My translation of an interview with Kenny Omega published in the Weekly Pro magazine on 9/3 2008. This was Kenny’s first ever interview with Weekly Pro, and in Japan in general.
Original content and images © BBM.
As always, my annotations are , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Break out your “Holy Shit!” chants for this rookie
Direct interview with the “Canadian King of the Anywhere Match” Kenny Omega!
One day in July, an email reached the DDT offices. The sender was Kenny Omega, a [wrestler] who had made a name for himself on the North American indies. As he loves Japan and is well-acquainted with street fight wrestling too, he had come to challenge the “Japanese King of the Anywhere Match”, Ibushi Kôta. Coming to Japan for this reason for [DDT’s] Beer Garden Wrestling in August, he didn’t just immediately capture the hearts of the audience with the crazy match, but also with his exceptional athletic ability, and his flexibility that allows him to adapt himself to any style of wrestling. Who the hell is this random gaijin wrestler who just appeared out of the blue?! (August 12th, interview taken in Tôkyô, interviewer: Suzuki Akino, interpreter: Nakazawa Michael)
First, tell us who you are.
Omega: I’m Kenny Omega. I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and I’m 24. I’ve been doing this for eight years, but for a while I quit [wrestling], and it’s been six years since I restarted my career.
How did you become a wrestler?
Omega: My uncle was a wrestler. Since there was someone close to me who was a wrestler, I was able to think about [wrestling] as a much more realistic goal. I wanted to go to the training of an indie promotion in my hometown when I was fourteen, but you could only do that if you were sixteen or older. So when I became sixteen, I thought I could finally start [training], but they needed permission from my parents. I had actually done trials and started training, but they told me that since I didn’t have permission, I couldn’t do anything beyond that. So then I took a break [from wrestling] for two years.
It took two years for the permission?
Omega: No, when you turn eighteen, you can go on your own accord.
Were your parents against it until the end?
Omega: My uncle actually died of a heart attack, and my parents thought that the heart attack had happened because of the strain wrestling had placed on him. That’s why they don’t really like that I’m wrestling.
Tell us how it came to your debut.
Omega: A friend who was training with me came to me one night, to the store I was working at at that time, and told me that I could probably be at today’s show. I immediately lied to the store [manager] that I was sick, and headed to the show. I guess I had my debut at eighteen?
After the match on August 10th in Shinkiba, you said you were [once] under contract with WWE.
Omega: I thought that, if I wanted to seriously make it in this world, I had to have connections, so I took part in Harley Race’s WLW camp.
Was this when [representatives] from NOAH were there to inspect [any potential wrestler]?
Omega: Yes. And Johnny Ace was there as well. I talked to him, and that’s how I got my three year contract. But I quit after one year.
Omega: The number one reason was that I didn’t have a background as a wrestler. I had just been picked up in a camp, so I had no credibility. And because it’s a big company, there was a lot of direction. I felt like I had been made into this latest model of robot. I think over there is the best [place] for pros to live, but I thought that I could do more than [earn] money somewhere else. At that time, I had actually been interested in DDT for a while, and I tried contacting them at one point. If things had gone well then, I would have gone to DDT even if that meant quitting WWE (laughs).
Let’s move on to talking about anywhere matches. Why did you turn to doing matches of that [style]?
Omega: I had been playing around with backyard wrestling (after: BY) since I was ten. I formed a creative mind for wrestling by doing things on a baseball field or some other unusual location. And by the way, I was doing it safely by making sure to put down mats.
Ibushi, who thinks similar to you, said that BY is different from anywhere matches.
Omega: I think so too. The biggest difference is that [for anywhere matches] there are fans there to watch the match. And I have proper training as a wrestler, and I can capture [the audience] in the ring as well. And on top of it all, the street fight style is the best way to show the fans wrestling in an interesting manner. Also, although it’s common in the BY style to do extreme stuff, I’m not like that. I wanted to incorporate elements of comedy and suspense and drama into my wrestling and convey those [to the fans]. I published a video on YouTube, but my style is to think about a story, and then make it so the match looks like a video.
I see. However, I think that the people who watch that without knowing anything, just think that you’re out to kill yourselves in these matches.
Omega: Hmmm. What I wanted to do in the match with Ibushi, was, for example, a kung fu action movie. They have action, thrill, comedy…There really are a lot of different elements in there, but people are just enjoying those as movies, right? That’s what we express with wrestling. Of course, what we show aren’t movies but fights. To be honest, I don’t want you to look at our matches on the surface and go, “This isn’t a match, what are you talking about”. And the reason is because, yes, we have matches on the street, but we use tightly skilled techniques. The reason we go outside is because we want to show the fans something new.
So street fight wrestling isn’t anything special?
Omega: No. It is special. Not all promotions are going to give me a chance. So I’m happy that I was able to get this chance. But there’s still a lot left for me to do…When I’m done, I want to have a match at McDonald’s!
That seems difficult to accomplish (laughs). Now, your last match will be (against HARASHIMA) on August 31st in Kôrakuen.
Omega: It’s thanks to the fans who accepted me that I was able to have so much fun while in Japan. As long as there’s people who look forward to [my matches], I’ll give it everything I got!