Friday, January 13, 2017

Kenny Omega on Being the Top Guy in Japan, Signing With WWE After a Harley Race Tryout, Why He Left WWE Developmental and More

New Japan star Kenny Omega was today’s guest on the “Talk is Jericho” podcast which you can listen to in full at this link. Below are some of the highlights:

On Being the Top American in New Japan Once AJ Styles Left the Company:
It was a bit of a scramble, and in a state of disarray. We had two of our top stars, Nakamura and AJ Styles suddenly leave the company, no hard feelings, everyone understood about the opportunity before them, but the company didn’t know what to do with themselves; they had no plan, because in a matter of a day the transition between Tokyo the 4th and 5th, the date to start the next year’s storylines, they didn’t know what to do, so they just said, okay, Kenny, AJ was the leader of the Bullet Club, you are in the Bullet Club, figure it out. Myself and the Young Bucks, we got together and said, you know, this is our chance to show everyone what we are about, to change something, and thus was me turning on AJ and creating the Elite, and to put a different spin on what the Bullet Club is all about.
On Being Signed By WWE After Trying Out At the Harley Race Camp:
I had done a little bit of Indy’s, so the way it worked locally was that No Holds Barred (IWA Wrestling ran by Don Callis) went away, that was a step for me to think outside the borders of Canada, so either I step outside the border and expand myself, or I end up doing this as a hobby. I started thinking about taking trips outside of Winnipeg. There was an NWA convention in a hotel in Winnipeg. They had brought some outside talent, like Petey Williams, who I had a match against. The match went really well, which I believe was a real confidence booster for me, and thought, I can actually have good matches where I can perform outside the pace that is beyond Winnipeg now, so I should think about trying now. I had went to a camp with Harley Race, which he does once a year. I had gone to a camp for WLW in Missouri. The camp was treated like a competition; the winner of this camp would go to Pro Wrestling NOAH and be inserted into their Dojo system, because going to Japan was the end goal, which is what I really wanted to do because I was a huge fan.

For the longest time, ECW was the place that I really wanted to go, and fell in love with watching highly athletic, and sort of PG-14 style wrestling. It was about that time where ECW would use talent all around the world. I fell in love with that type of style; and I also loved that all the guys that went to ECW to WWE had such a major impact upon their arrival, which I thought that was really cool. They were known as ECW guys invading WWE, and I thought that as cool as it would be to go directly to WWE, it’d be great to have that decorated resume where people knew who you were already, so I did a lot of studying, bought a lot of videos from RF Video, so I was buying Matches of the Decade volume 1 & 2, so I would learn that way on who was good, or who was bad, what kind of guy I should be studying and the type of landscape is over there. I fell in love with Japan. I already loved the culture, and wanted to go there as a vacation spot anyway, so it was that intention after I went to Harley Race’s camp to get that experience to head to Japan, kind of like how you [Jericho] had all this prior experience in Mexico and Japan, it just felt like the right way. So, what happened was, as a surprise, Harley introduced the grand prize of the competition, which was Johnny Ace coming out and offering WWE contracts to the camp standout, so even though I was gunning for NOAH, I became the guy who won the contract to sign with WWE. For a year, and I believe was 2005-2006 or 2006-2007, I was in Deep South Wrestling, ran by Jody Hamilton. I started there with Miz, who was there for a little bit, but was already being packaged for television. The experience kind of reinforced what I already believed, which was that I really needed to make something of myself outside of WWE before coming here, because I was a nobody, and I understood that I was a nobody and that thy wouldn’t trust me with anything, any of my own ideas. When I felt that I could be that guy who can make the company millions and millions of dollars, I needed to prove that I can do that on my own accord.

So, I decided to put in my notice and give it another shot in the Indy’s and go to Japan and work my way up from there. It was a really tough decision for me to leave, but the moral was really low there at the time, and Johnny Ace had stated that he had heard that a lot of guys didn’t like it here and if that was the case, just come talk to him first and have a chat. It wasn’t that the day to day stuff wasn’t good so that was why the morale was low for me, it sucked to being around the negativity all the time, but I did enjoy the training and loved the physicality of the training–contrary to what other people might think; I loved doing the push-ups and sit-ups, that was all fine by me–it was that I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and was going to be this kid who was going to be treated like a piece of trash, and there’s no way to grow from that. I talked to Johnny and said that I wasn’t going to lie, when he met me at camp, I was there to go to Japan and really felt that I could make something of myself there, and think that I can be more of a use to him if I go there and become a star. Even looking back at it now, to tell them that I can be a star somewhere else, why would you believe him? Johnny said that he was going to contact some people from All Japan, if that was the path that I wanted to go, and he they can send me out there, and whenever I am ready, let him know because the door is always open to return. Things fell through and I wasn’t able to go to All Japan, stating that they couldn’t accommodate me, and that was crushing because I thought I was going to transition from one thing to another, but had to regain that hunger once again.

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