This is big - I know a lot of people found it a bit weird that Kaido reacted so strongly to Oden's presence, but now that we've seen Luffy hurt him and the dodging in 1009 it's becoming more likely that he's actually got some kind of complex around getting hurt.
A question for you - do you think Big Mom knows this about him? She considers him his younger brother and they fought together a lot, and she also gave him his DF. Could that have been a part of why she told him to dodge Zoro's Enma attack? Not only would "Oden's presence" re-activate some Oden trauma, but he could end up being afraid of getting hit by Zoro as well...
I'm still torn...since this is a huge way to bypass what "Yonkou-level" actually is it is just a copout/loophole to defeat the "strongest being in the world".
To me, it is 100% guaranteed Big Mom knows about this weakness. It is why she can be confident on winning 1v1. It takes away ALL of the suspense behind Kaidou's 19+ defeats. His title of the strongest in the world is meaningless and he is not the strongest by definition. If he can be defeated in a 1v1, he isn't the strongest by definition.
If we apply this theory, this does add extra significance to how that Enma attack for the exact reasons you mention/imply. To a small extent, getting hit by Enma already partially taps into this huge weakness. So how much damage Zoro took is going to be key on how optimistic this fight is going to be. >
OK so Marco showed me this thread and it led to a SUPER HYPE conversation because it's got so much potential.
Yup, this can literally go in any direction right now.
Just to play devil's advocate (Marco Polo too), reading through the chapter discussion made me realize I can't recall Kaidou or Big Mom using any busoushoku the entire fight. They have both used kenbunshoku (and they excel at different parts). With the magic of haki...this alone could create the previous "Yonkou-level" gap from even Luffy.
Luffy's biggest power up is still a "basic technique". There should be advanced kenbunshoku (consistent usage since Luffy's inconsistent usage matches the "basic" context), advanced defensive busoushoku, and advanced offensive busoushoku. We see this expanded in the anime with Roger and Whitebeard. The anime makes it clear that haki plus bladed projectiles is the strongest attack Oda is showing us for now. There is no signs of haki with any of the attacks (at least off the top of my head). >
So, as I said this would be a great fit thematically in what usually happens with major villains (though not so much in the New World tbf). Namely: they are hyped up to be functionally invincible, and then Luffy touches on or discovers a weak point that terrifies them and then eventually defeats them. Starting with minor villains we have Don Krieg's 'unbreakable' armour and Arlong's 'superior' race. We've got Crocodile, whose power was hyped up by his Shichibukai status, and Enel, literally said to eat the Fruit which grants invincibility. Each of them channeled all their faith into their 'invincibility' until here comes Luffy to tear them all down, and in so doing messes up their concentration. Think of Don Krieg's reaction to getting punched through his cape, Enel's face when Luffy is immune to lightning, and even Crocodile's reaction to Water Luffy (to a lesser extent tbf).
The thing that I love love love the most about this idea is that it recontextualises Kaido's entire character from the audience's perspective. Because everything we know about Kaido basically fits under "super powerful badass" given his own place in the One Piece world: he's a freaking Yonko, he's pretty much physically invincible, he's got a DF that's overpowered as hell, he can't even kill himself because he's so strong and he's survived multiple executions. There's probably more but you get the point. And so, when we see the way he behaves - notably his unstable emotional drinking, his "suicide" attempts and his desperate need to have a Devil Fruit army - we are led to think (at least I did; y'all can say what you want) "wow, this is what a super powerful badass is like in the world of One Piece: he's so strong that even when he's drunk he isn't hurt by Luffy and can't even get executed, he's got so much influence he can garner an army of Devil Fruit users".
But what this theory does, if true, is instead of attributing these traits to his power, it attributes them to psychological damage. These behaviours are not shows of strength, but insights into his insecurities. He is frightened of pain and terrified of true damage, and, as Marco said above, his suicide attempts could be desperate ways that he reinforces his own invincibility in his own mind. His unstable drinking is just that: a hopeless alcoholic. His Devil Fruit army is another desperate reach for invincibility.
Like everything else, we appear to be in agreement on the vast majority. I think our conversations have made it clear that the extent of how much weakening occurs is my only problem with all of this. This ties into the Big Mom comment. Luffy is 100% correct his rebuttal to her, and why she cannot respond back. However, IF (and big if) Kaidou is the only Yonkou that is extra susceptible to level 2 haki (anyone can be Yonkou level if this universal weaknening of Yonkou occurs). I'm not going to expand on it too much, but there is context all over the place that Yonkou level is still leaps and bounds from Yonkou execs. Kaidou being able to be defeated in a 1v1 is a direct contradiction of his "strongest in the world" title. If Oda follows through with this to have Kaidou and potentially even Big Mom defeated before Onigashima falls, Luffy will potentially always be in the shadows of Roger and Whitebeard. Whitebeard being close to death from his terminal illness was still stronger than Kaidou (yes it could have taken a huge turn for the worse, so he was stronger than how we see him fight at Marineford). But everyone knows Whitebeard in his prime is completely different since so much time has passed (same goes for Garp, Sengoku, Rayleigh, etc.). The healthy people show how the true gap is supposed to be.
Ultimately, this is as simple as how much does Oda want to contradict what Yonkou level truly is. We could see both Kaidou and Big Mom defeated within the next 20-40 chapters. But this can truly go in any and all directions. Just like using haki, mental fortitude can be all that is needed to overcome even extreme trauma. In theory, Kaidou could just concentrate enough to stop the implied weakening of his dragon scales, natural durability, defensive busoushoku, etc.>
Something that I love about this is that something VERY similar happened with Big Mom when Luffy was locked up. "You didn't become the Pirate King... that is all". In one line Luffy completely turned Big Mom's character on its head. It's not that she's so powerful that she can destroy a whole island in a food craze - it's that she's so weak (in terms of controlling herself) that not even her own SON is safe on her own custom-made island in the middle of her own freaking territory. It's not that she's so powerful that she can amass an army of her own flesh and blood warriors and extend this strength through political marriages, it's that she's so weak that she really attributes her lack of being a Pirate King to not having just one more political alliance. The line from Pekoms that "this is power" regarding information-gathering when they mentioned the Baratie is just another show of weakness. Information-gathering for blackmail is impressive and all, but she's got the world thinking "this is power" when "this is" really just a little girl who gets upset when her friends are missing from the tea party. And the consequent revelations about her character and history only reinforce that: Big Mom might be incredibly powerful combat and influence-wise, but she hasn't grown much at all from being a little girl just trying to impress Mother Carmel and have tasty treats.
And by the way, it's not like the "strong" elements in either case become invalidated: Kaido is still strong enough to survive jumping off a sky island without a scratch, and Big Mom is still powerful enough to gather information from across the globe, but what a theory like this does is add that perfect twist to these elements that make us go "hold on... these things might seem really strong but there's something seriously weak beneath the surface".
Oh, I definitely have to push back on this second part. Both Kaidou and Big Mom can still do things in terms of combat capability that Luffy is not even close to doing. If all it took for Kaidou and Big Mom to become Yonkou level was their extreme durability, any powerhouse with an awakened zoan is essentially Yonkou level. Even without her main Homies, Big Mom using haki should still easily take out everyone except Luffy. If Luffy only damages Kaidou because of his susceptibility to level 2 haki as a result of this mental trauma ("basic technique" should be all I have to reference), even Luffy is not a match for Luffy. She isn't using haki with any of her attacks and we only saw expansion of her haki against Queen for visual effects. Even in the anime, she is not using haki with all of her attacks against Queen because of the true gap to Yonkou level.
Every ally in the current fight is above Yonkou exec level, but they are now in this potentially HUGE new tier that should contextually still be below Yonkou level. Every other new powerhouse baddie and ally in the rest of the New World is in this tier. >
Last thing I wanna mention is that I totally get that fans will feel robbed if this theory ends up being true. It means we won't be getting our Awakening or Gear Fifth or whatever else comes next (I mean fr people isn't Ryu a big enough leap in strength?). It means we may not get a hectic new Gear Fourth Form. It means that the ultimate victory of the Supernovas here may feel undeserved since it wasn't purely a strength/strategy victory like we might be able to say for Doflamingo or other main fights. And yeah... I get it. There's not much that can be said to make it better, only that I hope that your expectations are not completely unmet and we do see something new.
Personally I do think that the Ryu power-up is perfectly sufficient here - consider that one punch from Luffy now is more effective than a 10km drop. Consider that a Gear 3rd Haki punch now does more damage than a Ryu-less Gear Fourth King Kong Gun. I mean really in my opinion with Ryu both of the Yonko should drop after a few Gear 4th attacks, or at least take serious damage from it. Obviously I think that these things are ridiculous after the slightest analysis and I mourn Oda pouring all of the combat potential of the series into Haki, but that aside surely we're nearing the pinnacle of how strong any punch could actually be in One Piece; that's power enough for me to watch a satisfactory win without being disappointed.
Ah...this is what settles it for me. "Basic technique" by Rayleigh's description is the context that gets contradicted if this theory goes in the defeat for either Yonkou in 20-40 chapters. This is just the first step of an entire mountain of context that gets contradicted. All of Roger and Whitebeard is the immediate/direct proof. Everyone, including Whitebeard himself, see Kaidou and Big Mom as on the same level as Whitebeard in his prime. At least Kaidou, is significantly younger with Big Mom by appearance being significantly enough younger than Whitebeard (and without any terminal illness either since we see this is probably the biggest factor in the weakening).