New Japan Pro Wrestling has been rocked by some pretty serious injuries this year, but none more serious and severe than the brain injury suffered by Katsuyori Shibata. Shibata recently returned to a thunderous ovation during the G1 Climax, but it is expected that he will never wrestle again.
In light of this injury, there is increased scrutiny about unprotected headshots and headbutts in professional wrestling. WWE has drastically eliminated these types of dangerous moves targeting the head in recent years, but Japanese wrestling still very much focuses on hard-hitting strong style. Both Matt Riddle and Shinsuke Nakamura have suggested that maybe it’s time for a change, and it appears top New Japan star Kenny Omega agrees with them.
During an appearance on AfterBuzz TV’s X-Pac 12360 show, Omega talked about trying to work a safer style in light of these accidents that have happened recently. He’s focusing on making sure that his strikes and moves look painful and powerful, but that he’s trying to make sure he’s not actually hitting anyone. It’s obviously a very tough balancing act to pull off, but Omega has made it work like gangbusters, considering the reception for the vast majority of his matches in the recent G1 Climax tournament.
“I am definitely, I mean more than ever … it’s sort of a strange statement to make, but I’m trying to make it clear through the way that I work that I’m very much avoiding that style. And the thing is, by saying that, I’m doing it, but I’m disguising it, so how would anyone know?
“But it’s stuff — like with forearms, I’m not even making contact anymore. Before, it was kind of like, okay, you make it a little bit snug, and you can kind of get a little bit of contact. But with the G1, you’re wrestling matches almost every day, you don’t need to be getting rocked by forearms or palm strikes or whatever every day of the tour. So it’s stuff like that, like I was relying on chops more than ever. More or less faker stuff.
“Some of the guys, they don’t want to change what they have been doing all these years. They don’t want to reinvent their own wheel. And that’s their own choice, but if I work with guys like that nowadays, in the matchmaking process, I’ll just kind of say, like, ‘Hey, we need to be careful about the message that we’re putting out there.’
“Considering the actions that have happened — which of course were accidents — but we need to kind of take down the risk percentage as much as we can, and show that we are actually the kings of strong style. And by doing that, it’s not just by being the toughest, like yeah, we can absorb a ton of damage to our brains. We can do this, and we can do this safely, and it still looks like we’re killing each other. I think that’s the most important part.”
It’s good to know that Omega, at least, is very mindful of how much damage he’s doing to himself and to others, and focusing very hard on working a safer style as much as he can.
You can watch the entire interview below: