New Japan News

Kazuchika Okada Captures IWGP World Heavyweight Championship At Wrestle Kingdom 16

Kazuchika Okada poses in ring

Kazuchika Okada has defeated Shingo Takagi to claim the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 16.

Kazuchika Okada is one of the most decorated champions in NJPW history having held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship five times for a combined reign of a record-setting 1790 days. Now, he has captured the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the first time by defeating ‘The Dragon’ Shingo Takagi.

The match itself was a hard-hitting affair with both men taking each other to the limit both in and outside the ring. At the mid-point, Okada kicked things into high gear after Takagi mocked his Rainmaker pose. Taking things to the outside, Okada tried to drop Takagi on the ramp, but it was the defending champion who hit a Death Vally Driver on the challenger instead.

Takagi had responses for the Money Clip and Tombstone, but the match ended after a back and forth of finisher attempts led to Okada hitting a massive Rainmaker lariat for the pinfall victory.

The victory means that Kazuchika Okada will go on to face his former CHAOS ally Will Ospreay in Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom 16 on January 5th. Ospreay and Okada have a storied rivalry going back to the 2020 G1 Climax.

At the time, the two were both members of CHAOS and set to do battle in the tournament. During their match, Great O-Khan unexpectedly made his return from excursion and attacked Okada, allowing Ospreay to take the victory over ‘The Rainmaker’. Ospreay then revealed that he was leaving CHAOS and forming his own faction, United Empire.

Ospreay then captured the newly minted IWGP World Heavyweight Championship – a unification of the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles – at Sakura Genesis in April 2021 from Kota Ibushi. He successfully defended against Shingo Takagi at Wrestling Dontaku that May but was forced to relinquish the belt soon after due to a neck injury.

Ospreay returned at Resurgence in August 2021, claiming to be the “real” World Heavyweight Champion and carrying his own title belt. NJPW decided to settle the controversy of the two championship claims by having the 2021 G1 winner Okada face then-champion Shingo Takagi on Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom while the winner would face Ospreay on Night 2 to determine the true IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.

Elsewhere on the show, El Desperado retained the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and Katsuyori Shibata wrestled his first official match since April 2017.

Full Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 1 results.