Kenny Omega is covered in championship gold.
Already the premier title-holder in All Elite Wrestling, AAA and Impact Wrestling, he is manifesting an impossible dream in the industry, working a multitude of compelling styles against a variety of star opponents.
Outside AEW, Omega has upcoming matches in AAA against Andrade in Impact against Moose. In theory, this trajectory also places him on track to challenge for the industry’s most prestigious title, New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s newly vacant IWGP world heavyweight championship.
After establishing himself as the best in the world in Japan, particularly during his run as IWGP heavyweight champ in 2018, Omega brought his talents to AEW. He charted out a course that saw him work his way to the top of the card—even though he could have started there had he chose—ultimately defeating Jon Moxley for the title in December. Since then, his title collection has only grown. He’d already won AAA’s mega championship in October 2019, then crowned himself Impact champ in April. And though Omega is no longer directly connected with New Japan, he exited with arguably his best-ever match in the company when he dropped the title to Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Since then, he has watched from afar as Jay White and Will Ospreay have claimed leading roles in the company—exactly what he predicted. Both have even had runs as champ, though Ospreay’s was cut short due to injury after only 46 days.
“Before I left New Japan, I pulled aside Ospreay and Jay White,” Omega says. “I don’t even know if I should tell this story, but I will. I told both, ‘This company, at least the western expansion and the pride of the foreigners, it’s all in your hands. They’re going to look to you to carry this thing, so you’ve got to do it.’ I said it to Jay and Ospreay knowing it was a likely scenario, but also hoping to light a fire under both of them.”
With Ospreay forced to vacate New Japan’s championship, Omega was asked whether regaining that belt is among his top priorities.
“For Ospreay, he’d really came into his own,” Omega says. “He made a complete career shift, and he was going to be a fantastic champion. He made changes to his body, he made changes to his style, his look, his demeanor. He became the person that he needed to be the champion of that company. Unfortunately, becoming champion wasn’t enough for him. He tried to fill my shoes.
“Physically, even though he is one of the most gifted performers to ever step foot in the ring, there is only one Kenny Omega—and you can’t fill those shoes. Thus, now his belt is vacant, so perhaps it was always meant to be my belt and my belt alone. That’s not me making a firm statement as to whether I’ll make a venture out there, just that there is no one there that can fill my shoes or override my legacy. When Ospreay comes back, he’ll have to re-analyze who he is and who he’s meant to be, because he’s not meant to be me.”
Wrestling’s “Best Bout Machine,” Omega is 37-year-old Canadian Tyson Smith. The former hockey goaltender-turned-globetrotting wrestling luminary has worked tirelessly in AEW for the past 600 days in pursuit of conquering the unknown: a live weekly television show in North America, as well as doubling as a company executive for AEW. The result has been magic. Omega knows how to seize people’s attention on camera, and his in-ring mastery has reached a rare, elite level. His recent match in Impact, where he won the title against the talented Rich Swann, highlighted Omega’s skill, seasoning and endless motor in the ring. Swann looked exhausted by the end of the 23-minute affair, while Omega gracefully picked up steam with each passing moment.
Omega’s technical brilliance will again be on display this weekend, as he defends the AEW title in a triple threat against Pac and Orange Cassidy at the Double or Nothing pay-per-view. While it is a different title matchup than customarily on display for an AEW title match, it should be one that highlights the unique skill of all three performers—which is especially important when introducing two new talents into the main event.
“Pac is a guy that is built like a brick s--- house,” Omega says. “He looks like a bodybuilding champ, and he’s got that gremlin face. I don’t mean to say he’s not a handsome guy, but he looks mean. He also looks like an athlete, and he’s one of the most able-bodied professional wrestlers of all-time. He does it all with power and grace.”
Pac defeated Omega in an excellent match on the undercard at All Out in 2019, and this marks his chance—one that is long overdue—to prove he should be a constant part of the title picture. Initially earmarked in WWE as a cruiserweight (working under the name Neville), Pac has flipped the script in AEW. He added so much versatility to his in-ring style, bringing an extremely compelling approach that features a violent blend of high-flying and power.
“He’s carved out a pathway to becoming a complete, all-around professional wrestler,” Omega says. “He cuts a very believable promo, too. Kenny Omega the character, he is very scared of someone like that. That’s a wrestler that can expose him.”
The wild card in the match is Orange Cassidy. Often misunderstood as solely comic relief on camera, Cassidy complements his character’s indifference with intense bursts of athleticism in the ring. His body of work on the indies shows he knows how to connect with a crowd, and though he did share a pandemic-era program with Chris Jericho, he is still seeking that signature match or moment to elevate him to the next level.
“Orange Cassidy is the kind of wrestler that is polarizing,” Omega says. “He’s tremendous in the ring. People don’t always take him seriously. It looks like he doesn’t take himself seriously, so the last thing the Kenny Omega character would ever want is to lose to someone like Orange Cassidy. It’s going to be an explosive match.”
Omega offers more on his character’s motive, particularly regarding the world title.
“For the character, I need that championship as a sign of validation,” Omega says. “Even with Don Callis saying otherwise, the Kenny Omega character doesn’t believe he is the best without the belt.”
Despite a fairly short build, Omega looks forward to plying his craft this Sunday on pay-per-view. And despite ongoing comments on social media in a passionate debate arguing the industry’s “best” performer, Omega is gifted at blocking out external noise. His only focus is putting forth the best matches possible.
“I can’t get caught up in that ‘best in the world’ talk,” Omega says. “It’s too subjective. I think of it this way—who is the best superhero? If you go by power, you might just say Superman. But then there are people that like how Batman is flawed, how he has weaknesses, and that makes him the best. So, to someone, the best in the world may be someone with flaws that make them a more interesting performer and character.
“All I try to do as a performer is not shy any from any genre, style, or match variation. I don’t want to make an entire career out of being a babyface or a heel. I’ve tried to challenge myself in all different types of matches, including against my own tag team partner or stablemates. I always want to challenge myself in the ring, and that’s what I plan on doing again when we create something very special at Double or Nothing.”