Dave Meltzer Predicts Who Will Step Up In NJPW To Replace Kazuchika Okada

Former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada shocked the world when he informed NJPW he would be leaving the company once his contract expires. It was announced that The Rainmaker wouldn't be renewing his deal that expires on January 31, leading many to wonder whether he will end up in WWE, AEW, or TNA. When someone as big as Okada leaves a promotion, there will obviously be a void that needs to be filled. In the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer offered his thoughts on who could potentially step up. Meltzer noted that the long-term answer isn't going to be Hiroshi Tanahashi, or current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito as both men are hurting physically, and Naito needs a deep roster of challengers to fight against in the coming months.

Meltzer highlighted Hiromu Takahashi as a potential candidate to fill the hole left by Okada, as he is extremely popular with the fans and sells a lot of merchandise, both online and at live events. However, the one thing that could hold Takahashi back is that he has expressed his desire to headline the Tokyo Dome as a Junior Heavyweight. With that being said, The Timebomb has challenged for NJPW's top prize before, so a move in weight class could lead to more opportunities.

Other people on the NJPW roster who Meltzer believes need to be elevated to the championship picture are the likes of Yota Tsuji, Shota Umino, and Yuya Uemura, while performers such as Jeff Cobb, Zack Sabre Jr., and Shingo Takagi all need renewed focus as main event players. Whoever steps up to fill the shoes left by The Rainmaker will have a mountain to climb, as Okada has firmly established himself as an NJPW icon in the eyes of fans over the past 12 years.