Sunday morning at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall, “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada won his fourth IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In doing so, Okada ended the 70-day reign of Tetsuya Naito, leader of the hated Los Ingobernables de Japon stable. More than just his fourth spin on the biggest wheel in Japanese wrestling—tying him with Keiji Mutoh and Hiroyoshi Tenzan for 4th most in history—Okada took yet another step in his amazing, transformative career.
Still only 28 years old, people (myself included) often forget the story of Okada’s career is still being written. Everything seemed to come to Okada so fast and so soon upon his return from an embarrassingly bad excursion in America, that we ignore the very fact that his path is still being forged. That his career is still in its relative infancy.
Before his match Sunday against Naito, Okada pleaded with the “ungovernable” to send his Los Ingobernables stablemates (SANADA, BUSHI and EVIL) to the back. Okada wanted a one-on-one match against Naito, no bullshit, no interference, no run-ins. One-on-one, to find out who the better man was. Avoiding hypocrisy, Okada also pointed out that his adviser, mentor and mouthpiece Gedo was not at ringside. This was Okada going at it alone, without the guidance of CHAOS’ string puller (and NJPW’s real-life booker). Okada—just as he requested from Naito—wanted to prove he could do it alone, without help, without guidance, without Gedo.
Naito sent his stablemates away and after an incredible back and forth match that saw Okada reign supreme after a series of Rainmaker lariats—not unlike the viseral display of force Okada unleashed on Nakamura in the 2014 G1 Climax Finals.
In doing so, Okada vanquished (for now), the Los Ingobernables stranglehold on the prized IWGP Heavyweight Championship, even promising to defend the title to repair the damage done. More than that though, Okada took a gigantic leap in his character’s progression. Often seen as the rebellious one, counterculture to the company line, Okada was finally working for them. With New Japan president Takaaki Kidani watching from ringside, Okada let the world know that he was champ again and he would “make NJPW world renowned!”
Okada "3rd! I've nothing more to say. And now that I'm champ again, I'll make NJPW world renowned!" #njdominion
— E. Key Oide (@e_key_oide) June 19, 2016
For the first time in his career—certainly since he became the “ace” of the promotion after Wrestle Kingdom 10—Okada is not only tasked with carrying the company flag. He wants to.
Okada went on to say THIS match was what an IWGP title match looks like. Not the IWGP Heavyweight Title matches with interference, mist, ref bumps, distractions, chair shots and shenanigans that has been so unfortunately prevalent in the days of Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables dominance. No more of that, Okada says, this is the type of big-time, main event title match this company was built on.
The most significant aspect of Okada’s post match promo came during a familiar portion of his victory celebration. In each and every major Okada victory, Gedo would grab the mic and scream “RAINMAAAAAAKER!” Of course, Gedo wasn’t there. When the customary part of the celebration arrived, Okada looked around the ring. He looked behind him, on both sides, back and forth… there was no Gedo there to talk for him. So, what’s an ace to do?
— Jocay (@Jocay19) June 19, 2016
Okada shouted those familiar words with the same brashness his mentor Gedo would. Okada shouted the words, Okada was the man to send the crowd off. As friend of the site Alan Counihan tweeted, Sunday was Okada’s stage.