Kenny Omega recently spoke to members of the Japanese media during a press conference for this Saturday’s NJPW Dominion event in Osaka.
Throughout the interview the Bullet Club leader discussed what his upcoming rematch against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada means to him, how his mentality has changed since their first three bouts in 2017, and the influence his partner Kota Ibushi has had on training for one of the biggest rematches in wrestling history.
“Up until now I’ve went into every single match thinking I was the better man. I’m a better athlete than him – stronger, faster. But this time it’s different. This time I’ve finally come to terms with what the critics have always been telling me – that Kazuchika Okada is the best in the world. For me, being a competitor, that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
“For ten years I’ve been struggling in Japan. I never once took a payoff to go somewhere, to take the easy road, or to get a free hand-me-out. I’ve struggled for everything, while everyone always told me ‘this guy is better than you, this guy is better than you, this promotion is better than you.’ Finally when I came to New Japan I had felt it was my time. But then I struggled again because there was someone they kept telling me was better – AJ [Styles]. And then in comes Kazuchika…”
“Now it’s been years, and I haven’t been able to beat him for a title. For years I’ve been harnessing all this negative energy. ‘You don’t believe I’m good? You don’t believe I’m better? I don’t need you. I’m gonna use that as fuel.’ But now I’ve thrown all of that away. This isn’t about pride. This isn’t even about being the best in the world to the minds of the people, and the critics, and the wrestlers. I don’t care. This is a gentlemen’s challenge.”
“As an athlete, as a professional wrestler I won’t accept being second best. I won’t accept that the ten years of being in Japan have been to be second place. I feel like this match can prove it. This match can finally etch my name in the annals of history. Amidst this evolution of pro wrestling, we will push the boundaries even further. Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega and the entire roster of New Japan Pro Wrestling will show the world that we are the King of Sports.”
It was Okada who won the very first match between the two at Wrestle Kingdom 11, in an instant classic immediately heralded by many fans and critics alike as they best match they’d ever seen. In the rematch, which took place at last year’s Dominion event, the two fought to a 60-minute time limit draw. Omega discussed what has changed since their last epic encounters, and what fans should expect in their upcoming Two-Out-of-Three Falls match this Saturday.
“When we were both pushing the pace together, at the one-hour mark we could barely move. I’m not sure how hard Kazuchika’s been training, but if it’s much like last year at about the one-hour mark will be our breaking point. I don’t expect it to go much longer than an hour, but if I don’t need an hour I’m going to take both falls as soon as possible.”
“I don’t want any excuses and I don’t want to feel any regret. In the 60-minute draw I’m proud of the result because it felt like I made a leap forward. I felt like I improved. But I never felt like I did everything that I could. Was I doing cardio every day? Was I sticking to my diet? Was I lifting twice a day? No, because I was too busy thinking, fantasizing and obsessing over beating Okada. Over proving the critics wrong. I was lost in my head too much.”
“Now I know what this man’s made of. Now I know I have to do not just what I think it takes to win, I have to do whatever it takes. Push my own boundaries to the limit. I’m faster. I have more stamina. It’ll probably be noticeable when I make my entrance at Osaka-Jo Hall. This is a different Kenny Omega. Another big change too, I have a training partner. For the first time in a long time I’ve been training with [Kota] Ibushi in Japan. I never had that until now. So even the best Kenny Omega I could have built on my own, is being built even better because of Ibushi. I don’t want to jinx it by saying that it’s going to be enough, but I do want to say that the body that I built can go much longer than an hour if it needs to.”
According to The Cleaner, even if he manages to topple the greatest championship reign of the modern era at Dominion, becoming the IWGP Heavyweight Champion after two years in persuit, he won’t even be close to the finish line. Omega explained that winning the title is only step one to his master plan, as he then has to prove himself as great a champion as his predecessor, and to truly become the face of NJPW.
“I’ve turned myself into some kind of monster to get to this point. And it’s all so that I can say my career was complete. I look around and we’re amid this pro wrestling evolution. I just heard what the Junior [Heavyweights] had to say. I was a Junior I understand that kind of pride. They want to steal the show. They want to be the best. They want to make that belt mean something, and I get that. I tried to do that with the [IWGP Intercontinental Championship] and I tried to do that with the [IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship].”
“As strange as it sounds, as much as a goal and accomplishment it would be, to be the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, in a weird kind of way I feel like I’m fighting with Okada together, to show that we are at the front of this evolution. Once I take the belt from him it’s ‘thank you for your hard work, take a step in the back, I’ve got it from here.’ Okada has big shoes to fill, and taking the belt from him is just step one. Becoming a better champion, becoming the face of this company – what it means to evolve pro wrestling – that is step two.”