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Okada talks matches with Punk & Danielson, Orange Cassidy in New Japan

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New Japan Pro-Wrestling Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

This week is Wrestle Kingdom 16, New Japan’s now-three night biggest show of the year. You can see the latest cards for Nights One & Two here, and the inter-promotional night three here.

NJPW’s ace Kazuchika Okada will be competing for the IWGP World Heavyweight champion on Jan. 4 — and quite possible on Jan. 5 — in the Tokyo Dome, and that’s the main hook of the interview he did with Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso to promote Wrestle Kingdom. But, in another sign excitement about New Japan isn’t what it was pre-pandemic, the quotes from Barrasso’s post making the rounds today (Jan. 3) are about opportunities The Forbidden Door could provide for The Rainmaker to work with some of AEW’s stars.

Okada has some history with Best Friends in Japan. AEW built on that history when Chuck Taylor, Trent? Beretta (and his mom), Orange Cassidy, Kris Statlander & Wheeler Yuta were made members of his CHAOS stable on their shows last year. Okada thinks it would be “fun” to have them back in the promotion at some point:

“The Best Friends were part of CHAOS when they were in New Japan, and with the door to AEW being opened a bit, it added more possibilities. [Tomohiro] Ishii was able to come into AEW from CHAOS, and if Orange Cassidy and the Best Friends were able to show up in New Japan, there is no doubt that would be a lot of fun.”

Even more intriguing, the 34 year old joins pretty much the rest of the wrestling world in wanting to see matches between him and Bryan Danielson & CM Punk. He doesn’t want to rush into them, but does realize the clock is ticking:

“Danielson and Punk would make for some incredible matches. A lot of those dream match scenarios are about getting excited for the possibilities, and once the match is done, it’s done. So it is important to keep that excitement and anticipation, I think. Still, if we wait too long, they’ll both retire eventually, so I want to face them both while they’re still active.”

Crossover action (well, not counting Saturday’s NJPW vs. NOAH third night of Wrestle Kingdom 16) will have to wait until we find out if Okada can reclaim his spot atop the New Japan mountain in the Tokyo Dome. And if he does, will he keep the belt reigning IWGP Heavyweight champ Shingo Takagi’s been carrying, or the “v4” one he started carrying after winning the G1 Climax tournament?

“No one wants to have the last scene of the movie spoiled for them. When I win, then everyone will know. So we have to wait until then.”