Has WWE Done a Good Job with the Signees from New Japan?
Last year, after Wrestle Kingdom 10, it was announced that AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson would be leaving the New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion and heading off to WWE. The superstars would eventually be phased out of the promotion, each in their distinct way.
AJ Styles debuted as the third entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. Shinsuke would make his debut on NXT later that year in a classic against Sami Zayn. Gallows and Anderson debuted on Raw later that year jumping The Usos after a match. So how have their journeys progressed since then? Let’s look at a quick review of each and see where WWE can move forward with these superstars.
AJ StylesStyles had arguably the best first year of anyone in a while to debut in the WWE. Debuting at number 3 in the Royal Rumble, it didn’t take long for Styles to catapult to the title scene in WWE and have strong runs with his belts. AJ to date has 1 WWE Championship title reign and 2 US Title reigns, 1 being his current one. Styles has racked up classic matches with Roman Reigns, John Cena, Chris Jericho and more. He’s also participated in important multi-man matches such as the Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank and the Royal Rumble.
AJ Styles is incredibly over with the fans. His incredible mic word and elite level in-ring abilities, have him in a special class in the WWE. No matter what he does, he just gets cheered. His current US title run has him as the face against Baron Corbin, so hopefully WWE has realized this.
Hopefully, this feud doesn’t drag out long, and I don’t see AJ dropping the belt to Corbin. I’d love to see to AJ drop the belt to someone like Rusev at the Royal Rumble to free him up for a WWE Title match at Wrestlemania against someone else on this list. AJ was the best WWE Champion since the brand split, and having him back in that main event scene is crucial, especially after this cycle with Jinder is over.
Aside from some weird reason that Styles and Kevin Owens can’t have an average match, Styles has had great feuds this year. His debut promos against Cena were fantastic with their meta references, and by giving Styles that freedom, WWE showed a lot of trust in their future mega star. There’s not much WWE could have improved on in his run. I just hope to see the WWE Championship back to him soon.
Luke Gallows and Karl AndersonGallows and Anderson are former Raw Tag Team Champions…and their run was short and pretty much unmemorable. The current situation for these two is a shame because these nerd bashers are great in the ring and on the mic. It could be due to a crowded Raw team division, but I can’t buy that when the two teams at the top weren’t even together when The Club debuted.
The Good Brothers debuted as the backup to Styles against Cena and his burial powers. They appeared like they would be booked strong, but then The Club lost to Cena, Enzo, and Cass. It’s been rocky waters ever since for the duo. For months it appeared like they were meant to do nothing but lose to The New Day to extend their title run. Then after some wacky matches, they were finally able to win the Titles in a pre-show match with two referees. It’s as great as it sounds.
The Balor club needs to reunite and just become a dominant stable. If WWE wants to tease a shield reunion, they’ll need a dominant force to go against and what better than Balor Club? The Shield vs. Balor Club sells itself and could fill a good few PPV’s with fantastic matches. Currently, Gallows and Anderson may be creeping back into the title picture with Cesaro and Sheamus heading out. WWE may also be leading them into another losing feud with the newly reunited Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. This booking would make them yet another fodder for the more over tag team. I just hope the future looks better for these two.
Shinsuke NakamuraI’d like to start off by saying both of his nicknames WWE have given him are horrible. The Artist and The Rock Star? Nah, no thanks. The once King of Strong Style has appeared to be a mere mortal in WWE.
Shinsuke amazed the WWE crowd with a classic match against Sami Zayn in his debut. A bonified Match of the year Candidate out the gate showed the WWE Universe what Shinsuke could do. The question was how much of Shinsuke’s style would translate to the WWE?
In NXT Shinsuke put on spectacular matches with Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Zayn, and Owens. These are all guys who came up on the independent scene and are used to wrestling outside of the WWE style. You could tell their styles meshed well together and brought out the best in one another. Shinsuke was able to capture the NXT title twice during his tenure in the brand.
However, since coming to the main roster, Shinsuke has fallen flat in most of his bouts. His feud with Corbin was annoying, and his debut program with Ziggler was nothing to write home about. Recently his match with Randy Orton on Smackdown showed that he was ready for a title run. Maybe now that he’s got another title shot, we’ll see a rejuvenized Shinsuke? I’m just looking forward to his horizon of matches with the likes of Styles, Reigns, and more. After a dull beginning on the main roster, it can only go up for Shinsuke. Due to his natural charisma and talent, Shinsuke has the most upside potential on this list if WWE can finally awaken the beast he is.
Grade: NXT: A / Main Roster: D
WWE hasn’t exactly translated their huge signs into major players in WWE. Aj Styles has received the best booking of the group. The lack of sustained title runs and secure booking on the main roster has kept the rest of these guys from actually living up to where the fans know they could be. We could just be in a lull for the group as a whole. And maybe WWE surprises us with a Balor Club reunion soon.
Markus X. Murden, Esq.
Senior Editor/The Heels of Wrestling
Follow @TheHoWPod and @MXMurden on Twitter and Instagram