Okada takes fifth MVP nod
Kazuchika Okada has once again been voted the Tokyo Sports MVP for 2022, earning 15 out of 17 editorial votes from the publication to take his fifth overall MVP award. The annual pro-wrestling awards would also earmark Okada for match of the year 2022, for his G1 Climax 32 finals bout with Will Ospreay. Ospreay’s United Empire was also recognised with Great-O-Khan taking both the Fighting Spirit award, and the Best Tag Team Award along with Jeff Cobb. Elsewhere, appearances in NJPW alongside home promotion GLEAT contributed to El Lindaman’s distinction for the Technique award, and STARDOM’s Syuri was awarded the Female MVP honours.
Okada was recognised for being the leading figure of NJPW’s 50th Anniversary, and winning both the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and his second straight G1. With Antonio Inoki’s passing making the selection all the more appropriate. Kazuchika Okada was present to accept the honours as MVP elect ahead of the official presentation ceremony in the new year.
Okada: Thank you very much!
–Can you reflect on what you’ve been able to do this year?
Okada: I’m definitely delighted to win this award in this important year. I had wanted Mr. Inoki to come and watch a match this year, and it’s definitely a shame that he couldn’t do that. But taking this award is something that I’m sure he’ll be happy to see looking on, and I obviously plan to keep riding this wave, to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at his memorial event to do him proud again.
–You also won match of the year for your bout with Will Ospreay.
Okada: To win that award, especially with a match that came right at the end of such a grueling tournament is something I’m really proud of, and all the more so as the winner. It’s been a tough year and a rewarding one. The matches have been that way, and so has seeing some of the legends that have come to watch and be a part of these celebrations. It’s been a heck of a 50th year, and it’s a real pleasure to be recognised for my work within it.
–Having that recognition in this important year as you mentioned, does this year’s achievement feel different to ones you’ve had in the past?
Okada: Hmm, well I never thought that I had to double down or try harder than usual because of the 50th year. I do everything I can for the people every year and every night. So it isn’t about specifically doing something extra in the 50th year, but the fact that I did it and it was the anniversary, and there was an added layer to attention in the ring and out, that’s something I’m proud of.
–You are now second in MVP awards all time with five. Inoki had six. How do you feel about that?
Okada: I’m never one to think about records, and I don’t feel like I want to surpass what Mr. Inoki did, but the fact that one more win would put me alongside him and one more after that puts me ahead… Obviously I’m not saying that two more wins and I’m better than Inoki ever was. Even in places out of the scope of an award like this, there are areas where Inoki is far ahead and I have a lot of work to do. In the end, there’s lots I need to do to keep having great year after great year, whether that means winning the MVP or not.
–You wrestled Ospreay in the Tokyo Dome this year as well. What do you think made the G1 final special?
Okada: Hmm, I’m definitely happy I won this with Ospreay. I brought him into NJPW in the first place, and he grew so much over the time since that now he won this award with me. I’m honestly happy, but disappointed for him, too. Losing the match that was voted match of the year would vex anyone. I’m sure he’s planning to win next time, I just won’t let that happen.
–Do you think that match ranks with others in your career?
Okada: Well, taking MOTY in the 50th year means it was fitting for that significant place in history. But there’s more great matches to come every year from now and every year before- oh, last year was different, right?
–It was a different promotion as well.
Okada: Well, I think winning this award by and large every year means there’s something of me that reaches the people every year. This year I was obviously able to resonate in a way I didn’t before, so I have to be on that form every year.
–What are your plans for 2023?
Okada: Well this was a great 50th year, but I don’t want anyone saying ‘man, the 50th anniversary year was great’- I want to have them focused on how amazing everything is in the new year as well. There’s lots I want to do, not just in NJPW but in other rings too, to prove how NJPW is the best in professional wrestling. I feel that’s my job in carrying NJPW. But I have to be IWGP World heavyweight Champion to really have that lead position, so that’s what’s in front of me January 4, and then on to another MVP award and another MOTY as well.
Match of the year award winner Will Ospreay
This is an incredible achievement, especially with all the amazing matches from so many wrestlers I look up to and admire. The fact ours stands on top as MOTY in ’22 is truly humbling. Thank you very much.
Best Tag Team winners Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan
Cobb: Of course we are the best tag team of 2022! We won the IWGP Tag Team Championships twice and we only lost them in multi team matches which doesn’t make any sense! Everyone was afraid to wrestle us 2 on 2. If 2022 is a preview, then I believe 2023 will be dominated by us or any United Empire tandem we put forth.
Fighting spirit award winner Great-O-Khan
We are most pleased, yes. Most delighted to take fighting spirit and best tag team along with our MVP award. We are pleased to win these back to back awards over two years, as well as countless prizes from the world of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, all accomplishments that give us a delicious yummy thankful happy smile.
And what’s this? an award for distinguished service as well hmm? Is this for our heroic situation with the pancakes?
I know our distinguished United Empire secretary, the one who assisted in the tireless typing work on our most exceptional book also writes for the Tokyo Sports do they not? We are not limited to just professional wrestling, but anime, VTuber, acting, all fields in which we shall spread the glory of our craft. In the meantime, we’ll be having this.