Monday 3 August 2015

Another Level

I think we can all agree that Kazucika Okada is a pretty talented dude. You don't make it to the top of a company like New Japan if you're not, especially when they're on the sort of hot streak they've been on for the last few years. He is easily amongst the best wrestlers in the world today, being capable of putting of good matches with lesser performers and having classics with great ones, possesses that all important star look, and (from what I can make out from his confidence and body language) he's a pretty solid promo.

As good as he is I've been wondering recently how far he'd make it outside of the confines of NJPW. In other words I've wondered how much of his success is down to him being booked well and how much is down to his own innate ability and work ethic. Not in a disparaging way, more idly thinking about whether he could succeed elsewhere without his formidable 'Rainmaker' gimmick.

Much of his success since returning to New Japan from TNA can be attributed to the way he's been presented. This goes beyond the way his matches are booked and how he's presented. No wrestler, no matter how good they are, is going to make it to the top if they're not given the time to compete in good matches or showcase a compelling character. I'm thinking more specifically about the character redesign Okada got when he returned.

He wasn't booked like this in TNA.
It's all about that 'Rainmaker' gimmick I described as formidable two paragraphs ago. It's one of the best in wrestling today. A great look was put together for it, one that makes the most of Okada's statuesque physique and good looks, but it's the basic premise that really sets it apart. The idea that Okada is so great, so valuable and talented, that he adds lustre to New Japan just by being on the roster is a perfect fit for wrestling. It's something incredibly simple that does loads for the man it's attached to and plays into the fact that he's a young lad who has really good matches on a regular basis.

But without this gimmick what would Okada have? For argument's sake let's say he signed for WWE. He wouldn't have the 'Rainmaker' name. That belongs to NJPW. He could do a version of the gimmick but part of the reason it works is the name. He wouldn't necessarily receive the focused booking and various protection methods he's been afforded in New Japan. He definitely wouldn't have Gedo with him, and that counts for a lot as by all accounts Gedo is not only his on-screen manager but his off-screen mentor. Their relationship seems to be pretty similar to the one Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman share. It seems fair to assume that Gedo has helped Okada progress as a performer. He's definitely been the one booking him strongly for the past several years.

A move to WWE would leave Okada reliant on his own showmanship abilities and, well, they don't seem to be all that strong. His most prominent work outside of NJPW was in TNA. Okay, nobody truly succeeds in TNA and Okada was booked as a low card afterthought while he was there but he showed no aptitude for making himself stand out. His run there ended with him playing Samoa Joe's Green Hornet-inspired sidekick, and that was awful, but he had time before being lumbered with that gimmick to change up his look. That he didn't indicates that presentation is an aspect of the wrestling business lost on him. That would be a massive hindrance in WWE, who want guys who know how to get themselves over before being given any sort of significant push. That and guys who look like Roman Reigns.

All of which is fair enough. Nobody's good at everything. Okada doesn't have much flamboyance to him. That doesn't matter right now. He has a gimmick that allows his lack of emotion to be interpreted as him thinking himself above everyone else because of how talented and inherantly valuable he is. He has a manager who can help with this too. And a flashy entrance outfit. He has everything he needs for the spot he's in. And really that's all that matters.

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