AEW world champion Kenny Omega recently spoke with TalkSport to discuss a number of different topics, including how he studied joshi wrestling while in Japan and what he thinks of the women’s eliminator tournament. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
Says he studied Joshi wrestling while working in Japan:
I tried to watch just as much joshi wrestling as I could when I was staying over in Japan for the decade that I was there in the country. I’ve said in multiple interviews, I really do credit joshis for bringing my love back to professional wrestling when I was in a drought looking for things that make me feel something. To be able to not only have some of the athletes involved in the tournament that were in that time period [he was in Japan] having killer matches like Emi Sakura, Aja Kong and Ryo Mizunami, we’ve got some new up and comers too like Yuka Sakazaki and Maki Itoh who clearly have a real bright future in the world of professional wrestling. They’re going about things the right way. Every time you see them, they’re adding something to their arsenal, they’re improving. For me, on AEW – and I’d seen it on TJPW, I can’t lie it was awesome to see Yuka Sakazaki debut her Firebird Splash, or the Magical Girl splash.
Says the Joshi women have overdelivered:
To give these women an opportunity and for them to not only answer the call but overdeliver… I know they’re representing AEW so maybe there is a little bit of bias, but for me to watch that live stream on Monday and just be able to take it all in as everyone else was taking it in live, I had just a big smile on my face from ear-to-ear.
Says Hikaru Shida put together the Japanese side of the tournament:
I enjoyed every minute of it. Every match had something unique to offer and I couldn’t have been more proud of them and couldn’t have been more proud of Hikaru Shida, actually. She really went the extra mile and put it all together herself in Japan. These things don’t happen out of thin air. She really wanted to feature the women wrestlers more, the girls stuck in Japan and feature some of the women that she has worked with when she was doing freelance work. So we got some of the other freelancers like Veny, for example. She wrestles in Japan as Asuka. And Veny absolutely killed it against Emi Sakura. Just an incredible match. It gave people a taste of what they’re missing out on, just what they’re missing out out in the world. It’s unfortunate you can’t you can’t see all the best stuff all the time every week, but I felt extremely proud to host something as a way for people to see what goes on in that world of joshi and how our athletes are doing as well.
Says fans may see more of these Joshi women in AEW in the future:
All I can say given this world climate we’re in right now, it’s a very trying time and very difficult to make any real promises, I don’t want people to hold their breath. But if I had my way and I could manipulate global travel schedules the way that I wanted to [laughs] I think it would probably be a safe bet that you’re going to see more than one of these women back on AEW television. And that is definitely always going to be my first interest; getting these girls featured, getting more TV time for our athletes. So I’m just so happy that the tournament is opening a lot of peoples eyes. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the women killed it on the TV show, too. Thunder Rosa and Leyla Hirsch in round one. Rhio and Serena Deeb… one thing I love about this tournament, I feel like now that we have a little but of time to have these matches, these women are really showing there’s no ‘good matches for a female wrestler’ comparatively to male wrestling or comparing them to men or tag team wrestling or whatever.
Thinks the tournament really represented their division well:
I really do believe they’ve evened out the playing field completely and they really set the standard on that particular Wednesday where I was like this was the technical standout of the night and I dare anyone to beat that. It was a huge statement for the women and I just feel like the tournament in general has been an incredibly positive statement for women’s wrestling and that’s what I always hoped for from the beginning.