With Sakura Genesis days away, IWGP Champ Kazuchika Okada speaks out on Shibata’s challenge at Ryogoku 09 April!



With Sakura Genesis days away, IWGP Champ Kazuchika Okada speaks out on Shibata’s challenge at Ryogoku 09 April!

‘Who’s really hiding behind a mask? “Rainmaker” Okada or “Old School Wrestler” Shibata?’ Okada has choice words for his challenger at Sakura Genesis!

— So, we’re now just days away from you taking on Katsuyori Shibata in Ryogoku on April 9th. Your thoughts on the challenger?

Okada: ‘I’ve been wrestling him on the tour ever since he won the New Japan Cup. He enjoys his job, I think. Likes to wrestle.’

— It was February 11 2014 in Osaka that Shibata stood opposite you and you told him “If you want to challenge me, go and win the New Japan Cup”. Has Shibata changed over the last three years, in your opinion?

Okada: ‘I really couldn’t tell you. Three years ago Shibata was so far off my radar I had no thoughts on him at all. So I couldn’t tell you if he’s changed.’

— You have had one singles match with Shibata, during G1 Climax 23. What were your thoughts on him then?

Okada: ‘I think then… maybe “focused” is the word? He was very straightforward, throws and kicks. Throw guys, get that choke in, PK, that’s it. But now you see him do a lot more catch as catch can stuff. He looks like he enjoys wrestling now. Less one note, but by the same token less focused perhaps.’

–When you say Shibata enjoys wrestling now… Is there a little sarcasm behind that?

Okada: ‘Haha, I don’t know. Maybe that pissed off, more focused Shibata was a better wrestler. But then the Shibata of today won the New Japan Cup, so maybe he is better now after all.’

–When the match was set up, you didn’t really have any words for Shibata.

Okada: ‘It wasn’t so much that I had nothing to say, more that I just didn’t come out after the Cup final. There isn’t a rule that says you have to go out in front of the cup winner. I’d finished my match, gotten changed, and just heard him shout my name from the back. I didn’t have to go out there. It’s not that I was lost for words or anything.’

— You’re capable of speaking your mind.

Okada: ‘I say what I think. But I hear everything Shibata says, and it’s all old stuff. All junk I heard from my seniors four or five years ago. I’m a better talker than him.’

— Shibata says that the IWGP title is about taking on any challenge anywhere and anytime, perhaps throwing shade at you?

Okada: I don’t know about back in the day, but I think the IWGP tile now is a case of the best challenger, at the right time in the best venue for it. If you take on all comers any old place, the title loses its prestige. Maybe that’s how Shibata views the IWGP title, but I view it the way I do and I represent that.’

— He said that he knows a NJPW you don’t.

Okada: ‘I don’t need to know, don’t want to know that NJPW. He’s talking about a time when wrestling wasn’t popular at all. I don’t need to know about that. We’re living in the now; the past is irrelevant.’

— Shibata has accumulated quite the resume since returning in 2012, and after holding the NEVER Openweight Championship he’s now ready to challenge for the IWGP title.

Okada: ‘Look, I honestly think Shibata was a great NEVER champion and did great things with that belt. He defended it every month, defended it in the U.K… Well, considering the level of a Shibata, he was great.’

— “He did well, for Shibata”, you mean?

Okada: ‘Heheh. The IWGP Championship level is a step or two beyond that, you see. He can talk about what he’s made of, but it takes more than guts alone to take this title.’


— You brought up the word “guts” there, and you made that same point at Korakuen March 26, that the IWGP title wasn’t something you can win with guts alone.

Okada: ‘Because we’re wrestlers; we all have guts. Being gutsy isn’t the same as being good. Everyone on the New Japan roster has guts, but only the best has the IWGP title. If I’m wrong, we’ll Shibata will beat me and he can say what he wants then.’

— Is there anything you want to tell Shibata about what the IWGP title represents?

Okada: ‘You have this belt, and it means you’re the face of pro wrestling. If you’re a crappy champion, then pro wrestling is crappy. If you’re weak as champion, pro wrestling is weak. If you’re not cool as champion, pro wrestling isn’t cool. If you’re boring as champion, pro wrestling is boring. That’s what people will think.’

— You have to lead by example in all areas.

Okada: ‘That’s right. You’re the face of pro wrestling in every respect. The championship comes with a hell of a lot of responsibility, and I don’t think Shibata has given that enough thought.’

— You don’t think Shibata has the right mentality to be champion yet?

Okada: ‘That’s what I think. But we’re coming at this from completely different angles. We’re oil and water really. There are probably people that think Shibata is right and that I’m just being arrogant. We’ll find out in the ring.’

— Shibata said that the ‘Rainmaker’ was a facade, a mask that he wanted to pull off when he fought you. What do you say to that?

Okada: ‘See, that’s what I meant when I said Shibata doesn’t say anything new. People said that kind of thing to me years ago. But who’s really hiding behind a mask? “Rainmaker” Okada, or “Mr. Old School Wrestler” Shibata? I want to tear down that facade.’

— Just this year, first with Kenny Omega and then with Minoru Suzuki, you’ve had some incredible title defences in very different styles. Do you have an idea of how this match will play out?

Okada: ‘Well, ultimately a defense is a defense. My mentality doesn’t change. The plan is to keep having better and better matches. Mind you, it isn’t enough to just have good matches; I have to keep winning, too. I want to raise the bar every single time I go out there.’

— If you win against Shibata, there’s a chance the bar will be set so high that it’ll be hard to think of another challenger.

Okada: ‘Ha. But there’s always another challenger. It’s not like I leave a match with absolutely nothing left, and each match is very different, each opponent’s style and strengths are different. Every time the hurdle gets raised, I’m growing myself, so I’m able to clear it each time, I think.’

— There’s still room for you to grow.

Okada: ‘I feel that I still have to grow. Raising the bar, facing tougher and tougher opponents, clearing that bar- I enjoy it.’

— It’s fun for you?

Okada: ‘Oh, yeah. I’m excited for this match with Shibata as well. Lately, I’ve been having big singles matches every month. It’s really tough, but at the same time, I’m able to wrestle matches I want, and win. Ryogoku too, that’s the plan. Win, wrestle a match I want to wrestle, make it rain, move onto the next stage.’