which owns NJPW) instead. It tried to do the same thing (men’s division edition) with Pro Wrestling NOAH, which led NOAH to get itself purchased by CyberAgent, which owns DDT. WWE also may have tried to buy Dragon Gate, but Dragon Gate now has international business plans of its own that include a new partnership with MLW.
WWE trying to make inroads in Japan has been criticized and parodied by some Japanese wrestlers, but others are rumored to be on board. Big Japan’s Daisuke Sekimoto and Sendai Girls’ Meiko Satomura are believed to be on board as coaches, Sendai Girls standout Sareee is headed to WWE, and indie star Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio will start working in the United States soon, which could mean he’s headed to WWE as well.
It seems like WWE’s plan to open as many Performance Centers as possible (“We will be replicating this process around the globe, all over,” is how it’s been described by Triple H) is still in effect, with the Middle East, India, and Latin America also named as possible locations/regions for future PCs.