The wrestling world has its eyes on Don Callis and Kenny Omega.
Since helping The Cleaner capture the AEW World Championship, Callis has commanded the headlines with appearances on both Impact Wrestling and AEW Dynamite. Speaking on Busted Open w/ Tommy Dreamer, Callis says the buzz he is creating now is why he returned to the wrestling industry.
“I said on Impact that I didn’t get back into this business just to do the Killing the Town podcast. I certainly didn’t get back to be a commentator,” Callis said. “There was always a plan and it was playing the long game. One of the side benefits of that has been buzz and buzz is one of the things that I think is difficult to create. If everyone could create it, then everyone would have it. Everyone doesn’t have it.”
Callis says making headlines is not his ultimate goal, but notes that that buzz comes natural with his long-term plans.
“I guess I don’t set out to try to make a buzz or those sorts of things, but I do set out with a grand plan. I’ve always been a big plan motivated. So don’t come up to me and talk to me about ‘Wrestler X vs Wrestler Y’ in the second match. Don’t care. I care about what happens in history. They say the winners get to write the history. Me and Kenny Omega right now are in the position of writing the history. Two guys from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada are the talk of the wrestling business and not once, but twice changed the entire wrestling business.”
Callis has began referring to himself as the ‘Invisible Hand,’ a reference to how his behind the scenes influence has shaped the wrestling landscape today. While the nickname is touted on TV, Callis emphasized that this character is just an extension of who he is backstage, and that being the puppet master was always his top goal within the wrestling industry.
“It’s not a gimmick,” Callis said. “‘The Invisible Hand’ never wanted to be a wrestling star and a world champion. I was a great wrestler, but I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to be the guy who pulls the strings and that’s where the invisible hand comes from.”
Since AEW Dynamite: Winter is Coming, Callis has become a regular on-screen personality as AEW World Champion Kenny Omega’s manager. According to Callis, he says being by Omega’s side for matches and promos has made the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion be himself again.
“Being a top guy is a different proposition in Japan than being the face of a brand-new promotion that everybody’s talking about,” Callis said. “I think Kenny for the last year didn’t feel totally comfortable [that] he could be himself. One of the nice things about family is when we get together for dinner, church, or whatever we do, we feel comfortable. We feel we could be ourselves and I think because of the bond Kenny and I have. It goes back two and a half decades. I think Kenny feels he can be himself when I’m there. So, I think we feed off each other.
“Dave Meltzer described it over and over again as a Heenan and Bockwinkel type of dynamic where both parties feed off the other one and it’s made to a superior tandem. I think that’s what we’ve seen. Kenny is comfortable being himself because if you ever listen to Kenny talk, most people who get to hang out with Kenny, [he’s] is very selective. I think Kenny would tell you, ‘I’m so much better than everybody else.’ He really is. Kenny is the top wrestler on the planet. Number two is probably not close. Certainly, in AEW he’s by far the top wrestler.”
Since teasing that he will become a ‘belt collector,’ many have speculated a title for title match between AEW Champion Kenny Omega and Impact Champion Rich Swann could come at some point in the near future. Callis did not touch on whether or not a clash between the two promotions’ champions would happen, but he did quickly switch the topic to how he is responsible for AEW’s existence.
“By the way, for all the fans out there, you’re welcome for Dynamite,” Callis said. “You’re welcome, because without the Tokyo Dome match between Jericho and Omega, by Tony Khan’s own words, there’s no AEW. So, if the biggest thing to happen in wrestling has been AEW, then you have me to thank for that and Kenny Omega to thank for that, because of what we did at the Tokyo Dome.”
AEW is home to numerous factions, such as the Inner Circle, the Dark Order, and Team Taz. While big groups are the norm on Wednesday nights, Callis assured that his partnership with Omega is limited to two.
“The great thing too is there’s going to be a lot of people trying to come between us. ‘Can I join your family too?’ Well, no, you can’t, because you’re not part of the family,” Callis said. “So, I think there’s going to be bandwagon jumpers. There are going to be stooges and sycophants who are going to try to bust us up. At the end of the day, you can’t come between family.”
Omega and Callis may have just began their on-screen partnership, but the two have known each other for decades.
“Kenny grew up in Winnipeg. His uncle was a wrestler, The Golden Sheik. He trained me as a wrestler,” Callis said. “Then, when I became a young brash heel that was going on television, The Sheik was my manager. The Sheik looked after me, unlike the other old school guys, he looked after me. He took care of me.
“So, when I met Kenny, I took an interest in taking care of Kenny. Kenny grew up watching me on TV in Canada as ‘The Natural.’ So, Kenny was actually a fan of mine as a young boy and when he became a wrestler, I started looking out for him, trying to get him bookings. Trying to make sure that he was taken care of, giving him advice. I would get calls in the middle of the night from Japan. That sort of thing. It’s been a very symbiotic relationship. For Kenny, I think that he, also like me, is motivated by big things.”
Omega has already achieved enough accolades to satisfy anyone’s career. Because of all of those accomplishments, Callis says the only thing left for Omega to focus on is changing history.
“Kenny doesn’t want a five-star match. He already had that. Six stars, done that. Seven stars, done that. What’s left? What is left is shaping history and changing the industry,” Callis said. “Other people have done it. Vince McMahon has done it. Eddie Graham did it. Paul Heyman even did it. No one’s done it twice and that’s what Kenny and I have done. Maybe, we’re going to do it a third time too. Maybe we’re going to clean up all the underbrush of the old hardcore wrestlers. Maybe make an example like that and that’s the great thing.”
You have Kenny Omega. You have the greatest wrestler in the history of the business, a Hall of Famer in the mid-’30s. You do whatever you want. Imagine this. You have the best wrestler of this generation. The best athlete in wrestling and by far, the most intelligent person. The most visionary person in wrestling and me. Together, it’s always something we can’t accomplish.”
While Winter is Coming is now weeks old, the future of the Omega/Callis storyline is still up in the air. Callis teased a major announcement coming on Impact, and when he didn’t deliver it there, he claimed it would come on Dynamite. When Dynamite rolled around, he claimed that the world wasn’t ready for it. Callis did not give any concrete answers as to the future of this angle, but did emphasize that it would be major.
“Where it’s going in the history books. We’re not done,” Callis said. “I remember actually hearing you [Tommy Dreamer] talk when I came back and took over with Scott D’Amore in Impact Wrestling. You said this is the greatest comeback in the history of wrestling. 13 years away from the business. Come back, take over the number two wrestling company in the US. Scott and I did that. That was just phase three of a plan that was years in the making. So, let’s not make the same mistake twice and be short-sighted. Let’s not assume that this is the end. Maybe, this is just the beginning.
“I’ll say the same thing as I did to Josh Matthews on the interview. Do you think I came back to be a color commentator? Do you think I came back just to help Kenny Omega? I didn’t come back just to help Kenny Omega win one title. I think that now Kenny and I have the appropriate leavers in place. My power within the industry, based on the executive position? My power in the industry, based on what I just accomplished? It can never be unwritten. So, it’s money in the bank. Kenny’s power as the real world champion, AEW World Champion. He’s also got the AAA Belt. I might go down and mess with Konnan a little bit. I’d like to do that. So, we’re going to enjoy ourselves. We’re going to enjoy pulling all the strings.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Busted Open w/ Tommy Dreamer with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.