Kazuchika Okada made a surprise appearance at New Japan’s May 26th Korakuen Hall show.
The Rainmaker had been missing for some time, amidst speculation of injury and more recently, as one of several unnamed New Japan wrestlers to have contracted COVID-19.
Addressing the crowd prior to the event, Okada acknowledged both Will Ospreay having vacated the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, as well as the postponement of the company’s return to the Tokyo Dome, Wrestle Grand Slam, before reaffirming his desire to contest the title.
Having been scheduled to challenge Ospreay for the belt at The Dome, Okada had the following message for the Korakuen faithful:
I’m taking my title shot. I’m in street clothes tonight, but next time you see me I’ll be in my ring gear and kicking ass
Backstage, the five-time former IWGP Heavyweight Champion confirmed that he had in fact been one of the wrestlers to have caught COVID-19 but noted that he had been well looked after by New Japan throughout:
It’s been a hectic few days, but like I said in the ring, I’m doing great. I had COVID, and my matches were delayed. Yokohama Stadium and Tokyo Dome might have been postponed, but to further postpone my (IWGP World Heavyweight Championship) challenge, now that I’m fit and healthy, I can’t let that slide. So that’s why I took the time to come out here and say what I said.
I said this on the radio, but as far as my COVID experience is concerned, I have nothing but gratitude. To the doctors, the health center staff and most of all to NJPW. Even when everything was very uncertain, the company did everything they could to look after me and the care was top notch. It’s because of all that I’m able to be here today as healthy as I am. The company has decided to keep everybody’s names private… although I went and blabbed on my own, heh. But I got permission for that… maybe that wasn’t something they were planning to give, but they said it was just as important for me to be able to put it out there.
Having traditionally kept a busy schedule, particularly as champion, Okada also noted his frustration over his lack of activity thus far in 2021:
This month, I only wrestled three days, and even last month I could count my matches on one hand. So I’ve got a lot of stuff pent up. I don’t know what’s around the corner, but I’m ready to let loose, and you can look forward to seeing that.