The Rainmaker Clothesline is the most potent weapon in Kazuchika Okada’s arsenal. It has defeated all opponents, from youngest of lions to the most dominant of world champions.
With it, he’s won IWGP title and the G1 Climax. Even the undisputable top star and Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Hiroshi Tanahashi, couldn’t kick out when hit with the full power of the Rainmaker.
Until Wrestle Kingdom 9.
On January 4th, 2015, Tanahashi beat the Rainmaker in the main event of WrestleKingdom. He not only countered Okada’s favorite move at nearly every opportunity, but became the first person to kick out of the previously invincible clothesline. Since then, others have also kicked out of the Rainmaker, forcing Okada to adapt his move to new challenges.
Now Kazuchkia Okada brings those adaptations against the man who put the first blemish on his move, defending the IWGP title against Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestling Dontaku on May 4th, 2018.
Okada has a few different set ups for the move. A popular one is a German Suplex. Okada keeps his hands locked around his opponent’s waist after the suplex, pulling them to their feet and in perfect position to unleash the Rainmaker. Lately, Okada sets up the move in tough matches with a jumping Tombstone Piledriver.
While it doesn’t leave him in a perfect position to follow up immediately like the German Suplex does, the extra impact to the head of his opponent has proven to be the difference in several matches.
The most important evolution of the Rainmaker has been Okada maintaining his wristlock after impact. By maintaining wrist control, Okada is able to hit more than one Rainmaker in succession. Okada first used this technique in the main event at WrestleKingdom 10, and this time Tanahashi had no answer. Since then, Okada has used the wrist-control technique against wrestlers like Kenny Omega, Katsuyori Shibata, and Tetsuya Naito, and defeated all of them. It turns out the most effective set up for the Rainmaker is another Rainmaker.
They just showed this moment on AXS-TV. A staple throughout Okada’s record setting reign and that which still begs the question: What if one day he can’t maintain wrist control?… #njwk12 pic.twitter.com/57KDKjbmC9
— Jude Kilgour (@judekilgour) January 7, 2018
11 times, Okada has defended the IWGP title in his current title run, thanks to the power of maintaining wrist control and multiple Rainmakers. Okada is on a record-tying run. To own the record, though, he must once again defeat the man who has beaten the Rainmaker more than anyone else, the co-record holder for consecutive defenses: Hiroshi Tanahashi.
It’s been over three years since Tanahashi put the first black mark on the Rainmaker’s record, and two years since he fell to Okada’s wrist-control technique. They last fought during the G1 Climax in 2016, just a few months after Okada began his current title run. Tanahashi was able to avoid multiple Rainmakers, and the match ended in a time limit draw with a frantic ending as both men rushed to beat the 30-minute time limit. Their match at Wrestling Dontaku will have no such limit, so strategy will come into play more than raw power. Okada will be patient, looking for the perfect moment to score with a Rainmaker combo.
For Tanahashi to win the title and defend his record, he’s going to have to beat the Rainmaker and the wrist-control technique. With a longer time-limit, it’s unlikely he will be able to avoid it the entire match like he did in the G1. So far, the move has been unbeatable. But Tanahashi beat the original Rainmaker. It’s because of him that Okada was forced to adapt the move into it’s current form. Can Tanahashi be the first man to beat the wrist-control technique as well?
Tanahashi has had two years to figure a way to do it. He’s watched Okada defend the title 11 times in a row with the technique and watched no one be able to counter it. Hard strikes haven’t beaten the move. Big muscles haven’t beaten the move. Quickness and skill have likewise fallen to the improved Rainmaker. But while the move has beaten all comers, Tanahashi has been watching and presumably learning. He will not come into this match without a plan.
Defeating the Rainmaker may require a Once in a Century Talent with a Once in a Century counter.