AEW world champion Kenny Omega recently spoke with Pro Wrestling Illustrated about topping the best 500 wrestlers list of 2021, as well as discuss what he believes was his best year in the ring of all time. Highlights from the interview are below.
Why he believes 2018 was his best in-ring year ever and credits the opponents he had like Okada and Naito:
To this day, I’m just incredibly appreciative to have accomplished so much with that company [New Japan Pro-Wrestling] and with such an incredible cast of talent and crews. As much as I really tried to step up my game while I was there and be the best player I could be for that company, I certainly had every tool I could possibly have to work with to make that happen, and in that year which I still feel was probably one of my strongest in-ring years of my career, it probably was the strongest in-ring year of my career. I was able stay healthy, which is the hardest part actually is staying healthy for that full year but also push your limit and push past your limit because really everyone, there’s so many wrestlers around the world performing at such a high level that as soon as you ease up, someone’s already waiting to surpass you and for me to have the luck to have such a succession of high stakes matches in that company with all the greatest performers that-that company has to offer, not only domestically in New Japan but some of the best foreign athletes as well. I was extremely lucky and as much as you could say that I was number one that year, I definitely feel like I share that honor with each and every one of my opponents that I wrestled with that year because if it weren’t for [Kazuchika] Okada, if it weren’t for [Tomohiro] Ishii, if it weren’t for [Tetsuya] Naito, if it weren’t for [Kota] Ibushi, if it weren’t for [Hiroshi] Tanahashi, all those guys that I would work with that were able to bring the best out of me and maybe I was able to help bring the best out of them too.
How he excels at the New Japan style of wrestling as opposed to the American television style:
As difficult as it was to reach that number one spot in 2018 [PWI 500], I had played to my strengths completely in that year. All of those matches, those were in my wheelhouse, that’s what I do best. I do New Japan-style main event matches best. That’s easy for me. Physically, demanding, taxing? Yeah. Grueling? Yes, but, if I were to choose one style that I truly excel in, it was that and in this year, I really stepped outside of my box. I really stepped outside of my own comfort zone.
(H/T and transcribed Post Wrestling)