My translation of an interview with Kenny Omega published on manhattan drop on 6/4 2008 here.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Image and original content © manhattan drop.
5/31 2008 JAPW1 New Jersey Show
Every time I see his matches, my interest in Kenny Omega rapidly rises. I want to know more about him! I can’t sleep at night thinking about him! So, I attacked him with one of Manhattan Drop’s famous (?!) interviews. Don’t waste time thinking about it, just read this interview first!
S: Hi, nice to meet you. I’m sorry if this has nothing to do with wrestling, but I’m curious about something and wanted to ask. From your Myspace it seems like you play a lot of video games?
Kenny Omega: Oh, yes! There are two things I can’t live without in my life. One is of course wrestling, and the other is video games. (laughs) For example, when I’m feeling down and I watch a good match, I feel better, and when I play an interesting game it makes me happy.
S: I see. What kind of hardware do you prefer? Nintendo? PlayStation?
Omega: That’s a good question. (laughs) But I’d probably say PlayStation. There’s a lot of Japanese games for it. And if I had to say, I think that there are a lot of games for children for Nintendo [consoles], but there are a lot of highly accomplished games for the PlayStation. For example, Shin Megami Tensei2 is just the best. I love MegaTen3!
S: Do you speak Japanese?
Omega: Just a bit. I have just started studying Japanese. I am. A student.
S: Also on Myspace, you wrote that Nagano Makoto4 (Sasuke All-Stars5) is your hero. Why? (In the West, “Sasuke” was aired under the name Ninja Warrior, and has amassed a certain cult following)
Omega: He’s so awesome! In Canada, most famous athletes are ice hockey players. I used to play hockey myself so I know what I’m talking about, but I think hockey players aren’t well-rounded athletes. But however you view it, Nagano Makoto is a complete athlete! He’s superhuman. He’s an elaborate robot. The speech he gave when he won the whole thing was very moving. Uh, I think he said, “All the hard work I’ve done so far has gotten me to this point”. I feel that. Don’t you think this goes for wrestling as well? I train my ass off for these matches that I barely get paid for, and I live in Canada so I’m on the road 12 hours a day. Then, I do my matches, get paid, and return to Canada. I don’t have a regular job and I don’t have a lot of money, but as long as there are people who support me, I want to try and do everything in my power [to succeed]. I’m not doing this just for the here and now, I’m doing it because I think that the effort will pay off one day as long as I keep doing it. I wasn’t an honors student, I didn’t go to university, but I always have wrestling in my heart. That’s why I think that, when I work hard and put myself out there and the fans recognize it, I know I made the right choice.
S: I see. How long has your wrestling career been so far?
Omega: 8 years. But wrestling isn’t very popular in Winnipeg, where I’m from. That’s why, in order to succeed, I had no choice but to do this and come to America to wrestle. But I think I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to put on some good matches here in America. In America, my style is appreciated.
I: Would you want to have matches in Japan?
Omega: If I could have matches in Japan, I would be able to fulfill my goal that I’ve had since I started wrestling. I think that, compared to back when I started wrestling, the style of pro wrestling has changed quite a bit. These days it’s more about the stories and letting people feel the fighting spirit, right? But Japanese pro wrestling is different. It’s deeper. I wanted to spread that style in Winnipeg, but no one got it. But here, that style is popular. For example, Low Ki has a Japanese style, Davey Richards has a Japanese style too. In Canada people don’t like that style. But when I can I try to think in that style, as long as the fans support me [doing that].
S: This is from Myspace again, but you also wrote that Minowa Ikuhisa6 is your hero. Do you watch Pancrase and such?
Omega: Can’t remember when, but I watched UWF matches without knowing anything about it. The first match I saw was Takada7, and I thought, he’s amazing. Pro wrestling is a show, but in that match, I felt in the spur of the moment that it needs to be real. I learned jiu jutsu. Won a jiu jutsu tournament in Canada too. So I’m a pro wrestler and at the same time I do jiu jutsu. In order to be a good pro wrestler, you need to be a good fighter. That’s what I think.
S: Have you ever had professional MMA fights?
Omega: Only once. My original weight class is 170 pounds (77kg). But that’s too small for pro wrestling. So if you try to do jiu jutsu with a body that looks good on the outside, it’s difficult. I weigh 200 pounds now (90kg), and if I went and tried to participate in jiu jutsu match with that weight I would get matched up only with some really big guys, right? I can’t fight big guys like that! (laughs) That’s why I have to think about what I’ll concentrate on, pro wrestling or jiu jutsu. Of course, I’d like to be a mixed martial artist, but I’ve put all my eggs in one basket and come here to America for one last dream, to make it as a pro wrestler. Of course, I still have fun doing jiu jutsu practice, I’m still training. In the future I might return to jiu jutsu, but for now, it all about pro wrestling.
S: Did you learn pro wrestling from anyone?
Omega: Hmm…There really aren’t that many good trainers in Winnipeg. What I did was watch tapes. That’s where I learned a lot from. I guess you could call me self-taught? I practiced over and over watching the tapes. “Like this? No, it’s a bit too far”. Then I’d rewind the tape and and watch again. “So, like this? No, it’s different”. I had to practice by trial and error like this over and over again, and it took me 8 years to get to this point.
S: So you didn’t go to a wrestling school at all?
Omega: Oh no, I did go. But the coaches weren’t especially good, and it was just your local wrestling school, just a place where people with no experience taught. That’s why I had to study a lot by myself. For example, if you want to practice in America, you can get taught by Homicide or Jay Lethal, who are wrestling matches even today. But in Winnipeg you can’t get taught by people like that. If you want to become the best, you have to learn from the best. If you can’t do that, then you need to wrestle a lot against stars, and learn what you can from them. My first big match was a match against Petey Williams for the X Division Championship. Then Chris Sabin was next. Little by little, I studied and copied from them, and that taught me a lot. Then I signed with WWE, and over there I really learned a lot (Omega trained at Deep South Wrestling). Then after that I stepped away from wrestling for a while and did MMA. My next match was with AJ Styles. It really was like a dream come true to have a match with AJ. I realized through the match with AJ how important wrestling was for me, and that’s why I went to America to have matches here!
S: Speaking of, in today’s match you used the Kamehameha8, didn’t you?
Omega: Ah, that wasn’t a Kamehameha, it was a Hadôken9. (laughs) It might have been a Zanku Hadôken10 or a Denjin Hadôken11. (laughs)
S: What? That was a Hadôken? (laughs) Did you know that among Japanese wrestlers, there are some who use the Kamehameha?
Omega: I do! But mine is a Hadôken. (laughs)
S: You know a lot about Japanese wrestling as well. Which Japanese wrestlers do you like?
Omega: Hmmm. The one I like the most right now is…(thinks for a while) Kota Ibushi!
S: Really? Ibushi is a really special wrestler to us. We covered him extensively in April when he appeared for ROH.
Omega: Really? He’s an indie wrestler, isn’t he? I think he’s an all around great wrestler; he’s still young, he trains hard, he’s cool and his kicks are crisp. Even though he is with a tiny promotion he continued to give it his all, and that gave him his break and made him a rising star. His circumstances are similar to mine, so I’m working hard with him as my goal. I wanna become a Kota! I really want to have a match with him one day. And I’m interested in Ishimori as well. He was singing [with the] Sailor Boys back in the day. (suddenly breaking out into song) Kimi to Fly Away～♪12 That was great. He’s the best. I wonder if he’s ever gonna [sing] again…but right now he’s serious, so it won’t happen, I guess.
S: Oh, you really know a lot [about Japanese wrestling]. (laughs) So, what are your favorite games?
Omega: Hm, that’s a good question. I like MegaTen, but…Oh right, Metal Gear Solid 3!
S: 4 is coming out soon?
Omega: Yeah, but even when 4 comes out the best Metal Gear will still be 3. I’m sure of it. (laughs) Ah, by the way, here, take this. (he gives me a [signed] portrait)
S: (seeing the Initial Ω13 on the portrait) Oh, Initial Ω. (laughs) Do you like Japanese cartoons?
Omega: Yeah, I love it! I like Initial D, but the one I like the most is—do you know Hajime no Ippo14? It’s the best!!
S: We have been watching wrestling for many years, but we think you are really an amazing wrestler. We are doing everything in our power on Manhattan Drop to support you!
Omega: Thanks! I’m really glad to hear that. Thank you very much for this opportunity!
What do you think? He said it himself in the interview, but he’s a wrestler who got his chance lately and is finally on the rise. It’s rare these days to see such a nice young man. He really resembles Ibushi: he’s very passionate about wrestling, he has a background in martial arts (jûjutsu), and he mostly trains alone. So Kenny Omega, the Canadian Tonpachi15 Prince, will definitely be a breakout star in the future, so keep an eye out for him! Of course, we will be following his progress here on Manhattan Drop, so please check back.
1 Jersey All Pro Wrestling, indie promotion based in New Jersey.
2 Game series which would eventually spawn the Persona games, which Kenny likes and plays to this day.
3 The Japanese abbreviation for Shin Megami Tensei.
4 Legendary participant on Sasuke! Ninja Warrior.
5 As noted, Sasuke is a Japanese television show known at the time as Ninja Warrior in America and Europe. Competitors have to clear obstacle paths and make it through athletic challenges in order to advance to the finale. The most favored participants were collected in the Sasuke All-Stars competition.
6 Veteran mixed martial artist who also occasionally dabbles in professional wrestling. Was often the underdog and fan favorite due to his smaller size and stamina.
7 Takada Nobuhiko; retired mixed martial artist and professional wrestler, mainly for NJPW and UWF.
8 The most well known energy attack in Dragon Ball.
9 A signature move for various characters in Street Fighter.
10 A variant Hadôken used by the character Akuma (Gôki in Japan).
11 A variant Hadôken used by the character Ryû.
12 Ishimori Taiji (now Bullet Club) used to be a in a boy-band like stable called Sailor Boys with the Brahman Bros while he competed for Dragon Gate (Tôryûmon at the time). They even released an album called “Keep on Journey”, where the song Kenny sings here comes from.
13 A play on Initial D, popular Japanese multimedia franchise about street racing.
14 Manga and anime about an aspiring boxer, focused heavily on the rivalry between the timid protagonist and the brilliant prodigy of another boxing gym.
15 An insider term from Japanese pro wrestling. This was the nickname given to New Japan’s Hashimoto Shinya by those around him, and describes someone who thinks and acts idiosyncratically, outside of everyone’s expectations.