During a recent edition of the “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” podcast, AEW World Champion Kenny Omega commented on working in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2018, being ranked No. 1 in the PWI 500, and more. You can check out some highlights from the podcast below:
On being ranked No. 1 in PWI 500 in 2018 and his achievements in NJPW: “To find out I was ranked No. 1 the first time, it really caught me off guard. And forgive me for sounding a little off hand, but I didn’t think that a foreigner from New Japan, at that time, and someone like me, could ever reach No. 1 status. I always thought the biggest stars on the planet were the guys from WWE and they were the ones who would be recognized in a magazine that was primarily read by North American viewers. So, to hear and see that not only was my work in Japan being recognized but being recognized at such a large scale, it was really an incredible feeling….to see that it reached a point where people would say I was ranked No. 1, wow, it left me feeling very shocked and humbled. To this day, I’m very appreciative to be able to accomplish so much with that company and with an incredible cast of talent and crew.
“As much as I tried to step up my game for the company, I had every tool I could possibly have to work with to make that happen. And in that year, which probably was the strongest in-ring year of my career, I was able to stay healthy, which is the hardest part, but also push my limit and push past that limit. As soon as you ease up, somebody is waiting to surpass you. For me to have the luck to have such a succession of high stake matches with all the performers that company has to offer – I was extremely lucky. As much as you could say I was No. 1 that year, I shared that honor with each and every one of my opponents that I wrestled with that year. If it weren’t for Okada, Ishii, Naito, Ibushi, Tanahashi – all those guys that I worked with that were able to bring the best out of me and maybe I was able to bring the best out of them too – then there was no way for me to appear to be No. 1.”
On the psychology behind how he structures his matches: “I like to always have the purpose and meaning of the match to be very clear and understandable by everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are or whether you’ve been watching our product since day one or whether it’s your first time viewing it, or whether you’re a young child and your levels of comprehension are very basic and simple. I want you to understand what the purpose of the match is and who the bad guy is and who the good guy is. However, I always try to create these finite lines where if you really look for them and search for them, you can take an extra sense of appreciation for what is going into the match.
“So, what I love is putting in easter eggs and layers and callbacks to these stories – things that have years of history within a match that I have in the current day so that if fans really want to look for it, the history is there. You can recognize it and you can see it. It brings me great joy when I’ll look at my timeline and I see fans have recognized something I meticulously placed in a match that harkens back to those days. They piece it all together. And in some cases, they’ve made it mean more than what I intended it to mean. Like I said, you don’t ever want to alienate people or make it too muddled for people. I like having the option for people to be able to search for more than what is there at face value. I think that’s part of what makes wrestling in the mythos, and just following my journey a little more fun than normal.”
(h/t – 411 Wrestling)