Hi everyone! Today I logged on to my computer to find the one-and-only ayatollah of rock ‘n’ rolla challenging Bullet Club leader and IWGP United States Champion Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom XII. Amazing news. Let me say that I’m not the biggest New Japan fan, I get the highlights of what’s going on .. but I don’t actively watch the product. However, for the last few years I’ve made it a tradition to download Wrestle Kingdom and watch it at the first opportunity (while avoiding spoilers like the black plague).
It’s not that I don’t like the product, it’s just that I’ve already got so much to do (& watch) that I can’t find time to see it regularly. From what I’ve seen, there’s many talented wrestlers who make the matches exceptionally exciting. I was already going to watch Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, but this announcement makes it even more anticipated. Jericho hasn’t wrestled outside WWE since 1999, and the last time he worked for New Japan was in 1997 while being contracted to WCW.
Jericho’s been vocal about his relationship with Vince McMahon the past few years, highlighting his genius, while also pointing out his biggest pet peeves. He’s talked about how he’s able to approach him with ideas, and has the freedom to come and go from WWE when his schedule permits. When he does return to WWE, it’s to help younger talents in getting over. Some of his best work in recent times was with Kevin Owens, when they spent months as a team before Owens turned on him in a memorable and critically acclaimed segment which is sure to be a highlight of their careers. This work helped Owens transition in to a feud with Shane McMahon, and his heat is of great benefit to his new “best friend” Sami Zayn. Jericho helped both fellow Canadians directly and indirectly with his experience.
The difference with this feud? It’s not restricted to the WWE style. The absolute most interesting thing for me is .. how will Jericho be in an environment where he knows Vince isn’t looking over his shoulder? Will he be edgier? Will he be riskier? And on the other end of the spectrum, will he be quick & fit enough for the Japanese style? Will he be able to go hold-for-hold with a man who just last year took IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada to the limit? There’s no doubt that Kenny Omega is able to deliver, but will Jericho’s age and lack of matches bog the encounter down? I don’t think many fans will hate too much if Jericho can’t deliver on a high level, but it will be interesting to see how far he will go at the age of 46.
What a huge plus for New Japan after losing the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles in the past couple of years, to have someone of the caliber of Jericho join them on his own terms. What will Vince think? WWE has a good relationship with New Japan (it goes back a few decades in fact), but I’d be puzzled if he wasn’t at least a little irked by this. Will it affect Jericho if he decides to return before the Royal Rumble a few weeks later? Or could it be the start of an ongoing relationship between Jericho and New Japan? Are they paying Y2J enough to keep him coming back, so he doesn’t necessarily need to work a WWE schedule? Is this a dig at Vince? Jericho telling Vince that he doesn’t need to work for him anymore? Perhaps Y2J feels like his work wasn’t appreciated?
Or it could all be a one-off for a simple reason; getting Kenny Omega over. Jericho likely knows the only chance he has of facing Omega (while he’s in the prime of his life) is to sign with New Japan and have the match on a grand stage. He couldn’t wait for Omega and WWE to come to terms so they could do it at Wrestlemania, so Jericho went to him instead. He wanted to work with who many consider the hottest Canadian talent in the world, and it was something he needed to check off his list (on this day .. did you see clearly what I did there?) before he thinks about retirement. He wants to make sure Omega gets the rub before any deal is made with WWE, but he also wants to show his own worth to Vince, for if/when he decides to return to a WWE ring.
Needless to say .. Jericho is one hell of a business man, and he’ll thank Vince McMahon for that. He will thank Vince for giving him the skills, and the balls, to make bold decisions like this. The winners? Wrestling fans. Those who haven’t seen Jericho be anything but a sports-entertainer for the past 20+ years will finally get to see him in a wrestling match with no limits. Y2J will be able to do what he likes, but we know he’s not going too far .. he’s not going to be dropping gallons of petrol on his bridges before setting them ablaze.
After all, Jericho is a guy who can’t sit still, he’s constantly moving, constantly looking to try new things, but he doesn’t disrespect his past and those who helped him achieve his goals. If there’s anything greatly positive which will come from this .. it’s Kenny Omega’s value. His stock was already pretty high, but when WWE officials tune in to WKXII for Alpha vs. Omega, they’re going to be watching closer than they ever have before. Is Omega a future WWE legend? Or will this match serve as a reminder to WWE that Omega isn’t as great as New Japan and wrestling fans make him out to be? This is the ultimate test for a man who’s been very vocal about his disdain for how WWE treated him in the past, and wrestling fans should be excited for the prospect. Jericho making the jump opens doors for other possible dream matches on New Japan’s grandest stage in the years to come.
And to round this up, Jericho isn’t agreeing to this match to defeat Omega. That would be bad business. The only positive from this is that we have one Canadian legend making another Canadian look like a million dollars. The passing of the torch comes at Wrestle Kingdom XII, and you better be there .. or you’re missing out on wrestling history. Find a few hours for this event if you wasn’t planning on it. I’m trying to find more words, but my brain has switched off .. so thanks for reading! And please let us know what you think of this unexpected encounter. See you again!