Kenny Omega has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for the better part of the last five years. His run with New Japan Pro Wrestling was one of the best parts of pro wrestling in the 2010s. When he left New Japan to join All Elite Wrestling at the beginning of 2019, fans were excited to see what he could do in the United States. So far, it has led to some disappointment. Omega hasn’t been a focused star for the company and has been putting a lot of guys over. This has led to a lot of questions surrounding Omega. Did he made the right choice leaving New Japan?
He did. And here’s why.
Before explaining why he made the right choice, it’s important to look back at Omega’s run in Japan and where it could’ve gone had he stayed. It really began many years ago in DDT Pro. There Omega put on some very goofy, albeit dangerous, matches against guys like Kota Ibushi, El Generico, Taka Michinoku and a nine-year-old girl (No, seriously). He then found his way to New Japan, where he was a big part of the junior division almost immediately.
After joining Bullet Club, Omega finally got the chance to vault to the heavyweight division in 2016 by ousting then-leader AJ Styles from the group. This happened at New Year’s Dash, the show that goes on a day after Wrestle Kingdom. Omega was pushed almost immediately. He won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, the G1 Climax and put on one of the best matches in the history of the industry with Kazuchika Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 all within the first year of his run as a heavyweight. Omega snagged the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in 2018 and really cemented himself as a top guy before leaving after his Wrestle Kingdom 13 match with Hiroshi Tanahashi.
His explosive strikes and acrobatic style made him a favorite amongst wrestling fans. Omega’s positioning with Bullet Club and the Elite made him a star globally. Omega established himself as one of the best in the business and had every major promotion wanting him. He remained loyal to New Japan until his departure, which came because of an opportunity to start something new, not join a rival promotion.
What happened when Omega left NJPW?
The story of Hiroshi Tanahashi winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13 from Omega was perfect. His run to win the G1 Climax and then defending the briefcase built up a lot of emotion and Omega’s persistence that Tanahashi needed to step aside built up the sympathy that Tanahashi deserved entering the event. Omega lost the match and a few weeks later popped up at a press event for AEW.
A month after the January 4th show, Tanahashi lost the title to Jay White. White was being massively pushed, already positioned as the leader of Bullet Club and had just beaten Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 13. White was the foreign guy who was being positioned as a top star now that Omega was gone. The main event of the G1 Supercard in New York over Wrestlemania 35 weekend was main evented by White and Okada, which Okada won.
How different would it have been if he stayed in NJPW?
I have no doubt in my mind that if Omega had stayed, he would’ve faced Okada at G1 Supercard. That’s the match you make no matter what. With that said, what came after that show wouldn’t have been great for Omega. If he retains against Tanahashi, it would’ve ruined the story that New Japan was trying to tell with the former Ace. If they beat Omega, how do you get the title back on him for the Madison Square Garden show?
My guess is they just put him in the Jay White spot at New Beginnings and put the belt back on him. The real issue for Omega is what comes after the G1 Supercard. Okada has the belt after that show and is primed for a program with White. That leads Omega to the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, which Kota Ibushi won after he beat Tetsuya Naito for it in New York. That could’ve led to the first real program between Ibushi and Omega, two guys with a substantial history. This makes sense, as Ibushi lost the title back to Naito at Dominion in June. This route makes sense for Omega and doesn’t require any major edits to the timeline of New Japan.
Instead of Naito winning at Dominion, let Omega have the spot and win. Then, have him be the one that drops the belt to White at Destruction in Kobe in September. That brings the title right back to Naito at Wrestle Kingdom and you still have his big moment. That really puts Omega in the backburner for Wrestle Kingdom 14, as there really wasn’t a match for them to do with him. The only one that makes sense is the United States Championship match with Jon Moxley, but even that is a spot that was better suited for Lance Archer, who is a killer and on his way to AEW at that point. This all leads back to the main point of the article.
Why Omega made the right choice
Omega said it himself that he’s already fulfilled all of his dreams. He wasn’t the guy that wanted to go to WWE and main event Wrestlemania. Omega wanted to go to Japan and throw himself into the culture there. His focus was to put on as many good performances as he could. He wanted to break barriers for foreign wrestlers and become a top guy with the company. More than anything, he wanted the creative freedom to tell stories his way. He did all of that.
His spot wasn’t going to be where it was moving forward. For three years, Omega was at or near the top of the card with New Japan. He had some of the best and most physically tasking matches in the business. The reality of the situation is that the guy is 36 years old, 35 at the time, and has put a lot of miles on his body. He gave everything in his performances and it was about time for him to start slowing things down.
AEW presented Omega with an opportunity to work on a reduced schedule and help build talent for the future. Omega is basically in charge of the women’s division and is the reason why there is so much Japanese talent in the company. He’s happy with his role and he’s working alongside his best friends.
While he may not be the Omega of old, he’s most certainly not over the hill. He’s put on good matches, albeit spaced out in time. He doesn’t get the most television time and that’s by design. This isn’t Omega’s company. It’s one that is built with him, not around him. His story with Hangman Page is great and will lead to an excellent match when they decide to do that. In the meantime, appreciate Omega for what he is: a damn good wrestler. He’s given a lot to the business and deserves to take it easy for a bit. Rest assured that a guy like that doesn’t hold back for too long. It won’t be long before he’s the AEW Champion and putting on some classics again.