My translation of the first interview with an official publication Kenny ever did in Japan.

As always, my annotations are in [] and additions by the original publication are in (). Original text and images @ Enterbrain.


Kenny Omega: the Spellbinding Street Fighter Who Came From Youtube!

The Kimbo Slice of pro wrestling, Kenny Omega, makes his shocking debut in Japan!

Omega has been running amok not only in the ring, but also in his trademark street fights, and has made the DDT canvas his centerpiece this summer. His videos on sites like YouTube have seized the hearts of wrestling fans and become a topic of discussion, and now he has made his long-cherished first trip to Japan.

“Unknown powerhouse” is a wide-spread term on the internet and has become an old-fashioned term in the wrestling and MMA worlds. However, turning this on its head, Omega set [the fans] on fire in a single burst by using YouTube to bring his fights to the entire world, reminiscent of Kimbo.

Explaining the match in said video here in simple terms, it sees Omega appear in front of a man having fun playing video games in his home, and for some reason he has brought a referee with him. Suddenly, the fights begins inside the home. After a wild back and fourth misusing the fridge and electrical appliances, the battle spills into the wilderness outside. [The two] beat each other up outside, and then Omega propels his opponent into the lake using his signature Hadôken. And in the end, he finishes him by crashing down together with him from a 10 meter high cliff in a Michinoku Driver!

The unhinged, 8 minutes and some battle, which has the theme song from Super Mario Bros playing as background music, is so perfect it draws the eyes of even those who have no interest in pro wrestling. If it were only that, the whole tale would end with a weird foreign wrestler, but Omega is so highly skilled, he was under contract for WWE once. And as a bonus, not only is he learned in wrestling and MMA, but also in Japanese culture like manga and video games. A nerd fighter of a kind that would surprise even Josh Barnett.

We pursued the 24 year old Omega for an up-close and personal look at his unknown life.

Omega appeared at the interview place [in a] Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are also popular in Japan, shirt. He is well acquainted with Japan and likes “Initial D” and “Kinnikuman”, but he says his favorite manga is “Hajime no Ippo”.

Omega: I’m really happy I could come to Japan like I had always longed for. I get asked why I love Japan this much. My motivation is wrestling. I saw matches with TAKA Michinoku and the Great Sasuke in WWE, and I thought, I want to become a pro wrestler too. I wanted to know where TAKA Michinoku, who was the champion at the time, had learned wrestling, and after researching, what I got my hands on was a video from Michinoku Pro Wrestling. I had seen WWE and American style wrestling up to that point, but I was electrified by how different this wrestling style was from that. And then I thought, I want to wrestle in this style too, and since then I became addicted to Japanese wrestling, I fell in love with the Japanese culture as well. I had wanted to come to Japan for more than 6 years, but there was just never an opportunity.

Omega the Japanophile had admired TAKA Michinoku, and made his pro wrestling debut at 18 years old. After that, he signed a contract with the biggest player in the business, WWE, for 3 years, but before a year had passed, Omega himself applied for ending the contract. What actually were his true intentions with that?

Omega: For me, who so admired the Japanese style, I had come to think that the WWE-ish style was like, wrong. Sure, if I had been in WWE, I never would have to worry about money, but on the flip-side of that, you have to sacrifice everything, the things you want to do, your life and your family. Because I had finally become a pro wrestler, I wanted to make the fans love my own style in which I did things how I wanted to do them, and I the most important thing for me was to make them feel something and make them excited with that [style].

The match video on YouTube was your opportunity to draw the eyes to you. Does that match reflect the fighting style you envision?

[Yellow text] “There are a number of wrestlers who are better than me. However…”

[Bottom text] When we made a request to let us take an interesting picture of him, Omega thought for a while and then showed off this weird piledriver with his victim, interpreter Nakazawa Michael. This gotta hurt!

Omega: It does. (laughs) This is an era where you can easily use YouTube like I did and tell the world what you want to do, but I think on the other hand, it has become very difficult to offer something original and new. That’s why more than ever, I’m always thinking up creative things, and I want to create things that apply components from comedy and suspense and have an impact that lives up to a lot of people’s standards. I thought that by doing so and making these videos and sharing them on YouTube, that that would be my ticket to my possibilities and my future as a pro wrestler, and as a result, I’m glad that I got a lot of feedback from people that they thought it was funny, and that I was able to come to DDT at long last too.

The fight in the wilderness reflects a lot of the backyard wrestling that is widely loved in American pro wrestling, but Omega says that his own style and the backyard wrestling style are completely different.

Omega: When I was a kid I did a lot of backyard wrestling too. I fought in unusual places too, like in a famous haunted house attraction in my neighborhood. (laughs) But I feel like that style and patterns of the backyard wrestling of late have devolved into just doing crazy and extreme things. For example, using electric barbed wire, jumping form high places, and using fire and such. What I want to do isn’t that. [I want to show] not just a deeply thought-out drama-like story, but also wrestling techniques earned through solid training. I think my rival Ibushi (Kôta) has the same thoughts about that.

With Ibushi Kôta, called the “Japanese King of the Anywhere Match”, Omega earned high acclaim from the fans during his visit of Japan, for exhibiting their incomparable wrestling minds not just in the ring, but through their expertise in street fighting as well.

Omega: Simply put, there are a lot of wrestlers who are more amazing and better than me. Those wrestlers may have more refined skill than me, but what I’m after is not just to show [the fans] a fantasy in terms of technique, but in other parts as well. The Japanese fans are kind of like that, but there are a lot of people who understand that pro wrestling is an entertainment show. And that’s not just fans [who understand that]. I think it’s extremely important, in order for those people to understand, to put out emotions, to create expressive [wrestling], to build a presentable body.

Omega makes full use of his mind for wrestling, and he fights while being aware of not just his opponent, but the attending fans as well. As for the “fantasy”, Omega used the fantastical Hadôken as his finisher, but what is the real reason he’s using the move as [one of] his signature moves?

Omega: The reason I use Hadôken is because it allows me to be different from other wrestlers as well. For a lot of wrestlers, whenever they stand in the ring and the bell rings, they’re focusing on the fight only, but I want to participate in matches that, in whatever way, bring out emotions from the crowd. For example, when I’m about to use Hadôken, then [people] think, I know this move, or, I can do this too. But when even when you see Ibushi’s Phoenix Splash, you don’t think, I can do this too. (laughs) I think the Hadôken is my connection with the fans, and I think that’s why a lot of fans shout “Hadôken!” as well. Of course, not everyone can do my Hadôken. It’s a special move I practice hard for (smiles).

You have learned the Hadôken through hard training. Before, when you used this in matches in America, you were made fun of because it doesn’t look very realistic.

Omega: Before I came to Japan, I was in the ring for ROH, and there were a lot of fans there who knew that I use Hadôken. In the beginning, it felt like they weren’t taking me seriously, but as the match progressed and they came to recognize me, they became really excited, and before the finish when I did the Hadôken stance, everyone stood up, like, “Oh, here it comes!”. When I [shouted] “Hadôken!” at the end, every screamed it with me (smiles). I think that’s my connection with the fans, and maybe in that moment the Hadôken move became real to them.

There was a time when Omega left the pro wrestling world for a while and spent his days practicing jiu jutsu. Before that, he also for a while thought about making his MMA debut. What happened to Omega [at those times]?

Omega: After I quit WWE, what I used to watch from time to time where Takada (Nobuhiko’s) matches in UWF, and I thought, “this is amazing!”. The moment I saw [those] I thought that, even though wrestling is a show, it needs something real as well, and I thought about learning jiu jutsu. From then on, I concentrated on MMA for a while, and although I didn’t quit wrestling completely, I lightened my wrestling schedule and I only did jiu jutsu (laughs). Of course I had interest in MMA as well, but first I wanted to properly learn jiu jutsu. Actually, I did win at jiu jutsu tournaments and such, but I really loved entertainment, after all. It made want to do wrestling in earnest again and well, here I am.

Kenny Omega [born] 1983, Oct 16th, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. A Canadian street fighter who calls Minowan and Naganô Takeshi from SASUKE All Stars his heroes. Aside from his Hadôken, his finisher, an electric chair-style German suplex [i.e. Croyt’s Wrath] is also noteworthy (see for yourself what kind of moves these are). The little kids he met in the park were taught the Hadôken and received a power-up! The mothers were surprised as well. 180 cm, 93 kg.

It’s a rather rare experience Omega had of starting jiu jutsu after watching UWF era Takada Nobuhiko matches. Speaking of MMA fighters from Canada, UWF star and World Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre is quite famous, and it could be said that one of the reasons why he came back from MMA to the world of wrestling was because of his Canadian character.

Omega: St-Pierre is a fighter I like, and I respect him a lot, but unfortunately, the Canadian MMA fans are made up only of guys who want to see blood no matter what. That’s how Canadians are. They don’t understand the world of entertainment or wrestling. That’s why there aren’t any fighters like Sakuraba (Kazushi) or Genki Sudô in Canada. Everyone is trying to have a style like Wanderlei Silva (laughs).

At this time, Omega is devoting himself to wrestling once more, but is there any possibility in his future he might try MMA again?

Omega: Right now I’m a pro wrestler, so currently the possibility [for that] is pretty low. And even if I went there under the right circumstances, if I didn’t prepare myself I would end up being like Ogawa (Naoya) or Nagata (Yûji) (laughs).

Omega really has done his research, knowing his stuff about Ôchan [i.e. Ogawa], who fought a losing battle with Fedor [Emelianenko] once, and Nagata! When we asked him about his favorite promotions, he [answered with only Japanese promotions, saying,] “DDT and Dragon Gate and K-DOJO”. He is so familiar with Japan that he even [knows about] “that real pro wrestler”, his hero [i.e. Minowaman, aka Minowa Ikuhisa]. He says he was an absolute PRIDE fan.

Omega: It’s sad that these aren’t around anymore, but the MMA events I loved the most were PRIDE’s. It looks like UFC is really killing it right now, but PRIDE was definitely more interesting [to me]. If I have an opportunity to do MMA in the future, if I can make fights that let the fans have fun, then I think it wouldn’t sting even if I lost. That’s the kind of fighter I want to become. Maybe Minowaman [comes closest] to what I’m modeling myself after. Minowaman has been my hero since the era [when he used his old ring nickname of] Minowa Ikuhisa.

As fate would have it, the photographer who took Omega’s pictures today is the official photographer for PRIDE, Mr. Yamaguchi. When we told [Omega] this, [he said with bright eyes,] “Really?! I’m so jealous he [gets to] see [the action in the ring] from the best place!” At the end, when we touched on the topic of Kimbo, who rose in one night from YouTube to stardom, Omega burst out in laughter for some reason. Does he think the phrase “The Kimbo Slice of Wrestling” [about him] is accurate? Unsatisfactory?

Omega: I know about Kimbo, and I’ve seen a number of his videos. He’s fighting in the streets just like me, right? (laughs) But it’s not really correct to call me the “Kimbo Slice of Wrestling”. Truth be told, I’m more like the friendly version of Kimbo Slice. In Japanese, I’m the “hanikami” [shy] version of Kimbo. No, I wish [people] would call me by my name. Ganbarimasu! [I’m going to do my best!]

Let’s wait for the Spellbinding Street Fighter’s return to Japan and [all shout] it together! Hadôken!