NJPW News: Kazuchika Okada becomes the longest reigning champion in NJPW History
629 Days as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion places Okada at the mountaintop.
What’s the story?
Any discussions about the greatest World Champions in the history of professional wrestling will have to include “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada.
Okada, as of now, has become the longest reigning champion in the history of NJPW.
In case you didn’t know...
Okada has held heavyweight gold three times prior to his record-setting reign. His current reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion began in 2016 at Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall after defeating Tetsuya Naito with three “Rainmakers”.
The heart of the matter
With a history that stretches back to 1972 and eight active championships at the forefront of the company, it would be reasonable to assume that past wrestlers would’ve had the honour of becoming the longest reigning champion. But very few have come close to matching Okada’s 629-day run with the title.
The legendary Jushin Thunder Liger previously set the record for longest reigning champion during his sixth reign as IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Liger began his reign in 1993 and was champion for 628 days until he was forced to vacate the title due to injury.
Other than the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, no other active title has had champions with a reign greater than 564 days.
Most defunct championships with reigns greater than Okada’s current one, were associated with other promotions and not exclusively NJPW titles.
The only other reign from an NJPW-exclusive title that’s close to Okada’s current championship run is Hiroshi Tanahashi's 622-day reign with the now defunct IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship.
Okada’s next opponent will be the winner of the 2018 New Japan Cup which began March 9th 2018.
The early favorites to win the tournament are Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito; both men could face each other in the second round if they’re victorious this Sunday.
As Okada continues his legendary championship reign, the excitement surrounding his eventual defeat continues to build.
If Okada is ever defeated, whoever wins the title from him will have a monumental accomplishment to add to their resume, in addition to becoming the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.