It’s safe to say that things are going well for current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. His faction, Chaos, is full of champions, and he was Pro Wrestling Insider’s No. 1 wrestler of 2017, the first Japanese wrestler to hold that rank. He’s won the G1 Climax tournament twice (the second time coming along with a record number of wins in the tournament), main evented Wrestle Kingdom five times, and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship four times.
His current, record-breaking title reign has solidified his position at the top of the wrestling world, but has also started to change his relationship with the Japanese audience. But before we talk about that, let’s talk about how Okada got here.
The 30-year-old is a 14-year vet; he started wrestling for Ultimo Dragon‘s promotion in Mexico in 2004. He signed with NJPW in 2007, and they sent him on a learning excursion to the United States that they thought would help him unlock his potential. It did, but not in the way New Japan expected. You see, they sent Okada on excursion to TNA, where they thought it would be a good idea to use this future superstar first on their b-show, Xplosion, then as Samoa Joe’s Green Hornet-themed sidekick, Okato. Okato.
He has the mask and everything! NJPW did not enjoy this quality television programming, and Okada’s handling was reportedly one of the reasons they ended their relationship with TNA. Despite all this, Okada still says he learned a lot in TNA — mostly that he needed a character.
When he returned to NJPW at Wrestle Kingdom 6, he had one: the Rainmaker. He was arrogant, he made it rain money, and Gedo was now his hype man. The Rainmaker Kazuchika Okada soon defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and would gain accomplishments and popularity over the next few years. He become so popular he turned babyface and got an entrance with a freaking animatronic dinosaur. That’s when you know you’re a big deal.