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Opinion

Kazuchika Okada 2018: The Evolution Of The Rainmaker

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Kazuchika Okada Dollar
Sometimes, one picture alone can say so much.

Kazuchika Okada had an intense 2018, complete with the loss of a great prize, a shift in character, and a huge betrayal. Valentin takes a look back!

This week, I want to look back at the year of someone who is arguably the best wrestler in the world today, the Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada. It’s time to make it rain!

2018 is coming to an end, and as for New Japan Pro Wrestling, the promotion once again delivered in a very good way. While this year may not have been as great as some of the years prior according to different minds, it was still filled with a good amount of good to great stuff, whether it was, of course, in the quality of matches, to the storyline and characters developing throughout the year.

Let’s start off by giving out another opinion I have : Kazuchika Okada is the wrestler of the year. Obviously there are other guys with legitimate claims to be nominated as such, but this article will also serve the purpose of explaining Okada’s case, as I feel the need to bring up why, since his name doesn’t seem to be brought up as much as I think it should be, in that conversation.

Now that this has been said, we can start by going back right where Okada’s year started, on January 4th, at Wrestle Kingdom 12. The Rainmaker, who at the time held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since June 19th 2016, went to his fourth Wrestle Kingdom main event in a row, the second as champion. The man he would face? Tetsuya Naito, the winner of the G1 Climax and the man Okada defeated to launch his fourth reign.

This match would be Okada’s 9th straight title defenses as Heavyweight champion, meaning that he surpassed his own personal record of 8th defenses, as well as tying Shinya Hashimoto in that same category. Speaking of defenses, as you all know, Okada wouldn’t stop there since he would reach the number of 11 defenses, overcoming not only SANADA, but also the winner of the New Japan Cup and latest addition to Suzuki-Gun, Zack Sabre Jr. The British submission master definitely was one of the most challenging opponents Okada had to face, yet, once again, the Rainmaker would prevail. As he tied Hiroshi Tanahashi with the most consecutive title defenses in one reign, only one man would be fitting to challenge the mighty champion : The Ace himself, looking to keep his record intact and go back to the top of New Japan.

The two rivals would face each other, in a battle to determine if Okada can become the man with the most defenses in one championship reign. For even more insight, this match would also be reminiscent of Tanahashi’s record of defenses because it was Okada who ended that streak at eleven. Yet again, while the crowd was on the Ace of the universe’s side, nothing would stop the champion from keeping on breaking records, as Okada manages to beat Tanahashi once more and become the IWGP Heavyweight champion with the most consecutive defenses, sitting at twelve. An history making, possibly even era defining moment happened on that day, in Fukuoka.

That history making victory, which is one of the main reasons why I made my claim at the beginning of this article, leads us to the next chapter of Okada’s year, which stars literally right after Okada defeated his greatest rival. The champion would take the ultimate risk, choosing to defend his championship against the only man who managed to draw with him, Kenny Omega. The two men, who built their own rivalry since Omega won the G1 Climax 26 and challenged Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 for the first time, would face each other one more time, in the same building they went to a 60 minutes draw.

This time? No time limit, two out of three falls. After a nearly 65 minutes classic, which is considered by many to be the match of the year, the mighty Rainmaker would fall to the Best Bout Machine, ending Okada’s reign at 720 days, being the longest reign ever, in possibly the best and most dramatic way one could have ever imagined.

From that moment on, absolutely everything would change for Okada. He is not the champion, he is not the mighty Rainmaker anymore. This is where the second argument supporting my earlier claim comes in. We got to witness a very different Okada, who, during his first appearance since Dominion, would not do his signature pose in the corner during his entrance. As time passed between Dominion and the beginning of the G1 Climax 28, Okada would drastically change his look, as well as his character approach.

The symbols of the Rainmaker would disappear, the robe, the necklace, the entrance theme, to leave out a nearly 30 years old man dying his hair red and carrying balloons to the ring. Even Gedo doesn’t accompany Okada to the ring anymore. During the G1, Okada and Gedo would confirm that they would not continue on together as the now famous pairing that they were for six years. They’d both remain in CHAOS, but the fans wouldn’t get to see Gedo alongside Okada again, managing him (We all know what happened further down the line). This drastic change of appearance, the more relaxed Okada we got to see over the latter part of this year is the biggest character shift he ever had to go through since 2012.

Obviously, Okada went from a cocky heel persona to a more approachable character for fans as time went on, as CHAOS itself evolved, just like its leader, but in the end, it was still the same Okada being way less heelish over time. With his recent change of character, Okada now looks like the weight of the world is finally off his shoulders and he can simply be himself, not the man who has to carry the company on his back. You see Okada bringing balloons with him, taking time to receive the fans’ appreciation during his entrance, becoming a funnier persona, you see him evolving into a new and improved version of the Rainmaker, that I would dare call “Tanahashi-esque”.

He’s obviously not exactly like Tanahashi, but if there was anything that Okada always lacked compared to his rival, it was the connection with the fans. While Okada managed to gain the audience’s respect and appreciation over the years, growing into a fan favourite, he still lacked that vibe which really makes fans relate to one’s character. Okada had to lose everything that made him so great in order to achieve just that. Losing the championship which defined him, his long-time manager and friend, and even parts of his character. Okada now starts to become a better and more relatable character than he ever was, and this is the second reason why 2018 was, once again, a year that Kazuchika Okada owned. Just in a different way than usual.

See, to me, and probably to others as well, being wrestler of the year doesn’t only mean putting on great matches day in and day out, which Okada has done. It is also being able to progress character wise, evolve, gain something new to who you are as a wrestler, as you’re being involved in different kinds of stories. Kazuchika Okada accomplished all of that this year, there is no doubt about it in my mind.

To fulfill his own destiny as Ace, Okada had to evolve as a character to reach new heights, to reach the heart of the New Japan fans. The road to become the true Ace of this new era will be long and hard, but at the end of it, the Kazuchika Okada character, the Rainmaker, will be complete.

Now tell me, what did you think of Okada’s evolution throughout 2018?


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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