Between signing The Good Brothers while Karl Anderson was still champion to the reported interest in both Tama Tonga and Hikuleo, WWE has been scooping up a number of stars from New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s roster. Following his loss at Wrestle Kingdom 17, Jay White challenged Hikuleo to a “Loser Leaves Japan” match, spreaking the speculation that the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion might be leaving the company. However, that now doesn’t appear as likely.
Not only do the recent Hikuleo reports point to White winning that stipulation match, but Fightful Select is now reporting White has planned dates with New Japan beyond Jan. 28, the date of this year’s Royal Rumble. This doesn’t completely rule White out of making a surprise appearance in that match — the Karl Anderson situation, Mickie James’ appearance in last year’s Rumble and the Kairi Sane Rumble rumors indicate the “Forbidden Door” between the two companies is somewhat open. But fans expecting White to pull something similar to what AJ Styles did in 2016 should probably lower expectations.
White made a number of appearances state-side in 2021 for AEW, Impact Wrestling and New Japan’s US-based territory NJPW Strong but still remains under contract with the Japanese promotion. How much longer he has left on his current contract is unknown.
“I didn’t sign with them or anything like that,” White said on The Sessions last April. “I’m still with New Japan but luckily I have a fair bit of freedom where I can go and do what I want so to speak. I thought it was kind of known, there was never one of those sweet graphics put out with me so…”
“I’m not saying the New Japan system is perfect, I think there’s plenty of flaws to it. That’s just my opinion. I think that whole kind of respect thing, sometimes that can be overdone. In wrestling sometimes people think that just because you’ve been doing something for longer that means you’re above someone else so I feel like you’ve got to find a balance of that. I think it is important but sometimes it can just be overdone,” he said later in the same interview. “Finding a balance of that, listening to the people that have been to the places that you want to go and the experiences and stuff like that, you’d be an idiot not to listen to that stuff.”