Welcome back to the Dark Match Dungeon! As usual, this is our weekly trek through the never-forgetting archives of the internet to find old footage of wrestling’s biggest names before they were superstars. This week, I was determined to do something different. I tried looking for some good WWE dark matches in the women’s division since the ladies haven’t been well-represented in this particular feature, but I didn’t find much. I’ll probably try again next week, but in the meantime, how about we take a look at one of Japan’s biggest stars? We’re focusing on Kazuchika Okada this week, the man currently deadlocked in a bitter rivalry with Hiroshi Tanahashi for Top Guy Status over in New Japan Pro Wrestling. I feel like I’ve done a better (or at least a more complete) job explaining him in some of my other New Japan articles, but basically, all the uninitiated need to know about him is that he somehow manages to pull off the swagger of “Legend Killer” Randy Orton while simultaneously being a huge dork. It’s magical, and I would blindly follow him into battle. For the first time on Dark Match Dungeon, here are TWO matches for you to check out.
Easy Mode: Okada in the early stages of his American excursion, taking on Douglas Williams in TNA.
Hard Mode: Okada, still as a NJPW trainee, taking on Tetsuya Naito.
What To Look For:
- Okada looking considerably different than he does now. After leaving TNA and returning to NJPW, he went blonde and put on nearly 25 pounds of muscle mass.
- The Too Awesome Dropkick, still hanging around as early as 2007. If that’s what they call it on the shirt, that’s what I’m calling it in real life.
- If I can direct your attention to the TNA match, does Douglas Williams look like Chris Hardwick if he took ALL THE STERIODS ever? Anybody? Back me up on this.
- The “all black everything” gear from Okada and Naito, the semi-official uniform of NJPW Dojo trainees (“youngboys”).
- The C.T.U. logo all over the New Japan venue, signifying the presence of Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s Control Terrorism Unit stable.
Okada’s run in TNA was pretty blah the whole way through. He spent most of his time either losing or dressed up as Kato from The Green Hornet and running interference for Samoa Joe. Yes, really. But fast-forward a while after that, and the Okada vs. Naito match comes full circle pretty nicely. Naito went on an excursion to Mexico, became the Stardust Genius he is today, won the G1 Climax tournament, and would unsuccessfully challenge Okada in one of the main events of Wrestle Kingdom 8. If you’re going to avenge a loss from your developmental days, you might as well do it at the Tokyo Dome.