Kazuchika Okada Opens Up About Decision To Leave NJPW

Kazuchika Okada shocked the world this week when it was revealed that he would be leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling, a company he was part of for nearly two decades. In recent weeks, reports have stated Okada’s current contract with the company is set to expire at the end of January which will make him one of the most sought after free agents on the market.

In the past, WWE and AEW have both expressed interest in the 36-year-old and that still seems to be the case. WWE has had a “renewed interest” in him for quite some time. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter revealed that both WWE and AEW are making efforts to sign him and that there are sources on both sides that believe they can get the deal done.

Since the announcement on Thursday, Okada has largely stayed silent about the whole ordeal outside of an official statement. In a recent interview with Tokyo Sports, he noted his current contract expiring at the end of this month was for five years and he’s been weighing his options as the clock winds down. When he was thinking about re-signing with NJPW or look at other companies, he thought that this could be his last chance to go elsewhere.

Okada mentions that he’s been thinking about it for awhile but he only recently came to a decision. “After announcing that I was quitting and going on the tour…I felt too comfortable. I wondered what that would be like,” Okada said. “I started my wrestling career in Mexico, came to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and became a rainmaker 12 years later. Maybe if I stay here, I can wrestle without any inconvenience. But I don’t want to become the same Kazuchika Okada without such hunger. I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to rest on my laurels. If I were “human” Okada, I would have friends here, and I would be in the best environment. But as “wrestler” Okada, it was different.”

Newly appointed NJPW President Hiroshi Tanahashi commented on Okada’s departure following the news. While he would have loved to see more matches with the younger talent, he believes Okada has done enough for NJPW. Now, there is an abundance of talent that can step up to the plate, much like what happened when Kenny Omega left. “I think things will get interesting from now on,” Tanahashi said. “We have an abundance of talent right now, and there are a lot of young fighters in the dojo. When the rain stops, there will be a rainbow. Who will light up the future of New Japan when the rain of money stops falling?”