Kenny Omega Brings the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch to AEW

The Week in Wrestling: Kenny Omega on introducing a Japanese classic to a new audience, Jon Moxley on how his career is similar to Kenta’s and more.
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Kenny Omega on the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch: “The idea itself is incredible. You touch the ropes and they explode.”

In the midst of yet another career-defining run, Kenny Omega is set to introduce a new match to AEW and, for that matter, to a large portion of the North American audience.

Omega defends the AEW Championship this Sunday—the company’s first pay-per-view not on a Saturday—at Revolution against Jon Moxley in an Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch. The match, which was a staple of Japan’s Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling in the 1990s, features barbed wire taking the place of the ring ropes, with the added caveat of there being explosives in wires.

“The idea itself is incredible,” Omega says. “You touch the ropes and they explode. This is a match that was made famous about 30 years ago in FMW. It’s not like a cage match where you have a pretty good idea about what you’ll see. With this, there are going to be so many unexpected parts.”

One part of this deathmatch not out of the ordinary was Moxley’s reaction upon learning that he was going to take part in an Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch.

“No matter the idea, regardless of the outrageousness of it, you can’t shock Moxley,” Omega says. “He’ll say, ‘You really want to do some of this stuff? What’s wrong with you?’ Then he’ll say, ‘OK.’ And he speaks from a place of confidence. He has a full commitment with no hesitation, which is what you need in a match like this.”

This match fits right into Revolution. From its start, the company proudly proclaimed to stand as a unique commodity in pro wrestling, and this is certainly an example of the boldness and risk-taking of Omega, Moxley and president/CEO Tony Khan.

Omega is particularly enthused by this opportunity, as it represents another chance to showcase why he is the most versatile, complete performer in the industry.

“I’m just trying to make my tool chest as big of a tool chest as you can do,” says Omega, who has been on a tear since his singles bout against Hangman Page at Full Gear in November. “I’m constantly challenging myself in all sorts of manners within wrestling.”

Following that bout with Page, Omega’s work has included winning the AEW championship from Moxley, a match-of-the-year candidate against Laredo Kid at AAA’s Triplemanía, an outstanding bout on Dynamite against Fénix and a sojourn into Impact Wrestling that saw him steal the show at their Hard to Kill pay-per-view when he pinned Impact champion Rich Swann in a show-closing six-man tag.

“I despise when I come across as too arrogant, but I never doubted that I could do this,” says Omega, who is thriving as a villain alongside Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Don Callis. “I’ve been hearing for over a year these expectations of what I was supposed to be in AEW. It was just a copy-and-paste of the ‘Tokyo Dome Kenny Omega,’ which would essentially have monopolized all of our programming. If that were the case, an hour would have to go to my matches. I believe too much in our roster and our vision to ever want to do something like that.

“This is my opportunity to show to a much broader audience that I can show a different side to my work, do these skits, which the people who watched Being the Elite already knew, and accomplish a whole new set of goals.”

As one of AEW’s executive vice presidents, Omega has also helped lead the charge for cross-promotion. He is the reigning AAA Mega Champion, has put an entirely new spotlight on Impact upon his arrival, and would be a perfect choice to wrestle some of the stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Though Omega is best known for his work with Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi, a convincing argument can be made that the match of his career took place at Wrestle Kingdom 13 against Hiroshi Tanahashi, and prior matches against Tomohiro Ishii also stand as some of his most spectacular work.

“We’re putting the fan first,” Omega says. “That’s why it’s worked out with Impact, that’s why it’s working out with New Japan. We’re operating in a more exciting environment, and we are now seeing that the industry wins because of it.”

Wrestling has so much to offer, including stories that capture the human element. Omega is consumed by a desire to show all of wrestling’s different facets to the mainstream audience, telling his stories in the most compelling, authentic manner possible.

“A standard I set for myself is that I can’t call myself the best in the world unless I can do everything,” Omega says. “So yes, a huge, long match at the Tokyo Dome, with no restrictions, no agent, I can do that. I can also go on TV and have a performance everyone is talking about, one where I was supposed to have 21 minutes but then I only had 18, plus told a story after the match. That’s part of being the best, too.”

Omega now looks to capture the thrill of the unknown. While the match has existed for decades, AEW is going to place its own distinct touch on the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch.

“I love that anticipation, the waiting,” Omega says. “We’re taking a piece from history, from Hayabusa, Jinsei Shinzaki, Tarzan Goto, and [Atsushi] Onita, and some of the North Americans that went to FMW—but those were matches you wouldn’t see on TV. Back then, you had to trade for the tapes. There was the anticipation, followed by that raw fun when you watched. That’s what I want to capture.”

Two of the most electric stars in the industry, Omega and Moxley—a former IWGP heavyweight champion and a former WWE champion—meet again this Sunday, seeking to redefine a genre that has existed for over a century.

“There is going to be a certain level of excitement and even anxiety watching this match, a level of curiosity that won’t let you look away,” Omega says. “This is going to be a more visceral experience, where so many of the senses, ones you don’t normally use when watching wrestling, are heightened.

“When people see this play out in the ring, it’s not going to be boring. I want to capture the unknown, all that excitement and anticipation.”

Bobby Lashley begins long overdue reign as WWE champion

Bobby Lashley is the new WWE champion.

Lashley dethroned The Miz during Raw on Monday, beginning his first ever run with WWE’s premiere championship. The honor is well-deserved, and his storyline with Miz—where it was only a matter of time before Lashley was going to win the title—mirrored reality. It was inevitable that a man this talented was going to emerge victorious. Lashley delivers some of the most realistic in-ring work on the roster, boasts a physique better than his action figure, and has been phenomenal in his pairing with MVP.

And he has a tailor-made opponent for WrestleMania 37 in Drew McIntyre, who is coming off a phenomenal Raw match against Sheamus.

There is history in the Lashley–McIntyre feud dating back to last year. MVP offered to manage McIntyre, which he rejected, and MVP vowed to cost McIntyre the WWE title. That eventually happened, during McIntyre’s second title reign, when a post-Elimination Chamber beatdown from Lashley opened the door for Miz to cash-in and win the belt.

McIntyre and Lashley will work a rugged, physical match at WrestleMania, a bout that will be very different from the universal championship match pitting Roman Reigns against Edge.

Lashley–McIntyre is worthy of the main event, but that is a dilemma, considering that Sasha Banks–Bianca Belair is a match that should headline one of the two nights. Edge’s Royal Rumble win guaranteed him the main-event spot, but why isn’t that also the same case for the winner of the women’s Rumble match? Like Daniel Bryan–Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania 35, the Lashley-McIntyre match would not be at all diminished if it took place in the middle of the show.

Charlotte Flair appearing on season finale of Straight Up Steve Austin

Charlotte Flair is the guest on next week’s Straight Up Steve Austin Season 2 finale.

Here is an exclusive clip from the show, which airs immediately after Raw next Monday:

After so many years of being interviewed, Austin has turned himself into a phenomenal host and interviewer.

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Jon Moxley delivered an especially compelling promo last week on Dynamite, helping build to this Sunday’s Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch Revolution main event. 
  • Daniel Bryan had a similarly convincing promo on Talking Smack, where he told Paul Heyman that he will defeat Jey Uso this Friday in a steel cage match on SmackDown, ensuring a title match against Roman Reigns at Fastlane
  • Bianca Belair made her WrestleMania 37 announcement Friday on SmackDown, confirming that she will be wrestling Sasha Banks for the SmackDown women’s championship. 
  • Drew McIntyre and Sheamus were outstanding in their match against one another this week on Raw
  • Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito during the second night of New Japan’s Castle Attack show last weekend. That match was for the intercontinental championship, though Ibushi holds both the IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental titles. Going forward, he will no longer be known as a double champion because New Japan has announced that it is unifying its top two world titles into the IWGP world heavyweight championship. 
  • In a result directly related to the announcement of the title unification, Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Great-O-Khan in a fantastic match at Castle Attack, effectively making Tanahashi’s NEVER open-weight title the second most important singles belt in the company. 

El Desperado also won last weekend at Castle Attack, claiming the vacant IWGP junior heavyweight championship in a triple-threat match against El Phantasmo and Bushi. He will wrestle Kota Ibushi on March 4 at the Anniversary Event. Immediately following that event, New Japan begins its New Japan Cup on March 5. 

  • Someone with a gift for adding joy to seemingly every situation is Big E, who even brought some levity to the recent wrestling–rap feud on social media. 
  • There is no heel in wrestling quite like Cameron Grimes. I’m also looking forward to the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s debut in NXT, which, following these segments, has to happen. 
  • An appearance by DiBiase on NXT has the potential to be a really fun moment, as does Tully Blanchard’s return to the ring on Wednesday night—in a six-man tag—on Dynamite
  • If NXT moves to Tuesday, it provides more room for growth for AEW. 
  • The optics were poor with so many fans not wearing masks, but the former Big Cass—now known as CaZXL—made his return to wrestling on Saturday at a Lariato Pro Wrestling show in Georgia, and he is in phenomenal shape. Cass reunited with Enzo (nZo), and considering they have such a good rapport with Doc Gallows, the potential exists for them to appear in Impact Wrestling. 
  • The NWA is back.
  • Attorney Stephen New has filed a lawsuit against Ring of Honor. There are many different important components to the lawsuit, including, as New told WrestleZone, “asking the court to strike down the independent contractor agreement in its entirety.”
  • Best wishes to Jim Crockett Jr., who is fighting for his life. 
  • All my condolences to those who loved the immensely talented Joseph Hudson, who was Jocephus in pro wrestling and, more recently, The Question Mark. 

Jon Moxley on Kenta: “He’s realized who he is again”

Jon Moxley defeated Kenta on Friday’s edition of NJPW Strong, retaining the IWGP United States title.

The program has been building since last summer but, as Moxley noted, their history runs far deeper than this title match.

“We share a lot of similarities in our stories,” Moxley told Sports Illustrated prior to the match. “We both gave up some years where, in retrospect, we’d like to have had things happen differently. But sometimes when you look back, you realize things happen for a reason. Our journeys have led to where we are now. Kenta is now breaking down promotional doors for New Japan, and he’s in a really good spot.”

Kenta’s time in WWE did not go as planned. He signed in June 2014, working as Hideo Itami, and there was considerable optimism when he started in NXT that September. But injuries slowed his momentum over the next three years, and it felt like a demotion when he was moved to 205 Live in 2017. WWE announced his release in February 2019, which put in motion a sequence of events that led to his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut that June.

“When the elements that make you so unique are stripped away, and the situation you’re in just isn’t allowing you to be you, you have to remind yourself who the f--- you are,” Moxley says. “I was stoked the moment I saw Kenta walk in the AEW locker room. It can’t be stressed enough how important he is. From my generation, everyone stole their s--- from Kenta. He was an influence on an entire generation, having the hottest matches in NOAH and Ring of Honor against all kinds of different opponents.”

While there was speculation that Kenta would win the match, AEW could not afford to have Moxley lose right before his main-event match at AEW’s upcoming Revolution pay-per-view. Kenta fought valiantly in defeat, and his story with Moxley is not yet closed.

“He’s realized who he is again,” Moxley says. “That’s why I can relate to him. He doesn’t need to go into any details about 205 Live or anything, he’s out there kicking a hole through your chest. That’s the Kenta we want to see. He’s f------ Kenta again.”

Tweet of the Week

“Switchblade” Jay White’s development as a heel—on display here as he mocks Kota Ibushi—has been extraordinary. At only 28, his future is unlimited.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.