It’s like we’ve gone back in time.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s New Japan Road show in Korakuen Hall, a familiar face graced the cerulean blue canvas. Former-IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA made a shocking return to the company after three years away. KUSHIDA challenged current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, after Ishimori’s successful defense against Hiromu Takahashi.
Backstage at Korakuen Hall, KUSHIDA announced that he’d not only signed with NJPW but that he plans “to spend the rest of [his] wrestling life” in the promotion, according to NJPW’s English broadcaster and translator Chris Charlton.
KUSHIDA: I came here to wrestle and I will. I’ll be spending all my time, put all my experience on the line to spend the rest of my wrestling life here in NJPW. #njroad
— chris charlton (@reasonjp) June 21, 2022
KUSHIDA went on to praise the work of Hiromu Takahashi, El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori, saying they carried the standard well, but that he plans on taking the IWGP Jr. Title, saying that if he doesn’t win the belt “I have no place here.”
KUSHIDA left New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 2019, later signing with WWE. KUSHIDA went on to compete on WWE’s developmental brand NXT, where he held the WWE NXT Cruiserweight Championship. WWE even reunited KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley’s Timesplitters tag team in the 2020 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, but much to the chagrin of fans the reunion was short lived. A move away from the in-ring focus of NXT frustrated KUSHIDA, with the wrestler reportedly voicing numerous frustrations with the direction of the promotion’s developmental brand. KUSHIDA was last seen on WWE TV being attacked by Von Wagner. The six-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion’s parted way with WWE in April of this year. The return and promise of spending the rest of his career in NJPW is reminiscent of the way Kota Ibushi signed with the company in 2019, after years of being a freelancer.
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