With rumors swirling about what American company he’ll sign with after his final New Japan Pro-Wrestling dates next month, Kazuchika Okada made his final trip to Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall today (Jan. 24).
In a match rescheduled after Okada announced his NJPW depature, the Rainmaker teamed with Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii to defend their NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team championship. They were successful, with Okada pinning Kosei Fujita to defeat TMDK (the faction was also represented in this match by Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste).
After the match, a tearful Okada shook hands with everyone — including his opponents — and thanked the crowd. He then announced that he’s vacating his share of New Japan’s trios title (translation via NJPW Global):
“I don’t want to cry. I’ve cried enough already. But thank you for all your support for 17 years.
“Ishii put this belt on me, but today I vacate it. But this is the only team belt I’ve ever held in my career and I’m so thankful to Tanahashi and Ishii. This is the last match of my contract but I have three matches to go in Osaka and Sapporo. This isn’t the end, this isn’t goodbye and you still have the main event. Enjoy it.”
“Thank you to NJPW wrestlers, staff and fans. I promise we will meet again, and I hope you’ll support the Rainmaker.
Okada’s NJPW contract expires on Jan. 31, but as he mentioned in his promo he will work at least two shows for the company in February. The big one, the one today’s match was swapped with on the schedule, is a singles match with his career-defining rival turned friend Tanahashi on Feb. 11’s The New Beginning in Osaka.
Then we’ll see where he sets up shop in the United States.