Radican’s One to Watch: A look at Great O-Khan’s fast ascension in New Japan, learning from Okada, Tanahashi, Naito

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: @SR_Torch)

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Tomoyuki Oka came up through the NJPW system as a Young Lion trained primarily by Yuji Nagata. Prior to training in wrestling, He had an ametuer wrestling background. In 2018, he went on an excursion to England and wrestled for NJPW affiliate promotion RPW.

While wrestling in RPW, Oka adapted a new gimmick and name, wrestling as the Great-O-Kharn and then modifying his name eventually to the Great-O-Khan. His gimmick is influenced by Mongol empire leader Ghenghis Khan.

O-Khan debuted in NJPW this past October during the G1 Climax tournament when he helped Will Ospreay beat Kazuchika Okada. He went on to work a short program where he dropped a match to Okada.

O-Khan and Ospreay were joined by Jeff Cobb and they formed The Empire. On the surface, O-Khan appeared to be a cartoon-esque stereotype that would fit right into the WWE mid-card as a stereotypical Japanese heel with ornate ring gear. Khan did little to quell this feeling with his over-the-top, slow walk to the ring for his entrance combined with funny movements. Heck, O-Khan wears a question mark over his face for each match as he makes his entrance.

O-Khan has proven to be so much more than a stereotypical gimmick during his short time on the roster since returning from excursion. He had a good match with Okada, but he clearly had room to grow in terms of how he carried himself in the ring.

O-Khan was put in a feud with Hiroshi Tanahashi that built to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 15: Night 1 in January. O-Khan’s movements were very methodical during the match and although the match was good, it dragged in spots given that O-Khan and Tanahashi were given 17 minutes to fill. Coming out of the match, something seemed to click for him.

Ospreay, O-Khan, and Cobb renamed themselves The United Empire. They went on a tear in tag matches and singles matches while feuding with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima. O-Khan started to look smoother in the ring and carried himself with more confidence.

The United Empire began beating down their opponents after traditional tags and six-man tags. It was O-Khan that was given the mic after each win to get more heat for the group. We’ve seen wrestlers fast-tracked from their excursion to the top of the card before. Jay White, adapting the Switchblade gimmick after his excursion in ROH, was quickly pushed to the top of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

O-Khan is a mix of old school and new school in terms of how he wrestles. It’s hard not to admire a man that uses the Iron Claw to set up his Eliminator finish, which is basically a chokeslam, but he uses the Iron Claw instead of grabbing the throat to execute it. O-Khan tweaked the move and applies the Iron Claw before slamming his opponent down to the mat.

O-Khan hasn’t been pushed to the top of the card yet, but he’s worked with the likes of Okada, Tanahashi, and now Naito since debuting his main roster gimmick in October. O-Khan has not only worked with three of the top five wrestlers in Japan, he has gotten better with each outing. It’s clear NJPW sees him as a top tier player in the future.

O-Khan recently picked up a big win in the first round of the 2021 New Japan Cup when he beat Tetsuya Naito with a leg submission. Not only was it somewhat of a surprise that O-Khan beat Naito, but it was how he beat him that was a real shocker. O-Khan managed to kick out of Destino late in the match and after an exchange of counters, he landed a leg submission on Naito forcing him to tap.

O-Khan most recently lost in the second round of the 2021 New Japan Cup despite outsmarting Toru Yano at his own game of cheating for most of the match. He ultimately took a surprise loss when Yano managed to connect with a low blow and a pinning combination after the ref got bumped.

Feuding with Okada and Tanahashi, a convincing ref stoppage win over Tetsuya Naito, and an upset win over Naito in the 2021 New Japan Cup are all things that make O-Khan someone to keep an eye on as a threat to take a top spot in New Japan in the near future.

The most intriguing thing about O-Khan’s New Japan future is he just keeps getting better and better with each outing. He’s clearly taking each match he works with a veteran and learning how to use those matches as learning experience.

Even if you just watch the way O-Khan moves in the ring now compared to Wrestle Kingdom, there’s a huge difference. He’s much smoother. Will Ospreay may be targeted for big things in New Japan as the leader of The Empire, but in the long run O-Khan might just be the new big star out of that group.

Contact Sean at radicansean@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @SR_Torch.

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