How WWE and TNA’s Trash Became New Japan’s Treasure

Brian Damage

Being released by a promotion can sometimes be the end for a wrestler. For others, they turn it around. Today we take a look at a series of performers discarded by WWE and TNA but who managed to make a name for themselves in Japan.

Not every wrestler finds success in the first or second place they are signed. It sometimes takes a while for a wrestler or wrestlers to grow and develop into big stars. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen at all. There are several cases where wrestlers just don’t work out in one promotion and later become superstars in another.

A few perfect examples of this is of course some of WCW’s “trash” that were let go for whatever reason and the WWF/E made them into megastars. We all know their names by now, guys like Steve Austin, Mark Calaway, Paul Levesque and even Cactus Jack aka Mick Foley were let go by WCW and eventually made their way to the WWF/E and became huge names. Some may even say that those very names and others that WCW let slip through the cracks helped the WWE defeat WCW in the famed Monday Night Wars and become the juggernaut that it is today.

TNA wrestling (now known as Global Force Wrestling) would take a lot of former WWE talents and push them to the moon. Some have paid off for the company like EC3 and Eli Drake while others like Aron Rex not so much.

As easy as it is to pat the WWE and TNA on the back for signing those guys and making them stars, the companies have had their own fair share of letting go talents and becoming stars elsewhere. In particular, places like Ring of Honor and especially New Japan Wrestling. I’m not going to count current wrestling nomads like Christopher Daniels and Cody Rhodes who both left the so called “big two” U.S. promotions but they are certainly eligible.

Instead, let’s focus on other talents that may or may not have been successful if given the proper opportunity in other places.

Kazuchika Okada – TNA

It’s hard to believe, but one of New Japan’s current top stars was once a silly sidekick in TNA wrestling. Most of Okada’s matches with TNA were either as dark matches or on their secondary show Xplosion. When Okada finally graduated to the main show on Impact, he was given a mask and resembled the famed Bruce Lee character of Kato from the Green Hornet series.

As a matter of fact, the named he was handed was Okato and he was the sidekick of Samoa Joe. Word is, New Japan who loaned Okada to TNA in a working agreement were so displeased with the way TNA used one of their young lions, they terminated the working agreement altogether. Of course, soon after Okada became the ‘Rainmaker’ in New Japan and became a huge star. What might have been if TNA used him properly?

The Young Bucks – WWE and TNA

Matt and Nick Jackson are one of the hottest tag teams in both Ring of Honor and New Japan as members of the Bullet Club. Early in their careers, the Young Bucks were used as nothing more than enhancement talent on WWE programming. The Bucks would eventually get a tryout with TNA and were signed to a contract. They were repacked as ‘Generation Me.’

While they feuded with Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin (The Motor City Machine Guns) Generation Me were used more as single competitors in the X division. Totally frustrated how they were being misused in TNA, the Jackson brothers quit the company and revitalized themselves in Ring of Honor and New Japan.

Trent Barreta – WWE and TNA

Trent Barreta’s biggest opportunity came when he wrestled for the WWE alongside Caylen Croft as “The Dudebusters.” The team seemed to be growing a fan base when the team did a bunch of comedic segments on TV. Then Caylen Croft was released and Barreta was on his own. He never quite regained his footing in the WWE and was ultimately released.

Trent would have a brief stint in TNA competing in the X division but nothing significant ever came of it. Trent Barreta didn’t truly hit his stride until he teamed with Rocky Romero in New Japan as Roppongi Vice. The team has since been a force in New Japan winning the IWGP Junior tag team titles on four occasions.

Kenny Omega – WWE

Kenny Omega was a developmental wrestler for the WWE back around 2006 to 2008. He wrestled primarily with their now defunct Deep South territory. His career with the WWE went nowhere and was eventually cut loose.

Omega would travel to places like Ring of Honor and Japan and make himself into a mega star. So much so, he became the leader of the famed Bullet Club, ousting AJ Styles. He won several titles and accolades and in New Japan becoming their top Gaijin (Foreign talent) The WWE has tried several times to try and sign Omega back to the company but he has repeatedly turned them down.

Martin Scurll – TNA

In 2013, Scurll competed on TNA’s British Bootcamp which was very much like WWE’s Tough Enough in that it was a reality competition show to win a contract with TNA wrestling. Scurll would compete against the female team of the Blossom Twins and Rockstar Spud, the eventual winner. Despite losing the competition, Scurll was still allowed to tour with TNA during their tour of the UK.

Marty Scurll would suffer an injury during the tour and was cut loose. Scurll’s career since being dumped by TNA has perhaps gotten to be the biggest of all the Bootcamp contestants. Scurll would reinvent himself as the Villain with cool looking ring attire. He now is a member of New Japan’s Bullet Club.

Juice Robinson – WWE

Robinson spent a great deal of his young career in WWE’s developmental system with Florida Championship Wrestling and later NXT. He was known down there as CJ Parker and really was mostly used to get other talents with the company over. Robinson eventually quit NXT and ventured on his own.

He renamed himself Juice Parker and has quickly become a solid hand for New Japan.

Seiya Sanada – TNA

Seiya Sanada came over to TNA wrestling after Jeff Jarrett brokered a deal with Keiji Mutoh’s Wrestle 1 promotion. Initially, Sanada got a decent push by TNA winning the X Division title. Then the company decided to turn Sanada heel and transformed him into ‘The Great Sanada.’ The gimmick was a direct imitation of his trainer’s the Great Muta gimmick.

Sanada decided to leave TNA after budget cuts started happening within the company. Sanada would freelance for various promotions around the world but has really seemed to find a home in New Japan as a member of the popular group Los Ingobernables de Japon.

Tevita Fifita – WWE and TNA

Fifita is the son of the legendary Haku and brother to New Japan star Tama Tonga. He spent a good portion of his career with WWE’s developmental system in Florida. When he was called up to the main roster, the promotion made him Latino and called him ‘Camacho.’ His WWE career went nowhere and was ultimately released.

It wasn’t too long before TNA signed Fifita and renamed him ‘Micha’ and was in a stable called ‘The Rising’ with Eli Drake and Drew Galloway. That too didn’t last long and Fifita was once again looking for work. He went to New Japan and formed a team with his brother Tama Tonga and renamed himself Tanga Roa called Guerrillas of Destiny aka G.O.D. The team have won the New Japan IWGP tag team titles on 3 occasions thus far.

While the WWE is certainly the top wrestling or Sports entertainment promotion in the world…a strong argument can be made that New Japan is slowly becoming the number two promotion globally. Thanks in part to the above names mentioned and several other talents cultivated by NJPW and other promotions. Remember, the next time the WWE releases a developmental wrestler or the newly re-branded TNA–GFW misuses a young talent they could become huge stars elsewhere. They have certainly benefited New Japan Pro Wrestling.

2 thoughts on “How WWE and TNA’s Trash Became New Japan’s Treasure

  1. Shocked not see Cody on list here as well he was not really given pushed deserved in wwe or tna, been fan of new Japan for past 20 year (yeah before was cool to be) given today’s wrestling fans are beginning to get behind it would not be surprised see be the top company in next few years

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  2. Other names left off, were Albert, Doc Gallows (Festus) and Davey Boy Smith Jr. I know Nathan Jones and Tomko went there too, but never became huge stars. If Brock had actually had more love for the business and stayed in Japan, he could’ve been a big star there.

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