Kazuchika Okada learned a lot from watching Shawn Michaels

Kazuchika Okada learned a lot from watching Shawn Michaels
Kazuchika Okada learned a lot from watching Shawn Michaels

For at least the last three years, you would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished and critically-acclaimed wrestler on the planet than New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) star Kazuchika Okada.

The 33-year-old prodigy has cemented his status as the best wrestler of his generation with a collection of mat classics that could fill the Library of Congress. His combination of size, athleticism, and impeccable timing put in a rarified air that only a handful of wrestlers in history have come close to reaching.

WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels is one of those few.

In a career that spanned through four decades, “The Heartbreak Kid” built a legacy that now sees him often recognized as one of the three best wrestlers of all-time. Knowing that, it’s unsurprising to hear that Okada patterned a lot of his match layouts after Michaels’s matches.

Kazuchika Okada says that HBK/Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XIX helped him layout matches.

Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Okada talked about how Michaels’ WrestleMania XIX match with Chris Jericho impacted his approach to matches (h/t to Fightful’s Robert DeFelice for the transcription):

“The first match that made me realize how great wrestling is was Keiji Mutoh and Hiroshi Hase vs. Yuji Nagata and Jun Akiyama,” Okada says through a translator. “This was before NJPW World was around, so maybe non-Japanese fans aren’t so familiar with it, but it was a dream match and was fun to watch. There was one other match I used to watch a lot. It was on a DVD at my mentor Ultimo Dragon’s house, and that was Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 19. I learned so much from that match.”

While the Jericho/Michaels match at Mania is often overshadowed by their incredible 2008 feud, it still remains one of the best matches in that event’s history — doubly impressive considering how stacked the Mania XIX card was. While opinion on matches can vary, it’s telling that this one has been rated in the four-star ballpark, including a four-and-a-quarter star review from Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

In the same piece — multiple wrestlers were interviewed about their favorite matches — Michaels sounded humbled about that revelation while also saying that Okada would have no problem fitting into the WWE landscape if he ever made the jump:

“I’m so incredibly appreciative of that,” Michaels says. “I’ve always admired the style in Japan, and here’s a guy that admires my style. Someone once asked me how Okada would adjust if he were ever in the WWE, and I know the answer to that—he’d adjust fantastically, because he’s a fantastic talent. It’s like me. People would say, ‘Well, you only wrestled in the WWE,’ but I could have wrestled anywhere. When a guy is talented, he’s talented. So I’m thankful that Okada, this unbelievably talented young man, gained one or two things from my match.”

You can read the rest of the piece here.

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