Major WWE target set to become a free agent in 2024
One of the top stars in all of pro wrestling is set to become a free agent next year, which may ignite a bidding war between WWE, AEW, and NJPW.
Kazuchika Okada originally trained under the legendary Ultimo Dragon. After debuting in 2004, he spent a few years in Mexico before returning to Japan to make NJPW his new home. In early 2010, he was sent to the United States to work in TNA for 20 months, and since returning from the excursion, he has become one of the biggest stars to ever grace the New Japan Pro Wrestling ring.
There have been rumors of WWE and AEW being interested in signing The Rainmaker when he becomes a free agent, and there was also talk of the 36-year-old wrestler being open to signing with either of America's top promotions. Now, word is that Okada making his WWE debut is a real possibility as he is set to become a free agent in 2024.
A new report from Sports Illustrated notes that Okada's NJPW contract will expire at the end of January. His next contract with New Japan would typically be in the works, but the face of NJPW is said to be seriously considering the possibility of wrestling full-time for a different promotion.
Okada worked a Fatal 4 Way match at AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door in 2022, then wrestled Bryan Danielson in the main event of the 2023 edition this past June. The Rainmaker returned to AEW on October 25th in Philadelphia, teaming with Orange Cassidy for a loss to Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli. This new report states that Okada came to Philadelphia for multiple significant reasons.
While the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion came to Dynamite to promote his upcoming NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18 match against Danielson, Sports Illustrated reports that the trip also allowed Okada the chance to acquire a better sense of AEW, which is one of the two destinations he will land in if he decides to leave New Japan.
Potential AEW vs. WWE perks for Kazuchika Okada
Kazuchika Okada is expected to receive a massive payday if he chooses to leave NJPW for another promotion, according to Sports Illustrated. However, money may not be the main draw for the 36-year-old grappler.
A future with WWE would give Okada the chance to work WrestleMania, something he's apparently interested in. He would also have a stacked roster of superstars to have matches with. However, the new report on The Rainmaker's future notes that AEW may be the better fit despite all the potential that exists in WWE.
Okada reportedly wants to continue living in Japan, which is a priority for him. AEW's lighter schedule and documented flexibility would theoretically allow the Japanese wrestler to continue living in his home country. A similar situation already exists in AEW for England's PAC, and this is also the plan for Will Ospreay, who recently signed with Tony Khan but will continue residing in the UK.
Both WWE and AEW would offer Okada many top opponents, but Triple H cannot offer him another match with his famed rival - Kenny Omega. One more major advantage for AEW is its relationship with NJPW, which could allow the four-time G1 Climax winner the chance to return to his former home promotion for the occasional match.
It remains to be seen where Okada will end up, but all signs point to the future Hall of Famer exploring free agency in 2024. As he is the flagship wrestler of NJPW, a departure would be similar to Randy Orton or Roman Reigns leaving WWE, and his next destination is said to be important to New Japan.
What do you think of Kazuchika Okada? Should he sign with WWE, AEW, or some other promotion? Sound off in the comments below!