Kenny Omega talks NJPW expansion, retirement, WWE, Tetsuya Naito, Bullet Club, CM Punk, Fortnite and G1 Special


IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega sat down to talk everything and anything NJPW leading up to his match against Cody Rhodes at the G1 Special in San Francisco.

Ahead of his highly anticipated title defense against fellow Bullet CLub stablemate Cody Rhodes at the G1 Special in San Fransicio, reigning IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega spoke with the media to give his thoughts on a myriad of topics surrounding NJPW.

Below is a full transcript of Omega’s thoughts.

On whether expanding NJPW’s presence to more countries in North America is a goal

“Yeah, I mean, it certainly is, and I don’t want that to be limited to strictly America. You know, I would love for New Japan to have a presence in multiple countries. And I will see to it, hopefully, that I can be the forerunner to bringing our brand to places all over the world that haven’t had a chance to see us live yet.”

How much longer do you see yourself wrestling?

“I mean Chris Jericho, he is the original guy that I model of my own career after. So I mean it would be almost poetic for it to end in the same manner as well. I may never see myself in the near future starting up a rock band or anything like that, but I do really respect that Chris Jericho branched his own brand out and he did so many other side projects. I mean he has not only a rock band but he is on Dancing With The Stars, he has his own like comedy series, he wrote an article for metal bands and stuff like reviewing albums and such. So in terms of what I’d like to accomplish as champion with New Japan, it’s a lot like that.

“E3 was a first big step not only working and collaborating with the interviewee, but just having a presence there and something that wasn’t just strictly wrestling related. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do. It’s not just to carry the bells for every single house show and wrestling related show that New Japan has to offer. I don’t think as a champion, especially a world champion, that that should be my first and foremost concern. We have such a deep and talented roster. I think the house will be fine with those guys.

“I think it’s my job to bring more eyes to the product, and with the skill set that I have, I do believe I’m well equipped to not only do just what’s required in the ring but outside of the ring as well in a bit of a follow up there.”

How did the jump from the junior heavyweight to the heavyweight division change your approach to performing?

“Strangely enough, I have increased my training to the degree where there is nothing that I can no longer do. I’m not limited whatsoever. I mean, maybe I’ve I’ve lost a little bit of quickness, and that’s just going to come with, you know, extra poundage on your body and on your frame. But I mean, what people of people don’t know is that during my time as a junior heavyweight, I was actually struggling with kind of a neck-related injury that was at risk of getting really bad. So I was being very careful during my title run, and it wasn’t really the sort of full power Kenny Omega I’m able to show these days.”

Kenny Omega | Dontaku 2018 (Credit: AXS TV)
Kenny Omega | Dontaku 2018 (Credit: AXS TV) /

How should people approach Kenny Omega on the street?

“You see him on the street. I mean I’m a normal guy, I’m a normal dude. I respect people from all walks of life, and I respect people that do anything in life as a job or as a hobby or as a pastime.

“So I don’t ever feel like it put myself on a pedestal or that I’m someone that’s better than you because of me being a champion in professional wrestling, so just a normal everyday approach. Just be polite, be kind, just like you do with anyone else that you’d meet.

“I think it’s just common practice, or at least should be common practice, and I would love to meet anyone that I see.”

What do people not know about Kenny Omega?

“Just that I’m more than a wrestler. I think there’s a lot of negative connotations that go behind the term of ‘being a wrestler.’ You know I like to show more of my skills, not only in the ring but outside of the ring as well. Everyone that is a wrestler, they all have hidden talents. I think it’s cool that nowadays, with the amount of extra media that goes into promoting wrestling, that you get to see the human side a little more.

“And I hope that people who enjoy what I do in the ring also take the time to see my other side-projects and see the things that I’m doing outside the ring as well. For example, you know the event at E3, the stuff that we do with CEO, and you know New Japan also puts up a lot of interviews about my life and who I am as a person. I think it’s all important, and then by knowing that stuff you get to appreciate the matches themselves more.”

Do you worry about living up to the hype leading up to the scheduled match against Kota Ibushi in the G1?

“I feel that every instance where I’m placed in a big match scenario, that I am set up to fail or at least set up by many of my detractors’ eyes to fail. That was always the case scenario with every Okada match. That was always the case when I mean evented anywhere in America. That was the case when I was in the main event with Chris Jericho [at Wrestle Kingdom 12]. That was the case where the pressure was really mostly on me. If I had a great match, well that’s because of Chris Jericho. If I had a terrible match, well that’s because I suck. You know what I mean? I’m always in that scenario. That’s what people always want to say about me.

“I’ve gotten so used to it that I just trust in myself, in my ability, and the people that give me love and support on a daily basis or watch my matches and have positive things to say. I just try to keep a positive mind that you really trust that the style that I’ve developed and this way of thinking that I developed isn’t going to betray me. So I really feel that regardless of if I’m beat up or injured at the end of the G1 or whatever, I’ll still be able to bring something forward in that match with Kota Ibushi that will very much show the best of what we are at that point in time.

“Keep in mind, it’s at the end of the G1. So we’re both going to be really beat up.”

How did you react to the fan support of the Golden Lovers storyline?

“I’m really proud of it. I can’t lie. That story was created for us. For myself and Ibushi .The way that things work in Japan is if you’re not aligned with a person, you can’t interact with them in public and you can’t interact with them in the arena. With Ibushi being someone very important to me in real life, we built to that for years and years and years and it was never given the green light.

“So for it to finally culminate to that evening in February and then to actually hear such positive feedback and have the support from all the people of the Golden Lovers being a tag team and a new thing, it was really overwhelming because I mean we hadn’t teamed in years. When we did team it was primarily in DDT, and a lot of the New Japan fans are very new to wrestling. So to see that kind of support for something that was brand new and that people hadn’t seen yet, it really blew me away.”

Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega | Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV)
Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega | Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV) /

Do you have a strategy to help New Japan expand in the United States aside from putting on seven star matches?

“Believe it or not, I think that the matches are really the easy part. I mean our talent pool is so good that having highly rated matches is it’s not very difficult for me at this stage. It kind of comes naturally. I mean you have “breaking the scale” and doing six, seven-star matches, it’s very taxing both mentally and physically. But the wrestling element I really feel it is only just the surface. I think that as wrestlers we have to show ourselves more as kind of multilayered. We have to show that we are more than just meatheads in the ring killing each other, and that’s why I really want to have my voice heard in multiple forms and be seen and heard in various types of media.

“My greatest hobby right now is video gaming. So I like to use that as a platform whenever I can, which is why I’m doing the show with CEO, we did this thing with E3 and there’s more exciting stuff to come up that I’m just negotiating right now. So stay tuned for that. I can’t really mention right now but it’s coming.

“Last month was the first time I’d ever done any sort of commercial work. But in one month we hammered out for commercials and they all went fantastically. So I really think you’re going to see a lot more of the New Japan brand in my brand and various forms of media all over the world, hopefully. And I think that as a whole is going to is going to grow our value and you’re going to hear a lot more of New Japan just based upon that, and not many of our guys, when they have a mic in front of their face or a camera in front of the face, have the courage or have the confidence to perform. But I’m one of those guys that can, and I think if it brings eyes to our company to watch us wrestle, which is, you know a strong suit, you know that’s what I’m going to do and that’s what I’m going to prioritize because it’s just one of my strong suits.”

What are your personal issues with Tetsuya Naito and the wrestling of his LIJ stable?

“As for the comments toward Naito, I can address those right now for you. Naito is, in a way, sort of a pseudo-Stone Cold Steve Austin anti-heroesque character, and I really don’t appreciate his message, and I think it really only works in Japan.

“In Japan. people work 12, 14, 15, 16-hour days and a lot of them live very rough lives. So it’s easier to fit in rather than to rock the boat. Naito’s message is rather than trying to follow your dreams and rather than trying to strive for something more, it’s just calm down, just don’t worry about it and just don’t care. I think that that message in general really only has legs in Japan.

“When you’re trying to be a worldwide company, you can’t make the guy the face of your company, because not many people on a worldwide scale are going to get behind that. It’s not really a positive message. I don’t like it. I think it’s stupid. I mean even as a general act [Los Ingobernalbes de Japon], is just rinse, wash and repeat. Sure, they’re talented and sure they’re great, and maybe they have an interesting type of charisma but they’re very, very local. It’s not the worldwide image it’s got I think New Japan is looking for  Sure, they’re assets. We can use them. But I think they are very niche rather than someone that has a group that has a huge outreach.”

What are your thoughts on the reaction to your controversial statements following your win at Dominion 6.9, where you declared the Japanese talent as “not at our level?”

“I’ve heard people overreact. “You know, Kenny, you’re a racist.” How so exactly? And what’s funny about that is the general feedback from the Japanese community is, “Kenny, you’re right.”

“So it’s so strange that I’m hearing all these English-speaking people from foreign countries tell me that I’m being a racist individual when all I’m doing is speaking the truth. In a way, like those comments were sort of kayfabe, if you will. I mean, you don’t know how hard anyone’s working. But I do. And I see it every day. I see that every time I go to the gym. The gym is myself, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson. It’s all the foreigners. You never see any of the Japanese talents in the gym with the exception of a couple of guys.

“And you know when we were looking at guys that are eating food and dieting, you know it’s always the foreigners trying harder. The guys that are thinking outside the box to create something new and exciting for the brand. Most of the time it’s the foreigners because they’re hungry and they want it and the Japanese talent is mostly just waiting for their turn.  I’m not saying that this is a racial thing whatsoever. It just is what it is. And I couldn’t help but notice that the guys that are absolutely killing it right now are mostly foreign talent. Why is that? I want everyone to do well. I want New Japan as a whole to do well. I want our team to be the best team in all of professional wrestling. I don’t want to be a turn waiter. I don’t want anyone to do that. I want everyone to want it.”

What does your new motto” change the world” mean to you?

“Change the world. I mean you know we’re lucky enough that as wrestlers, we have a fanbase we have, you know people that follow our careers, we can become an inspiration to our fans, and I think some of the time that we don’t fully realize the responsibility of that.  I think we sort of take a very rare approach as to how to deal with that responsibility of being an inspiration to people. So when it comes to ‘change the world,’ I mean of course there’s sort of like the surface layer to it, which is change the wrestling world and change the way that you see wrestling, the way that you watch wrestling, the way that you feel when you watch wrestling, and that’s sort of based on the style that I’ve kind of developed.

Then there’s the deeper part of that, which, you know, is that change the world by means of how we as wrestlers act after the match, before the match and outside of the ring. I mean everyone in their own way is trying really hard these days to do the best they can. But I think that our efforts shouldn’t stop in the ring, and we should really take our position in the world as potential inspirations to young people, old people, people of all shapes, colors, sizes, walks of life and just really put forward a message of positivity and be the best person you can be and display that through our actions and words. So, and I guess by means of all that,  I’m hoping that as pro wrestlers we will be able to have more of an avenue in the future to have our voices be heard and to be seen.

“So I guess in those ways that’s sort of what I meant by that by the phrase, ‘change the world,’ and I’m hoping to further sort of extend our boundaries as not only as New Japan athletes but just as wrestlers.

What other wrestlers would fit in best in the NJPW locker room?

“I mean he’s already gonna be coming in coming into New Japan and doing a little bit of work, but I’m really going to for to see how Jeff Cobb does. I know that due to complications he wasn’t able to make a debut, but I feel that someone like Matt Riddle can have a very very successful career in Japan. I mean he sort of embodies sort of the new strong style that we are searching for in New Japan. So it’s kind of cool for him to to be sort of like, you know, the foreign Shibata, if you’re looking for a comparison, and I’d love to see him come into New Japan and do well if there’s ever an opportunity.”

Given the fact that you’re the IWGP heavyweight champion and Chris Jericho is the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, outside of the U.S., would Canada make the most sense as the next stop in North America?

“For me, that’s really what I’d like to do. There are some great hot markets in Canada, and I think that they’d really be chomping at the bit to watch some New Japan Pro Wrestling live. I just believe it’s just a matter of establishing the connection and just getting it done. But to me, we’ve done America and we’ve even had stops in New Zealand and Australia. They’ve not done a full New Japan show, but our wrestlers have been prominently featured in the UK. So I really do think Canada is worth a go.”

What was your reaction the passing of NJPW, AJPW, WWE and WCW icon Vader?

“I was incredibly shocked. It’s one of the things where your jaw drops and you say ‘oh my God.’ It’s crazy because after surviving that incredible heart procedure that he had done, you just you figure that this guy’s indestructible. But I mean, you know, life just doesn’t work that way, and you can never really prepare yourself for that kind of news.

“So I mean, the news, of course, was terrible, very sad. But I was lucky enough to have some very pleasant memories of Vader, and aside from just watching his matches and seeing his stuff, I was a huge fan. Vader was a guy that I was able to work within Japan. Not one-on-one or anything, but he had a promotion in Japan for a number of years, and his bookers, they booked me to use me for his shows.

“So Vader was the reason I was able to get my first work visa in Japan. And you know he was always hanging out. He was doing matches there as well. And he was always pleasant to be around. He was eager to give advice and just be the real larger than life dude. Even until the end, he was Big Van Vader. So it’s cool that he was, until the end, the person that you’ve always pictured in your head.”

Kota Ibushi Kenny Omega | Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV)
Kota Ibushi Kenny Omega | Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV) /

How do you compare the responsibility you hold as IWGP champion to champions from the past?

“It’s certainly much different than when AJ Styles was champion, for obvious reasons. I don’t really have to go into it, and I think, even just on a surface area, you’re able to see how it’s much different than when AJ took the title and the responsibility that goes with that as well. I really want this opportunity as champion to make some waves with the company, and sure, of course I mean that with my wrestling and by my matches and the quality of the matches, etc.

“But to me, I really think that as champion, as someone who is bilingual, essentially, I would love to use my voice and my talents to be heard all around the world. And, you know, do more media and in the United States and Canada etc., etc., but then also establish myself more in Japan in TV land and radio or what have you. I think it’s a very big opportunity, and possibly the first time where someone that can speak two languages can accomplish and tread new ground as champion, because I think with a lot of the wrestling champions of the past, they never really had an ability to speak comfortably on camera or act or what have you.

“We were really just the king of sports. We were wrestling promotion. And to me, it’s sort of sucks to watch other sports get so much support from the general public. In Japan especially, if they watch an instant noodles commercial or a beer commercial or a whiskey commercial or a chocolate commercial, it’s always going to be, you know, a baseball star or golfer. You never really see wrestlers in these types of commercials unless it’s in a purely over the top comedic role.  I mean, I’m cool with that, of course, but I feel that we could bring back that respect to professional wrestling that we once had.

“We can be the cool dude walking in a suit and being able to hype up whatever product it is, which also kind of adds a new sort of layer of respect to professional wrestling as a whole, and that is sort of my goal. We’ve sort of, I’ve said over and over, taken steps to do that.  I was able to do four commercials over the past month. And you know, we did a huge E3 Expo thing against WWE and a collaboration that was just kind of first time in the industry. And I hope to do more than that, and I’m always searching for things like that. And you know the matches are the matches. And that’s really, for me, the easy part. I’d like to challenge you things that we can expand our name and expand on my own brand as well.”

Is your plan for CEO to push New Japan’s recognition, then?

“Yeah, I mean that was what that’s all about, trying something new and a merger of worlds. You know the gaming world is actually really big, and New Japan, especially, doesn’t really understand that. They don’t understand the term ‘esports,’ they don’t. I mean, when I told them about Twitch, they had no idea what it was. Of course, they understand streaming services in general because we have New Japan World, but they have never heard of people streaming games live and things like that. It’s just like a foreign concept.

So as much as this is a new thing in general, this is a very, very new thing for New Japan, and sort of, you know, in their eyes this is like, ‘wow this is risky business. I can’t believe we’re doing this.’ So it’s cool for them to trust me at the helm to do something new like this, andto kind of show them that there are all these other worlds that we need to tap into. And you know, hopefully, they start that.”

Would you adapt your match psychology in an environment where the norm is a seven-minute match with commercial breaks?

“It’s funny that there’s this idea where ‘Kenny is only good because he can do what he wants and he gets time.’ Well, everyone else who has been through those doors has had time as an opportunity. Why didn’t they do anything special? I actually work better within restrictions. When you leave everything wide open, things start to get a little convoluted. So when you give me a little bit of restriction and I start to use my brain creatively to work around those, that’s when things get interesting.

“You’re not going to get a seven-star match, six or five in a seven-minute segment. But I always do the best I can to make that segment memorable and entertaining. I think that’s always the name of the game. The thing is too where it’s like, ‘Hey if you ever go to WWE’ what are you going to do if you only get five minutes?’ I mean sure, you’re going to have nights like that. But would I take a contract with WWE if I’m not going to be able to show the best of Kenny Omega? That would be a disservice to my fans to professional wrestling, it would be a disservice to my own career or the whole hard work I put in. I would for sure make sure that I’m able to show the best of what I do, and that requires a little bit of time.

“So things like that don’t really worry me. I think I would be fine.”

How long did it take to learn Japanese and how long did it take to be comfortable cutting promos once you learned?

“I started to study from a book in 2008 and it just wasn’t enough. It never really made a difference in my grasp of the language. You read a book many times over, and it’s almost too formal, and no one speaks like that, and you can’t get a grasp for how it sounds in conversation.

Kenny Omega | Dontaku 2018 (Credit: AXS TV)
Kenny Omega | Dontaku 2018 (Credit: AXS TV) /

“So it’s best to always have either a teacher or have something more audio based or video based. So luckily, I was able to make a friend in DDT, who became my best friend there, and he was completely bilingual because he went to college in America. So I’d run things by him. I would ask him, ‘how would I say this?’ and it’d be a full sentence and I’d write it down and I would say, ‘how about this?’ and I’d write it down, and then I would go about my life, and if I ever run into something else, I would come up with an idea for a sentence to ask next “”time.

“Next thing you knew, I would have this notepad full of sentences and I would memorize them all. And I can’t remember how many it took, but eventually, just based on that, I started to be able to dissect those sentences.  I would understand what words were, what grammar was what. And then I increased my vocabulary and was able to use the grammar that I had learned by the structure of the sentences taught to me and structure my own sentences. From there you, know things evolved as things evolved. I purposely took more fan events to attempt my Japanese. And by about 2010 or possibly 2011, I sort of felt like I had a breakthrough. I could comfortably approach somebody and at least have a somewhat decent conversation. And I think by about, you know it was 2011, I was cutting full on promos in Japanese.

“It’s difficult because, you know, when you’re having a kind of relaxed conversation with someone, it’s OK to make mistakes or stutter over your words, but when you’re cutting a promo on a microphone or for a press conference, generally you want to kind of have a strong approach to it and you want to kind of cruise through it from start to end with any hiccups.

“But in general, I was able to do that. And now I’m sort of in a scenario where I don’t really even have to think or sort of prescript my promos. I can kind of say what I want to say just in the moment, which is great. I mean if I wanted to say something really deep and profound, I’m going to take the time to really think about it. But yeah I can just pick up a microphone and talk, which is great.”

Do you have any updates on the match between The Elite and the New Day, which was teased in Being the Elite?

“It was just a ‘wow wouldn’t it be cool?’ moment. All of us want the match. You know what I mean? It’s not just us, myself and the Bucks, the New Day wants the match bad as well. And we just, through a video game, broke all kinds of streaming records. It was just us talking and playing video games. I think we’ve shown that we can draw some serious business between the two of us feuding.

“At the end of the day dollars, make sense and if there was ever a time to kind of ease up on sort of old school us vs. them mentality, this is probably the time. I think 2018 is much different than any year in professional wrestling, and we just we just wanted to show that this is indeed possible. As performers, we respect each other, we like each other and we don’t incorporate that same ideology of ‘you guys are there and we’re here, so we hate you.’ I think it could be not only really cool and fun for fans, but I mean, when companies are looking at whether can this make money, I think the answer is yes. So there’s really no reason for it not to happen at this point.”

Would you ever want to welcome CM Punk to New Japan?

“I mean, I will. I really respect CM Punk for everything that he’s done in wrestling and otherwise. He’s a real convicted individual. I’m not sure if he still has the MMA bug in him or if this is just that’s what he’s going to be doing from here on in.

“I haven’t spoken with him about his interest levels of wrestling or what have you. But if there was ever an opportunity to do it and he was really interested, then just you know, name a time and place. I would love to.”

Have you thought about the emotion leading up to your match against Kota Ibushi?

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t I don’t want put the cart before the horse because we have so many things beforehand. I have Daytona Beach, the match with Cody and an entire G1 before I get to that point.

“The thing is with the one, it’s like it happens so fast and you doing something every day whereas if you really want to make the best your performances, you do have to put some individual thought into every match to make them special and stand out from one other. And you know obviously with the return to Budokan with Ibushi, after what we did in 2012, it’s going to be visually very different.

“The fact that it’s going to be in a New Japan ring makes it very different. We’re both very different as performers now, and I feel that though the 2012 match was kind of like both of us emptying our athletic tanks and doing everything possible to kill each other, I think we can create something to the same degree feeling wise in the degree of physicality. But I don’t think we have to, you know, risk life and limb as much.

“I’d like to explore more of the wrestler’s human side and how this is, especially after the end of grueling G1 tour,  it’s going to be a story more about heart and soul and rather than whose moves hurt more. You know what I mean? It’s just that just the physical, actual relationship between both myself and the beauty of that that has to be addressed. So there’s a lot to take in and there’s a lot to consider. But I guess when when I get there, hopefully safely and injury free, that I’ll be able to put forth something that does the story justice.”

What is your strategy leading up to your other highly-anticipated rematch against Toru Yano?

“Yano is a rare case where I get to sort of dial back the clock and go back to my roots as the comedy wrestler. Not that I was ever solely a comedy wrestler, but I was able to definitely do it a lot more often than DDT and other indie areas.

“A lot of people don’t give comedy wrestling a lot of credit, and I would love to argue it is much more difficult than just slapping each other in the face or over again or doing shoot headbutts. You really have to think and use your brain because telling jokes that are conveyed to not only a live house but people all over the world, it’s very hard to do. I’ve been really happy and really proud of my performances with Yano that I’ve had over the years, whether it be tags or in the G1s, so this isn’t a match worth ‘What star rating are we going to hit today?’ This is something where it’s a break from the norm. It’s a way to kind of buffer a lot of matches that start to look very similar in the G1, and I want it to stand out as kind of its own thing and hopefully put a lot of smiles on people’s faces.”

Would you be open to a working relationship between WWE and New Japan?

“Yeah certainly. I definitely would want to see that. I think now things have kind of come full circle a little bit. I’m not saying that the MMA boom is completely over. It isn’t. I mean they are still doing fantastic. But there has been more interest and support for professional wrestling.  I think that nowadays, you know, with the popularity and respect level of other sports. For example, basketball or baseball or the World Cup, for example, in soccer, anything. I feel that it wouldn’t be out of place for us to kind of stand at the same level as those as those sports. And I think the only way we stand a chance of doing that is really kind of band together and give them the best of the best and the stories and the clashes that everyone really wants to see. Both talent pools are really deep. Both in New Japan and WWE.

“But the fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that most of the matchups have happened a number of times, and that if there is a dream match still available, that dream match exists outside of the walls of that promotion. So you know when people talk about who we want to see Kenny face, most of the time when I hear, it is not a New Japan performer. It’s a performer from WWE. Do you know who we want to see The Elite face? Most of the time people say New Day. And I think you know it goes vice-versa as well. I see it all the time. Like I would love to see Tommaso Ciampa vs. Kenny Omega or anything like that.

“I think now is a very good opportunity to kind of cash in on that. I believe that both parties benefit. And regardless if one party benefits more than another, both parties are still benefiting. So there’s no reason not to do it. At the end of the day, it’s a major bonus for fans, and I think, for me, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. And I would love wrestling to be seen and taken more seriously, and to have more eyeballs on wrestling, and for people just to still look at wrestling kind of the way they did when I was growing up, and like the Attitude Era, or even like back in the ’80s when every athlete was larger than life and there were superheroes.”

What video game would you never want to be caught dead playing?

“Well, I can’t say it’s because of quality, but I purposely make sure that I stay as far away from games like Fortnite and PUBG because I know that that’s it. Like it’s a wrap. My life is over at that point. I’ll totally get completely addicted, and I will skip the gym ,or I’ll slash my gym time by like 70, 80, 90 percent. It’ll get ugly. So I’ve got to make sure I stay very far away from stuff like that.”

Can you talk about the multilayered storylines you’ve taken part in over the years?

“We always have “Being the Elite” group messages or group chat or whatever, and even in a hotel room where we just sit around a round table and spitball ideas, we always make sure that regardless of what we are or what programs we’re going to be in for our respective promotions, that we can still keep our storylines alive and have them make sense.

“So even though the Okada-Kenny IV match kind of came out of nowhere, we were able to make it work within our storyline and were able to kind of toss in little bits and pieces of the friction between myself and Cody, and Young Bucks and myself and Ibushi and all that to make it work. But I didn’t want to overdo it because most of the people were vested in the athletic rivalry that myself and Okada had. So I know most people were expecting someone to turn on someone or most were expecting perhaps a run-in. And I didn’t want to sort of disservice the fans or disrespect that storyline. I wanted to keep it separate but at the same time have moments that lent to each other, which is why I went sort of above and beyond to direct and produce that opening scene to kind of show people and remind people that yes, there has been a lot going on before this Okada match and there has been a lot going on in my mind.

“I also made sure that we sort of kind of mended the wounded relationship at the end between the Bucks and all that after the match, and make sure to show that there was a Cody thing after the match and then the next week on Being the Elite to address  Cody’s thoughts during the match, before and after.

“I feel like we’re lucky that we sort of were able to establish that Being the Elite show, because it’s cool that even though two performers are in the ring, you’re able to, after the fact, kind of show the sort of the mentality of the other parties that are involved. So I thought for me it was really interesting to see what was Cody thinking. Why didn’t he run in during the match? Why did he cost me a fall? And I was sort of addressed on the show.

“We carefully think about everything, and even moving forward now again, it’s sort of sensitive territory. So we have to make sure that leading up to the Cow Palace, things go how we hope them to. But as best we can, we’ll have it make sense.”

Kenny Omega (R) and Matt Jackson (R) square off at Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV)
Kenny Omega (R) and Matt Jackson (R) square off at Strong Style Evolved (Credit: AXS TV) /

How do you plan to make your match against Cody stand out at the G1 Special in San Fransisco?

“I mean the stakes have been increased, the stakes are a lot higher. Not only is the belt on the line, but generally speaking the winner can pretty much claim ownership and leadership of the Bullet Club. So you know, there is a lot on the line. You are safe to assume that because of the Japanese representation of Bullet Club, there aren’t going to be any run-ins from Cody’s side of things. You know I’m not going to see anything from Marty [Scurll] or [Hangman] Page, and if it happens, you would imagine they would get stomped out immediately. So it’s going to be a battle of two men where you know the rightful winner will emerge as champion and as leader of the Bullet Club.

“So I think visually the match will be a lot different, and you will see. I mean it’s a battle of two alphas, right? I mean both can’t stand being in second place. They can’t stand second bananas, so just based on that alone, you’re going to see both parties probably pulling all the stops because they can’t accept the ‘L’ on this particular occasion.”

What did NJPW think of the E3 appearance and did you have to get cleared appearance with WWE?

“I had cleared the E3 appearance months and months and months previous to us actually appearing. And I don’t think [NJPW] really understood the nature of how it would play out. But since then, our president had changed, and I kind of wanted to bring him up to speed to make sure that he was, even though I’d already gotten the permission to do it, I wanted to make sure that I was being transparent and that he knew everything about what was going on. So when I kind of told him the details and how it would play out, he was all for it and he was really excited. I really feel that it came off successfully, and even though I haven’t spoken to him about it since because I’ve been in other countries, I can’t imagine anyone’s mad right now. I think the president loved it.”

Was there a time where everything just kind of really clicked with you, where you were so at ease with what you were doing in the ring?

“Yeah, actually. I really felt there was a turning point in my first appearance at the G1 in 2016. I believe as a culmination of the things that I was dealing with personally and the fact that I didn’t really have anybody else on that tour with me. I was all alone, and I was kind of alone with my thoughts, and just the fact that it’s just such a physically demanding thing that you aren’t used to it. It causes you to kind of go into a bit of a survival mode, and I think that once I started to feel how I should perform rather than overthink I should perform. And you know, if I see this move in this room and this move it’s bound to get a pop kind of thing. I think that’s why I really turned a corner, and you know sometimes, of course, maybe you’re not going to feel it. It will be hard. You have to force emotion in your match.

“But generally speaking, you know, through my big match performances, there’s something that I want to tell and let out from the inside. Most of my singles matches I’ve been very proud of since that time.”