Kazuchika Okada is already the best wrestler of 2017
Recently New Japan Pro Wrestling aka NJPW had a big show (Sakura Genesis) where the main event was Kazuchika Okada defending his IWGP Heavyweight Championship again 2017 New Japan Cup winner Katsuyori Shibata. The match was epic as Okada tried his best to outlast Shibata’s brutal strikes and submissions but in the end Okada succeeded and hit his finishing maneuver The Rainmaker (a short-arm clothesline) to end the 38 minute battle that these two men engaged in. The match is easily 5 stars and possibly could be 6 because of the amazing story told through excellent wrestling. Okada already had a 6 star match to start off 2017 when he defeated Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11 to once again retain his title. That match set the wrestling world on fire and launched Kenny Omega into a worldwide superstar (he was close to signing with WWE) but it seems like Okada was being left out. A wrestling match is a like a dance, the expression it takes two to tango is fitting for wrestling as well because it takes two people to work a match and in order for it to be good or great both competitors have to make the other person look amazing in order for them to look amazing as well. Okada sold Omega well and Omega sold Okada well and that’s how we got that legendary match. Which brings me to back to Sakura Genesis where Okada sold his ass off to make Shibata look like a million bucks (even though he is regardless) that it started to feel like Shibata was about to pull off the upset and win the IWGP title. But since Okada is the John Cena of NJPW (top good guy/face of the company) he entered his Superman mode to fight through the pain and get the win. This happened back in February when Okada defended his title against Minoru Suzuki, for much of the match Suzuki worked on Okada’s leg so long to the point that it would’ve made sense for Okada to tap out and lose the title. But Okada turned into Superman to beat Suzuki after the match went 40 minutes, most of which was Okada being trapped in a leg-lock.
For 4 straight months Okada’s title defenses have been 4 stars or higher, while going 25 minutes or longer (star rankings are given by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer)
January: Kenny Omega, 6 stars, 46 minutes
February: Minoru Suzuki, 4 3/4 stars, 40 minutes
March: Tiger Mask W, 4 1/2 stars, 27 minutes
April: Katsuyori Shibata, 5 stars, 38 minutes
The only match that would be considered weak among these is the match with Tiger Mask W because poor Kota Ibushi is trapped under that mask and is wrestling a somewhat different style. But still Okada got a great match out of that as well. To be fair Okada was working with 4 of the greatest wrestlers in the world today but he himself is consider one of the greatest as well. His 2017 has been unmatched by any other superstar (The Young Bucks are a tag team, but their 2017 track record is impressive as well). I think only AJ Styles is a fair rival to Okada. His match with John Cena at the Royal Rumble looks like the front runner for WWE’s match of the year, he was great in the Elimination Chamber match, and managed to pull a 4 star match out of Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 33. But Okada has held a title and retained it on numerous occasions while facing the toughest competition. We’re barely a quarter into 2017 but Meltzer should just mail Okada his wrestler of the year award right now.