This weekend, SummerSlam takes over Brooklyn. Unfortunately for WWE fans, the best wrestler in the industry is still in Japan.
Barring some sort of dramatic surprise, “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega will be watching SummerSlam on Sunday, just like the rest of us. The saddest part about it though, is that some people might be asking themselves right now, “Who the heck is Kenny Omega?”
For one, I just told you. He’s the best in the business. In the ring, on the mic, nobody in the wrestling world captivates your attention like Omega can. But if you’ve never seen or heard of him, I guess I can understand.
Omega is one of the biggest names in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He currently holds the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. He is also the leader of a popular group called “Bullet Club.”
To give you an idea of the road to stardom that Omega is on, previous leaders of “Bullet Club” include Finn Balor and, most recently, A.J. Styles, who’ve both made the jump to WWE and appear on Sunday’s card at SummerSlam.
“Bullet Club” resembles the nWo and Degeneration-X in ways that no other group has ever been able to accomplish. Problem is, their dominance takes place in Japan and sometimes in the smaller U.S. wrestling promotion called “Ring of Honor.”
At age 33, Omega is in his prime. He’s proven that by becoming the first non-Japanese wrestler to win NJPW’s grueling “G1 Climax” tournament last year, which gave him a title shot against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom — NJPW’s version of WrestleMania.
Again, if you have no idea what any of that means, I understand. My point is that, New Japan Pro Wrestling has had no choice but to give Omega the major push he deserves. His talent demands it.
However, Omega has yet to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, losing to Okada at Wrestle Kingdom in January, and then losing in the finals of this year’s G1 Climax tournament, which took place last weekend.
Some in the wrestling industry believe that NJPW’s hesitancy to put their prestigious belt on Omega is a sign that Omega is about ready to make the jump to the WWE. If that’s true, we could see Omega make his debut at the Royal Rumble, much like Styles did in 2016.
Styles was 38 years old at the time. Omega will be 34 by the time the next Royal Rumble rolls around in January of 2018. And just to make one thing clear, there will be no NXT — WWE’s developmental division — for Omega. Balor started in NXT when he first signed with the WWE in 2014. But don’t expect Omega to do the same. Mainly because he has leverage.
The WWE is the premier destination for anyone involved in professional wrestling, no doubt. But the WWE also needs a guy like Omega right now, more than ever before.
Omega brings an electricity to the squared circle that keeps you on the edge of your seat. He runs around like a lunatic, knees people in the face, flies through the air, and finishes opponents off by dropping them on their neck with what he calls the “One-Winged Angel.” And when it’s time to cut a promo, the confidence and charisma with which Omega speaks has some of the all-time greats in awe.
“I think he could be the next big thing,” said Stone Cold Steve Austin on his podcast in July.
“If it was a green-light push, and everything was all systems go on making Kenny Omega the guy, he could be the guy.”
Austin was one of the best on the mic that the WWE has ever seen. So it’s a pretty big deal when he’s raving about Omega’s promos.
“When you see him in the ring, he can light it up with anybody. But all of a sudden, I got a chance to see some of those promos,” said Austin on his podcast. “When he started lighting up that microphone? Just with pitch, cadence, and delivery, and conviction, forcefully. I texted someone and said, ‘I’ve never seen Kenny Omega talk. That dude’s money. He’s electricity.’
“I just think the guy’s a lightning bolt,” added Austin. “He’s a hell of a damn talent in the ring. And when I say green-light, just take down all the walls and let the kid go do his thing.
“I just think the kid could be a huge hit in the United States if he ever gets to the WWE.”
I couldn’t agree more. And it’s hard to believe anybody currently calling the shots in the WWE would feel differently.
Omega has it all. Except a WWE contract. But it’s not because he can’t get one. He just hasn’t decided to make the jump yet.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s recent interest in the U.S. might make that decision even tougher — the promotion just held its first independent event on U.S. soil last month, called “G1 Special USA” in California. And NJPW merchandise is now available in every “Hot Topic” store worldwide. Also, Omega’s character works perfectly with the Young Bucks — Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson — by his side, as all three combine to form a sub-group within “Bullet Club” called “The Elite.”
If Omega decided to go to the WWE, would the Young Bucks come with him? And would they ever be able to re-create “Bullet Club” in some way, shape, or form?
And most importantly, would Omega actually get the “green-light push” that Stone Cold referred to? Or would he be buried in storylines that don’t portray him as one of the top dogs in the company?
Omega is currently one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s superstars. He’s Canadian born, and is fluent in both English and Japanese. He has the green light in Japan, and if he stays there, he’ll be a superstar under that formula for a long time.
But if Omega decides to leave, he’ll be the biggest superstar the WWE has seen in quite some time.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com, iTunes, Google Play, and on the PodcastOne network. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.