AEW World Champion Kenny Omega recently sat down with PWI Editor-in-Chief Kevin McElvaney to discuss being ranked number one on this year’s PWI 500 list. On the PWI Podcast, Omega discussed his highlights from this past year, and he talked about his main goals in pro wrestling.
“It was a year full of highlights, and I try to think about what stood out to me the most,” Omega said. “Those unique scenarios where you’re presented with a challenge that were very unconventional for the modern day wrestling fan to see, so for me, the exploding barbed wire deathmatch is one of them. It was a huge challenge for me. It was a huge challenge coming out of that after the failed explosion as to how to deal with it. It was a huge challenge for us to be presented with our first cinematic match with the Stadium Stampede match.
“People have an expectation of maybe what that’s supposed to look like, and how do you give them something so completely different than that and unique, have them not be disappointed and have them be entertained. I always look at things from the eyes of someone who has never watched a wrestling match before. I want people who are watching wrestling, perhaps for the first time, or someone who is versed in another sport, to watch what we do and to recognize that what we’re doing is very athletically demanding.
“I want, in the same vain, someone who is a fan of television dramas, or movies or comics to find the same type of entertainment value from what they normally watch or read and then watch professional wrestling and see what we do and then say, ‘Wow, I’m a fan of this.
“And to me, this is just as entertaining, or I’m going to add this to my lineup of entertainment that I watch on a weekly basis or monthly basis.’ I try to always think bigger than the box that we’re contained in because I think as soon as you present a match, or present a storyline or something that only appeals to a very small audience, which are your core wrestling fan, you’re losing out on the opportunity to grow your fan base. You’re losing out on the opportunity to, I think, really striking an emotional chord with people. And for me, telling these deep emotional stories, or at least to elicit a different set of emotions than what you’re used to seeing in wrestling, that’s important to me.”
Omega continued as he talked about what he tries to do throughout a match and a show. He explained what differentiates a top pro wrestler to an average pro wrestler.
“All the time, it’s most important for me, rather than to want to make the fan boo the bad guy, cheer for the good guy, I want much more layers than that to what I present in the story,” Omega explained. “And if I have the ability to tell that within the weeks of the build up or if I only have that one match, I want to be able to sort of diversify the emotions that you feel throughout that match.
“As best as I can, I do want you to feel happy. I want you to feel sad. If it’s possible, maybe I want you to feel like you want to cry. Maybe there are times I want you to laugh, and the reason is, chances are, in any show, any one show you’re gonna see five matches, six matches. In a pay-per-view, you might see 10, 11, 12 matches. If your goal as a wrestler is just to make someone cheer or boo and that’s it, well then you’re just doing what everyone else is striving for.
“And I think that’s what maybe differentiates a top flight athlete, and a top flight professional wrestler than just your average professional wrestler. And that’s not to say that, you always have to do that because everyone has a role on a professional wrestling card. But myself, who’s being thrust in these main events scenes, I feel that the onus is on me to have more of a wide variety of emotions that you feel throughout the span of a long, storied main event.”
Omega spoke more on his goals for pro wrestling at this point in his career. He talked about what he wanted to change within fan culture.
“Had you asked me this question a year ago, I would never have been able to give you the answer to bring you to where we are today” Omega admitted. “I never would have been able to tell you, ‘Well, I’m thinking about doing this thing where I’m just gonna be a journeyman, and travel and collect belts.’ That just sort of fell into my lap. My goal was always to do whatever I could to unite wrestling and wrestling fans, especially.
“The wrestling community can sometimes be toxic, and I hate seeing it in sports. I hate seeing it in video games, and music and movies, where you have fans divided so passionately. People feel like they have to choose a side, and they feel that once they choose that side, they have to defend that side with every fiber of their being. This isn’t the NHL. This isn’t the NBA. This isn’t the NFL. We aren’t teams playing in the same league.
“We’re all wrestlers, and a lot of us are, regardless of who we represent or who are working for, a lot of us still feel like we’re family. I have friends not only in AEW, but I have friends in New Japan. I have friends in Impact. I have friends in WWE. I know it sounds crazy. I have friends there, and guess what, I want them to succeed. I still keep in touch with them. I don’t want you to wish ill, or wish harm or wish death upon them, as my fans, and I don’t think that the opposite is true either.”
Omega spoke more on the vision that he hopes to see as a reality. He explained why he doesn’t think it’s a waste of time to try to change people’s minds away from tribalism.
“It’s like saying a broad statement like, ‘I wish for world peace,’ and it’s like, how do you even attain that? That’s impossible,” Omega stated. “That’s naïve, but as unrealistic as it is, I’m still taking steps because I don’t think it’s wasted effort, and I think as long as fans, little by little, see that there’s a wrestling world that is a better place with all of our companies and our top talents working together, then maybe slowly but surely and maybe I won’t be around to see it.
“Maybe I’ll be long gone, retired, maybe even dead, I don’t know, but maybe there will be a world where, even just for one show a year, we get talents that work together on an incredible super show to show everyone the greatest talents of the world doing what we love to do and showing the beauty and the peak art form that is professional wrestling, which includes all styles, which is also why I did things challenging things like lucha libre.
“It’s why I did challenging things like deathmatches. People don’t expect that from me, but I want to show that there is an art form behind it and that there is beauty in it and you can tell a story. And I love to see a world where everyone is accepting to all of those and can find appreciation in all of those.”
Kazuchika Okada has spoken about the idea of a big super show with all of the major wrestling companies. Omega spoke on what wrestlers think of everyone working together.
“For me, it’s asinine,” Omega said. “If you are a Beatles fan, it’s ‘I love the Beatles, but because I love the Beatles, I think Metallica is the worst band that ever existed. They’re an embarrassment to music.’ That’s definitely not the environment that us wrestlers want. It honestly makes no sense to me, and It baffles me to this day It’s just kind of an attitude that persists, I do see it.
“I see these glimpses of hope, especially amongst our community, amongst the males and females that are doing what we do to try to entertain everyone. A lot of us have this vision, and a lot of us believe in it. I think slowly but surely, fans are hopping on board with it too, and of course, they’re going to be people that will want to take to one side and defend it with all of their being, and they’re gonna want to hate everything else.
“And that’s fine, for now, but I’m gonna do everything that I can to change your mind. That’s really my plan. That’s my plan from here on in, and I don’t know where that’s gonna take me. I don’t know how that’s gonna change my trajectory from now until next year. It might not necessarily feature me. I might not be the vessel to make that happen, but I just want to do my part to try to make that happen in the best way possible.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit PWI Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.