After what feels like years worth of speculation & rumor about if/when Kenny Omega would leave New Japan, he finally did so on Feb. 7, 2019, signing a four year contract to work with All Elite Wrestling as Executive Vice-President and on-screen talent for the Khan family’s start-up promotion.
After he was introduced at AEW’s Double Or Nothing Ticket Announcement Party, Omega spoke with Dave Meltzer & Garrett Gonzales of Wrestling Observer (subscription required, but recommended). Kenny gave them the scoop on how his negotiations with NJPW and WWE went, and why he ultimately chose All Elite:
“I felt like I needed to go to a place where I could do more, and Japan will always be a home to me and I’m always going to be back… Japan is still going to have a place in my heart, a place in my life but AEW, for me, or even WWE, kinda seemed like the next step. [With] potential dream matches and all that, and sort of using the new platform, not necessarily a better one, or a bigger one or whatever. I just wanted a new platform to reach new people, to use my voice and my unique way of telling stories and all of that. I wanted just to change the stage that I had been performing on.
I looked at all of the options, and one of the options that I almost went with was to actually stay full time with New Japan. Stay full time with New Japan but kind of be an under talent for AEW. I, again, like I said, my heart was really in Japan and I do look at that place as a home. A lot of those guys it’s hard to say goodbye to something that you’ve given everything to. I gave a lot of my time and my health to DDT but in a very different way. Even though it was a shorter period of time, I gave more of my soul to New Japan. To feel like you’re walking away from that was really difficult and I didn’t want to do it, and I wanted to give [NJPW President] Harold [Meij] a chance. I wanted to see how the presidency and the new regime would handle the company. In the end, for various reasons, it just wasn’t the best option. It was actually the worst option.
Whether it be a time investment, or financial reasons, or creative reasons, there were better of those in the other two options available to me. For my main company to – I don’t want to say ‘not see the value in me,’ or that I didn’t feel valued – it wasn’t that. They certainly did [ value me]. I guess the best way to put it is that, the other two companies were more excited to have me. So WWE’s offer was fantastic, as [Meltzer] reported. And a lot of people just know, it’s common knowledge, but they went about it in a very professional, courteous way and those guys are nothing but constant professionals in the way they dealt with me. But at the end of the day, AEW presented something that was – they just couldn’t be beat. I’m with my best friends in the business, I have a little bit of control in the creative, which is always, of course, very important. And I really feel like it’s the true platform for me to sort of have my voice be heard and I always like challenges. And I like the prospect of this being a blundering failure.
[WWE] is absolutely not a risk. Part of me was like, do I maybe want to shut my brain off? Have people write for me? Tell me what to do? It sounds kinda cool, actually. In New Japan, I would get creative and I’d try to think of – okay, I’ve been handed a basket full of lemons, how do I turn this in to lemonade? So I stay up late at night, I lose sleep, maybe I get physically ill or something because I’m trying to think of a way to tell the story that I know can be told from something that I know maybe didn’t have a lot of thought put in on their creative end. Mentally, I was very tired by the time Tokyo Dome rolled around, as much as I was physically. It was almost like there are two opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s like, do I have people that want me and want to use me to the best of my potential, but they kinda wanna dictate what I do? There’s nothing wrong with that. Or, do they kind of want Kenny Omega unleashed in AEW?…Both are still appealing. I can’t deny WWE has a ton of dream matches with guys that I would love to work with, and guys that are my friends. But just AEW is, like, I love the potential of being able to work with all of these incredible, unique talents from every corner of the globe essentially.”
Now that there are viable options, fans will always have different opinions on where any wrestler – and especially one of Omega’s skill & fame – should go.
Is AEW a risk because it’s new, or safe because it’s with his friends? Is Kenny blazing a new trail, or denying fans dream matches with the likes of Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins or maybe AJ Styles?
Time will tell, I suppose. We’ll start finding out at Double Or Nothing on May 25.
H/T: Wrestling Inc for interview transcription