#NewJapanWeek The Record Breaker Kazuchika Okada

Photo: NJPW

Having overcome big rival Hiroshi Tanahashi and taken his mantle as NJPW’s Ace, Kazuchika Okada dropped the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship to Tetsuya Naito.  Two months later he regained it at Dominion 6.19.  At the time the move was met with apathy as fans wanted the hot, fresh and cool Naito to be champion. Little did we know that Okada would go on to have one of the greatest title reigns of all time, cementing himself as one of the best wrestlers of this generation in the process.  Here’s a look at the record breaking 550+ day fourth title reign of “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada.

Photo: NJPW

Kazuchika Okada: Early Days and the 6-star match

Photo: NJPW

Okada wouldn’t get the chance to defend his title for four months due to the G1 Climax.  He had a good showing only missing out on potentially winning because of a draw with Tanahashi.  In his first defense at King Of Pro Wrestling, he took on Pro Wrestling NOAH legend Naomichi Marufuji  – they had a match that Tokyo Sports voted as their 2016 Match Of The Year.  This would set the tone for what was to come.  It also confirmed our Wrestle Kingdom 11 Main event as Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega.  On January 4th 2017, Okada and Omega went to war in the longest Wrestle Kingom match ever.  It was the first of many matches this year to get 5+ stars from Dave Meltzer.  As champion, his matches were an entry point for all new fans putting pressure on his shoulders as Ace.  The interest in a sequel was high and for a time was the most talked about match in wrestling. Okada had become a household name to any hardcore wrestling fan and was set to lead NJPW to a whole new level of popularity.

Kazuchika Okada: Post-WrestleKngdom

Photo: NJPW

Okada had already proven to be a superhuman challenge for anyone to overcome.  In his third defence he faced Minoru Suzuki.  In another grueling match Suzuki beat Okada’s leg and tried to force him to tap.  Okada would not back down and proved he would never quit as he overcame Suzuki and continued his reign.  Okada continued building steam and looking more and more unstoppable in the process.  In a non title exhibition match Okada defeated Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi).  Okada once again stole the eyes of the wrestling world in a classic against Katsuyori Shibata.  The match which saw Okada outplayed in every department but having to hold on and survive the onslaught of vicious kicks and strikes from the former MMA figher Shibata.  Again Okada had a lengthy, draining battle in his fourth defence, the most of any champion since his 8 in 2012-2013.  Okada also set the first milestone of his reign as this was the highest attended Invasion Attack/Sakura Genisis.  In his fifth defence as he approached a year as champion Okada defeated Bullet Club’s Underboss Bad Luck Fale.

Kazuchika Okada: Dominion, The Rematch and The Nightmare

Photo: NJPW

In just the first few months of 2017, Okada was already setting up to have one of the best years any wrestler had ever had.  On top of that his title reign was one of the best in history filled with unbelievable matches.  Looking to consolidate his reign as one of the greats he challenged fellow six star man Kenny Omega for a rematch at Dominion 6.11 in Osaka-Jo Hall.  Okada again proved his drawing powers as this show holds the record for the highest attended Dominion show ever.  The 11,756 people and everyone watching on NJPW World ( NJPW’s streaming service, similar to the WWE Network) were treated to arguably the greatest wrestling match ever.  The two fought to a gripping hour long draw that saw Okada retain his title and add another 6 star match to his catalogue.  Okada added another feather to his cap as he main evented the first ever sold out NJPW show on US soil against “The American Nightmare” Cody. Okada pulled Cody to the best match of his career in front of the very receptive crowd as Okada made defence number 7 of his title.  2017 was already set to be the year of Kazuchika Okada entering legendary status

Kazuchika Okada: G1 Climax 2017

Photo: NJPW

Okada entered the 2017 G1 Climax as heavy favourite to be the first champion since Puroresu legends Keiji Mutoh and Kensuke Sasaki in the 1995 and 2000 respectively.  There was no reason to bet against Okada,  his was reigning champion for over a year and had not been beaten in singles competition since the 2016 G1 Climax.  During the G1 Okada lost out on a place in the finals by losing to rival Kenny Omega on the last day in another highly anticipated match between the two.  Again the two put on a classic in front of a sell out crowd despite the increased ticket prices over previous years.  After a gruelling draw with Suzuki, Okada was beaten and weakened allowing EVIL to score an upset win and finally allow Omega to defeat Okada.  The loss to EVIL led to a title match between the two at King Of Pro Wrestling,  the match was a real test of Okada’s drawing power.  One he passed with flying colors as he again sold out Sumo Hall besting EVIL and retaining his title for an 8th successful defence.

Kazuchika Okada: WrestleKingdom 12 and the Future

Photo: NJPW

After King of Pro Wrestling we confirmed the WrestleKingdom 12 event.  Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuiya Naito at the Tokyo Dome.  The ungovernable against the unstoppable champion.  The match has proven hugely popular in Japan selling tickets to Wrestle Kingdom at the fastest rate in over a decade.  As of this writing (27/12/2017) the show has sold over 30,000 tickets.  It is no surprise to see the show selling so well.  Okada has established himself as a huge name during his current title reign.  He has broken many records,  his current reign is the longest in the history of the IWGP Heavyweight championship and he is set to overtake Hiroshi Tanahashi for most combined days as champion.  The records that Okada has smashed and the catalogue of matches he has built up is unbelievable for someone who is just turned 30.  We may be seeing the greatest title reign ever end on January 4th but Kazuchika Okada will have many more title reigns ahead and he will hold every record possible.  Remember the name Kazuchika Okada and watch as he become one of the greatest of all time right in front of our eyes.  Wrestle Kingdom 12 is a big stop in the road of his career and probably the biggest match he has been in to date but it just has the possibility to blow his matches with Kenny Omega away.

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