SANADA Dethrones Kazuchika Okada As IWGP World Heavyweight Champion At NJPW Sakura Genesis

Fans of NJPW's Just Five Guys faction are celebrating today, as SANADA, who left Los Ingobernables de Japon to join the newly-formed group days before winning this year's New Japan Cup, defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis, marking the first world championship win of 16-year career. SANADA's monumental victory came just days before the seventh anniversary of his NJPW debut at Invasion Attack 2016, where he helped Tetsuya Naito win his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event.


SANADA's journey to the IWGP's top title was a long and treacherous one, having unsuccessfully challenged for the prize four times ahead of this morning's victory. Matches against Okada in and of themselves have historically been difficult for SANADA, too, entering the match with a staggering 1-8 record against the "Rainmaker" in singles competition. However, the former L.I.J. member's change in look, attitude, and faction alignment led him to success, overcoming Okada in about 27 minutes with the Deadfall.

Following his championship win, SANADA was congratulated and subsequently challenged by his former L.I.J. stablemate Hiromu Takahashi. Takahashi, the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, was successful in his third defense of that title earlier in the night when he overcame Robbie Eagles, TMDK's newest member, in the semi-main. While SANADA acknowledged Hiromu's challenge, he first laid out a challenge of his own, saying that the "Ticking Time Bomb" must first defend the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against Yoshinobu Kanemaru in order for a Champion vs. Champion match to be made for a later date.