On the Wednesday edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer said that a “deal is done” on a working relationship between AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
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KENTA’s appearance at Wednesday’s Beach Break and next week’s lights out match with he and AEW World Champion Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley and Lance Archer are kicking things off, but Meltzer said he’s unaware of anything else planned after that.
However, Meltzer said, “I know people that can’t wait to go back to Japan. Put it that way.”
The impetus for the deal was New Japan’s desire to have Jon Moxley defend the IWGP U.S. title he won back in January 2020. Because of pandemic-related travel restrictions, that was unable to happen but they also didn’t want to strip him of the title. Since KENTA lives in Orlando, Florida, that made a match possible but since it would have to be in the U.S., a deal had to be struck with AEW’s Tony Khan first.
Meltzer didn’t say when the deal was struck, but speculated that the pandemic actually helped move things along quicker as Moxley would have just traveled to Japan to defend the title if travel was unrestricted.
Moxley vs. KENTA for the IWGP U.S. title will air on the February 26th New Japan Strong and was taped recently.
There was interest in having both sides work together when AEW was launching, but New Japan was skeptical of how successful the new venture would be and wanted Khan to come to Japan to meet with them. He sent Chris Harrington and the Young Bucks to make the deal instead which they didn’t like as they thought it was a slight. Meltzer said that once Harold Meij left New Japan as president, the door was open to talking again.