Hamish Woodward

How Okada Joining TNA Was The Catalyst For AEW’s Formation

Kazuchika Okada, Young Bucks

If Kazuchika Okada never went on excursion in 2010 to TNA, AEW would never have come into existence.

Sound mental? Exactly. It is mental. But that doesn’t make it untrue.

Without Okada, there would be no AEW, which means there would be no CM Punk. Nobody would have got hit at All Out 2022, and the WWE would continue their monopoly in the world of wrestling.

One million fans a week would likely have quit altogether, and the pro-wrestling business would be a much worse place, with less companies that wrestlers to go to to earn a living.

Here is how Kazuchika Okada going to TNA is the reason for AEW’s existence.

How Kazuchika Okada In TNA Started A Butterfly Effect To The Start Of AEW

It sounds hard to believe, but the first domino that fell to start AEW was when a young Japanese talent was sent on excursion to TNA.

This is common in Japan. They train up their young wrestlers in their own dojos, teaching them to wrestle (just like their version of the WWE Performance Centre).

Once they are trained, they wrestle in warm-up matches before NJPW events, but each wrestler wears the same thing, and does the same moves.

They all wear black trunks and boots, and wrestle an identical style. This is to teach them the basics and become proficient in the ring.

Some of the Young Lions wrestling in NJPW

They are then sent abroad to learn a new style of wrestling, and to come up with a new character, once they return after a few years away.

Kazuchika Okada was one of the most promising Young Lions to come from the NJPW dojo, so was sent to America to work for TNA.

Here, he was treated as a lower-card wrestler, losing the majority of his bouts in disappointing fashion.

He would later be re-introduced to the fans as Okato, a take on the character “Kato” from the Green Lantern movie. This borderline-racist interpretation was a complete failure, but Okada has credited his TNA run on helping him learn character work.

I learned in TNA that I needed more than just a good match–I needed a character. That’s how I became the “Rainmaker.” It was good for me. TNA didn’t use me, but I got hungrier to wrestle. The struggle made me better. I was always a good wrestler. I feel like I can wrestle anybody.

Of course, I wanted to main event wrestling matches in TNA, but in their eyes, no, that would not happen. So I went back to New Japan. I took the timing and technique I learned in the U.S. back with me to Japan.

Kazuchika Okada, Sports Illustrated

The Young Bucks Helped Okada During a Tough Time In TNA

However, Kazuchika Okada did not always enjoy his time in TNA. During one match early on in his run, he was told he needed to bleed in a match, as decreed by then-head of creative Vince Russo.

This would be the catalyst that led The Young Bucks down the path of success, eventually leading to the formation of AEW and the return of CM Punk to wrestling.

Okada did not want to bleed during the match, being afraid to do so. It was also a match that really didn’t require it, and bleeding had become a bit of a taboo in wrestling during that time.

Not wanting to do this, he sought the help of the Young Bucks, who talked to TNA management and got the segment changed.

In their book, Killing the Business, the Young Bucks wrote:

“One day, a never-serious [Kazuchika] Okada approached Matt [Jackson] and me [Nick Jackson[, but this time he seemed legitimately scared.

“‘They [TNA management] want me to bleed tonight. They want me to cut’ he said, while pointing to his forehead, ‘But I don’t want to. Please help me’.

In wrestling, to increase the level of drama, wrestlers will sometimes secretly cut themselves with a tiny razor blade. The act is referred to as ‘blading’ or ‘gigging’.

In the old days, it was a normal, common occurrence, but around this time it was done less and less and was becoming quite controversial in the business.

We approached the producer of the segment, Pat Kenney, who was a former wrestler named Simon Diamond, who explained the situation,

‘We’re gonna have to talk to Vince [Russo]’ said Pat. Like approval over our haircut, all the decision came down to Vince, no matter how big or small.

We found Vince shortly after and told him how nervous Okada was about blading. We outright said we didn’t think it was needed.

To his credit, he quickly agreed. We came back to Okada and told him it was taken care of, and I’d never seen anyone more relieved. it was the least we could do for one of our own.”

Kazuchika Okada was very grateful to the Young Bucks for helping him out. He never forgot their kindness, and eventually got them a job in Japan off the back of it.

This Got The Young Bucks A Job With New Japan

The Young Bucks AEW Contract

Years later, the Young Bucks received a call from NJPW, offering them a job based on a character recommendation from them-IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada.

Matt Jackson wrote in their book, once again;

“Tiger Hattori was now calling me on the phone. ‘Matt? Okada says you guys are good workers. he say you aslo good boys. We need new junior heavyweight tag team. Do you want to to come to Japan?’

He offered us $1,8000 each per week, and we accepted.”

So, the Young Bucks were off to Japan, thanks to the good word put in for them by Okada.

This trip would mark the meeting of Kenny Omega and the eventual joining of the Bullet Club.

Here They Became Friends Kenny Omega and Joined Bullet Club

After flying to Japan for their first New Japan tour, Nick and Matt Jackson were quickly introduced as the newest members of the insanely popular heel faction, Bullet Club.

They joined big stars like Prince Devitt (WWE’s Finn Balor), Bad Luck Fale and Karl Anderson in the group, and soon became very popular in Japan.

But it was Japan where the duo became firm friends with Kenny Omega. While they had met him in passing over the years, they had not spoken to him in a long time. Omega has since moved to Japan and was gaining a following in Japan as one of their top wrestlers.

The trio became incredibly close during this time, as three members of Bullet Club. They became inseparable, travelling and hanging out together as much as they could during the tours of Japan.

They remained part of Bullet Club for six years, even forming a spin-off faction called The Elite, with also included the likes of Cody Rhodes, Adam Page and Marty Scurll.

This group would eventually splinter off, running their own show in the United States that turned wrestling on its head – All In.

Tony Khan Attended All In And Formed All Elite Wrestling

In 2018, The Elite took a bet with Dave Meltzer on Twitter that an indie show couldn’t sell 10,000 tickets in the United States.

They did it in 30 minutes.

All In was a Ring of Honor produced show that was the precursor to AEW, and showed the appetite fans had for wrestling outside of the WWE.

Built from nothing by The Elite, it was a showcase of all things wrestling outside of the WWE. Ring of Honor, NWA, New Japan and Lucha Libre were all represented, with stars like Okada, Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho all taking part in the event.

Another man in attendance was Tony Khan. He let Chris Jericho use his jet to fly to the event from a Fozzy concert, and was a huge wrestling fan.

Due to the success of all in, he began talks with The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega about starting a wrestling company, along with other big names like Jim Ross and Chris Jericho.

This company became All Elite Wrestling, currently the second biggest company in the United States. It began in 2019, running their first even in May that year, called AEW Double or Nothing 2019.

4 years on, it has grown enormously, selling over 70,000 tickets for their debut even in the UK, also called All In.

Without Kazuchika Okada recommending The Young Bucks to New Japan, they never would have met Kenny Omega and the Elite.

Without them, they never would have run All In, which would never have got the attention of Tony Khan and started the formation of All Elite Wrestling.

Fans have Kazuchika Okada to thank for AEW. CM Punk never would have come back to wrestling, had Vince Russo not told Okada to bleed.

Wrestling is wild.

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