My translation of an interview with Kenny Omega published on 11/4 2016 on Tokyo Sports here.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Images and original content © Tokyo Sports Press Co., Ltd..
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
The Man Who Lives the Japanese Dream: the Path of Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega, first foreigner in history to win New Japan’s midsummer festival, the G1 CLIMAX, will challenge IWGP Heavyweight Champion Okada Kazuchika on January 4th at the Tôkyô Dome. It’s been 8 years since he first came to Japan for DDT in 2008. The man who crossed the sea alone from Canada and pursued his Japanese Dream has finally arrived at the very top of the Japanese wrestling world. We traced his path.
When did you come across wrestling?
Kenny: Probably when I was 5. I loved the Ultimate Warrior (WWF), I thought he was a superhero. I wanted to be either a wrestler or an ice hockey player or a ninja turtle in the future (laughs). When I was 10 I often did backyard wrestling with my friends.
You had your debut at 18. You were in a promotion underneath WWE’s umbrella too, but in 2007 you left.
Kenny: It wasn’t a good experience. They didn’t accept my name or my moves or my character. I couldn’t do what I wanted. Even if I could make money with that kind of wrestling, it wasn’t the real me. When I quit I told the WWE staff on my way out, “I know that I’m a nobody right now. But one day, I’m going to prove in the wrestling world that I’m the best”.
There was a period in which you tried to quit [wrestling] too.
Kenny: I was doing jûjutsu and I had an interest in MMA as well. When I was really lost, I was asked by an (American) promoter if I wouldn’t have a singles match with AJ Styles. That match was a lot of fun, and it made me want to try again. If it hadn’t been for AJ Styles, I probably would have quit wrestling.
In 2008, you fulfilled your long dream of coming to Japan in DDT.
Kenny: It was always my dream to come to Japan. I love the culture, and I watched Astro Boy and Sailor Moon. It really felt like I had my place to be. In WWE, wrestling felt like work that I hated, but in Japan there were so many moments during and after matches that mean a lot to me.
That was the beginning of your tag [team] with Ibushi Kôta, the Golden☆Lovers, leaping into the world.
Kenny: Yeah. But, I wonder. After all this time, was that…a ghost? (laughs wryly)
In 2014 you decided to move bases to New Japan.
Kenny: When Ibushi became (IWGP) Junior [champion], I wanted to win that belt too. But I couldn’t. I knew that this way, I wouldn’t be able to get any big medals as a singles wrestler. To be honest, the time as the GL was fun, but I wanted to increase the value of my own name. I couldn’t bear hearing about how the GL were a really good team, but Ibushi was better.
It was a relationship of mutual understanding.
Kenny: It was. But the one who was entrusted with the big matches was Ibushi. The next chances were Ibushi’s. And the ones after that…I thought that as long as we stayed the GL, things would continue the same way. I’m a Canadian so I don’t like thinking this way. Even if it hurt, for my own growth, it was better if I parted ways (with Ibushi). I tried to start over from zero in Bullet Club.
The shift in the heavyweight division after AJ and Nakamura left this year in January was literally a turning point.
Kenny: Even within New Japan, [they] were like, this is bad, it might be over…There really were guys saying that. But I thought we would be completely all right. New Japan hasn’t shown the world its best yet. That’s me.
In February, you were crowned IWGP Intercontinental Champion, and in August you became the first foreigner to win the G1.
Kenny: I was able to show the best performances of my career in the G1. I left a high quality in the ring for all my big matches, and I’m proud of the growth I was able to achieve.
What kind of place is the Tôkyô Dome show on 1/4 for you?
Kenny: You could call it the Valhalla […] of pro wrestling. It’s a place only legendary warriors can enter. It used to be a faraway dream, but I think I have become a wrestler worthy of standing [in that ring].
If you fight in the Dome, will all your dreams be fulfilled?
Kenny: Not all of them. There is still a lot for me to do in Japan.
Are you also interested in what Tiger Mask W is doing?
Kenny: Hahaha! You ask some crazy questions, my friend. But if I win the belt I’m surely going to find some new dreams.
For the Dome, your parents are coming from Canada to Japan for the first time to watch your match.
Kenny: What sucks the most right now is that I’m too busy in Japan, and the time I spend with my parents decreases as they grow older. My mother, even though she was against it in the beginning, has come to recognize what I have done in these eight years, and I’m really looking forward to having them watch the match.
You’re trying to make the words [you said] when you left WWE a reality.
Kenny: New Japan has attacked the worldwide market this year, more than last year. I’m going to prove one again that I’m the best in the Dome, with the fans worldwide watching. I’m going to remind Tokyo Sports, but without a doubt, I’m this year’s MVP, because I’m the Best Bout Machine. So, goodbye and goodnight!