Recently on E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness, New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Kenny Omega talked about his hallowed trilogy of matches with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. Also, Omega shared his thoughts on the lost art of selling in professional wrestling.
On the subject of his critically acclaimed matches with Okada, Omega suggested that high level performances like their first match are only possible when the participants fully trust each other.
"It was our first single's match. I sort of put all of my faith into this guy. Well, we sort of mixed it up a little when I was a junior in a few six-mans and the finish would be he would hit me with The Rainmaker and that one minute or two minutes we had in the ring before going home, it felt really good. Now that I'm a heavyweight, it's kind of believable. But for a heavyweight guy wrestling Okada, 'I think it could be really good. And I've seen what Okada can do. I know he knows what I can do. We've sort of been in the ring together. Like, this might be something really special and we should just trust in each other.' So we went into this match with just complete 100% trust, which is why I did a couple of the things that I did and without even worrying about injuries."
"It's not just trusting your own ability, but if you trust the people around you, and again, The Bucks, The Young Bucks were there too and I trust my life in their hands as well." Omega said, "I trust my life in these people's hands, so it was easy for me to commit 100% to everything and just put my best foot forward."
According to Omega, the first match with Okada went so well he expected there would be a followup, but did not expect it so soon after Wrestle Kingdom 11. Apparently, NJPW wanted the sequel so soon after the first because there was pressure on NJPW from its parent company to sell out Rygoku Sumo Hall.
"Yeah, I sort of felt after the first match that there is probably going to be a second one, but I was thinking it was going to be much later in the year or even year. And when I had returned at the next tour, they sort of said, 'hey, the company, our parent company, is putting a lot of pressure on us to sell out the Palace, so we're going to run with you and Okada in the main event.' And I thought, 'we just did it, I'm not even in contention anymore, and the expectations are going to be through the roof! Like, how are we going to do it?'" Omega added, "somehow, I ended up in the main event at the Palace and we had to do the match with Okada again. Yeah, we did that and then we did Part III at the G1 as well."
Omega shared that he hopes the fourth match with Okada does not happen anytime soon, so the story makes sense and so that 'The Cleaner' does not run out of ideas.
"I mean I hope there isn't Part IV this year. I really kind of want to put it to bed for a little bit, but the company likes going back to that match it seems. And that's not to say I dislike working with him. I love working with him! It's just I want the story to make sense and I don't want to run out of ideas." Omega continued, "[with Omega winning their final encounter] you'd think the fourth one would have to be a be-all-end-all scenario."
With regards to selling, Omega divulged that he tries to imagine how certain injuries would feel and does not want to insult anyone's intelligence who has had such an injury by selling in inauthentic ways.
"Yeah, those are things that I think only experience can help develop because when you first start out, you almost don't even know what an injury is or what it feels like. You're invincible, right? But then, over the years, you know what a knee injury feels like; you know what happens when you stub your toe; when you bang your elbow or you hurt your neck, and it's almost immobilizing. When you look at things that way, 'okay, my neck actually hurts. There's a wrestler way of selling things where 95% of the guys will sell it a certain way, but if it actually does hurt, how would you act and would it just be, 'it hurts for two seconds because I took a DDT' or is it actually going to bother you for most of the match? That's the way I prefer to look at things and it's not even because I'm a stickler for adding nuances to the matches. I just don't want to insult anyone's intelligence who has been injured."
Additionally, Omega said he considers pain levels when he sells.
"I try to think of things in levels, pain levels and such, injury levels, like, 'how bad is this injury supposed to be? How much should I be selling?' And I think it also helps with the emotional attachment of fans when you're trying to tell a story as well."
While performers today are highly athletic, Omega claimed that the little things turn a good match into a great match. The current and inaugural IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion averred that too many performers today are concerned with having cool moves and worry about getting their proverbial 's--t in' rather than telling a logical and compelling story.
"With today's athlete in professional wrestling, there are so many guys that with their athletics could easily put together a four-and-a-half star match just based on the moves itself and telling kind of a fake story. But I think it's the little things, how you sell, your body, how you convey your emotions in the match whether it's the emotions you're really feeling or you're just a great actor and you can make the people believe your emotions, I think that's what pushes it to making it a five star, a six star match. I think that's what people aren't doing in the ring." Omega explained, "for me personally, I think too much emphasis is put on, 'okay, how cool are my moves?' and 'how do I string them together?' 'How do I get this move in the match within this time limit?' and that's it. And 'how should a wrestling match look?'"
E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness rocks the body that rocks the party. If you use any of the quotations that appear in this article, please credit E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.