Kenny Omega rose to prominence in the wrestling industry with his run in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The AEW superstar spoke on this topic during a recent interview on the Swerve City podcast, where he recalled his transition from the junior division to the heavyweight division after a number of top talents like AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura left for WWE. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
Recalls a bunch of top stars leaving NJPW and how that left a gap open in the heavyweight division:
So I remember when Shinsuke (Nakamura) left, when A.J. (Styles) left and The Good Brothers left, suddenly there’s this huge gap, there’s this huge hole and Gedo didn’t know what to do, our booker, he didn’t know what to do and he was kind of like, ‘Okay Kenny, I guess it’s gonna be you if you’re sticking around.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, of course’ and he said, ‘Well we’re thinking maybe you move up to the Intercontinental division’ and I was like, ‘Wow. This is incredible.’
Says he got luke warm reactions at first, which motivated him to improve:
I have been wanting to do the New Japan heavyweight main event style since I’ve been here and as fun as it was to finally find my stride in the junior division, it was also exciting because it was like, no, this is what I feel like I’m geared towards, this is actually what I understand, this is how I can put my best foot forward. So I remember when I went out and we did the match and I ended up pinning Shinsuke in the match who was the Intercontinental Champion at the time and we started the belt appeal like, ‘Hey, I want your belt buddy’ and the fans, I remember hearing it, it was a mixture of the fans being kind of silent and I heard the fans kind of chuckle and I’m thinking, aw man. But, that was the best thing I could have heard because I was like, geez, you guys really don’t know.
How the fans didn’t know what he was capable of and how his first I.C. title reign helped solidify that he was going to be a big player:
I love that they felt that way because they didn’t know me from anything that I’d done in DDT or really All Japan. I guess they kind of knew. I’m sure they knew, some of them. But, here I am going from something I kind of was new at which is this New Japan junior style and now I’m finally doing the style that I’m most comfortable with and no one believed in me so it was like, I can’t even lose now. There’s no expectation. So any good thing that I do, oh boy, you guys are going to be shocked. This is great and you know, we had a great Intercontinental Title run, the G1 that year was some of my best work I feel because it came from a place of just sheer motivation.
Full interview can be found below.
(H/T and transcribed by Post Wrestling)