This is the fourth part in Alan Counihan's look at Kenny Omega's Road To The Tokyo Dome ahead of Omega's IWGP Heavyweight Championship main event with Kazuchika Okada later this week at Wrestle Kingdom 11. The final installment will run tomorrow. Here are parts one, two, and three.
As noted last time we checked in on the Kenny Omega story, the former DDT star was really making his presence felt across the Japanese wrestling landscape. No matter where he went though, he always represented DDT. That was his home and those were his fans. Omega was a staple of the company, and when it came time to run their biggest show ever, they turned to him.
Since NOAH had to scale back operations in 2010, no full-time promotion has run the historic Budokan Hall except one -- DDT. With several ambitious but successful ventures to Sumo Hall under their belt, Sanshiro Takagi felt his little company was ready for a bigger stage again in 2012 when they tackled the 17,000 capacity Budokan. The main event was to be Kenny Omega challenging his best friend and tag team partner Kota Ibushi for the K-OD Openweight title, and expectations were high. But nobody had bigger expectations for the match than Omega and Ibushi themselves.
Omega's thought process for this match was very interesting and worth bearing in mind ahead of January 4th. According to Kenny, this match was about displaying the capabilities of the art at its most extreme and amazing level. Omega truly felt that no two wrestlers were capable of putting on a match like he and Ibushi could in that spot. They wanted to push to boundaries so far into the distance that people would be in awe.
It was a deeply personal match for both men. They didn't care about the critics or anything else -- this was for them. They broke every "rule" in the mythical pro wrestling rulebook that many like to use to handcuff the art. Many would chastise the selling or storytelling, but they were simply not looking at what the story actually was.
"The Golden Lovers" pushed each other to their limits for 37 minutes, and unleashed some of the most spectacular maneuvers ever seen in a wrestling ring. They also produced some memorable moments outside the ring too including a balcony dive which, believe it or not, is the cause for Kota Ibushi being legitimately banned from ever performing in Budokan ever again. Kenny put his partner over, but on this night both men had a feeling of victory.
Kenny spent much of his final year in DDT helping their impressive crop of new young talent improve. One of his final main events there was indicative of this as he teamed with Ibushi to lose to rising stars Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo (who in many ways have become their successors since this match). It was an outstanding contest which was as good an example as you'll see of two stars putting their egos to the side to help others.
On a final note for this week, before delving into Omega's move to New Japan, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the most extreme example of Kenny putting over a young wrestler while working on the Japanese indie scene. It was the match that he's still to this day probably most famous for, as he went one-on-one with 9-year-old Joshi prospect Haruka at Korakuen Hall.
Yes, 9 years old. Haruka was not legitimately trained as a wrestler yet, coming from a kickboxing background (as much of a background as you can have aged 9 that is). Kenny worked with her for weeks before the match, training her up on what she needed to do and making sure she was comfortable. The end result was a masterpiece and as good an example of the talents of Kenny as any of his biggest bouts.