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Kazuchika Okada is Back in a Money Position with New Japan

2 years ago

Kazuchika Okada is Back in a Money Position with New Japan

By Zack Heydorn

It’s early 2022 and a lot feels wrong out there in the world. Omicron, the Chicago Bulls being in first place, and general Twitter madness in the wrestling space are constants keeping us all on edge and sweating. I’m here to throw you a lifeline stocked full of the good stuff Ready? Cha-Ching! Kazuchika Okada is the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Admit it, you’re smiling.

After a couple years playing with red balloons and testing out new finishers, Okada’s reclamation of the heavyweight title culminated at Wrestle Kingdom 16 on January 4 and 5. Okada won the 2021 G1 Climax tournament and cashed in his shot at the belt on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom in a match against wrestling’s pandemic-era hero, Shingo Takagi. Takagi and Okada wrestled as much of a classic as you can in an environment with essentially no crowd response. On the second night, Okada took his newly won crown and put it on the line against Will Ospreay, a man who was world champion, but forfeited the title due to injury. He was never beaten for the belt, so Okada vs. Ospreay was the only way to close out the year. Okada definitively closed his story with a clean win.

And all feels right.

Okada as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion was a long time coming, and it: couldn’t have come at a better time for New Japan Pro Wrestling. At one time, NJPW was the leading pro wrestling promotion — alone with live audiences in the summer of 2020. The audience could only clap and pound their feet, but faces in the crowd comforted us during a very trying time. Now, many pro wrestling companies around the world have fans fully back in place, while New Japan has stuck to their 2020 formula. Good on them for being safe, but their shows are a stark contrast to others and the audiences at those shows infinitely boost the product. Okada is the star of stars stabilizing New Japan to alleviate the blow of the times for the company. He also brings with him a multitude of engaging matchups and long-awaited credibility to the newly created IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.

In a pinch, Gedo can always drop him into different scenes on the card and he fits because of how over he is. It was fine for Okada to fill gaps as he came down off his long run as champion, but as a guy with more miles left on him, it’s smart to get him in a position to carry the company.

His presence commands attention and adds a “big fight” aura to his matches even when the audience can’t audibly react to it. At a time when New Japan doesn’t present itself as the best product, Okada being able to cultivate that kind of emotion is valuable.

Let’s be honest, it’s been a weird year for New Japan on top of the COVID-19 stuff. 2021 started with Kota Ibushi winning both the heavyweight and intercontinental titles, dropping those altogether and creating the world heavyweight title, Ibushi then abruptly lost the belt to Ospreay, who then dropped it due to injury, but only after a strange run that saw him physically assault his girlfriend. Okada and Takagi tangled for the vacant belt with Takagi overcoming the odds to win the championship and add a fresh flavor to a directionless main event picture.

2022 is the 50th Anniversary of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and what better way to celebrate than to crown Okada king and let him hit the tours as the premiere talent in the company? Optically it works, but from a business perspective it works, too, Okada is a draw at a time when it’s important for New Japan to have full houses and a tried and true player at the top of every card. 50 is a big milestone and it’s not the time to try someone new in the main slot.

  • Okada has been there and done that. The two-year break leaves him with a flurry of intriguing matchups. Tetsuya Naito appears to be first up on the list, and what a way to start the run.
  • Naito and Okada have immense history together and a baked story to lean into given that Naito beat Okada for the championship the last time he held it. Add to that the fact that both are in rival factions and they almost always have stellar matches.
  • Okada and Jeff Cobb have unfinished business as Cobb was protected throughout most of 2021 with stellar showings in his back pocket. Finishing up their feud with a world title match makes perfect sense.
  • Okada and Ibushi again? Why not. Both characters are in different places now than when they collided last.
  • Jay White plays. He’s been absent from the main roster while working in the United States, but his name will always hover around the world title. Okada and White have had some classics, but it’s been a bit. Igniting that flame again will spark New Japan.
  • How about that creaky forbidden door? Jon Moxley, C.M. Punk, Adam Page, Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson. Hell, even Kenny Omega again. AEW talents would pop business opposite of Okada in the ring and with his championship, Japan’s championship, on the line, he would have no choice but to prevail.


Shall I go on? Fine. Last point. Okada makes that new belt design look good. The cool kid in class is wearing the thing, so it’s now fine and dandy for
everyone else to like it too. The belt needed Okada’s firm hand on it to officially establish it in its proper place. Okada is right for New pace Pro Wrestling right now. It’s not always about building the next star, act, or character. Many times, you go with the best because they are the best. Okada is the damn best.

Ride him ‘til the wheels fall off,

The Rainmaker fixes a lot of that pandemonium. He’s the top star and has the top prize that everyone else in the company is pining for.


Written by:

Based in Chicago, I've been a part of the news media business since 2007. I've worked in various capacities for Monthly Puroresu since 2020. n both print and broadcast roles. After graduating from Illinois State University, I have freelanced for Wade Keller at PW Torch among other wrestling outlets. I've been working