Former WWE star Matt Riddle has taken a significant step in his professional wrestling career by making a striking debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). This grand entrance came to light during the New Year Dash event on Friday, where Riddle appeared in a vignette, setting the stage for an electrifying challenge.
His target? None other than the esteemed NJPW World Television Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The challenge was issued right after Tanahashi's successful title defense against Ryusuke Taguchi. Riddle, exuding confidence, made his intentions clear, focusing on Tanahashi, whom he referred to as the "Ace." He promised an imminent showdown, sparking excitement among the fans.
In response, Tanahashi, addressing the audience in Japanese, accepted the challenge. His words, translated by NJPW commentator Chris Charlton, conveyed a mix of intrigue and humor: "I will have to do some research as I have no idea who that is."
Riddle's WWE Departure
Riddle's transition to NJPW comes after his release from WWE in September 2023, a departure shrouded in controversy.
His tenure with WWE was marked by several issues, including allegations of molestation during the #SpeakingOut movement, which implicated WWE as a defendant in the ensuing litigation. Riddle also faced challenges within the company, reportedly having real-life disputes with top talents and multiple violations of the company's wellness policy.
While the specific reasons for his WWE release remain undisclosed, an incident at JFK Airport in New York last year, which led to a police investigation, further complicated Riddle's situation. However, Riddle's wrestling journey is far from over.
Major League Wrestling (MLW) appears to be his primary base in the United States. He is slated to wrestle in his return match for MLW on January 6 against Jacob Fatu. Additionally, a highly anticipated match against Rob Van Dam is set for March.
Riddle's move to NJPW isn't an isolated case. Nic Nemeth, previously known as Dolph Ziggler in WWE, was also seen at Wrestle Kingdom 18, alongside his brother Ryan Nemeth, getting involved in a storyline with the new IWGP Global Champion, David Finlay.
This trend of WWE's 2023 releases finding a new home in NJPW as 2024 unfolds marks a significant shift in the wrestling landscape, bringing fresh dynamics and exciting matchups to the forefront.