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KUSHIDA departing NJPW at end of January


KUSHIDA is officially leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling.

It was announced at tonight's post-Wrestle Kingdom 13 press conference that KUSHIDA will be departing NJPW after his contract expires on January 31. KUSHIDA made an appearance at the press conference and, without directly revealing what his next destination is, spoke about his decision.

"As Sugabayashi said, I will leave NJPW on January 31," KUSHIDA said (translations via Chris Charlton). "This was an extremely tough [decision] made with Meij, Sugabayashi and Kidani [NJPW management]. It was a very big decision in my life and I’m thankful they understood. I will head overseas to see the world of pro wrestling.

"I have been here in NJPW for 8 years. I was surprised at the scale of the business when I first came in and proud of being able to work here. The warm reception and words from the fans made me who I am and I am so grateful to them."

Though he got emotional during the press conference, KUSHIDA said he wasn't sad to be making his decision and said he was crying "happy tears."

"If there was anything left for me to achieve and do, I wouldn’t be leaving," KUSHIDA said. "But I’ll put my all in this last month. There’s been a lot of people who have influenced me over these 8 years. Liger, Tana. Shibata, Makabe, Tiger Hattori. They all enjoy wrestling."

KUSHIDA has been one of the top stars in NJPW's junior heavyweight division over the last several years. He lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Taiji Ishimori at Wrestle Kingdom 13. At New Year Dash the next night, Will Ospreay pinned KUSHIDA in a six-man tag match.

Dave Meltzer reported last month that WWE was interested in signing KUSHIDA.