If you’ve watched New Japan Pro Wrestling, or really any puroresu promotion, you probably know and fear Minoru Suzuki. Since he returned to NJPW with his Suzukigun (“Suzuki’s Army”) stable after Wrestle Kingdom 11, he’s been one of the promotion’s top heels. Just in 2018, the catch wrestling expert and submission master has lost an epic hair vs. hair match and shaved his own hair off out of spite, won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Ace of the Universe Hiroshi Tanahashi, had exciting feuds with Togi Makabe and Tetsuya Naito, competed in international dream matches with Matt Riddle and Keith Lee and convincingly threatened to kill the entire audience at New Japan’s anniversary show.
On June 23, just after his fiftieth birthday, Suzuki will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of his pro wrestling debut with the Great Pirate Festival, a free, two-day event in his home town of Yokohama. And what better way to celebrate three full decades in the biz than by fighting the best wrestler in the world? A normal human might say, “Maybe sleep in?,” but this is Minoru Suzuki we’re talking about, so he’s wrestling Kazuchika Okada FOR FREE.
In a press conference at his store in Harajuku, Piledriver (the world’s #1 resource for Gotch Style Piledriver-themed clothing, I’m assuming), Suzuki explained why he chose Okada has is opponent (via NJPW):
“When we were putting this card together, this match was part of the conversation from the very start. The reason I wanted Okada was that he was born at the same time my career started, and right now he’s at the very top of the wrestling world. It’s really a dream match to show to so many people, all gathered for free under the blue Yokohama sky. He’s the best opponent I could think of to show everyone just what incredible things can happen in life. That’s what I kept in mind as we negotiated the match.”
Okada and Suzuki have only faced each other in singles matches five times, most memorably in the Rainmaker’s third defense in his ongoing, record-breaking 700+ day IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign. The feud, which started when Suzukigun invaded New Year Dash!! 2017 after a few years in Pro Wrestling NOAH, reintroduced Suzuki as a serious threat to New Japan.