Cheap Heat: Kazuchika Okada Will Make It Rain on AJ Styles
By Jacob Fox
Following his loss of the IWGP Championship to AJ Styles on May 3, 2014, Kazuchika Okada has likely had the most tumultuous year of any wrestler in New Japan Pro Wrestling. In the months after that loss, he has reached dizzying heights and suffered hellish lows. Talented wrestlers do not stay inconsistent for long, however, and the Rainmaker will make it pour once again in 2015 when he finally wrests Japan’s most prestigious title back from Styles.
For readers unfamiliar with Okada , this should bring you up to date. Americans who don’t watch Japanese wrestling might be familiar with him through his short and unsuccessful run through TNA in 2010 and 2011. The majority of his matches were on Xplosion and his success was definitely inconsistent. For a while he was saddled with an inane gimmick based off the character Kato from the Green Hornet and wrestled under the name Okata (clever pun by the TNA writers).
His work in the United States was ultimately unsuccessful, which brought Okada back to New Japan in 2011. After being eliminated from a tournament to establish the first NJPW Intercontinental Champion and having limited success in tag wrestling, Okada turned heel and debuted the villainous Rainmaker persona. In what may have been an attempt at cheap heat, Okada also changed the spelling of his surname from kanji script to katakana script. The significance of this is that katakana is a script used solely for writing foreign words and thus could have been perceived as a rejection of Japanese fans.
The change benefited Okada greatly. During a series of victories, he pinned IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tanahashi Hiroshi and then challenged Hiroshi for his title, ultimately taking the belt from him on February 12, 2012. His continued success resulted in him becoming the youngest wrestler to ever win the G1 Climax, a several week round robin tournament held every year in Japan. Okada would also lose and regain his IWGP championship.
When Styles debuted in NJPW as the new leader of the Bullet Club on April 6, 2014, a natural feud evolved with Okada. Styles had remembered Okada during his TNA run and he capitalized on this, referring repeatedly to Okada as the same “boy” he had known in TNA. With the help of Okada’s fellow Chaos stable mate Takahashi Yujiro turning on Okada and joining the Bullet Club, Styles took the belt from Okada in his first match back in the promotion.
Following his defeat, Okada failed to regain the IWGP Championship from Styles on three separate occasions. These losses took a severe toll on the former champ. While Okada may have been able to brush off Styles’ first win due to interference, the subsequent losses were cleaner and thus more definitive. By May 25th, the man who was champion just a month before was out of the title picture.
Despite suffering these losses, Okada had many reasons to feel that he was still a worthy contender. He entered the nearly three week long 2014 G1 Climax tournament, winning it for a second time in 3 years by taking eight out of ten matches, including a victory over the champion Styles. The final match of the tournament was a 23 minute classic against Nakamura Shinsuke (incidentally my vote for 2014 match of the year). Winning the tournament was both a monumental undertaking and achievement which went a long way into putting Okada back into the number one contender slot for the championship.
Before Okada could face Styles for the belt again, several things happened which prevented the rematch from taking place. He had to defend his number one contendership twice, against Bullet Club member Karl Anderson and Naito Tetsuya. While Okada was successful in his defenses, Tanahashi Hiroshi unseated AJ Styles as the IWGP champ on October 13. Okada was set to receive his title match against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in January 2015.
It didn’t work out like Okada had hoped though. The victories of the latter half of 2014 were not enough to wash out the implications of his failures. Although he eliminated Styles from advancing in the G1 Climax, Styles still walked away holding the title. With Tanahashi taking the belt from Styles, Okada became unable to avenge the title dominance Styles had over him. In addition, despite wrestling a classic match with Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 9, Okada failed to regain the championship. To add insult to injury, Styles was able to do what Okada could not and defeated Tanahashi to take back the IWGP crown in February.
Afterwards, Okada fell into a deep depression. Nothing was going right for the man. He fell into a feud with Bullet Club member Bad Luck Fale in which he suffered multiple pinfall losses. Okada finally defeated Fale on April 5th at New Japan’s Invasion Attack 2015. This helped Okada get his confidence back and he directed all of his negative energy directly at AJ Styles. He attacked the IWGP Champion and made one thing clear to AJ: Kazuchika Okada is coming to get his championship back.
Okada won’t receive a championship match right away, though. At Wrestling Donkatu 2015, he joins up with Chaos member Yoshi-Hashi in a tag team match against Styles and fellow Bullet Club member Takahashi Yojir,
There is benefit for Okada in not getting his title shot immediately, however. Styles has had Okada’s number ever since the two first clashed back in TNA. Other than Okada’s victory at the G1 Climax, he has not been able to defeat Styles. Wrestling him in a tag match will help him get a better feel of where AJ is at the moment and will go far towards helping Okada develop a strategy later on.
The tag match also gives Okada a chance to prove that he deserves a title shot. After losing to Tanahashi, he hasn’t had a stellar few months. Other than attacking Styles, none of Okada’s experiences in the past few months are indicative of him being a number one contender. If he is able to once again pin Styles for the second time in a row, albeit in non title affairs, it may be enough to turn the advantage back to Okada.
No matter what transpires, however, Okada has one definite advantage over Styles. AJ has absolutely nothing to prove against him. He’s beaten Okada many times. He has proven he can beat Okada without the help of the Bullet Club. He has proven he could beat the man Okada could not beat for the IWGP belt, Tanahashi Hiroshi. Styles had unbridled success for years in TNA, and Okada was merely also ran.
Okada, on the other hand, has benefit in his failures. Taking the IWGP title from Styles will do more than just make Okada a three time champion. It will show Styles that Okada is indeed not the same “boy” from TNA who failed in his career there. Although it will not erase the three title losses to Styles from the year before, it will erase every bit of doubt that has clouded Okada’s mind about his ability to defeat Styles in a big match.
The rain will wash away the doubt and Okada is the Rainmaker. On AJ Styles, Okada will let it rain.
— Jacob Fox