There was an interesting name spotted backstage at this week's Monday Night Raw in Phoenix, AZ. About 20 minutes into the show, we started getting texts and emails from people backstage saying that IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada was there. Then, this video surfaced of Okada leaving the Talking Stick Arena.
It's not the first time that he's been seen at WWE show. He was a guest at the first NXT Takeover: Brooklyn show and SummerSlam on the following night. We don't know if he was there because WWE invited him or if he was just visiting friends Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami but there have been reports over the years claiming that WWE has had an interest in him. For the record, in a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated, Okada said that there has been no offer from WWE. Would he leave New Japan for WWE? Okada said, "Never. Many guys told me I should go, but there has been no offer."
New Japan Pro Wrestling owner Takaaki Kidani has said publicly that he sees Okada as the crown jewel of his promotion and he wanted to lock him into a multi-year contract. There have been reports in Japan saying that he's making somewhere between somewhere between $1.7 to $2.2 million per year. We don't know if he signed a long-term deal but Kidani said last year that he wanted to lock him in for 5 years.
It should also be noted that he is married to TV Asahi presenter Yoko Mori so her association with TV Asahi probably means that she would stay in the country and it would take a lot of money to convince Okada to leave NJPW for a full-time gig with WWE. Okada is coming off a successful IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense against Cody Rhodes at NJPW's 'G1 in USA Special' in Long Beach, California.
His matches with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11 and last month's Dominion show were considered to be among the best wrestling matches of all-time. At just 29 years old, he is the main face of NJPW and he is in the middle of one of the longest title reigns in company history. If you haven't had a chance to see him in action then I would suggest that you watch some of his matches on NJPWWorld.com or on the weekly NJPW show on AXS TV.
Okada vs. Kenny Omega III is scheduled to take place later this year.