The immediate future of New Japan Pro-Wrestling is at stake in Domain June 7th.
In a match for the vacant IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, the most prestigious wrestling title in the industry, the famous Kazuchika Okada takes on Shingo Takagi.
Okada is a five-time IWGP heavyweight champion. At 720 days, he has the longest reign in the title’s history and is synonymous with greatness in the entire industry. If he wins, this will be his first race as champion since the title was renamed the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. And with Will Ospreay vacating the title due to a neck injury, it would certainly make sense for Okada to regain his place at the top of the company.
Takagi makes a compelling case for being the new face of New Japan. He has fought all over the world, but his only singles titles at New Japan are two races with the NEVER Openweight Championship. He adds value to every match, although he didn’t originally appear to be a contender for the company’s main belt. In a more common, non-pandemic era of professional wrestling, it is unlikely that he would have received this main event opportunity. However, the 17-year-old pro now has the opportunity to do what once seemed unthinkable, pivot from a valuable place as the opponent and, with a victory, achieve the most lucrative prize of the fight by becoming the attraction. Winning this match changes his legacy, and Takagi is keenly aware of the stakes.
“I have worked very hard, physically and mentally, to get to this match,” said Takagi, speaking through a translator. “This is my career opportunity, my chance to make this moment come true and win the championship.”
Domain It traditionally takes place on June 6, but this year it will take place on June 7 due to an extension of the state of emergency in Osaka. The best scenario for New Japan is to have an impressive match, followed by a six-month title reign for the champion leading to Fight Kingdom 16 in January. But there are uncertainties that come into Domain Main event. Okada is recovering from battling COVID, so it is unknown how that might affect his performance in the ring, and it remains to be seen if the company wants to put all its faith in Takagi as a champion, especially when Okada is available to fill that role . .
2021 has been extremely bumpy for Takagi. The 37-year-old has become a global commodity in New Japan. After settling around the world, most notably Dragon Gate, he entered New Japan in October 2018. He immediately became a well-rounded player, joining the Ungovernables faction of Japan led by Tetsuya Naito. Months later, his violent physical style received an incredibly improved platform when he went undefeated in the first nine games of the season. The best of the Super Juniors tournament until finally falling in the final against Will Ospreay. Their tournament finale is a genuine example of exciting, gripping, back-and-forth professional wrestling, and it became the site where Takagi established himself as a legitimate presence in New Japan.
“That match gave people a strong impression of who I am,” Takagi said. “That was also my first main event at Sumo Arena, and my chance to show people a great performance in New Japan. I showed strong will in that match, and that determination is what I need to show again in Domain. “
The defining characteristic of Takagi is his fighting spirit. He brings a unique and endearing style every time he steps into the ring through his unwavering intensity.
Despite losing key games this year, such as the New Japan Cup Finals to Ospreay, as well as losing the openweight title earlier this year to Hiroshi Tanahashi, and then coming up short in a world title match against Ospreay , interest in Takagi has never waned. Even with defeats, his popularity continues to rise. And although other world titles, such as WWE, are more famous, there is no better wrestling title than the one recorded by IWGP. A title win for Takagi will please fans still frustrated by EVIL’s failed 48-day reign last summer, and will also forever legitimize Takagi’s position in the industry.
“I am focused on being champion,” said Takagi. “Honestly, I have a bit of an inferiority complex. I am smaller as a heavyweight so I need to be different from other heavyweights. I am fat and fit, but I can also move faster. I need to be mobile. For this next game, I thought about how I felt after the Ospreay game. I was really sad to be so close but not to win. I’ve worked a long time to get to this point and this is my chance ”.
Standing 5’10 ”, Takagi revealed that he initially wore his signature Mohawk hairstyle just to appear taller.
“I was trying to get taller, but my growth stopped,” Takagi said. “If I wanted to be a professional wrestler, I thought I had to be 6’0.” This is why I have a Mohawk and why I make it so big.
“Everything is part of my journey. I’ve had a long way to go to New Japan, so this means a lot more of a match to me. It’s been 17 years since I started in this business, but I knew it was since I was 14 that I fell in love with wrestling. I watched wrestling and I still remember thinking, ‘That’s what men should do. I even told my teachers at school that I was going to New Japan, All Japan or FMW. Later, I entered the Animal Hamaguchi dojo. Now is my chance to show who I am against Okada. “
Takagi and Okada may seem opposites, but their paths to New Japan share a healthy amount of connective tissue. Okada was educated in the old school teachings of the trade at Toryumon, a professional wrestling school run by Ultimo Dragon. In the summer of 2004, Dragon Gate was founded, following the principles of Toryumon, which is where Takagi learned those same principles.
“We are both from that Toryumon group, which is something we will always share,” Takagi said. “There are some differences. I graduated from high school, trained at the Animal Hamaguchi dojo, and then went to Toryumon. Okada moved to Mexico right after I entered Toryumon, and then he taught her Ultimo Dragon. My main teacher was Genichiro Tenryu. So we have a similar line-up, but with different styles.
“Okada’s style has a lot of influence from Mexico, and my fighting style doesn’t. We both have that Dragon style, but you see it in very different ways. “
That clash of philosophies will be present at the main event of Domain. Takagi is stepping back into wrestling history for additional inspiration, sharing that one of the most significant matches he saw took place in 1992, when Mitsuharu Misawa defeated Stan Hansen in All Japan for the Triple Crown.
“That was the game for me,” Takagi said. “He showed me how to overcome physical limits. To this day, that remains my mantra: mind over body.
“In Japan, the priorities are mind, technique and body. Technique is very important and I need to be mentally strong. But of those three elements, the mental aspect is very important to me. And a match against Okada is like a chess match. “
There are few bigger stages in the industry than a New Japan main event against Okada, and the timing is perfect to ignite Takagi’s first world title in New Japan. Somehow, the industry needs Takagi to emerge victorious. A victory illustrates that it is possible to take a different path to the top of New Japan, and it also creates an extremely fascinating landscape with him as champion.
Takagi is a machine in the ring, and his rise feels both natural and organic. His own history encompasses much of the New Japan style; He’s hard-hitting and hard-working in the ring, hitting harder and working harder than his teammates. This is also a chance to see Takagi’s devastating Pumping Bomber against Okada’s famous Rainmaker.
I use the ropes and my whole body, so my Pumping Bomber is more powerful than the Rainmaker, ”said Takagi. “Okada is about to experience it many times.”
The first half of 2021 has been full of brilliant matches for Takagi. Now he is presented with the opportunity of his career, the opportunity to deliver a climactic moment at Osaka Jo Hall in Domain.
“My fingers grip the cliff, but I can climb to the top only if I defeat Okada,” Takagi said. “This is a must win. I don’t know what will happen to me if I lose. Maybe no more title games, maybe it will prevent us from competing in the G1 later this year.
“I need a little luck and I have been praying. This is my chance to become the top of New Japan. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.