He may be The Rainmaker, but the recent news that Kazuchika Okada is leaving New Japan Pro-Wrestling has cast a bit of a dark cloud over the renowned Japanese wrestling promotion.
The international superstar spoke with Tokyo Sports about his decision to leave New Japan and what that means for the company’s future. Despite the challenges posed by his departure, Okada believes that the individuals capable of stepping up and making a difference will likely have the opportunity to do so.
“It’s not that there are empty seats because I’m gone, but I can definitely say that they’re in a pinch,” said Okada, according to Google Translate. “I think it’s definitely a mistake for the next generation to think, ‘Okay, this is an opportunity.’ A chance will come to those who can save the day.”
However, new NJPW President Hiroshi Tanahashi, whose feud with Okada in the previous decade helped revive the company, appears optimistic about its future despite the impending exits of Okada and Tama Tonga.
“I don’t think of it as a test at all. I’ll take it seriously and move on. That’s the case with most professional wrestling organizations. We have an immunity to it. New Japan is steadily growing young players, so I hope everyone has high expectations for the new New Japan,” said Tanahashi.
Meanwhile, as the promotion and its fans say goodbye to Okada, die-hard wrestling buffs worldwide want to know why Okada is leaving NJPW after a decade-plus of dominance. In the final year of his contract, the former IWGP World Champion felt that if he was going to leave, it was now or never.
“When I was thinking about whether I would sign with New Japan Pro Wrestling again or whether I should look elsewhere in the world, I realized that this might be my last chance,” said the 36-year-old star.”
Okada didn’t indicate where he’ll pop up next. While he could have remained in New Japan and wrestled without any inconvenience, as he described it, Okada said he didn’t want to be the same person who lacked hunger.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to rest on my laurels.”
Reports are that both AEW and WWE are pursuing Okada in free agency, and that he’s expected to make a decision about which United States-based company to sign with soon. Okada is currently booked on NJPW shows through next month.