On Nov. 4, Kenny Omega successfully defended his IWGP U.S. Title against Trent Barreta at the New Japan Pro Wrestling’s special, Power Struggle. Following the match, Omega lauded Barreta for his performance and issued an open challenge for his title. After a pregnant pause, the crowd was left disappointed when nobody seemed to answer his challenge, and Omega was just about to bid the crowd adieu when the stadium lights went out, and a figure appeared on the screen.
Chris Jericho, the multi-time world champion and self-proclaimed “Best in the World,” appeared on an NJPW screen for the first time ever.
He had been feuding with Omega over Twitter for several weeks prior to the event, but nobody considered the possibility of him putting his money where his mouth was and actually challenging Omega to a match. As a WWE legend, this marks Jericho’s first appearance outside of the company since 1999.
Jericho appeared on the big screen and praised Omega for being a “dynamic, fantastic, tremendous performer,” adding that although Omega is one of the finest performers today, “he’s not the best in the world. I am.”
During his promo on Omega from the big screen, he referenced several of his greatest rivalries, including Edge, CM Punk and Shawn Michaels. He said that although they claimed to be the best at one time or another, “they’re all gone and [he’s] still here because [he’s] the best in the world. [He’s] the greatest of all time,” adding that “[he’s] the alpha of this business.”
He then followed it up with a challenge to face Omega for the IWGP U.S. Title at Wrestle Kingdom 12, the Japanese Wrestling equivalent to WrestleMania, the “Super Bowl” of wrestling entertainment. Omega answered in the affirmative, which was met by a roar of approval by the excited fans in attendance.
Jericho’s success can perhaps be attributed to his longevity and his ability to reinvent himself. Whether he’s throwing catchphrases, playing a silent bad guy or even doing something as ridiculous as putting people on a list, Jericho has remained over with the audience and that has helped him remain relevant for over two decades.
Omega is perhaps not as well known in the United States as he is in Japan, but any die hard or even causal wrestling fan can tell you that he is among the greatest performers of the last decade.
His trilogy of matches with Kazuchika Okada received rave reviews and coverage from media outlets around the world, and his performance at the G1 Climax and at the inaugural U.S. Title tournament this past summer sold out arenas all over Los Angeles.
The idea to do a super match was one Jericho had been planning for months. In an interview with Busted Open Radio, he explained how he drew inspiration from McGregor and Mayweather’s fight. He explained how it was “the biggest match in boxing history just because you never thought you’d see it” and that he was confident in both his star power and Omega’s charisma to help drive the hype forward.