Kenny Omega is thought of by many people as the best wrestler on the planet.
The 36-year-old from Winnipeg put himself on the worldwide stage by producing three instant classics with Kazuchika Okada in New Japan Pro Wrestling with the culmination happening at Dominion in June 2018, when he captured the IWGP heavyweight championship.
After losing the belt to Hiroshi Tanahashi in January 2019, Omega signed with the upstart All Elite Wrestling to not only wrestle, but also serve as an Executive Vice President of the organization along with his close friends, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Cody Rhodes.
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To date, Omega has headlined two of AEW’s first three pay-per-events — against Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley, respectively.
Coming up on Saturday from the soldout Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Omega and his tag team partner, “Hangman” Adam Page, defend their belts against The Young Bucks.
Ahead of the highly-anticipated match, Omega sits down with Sporting News to preview the bout this weekend, his response to the criticism of not being the wrestler he was before entering AEW and more.
(Editors Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.)
Sporting News: The action figures shown during last week’s “Dynamite” looked fantastic. What was your initial reaction when yours was presented to you?
Kenny Omega: It’s one thing to hear the news, but then to see it in front of your face with all the points of articulation and just how much detail was put into them … my curly hair was exactly how it is now. The wrestler’s physiques are exactly how they should be. Our physiques on our roster are all different. Even my costume, the color scheme is right. The detail is right. Little things like that make these go a long way with the fans. It certainly went a long way with me. I was blown away.
SN: How proud of you of the growth of Adam? Because you look at when Adam faced Jericho for the inaugural AEW title in Chicago at “All Out” in August, the fans were more into Chris than they were with Adam. It just seems like since he’s been with you and starting with you, he’s really evolved more now, and he’s quite arguably one of the most popular acts on the entire show.
KO: Absolutely. I’m really proud of the fact that he’s found something that works for him as someone the fans can endear themselves with. But you know, it’s everything in moderation. And we can’t have a fly off the reins and be a victim to his own devices, so to speak. So “Hangman” Page is great as the casual beer drinker, but we need to make sure he stays just that — very casual and responsible beer drinker.
SN: I get this asked a lot, and I don’t know how much you follow social media, but everyone’s like, ‘When are we going to see The Best Bout Machine? When are we going to see the guy that we saw New Japan and all around the world?’ What do you make of that criticism about ‘Where is The Best Bout Machine? Where is he at? He’s overrated?’ I just watched “Dynamite,” and you put on one of the best performances I’ve seen in 2020, and it was in the tag team realm.
KO: (Laughs for a second) It’s funny because I feel like when people … I could compare it to when your favorite player perhaps gets traded to another team. When your favorite player gets traded to another team, and he’s initially not the top scorer or leading in assists or playing the way that he used to play like he did for the home team, your team, it’s easy to criticize them and say that you made a big mistake, and that you’ll never be the same guy again and that it’s all downhill.
Because I decided to take a different path in my career, because I’m not doing these long, drawn-out 45 (-minute) to one-hour matches in singles competition, it doesn’t mean that I’m not the same guy. This isn’t about tooting my own horn, but it’s like I’m now helping run a company that has live television every Wednesday. I’m part of a very successful tag team with “Hangman” Adam Page, a guy that I have a lot of chemistry with, and I’m existing within a division of guys that are amongst the top of all the tag teams on all of the planet and showing that it takes more than just having a good long singles match to be called the best in the world.
You got to be a good tag team wrestler. You have to be a good six-man tag team wrestler. You have to be good at your gimmick matches. You have to be able to appeal to the non-wrestling fan. So, I’m not only proud of sure, “The Best Bout Machine” version of Kenny Omega that had the wrestlers wrestling matches the 60-minutes classics with (Kazuchika) Okada (in New Japan Pro Wrestling). I’m just as proud of that as I am with my mixed tag team with Riho (former AEW women’s champion) as a tag team partner. I’m just as proud of those matches as I am as the lights out match with Jon Moxley.
In ways, this is all me in my creative peak. I mean, I’m talking about my storyline with Kota Ibushi. I don’t know if you call that “The Best Bout Machine” Kenny Omega or not. But to me, that’s something different. It’s these layers of these things that that go into making what I think makes a true best in the world — not just one guy that has the same kind of match over and over and over again. Because I do not have that same match over and over again, does that not make me just as good?
It just makes me something different. I’m trying to round out. I’m trying to fill the gaps around the edges and make myself a complete package in all of professional wrestling. That even goes beyond what I do in the ring, but actually behind the scenes too. There’s a business aspect to it — to balance all of that and still trying to kind of check off these boxes. Now, I even have a belt in AAA (Mexican-based promotion). I’ve went to a country that I never thought I’d be able to perform in and won “Match of the Year.” I went back to my first promotion in DDT and go into Soloreal Goku when they haven’t been able to do high numbers there and did a good number. These are all things I can hang my hat on, and I’m very, very proud of it. My critics will say I have done nothing, and that’s OK. They can say it, but the truth is far from it.
SN: How much are you looking forward to teaming with Adam and defending your titles at AEW Revolution on Saturday against great friends of yours, The Young Bucks? It’s a big match, and everyone is really looking forward to it.
KO: Wrestling is a performance as much as it is a sport. And for us, especially, we’ve all banded together to take a stand against the wrestling that we didn’t enjoy any more on television. It’s actually physically painful and emotionally painful when we have to take that vision that we have that we’re working together towards, and we have to turn it against each other.
It’s much more emotional for me to wrestle The Young Bucks than any other tag team by far. I expected it to be an emotional encounter for me, especially as I’m an emotional guy. The talent speaks for itself. I know it’s going to be a great match. But as much physical damage as it’s going to do to my body, I know it’s going to do a lot of emotional damage too.
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