He's probably the most popular wrestler in the world not in the WWE. His name is Kazuchika Okada, and he was just recently topped the PWI Top 500 Wrestlers of the Year awards at the number ranking. It was the first time a Japanese wrestler earned the distinction and with his matches over the last calendar year, it was an easy decision by those casting the votes.
Many wondered why the WWE has not made a conscious effort to sign Okada. After the success that has been Shinsuke Nakamura, it seems a clear win for Vince McMahon and the WWE—a company that traditionally dominates the PWI listings. Of course, on Okada's side, people have asked him why he wouldn't want to take his talents to the top wrestling promotion in the world?
Okada clearly understands that in today's wrestling environment, it takes more than just being a great wrestler to earn the top spot on PWI's list. It takes a personality, flashiness, charisma, and something that will catch the eyes of the fans in general. These are all qualities that make WWE stars WWE Superstars. It seems that Okada and WWE would be a perfect fit. He hasn't ruled out the possibility.
When asked about his future by Pro Wrestling Illustrated Podcast (transcribed by Wrestling Inc) and whether or not it included WWE, Okada responded, "there's really no telling what could happen. But just as much as I might feel the desire and the drive to be in a match against Jinder [Mahal] or something at that level at SummerSlam, just like Nakamura did, I might also want to jump into UFC. I might also want to go to Hollywood and try my luck there—maybe as the next James Bond. Also, I might desire to focus on the next challenge against Kenny [Omega] or whoever here. So, to be honest with you, I simply don't know."
From the sounds of things, Okada is thinking about much more than wrestling. New Japan has a far reach, but even with its expanding platform, does not compare to the WWE in terms of getting its wrestlers noticed. If Okada plans to take over the entertainment world, WWE seems to be the most natural next step.
The seeds for such a move have already been planted. Okada has been backstage at WWE events and watched full episodes of SmackDown Live from the gorilla position. He visited talents like Finn Balor, Nakamura, and Sin Cara.
Is this a sign that talks between the WWE and Okada are in place? Or, is Okada simply exploring his options and has earned enough respect in the wrestling world to get the royal treatment by those behind the scenes in the WWE?