All Elite Wrestling champion Kenny Omega is set to defend his championship against Jon Moxley in an exploding barbed wire deathmatch at the “Revolution” pay-per-view Sunday (B/R Live, 8 p.m.). Before stepping in a ring with barbed wire for ropes that cause an explosion when touched, Omega took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski.
(Edited for clarity and length)
Q: Why was this the right moment to bring an exploding barbed wire deathmatch to AEW?
A: I feel like every week is always the right moment to bring something new to the table, and that’s kind of why I tried with the weeks leading up to this match, to the pay-per-view, that there has been a lot of surprises, things you didn’t expect to see on our programing, things you didn’t expect to see in professional wrestling and this is sort of just the cherry on the sundae. After seeing Don Callis, the Good Brothers (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows) from Impact, Kenta, there’s no better way in my mind to blow everything out of the water by just blowing each other up. That’s how we’re ending this thing.
Q: Why has it been important for AEW to not shy away from the more hardcore type of matches we don’t often see on U.S. television?
A: I still very much look at pro wrestling as an art form. I still like to consider myself the utmost professional. People like to dumb down matches with a violent stipulation. They kind of like just defer to those as garbage wrestling or that maybe we lack a certain area of expertise or talent, which is why we’re going there. For me, it’s the complete opposite. I want to be considered as one of the best well-around athletes in professional wrestling and I want to test myself in all avenues this sport has to offer.
For me to do that and do that effectively, I have to have some kind of experience in these types of situations. I want to test myself with the type of wrestler who specializes in this type of stuff. And sure, I don’t think Moxley has had an exploding barbed wire deathmatch, but it’s not something out of his wheelhouse to do something very hardcore.
We have this very competitive nature, the both of us, but in very different ways and I think we have very different motivations in wrestling as well, but by having this stipulation added to this match I feel like the two of us are as motivated as ever in kind of different ways. But because we are both so motivated, I do believe the stars will align and something special will emerge from this.
Q: Is there a type of match or style you feel like you haven’t tested yourself that you still want to?
A: One of them was mixed-tag wrestling. I had a ton of those in Japan and they’ve always been a lot of fun. Like shoot-style wrestling. I have a background in jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts and people are probably so shocked to hear that because I like video games.
Even though my style doesn’t use a lot of those (jiu-jitsu) skills that I had trained back in the day, I still have them. It’s fun to shows those off when I can in the right situations. I’ve done matches like that in Japan, but that was before my New Japan time when no one really knew who I was. It would be cool to go back and have an opportunity where I could show that. I mean, it’s all timing.
Q: Why was The Cleaner version of Kenny Omega the one you wanted use for this long-awaited singles run in AEW?
A: When I saw how the relationship was going to develop with Don Callis, it sort of reminded me of the days when I first started to use The Cleaner character in New Japan where I would find success in the ring, but I wasn’t against using foul tactics. I wasn’t against using my fellow comrades. We always traveled in a pack. People for whatever reason, they can relate to The Cleaner and they enjoy the character. I really do think this current incarnation is a lot different, but if it’s easier for people to tether it to something that I’ve done in the past I guess you can call it The Cleaner as it debuted in 2015-16 in New Japan.
Q: So you felt like it was a character people could easily relate to?
A: For me, it’s actually something kind of brand new because I never really had an active manager. In the Bullet Club, we had active wresters accompany us to the ring that would sometimes help us with nefarious tactics and all of that. But this is the first time I’ve actually had a manager. We are doing active segments on TV, fun stuff that I’ve always wanted to do. Sports entertainmenty stuff, but that’s the kind of stuff I love about having a character like this and being able to flesh it out using those kinds of segments, going for a day of golf or visiting children’s daycare. That’s all super fun stuff for me, stuff I love to do and never really got a chance to do in New Japan because the wrestling culture is so different.
Q: Now that the forbidden door is cracked open and there is a relationship between AEW and New Japan, does it feel like you and IWGP world heavyweight champion Kota Ibushi are bound to cross paths at some time? That’s obviously a match fans really want to see.
A: I always felt like even when we parted ways and I kind of came over to America to attempt to try this thing out with AEW, and Ibushi really wanted to still accomplish what he has always dreamed of during in Japan, I sort of felt that things once again at some point would come full circle. I knew we were both winding down in the pursuit of our dreams in wrestling and we were breaking ourselves essentially. We were worried we wouldn’t get back around to that point because it would be too broken to do it.
But he’s done what he’s always wanted to do and I’m doing something I never thought I’d be doing right now, but it’s put us both in a position where it’s perhaps possible. It’s well within the realm of possibility if the world was open to some degree to these type of things. It’s not even an issue of if the companies are open to it.
Q: I’m not saying it’s going to happen tomorrow, but.…
A: The way I look at it though, it’s one thing to think about the fan’s perspective and the fans might say, “Hey it’s super fun, how could you not do this” or “this would be a great match.” The reality of the situation is there are a ton of great matches with wrestlers from all over the world. Just pair them together and they’ll put on a great match.
Yes, there is a personal connection, there is an emotional connection between myself and Ibushi, but fortunately and unfortunately what gets things done in the wrestling business is the ideas, the matchups, what will make money for both the industry and both promotions when you are doing a crossover. In this case, I think it’s pretty irrefutable that this is an angle or a matchup or an event that could make both companies a lot of money. If that’s the selling point on the business end of things, that’s probably the hardest barrier to break through. It’s always the people in the offices you have to convince at the end of the day.
I feel like ever since even my first trip to Japan in 2008 my destiny was always tied to Ibushi, so it does feel fitting in some way. Does that mean it’s going to happen now? I don’t know. It feels odd. You get those tingles a little bit when I think about it.
Q: What has been your biggest takeaway from the women’s tournament so far?
A: We’ve had shorter segments on TV before where matches would be five, six, seven minutes. Now we are getting in the 15-minute range and it’s really difficult to go from these short, really quick bursts to having these longer matches. They were all ready for it and they’re ready to assume the responsibility to go in there with the kind of energy and the kind of hunger that you need to start a match fresh and continue that sort of drive and that energy throughout that entire segment and just kill it until the finish.
I was so happy to hear a lot of the feedback that everyone was enjoying those matches as well as (me) and for some of our characters. And for some of our wrestlers, people would write them off, maybe “they’re too old” or “I don’t like their character” or “they have no charisma.” Now that we got to see them in a more competitive capacity the opinion has changed on almost everybody, which is great.
Q: There has been a push for Maki Itoh. Is there a chance we see more of her and is there a chance she eventually gets signed by AEW? She probably has that charisma that can translate well.
A: We have been able to see Yuka Sakazaki on more than one occasion for AEW. People really took to her and they like her and she’s got some very unique qualities that make her special and a star. I also thought that Maki Itoh was one of those type of people I always thought, is this too much? Is this going to be too much for American television? She gets a little profane at times, you know what I mean. But I was always a firm believer that she would rise above it and she would translate.
I loved that one of the qualities she had in the match was you actually had moments in the match where you thought she could win. I think that’s why people were a little disappointed maybe she didn’t because she wasn’t just a complete pushover and comedy character. She actually took the fight to a respectable athlete.
Will we see her back? It’s not something you really answer with a yes or no because there are so many hurdles to clear to get people from country to country in this day and age due to all the travel restrictions, and she has another schedule she needs to follow in Japan which requires the mandatory two-week quarantine where you have to do nothing.
But we’re not stupid. I’m not stupid. I do know there is a demand for her and I’d love people to see her live as well. It’s not even for me to decide. If I can snap my fingers and have her appear in Florida and then yeah I could easily say yes you are going to see her, but it’s more complicated than that.