Amongst the numerous WWE releases and budget cuts, there were some major signings as well, including some international stars that could provide another set of new stars for the WWE landscape in the next few years.
During WWE’s tour of Japan a few months ago, it was announced in Osaka that the company signed Pro Wrestling NOAH star KENTA. The signing was considered a major event as Hulk Hogan was there for the announcement and in some ways, the role for Hogan works well, as his appearance could be considered somewhat of an endorsement for Kenta, even if just from a PR perspective. Originally trained in the All Japan dojo, Kenta is well known for the Japanese strong style, which is very similar to the style of his mentor, the legendary Kenta Kobashi. Shortly after Kenta’s AJPW debut, Misawa (and a majority of the All Japan roster) left the promotion and formed Pro Wrestling NOAH, which is where Kenta became a main star in Japan. He also wrestled numerous matches for Ring of Honor, including some great matches with Daniel Bryan that are worth watching if you haven’t seen them. After Misawa passed away in 2009, Kenta was one of the staples of the NOAH promotion, which kept it afloat during the infamous Yakuza scandal a few years ago that led to the dismissal of some of the office staff. Now, with the company more stable, it made sense for Kenta to make the jump to WWE, mostly because he accomplished almost everything he could do in Japan and at 33, it’s a wise decision for him to shift towards a less risky style. While Kenta is an incredible talent, it’s doubtful that he will be booked in a main event spot during his WWE run, specifically because he doesn’t speak a lot of English, which could limit options for storylines. That being said, the lack of English could be solved if Kenta was given a manager, similar to the work Gary Hart did when The Great Muta debuted for the NWA, but considering it’s usually rare for the WWE to book mangers, it’s possible that Kenta might remain a mid carder. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be great to see Kenta/Bryan in a main event spot, but with the emphasis on promos for the WWE product, they probably wouldn’t invest the TV time for a main event if the performer doesn’t speak English. However, Kenta is still an important asset for the company and he will probably be a major part of WWE’s international product, specifically for the WWE network as it continues to expand into different markets. Some fans reading this might not be too familiar with the Japanese wrestling scene, but while it had almost a decade of a decline, there has been a resurgence during the past few years with the expansion of New Japan Pro Wrestling iPPVs. A spin off of the New World Order, which was actually a storyline originally done in NJPW, The Bullet Club is one of the main factions that helped fuel the boost of New Japan. While the Bullet Club mostly consist of foreign wrestlers, the Japanese audience doesn’t necessarily buy tickets just to watch American wrestling, which can be seen from the attendance numbers, considering that New Japan shows usually draw a better crowd than the recent series of WWE shows in Japan. However, if Kenta is showcased on the WWE network, the Japanese audience can see one of the main stars from their country and it’s a reason for them to get a subscription. During the NXT event last week, Kenta was given the name Hideo Itami and it should be extremely interesting to see his NXT run.
The Canadian veteran, Kevin Steen was recently signed to a developmental deal and while it was a somewhat of a surprising move, considering that he doesn’t fit the typical WWE mold, Steen has all the skills to be successful in WWE. The former ROH world champion is charismatic brawler, who was one of the most popular champions in the promotion’s history and he always tries to give the fans their money’s worth, which is another reason he got over in almost every major independent promotion. The major criticism for Steen that he acknowledged himself was that he had to get in shape if he wanted a chance to sign with the WWE and he did get in shape prior to a WWE tryout in March, which led to the NXT deal. There are some similarities to Mick Foley for Steen because as mentioned, he’s not the typical WWE star, but the fans recognize his hard work and he can always get a crowd reaction. Steen has an impressive move list, some of which I doubt he will use in the WWE because they have safety precautions, but the moves are secondary to the reason he was one of the most popular stars on the independent scene. He can generate a response during his matches and he’s accessible to fans, using Twitter to take questions for “The Kevin Steen Show” video series that was produced the past few years. During his time wrestling for ROH and PWG, Steen received praise from some of the WWE’s biggest stars, including The Rock and Stone Cold for his matches. Obviously, it’s a tremendous endorsement and I would guess that Steen has a bright future in the WWE. For those that might doubt his chances at making an impact, he has good mic work and he’s somewhat comparable to Bray Wyatt, as they are both mobile big competitors so while anything can happen, Steen will probably be successful.
Prince Devitt is an Irish performer, who was trained with the British style, but made a name for himself in NJPW so he definitely brings a diverse skill set to NXT. In some respects, Devitt was under the radar, as he wrestled extensively in Japan for nearly eight years and he made sporadic appearances in the United States. However, he has all the skills to be a major star and he has a good character, using face paint based on different comic book designs. Devitt has a style similar to Seth Rollins and it should work well with some of the younger stars on the NXT roster.
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