On March 25 2019, less than 24 hours removed from a grueling 30 minute plus match against SANADA saw him clinch his second New Japan Cup victory, Kazuchika Okada greeted media eager to learn the Rainmaker’s thoughts on headlining G1 Supercard on April 6.
Okada’s New Japan Cup victory came after five tough singles matches in a 16 day span. ‘The cup was over, I headed home and went straight to bed, expecting to get a good rest,’ the Rainmaker stated with a wry smile. ‘It didn’t work out that way. I woke up pretty quickly. The New Japan Cup may be over, but next is Madison Square Garden, an IWGP title match. I have to be working toward that, heading into G1 Supercard in peak condition and ready to take the IWGP Championship back’.
Okada may have been away from the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture for the past nine months, but he is no stranger to the main event. Nevertheless, his match on April 6 against Jay White will be the second of two main events on G1 Supercard, and going on last on a stacked card with motivated talent from New Japan and Ring of Honor is a responsibility of which Okada is well aware.
‘This is a huge deal for ROH as well, and there’s no doubt (the ROH wrestlers) will be going into MSG determined to show how good they are. That said, I think I have to show everyone how great NJPW is. There are a lot of wrestling events that week, and I want the fans to go home thinking that NJPW brought the best wrestling they saw all week’.
That responsibility doesn’t just befall Okada as a representative of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but as a representative of his country. Asked of the significance of headlining MSG as a Japanese performer, Okada was proud, and took his position seriously.
‘(NJPW) has been to America before, but those events have often had foreign wrestlers facing each other at the top of the card. It’s New Japan Pro Wrestling at the end of the day (…) being at Madison Square Garden isn’t just a big deal for New Japan, this is a huge deal for Japan, period. To have a Japanese wrestler, standing as the face of professional wrestling, there’s only one person for that spot, and it’s me’.
To truly stand as the face of professional wrestling after G1 Supercard, Okada must first surpass IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White, a man who has proven dominant against the Rainmaker. Where Okada once arguably took the Switchblade too lightly, he exuded a calmer confidence before the press in Tokyo.
‘He’s had tremendous momentum, and there’s perhaps an aspect of him still riding that momentum rather than building it more. That momentum though, that force is amazing, and it’s a little scary to be honest. We don’t have a warm-up match to feel each other out either. He’s awesome, but you have to be awesome to win the New Japan Cup, and that’s given me a lot of my own momentum. I take pride in (winning the cup) and I plan on taking my pride and putting it on the line against his… and walking out IWGP Champion’.
Kazuchika Okada has smashed every record conceivable across his four IWGP Championship reigns. The chance to grab number five means everything to Okada, who reflected that he has been shaped somewhat by his time away from the gold.
‘Last year, I lost the belt, and I kind of did what I wanted to do for a while. I think I’ve been able to learn from that time, and take some of the better elements of that period on board. But the Rainmaker still hasn’t gone anywhere, and the Rainmaker needs that (IWGP) belt.’