On Monday April 10, Kazuchika Okada attended a press conference to discuss his prior night’s defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship over Katsuyori Shibata. After a hard fought encounter, Okada beat Shibata with a Rainmaker to make a fourth successful defense.
However, immediately following the match, Bad Luck Fale entered the ring and delivered a Grenade and a Bad Luck Fall to the champion. Resulting from this post match attack, Okada and Fale will face off for the IWGP Championship on May 3 in Fukuoka at Wrestling Dontaku.
‘Well, yesterday, Shibata certainly showed what he’s made of. It was a very tough match, very physical, but I enjoyed it myself. It’s hard to explain, but at a certain point the noise of the crowd faded away and I was able to completely focus on that match, just go into a trance almost.
Then Fale came into the picture. It seems my next defense is already decided. I’ve wrestled Fale in singles matches several times, but never with the title on the line.
I’ve done a lot in title matches recently, but of course I intend to outperform myself again. I plan to win, decisively, and keep moving forward.’
— Do you think you were able to refute the claims Shibata had made in that match?
Okada ‘I think we both said a lot before the match and in the ring we let pain do the talking. I don’t think we’re agreed on everything but I did leave thinking even Shibata is a modern wrestler too, now.’
— You said the match was tough, was there anything particular in that match that was difficult?
Okada ‘Well, of course, there’s no such thing as an easy title defense. Every match is tough, but those strikes really hurt and I really felt how Shibata felt toward the title and the company in that match.’
— Your thoughts on Bad Luck Fale’s attack after the match?
Okada ‘Well, he lost to Shibata, but was the runner up in the New Japan Cup. So it seems that after Shibata, the next biggest deal is Fale.
Fale’s amassed a good resume. In the past he’s been in the shadow of Devitt, and then of AJ. And now Kenny’s there. But while there’s that Fale, there’s also the Fale that’s been Intercontinental Champion, the Fale that’s beaten me and Tanahashi. He’s definitely a good challenger. But he needs to be that tough Fale. After this challenge, if he goes back to someone else’s shadows, I wouldn’t forgive that. It’d be a huge waste.’
— You said yourself, you have lost to Fale in the past. Is he a difficult opponent for you?
Okada ‘Well, a guy that size, he’s a difficult opponent for anyone. Everything he does is powerful and painful, and for my part, he’s a difficult guy to hit my moves on. But it’s not as if I’ve never beaten him. I just want to face that monster Fale.’
— There were a few boos directed at you last night in Ryogoku…
Okada ‘I think it comes from a place of the crowd recognizing I was too good. There were a lot of hopes pinned on Shibata, and that’s when the boos came in. To me, it just shows the value of the IWGP title right now and how invested people are in those matches. So for me, I hope wrestlers keep recognizing that value, targeting the belt and giving me more challenges. Every challenge that comes up, I have to win, decisively and show how good of a champion I am. Keep raising that value and keep raising the bar.’
— That was obviously such a demanding match, and Shibata had to be rushed to hospital afterward. One day removed, is there anything you want to say to Shibata?
Okada ‘Well… that’s the kind of match it was. Shibata is stupidly serious, and we saw the lengths he goes to keep promises he makes. I’m not going to say “the champ’s waiting for you”, but I will promise him “let’s do this again”, and I want him to hold up his end of that.’
— You said before that the noise of the crowd faded away for you. Is that a rare occurrence?
Okada ‘Yeah. I wouldn’t say it never happens, but it’s not common that I’m so drawn in and so focused. I had that with Shibata. And I was enjoying it, even if in the flow of the match I might have gotten mad. But what the crowd was thinking at any moment I really don’t know.’
— That said, was yesterday a special match for you?
Okada ‘Every title match is special, so I wouldn’t say this was any more special than anything else.’
— It seemed a more intense performance from you, was that something Shibata drew from you?
Okada ‘It wasn’t something I was particularly aware of, but for him, this was something building up for four years. I really felt after the match that he was super intense too. It’s… I don’t know, maybe because it was Shibata, maybe because he’s an old school guy, I thought it important to make people feel “modern wrestling is awesome”. I don’t want anyone to take modern wrestling lightly. So I don’t know whether it was Because it was Shibata or not, but that intense Okada came out.’
— What was your biggest takeaway from the match yesterday?
Okada ‘Let’s see… “man, I’m good”? That kind of feeling. That I’m unstoppable. I think it was a great experience for me. I hadn’t had that kind of title match before, so as a wrestler I feel it helped me grow, become even better. It’s almost scary’
— You mentioned wanting to face the monster Fale. By that do you mean you want to extract more of his potential?
Okada ‘I think one of the unique charms of pro wrestling is these Goliath figures fighting. I know I usually talk about the now, so I’m reluctant to refer to the past. But while the foreign wrestlers we have today are all great, they’re almost too refined, too precious. Fale… he isn’t old school exactly, but he has that intrigue about him. I really want him to bring that in full. If I don’t get that out of him, I’ll feel I’ve failed, and I won’t have the motivation to win. I want to win, and then have that same feeling, “man, I’m good”.’