This will be short because I’m sleepy and writing on mobile but I have some thoughts following 1049 and how Kaido’s (supposed) defeat will help conclude his character arc.
Here’s a summary of what we know about Kaido:
- When we meet him he’s apparently attempting suicide as he’s looking for a place to die
- He wants to take part in the biggest war the world has ever seen
- This love for war comes from his lifelong experiences with fighting - he’s been a solider since he was a child, and war is a place where he feels everyone is equal
- His honour code likely stems from this belief that war is an equal battleground, as interruptions to his fights with Oden and Luffy angered him
- He knows about Joy Boy, and believes that Joy Boy will be the one to defeat him
- He believes that death is what completes a person, and this is likely why he’s looking for the right place to die
The end of 1049 has Luffy punching Kaido into the ground, but we don’t get the usual “winner” announcement here. It’s likely there’s more details to come before Luffy’s win is officially announced, but the question then becomes what happens with Kaido? There’s some unresolved threads from his backstory, the main ones being about Joy Boy.
I can elaborate on this more, but I feel as if Kaido has based himself on Wano so he can meet, and eventually lose to, Joy Boy. Whatever knowledge he gained from King and/or his time with Rocks about who Joy Boy is and what his purpose will be has obviously led him to hold the inevitable Joy Boy in such regard that he’s specifically picked him to be the one that beats him, and also probably who he wants to kill him. In 1049 we learn that Oden wanted to open Wano’s borders to welcome Joy Boy, and it’s likely that Oden believed that Joy Boy would arrive in 20 years from his death.
We see the regard Kaido has for some of the “legendary” figures in the OPverse - Roger, Whitebeard, Rocks, Oden, Shanks, and we know that he’s acknowledged Luffy as a worthy opponent and even says throughout the fight that it’s been a long time since someone’s given him a proper fight 1v1. When he beats Luffy for the first time on the roof (the second time overall), he also laments that Luffy “couldn’t be Joy Boy”, i.e., that he couldn’t beat him.
With all the implications that Luffy is the new Joy Boy, as well as him seemingly having defeated Kaido, it’s likely that Kaido’s own self-fulfilling prophecy (being beaten by Joy Boy) has come true. I think the moment after Luffy declares the kind of world he wants to create is a confirmation of sorts to Kaido that he (Luffy) is indeed the one, which is why he’s thinking about that conversation with King as he drops to the ground.
The question is, what next? He’s probably not dead, but I hardly see him going another round with Luffy.
We’re at a crossroads in Wano now where the raid is done, our side have likely won, but there’s World Government ships circling so the usual post-arc party may not be able to happen; the Straw Hats and others will likely have to flee. But with Luffy out cold, Zoro on death’s door and the other main alliance fighters tired out, how will they get past a Government blockade, and potentially Big Mom’s crew?
I don’t think it’s impossible that Kaido manages to get up and out of the hole to fight once more, only this time instead of fighting the Alliance, he’s allowing Joy Boy to escape Wano by creating a one-man diversion. He’s not a stranger to being captured, nor is he one to shy away from taking on whole armies. We could see a twist ending where he actually ends up dying during a fight with the WG for his own Whitebeard moment at the end of the arc. From the pieces of flashback we’ve seen, we know he wanted to change the world, and his fascination with a death that “completes” him means it’s not completely out of the picture that he’d be happy to go out on his sword for the person he’s been waiting for.