POLLOCK'S UPDATE: Kazuchika Okada - "This might be my last chance"

Originally published at Kazuchika Okada - "This might be my last chance"


**We are back at 11:05 p.m. ET tonight for Rewind-A-Raw to discuss the show from New Orleans, the latest on Seth Rollins, all the news from the weekend, and take your feedback.

**Bruce Lord and Karen Peterson have an extended chat with reaction to Kazuchika Okada’s pending departure from New Japan and the impact it will have. The full show and review of New Beginning in Nagoya is on the POST Wrestling Café feed.

**The latest N.W.A. Podcast is out featuring Nate Milton, Andrew Thompson, Kris Ealy, and Two-Way Ray chatting a month’s worth of news and topics from around the pro wrestling space.

**Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter returns this Wednesday on Pollock & Thurston.  


: Rewind-A-Raw with John Pollock & Wai Ting
Tuesday: The Wellness Policy – “Faith”
Tuesday: upNXT with Davie Portman & Braden Herrington
Wednesday: Pollock & Thurston with guest Dave Meltzer
Wednesday: Rewind-A-Dynamite
Thursday: Rewind-A-Wai #148 – You Cannot Kill David Arquette (POST Wrestling Café)
Friday: MCU L8R – Echo Ep. 3 & 4 with WH Park & Rich Fann (POST Wrestling Café)
Friday: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John Pollock & Neal Flanagan (POST Wrestling Café)
Saturday: WWE Royal Rumble review
Sunday: Collision Course with John Siino & Kate from Montreal(POST Wrestling Café)


**Kazuchika Okada spoke to Tokyo Sports on his decision to leave New Japan Pro Wrestling next month (From English translation):

First of all, this year was the fifth year (the final year) of his contract. I guess it was a good time to think about something. When I was thinking about whether I would sign with New Japan Pro Wrestling again or whether I should look elsewhere in the world, I realized that this might be my last chance.

We’ve been talking about various things, of course, but also about the company, and we’ve been together for a while now. I only recently made the decision.

Last Thursday, New Japan revealed that the 36-year-old was leaving the company with his deal expiring on January 31 but will work through February including the two New Beginning cards in Hokkaido on February 23 & 24. They have changed the lineups where the NEVER Six-Man title defense will now take place this Wednesday and Okada will have a 1-on-1 match against Hiroshi Tanahashi on February 11 in Osaka.

There is nothing new to report on the Okada front beyond the obvious two suitors going after Okada and no indication of the performer deciding yet. It’s a tough pill for NJPW to swallow and the true impact won’t be felt until we see the trend of Japanese stars in the pipeline and if NJPW becomes a stepping stone. Immediately, there should be excitement around the product and who gets the sizable push should make for a newsworthy New Japan Cup in March. Okada is leaving when he’s still young enough at 36 and healthy enough to have many big years and with two companies wanting him, he stands to become a very well-compensated performer no matter who he signs with. There will be winners and losers in this equation, but Okada isn’t going to be one of them. If WWE is the unknown, the fact he’ll command so much, he can’t be brought in and become an afterthought but there are more questions in a WWE system than AEW where it’s less of a transitional period. Just like everyone watched how WWE would handle Cody Rhodes in 2022 and serve as a message to other AEW talents looking to jump, Okada will be viewed the same by those in New Japan and will reinforce the idea that WWE is the be-all, end-all with an easier pipeline into their system.

**Monday Night Raw is at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana tonight for the go-home Raw before Royal Rumble. The show will begin with an update from Seth Rollins regarding the severity of his knee injury sustained in the match with Jinder Mahal last week. Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select first reported he had a torn MCL and partially torn meniscus. If Rollins requires surgery, that would dramatically impact things while rehab only would likely keep Rollins in the mix for WrestleMania but that’s up in the air until his update is given.

WrestleTix reports over 8,100 tickets out for the show.

Here are the announced matches and segments:
*Seth Rollins kicks off the show
*CM Punk and Cody Rhodes have a face-to-face
*Drew McIntyre vs. Damian Priest
*The Miz vs. Dominik Mysterio
*Ivar vs. Chad Gable
*Ivy Nile vs. Valhalla 

**We will have a story on the U.S. viewership figures out later, but Friday Night SmackDown was the top sports program in Canada on Friday night ahead of Curling, NHL, and NBA. It was also SmackDown’s largest viewership in Canada since October 27.

**New Japan is running Korakuen Hall four times over the next two weeks beginning with back-to-back nights on Tuesday. The show on Wednesday is an important one with Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii defending the NEVER Openweight Six-Man titles against Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls & Kosei Fujita. However, the main event is Shota Umino vs. Ren Narita and those two are in a big position to have the match of their lives and project the air of stability in the company and that the future is bright. Tama Tonga is wrestling on both Korakuen Hall shows this week after dropping the NEVER Openweight title to EVIL over the weekend.

Tuesday’s show streams at 4:30 a.m. ET with El Desperado vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title, SHO vs. Master Wato, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi & Yota Tsuji & Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs. SANADA & Taichi & Yuya Uemura & DOUKI & Taka Michinoku, EVIL & Ren Narita & Yujiro vs. Tama Tonga & Shota Umino & Togi Makabe, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii & Tomoaki Honma vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls & Kosei Fujita, El Phantasmo & Hikuleo & Jado vs. KENTA & Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori, David Finlay & Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin & Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney vs. Great O-Khan & HENARE & TJP & Francesco Akira & Callum Newman, and YOH & Shoma Kato vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & Katsuya Murashima.

Wednesday’s show at 4:30 a.m. ET has Ren Narita vs. Shota Umino in the main event, Okada & Tanahashi & Ishii vs. Haste & Nicholls & Fujita for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles, Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi vs. SANADA & DOUKI, Shingo Takagi & Yota Tsuji & BUSHI vs. Taichi & Yuya Uemura & Taka Michinoku, David Finlay & Alex Coughlin & Gabe Kidd & Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney vs. Great O-Khan & TKP & Francesco Akira & HENARE & Callum Newman, EVIL & SHO & Yujiro & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Tama Tonga & El Desperado & Master Wato & Tomoaki Honma, El Phantasmo & Hikuleo & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. KENTA & Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tiger Mask, and Oleg Boltin & Shoma Kato vs. Toru Yano & Katsuya Murashima.

**Due to the flu, Chris Charlton will not be calling the Korakuen Hall shows this week with Walker Stewart.

**Tetsuya Naito spoke with NJPW1972.com about winning the IWGP title at Wrestle Kingdom 18, his latest eye surgery last year, and the future stars of the company:

Whatever sport you follow, that changing of the guard is a fact of life. You can’t resist that, and if it didn’t happen then we wouldn’t move forward as a genre. NJPW needs this and I know I’m not going to be around forever. It’s a little sad to be in my spot, but I can grow from this pressure, it’s something that I never felt before, and that’s exciting.

He also commented on the match-ending Destino to SANADA at Wrestle Kingdom where the clashed heads and Naito required stitches from the cut:

We clashed heads when I went for that last Destino. So after the match, I got to the back, gave my comments, went to the trainer’s room and got six stitches. I really didn’t want them and asked if there was another way, but didn’t have a choice. Those stitches hurt like hell. The anesthetic before- can you imagine getting a shot on your eyelid? But the doctor’s all happy go lucky about it. Actually on the last Korakuen shows of the year I got hit on the other side, and that was three stitches on that eyelid. So I had nine stitches across two eyes within two weeks of one another.

**Hulu has released a trailer for Love & WWE: Bianca & Montez, which premieres on the streaming service on February 2.

**NXT on Tuesday includes a semi-final match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Nathan Frazer & Axiom taking on Baron Corbin & Bron Breakker, Lexis King vs. Trey Bearhill, Dijak vs. Joe Gacy, Blair Davenport vs. Karmen Petrovic, and Lash Legends vs. Wren Sinclair (the former Madi Wrenkowski). 

**AEW has made a slew of announcements for Wednesday’s show in Savannah, Georgia. The most noteworthy is a first-time match between Adam Copeland and Minoru Suzuki. They have announced Jeff Hardy vs. Swerve Strickland, Penta El Zero Miedo vs. Hangman Page, Wardlow vs. Trent Beretta, and The Acclaimed & Daddy Ass defending the AEW Trios belts against The Mogul Embassy. There will be a face-to-face involving Toni Storm and Deonna Purrazzo and appearances by Sting & Darby Allin.

**TNA has released the full match between Will Ospreay and Josh Alexander from last week’s taping in Las Vegas and airing on Impact last week.

**STARDOM’s next big card is February 4 in Osaka with Maika vs. Saya Kamitani for the World of Stardom title, Saori Anou vs. Starlight Kid for the Wonder of Stardom title, and the return of Tam Nakano as she teams with Yuna Mizumori against Mina Shirakawa & Waka Tsukiyama.


**I don’t want to take up too much room because most are here for the news and I hate the fact that I’m a part of the news cycle. I addressed the press conference interaction with Dana White on the UFC 297 review and don’t have much to add. I appreciate those who have reached out and regardless of where you stand on the issue, it was a subject that I felt needed to be addressed and that was the forum for it. By choosing to ask about a subject like that, I have to accept all the blowback that comes with it and am not deterred by that trade-off in the least.

**Frankie Edgar was announced as the first inductee for this year’s UFC Hall of Fame as part of the Modern Wing. Edgar had an incredible career, he fought a significant portion of it above his natural weight class and virtually cut no weight to compete and become champion at 155 pounds. In 2010, he earned a title fight against BJ Penn when Penn was the most dominant lightweight of the era and Edgar won a hotly contested decision at UFC 112. They had a rematch later that year and Edgar solidified his spot as the undisputed top lightweight by beating Penn a second time. From the standpoint of legacy building, the Penn fights rank highly but for sheer action and acclaim, Edgar will always be linked to Gray Maynard and one of the greatest comebacks at UFC 125 in January 2011 where he was knocked down multiple times in the first round and managed to earn a draw over twenty-five minutes. It was a legendary fight and the second of three fights they had with the final one in October of that year where Edgar stopped him with strikes in the fourth round. He lost the title to Benson Henderson in February 2012 and again in August of that year in two super-close fights that both went the distance.

He moved down to featherweight and immediately received a title fight against Jose Aldo and lost by unanimous decision in February 2013. He fought at featherweight for over seven years and went 8-5 including an interim title loss to Aldo and losing to then-champion Max Holloway in July 2019. His final campaign was at bantamweight (which could have been his weight class all along, but it didn’t exist when he entered the UFC and featherweight only came along in 2011). His career ended with three consecutive knockout losses to Cory Sandhagen, Marlon Vera (who is challenging for the title in March), and Chris Gutierrez before retiring. There was no question regarding his Hall of Fame status, and he noted he had no idea he was being inducted until they aired the video at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. He was flown into Toronto and was part of a guest panel with former UFC fighters Mark Hominick and Sam Stout on Friday before the ceremonial weigh-ins.

**Dricus du Plessis won by split decision against Sean Strickland to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion in a close fight. I had du Plessis winning Rounds 2-4 with Strickland bookending the fight with rounds in his favor. Early in the bout, du Plessis could not see out of his left eye and was tended to between rounds as the swelling went down but was an issue he had to deal with throughout the fight. Strickland mentioned a headbutt that affected him but when asked at the press conference, du Plessis didn’t recall their heads colliding. The middleweight title picture appears to be contingent on when Israel Adesanya wants to return and whether he would have an automatic rematch for the title, albeit with a new opponent in du Plessis. Khamzat Chimaev is in the mix as a wild card to receive the next title fight but his last fight in the division was against Kamaru Usman, who was coming up from welterweight. Strickland will almost surely fight for the title again and if the UFC is in a pinch with no contenders ready, it wouldn’t stun me for Strickland to receive the call but likely gets a fight in the interim. The fact this card did so well at the gate and Strickland was easily the top star on the show is going to ensure his status near the top of the division.

Strickland wrote:

I didn’t take the cowards way out and tell the doctor I couldn’t see and got a no contest…. The only reason why you took a round from me is because I couldn’t see.. I won that fight, the world knows I won that fight……. The belt they gave you will never make you a champion, enjoy….

They had to stitch through muscle to get it closed.

Thank you to everyone your support has really kept my head up high through all this, grateful forever

**The UFC has the weekend off and returns on February 3 at the Apex with Roman Dolidze (12-2) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (12-4, 1 NC) in a middleweight fight. It is the start of eleven consecutive weekends of UFC cards.

**Next month’s UFC 298 pay-per-view will have an opponent change. On the UFC broadcast on Saturday, it was announced that Anthony Hernandez’s new opponent will be Roman Kopylov, who replaces Ikram Aliskerov. Hernandez (11-2, 1 NC) has won his last four fights with Kopylov having the same number of wins in a row. The two will be part of the card on February 17 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, which is headlined by Alexander Volkanovski vs. Ilia Topuria for the UFC Featherweight Championship.

**The PFL will host a press conference at Hard Rock Live in Davie, Florida this Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET to promote the PFL vs. Bellator card next month in Saudi Arabia. Company CEO Peter Murray will be joined by Ryan Bader, Renan Ferreira, Impa Kasanganay, Johnny Eblen, Jason Jackson, Jesus Pinedo, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Bruno Cappelozza, Vadim Nemkov, Clay Collard, AJ McKee, Thiago Santos, Yoel Romero, Claressa Shields, and Kelsey DeSantis.

THE N.W.A. PODCAST – New Year’s ROCKin’
The Advocates kick off the new year with a discussion of January’s biggest topics including The Rock’s WrestleMania 40 involvement and Kazuchika Okada’s NJPW departure.
John Pollock is solo to review the UFC 297 card with Sean Strickland vs. Dricus du Plessis for the UFC Middleweight Championship.
Jon Moxley returns to AEW Collision and John Siino returns to Collision Course, where he and Kate From MTL give their thoughts on the show.
Bruce Lord & Karen Peterson discuss Kazuchika Okada departing NJPW and review NJPW New Beginning in Nagoya featuring Tama Tonga vs. EVIL.
Wai Ting is joined by Neal Flanagan to review this week’s WWE SmackDown. Plus, the latest on the news of Kazuchika Okada’s NJPW departure.

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I think Dana White’s response to you could have been a lot worse, but I’m glad you weren’t deterred by it. I give credit to you asking about it.