Kushida came to NXT with great expectations and even greater fanfare. At the contract-signing ceremony announcing his arrival, WWE COO Triple H made it clear that NXT’s powers-that-be had worked long and hard to land the coveted Japanese sensation, whom Triple H described as “one of the biggest international stars in the world.” Such lavish praise from The Game doesn’t come easily, nor without reason.
Before joining the black-and-gold brand in 2019, Kushida had reached dizzying heights in the rings of Japan. His foray into combat sports came via mixed-martial arts; after learning grappling techniques under UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba, Kushida went undefeated in all eight of his pro fights. He then transitioned into sports-entertainment, and just as quickly earned a collection of accolades and championships.
Combining stunning submission wrestling with high-flying bursts from the sky, Kushida has an in-ring style that’s ahead of its time, which is only fitting, considering his love for the “Back to the Future” film series. As if his Marty McFly-inspired entrance gear wasn’t already a clue, Kushida’s fandom even extends to his finishing hold, a tendon-tearing double-wristlock that Kushida dubs the Hoverboard Lock. As soon as he cinches it on, Kushida’s opponents realize they’re out of time, and that’s just the way he likes it.