In a groundbreaking development, former WWE superstar Matt Riddle has announced his debut with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), marking a significant shift in his illustrious wrestling career. Known for his charismatic "Original Bro" persona, Riddle is set to bring his unique style to NJPW, starting with an electrifying challenge to the newly crowned NJPW World Television Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi, at New Year Dash on January 5.
This move signals Riddle's intent to make a profound impact in the world of international wrestling. Riddle's transition to NJPW has stirred much conversation, particularly regarding his well-known advocacy for marijuana, a stance that contrasts sharply with Japan's stringent anti-cannabis laws.
Addressing these concerns, Riddle spoke candidly during a live in-studio signing with "Signed by Superstars." He acknowledged the potential conflicts his "420 Bro" image might face in Japan, stating, "I think the '420 Bro' probably won't make it to Japan." Emphasizing his clean legal record, Riddle expressed his determination to maintain it, thereby adapting to the cultural and legal landscape of his new wrestling home.
Japan's Cannabis Policy Shift
Japan's strict stance on cannabis is well-documented, with possession charges potentially leading to several years of imprisonment. The country maintains a firm prohibition on the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.
However, in a notable shift, Japanese lawmakers, towards the end of 2023, passed legislation allowing the use of cannabis-based medical products. This significant development, expected to be implemented within a year, indicates a gradual change in Japan's approach to marijuana, albeit within a medical context.
Riddle's move to NJPW and his willingness to adapt to local norms highlight the dynamic nature of professional wrestling, where athletes not only grapple with opponents in the ring but also navigate the cultural and legal intricacies of the countries they perform in.
As Riddle prepares to tour Japan with NJPW next month, his journey exemplifies the blend of athleticism, entertainment, and cultural sensitivity that defines the ever-evolving world of professional wrestling.