Kazuchika Okada is days away from becoming the longest reigning IWGP champion in history. Before then, however, he faces the challenge of the King of Darkness, EVIL. In this exclusive interview, the champion shares his thoughts on King of Pro Wrestling on October 9.
Full cards at KING OF PRO-WRESTLING on 09 October https://www.njpw1972.
The event will be live-streaming with English Commentary on http://njpwworld.com/
–October 9 and King of Pro Wrestling is right around the corner. Over the last month you’ve been in matches with your challenger, EVIL, every night. What are your thoughts on him now?
Okada: Well, he was on the offense for a lot of that time, but finally in Kobe I was able to pay him back with a Rainmaker. The tide has started to turn.
— Do you think the more you’ve been in there with him, the more you understand EVIL’s MO?
Okada: Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe only a third of the way or so?
–Not a high number.
Okada: Well tags and singles are different animals. I think I’m the G1 the reason I lost was because I didn’t know EVIL, wasn’t familiar with him. And in these tag matches there was a lot EVIL wasn’t willing to pull out, and the same for me. I didn’t use the Tombstone on him yet, for instance. So it’s really all coming to Monday for both of us to really lay it all out there.
–Of all the things EVIL has pulled out, the most notable has been that Darkness Falls onto the chairs.
Okada: Yep, that.. that’s not pleasant.
–It has looked as if your neck has been troubling you, and at Kobe you did have your neck taped.
Okada: That was really as a precaution but to tell the truth, EVIL’s attacks with the steel chairs definitely leave their mark on the neck. And he did it in Osaka in the G1, and at the finals in Ryogoku, and Hiroshima as well.
–But after the Kobe show on September 24, you said your neck was perfect.
Okada: I’m a little concerned, but there’s no problems really. I can’t say my neck doesn’t hurt at all, but from the last series to this match, I’ve taken good care of my neck. But then, even if my neck was wrecked, I’d still feel I’d win.
–You hadn’t really rated EVIL before the G1, but you said he really arrived after Osaka.
Okada: Honestly, that’s something I find very welcome. That’s part of the joy of wrestling, and I hope we see more guys like him. Only question is, who helped him arrive?
–Well, you certainly arrived in 2012 by going after Tanahashi. Is there a generational aspect to this, that you feel those underneath are finally coming for you?
Okada: It’s less generational and more like I feel I’ve made EVIL show his true self. In terms of age, I’m only one year older than him.. or maybe in ‘The Darkness World’ time works differently. In the mortal realm, I’m a year older, right?
Okada: Age difference or no, unless you come after the champion, you don’t really mature as a wrestler. So with him, he’s now at this level.
–Your rivals have mainly been older than you. Are you willing the younger generation to come up and take you on?
Okada: I think whatever field you’re in, you always need something new, always need change. That’s how something everyone loves and that’s what’s inspirational. I don’t want fans in the future to say ‘Okada was cool, but after that…’
–That’s a conversation many have, that there are concerns about who can be the man after you.
Okada: I think just like EVIL has, people will step up. I don’t know.
Okada: It’s possible for really anyone to suddenly get in the mix. There’s lots of young guys around that need to be brought up.
–So are you excited to have this match with EVIL, like it’s a battle of the new generation?
Okada: Hmmm, honestly it doesn’t feel much different to any defense I’ve had before. I don’t feel like ‘wow, this guy is something else entirely’. He’s beatable. He’s been beaten. Maybe if he was someone undefeated, that would be exciting. As it is, I don’t feel like we’re going to create something completely new together.
–To go back to Osaka, that critical moment, when EVIL smoothly countered the Rainmaker into his EVIL was breathtaking.
Okada: Hmm. With Naito’s Destino too, it seems there are a few moves coming out that can counter the Rainmaker.
–It seemed like the EVIL had been conceived just to counter you.
Okada: It sounds weird for me to say it, but the EVIL is a hell of a move. It can counter the Rainmaker, or really any lariat, or elbow. It uses his opponents’ momentum against them. It’s like playing Rock Paper Scissors but you see what the other person’s playing.
–So having tasted defeat in Osaka, have you come up with any plans to counteract the move this time?
Okada: I took it a lot over the last tour as well. It’s difficult when someone catches all the force of the Rainmaker and uses it against you. I need to work on something.
–EVIL has said he has many more ways to ‘defeat the super human’..
Okada: I’m sure there are any number of ways to beat me. It’s not like I’ve never been beaten before. But what I will show him is that beating me in a G1 group match, and beating me for the IWGP title are two very, very different issues.
–So you really feel a difference between the group match in Osaka, and the title match main event in Ryogoku.
Okada: I don’t want it to seem like I wasn’t trying in Osaka. A loss is a loss, a win a win. But the main event, in Ryogoku, for the IWGP title, it’s a different stage. A different world.
–Do you feel perhaps that you’ve had the title so long these defenses are becoming routine?
Okada: A little. I’ve lost count of the title matches I’ve had.
–In contrast, this is EVIL’s first title match. Do you question his ability to perform at that level?
Okada: I’ll put it this way: I’m not worried. In the G1 I think he came in feeling he wanted to take me down. In this case you need something a little extra. It’s something you can’t know unless you’ve been in that situation.
–The game of human chess gets that more complex.
Okada: Right, that’s the level of an IWGP title match. Can he really ‘plunge me into darkness’? That’s up to him I guess.
–EVIL has said he plans to take the IWGP title and headline the Tokyo Dome with Tetsuya Naito.
Okada: Heh, I’m sure he did. Is there anybody really though that wants to see that match in the main event in January 4?
–King of Pro Wrestling always carries heavy implications for the Tokyo Dome; Tetsuya Naito will also defend his main event contract against Tomohiro Ishii. Are you keeping an eye on that match, and on January 4?
Okada: No. It’s always the same; I’m not interested in what happens in the semi main. I’ll find out who wins afterward of course, but I’m just focused on my match. I don’t have the luxury of thinking about what’s next. I know I’m not unbeatable.
–As the man at the forefront of CHAOS, what do you think about Los Ingobernables as a unit?
Okada: Well, they’re certainly popular, there’s no doubt about that. You see LIJ shirts at all the venues, and even outside of wrestling on the street there are LIJ shirts and caps. They’re super popular. But as an actual team… I think they’re still a little too soft.
Okada: Well, generally speaking, they’re a young team. They should be really representing what the present and future of wrestling is, but I’m not sure that’s something they’re getting across to the fans. CHAOS aren’t as young as them, maybe we don’t beat them in terms of speed, but we have a lot more up our sleeves. That’s what makes us a great team.
–Speaking of a lot more, Rocky Romero has said he’s coaching a new team to debut at King of Pro Wrestling. Has Rocky told you about Roppongi 3K?
Okada: I’ve asked him! He’s not telling.
–You don’t know who he’s bringing in?
Okada: No idea. I do know he’s really excited about it. I just worry whether him being a coach might infringe on Gedo’s gimmick.
–If Roppongi 3K are part of CHAOS, that’s a big boost to its manpower.
Okada: Well, that’s something we won’t know until the night. But if this was baseball there might be a round of cuts. New people coming in might mean someone gets cut. Maybe Gedo will get cut, you never know.
–OK. So to close out, your final thoughts on the match with EVIL.
Okada: Just like every October, this is the last title defense of the year. I plan to win, and win decisively. Everything after that, can wait until after that. In the meantime I want Ryogoku to see me on top.
Okada: Well, there are still matches on the calendar after Ryogoku. And all the way to January 4 at the Tokyo Dome, I will make it rain.