Legendary Rivalry Renewed: Tanahashi Set to Challenge Okada in Record-Breaking Title Defense

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada narrowly defeated the submission specialist Zack Sabre Jr. in a brutal match at today’s NJPW Sakura Genesis event, tying the all-time record for successful defenses in a single title reign.

Shortly after the match, Hiroshi Tanahashi marched to the ring to congratulate Okada on yet another victory, but made his intentions very clear; the New Japan “Ace” is next in line for the title, and he’s planning on stopping the “Rainmaker” from breaking his record. While it hasn’t been announced exactly when the bout will take place, the likely options are Wrestling Dontaku on May 3-4th, or Dominion on June 8th.

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The Wrestling Observer Newsletter rated the rivalry between Tanahashi and Okada as the Feud of the Year for both 2012 and 2013, with the two wrestling three different Five Star matches. New Japan has largely kept them apart over the last few two years, as not a single one of the champion’s 11 defenses in his 650+ day reign have come from the “Ace”. With major victories over the likes of Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega, Katsuyori Shibata, Minoro Suzuki, Cody Rhodes and even Naomichi Marufuji, he has defeated virtually every credible threat at the top of the card, so the timing is right for the two.

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Here’s a look at the upcoming events airing live on New Japan World:

– Sakura Genesis (April 1) (English)

– Lion’s Gate Project 11 (April 10)

– Road to Wrestling Dontaku

  • April 13-14
  • April 23-24
  • April 27 (English)

– Wrestling Hi No Kuni (April 29) (English)

– New Japan Road (May 6)

– Lion’s Gate Project 12 (May 15)

– Best of the Super Jrs.

  • May 18-20 (English)
  • May 22 (English)
  • May 24-27
  • May 29-31
  • June 2
  • June 3-4 (English)

– Dominion (June 9)