My translation of an interview with Kenny Omega that appeared in issue no 5 of 2017 of the official NJPW magazine. As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Original text and images © New Japan Pro-Wrestling Co., Ltd.
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
This challenge is the greatest gift from Okada
You suffered a defeat against Ishii Tomohiro in the first round of the New Japan Cup held in March, but you were able to get your revenge in style in Fukuoka on May 3rd.
Kenny: There’s no doubt that Ishii is a tough opponent. Because there aren’t that many people who can keep up with me. However, the defeat in March was just unlucky for me, and at the time of that match he should have already realized that I’m superior to him. In Fukuoka I proved just that. If anything, in a way, I was already concerned with the match after that one.
You mean the title match for the IWGP Heavyweight [belt] between Okada and Fale.
Kenny: I thought that Fale would win. Like he cleaned the floor with Okada once in the G1 and the New Japan Cup. But Okada displayed an astounding mental toughness. You could say that in the end, he took down Fale with determination.
Did you feel Okada evolved in a way since your bout at this year’s 1.4. Dome?
Kenny: No, no, no, it’s the exact opposite. To me, Okada’s body looks broken. At the Dome, I had an over 47 minutes brutal battle with that guy. Okada has been putting on fights that are just as long in his title matches against Suzuki (Suzuki Minoru) and Shibata (Shibata Katsuyori), as if he’s dragging the impact of that match with me out. He’s not going to say this out loud, but I’m sure that he’s carrying great damage [from that match with me] with him.
You think he’s bruised and battered.
Kenny: I’m worried right now. I want to win against the best Okada, Okada at a hundred percent. That’s exactly why I requested time off from New Japan for the next series [of shows] (grins).
So, put another way, you took part only in the preliminary skirmish at the end of the series so that you wouldn’t greatly injure Okada?
Kenny: That’s right. I wouldn’t want to have Okada break like a table before this important title match, hehehe.
This time, you were chosen by Okada as a challenger [instead of the other way around], but were you yourself getting ready to request a rematch from him soon?
Kenny: No, I honestly wasn’t. And the reason for that is because I lost at the Dome against Okada, and I lost against Ishii in the first round of the New Japan Cup, and Ishii didn’t even make it into the finals either. At that time, the chance for me to challenge again was nowhere near in sight. So I didn’t even think that I would get to [have this title match] this year at all.
You thought it would take some time before it was your turn again.
Kenny: I thought, first, I would get my rematch against Ishii, and then after I would take it step by step until I reached the title match. In that way, you could say that Okada gave me the greatest gift. However, in a little bit, he’s going to realize that that was a big mistake (grins).
I’m going to undo the brainwashing that Okada is number one
You mean that it was a mistake to appoint you [as the next challenger].
Kenny: Was it really his intention from the start to call me out? Could it be that the office saw that the match with me at the 1.4. Dome [show] made waves all across the world and that it led to [more] business, and so told him to [do it]?
You did say once that Okada was a star that the office made.
Kenny: Of course, having fought him, I know all too well that the height of his potential as a wrestler is among the highest in the world. But there is no purpose or emotion to him when he leaves the ring. I took the “Terminator” (android) as my motive for this year’s Dome, but the real Terminator was probably Okada, hehehe.
Kenny: I’m sure Okada doesn’t really want to fight Kenny Omega. He barely survived at the Dome. The real Okada is probably terrified that he has to do such a match again. Do you remember last year’s G1?
The G1 you won as the first foreigner in history.
Kenny: That’s right. Under normal conditions, the office must have wanted to push a Japanese wrestler. Because I’m a heel. But when the fans saw my matches, they realized who was the superior wrestler. The same thing happened with the match with Okada. The fans saw that match with Okada at the Dome, and they thought, could it be….? And with this upcoming title match they’ll realize that Kenny Omega really is the number one. The fans have been brainwashed by the office into [thinking that] Okada is the number one. If that’s the case, then I’m going to undo that brainwashing.
After you were appointed [the new challenger] in Fukuoka, you stated: “Everyone is longing for a new hero, everyone wants a fresh breath of air. I’m going to show you that. By defeating Okada.”
Kenny: Let me say this. The fans were brainwashed during Tanahashi’s era as well. I feel the same vibe from Okada now [as I do] from Tanahashi back then. If you look over Kenny Omega’s match with Okada with a cool head, then it’s clear as day whom the fans showed a bigger reaction for. I’m the best in the fucking world.
The IWGP Heavyweight is worth more than any other belt
The match with Okada at the Dome became a headline among fans and the people working [at New Japan] alike, but what kind of position does it have in your career?
Kenny: It was a big turning point [for me] that I fought Okada in the main event of the Dome right when New Japan was receiving worldwide attention. I think more than with the G1, at the Dome I could send out a message with [my] wrestling, and I also take pride in the fact that only I was able to do such a thing as a foreign wrestler.
That much you feel [to be the truth].
Kenny: Nobody would believe that I’m someone who used to fight as a Junior until February last year. However, that match at the Dome isn’t my [most] glorious [moment]. Because I wasn’t the one who won. Put another way, I was deeply humiliated on the big stage. I actually haven’t watched a video of that match back. No matter how much it gets praised as the best match, to me it’s just a match I lost.
The upcoming title match is going to be a rematch for you. What kind of match do you think it’s going to be?
Kenny: It’s going to be different from the Dome, and as far as I’m concerned, I want to show [the fans] something different. That includes the result, of course (grins). It might be that it’ll be extremely short, or it might be that it’ll be longer than the Dome. I don’t know if the fans are going to like the Ôsaka-jô match as much as the Dome one, but I do want to say that you’ll regret it if you miss it.
Also you said that Ôsaka-jô Hall is a place you love. That it gives you more energy than the Tôkyô Dome. What’s the reason for that?
Kenny: Of course, I don’t hate the Dome. It’s an honor as a wrestler to step into that ring. But, if I compare the same big match with the Dome, then the fans feel much closer in Ôsaka-jô. The passion from the fans reaches me there, and I can get excited.
We’re preparing for the Los Angeles show in America on July 1st and 2nd. Looking at that, is there anything you anticipate from this upcoming title match?
Kenny: Of course. I greatly approve of New Japan launching into the world like this, and I have confidence [in us]. I even think that New Japan is a promotion that is able to convey the possibilities and beauty of pro wrestling. No doubt that this Los Angeles show is going to be pivotal in all this, but I think it’s important that I, a foreigner, stand in the ring as champion. Because I’m Kenny Omega, I can bring the prestige of the IWGP Heavyweight [title] to a wider audience around the world.
What kind of title is the IWGP Heavyweight [title] to you?
Kenny: It’s without a doubt the best belt in the world. It has more prestige than any other title. Because there is a massive history and respect to it.
Lastly, please give the fans looking forward to the title match a message.
Kenny: Well, the time for Kenny Omega to wear the IWGP Heavyweight [belt] around his waist has come. It’s the birth of a new hero. Do you remember Okada crying after the match at the Dome two years ago? I’m looking forward to seeing him cry again after so long. At that time, I’m going to fondly say: Goodbye and Goodnight… (grins)