My translation of a short interview with Kenny Omega that appeared on the Tokyo Sports website (JST). As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Original text and images © Tokyo Sports Press Co., Ltd., AEW.
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
(New Japan) Kenny Omega: Match with Ospreay will be “the first step towards something big”… Also talks about close friend Ibushi Kôta
Kenny Omega (39), who will challenge Will Ospreay (29) for his IWGP US Heavyweight championship at New Japan’s January 4th Tôkyô Dome show, gave an interview in which candidly spoke about his current thoughts and feelings. After four years, Kenny returns to wrestle in his old home ring, and now directs harsh criticism towards the US champion who used to be on his side.
(exclusive interview with Kenny Omega)
This will be your [first] match in your old home ring since January 4th 2019.
Kenny: I watched wrestling from all over the planet, but everything seemed so boring. The fans in New Japan had the misfortune of being unable to cheer out loud, and it felt like everything had fallen off. Of course, it’s not anyone’s fault that they can’t cheer. Either way, since I’ve been gone, nobody has stepped up to lead New Japan. Everyone has failed. I thought it was my responsibility to become the role model of what a superstar should be like. Now fans can finally cheer again, and in the Tôkyô Dome, at Wrestle Kingdom, I want to get the crowd excited, to enjoy themselves. I knew that it was necessary for me to be [at the Dome] in order for that to happen.
Your impression of the champion, Ospreay?
Kenny: First of all, I have to apologize to the New Japan fans. I left because I was convinced that Will Ospreay could become the best foreign wrestler in New Japan. I told him that I left this to him, and I said the same thing to Jay White. I’m glad that they each have done things in their own way. That’s how Jay succeeded, by doing things in his own way. But I felt like what Ospreay was doing was just cheap. So I want to apologize to the fans. Of course, with me being out of the picture, he was the best in New Japan. You can’t replace me, so ultimately, I’m gonna have to do this myself.
You have been criticized by Ospreay as well, and you two are currently on bad terms.
Kenny: He’s used the One Winged Angel and my moves in matches, he’s assaulted me after the match in AEW. Of course I’m pissed off. He wants to show so badly that he is better than me by doing this…[That] it should be him who should lead New Japan.
Ospreay won the 2022 Best Bout Award (against Okada Kazuchika, August 18th, Nippon Budôkan).
Kenny: Compare that match to the Best Bouts that I won in the past. I think they are certainly great from a technical aspect. And if I didn’t exist, then it would truly seem like they are the best [matches]. But, just ask the fans. Which matches stayed with them. Do they remember any of Ospreay’s matches?
You mean you are on a different level [than Ospreay].
Kenny: Well, there are people who became new fans after I left, so to those people it might seem like Ospreay is the best wrestler. Sorry to burst that bubble, but he dealt the first hit. That’s why it’s necessary for me to show the fans what a real major league is.
Do you plan to prove that at the Tôkyô Dome?
Kenny: Of course it’s my goal to win, but that’s not all there is to it. I don’t know if I’m going to win after 5 minutes or if it’s going to turn into a match that goes on for more than 40 minutes. But it’s my goal to have the fans say ‘Kenny Omega is truly a star’ when they are on their way home from the show.
What are your plans after you win the belt from Ospreay?
Kenny: I don’t know how the fans feel about this, but I will do whatever it takes for wrestling, in whatever form necessary. I feel like New Japan needs me. Just because this is for the US belt, doesn’t mean I’m going to take the belt back home to America and have matches only there. I’ve said over and over that I’m the best. If there’s anyone, not just Will, who thinks they’re better than me, then they’re free to fight me.
Your thoughts about the current state of the US Heavyweight championship?
Kenny: Well, I think Will has done a good job at defending the belt the in other promotions and making its presence known in a lot of different places. But when he was wrestling in other promotions, he wasn’t fighting any opponents that he could prove his true strength against. I think I, as the first US champion, need to have the people think about the value of the belt once more. It’s not that Will is bad. No one is equipped to shoulder the responsibility of walking in my footsteps. It’s impossible for him alone to raise the destroyed value of the US belt. It takes the guy who has won the IWGP Heavyweight [belt], who has won the G1 CLIMAX, who has won the AEW World championship [to do that]—on other words, it takes me.
What about the future relationship between AEW and New Japan?
Kenny: At first it felt like we were all working together, but now it feels like both promotions are keen to [prove] who’s better than the other. If you’ll let me say how things look from my perspective, then I don’t think you can compare the two. Japan is my home. But the promotion that I work for is AEW. So I think it’s not about how this promotion is like or that promotion is like, but that both are the places were I can prove that I’m the best.
What are your goals as a wrestler for 2023?
Kenny: I have accomplished everything that I want to do. But this year was something of a test for me (once I had come back in August after a long time out) to see if I could still have matches of the highest level. Next year, I think I want to see whether or not the people around me have come up to my level, regardless of whether I have faced them before or not.
Your reunion in September in Japan with your close friend Ibushi Kôta, who is currently out, became quite the news on social media.
Kenny: When we met, we both wanted to have fun and hang out, like we did when we were together in DDT in 2008. Even when we were [just] walking down the street, Ibushi was a big deal. So much so that the people passing us immediately noticed [him]. He continues to have his pictures taken by a lot of fans and young people, despite him not being in the ring. Even if it turns out that he won’t be able to have matches anymore, he will remain an important existence [for people].
The fans are also deeply rooting for a Golden Lovers reunion.
Kenny: Anything can happen, anything’s possible. AEW is on friendly terms with anyone. I don’t really want to make predictions for the future, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to me even if such a thing were to happen.
It wasn’t a shock when you reunited.
Kenny: In my opinion it’s great to be someone, even though he’s not having matches, that fans and young people take pictures of. I think in order for me to become someone like that too, there is one more or so thing left for me to do. And the first step for that big thing is for me to wipe out Will Ospreay.
(translation: Nakazawa Michael)