NJPW fans still awaiting true return of Kazuchika Okada

KOBE, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 27: Kazuchika Okada enters the ring during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'G1 Climax 30' at the World Hall on September 27, 2020 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
KOBE, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 27: Kazuchika Okada enters the ring during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'G1 Climax 30' at the World Hall on September 27, 2020 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

Kazuchika Okada has not been the true “Rainmaker” in a very long time. It’s time that changes.

When it comes to New Japan Pro Wrestling, many know who Kazuchika Okada is. Okada is recognized maybe more than anyone in that company’s history. If you have ever had the opportunity to see Okada live and in person, it’s a rockstar feel. There’s always been something special about “The Rainmaker.” That being said, he has not been the same as of late whatsoever.

Taking into account the report by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer in March as to why Okada wasn’t in the title picture for over a year, stating that he had slipped discs in his back and continued to wrestle through them, he still hasn’t been the same since before that. With NJPW in a spot of need following the vacancy of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and overall a rocky year to boot, it’s time that Okada truly finds “The Rainmaker” that stood on top of the world.

Let’s take you back to June 9, 2018. The record 720-day IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign of Okada came to an end at Dominion when Kenny Omega defeated him in a 2-out-of-3 falls match that went over an hour to win the title. From this point, Okada changed gears. He essentially “lost” it. “The Rainmaker” was gone.

The iconic music, the blonde hair, and the overall presence of Okada were gone. Instead, he carried balloons with his hair dyed red. His dominance was no longer there, but he was still winning matches. Really, Okada has never been the same since then. At Wrestle Kingdom 13, Okada returned to being “The Rainmaker” for his match with “Switchblade” Jay White, but he came up short.

Rather than winning with his former self back in business, it showed that maybe it wasn’t just going to work like that. And while he has won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since that moment, he still has not been the Okada that so many recognize as their favorite or even one of the greatest ever.

How does Kazuchika Okada get back to his greatness?

The easiest answer is one that could be seen as unpopular, but reasonable for someone who has carried NJPW on his back for the past decade at such a young age — Rest. Rest can do Okada a lot of good to reclaiming his spot as the face of New Japan. To bring up the injuries once again, Okada has been going with no stop in his sight, and even with slipped discs, he continues to go. Over the past few months, Okada’s schedule has eased up. Being eliminated in the first round of the New Japan Cup by eventual finalist Shingo Takagi gave him time to only perform in tag team matches.

The load was taken off substantially by not advancing in the tournament, but he is still performing which cannot be helping the injuries. From April 4 to May 3, Okada was off the road as well. He competed in none of the Road To Wrestling Dontaku shows and returned at Wrestling Dontaku to successfully team with SHO and YOH. That’s the beginning of rest. And May, due to postponements and other situations that involved Okada being taken off shows, he has remained off the road and resting.

That means that all this rest could be what gets Okada back to his former self. But then there is the in-ring aspect.

Okada’s classics with Omega, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito are all among the matches at the top of many fans’ all-time lists. Maybe what Okada is in need of is a new rivalry or the return of a former one to reignite the fire inside him.

Omega is currently the AEW World Champion as well as the IMPACT World Champion. There have been NJPW ties to both companies, but Okada has yet to appear for either company yet. IMPACT Wrestling has been teasing his appearance for their upcoming pay-per-view Slammiversary. A potential match with Omega in a different environment could be what brings back the fire and hopefully “The Rainmaker.”

While the rivalry between Okada and Tanahashi is also a long storied one, the possibility of these two men facing off again should excite anyone and everyone. The last time these two faced off was back on July 6, 2019. That seems like insanity continues their history. A match between the two men, whether it be a special occasion or in the G1 Climax can also do wonders for him. Comfort goes a long way ladies and gentlemen.

However, the number one option to possibly get Okada back to his old ways is a feat that he hasn’t accomplished since 2014. Winning the G1 Climax.

It feels crazy to think that Okada has not won the G1 Climax since 2014, but it’s the truth. For the most part, he has been the champion awaiting the winner. But a run through one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of professional wrestling, putting on what many would expect to be classic after classic, almost feels like the perfect source to reassert “The Rainmaker.”

Next. NJPW has to handle the vacated title correctly. dark

The last time that Okada was the challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom inside the Tokyo Dome was in 2015. There’s something about going in there as the challenger after proving to everyone that you deserve that spot. With one run in the G1 Climax, Okada can quiet the doubters, reinspire the believers, and return to the greatness that he has had for so long.

There’s time before the G1 Climax this year, which should allow him to continue resting up for the ultimate sprint. With the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship vacant, he very well could be in a familiar spot as champion by that time, but it’s beginning to feel like the G1 may be his chance more than any.

Time will tell, but the true “Rainmaker” is still inside of Okada. It’s simply a matter of when in terms of it returning to the surface. By the end of 2021, it could very well be the case — finally.