Oden has a lot going for him, so let’s see how far he climbs up on my tier list of people from Roger’s era.
I. 20 years old Oden defeated ALL of Kuri’s outlaws by himself in a single night
Just as a reminder, Oden didn’t just beat Ashura Doji and his men but all of Kuri’s criminals alone. No help from any of the newly recruited Scabbards. That was about 39 years ago and while it’s really impressive that young Oden pulled such a stunt, it’s hardly any more relevant than the Straw Hats’ feats at East Blue like beating all of the worst criminals there—Buggy, Kuro, Krieg and Arlong including their crews. Ashura Doji was also a lot younger back then and most likely not in his prime yet. At this point the only people in Wano I consider stronger than Oden are Hyogoro, the Shogun and the four Daimyos, most notably Yasuie and Ushimaru from the Shimotsuki clan.
Interim Conclusion: Not a top-tier yet.
So let’s move on to the more interesting stuff.
II. 29 years old Oden clashed with a 44 years old Prime Newgate
Because, now we’re talkin’. Just a reminder that this was confirmed to be Prime Newgate. Oden jumped at him like a wild animal and the panel certainly looks like a clash of equals, black Conqueror’s Haki sparks everywhere and notice Whitebeard’s face—looking all serious and sweating a bit. No arrogant grin whatsoever.
Now, does this mean Oden was equal to Prime Newgate? No, because we’ve seen him clash with Roger a few chapters later and in comprison it visually looked a lot more impressive, but we can definitely convey from this that Oden was already a top-tier, because there is no way some high-tier scrub like Cracker would have a Prime Newgate in cold sweat after a single clash.
Interim Conclusion Nr. 2: Oden was already a top-tier at 29 before joining the Whitebeard Pirates.
III. 33 years old Oden clashed with a 51 years old Prime Roger and the Roger Pirates
Back in chapter 965 we learned that Oden became the 2nd Division Commander in the second year of his journey and two years later in the foruth year of his journey at age 33 it was the first time in years that the Whitebeard Pirates and the Roger Pirates clashed. And the very first time for Oden.
But this time it’s Roger straigth-up goes at him with a surprise attack, and blows Oden away, who’s even seen splitting up some blood and being impressed with Roger’s strength. Whitebeard jumps in immediately afterwards with what is without a doubt the single most impressive clash in all of One Piece so far.
Interim Conclusion Nr. 3: From this we can conclude that Oden wasn’t quite at the level of Roger and Newgate, but we haven’t seen the entire battle, plus juding from the the things above it’s very likely that Oden fought with a Prime Rayleigh who in turn wasn’t that far off from the top either. Impressive shyte.
Forget about Yonksters flex ‘n splitting the skies as epitome of portrayal of force. This shit is far more intense. First off we got , never seen before. Next thing, and finally a . Sorry, but no contest.
The battle went on for 3 days and nights. Afterwards, Rayleigh is nowehere to be found, which is weird, but then again, it’s Oden’s flashback, so he takes all of the spotlight.
IV. 39 years old Oden’s “unrivaled” strength—false hype?
When it comes to Kozuki Oden there are these two weird statements that make it sound like Prime Oden may have been the strongest character/Whitebeard’s equal after Roger’s death, so I’ve tracked down the Raws for chapters 969 + 972 and it’s far from that.
First off, Chapter 969, original Japanese text:
The man who returned home much stronger,
the invincible Kozuki Oden!!
This is obviously talking from a Wano narrative standpoint. For the people of Wano, Oden is the foremost invincible Samurai. The text says nothing along the lines of “knew no enemy of his caliber”. And since we’re talking about a closed-off backwards country that calls devil fruit powers “magic”… it’s not even that impressive, to be honest.
Next up, Chapter 972, original Japanese text:
Toki, I’ve already reached my limit.
If I don’t manage to defeat Kaido,
those who can will not appear in our lifetime.
The first part “Toki, I’ve already reached my limit” is correct. Oden has already reached his Prime and there’s no point in trying to get stronger because if he doesn’t manage to beat Kaido in his current self, he simply won’t be able to do it, period. But the second line gets a completely different meaning once you translate it according to the context. What Oden means isn’t that he’s the strongest man alive or something, but simply that he’s the strongest guy around to fight Kaido and that those who will defeat him if he fails most likely won’t show up during their lifetime (which means Wano is lost). It’s sort of a foretelling connected to the shit that Orochi’s been scared of…
And let’s be honest here: Whitebeard has no business with Wano, plus he was sort of pissed at Oden for leaving his crew. Shiki went into hiding after he escaped Impel Down. Rayleigh went into semi-retirement after Roger’s death. And the Marines have no jurisdication in Wano, so the Navy top dogs Garp and Sengoku won’t show up to save the country either. That leaves Oden.
Interim Conclusion Nr. 4: Nothing was said about Oden’s strength in relation to the other big shots of his time.
V. 39 years old Prime Oden versus almost-Prime(?) Kaido
In the very Chapter that Oden gives Kaido his scar we also learn that Kaido two years after Oden’s return,
Back to Oden vs. Kaido: To me it appears like they were evenly matched until Togen Totsuka, and that Oden might have won after his powerful attack, . Though, Oden looked a lot more roughed-up than Kaido from all the fighting but the attack definitely fucked Kaido up a lot, giving him white eyes plus his only permanent scar and all.
Interim Conclusion Nr. 5: Prime Oden was likely equal to Kaido 20 years ago, and we can further conclude that Kaido still got stronger since then, but not by a lot since Oden was already a high-end Top-Tier, and Kaido didn’t appear to be a youngling either.