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AJ Styles is turning Japanese: Former TNA World Champion signs a new deal

Wrestling star AJ Styles signs with NJPW
Photo by Moses Robinson

Former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles has reportedly signed a one year deal with New Japan Pro Wrestling according a report today in the Wrestling Observer. The deal has yet to be made public or confirmed, as both sides wish to make an official announcement. Styles is currently a free agent, wrestling all over the country in high profile main events for independent promotions and televised bouts with Ring of Honor Wrestling.

Styles left TNA Wrestling in December after both sides could not come to terms on a new deal. He was not the only star to leave the company recently as Hulk Hogan, Mickie James, Sting, and several other stars have left TNA due to financial constraints related to the promotion’s lackluster 2013 attempt to bring their weekly Spike TV show ‘IMPACT’ on the road.

The Phenominal One was reported to have been working on a short-term contract extension prior to his December exit from the promotion where he became a star. In the months leading up to his departure, Styles held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship until the January 2 episode of 'IMPACT, when his title was unified on a with an interim title held by Magnus who had help from Style’s corporate foe Dixie Carter and her crew of thugs. This was Style’s final match for TNA Wrestling.

New Japan Pro Wrestling meanwhile continues to have a resurgence in both talent and business success. The Japanese promotion ran their annual ‘Wrestle Kingdom’ show this past January at the Tokyo Dome, drawing nearly 35,000 fans which is one of the largest crowds assembled recently for a pro wrestling show outside of WWE's Wrestlemania shows. Along with having an international launch of live internet pay-per-views in 2013, NJPW has also scored a licensing deal this month with the popular merchandise brand Hello Kitty.

NJPW’s empire has again trickled into North America with a buzz-stirring deal with ROH Wrestling to present 2 co-promoted cards of New Japan stars with ROH talent in May in Toronto and New York City. The May 17 show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC is already sold out, and the Toronto May 10 show at the Ted Reeves Arena is close to being sold out.

Pro Wrestling Examiner’s Perspective: What is TNA’s loss here is New Japan’s gain, as Styles is a real name-worthy talent who is still healthy in his mid-30’s and has a wealth of experience performing on television. Also the idea of a World Champion level performer from America joining the already stacked roster of NJPW is exciting to ‘puroresu’ fans in Asia and beyond. The match-ups for Styles with main-eventers Hiroshi Tanahashi, Nakamura, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kazuchika Okada are all pay-per-view dreams for the wrestling world.

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