Okada, Danielson, Ospreay, & Omega: The Incomparable Quartet

Kazuchika Okada. Bryan Danielson. Will Ospreay. Kenny Omega. Collectively these men are known as arguably the best four wrestlers in the world and depending on who you ask, they’re four of the greatest of all time. Hailing from America, Canada, Japan, & England respectively with a 12-year age gap between the youngest and oldest of the bunch, wrestling fans had their minds blown when these men headlined June 2023’s AEW X NJPW Forbidden Door event in Toronto with a thrilling sequel to Omega and Ospreay’s bout at the Tokyo Dome plus a first-time dream match for Danielson and Okada.

If that wasn’t surreal enough, by March of 2024 Ospreay and Okada would officially join Omega and Danielson on the roster of All Elite Wrestling, marking a monumental shift for world-class international wrestlers staking their claim on American television. Ospreay and Danielson facing off at AEW Dynasty resulted in arguably the greatest match on American soil, adding yet another instant classic to their lengthy resumes. When a new match joins the sacred catalog of wrestling’s finest battles, it prompts one to consider the matches that are already considered the best of the best. 

As of the writing of this article, in the top 10 highest-rated matches on Cagematch, 5 involve Kenny Omega, 3 involve Kazuchika Okada, 2 involve Will Ospreay, and 1 involves Bryan Danielson. In the top 10 highest-rated matches according to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Omega has 6, Okada has 4, Ospreay has 3, and Danielson has 1. What’s even more fascinating is most of each man’s greatest matches have been against each other. All 4 men have at least 1 match against each of the other 3 that is rated 5 stars or higher (WON) & 9.25 or higher (Cagematch). 

This piece is a deeper look into each man in 2024 as they continue to set the standard of what it means to be S-tier in an era of wrestling that perhaps features the most talent we’ve ever seen.

Photo courtesy of Amber Nico Photography/Bodyslam.Net

“The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada

Age: 36

Hometown: Anjo, Aichi, Japan

Notable Achievements: 7x IWGP World Champion, 4x G1 Climax Winner, 2x New Japan Cup Winner, NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion

Best Matches: vs. Kenny Omega (2 out of 3 Falls, NJPW Dominion 2018), vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW Sakura Genesis 2017), vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10)

Current position in AEW: AEW Continental Champion, member of The Elite

The migration of Okada from NJPW to the States marks the most shocking defection in recent wrestling memory. For nearly 20 years, he was synonymous with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and his reign at the top marked one of the company’s most prosperous periods. He wasn’t just the face of NJPW, he was the face of Japanese wrestling as a whole and left gigantic shoes to fill in his absence. On the other hand, his addition to All Elite Wrestling is monumental for foreign talent looking to make their mark on American TV. Since his March debut in Atlanta, Okada has been presented as a top star, defeating Eddie Kingston for the AEW Continental Championship in his second week in the company. We’ve seen many top Japanese stars come to America and be reduced to a shell of their former selves, rarely allowed to reach their full potential, and language barriers are often cited as the reason. So far that hasn’t seemed to be the case with Okada. His pairing with the villainous EVP Young Bucks as a member of the new Elite has fit the Rainmaker like a glove and is a refreshing heel gimmick that doesn’t revolve around Okada being a foreign invader. His communication through his emotion & body language is more valuable than whether or not he can cut 15-minute promos in English.

It was nearly 45 years ago that New Japan Pro Wrestling Founder Antonio Inoki won the WWF Championship from Bob Backlund in a reign never formally recognized by WWF/E. Okada has spoken publicly about his desires to “be on the level of presence Inoki was” and even surpass him. At age 36, Okada is in a unique position to potentially do that and become the first recognized male Japanese World champion of a major American wrestling promotion during his time with AEW. With an extensive resume and match catalog such as The Rainmaker’s, achieving that milestone doesn’t seem like much of a stretch at all.

Despite being a long way from home, Kazuchika Okada is surrounded by long-time friends like The Young Bucks (and the rumored soon-to-be-All-Elite Motor City Machine Guns) as well as guys like Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, and Bryan Danielson whom he had historic clashes with in New Japan. If his Dynasty opener versus Pac is anything to go off of, Okada is sharper than ever in the ring and he’s set to make it rain just as hard on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo courtesy of Amber Nico Photography/Bodyslam.Net

“The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson

Age: 42

Hometown: Aberdeen, Washington, United States

Notable Achievements: 5x World Champion in WWE, ROH World Champion, 2x Wrestlemania Main Eventer, WON & ROH Hall of Famer

Best Matches: vs. Will Ospreay (AEW Dynasty 2024), vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW New Beginning in Osaka 2024), vs. MJF (Ironman Match, AEW Revolution 2023)

Current position in AEW: Winding down as a full-time wrestler, founding member of the Blackpool Combat Club

With the run he’s been on since All Out 2023, it’s easy to forget how much of a miracle it is that Bryan Danielson is still wrestling at all. Wrestling fans worldwide (myself included) remember exactly where they were in 2016 when Daniel Bryan announced his retirement from the squared circle. Fast forward eight years to 2024 and this time we await a different type of curtain call as Bryan Danielson says goodbye to being a full-time wrestler. It would be completely understandable if Danielson wanted to phone it in now and then. With his injury history and a family to think about, taking unnecessary risks in wrestling for someone as accomplished as Danielson is pretty insane. Luckily for wrestling fans, he does insanity in wrestling better than just about anyone else.

Since his AEW debut at All Out 2021, Bryan Danielson has given us the full American Dragon experience at every turn. He’s consistently put out banger after banger with a wide variety of opponents while relishing in the sadism & violence that he and his brothers in the Blackpool Combat Club specialize in. However, his surprise return in a bloody strap match at All Out 2023 after suffering a broken arm in his Forbidden Door dream match with Kazuchika Okada kicked off a generational run that defines what it truly means to be elite.  Since September, even with one arm, one eye, & a bandaged skull at times, we’ve watched the American Dragon put forward some of the best performances of his career in a run that will stand the test of time as a love letter to professional wrestling.

Most importantly, he’s been integral in redefining what it means for a wrestler to call themselves the best. Bryan Danielson’s validation as a wrestler doesn’t come from winning titles and signing lucrative contracts (even though he’s done both in his career). His confidence in his greatness is affirmed by challenging wrestling’s greatest performers around the world head-on. Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 18, Zack Sabre Jr at New Beginning in Osaka, Blue Panther in Arena Mexico, Will Ospreay at Dynasty, plus an impressive collection of international opponents on Saturday nights “for the sickos”, Danielson is undisputed as Wrestler of the Year merely five months into 2024. While fans would love to see the American Dragon win a championship or two in AEW before he hangs up his boots as a full-time performer, the catalog he will leave behind from the last 3 years is worth more than gold.

Photo courtesy of Amber Nico Photography/Bodyslam.Net

“The Aerial Assassin” Will Ospreay

Age: 30

Hometown: Essex, England, United Kingdom

Notable Achievements: IWGP World Champion, 2x IWGP United States Champion, 3x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Best of the Super Jr. Winner 

Best Matches: vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17), vs. Bryan Danielson (AEW Dynasty 2024), vs. Shingo Takagi (NJPW Best of The Super Jr. Final 2019)

Current position in AEW: #1 Contender for the AEW International Championship, member of the Don Callis Family

Of the 4 men mentioned, Will Ospreay is the youngest with the potential to be the most successful one of them all. Part of it is due to being one of the most gifted pure athletes in wrestling today who has managed to maintain his former junior heavyweight speed & agility while enjoying all the perks of his added mass & strength as a heavyweight. Another part of it is that compared to many of his peers, his prime in-ring years are being televised and made globally accessible much earlier in his career. After his match with Bryan Danielson at AEW Dynasty, all I could think about was that so many people will fall in love with wrestling simply because they saw Will Ospreay in action.

Danielson. Omega. Okada. Takagi. Naito. Sabre Jr. Will Ospreay has gone head to head with some of the best wrestlers of all time and gave each of them some of the greatest matches of their careers all before his 31st birthday. No pun intended but Ospreay is the grind. He’s been a bannerman for British wrestling, determined to restore the glory of a depleted BritWres scene post-COVID, Speaking Out, & NXT UK all while flying back and forth regularly between England and Japan, two countries where he’s forever etched his name into history.

Recently, the Aerial Assassin won a gauntlet match to become the #1 contender for AEW’s International Championship. While some are upset this may interfere with him potentially challenging for the AEW World Championship in his backyard of Wembley Stadium, the International Championship was created to be held by someone like Ospreay, especially with his primary residence still being in the U.K. The possibilities of that belt in his hands are quite literally endless. His passion for growing the sport of pro-wrestling can take him to defending that title on the British indies or somewhere unorthodox like Soft Ground Wrestling in Uganda, a place that Ospreay has expressed his desire to wrestle in on numerous occasions. Being signed to a multi-year contract means there’s more than enough time for him to main event Wembley in front of tens of thousands of his fellow countrymen.  Much like his theme song, everything the Billy GOAT touches will be elevated and the best part is that at 30 years old, he’s just getting started.

Photo courtesy of Amber Nico Photography/Bodyslam.Net

“The Best Bout Machine” Kenny Omega

Age: 40

Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Notable Achievements: AEW World Champion, IWGP World Champion, Only foreigner to win the G1 Climax Tournament, AEW World Tag Team Champion

Best Matches: vs. Kazuchika Okada (2 out of 3 Falls, NJPW Dominion 2018), vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17), w/ Adam Page vs. The Young Bucks (AEW Revolution 2020)

Current position in AEW: Sidelined since December 2023 due to illness, AEW Executive Vice President recently kicked out of The Elite

I saved Kenny Omega for last in this piece because theoretically, the signings of the other 3 don’t happen without him. In addition to being an Executive Vice President instrumental in the founding of AEW, he also happens to be the greatest big match wrestler of all time as far as I’m concerned. Kenny Omega’s career in Japan is the stuff of legend. He had the type of matches & rivalries that even casual wrestling fans heard about through the grapevine. He reached heights that no foreigner has ever reached before, including a historic G1 Climax victory in 2016 and winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in what many consider to be the greatest match of all time vs. Kazuchika Okada.

Beyond all of those outstanding things, Omega inspired others to chart their own path. He’s the type of wrestler that other wrestlers want to be around in hopes they’ll get better merely through osmosis. His path has been as unconventional as it gets. From DDT to NJPW to AEW and all of the side quests & adventures in between, Omega showed a whole generation of wrestlers that there’s more than one definition of success. He’s done it all: sports entertainment, Japanese strong style, lucha, American TV, etc, and he’s mastered them all. The Cleaner was Okada’s partner in elevating Japanese puroresu to new international heights. The Belt Collector was Danielson’s test to know if he could hang in AEW. The Best Bout Machine was Ospreay’s greatest ghost to overcome in his quest to become the best wrestler in the world. 

It’s hard to believe that Omega accomplished much of this while dealing with vertigo, hernias, and most recently, a diverticulitis diagnosis that has kept him sidelined since December 2023. Despite being on the shelf, his influence is being felt in AEW now more than ever. He will return to a roster that now features two of his greatest foes, one of whom (Okada) has replaced him in The Elite. His feuds with Ospreay & Hangman Page kickstarted both men into superstardom. Even in his absence, his fingerprints are still all over the place “where the best wrestle”. 24 years into his career, Omega has nothing to prove to anyone. He could hang up his boots tomorrow and still have a legitimate claim as one of the best to ever walk between a set of ring ropes. Yet, I have a feeling that Kenny Omega still has much more inspiration to give in the world of professional wrestling. Up and down the roster he has both unfinished business to address and some first-time matchups that are sure to blow our minds. May we all wait in great expectation for his highly anticipated return.