The fallout of All Elite Wrestling’s announcement and New Japan Professional Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 is still being felt by the professional-wrestling community today. Perhaps, no discussion has been more rampant, however, than the potential career trajectory of one of wrestling’s biggest stars at this time.
As announced by Tokyo Sports recently, Kenny Omega (real name Tyson Smith) has noted that he will be taking a break from NJPW at this time following the expiration of his contract on January 31st. Omega’s quote is stated as below:
“There is no real place for me to fit, so it’s best for me not to be in (NJPW), I can’t be there working under Tanahashi. I don’t think he’s surpassed me, don’t think he’s better. If we can, I want to face him again. But I need time away, and not just from New Japan.”
Kenny Omega, “Tokyo Sports” 2019
While Omega has not outright stated that he will not re-sign with NJPW, this has set the wrestling community ablaze with speculation as to where the ‘One-Winged Angel’ will land next if he does indeed leave the promotion.
As of today (1/7/2019), there are three prominent possibilities that have presented themselves as the ‘most-likely’ scenarios for Omega, according to many journalists and fans alike, regarding where he will wrestle next. The possibilities are as follows:
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
Currently the most dominant of rumors circulating in the wrestling world, there are many that speculate that Kenny Omega will inevitably end up under the WWE umbrella. With the new broadcasting deals between WWE and FOX/USA Network, the promotion is currently in the midst of a financial boom period.
As it stands in the professional wrestling/sports-entertainment scene, the WWE has long since been viewed as the pinnacle of the industry, with the most opportunities offered both financially and career-wise for its wrestlers. With the establishment of NXT as its pseudo-‘third brand’ (including the international expansion with NXT:UK), the acquisition of EVOLVE Wrestling as a developmental field and the aforementioned financial increase, the WWE has entered into a phase of signing as many ‘Independent’ and ‘Promotional’ talent as they can reach, with the most recent examples being Ricochet, Keith Lee and Matt Riddle. Many wrestling fans and professional wrestlers alike view WWE as the ‘final destination’ of sorts for a wrestler’s career in the sense that performing in the promotion is the ultimate sign of success in the wrestling industry.
With those factors in mind, it would seem logical that Kenny Omega would ultimately wrestle under WWE, following the footsteps of prior Bullet Club-leaders Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) and AJ Styles. Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio has indeed confirmed that WWE are aggressively pursuing Kenny Omega in the hopes of signing him to a contract. Speculation has been varied as to what exactly Omega was offered from the WWE but discussions have ranged from a potential WWE Championship run to a multi-million dollar deal with sponsorship benefits. At one point, it was also rumored that Omega would also receive creative input privileges as well, but that notion was officially dismissed by Dave Meltzer on his WON Radio show. While a Royal Rumble appearance is out of the question (as Omega is under contract with NJPW until 1/31/19), Omega himself has also been quoted in 2017 that, should he go to WWE, his main reason for signing would be a Wrestlemania match against AJ Styles.
“The main reason I would go to WWE is because I would love to have a match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania. If I’m being truthful, before AJ hangs it up, and before I start to degenerate as an athlete, I really want to have a big match with him on the biggest stage possible, so that is a career goal of mine.”
-Kenny Omega, Interview with Meltzer and Alvarez, 2017
Do you think ‘The Cleaner’ will inevitably end up smashing his way into the WWE field in the very near future? Is a match against AJ Styles at Wrestlemania in the near future for Omega?
All Elite Wrestling (AEW)
Possibly tied with the discussion of Omega signing with WWE, there has been equal speculation that ‘The Best Bout Machine’ will join his fellow ‘Elite’ partners and sign with the upstart promotion All Elite Wrestling. The hype for the new promotion, following its announcement, has been at an all-time high even before its full establishment at this time.
All Elite Wrestling started as a teaser for the Elite through a storyline presented in group’s Being The Elite YouTube series. The show chronicles the lives of the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and includes fellow members SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels and Scorpio Sky), Marty Scurll, Cody and Brandi Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Adam “Hangman” Page and other popular wrestlers through wrestling events. Throughout the show, certain gimmicks and events are introduced through the wrestlers that carry over into their personas in wrestling promotions. Most recently, their biggest storyline involved a ‘countdown clock’ and continual teasers that certain cast members would sign with WWE (including Kazarian miming as WWE COO Triple H on occasion). The countdown officially expired on New Year’s Day 2019, when the Bucks, Cody and Hangman Page officially confirmed the establishment of All Elite Wrestling (as well as their next show, Double or Nothing). The promotion has also been confirmed to be backed and co-owned by Tony Khan, who also co-owns NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Premier League’s Fulham F.C., giving the promotion an immediate head-start financially.
The establishment of AEW and Khan’s backing, however, has catalyzed a reaction among other wrestling promotions that has seen companies proceed to lock their wrestlers in ‘exclusive’ contracts as well as sign as many popular wrestlers as they can in order to ensure other promotions cannot capitalize on their star power (which would also starve AEW as well). Regardless of this factor, however, Kenny Omega has an intimate history with The Elite, given that they were a major feature of the Bullet Club prior to the ‘Bullet Club Civil War,’ and they have all been prominent fixtures in any promotion that they have wrestled. Omega himself has been noticeably silent in regards to if he were to sign with this new promotion. However, on Being the Elite episode 133, which chronicles the events after Wrestle Kingdom 13, the episode ends with teasers leading up to Omega signing for AEW as well.
Kenny Omega, being the Elite’s most prominent wrestler, would benefit greatly in building and establishing/maintaining a fanbase that has long since stuck with the group from the start. It would also keep the core group together and arguably swing a wave of momentum firmly behind AEW as they continue to build themselves in the wrestling market. However, the risk would then fall solely on Kenny Omega to keep his own momentum going, as he will be relinquishing his status as a main-event star in NJPW in order to build a promotion that is still unknown in the wrestling market.
Do you think Kenny Omega will join his fellow Elite members in All Elite Wrestling? What do you think lies ahead for Omega should he choose to sign with the promotion?
New Japan Professional Wrestling (NJPW)
Last but certainly not least at all, there is also the option that Kenny Omega will opt to remain with his home promotion ultimately and re-sign with NJPW in due time. This option may not be the most discussed in the wrestling community, given the aforementioned Tokyo Sports interview, but it may also not be dismissed so easily.
Kenny Omega joined New Japan Professional Wrestling back in 2010, alongside ‘Golden☆Lovers’ partner Kota Ibushi, and has only ascended upwards from there, racking up numerous key victories early on in his career. From there, he quickly went on to gain the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship with Ibushi and participated in numerous Best of the Super Juniors tournaments, inserting himself into the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship challengers’ mix on many occasions. His prolific rise arguably began with his inclusion into the ‘Bullet Club’ stable, which saw him capture numerous championships and even assume leadership of the group by ejecting AJ Styles. His status as a top-star was cemented, once he won the vacant IWGP Intercontinental Championship from ‘NJPW’s ACE’ Hiroshi Tanahashi, establishing himself in the company’s eyes as a viable superstar. His hard work was rewarded when he went on to become the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the 2016 G1 Climax and main-event Wrestle Kingdom 11 against then-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in a wrestling classic that many consider to be one of the greatest matches in both men’s careers (as well as in professional wrestling history). As a result of this match, Omega would forever be linked to Okada as an asterisk, being the one man with the best chance to end Okada’s historic championship reign. This would ultimately come to fruition at Dominion, when Omega unseated Okada in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match and became the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Omega would ultimately lose this championship at Wrestle Kingdom 13 against 2018 G1 Climax Winner Hiroshi Tanahashi, signalling his final appearance for NJPW at this time as he did not appear at NJPW’s New Year’s Dash.
Kenny Omega (along with the Elite) undeniably played a critical role in the expansion of NJPW into international markets at this time. His wrestling performances have resulted in an increase in viewership in the American market and he’s perceived as one of NJPW’s key top stars (along with Okada, Naito and Tanahashi). Losing Kenny Omega would be a significant blow to NJPW’s star power but it is noted not to be a ‘death knell’ either, as NJPW has started to plan ahead of the loss of the Elite at this time. It should also be noted that Omega has carefully noted that he is “taking time away” from NJPW and not outright stating that he is leaving. Omega has also been in this particular situation before the prior year, opting to expire his contract prior to negotiations with other promotions and leaving his status in ambiguity before re-signing with NJPW in the end. Omega can still gain some mileage out of a continued NJPW run, as well as maintain his established ‘top star’ status without risk of a momentum shift. However, Omega himself is getting older as well and he fully realizes that he cannot perform at the level he delivers forever. That being said, if there was ever a moment for Kenny Omega to make a move regarding his career, it would be at his moment.
Ultimately, Kenny Omega will (and should) end up in a promotion that will benefit himself and his career. At the end of the day, no one can deny that Omega has carved a highly-decorated career from the ground up and the body of work that he has put in will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest of all-time. It can’t be argued that whatever promotion he signs with will predictably experience massive attention and Omega will inevitably perform to the best of his ability to do what he always set out to do from the start: ‘Change the World.’
What promotion do you think Kenny Omega will end up signing with? Do you think he will sign with another promotion not listed here? What do you think lies in the future for the ‘One-Winged Angel’ himself?
For advertising and sponsorship opportunities with Game Changer Sports Network please contact Jake at Jake.Jollymore@gmail.com
Image Credit: All Elite Wrestling, WWE, New Japan Professional Wrestling