In case you missed it, I've been working on a series on Kenny Omega and how he got to the position he sits in today, building toward the biggest match of his career in the main event of the January 4th Tokyo Dome show against IWGP Champion Okada. Here's part 1 and here's part 2.
As Kenny Omega became more of a popular figure in Japan, he had less time to allocate to US independents. He had become essentially a full timer in DDT, and was now being coveted by the traditional "Big Two" of New Japan and All Japan.
In NJPW, the tag team of Omega and Kota Ibushi engaged in a rivalry with Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi) and had several thrilling bouts. The jewel in the crown was a junior tag title match at Sumo Hall which saw The Golden Lovers capture the titles from the New Japan tandem. They would drop them back to Apollo 55 in the new year, but not before making a successful defense on home turf in DDT.
Kenny also got to show his wares as a singles competitor. He competed in the prestigious Best Of The Super Juniors on four separate occasions (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014), and was a standout performer in each one. Whether it be on a tour show or on one of the televised Korakuen events, he always worked extremely hard to prove that amongst the elite performers at that weight class. He was as good as it gets.
All Japan allowed Omega to show a different side to himself. In October 2011 at Sumo Hall (a year after his New Japan junior tag title win in that same venue), Kenny defeated KAI to become the 31st junior title holder in that company’s history. He would have a monster reign, spanning seven months and five excellent defenses. He played the role of total heel invader cocky champion and did so awesomely, laying the foundation and building the Omega character that we see today. His matches with the likes of Shuji Kondo, Minoru Tanaka, Kaz Hayashi and Hiroshi Yamato were outstanding.
Omega combined his heel antics with a much more aggressive, hard hitting in-ring style, using vicious knees and hard lariats more often as part of his arsenal. Combining that element with his already impressive athleticism really made him come across like a truly dominant champion, especially when he was able to go toe to toe and get the better of Kondo (the original "Bruiserweight").
Without question, this All Japan run is the hidden gem of Kenny Omega’s career. AJPW was not the most well covered promotion at the time and unfortunately, this title reign didn’t get the hype it deserved. However, the matches more than hold up and are well worth tracking down.
Part four will look at Omega's marquee DDT stuff and in particular, his Budokan Hall main event with Ibushi.