My translation of an interview with Kenny Omega published 12/30 2016 on Weekly Playboy NEWS here.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Images and original content © SHUEISHA INC.
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
Kenny Omega, challenging for the IWGP [belt] at the 1.4. Dome [show]: ”I want to show everyone that I’m the best. And I want to show off New Japan to the world more!”
Challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship held by Okada Kazuchika in the main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual “1.4 Tôkyô Dome” [show] is Kenny Omega, a Canadian wrestler who was once called the “North American King of the Anywhere Match”.
The first time Omega set foot in Japan was in 2008. He worked for DDT, made good use of his great athletic ability to explode in risky moves in and outside the ring, and steadily ascended to stardom. And then in January 2014, he moved to New Japan.
He switched from junior to heavyweight in January 2016, and soon accomplished the admirable feat of winning the G1 CLIMAX on his first try (the first foreign wrestler in history to do so). And now he is looking to grab the IWGP Heavyweight belt on January 4th 2017 at the Tôkyô Dome.
What is the next dream of the man who continues to push the top [of wrestling] in Japan to its limits?
Please tell us about your roots first. You first came here in 2008, but why did you choose Japan?
Kenny: Before [getting into] wrestling, I had wanted to see the home of the subculture in Japan.
Kenny: All the games and cartoons I loved as a kid, they were all made in Japan. Ninja Gaiden and Super Mario and Mother and so on. Astro Boy and Dragon Ball Z. At the time I didn’t know at all that these were Japanese.
So you were in tune with Japan from the start?
Kenny: Yeah. I think I was fourteen? When I saw TAKA Michinoku in WWE, and became obsessed with the Japanese style not just in games or anime, but in wrestling too. So, I thought, okay! I should go to Japan! But I hadn’t really started training at that time. Although I was doing backyard wrestling.
Is backyard wrestling where you build something like a ring in the backyard and all that?
Kenny: That’s exactly it. You use mattresses from your bed or whatever in the garden or a park. Either we had no ropes, or we used tubes and hoses and such.
How did you find like-minded people [to do that with]?
Kenny: Everyone was a wrestling fan. When my dad and my mom were working, we skipped school and did it at my house.
So your home became a gathering spot (laughs).
Kenny: And then somebody was the cameraman. We didn’t sell tickets, but we had fans. Usually it was about ten people, but because we often wrestled at somebody’s house party, we drew something like 50 or 60 people.
I watched Ibushi’s matches, and I thought we had the same way of thinking
By the way, when you want to become a wrestler in Canada, how do you start? Stu Hart has a school in which he raised several world-famous wrestlers, right?
Kenny: Stu Hart’s school was far away. About sixteen hours by car. When I turned 15, an indie promotion called RCW emerged where I lived. Those 16 or older were having matches there. I couldn’t have matches yet because I had insufficient training, but since I was 15, I often helped with behind the scenes work, like building the ring or playing the entrance themes, and sometimes announcing.
So this is how you started wrestling. How did you promote yourself to DDT, the first promotion you stayed at in Japan?
Kenny: I worked for Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) and became their champion, and when I put on great matches there, a certain Japanese person who lived in America wrote about the news in Japanese. In that interview I said that if I went to Japan, I’d want to go to DDT or K-DOJO1. So Takagi (Sanshiro, president of DDT) saw that and thought to invite me. And then I had my first match in a Japanese ring.
Why did you pick these two promotions?
Kenny: K-DOJO [I picked] because I respected TAKA Michinoku a lot. DDT [I picked] because I saw Ibushi (Kota’s) matches, and I thought that he had the same motivation or inspiration as me. So I wanted to have a match with him once.
Where did you live in the beginning when you came to Japan?
Kenny: I lived in the DDT dormitory.
What did you eat while you lived there?
Kenny: I don’t really remember, but I think it was sushi every day.
Kenny: Yeah, the cheap one. Everyone bought that for me.
Did you have a culture shock when you came to Japan? For example, [in terms of] the hierarchy of juniors and seniors or things like that?
Kenny: Not really. I had already seen Japanese dramas and such, so I didn’t really have a shock like that.
I couldn’t imagine myself where I am now when I was on the indies
You speak Japanese really well, but lately as the leader of the heel stable “Bullet Club” you’ve forbidden yourself from talking Japanese on the mic and so on. Isn’t that a dilemma for you?
Kenny: If I have something important I really need to say, I might say it in Japanese.
You uploaded a video of an “anywhere match (streetfight wrestling)” on the internet once. What was your goal with that?
Kenny: Ooh, that was to introduce myself to DDT. I made that for the impact, to say, this is Kenny Omega!
From such beginnings to now being the first foreign wrestler to win the G1! Did you picture yourself like that when you were on the indies?
Kenny: I didn’t! When I was on the indies, what really was my dream was to win the Best Bout awards from Weekly Pro or Tôkyô Sports or something with Ibushi as the Golden☆Lovers. That was the maximum [of what I was aiming for].
You earned Best Bout in 2012 at the Puroresu Awards, and that dream came true. So what is your current dream?
Kenny: I want to compete with the world. My style is the best! My promotion is the best! That is what I want to show the world.
Your dreams have become very big! Since when have you felt this way?
Kenny: This year!
In other words, since you went up into the heavyweight [division].
Kenny: Correct. Last year I wanted to become the best junior. But I thought there was still more that I could do. Even on the day that I won the belt from Taguchi (Ryûsuke) at the Tôkyô Dome for the first time, I thought there was more that I could do. Then for about a year I had a feud with KUSHIDA, and after that was over, I was like, okay, let’s go even higher. On January 4th, I want to show everyone that I’m the best. And I want to show off New Japan to the world more. I’m advancing out into the world. While I’m defending the belt as champion!
So in 2017, you’ll fight the world!
Kenny: Yeah! Fight the world!
1 See my translation of that interview here.