As previously noted, IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega was recently a guest on Talk Is Jericho with Omega's Wrestle Kingdom 12 opponent, Chris Jericho. Among other things, Omega talked about his longstanding relationship with Don Callis, helping Callis land his NJPW commentary gig, and Callis' instrumental role in putting together Alpha vs. Omega.
According to Omega, Callis gave him his first break in Winnipeg, Canada.
"He was the first one to give me a 'break,' Omega recalled. "We would consider that the WWE. Like, if you got booked by Don, you're on your way up. For real. And, Don, I was kind of treated like the redheaded stepchild on the indies I came up in. Yeah, because I was always sort of the high spot guy, doing the cool, flashy moves. I was a huge fan of RVD and actually of [Jericho] as well. It was that era, right? I was a fan of what RVD was doing in ECW and that was about the time [Jericho was] doing the cruiserweight thing in WCW, right? So I was like, 'I'm watching the alternatives to WWE now and I wanted to mirror those paths, so I'm trying to be kind of cutting edge.' And I was trying to do groundbreaking stuff and my promotion in the city wasn't cool with that."
Moreover, Omega credited Callis for much of 'The Cleaner''s early development.
"It was Don to say, 'this kid brings it! This kid wants to steal the show, he's trying to do something new, and I can help him.'" Omega said, "everyone that went there had to wear masks, but he said, 'no, I don't want you to wear a mask. I want to sort of develop you.'"
Omega added, "so he saw something in me and he gave me an opportunity. He even allowed me to develop promo skills and mic time, so a lot of my early development is because of Don and he believed in me that I could be something."
Apparently, Omega suggested Callis for his NJPW commentary role.
"Yes, I didn't think he would even be interested in it," Omega admitted. "Well, actually, at first, it was, 'hey, hook me up, kid.' And I was like, 'okay, yeah, real funny, you've got a great, cushy government job - there's no way you'd want to do anything.' But then, he was like, 'seriously, if there's anything I can do,' and I was like, well, the time was impeccable, because we just lost [Steve] Corino and we needed somebody. I always loved the way Don did his commentary. He was great on commentary, great on the mic, understands the business, is one of the greatest minds I've ever spoken to about wrestling. He gets it. He doesn't care about trying to kiss anyone's ass or cares about what anyone thinks. His opinion is truly what he feels, what he thinks, so I really thought he was a good guy for the job just because I had that relationship to him and he was a friend and somewhat kind of family as well because I actually thought that he was, on top of that, the best guy for the job."
Omega recalled that he told Gedo to listen to Killing The Town to get a feel for Callis on the microphone and ended up offering the job to podcast co-host Lance T. Storm.
"I said, 'well, trust me. He's really, really good. One of the best mic guys you could ever ask for. Like, he's our man!' And he said, 'okay, maybe we can do it on a trial basis' and then Rocky [Romero] kind of stepped in and we were going back and forth. And finally, actually, I don't know if I should tell this story or not, I said, 'if you need kind of proof as to how he talks, he's doing a podcast now.' Okay, I'll tell this story. I was like, 'he's doing a podcast now. You can give it a listen on The Jericho Network. And he [has] got a weekly show, and of course, this isn't [pro] wrestling commentary, but you can get a feel for how he is on the microphone.' So they listen to him and he goes, 'oh, this is actually great. We're going to contact him.' 'Awesome, I'll tell Don right away.' I said, 'Don, expect a call.'" Omega continued, "I'm like, 'anything?' 'No.' 'Anything?' 'No.' The next day, I get an email, 'they called Lance Storm!' So I was like, 'oh no!' They offered the job to Lance Storm originally!"
With respect to the Jericho versus Omega match at Wrestle Kingdom, Callis acted as the go-between in putting the match together. Omega acknowledged that he was glad they worked it out because they had nothing of consequence planned for him at the time.
"He was like, 'what do you think about you and Jericho at the [Tokyo] Dome?' and at the time I was desperately searching for something to do at Tokyo Dome. I really wanted to make an impact and it was almost like, 'come on, man, don't dangle the carrot! Like, this would be what I need, so don't throw fantasy matches at me when I've got nothing right now.' And I was like, 'okay, yeah, of course, it would be great, but why even bring that up, man?' Do you know what I mean? He was like, 'no, I think he might actually want to do it.' And I didn't know [Jericho's] situation and I never would have thought that [Jericho]'d be interested in doing it, so I just thought it was like, 'well, Jesus, if this is a possibility, I definitely want to do it.'" Omega remembered, "Don actually contacted me again. He said, 'have you heard anything from Jericho yet?' I said, 'no. Are you telling me he's actually serious about this?' He said, 'I'm telling you he is legitimately interested in it.' So I said, 'wow, okay, let's do this then'. That's when I believe I contacted [Jericho]."
Check out the interview here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Talk Is Jericho