Somehow, New Japan managed to tell a redemption story for a guy who’s won one of the most prestigious and protected belts in pro wrestling history four times, and held the IWGP Heavyweight championship for longer than anyone when he had it for 720 days, and has the record for most successful defenses of the title.
When Kazuchika Okada finally pinned Jay White to win back the company’s top prize, the packed house at Madison Square Garden was completely behind him. He not only fought through the Kiwi upstart (who managed to kick out of two Rainmakers to start the match’s final stretch, and you could hear the air leave the building when that happened). Okada also had to deal with his old mentor Gedo, now representing Switchblade.
But he did, surviving White’s Bladerunner finisher (he didn’t kick out, though - Jay was too exhausted to cover him) and a frenetic sequence of counters and pinning predicaments from both men to finally end his young rival with a drop kick, a spinning tombstone piledriver and two more Rainmakers.
The Bullet Club leader was certainly booked to look as strong as possible in defeat, but he still becomes a transitional champ for a title that has traditionally featured long reigns by NJPW’s top stars. What comes next for both men should be very interesting as New Japan preps for the G1 Climax and the road to Wrestle Kingdom.
For more on all Sat., April 6’s action at G1 Supercard, check out our live blog here.