by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Kenny Omega is one of the rare wrestlers who has had a tremendous amount of success in today’s North American wrestling scene and in Japan. In the United States he wrestled for some of the top independent promotions in recent history including ROH, PWG and JAPW. He also was signed to a developmental contract with WWE in the mid 2000s. In Japan he has worked for the likes of NJPW, AJPW and most recently DDT, where he is the reigning DDT Extreme Division Champion. This interview was completed on July 23, 2013. In this interview Omega and I focus on the topic of holding a hardcore title in 2013.
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with you how would you describe yourself as a performer?
Kenny Omega: I’d describe myself as both an athlete’s wrestler and the everyday nerd’s performer. As much as I push myself to the limit in the ring and in my training, I’ve got a very big side of me that loves to entertain. Whenever I’m free, I’m either reading comics, playing games, or watching some kind of TV series or movie. I like to show that influence in the ring as much as I enjoy showing pro wrestling techniques.
Daniel Johnson: What was your earliest memory of watching a hardcore match?
Kenny Omega: It wasn’t a hardcore match per se, but an influential hardcore moment that I remember vividly was when Diesel knocked Bret Hart off of the apron through a table in one of their matches. At the time, I thought it was one of the craziest things ever!
Daniel Johnson: What was the process like of going from performing in regular matches to wrestling in hardcore matches? Do you remember your very first hardcore match? If so what stands out from it?
Kenny Omega: My first hardcore experience was a TLC match. Being young, and feeling like it’d be my only opportunity to have one, I did way too many things that put my safety at risk. The one that sticks out in my mind is a moonsault from the top of a 16 foot ladder in the ring, to the outside. It was scary and I felt like stepping down a few rungs, but I didn’t want my friends in attendance to make fun of me afterwards. Haha.
Daniel Johnson: Do you find that Japanese crowds respond to hardcore matches differently than American crowds or is it all pretty much the same when it comes to hardcore matches?
Kenny Omega: I think that in Japan there are certainly types of hardcore moments that are more appreciated than others. In general, American fans respond more to chairs and tables, but the Japanese fans will get more rowdy from anything on or from a ladder. In general, it all balances out. Both crowds love hardcore!
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with the DDT Extreme Division, what do you think is important to know about it. Who are the stand out competitors to watch?
Kenny Omega: The most important thing to know about the DDT Extreme title is that regardless of what stipulation is named as the next defense match, it will never be the same as the previous defense, and chances are it’ll be something completely original never seen before. It makes it a real fun division for the crowd I think. In terms of competitors to look out for, Isami Kodaka has always been a great representative for the belt. I’m looking to etch my own legacy with the championship, but Isami kept the belt relevant up until I took it.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise, if someone could only watched one DDT Extreme Division match then what should they watch to sell them on it?
Kenny Omega: I haven’t seen a lot of the Extreme matches, but if I were to comment on my own matches, then I’d say my match in 2008 versus Sanshiro Takagi or my recent three match challenge against Seiya Morohashi. One was a clash of DDT and American styled hardcore, whereas the Seiya match showed how unique and entertaining the Extreme Championship matches can be.
Daniel Johnson: What was most memorable for you about the experience of taking the DDT Extreme Division Championship away from Isami Kodaka?
Kenny Omega: I’d say that having my friends from Capcom there, some watching, some performing my music live, and sharing the moment with me was most memorable. Sharing special moments with friends makes any occasion more grand!
Daniel Johnson: This match was also for the KO-D Openweight Championship. What do you think of duel champions in wrestling? Do you think they are too rare in wrestling or would having too many duel champions put too much emphasis on only a few people?
Kenny Omega: I’m surprised that I don’t see more of it, but I can understand that promotions would want to structure specific divisions to keep talent evenly spread.
Daniel Johnson: What if anything do you think is unique about the DDT Extreme Division Championship?
Kenny Omega: Well for one, it’s purple, and that’s cool. Aside from that, the champion is allowed to select the rule of the match. This means that a champion’s reign will be different from person to person based on the champion’s personality.
Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question so interpret it however you would like. What do you think is the next level for DDT to reach and how will the Extreme Division help it get there?
Kenny Omega: DDT has always been a niche brand and just recently graduated from being “another sleazy indie”. I feel like I’m doing my part in showing the diversity of the company through the Extreme belt. We, DDT, have recently made television debuts on stations that would never look twice at wrestling if it weren’t for the entertainment factor of our Extreme title. I take a lot of pride in that and hope that the creative outlet of the belt helps to reach more fans in more homes in Japan and all across the world.
Daniel Johnson: The title has existed since 2006 when it was first held by Mikami. Have there been any past champions who you have not had the chance to work with that you would like to? What about past champions who you have worked with, but would like to have longer programs with?
Kenny Omega: It’s always a lot of fun to work with Isami, but a match I hope to have eventually is one against Shuji Ishikawa.
Daniel Johnson: Wrestling in hardcore matches also gives you the chance to perform spots that you just wouldn’t be able to do in standard matches. What spots in particular have you got to perform as DDT Extreme Division Champion that you hadn’t performed before?
Kenny Omega: 90 percent of my matches with the belt have allowed for completely unique experiences. I feel bad that these matches haven’t been seen outside of Japan, but I hope to release a future DVD that will feature them!
Daniel Johnson: Ever get any surprising crowd reactions when doing some of these spots either in a positive or negative way?
Kenny Omega: I always worry when the focus of a strange “Extreme” match isn’t hardcore. But the crowd always reacts favorably. DDT/Union Pro fans are great, as long as they’re having fun, they don’t care what kind of match it is!
Daniel Johnson: A staple of the DDT Extreme Division Champion is that the champion gets to decide what kind of matches the wrestlers perform in for the title. What have been some of your favorite kinds of matches to wrestle for the belt for?
Kenny Omega: Already kind of answered, but I’ll go into a little more detail. My absolute favorite thus far has been my match with Seiya Morohashi. It was a best two out of three match challenge. Match one: bodybuilding contest, match two: Only fans and the referee know the match stipulation, match three: ABC match. A close second would be my rock and roll deathmatch against A. Yazawa; a match where if music plays during the match, you must stop whatever you’re doing and dance.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of gimmick matches I know when I first began watching hardcore Japanese wrestling a match type that really stuck out to me was barbed wire matches with exploding rings. What did you think of this type of match and would you ever compete in one?
Kenny Omega: I would love to try it once with the right person!
Daniel Johnson: As far as I know there has not been a barbed wire match with an exploding ring in quite some time. Do you think this will ever change? Would you like to see it change? Why or why not?
Kenny Omega: I think the risk and danger is what prevents this type of match from happening. Most buildings simply won’t allow that type of match to take place, unfortunately. I’d love to see that change as long as there were ways to guarantee fan safety.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any old school hardcore Japanese wrestlers who you wish you could have worked with?
Kenny Omega: I really would have liked to have worked with Hayabusa. I think most juniors in Japan share the same sentiment.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any you would be afraid to work with?
Kenny Omega: Abdullah The Butcher in his prime ranks up there. He just didn’t care where you were stabbed or cut.
Daniel Johnson: Would you say the best is yet to come as it relates to this title or do you think your past work sets too high of a standard to surpass?
Kenny Omega: It’s tough to say where the title will end up or how it’ll be used in the future. I’m always looking to surpass myself, and I’ve already had ideas that were shot down for being “too crazy”, so we’ll see what becomes of the Extreme belt. When the time comes and I finally lose the belt, I hope whoever it is that beats me has enough pride to try and match or surpass my reign in quality.
Daniel Johnson: On a different note there have been some concerns about diseases such as hepatitis C being spread in hardcore matches especially those involving a lot of blood. Do you have any concerns about this and has it affected what you do in the ring at all?
Kenny Omega: It hasn’t affected anything I’ve done in the ring, but it is a darn shame that hardcore matches have resulted in the passing of this horrible disease.
Daniel Johnson: Is there any advice you would give to hardcore wrestlers who might be concerned about contracting a disease like hepatitis C through a match?
Kenny Omega: There’s never any way to be 100 percent safe when a big part of wrestling is travelling and working against people you’ve never met before. The best thing anyone can do is be responsible for themselves and be aware of their own physical condition. No performer wants their next match to be their last, and no performer wants to end the career of their opponent by means of disease.
Daniel Johnson: This is less related to hardcore wrestling and more related to your work in general. I was curious do you ever see a scenario where you didn’t wrestle at all for Japan for an extended period and only worked some place like the United States? What would need to be the circumstances for something like that to happen?
Kenny Omega: I’ve been thinking about taking time off of the Japanese scene for awhile in order to reconnect with some of the great people that have been supporting me while I’ve been away. I recently went to PWG in the US and 4 Front Wrestling (4FW) in England, and they were both great experiences. I’d like to make my rounds and revisit some old friends and attempt to make some new! But when? I’m not sure. It seems that my schedule in Japan never eases up. The most I can say is, as soon as I can.
Daniel Johnson: Also, relating to your work in the United States, I’ve heard some stirrings of Jersey All Pro Wrestling being revived. Have you heard anything about this and would you be interested in working for that company again?
Kenny Omega: Well, I’m still the Light Heavyweight Champion for them, so I guess I should show up in the event they decide to run again!
Daniel Johnson: I also had some non-wrestling related questions just to make the interview a bit different: Outside of wrestling what television shows do you enjoy watching?
Kenny Omega: I watch a lot of TV. It’s a huge, important part of my day. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones, but since finishing season 3, I’ve went back and started watching some older series. I’ve been watching Glee and Dexter in Japan, and while in Canada, Legend of Korra, TMNT and Tron: Uprising.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Kenny Omega: I’m not sure if this counts, but I’d have to say Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. I feel bad that people miss the boat on how great DC’s animated library is. It puts all of the live action super hero movies to shame and exposes how bad they really are.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Kenny Omega: It was a low calorie chunky chocolate ice cream bar in Japan.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Kenny Omega: “Uki Uki Midnight” by BabyMetal.
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Kenny Omega: The last “book” I read was a comic. Batman: Death of the Family series. So I guess it was Batman and Robin #17 or something like that. I could easily recommend it for those that read comics!
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to wrestling I had just a few more questions. First, what is the weirdest part about being a professional wrestler?
Kenny Omega: It would be the amount of pathetic people you meet. There are some real pieces of garbage in wrestling. Some are the laziest you’d ever meet, some are just genuinely horrible human beings.
Daniel Johnson: In general how has 2013 treated you and where would you rank it among the years in your career thus far?
Kenny Omega: It’s up there! Maybe top three or four? But I’ve still got some time to make more of it!
Daniel Johnson: In your opinion who would you say is the best wrestler 25 years old or younger today?
Kenny Omega: I’m not keen on the ages of wrestlers, so I’ll just generally answer the question and say El Generico/Sami Zayn.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Kenny Omega: Nope!
Categories: Wrestling Interviews