Less than a month after UFC legend Cain Velasquez made his pro wrestling debut for AAA at Triplemanía XXVII, he will reportedly meet with officials of another promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling.
According to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, Velasquez was at the August 24 Super J-Cup show in San Francisco and, “he’ll be having an informal meeting with NJPW officials.” Other companies are allegedly interested in Velasquez too, which isn’t surprising given his fame outside of the wrestling world and how well his first match was received.
Cain Velasquez is at the New Japan Super J Cup show tonight in San Francisco. Sources said he’ll be having an informal meeting with NJPW officials. Velasquez is signed on for two more Lucha Libre AAA matches, but several other wrestling promotions have interest, per sources.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) August 25, 2019
If Velasquez does spend some time in NJPW (after AAA’s upcoming shows in the United States, on which it wouldn’t be surprising to see him team with Psycho Clown and Blue Demon Jr. against Los Parks), it would be far from the first time the promotion hosted a star from the MMA world. Company founder Antonio Inoki was an MMA pioneer and promoters as well as pro wrestling star and worked to capitalize on the Japanese combat sports boom around the turn of the century. This resulted in NJPW runs for fighters like Don Frye, Josh Barnett, Enson Inoue, and Bob Sapp, who reigned as IWGP Heavyweight Champion in 2004.
Though the company emphasized how different it is from that period if its history as it built a new image earlier this decade, there were also storyline reminders of NJPW’s connection to the MMA world up until a few years ago. Wrestle Kingdom 8 included the pro wrestling debuts of Rolles Gracie Jr. and Daniel Gracie in a tag match against Yuji Nagata and “Gracie Hunter” Kazushi Sakuraba. That led to Daniel challenging Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in a rematch of Nakamura’s first MMA fight.
Sakuraba, who first wrestled for NJPW in the mid-90s, was a regular player in the promotion from 2012-2016, with his most memorable moment arguably that crazy UWFi rules match against Minoru Suzuki, New Japan’s current link to the early days of MMA, at Wrestle Kingdom 9. His sometime rival Katsuyori Shibata’s whole persona and character arc from his return to the promotion in 2012 through his injury in 2017 called back to the “Inokiist” era of NJPW, as well.
This is a lot of get into after a tweet about an “informal meeting,” but Velasquez in NJPW, even just for a one-off Wrestle Kingdom appearance (they have two consecutive nights at the Tokyo Dome to fill) would be not just a special attraction, but a throwback to an aspect of New Japan’s history from which the promotion has distanced itself in recent years and not a weird fit at all.