Backstage Update On Kazuchika Okada One Day Before He Hits Free Agent Market

Two weeks after announcing he would be departing New Japan, Kazuchika Okada is closer than ever to the off-ramp. Though he's agreed to three more dates with the promotion in February, the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion's contract with New Japan is set to expire tomorrow, officially making him a free agent. And it appears the sweepstakes for Okada may not take too long to wrap up once he hits the open market.

PWInsider reports that there is a prevailing belief within the wrestling industry that Okada's destination will be AEW. This due to Okada's long-time friendship with AEW EVPs The Young Bucks, who met, befriended, and took under their wing a then 22-year-old Okada when he joined TNA on excursion in 2010. Since then, Okada has "maintained a steadfast loyalty" to the Bucks. While AEW is believed to be his destination, no confirmation has been made regarding whether the two sides have reached a deal.

Whether Okada does sign with AEW or another promotion, he'll do so with the assistance of Barry Bloom. The representative for wrestlers such as the Bucks, Chris Jericho, and Will Ospreay, Bloom was confirmed as Okada's agent after he was spotted alongside Okada when he competed for TNA in Las Vegas earlier this month. Bloom had been rumored to be representing Okada back in December.

Despite his one-off appearance with TNA, no current talks have occurred between Okada and the promotion for a long-term deal, and he is not expected to return to TNA any time soon. As for WWE, believed to be AEW's biggest competitor to sign Okada, those close to the situation noted that, if there had been talks between the sides, they were "not of any great length or depth," further signaling that AEW has emerged as Okada's likely destination.