WWE has begun plucking talent from among Japan’s biggest wrestling stars, with NXT in particular benefiting from the championship reigns of athletes like Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura. Now it looks like they’re trying to fill out their women’s roster with two joshi names.
According to the Wrestling Observer, both Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo were contacted by WWE representatives earlier this week. Both stars are currently signed to the all-female promotion Stardom, where they’re considered the number one and two performers in the company.
Shirai was contacted by Funaki, and it sounds like she’s certain about joining WWE, having told Stardom officials that she will be going. Hojo was contacted by both Simon Inoki and Shinsuke Nakamura. She’s interested, but has yet to make a final decision. There are also concerns that Hojo’s history with concussions would cause her difficulty in passing a WWE physical.
Some are speculating that a standing rivalry between Shirai and Hojo is the cause for much of the latter wrestler’s indecision. Shirai is considered the number one woman wrestler in Japan, and her departure for the WWE would allow Hojo to take up that top spot. In trying to keep Hojo with Stardom, she’s been told that WWE would likely continue to push Shirai as the top star over her.
The tremendous success of Asuka in NXT has opened the door for both talents in WWE, as she has proven wrong the conventional wisdom that Japanese women wrestlers could not get over in front of American crowds. Shirai and Hojo’s ages–25 and 28 respectively–are also a motivation, as Asuka’s age–35–is speculated to be a concern for Vince McMahon.
Given both the quality of Asuka’s matches and her popularity with the NXT crowd, I can’t wait to see more wrestlers from her school of performance come into WWE. NXT has finally started to get the ball rolling on their women’s division after losing so many terrific stars, and it’ll be fantastic to see even more great wrestlers get added to that list.