WrestlingINC.com owner Raj Giri was on a media conference call on Monday with Kenny Omega of New Japan Pro Wrestling to promote this weekend's upcoming NJPW G1 Special live from Long Beach, California.
In the call, Raj brought up past comments made by Stan Hansen, who talked about being a big star in Japan (decades ago) but how he was kept out of the inner circle because at the end of the day he was still a foreign talent. Raj asked Omega if that was still the case or if in NJPW today he had more control over the direction of his career within the company.
"That's a very loaded question, a very difficult question," said Omega. "As much truth as there is to that statement. You know, the old glass ceiling… Where you can only do so much in a foreign country because at the end of the day your job is to put over the hometown talent. That's true to a degree because you know, when you're wrestling for a foreign company, chances are, there's going to be an established star that speaks the native language, that lives there, that wrestles all the bookings, doesn't travel too much outside of that home promotion. Companies will naturally want to build their promotion around that person."
Omega, who debuted with NJPW in 2010, has seen his stock skyrocket in the company since 2014. Last summer, Omega became the first North American wrestler to win New Japan Pro Wrestling's prestigious G1 Climax tournament. He went on to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at WrestleKingdom 11, a match that is considered by some pundits as one of the greatest bonus of all time.
"I have sort have made it my mission to be treated less as a foreigner, less as a guest," said Omega. "I wanted to be part of the team, part the family. I wanted to show — not only to the company, to the people, to the fans — my home is Japan."
After some difficulty trying to make his point, Omega reset and clarified his position on working as a foreign talent in New Japan and evolving into a top act.
"What I'm trying to say, in general, I think as long as you try as hard as you can and show that you can answer the call and run with the ball when you get it, there really is no limit," explained Omega. "And we're in a business, wrestling is a business. If people love you. If you're making money, if the performances you have are unlike anything anyone has ever seen, you get put in a position to be the man. And whether you have an easier path or a more difficult path, I mean that's just life."
Omega knows there are a lot of "what-if" scenarios that could have made his road to stardom in Japan earlier, however, they are hypothetical situations that are impossible to answer.
"Maybe if I were Japanese, maybe if I were from another country… I would have an easier time. Maybe if I had a friend in the office, I would have an easier time," said Omega. "Who knows, you never know. All I know is what I have been given and what opportunities lie before me. Try to make the best of them and I'm not going to give up until I make it to the top."
On Saturday, Kenny Omega will face Michael Elign at New Japan's G1 Special in Long Beach, California in the first round of the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship Tournament. A tournament that will continue on night two on Sunday night. Make sure to join us for coverage on Saturday night here at WrestlingINC.com.