Ever since usurping AJ Styles and seizing control of the Bullet Club, Kenny Omega has become impossible to ignore in the landscape of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Whether he’s flying solo or flanked by the Young Bucks, the master of the dark custodial arts has a firm hold on the IWGP Intercontinental title, once held by Shinsuke Nakamura. Omega recently chatted with Jim Ross on the Ross Report podcast to talk about his longer-than-you-might-remember career. The whole thing is worth a listen, but here are some of the highlights.
On his departure from the WWE developmental system: “I was there, but I wasn’t a player there. I was just a hand… I felt that I had more to offer, and I felt that I couldn’t show what I wanted to prove by being in developmental, so I had to prove my true worth elsewhere.”
On his famous match with then 9-year-old Haruka in 2011: “I was actually lent out to a joshi promotion in Japan called STARDOM. For their first big show, they were debuting a bunch of new girls, and three weeks before their big show they wanted to debut her… They asked me, can I train her and if it’s okay, can I do a three-minute exhibition match with her?”
On Jim Cornette’s criticism of his work: “Jim, he’s a smart guy. Say what you will, but he’s intelligent. I would probably put money on him not hating me as a person, as much as he says that he does. I think he sees me as an easy target, because yes, I did some controversial things. I did some things that are easy to rant about… Myself and two other guys he likes to talk about, the Young Bucks, we’re kind of a hot thing right now [and we] aren’t WWE. And if he targets someone from WWE, they aren’t going to respond to him at all. They won’t address it. So he doesn’t get any rub from that. He’s hoping that I respond.”
On video games being influential to his career: “For the longest time, I was known as the Hadouken guy. Now I don’t really do video game inspired moves, but for games that I like or I’ve played, I use things from video games to name any sort of original move that I come up with. It’s like a tether to my childhood, or the person that really is me… When I became The Cleaner, I wanted to eliminate things that were too babyface-ish. People would see the Hadouken, and they would get too excited and happy for the charge-up, and I didn’t want that sort of feeling towards a heel finishing move.”
On his dream opponents: “I’ve got a ton of guys I’d love to wrestle, both past and present. Even some guys that I’ve wrestled before, but would love to wrestle them in front of a different fanbase. For example, I have wrestled Sami Zayn before, but I would love to wrestle Sami Zayn in front of a WWE crowd. I really think it’d be something magical. I think he’s the greatest, he’s unbelievable… I would have loved to have been able to work Shawn Michaels. Mick Foley, as any one of his personas… This one’s out of left field, but it is a dream match of mine. With a really cool storyline and a lot of cool promos to hype it up, Vince McMahon. I’d love to wrestle Vince McMahon.”
On his upcoming ladder match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship: “I just really felt that it was a step that [New Japan Pro Wrestling] should take. New Japan has been very protective of the classical style… there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a tried and tested formula, right? It’s gotten them this far, it’s gotten wrestling to this point. But I don’t think it necessarily has to be restricted to that, especially when Bullet Club is supposed to be a group of foreigners…”
On his good-natured Twitter feud with The New Day: “One of the cool things that comic book collectors would talk about is ‘What If’ stories. What if Batman fought Wolverine… We are sort of presenting the ‘What If’ scenario, and it got people talking… Of course, we live in a business-oriented world, and it would be very difficult to do it, because the powers that be may not want the mixing of presences from one company into another.”