One year and nine months into his fourth reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada has officially tied the record for number of title defenses after defeating Zack Sabre, Jr. at Sakura Genesis (for full results, go ahead and check here) today. That record stands at eleven, a figure previously set by Hiroshi Tanahashi in the 404-day reign he began at Wrestle Kingdom V and that ended in the Rainmaker’s first shocking title victory on his return to New Japan in 2012.
The match itself was excellent, Zack Sabre, Jr. using his technical excellence to keep Okada off balance, weakening a leg and the Rainmaker arm so as to try and ensure he could escape any of Kazuchika’s most dangerous holds. And indeed, it worked for quite a long time, ZSJ able to duck, dodge, and counter several Rainmakers and escape the Tombstone piledriver as well, all while piling the punishment on the champion with hold after hold after hold, but as so often is the case, Okada was able to dig deep and find a way to hit one more and do the deal.
The defense record is one of the few things left for the Rainmaker to achieve in New Japan, and now that he’s just one away, the obvious questions are when does he get a chance to break it and against whom? Fortunately a post-match angle answered at least part of that, as Okada and Gedo wondered who might possibly take the next challenge, and Tanahashi answered.
So, whether it be at Wrestling Dontaku in May or Dominion in June, it seems likely that the once and future ace and the Rainmaker will do battle, with not just the title on the line, but also whether the defense record can be shared or if Okada will pull ahead.
And if he does, the only major records left to break will be the total reigns record (held by Tanahashi with seven reigns) and the all-time defense record, also held by Tanahashi and currently set at 28 to the Rainmaker’s 24.
There you have it, folks
Excited to see Okada continue to make history or would you rather see Hiroshi Tanahashi stop him short of claiming one more accolade, Cagesiders?