One year and nine months into his fourth reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada has officially tied the record for number of title defenses after defeating Zack Sabre, Jr. at Sakura Genesis today. That record stands at eleven, a figure previously set by Hiroshi Tanahashi in the 404-day reign he began at Wrestle Kingdom V and that ended in the Rainmaker’s first shocking title victory on his return to New Japan in 2012.
The match itself was excellent, Zack Sabre, Jr. using his technical excellence to keep Okada off balance, weakening a leg and the Rainmaker arm so as to try and ensure he could escape any of Kazuchika’s most dangerous holds. And indeed, it worked for quite a long time, ZSJ able to duck, dodge, and counter several Rainmakers and escape the Tombstone piledriver as well, all while piling the punishment on the champion with hold after hold after hold, but as so often is the case, Okada was able to dig deep and find a way to hit one more and do the deal.
The defense record is one of the few things left for the Rainmaker to achieve in New Japan, and now that he’s just one away, the obvious questions are when does he get a chance to break it and against whom? Fortunately a post-match angle answered at least part of that, as Okada and Gedo wondered who might possibly take the next challenge, and Tanahashi answered.
So, whether it be at Wrestling Dontaku in May or Dominion in June, it seems likely that the once and future ace and the Rainmaker will do battle, with not just the title on the line, but also whether the defense record can be shared or if Okada will pull ahead.
And if he does, the only major records left to break will be the total reigns record (held by Tanahashi with seven reigns) and the all-time defense record, also held by Tanahashi and currently set at 28 to the Rainmaker’s 24.
Full Sakura Genesis Results:
Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) over Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) by submission with a Sharpshooter from Matt on Owens.
Post-match, the Bucks offer handshakes and Chase & Yujiro accept them.
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) over Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Takashi Iizuka) by pinfall with a low blow and a lariat-assisted schoolboy pin from Yano on Iizuka.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) (c) over Taguchi Japan (Michael Elgin, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Togi Makabe) by pinfall with Gun Stun from Tonga on Taguchi to retain the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship.
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, & Juice Robinson over Chaos (Hirooki Goto, “Switchblade” Jay White, & YOSHI-HASHI) by pinfall with High Fly Flow from Tanahashi on YOSHI-HASHI.
Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, & Minoru Suzuki) over Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) by pinfall with Killer Bomb from Killer Elite Squad on EVIL.
Naito cuts a post-match promo telling Suzuki that he doesn’t think the Intercontinental Championship is worth anything, but if he wants a fight, all he has to do is step up and ask. Suzuki fires back that Tetsuya is “a piece of shit” and claims that he is the king of pro wrestling.
Naito proceeds to say that maybe he’s pissed Minoru off enough for one night and drops the catchphrase, which just makes Suzuki angry enough to throw furniture, as it turns out.
After, we take a short break for a video confirming all the dates for this year’s G1 Climax.
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) over Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) and Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. by pinfall with Pinche Loco from Desperado on YOH to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
Will Ospreay (c) over Marty Scurll by pinfall with the OsCutter to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Post-match, a bloodied Ospreay calls KUSHIDA out, saying he’s beaten Hiromu and Marty and to prove to everyone that his victory over KUSHIDA wasn’t a fluke, he wants the match one more time. KUSHIDA accepts with a thumbs up and we’re on!
Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes & Hangman Page) over Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) by pinfall with a schoolboy pin and a handful of tights from Rhodes on Ibushi.
Post-match, Cody and Hangman beat Kota down while Omega reaches desperately to help his partner. Kenny manages to find a second wind in time to save Ibushi from being attacked with a chair!
Kazuchika Okada (c) over Zack Sabre, Jr. by pinfall with the Rainmaker to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Post-match, Okada and Gedo issue their usual show-closing comments, asking who could possibly be next, and Tanahashi comes out to lay his claim to the next title shot.