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  • Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada’s first match was an instant classic. Omega, in his own words, explains why the rematch will be—and has to be—different.
By Justin Barrasso
June 08, 2017

In this Sports Illustrated exclusive, Kenny Omega—in his own words—details his preparation and reveals his feelings before his New Japan Pro Wrestling world title match against IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada this Sunday in Osaka at the Dominion show. The match can be viewed live with English commentary on New Japan World.

Hey there folks, Kenny Omega here.

As a slight change of pace I’ve been asked to jot down some of my feelings and thoughts leading into my match on June 11 vs. Kazuchika Okada. From what I understand, publishing a piece directly from a wrestler is a new concept so this is a really cool and exciting opportunity for me to babble on about whatever comes to mind. A big thanks to Sports Illustrated for the opportunity to take part in something new.

At the time of this writing, I’m five days out from the match. In most cases here in New Japan Pro Wrestling, we spend three-to-four weeks or so on the road and roll directly into our big show matches. This is a rare case where the “pape” (which is just a funny word that the Young Bucks and I use instead of pay per view) comes after only a single match on June 9, so it gives most of us a chance to feel somewhat rested before arguably the company’s number two or number three show of the year.

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Okada and I had the most recent Best of the Super Juniors tour off (partially), and it’s done wonders for my health both physically and mentally. Even though it has only been a few weeks, I’ve made improvements to my physique, healed various nagging injuries, and found new sources of inspiration for future matches. As important as the rematch with Okada is, I’m always thinking of my narrative for the entire year and store ideas or story elements in my head for future use. At the end of the day, I’m a professional wrestler, so there will always be a ton of details beyond my control. That’s where having ideas and ways to tweak unfavorable situations comes in handy.

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Winning, losing, title reigns, etc… yes, they can be important, and to some it is everything. As a performer, I want to maximize all of these situations whether my character is the focus of the story or not. As for the next match with Okada, I’ve mentioned previously that I hope to create something very different in feeling from the Tokyo Dome match. It would actually be easy to copy the old formula for an easy 4.5+ match rating, but I’ve never been one to follow patterns for the sake of a standalone rating and/or reaction. I think this is why I’m especially proud of my year in 2016. It was an incredible journey that I never could have prepared for, and forced me to grow and evolve on the fly. In a sense, all of my supporters and NJPW’s supporters took the journey with me, which made it feel extra special. Having the online series “Being the Elite” with the Bucks, also helped a lot to tell the human story that’s sometimes missing from pro wrestling.

Speaking of the Young Bucks, they’ll be here this weekend and we plan to tear the house down at the Road to Dominion show in the main event on June 9 against Okada, Rocky Romero, and Beretta. Of course, they’ll corner me on June 11 as well (not to mention film a few Being the Elite’s, as well). Those guys mean the world to me, and no matter how much negativity surrounds me, their support and positivity help me be the best Kenny Omega that I can possibly be.

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So until June 9, I’m still dialing in my physique and thinking of ways to bring something new for everyone on June 11 against Okada.

I know it will be a late night, but it’ll be a fantastic card with a main event fit to close any show, anywhere on the planet. I’m not sure how it will go, but I can promise to showcase not only world-class athleticism, but the type of battle NJPW excels in—one of the heart and soul.

Thank you everyone, and I’ll catch up with you all after the match.

Kenny Omega main events New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Dominion show this Sunday against IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.

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