Kenny Omega says he almost quit wrestling – until he wrestled AJ Styles
The latest episode of Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast features a unique discussion with The Elite’s Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Adam “Hangman” Page and Marty Scurll. The show was recorded in front of a live audience last week on the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Rager at Sea cruise.
During the discussion about The Bullet Club, the gang spoke about WWE Champion AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One led the faction before Kenny Omega took over. Chris Jericho asked Kenny Omega if he ever wrestled against AJ Styles. The IWGP Heavyweight Champion explained that he actually did face AJ Styles in singles competition once – and it’s the reason he is still a pro wrestler to this day.
Omega explained that back in 2006, he was at a crossroads in his career. He was enjoying professional wrestling, but was also a serious jiu-jitsu practitioner. He was competing in tournaments around the country and realized he could not do both at a high level.
“I found that my in-ring performance was suffering because you know there’s an aesthetic look you have to maintain in professional wrestling,” Omega said. “If I’m cutting 20 pounds for a tournament or a fight and then I have to go to the ring I’m going to look like I came out of a dryer and it just didn’t jive. So if I was going to concentrate on one, the other was going to suffer.”
Knowing that he had a match with AJ Styles coming up, he decided that he’d use that experience to determine what his future would be.
“[It was] after that AJ match when I thought, ‘Oh my goodness there’s this guy who’s so much better than me but we have this chemistry together.’ It kind of showed me my true potential and maybe something that I could grasp and something I could achieve that I hadn’t seen yet.
It really made me look in the mirror and say to myself: ‘Jeez, even when I do these all-time jiu-jitsu tournaments I’m always going for a finish, I’m always trying to have that exciting match when really you should just be concentrating on getting that gold medal or whatever. So I found that I was actually and entertainer, I was a performer. So I was going to give this wrestling thing one more shot.”
It was after that match with AJ Styles that he began his first tour with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, where he met the Young Bucks. Soon after that, he was wrestling in Japan and the rest is history.
There’s much more to this hour-long discussion, which you can (and should) check out on the Talk is Jericho podcast.