There’s a lot to say about Kenny Omega. Known as the “Best Bout Machine,” Omega became an instant legend in many people’s eyes with his heavyweight run in New Japan Pro Wrestling. So much so, that the hype that followed Omega to the United States was on an unprecedented level. The free agent to end all free agents, there wasn’t a single major company that didn’t throw their hat into the Omega sweepstakes.
At the end of the day, Omega chose AEW, along with the rest of the Elite. And while the hype was at an all time high in the early going, Omega’s time in AEW has yet to really live up to the expectations. Almost everyone has an opinion on Omega’s current run compared to his classic one in Japan. Many have asked where is the Omega that became “The Best Bout Machine” in NJPW as AEW’s version has been seemingly watered down in their eyes. Others believe that “The Best Bout Machine” is right around the corner and that it won’t be long until Omega is taken seriously as a main event act again.
Here’s the truth about Kenny Omega: At his pinnacle, he is one of the best talents in the world as a professional wrestler. However, his AEW run hasn’t really captured that side of him. From his matches to character work, something has been missing and it’s made Omega’s performances feel lackluster. Because before the classics with Kazuchika Okada, Omega was popular for the way he connected with the audience. His work wasn’t solely about being the best or breaking Dave Meltzer’s scale. It was about being the Cleaner of the Bullet Club, a character that AEW fans are longing to see return in some capacity.
Following Fight for the Fallen, it finally seems like Omega is beginning to clean up his act and get closer to returning to the Cleaner fans know and love.
Overhyped And No True Direction: Omega In AEW
Kenny Omega has been nothing short of underwhelming in AEW. This is especially true considering how much momentum he was carrying with him when he left NJPW at the beginning of 2019. He kicked off his year with a great main event match against Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and ended it with a weird, deathmatch-styled bout with Jon Moxley that got mixed reactions at best. In the middle of that was a loss to Chris Jericho in AEW’s first main event, a loss to PAC at All Out, and plenty more losing mixed in. Somehow, he still had a winning record at the end of 2019, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
Enter 2020 and Omega currently sits as one-half of the AEW Tag Team Champions with Hangman Page. However, their team was always a bit of a mismatch and for a long time, it’s been teased that a breakup is on the horizon. At first it seemed the man who would be behind the betrayal would be Page, but considering what happened at Fight for the Fallen following his match against Jurassic Express, plans could be changing for the better.
Not all of AEW’s fanbase had been familiar with Omega’s time in NJPW, but they were told about this “godly” wrestler whose matches were can’t miss. That’s the Omega that AEW has yet to see. But now, with AEW over a year in, its time for Omega to be less dweebish and more self-centered. To be the guy who is better than everyone else, knows it and makes no secret of reminding the rest of the roster that he’s the measuring stick for which they can judge their talent. If that happens, Omega can be the face of AEW like he should have been all along.
What People Want: NJPW’s “Best Bout Machine”
Following Wrestle Kingdom 11 in 2017, Kenny Omega built this persona that he was the best wrestler in the world. Having developed the nickname as “The Best Bout Machine,” he put on instant classics with Tetsuya Naito, Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi, and of course Kazuchika Okada. A presence surrounded him anytime he stepped into the ring. Viewers knew he could put on a match that would become a classic. Of course, that went with the ratings of Dave Meltzer as Omega continuously broke the five-star scale. This is clearly what people want to see out of him again. Something that people seem to forget is how little that character actually showed in terms of a character. He somewhat just carried himself as a great wrestler who was focused on the in-ring more than anything else.
And that’s great. It fits in with a lot of what NJPW does. But if people want Kenny Omega to be the AEW World Champion, he’s going to need more than just that. Being “The Best Bout Machine” is fine and all. It’s an art in itself that he probably cherishes. But what will make Omega and any other wrestler comfortable is simply being a wrestler. Not worrying if it’s the match that will break a scale of one man and instead, returning to the character that got him to the dance. The one that made him who he was before the six-star classics with Okada. “The Cleaner” must return, without the broom, to be a man of great confidence and the ability to snap in order to win.
What Is Needed: A More Sadistic, Cocky Version Of “The Cleaner”
The best professional wrestlers are able to nail down a character, being among the best to do it. We know Kenny Omega can do both of those things. See the G1 Climax 26 final against Tetsuya Naito to get a real feel for that. It was, after all, at Fight for the Fallen where Omega snapped after finishing off Marko Stunt with the One-Winged Angel. After the match, he rained down punches to the smaller man despite being cool with each other. Omega showed this sadistic side, snapping like that for the first time in his AEW career. Longterm, Omega’s brightest potential in terms of popularity will be as a babyface. Considering how rough his first year was, a return to “The Cleaner” would be most ideal for him.
But sadistic and deranged almost. Not only does Omega know he is the best, but he will do anything in his power to win and leave his mark on the opponent. Rise back to the AEW World Championship through him being the one to turn on his partner Hangman Page could be the swerve Omega and AEW needs to spark his run. Everyone expects it to be Page. Everyone. Why not have Omega be the one to beat him to it and get in his face, telling him that he’s always been the reason they were champion? Not Page’s drunk, non-caring self. Instant heat on a man that can be the best if he believes in himself. That would lead to a big match between the two down the line. Eventually, Omega could put his eyes on Jon Moxley in a rematch. But this time in reversed roles.
People want “The Best Bout Machine.” I don’t believe that’s what fits in AEW right now. What does is this sadistic version of “The Cleaner.” A role that can return one of the best in the business to the prominence he deserves.
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