Since the beginning of its existence, AEW has brought multiple talents from Japan such as Riho, Hikaru Shida, and Konosuke Takeshita just to name a few.
While on Twitch with CEOGaming, former Impact and AEW World Champion Kenny Omega discussed American’s treatment of Japanese talent and the differences between Japanese talent and talent from other cultures.
“A lot of our international talent, they came to this country not really expecting everyone to be as relentless and ruthless, and have a shred of humanity,” Omega said. “It’s unfortunate that that’s not the case, it’s not the world that they came into. You know, it catches them off guard and it surprises them to feel so hated so suddenly, and they need to understand that, that doesn’t represent everyone’s feelings, that people literally have nothing else better to do than to go out of their way and create an account to tell them that, ‘this, that, or the other’, something negative anyway, probably not just about wrestling, probably about the way that they look, or the way that they sound, or not being able to speak English — all of that. It’s really sad.”
“… Cases with Shida, Maki Itoh, Riho, [Yuka] Sakazaki, when I hear about what some of these pathetic motherf*ckers would say because they think somebody else that has a podcast or platform to say something negative, they think that makes it okay … The Joshi wrestlers are so much more refined. They train seven days a f*cking week and are so much more smooth and professional, and we have never once had any sort of backstage political issue with Joshi wrestlers. They do whatever they can, whatever is asked for them.”
Japanese talent has had success in AEW, as Riho was the inaugural AEW Women’s World Champion, defeating Nyla Rose to win the title. Rose would eventually defeat Riho to become the second champion and would lose the belt to another Japanese talent, Hikaru Shida. Shida went on to hold the title for a record-setting 372 days that still stands to this day, with Britt Baker’s reign being the second closest at 290 days.
Kenny Omega spent much time in Japan, competing in DDT and NJPW. Omega would see more success while in NJPW than DDT, winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship twice before moving up to the Heavyweight Division where he won the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, the IWGP United States Championship, and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship all while with NJPW. Omega ultimately departed from NJPW in early 2019 when he went to North America to create All Elite Wrestling.
Omega went on to discuss how the audience and the people in Japan would treat him considering that he was a foreigner.
“When I went to Japan and I did my thing and I was Kenny Omega and I was in character, I was just being a wrestler living a dream and trying to leave it all in the ring. I had given up everything in my personal life to be there,” Omega said. “I would hear maybe one person, one troll, every now and then say something stupid on a Japanese forum, but then when you go to America where, if you’re not in America, you’re a nobody, right? That’s what they’d have you believe.”
Omega had wrestled in Japan from 2008 until 2019, working in other countries as well, but consistently wrestled in Japan between those years. Omega has not wrestled in Japan since January 4th, 2019 when he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of WrestleKingdom 13 after almost 40 minutes of action. The match concluded when Tanahashi nailed Omega with the High Fly Flow for the win.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit CEOGaming on Twitch with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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