Few wrestlers can say they had a year on par with Kenny Omega. After usurping control of the Bullet Club from AJ Styles, Omega went on a warpath through New Japan Pro Wrestling, doing everything from instigating ladder matches in NJPW to winning the prestigous G1 Climax tournament. As 2016’s G1 winner, he now has a date with destiny at Wrestle Kingdom 11, where he’ll do battle with Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. We were lucky enough to speak to Omega about his whirlwind year, and what could possibly come next.
Looking back on your career, was there any point where you saw yourself headlining the Tokyo Dome for New Japan Pro Wrestling?
No, I never did, and that’s just me being honest. I always had big dreams, sort of fantasy scenarios. “Wouldn’t it be nice if … ?” But given the stance of the Bullet Club members last year, we had a very clear heavyweight leader in AJ Styles. We had a dominant tag team in the heavyweight division with Machine Gun [Karl Anderson] and [Luke] Gallows. Everyone had their specific roles, and I was the junior heavyweight guy. I’d sort of come to terms with forever being the Bullet Club junior guy, so what I wanted to do was make that the best run I could. I wanted to be the champ, but I wanted to be the best champ I could be, the best champ the company has seen. And you know, the junior heavyweight title match would probably never headline the Tokyo Dome main event, so if anything, I had just seen myself bringing respect back to that division so it could be seen on the same level as some of the heavyweight titles.
Would it be fair to say that people in your past, even former colleagues, thought you would never reach this level of success?
Oh, definitely. There were people that had doubted me, and I don’t even mean fans of rival promotions or fans of New Japan … I mean people that I work with. There’s always going to be a mixture of professional jealousy and varying opinions. I have a very different opinion of what I think is and should be. Other people have a different opinion of it, saying it should be more traditional … rinse, wash, repeat, make it look like a fight, pack your bags, go home. For me, I always saw wrestling as a clean slate, where it could be anything you wanted it to be. We exist within a realm where it’s a sport. It’s supposed to be a fight, but guess what? It’s entertainment.
… Take Bloodsport, one of my favorite movies of all time … If every movie that followed tried to be the next Bloodsport because that’s just what fighting is, two guys fighting in a tournament or for some kind of championship, you could tweak it … Sometimes you’re fighting in a cage, sometimes you’re fighting on top of a building or whatever.
But eventually, people are going to want more from the genre. This is where the leniency and creativity of the stuff that I do comes in. I want to push the boundaries. We wrestle in a ring, and we are working together as a company to be bigger and better, but there are so many things around us that we can use, so many things that can happen in a fight in the wrestling world … We can, as wrestlers, make things more entertaining than what you normally see. I just want to be the guy who brings that at an elite level.