Kazuchika Okada won the G1 Climax 31, defeating Kota Ibushi in the finals after the bout was stopped due to injury.
In lieu of carrying the G1 briefcase that holds a contract for an IWGP World Heavyweight Title bout at Wrestle Kingdom, Okada brought back the old IWGP Heavyweight Title that he helped make famous.
Speaking to NJPW, Okada explained why he brought back the title and why he holds the G1 in such high prestige.
"That belt has always been important to me, and that there is my connection to Ibushi while I wait for him to come back. He retired that belt, and it isn’t being used right now, so why not? In the past, G1 winners have had a briefcase, I’ll have a belt. I’m not calling myself the IWGP Champion, but I’ll have that belt until Ibushi comes back," he said.
When asked if he would hold both belts should he win the IWGP World Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom, Okada replied, "No, I’m not going to go for any convoluted stuff. All this is right now, is I want to protect this belt like it was my contract briefcase, and after that we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it. I mean, at the end of the day, briefcases, for a G1 champion? Pretty old hat wouldn’t you say? A briefcase really wouldn’t match my ring gear right now either. I think that it’s easier for casual fans to understand that winning the G1 makes you important, makes you a leader and gives you the responsibility to fire things up. Even though I’m not an IWGP Champion, I aim to be more important than the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. On another level, you might say."
Shingo Takagi, the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, was not pleased with Okada's comments and him bringing back the IWGP World Title.
Speaking about Shingo, Okada said, "Do your job as champion? Fire things up in your own way? Look, in 2012, I was the first one to have a contract for Wrestle Kingdom made after I won the G1. Since then, the winner got a shot. But now, winning my first G1 in seven years, I felt like, no, being the G1 winner is being a champion in its own right. Look, this thing of G1 = IWGP Championship challenge has been something people have taken for granted for the last few years now. But winning the G1, being the G1 winner, that’s being a champion in and of itself. Takagi should believe in himself more. Fight like a champion, have the fans believe that he and the World title really is the be all and end all. It’s weird that he seems scared by it all.
"Look, I lost to the IWGP Intercontinental Championship back in the day. That’s why I want to really carry myself as the G1 Champion, not the world heavyweight challenger. I don’t think that I will lose out to the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. I don’t think that the G1 is as important as the world title, I think it’s more important than the world title. After all, the world champion was in that tournament, but he didn’t win, I did. That’s why I said backstage that he should be challenging me, not the other way round. At the end of the day, I want to dispel that idea that winning the G1 makes you a challenger. After all, the G1 only comes once a year. I might have said all sorts of things when I was IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but that was then and this is now. I plan to be doing my job as champion, and if the IWGP World heavyweight Champion does the same, well that can only be a good thing."
Before Okada and Shingo potentially meet at Wrestle Kingdom, Okada will have to defend his briefcase/IWGP World Title against Tama Tonga, who was the only man to defeat him in the G1 Climax tournament, at NJPW Power Struggle.
You can view the lineup for NJPW Power Struggle by clicking here.