Wrestle Kingdom Rewind: Reign on a Sunny Day 【WK17】

Kazuchika Okada finally claimed his place at the top at WK10

<– 2015: Cold Rain      2017: All the Stars in the Sky–>

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Kazuchika Okada wept bitter tears at his defeat to Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 9, but his 2015 was built with one goal in mind; to finally secure his spot definitively at the top of the NJPW mountain at the Tokyo Dome. IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign number 3 came after Okada defeated AJ Styles in Osaka Jo Hall at Dominion, and the Rainmaker truly looked unstoppable by anyone but his fiercest rival. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi’s seventh IWGP title reign would come to an end in February 2015, but he marched on determined to stay in the main event mix. The G1 Climax that year ended with another rivalry coming to an end for the Ace as he vanquished Shinsuke Nakamura to lift the trophy and book his place in the Dome. He was the IWGP challenger on January 4 2016, but it felt every bit like he was the one being challenged, for the title of NJPW’s one true dominant force. In the end, an image will remain engrained in fans’ minds forever; Okada hitting the Rainmaker after refusing to let go of Tanahashi’s wrist, his title, his era.

Meanwhile, a vacuum would be created in the IWGP Intercontinental Championship picture, as well as in BULLET CLUB by the end of January 2016, with some significant departures. Before AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura both plied their trade Stateside though, a dream match for the white and gold would see what would be Nakamura’s final defence of the title, against the Phenomenal One. 

A dream matchup for both men started with ice cold and composed showmanship for both champion and challenger, and escalated to the most heated offense that both men possessed. Styles wanted to end Nakamura’s reign with the same second rope Styles Clash that had finished Tetsuya Naito one year prior, but was met instead with a second rope Landslide, and two successive Boma Yes for one final retention for the King of Strong Style. 

A very different clash but no less heated would see Katsuyori Shibata challenge Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship. After Shibata had returned to the NJPW fold after his lengthy absence in 2012, his progression and re-acceptance by the New Japan faithful coincided with Tomohiro Ishii finding his spot as NJPW’s truest ‘BMF’. Their legendary G1 Climax encounters would be an indication of how Ishii would shape the NEVER Openweight Championship, and when the two collided on the biggest of stages, live rounds were exchanged until only The Wrestler was standing. 

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