The entire wrestling world is in utter shock right now.
So there I was, sat on my bed this morning enjoying the great show that was NJPW’s Power Struggle (I beg you to head over to NJPWWorld.com and check it out). After an insanely good match against Trent Barreta, which may be awarded a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer, Kenny Omega stood in the ring and proclaimed that nobody would challenge him to a match at Wrestle Kingdom (the company’s biggest show of the year) because he had beaten everybody in New Japan. Just as his promo came to an end, the arena went black, and a dark figure appeared on the screen.
At first, fans thought we were finally going to discover the identity of Switchblade, a mysterious character that had been airing vignettes since this year’s G1 Climax Finals back in August (who’s identity was revealed later in the show), but then, a familiar sound blasted through our speakers. It was the fantastic song Judas by Fozzy, a band who’s lead singer is none other than one of the greatest of all time, Chris Jericho.
Fans around the world instantly gasped as the former six-time world champion appeared on screen, sporting a much darker, far more serious persona than we have seen him adopt in the last eighteen months. The Sixty-one Minute Man held up a photo of Kenny Omega, his fellow Winnipeg brethren, tore it in half, and issued a challenge to him on January 4th. With a look of wild excitement on his face, the IWGP US Champion accepted, and the biggest match in New Japan Pro Wrestling history was made official.
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho for the IWGP United States Championship – January 4th, Wrestle Kingdom 12, Tokyo Dome
Yes, it’s happening, it is really happening. For months, we fans speculated as to whom would face Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, given that he is not competing for the IWGP World Championship. Many thought Omega would be defending his title against former tag team partner Kota Ibushi, as the two have jaw-dropping chemistry, a rich history, and have even publicly stated that they would both love to face each other at the biggest show of the year. But if Ibushi wasn’t Omega’s next big challenger, we all knew it would have to be somebody pretty spectacular if he had any chance of following on from his six-star classic that blew all of our minds back at 2017’s instalment of NJPW’s equivalent of Wrestlemania, but none of us knew it would be quite as unbelievable as this.
As of late, Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega have actually been exchange words over Twitter, and have created a little competitive feud between each other over who is in fact the better man. Kenny argued that his various six-star matches and ability to break the internet whenever he competes makes him greater than anybody down in the ‘big leagues’ of WWE, whilst Chris Jericho contended that he was, well, Chris freakin’ Jericho, one of, if not the best performer in the history of wrestling (FULL ARTICLE ABOUT THAT HERE). Despite this exchange of insults and boasting, nobody suspected that this was more than just a bit of friendly banter, or a bit of self-promotion, something to get fans talking. Jericho even diverted fans attention completely by hinting that a match could potentially take place aboard his upcoming cruise, which sets sail in October 2018, and features a tournament hosted by Ring of Honour. However, nobody in the world expected such a monumental announcement to come so soon, as we will be able to see two of the best performers…..*Chris Jericho voice* EEVVEEERRRR…go one-on-one in a match that none of us ever thought possible.
What’s more, unlike most events or announcements in the world of modern pro wrestling, Jericho vs. Omega was not spoiled by anybody. Nobody reported on even the possibility of this happening because due to how monumental it actually is, no fan or journalist in the world thought this was even within the realms of maybe taking place. Omega vs. Jericho is an actual dream match that will take places before our very eyes – two Winnipeg natives with incredible characters, world-class talking abilities and not to mention unrivalled skills within the ring facing off in a clash of two genuine GOATs.
What makes this announcement so monumental is that it doesn’t even seem like something that could have ever officially happen, especially inside a New Japan ring. Chris Jericho has competed everywhere in his career, from ECW to WCW to CMLL to even New Japan in the mid-90s, but he has been a WWE-exclusive talent since he made his unforgettable debut in 1999. Sure, he takes regular leaves of absence from the company, but he never has stepped foot inside another promotion’s ring in that time, and always comes back to the house of Vince McMahon. At this point in his career, Jericho is associated massively with WWE, but for the first time since 1999, he will compete elsewhere, against a non-WWE talent who just happens to be one of, if not the best quality wrestler in the world today. (CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF THE BEST WRESTLERS TODAY)
Jericho’s decision to take part in NJPW’s biggest event of the year just goes to show how dedicate this man is to his craft, and how smart of a businessman he is. Chris never stops working, whether he’s wrestling, recording, performing on stage, podcasting or acting, the man cannot sit down for more than five minutes, a level of dedication which fans have loved him for throughout his career. When it comes to wrestling, most performers of Jericho’s status wouldn’t even take a second thought about competing outside of WWE, as they don’t believe anything can rival the scale of their product and popularity, but Jericho is not like most performers. Clearly Jericho has paid attention to the global rise in New Japan’s popularity over the last couple of years, a large part of which is down to his upcoming opponent’s unbelievable talent and connection to his fans, and recognises just how big of a deal NJPW’s show inside the Tokyo Dome now is.
Given that he doesn’t seem to have cut ties with WWE, and nobody would ever expect him to stray away from the company that brought him so much success, the announcement of his first New Japan match in twenty years has completely blown everyone away, especially considering that we all thought he was done with wrestling for a short-while as he is currently touring with his aforementioned band, Fozzy. Also, assuming Chris would have had to ask permission from WWE to be able to do this match without majorly destroying his relationship with them, I just want to thank Vince McMahon for allowing this piece of history to happen.
Something I love about this announcement is that it has taken place just short of two months before the event. That gives both of these fantastic talkers chance to craft some of the most memorable promos of the last decade. Just imagine it, Chris Jericho, sporting his new, darker look, saying he will take that title from Kenny’s hands, and lay it at the feet of Vince McMahon back in Stanford, Connecticut, whilst the leader of the Bullet Club promises to destroy the former world champ, etching his name into the history books forever. And then we’ve got those amazing Wrestle Kingdom entrances to think about. Following on from his Terminator-inspired look on January 4th this year, what will The Cleaner have planned for arguably the biggest match in his career? And of course, Jericho will come down to one of his own band’s songs (most likely the brilliant Judas), possibly sporting a trademark scarf, and will blow the roof off the Tokyo Dome.
So, will this be the best match of the night? It’s hard to say. Of course, all of the attention so far has been on the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match between Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito, which is bound to be absolutely incredible, and could easily claim match of the year just four days in to 2018, but that’s before we learnt of this historic collision. It must be noted that Jericho is far older than both Okada and Naito, but as we’ve seen with his latest run in WWE, Chris is still at the top of his game, with over twenty-fives years of experience to his name, and Kenny Omega could have a match worth at least four stars with a baked potato, so of course this will be great. Besides, there is so much overwhelming excitement and joy over the fact that this match is actually taking place in the first place, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a technical classic or not.
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho will play out the same as Rock vs. Hogan – nobody will care if it’s not the six-star, one-hour epics we’ve become accustom to when Omega competes in a New Japan ring, as long as it’s not Ali vs. Inoki levels of bad, it will still be amazing. Fans around the world will explode with uncontrollable elation once these two Canadians stand across the ring from each other, anything else after that will just be a bonus. It will be interesting though to see how these two megastars will mesh together, given that one is so used to the WWE style and one is so used to his own epic New Japan style, not to mention the tips and techniques that both Jericho and Omega could learn from each other in this one match. Regardless of who wins, both men’s legacies will be cemented further into history because of this, a match I’m sure none of us will ever forget.
Winnipeg vs. Winnipeg.
GOAT vs. GOAT.
This is really happening.
Please, DO NOT miss this.
Tell me your thoughts on this monumental match in a comment below or over on Twitter @HairyWrestling