Like most wrestling fans, I am eagerly looking forward to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 taking place on January 4th. The card is stacked with a main event several years in the making with the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada taking on longtime rival Tetsuya Naito. While that match is the main event, one of the semi-main events has started to really heat up. I am talking, of course, about Kenny Omega defending his United States championship against Chris Jericho. Now this match definitely falls in the category of a dream match, but this all seemed very unlikely just a few short months ago. Jericho has been perceived as a WWE guy for almost twenty years. Just to have him step away from that and appear somewhere else is a big deal regardless of whom his opponent is.
Omega and Jericho had some interaction on Twitter. The general feeling that it was to possibly hype a match that would be taking place on Jericho’s Rock ‘N Wrestling cruise that would be happening in late 2018. This was their final interaction on Twitter before Jericho shocked the wrestling world.
After defending his United States championship against Baretta at Power Struggle on 11/05/17, Omega was interrupted while cutting a promo by a video from Jericho. In the video Jericho challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom and billed it as Alpha Vs Omega. The reason for Jericho’s challenge is that Omega claims to be the best in the world, but so does Jericho since he claimed it first. He used a similar reason to challenge CM Punk at Wrestlemania 28. I think Jericho is one of the few wrestlers who remembers his own story so when he does something, it’s usually consistent with his character. He also works much better as a heel and while the match was going to be something special, Jericho added something to it recently.
At a recent NJPW event Jericho ran another video after Omega’s matches, but this time when the lights came up he was standing behind Omega. I figured Jericho wouldn’t actually be in Japan until Wrestle Kingdom, but I was mistaken like so many others. Jericho laid a beat down on Omega that went on for several minutes. Omega was bloody at the end of it and Jericho had even laid out one of his friends, Don Callis, who was an announcer who went into the ring to check on Omega. The image of a bloodied and battered Omega changed the dynamic of the match.
It will no longer be a simple match of who the better person is, but a personal one. Jericho being the clear heel and Omega being the scrappy face couldn’t be clearer than in the press conference that followed. I strongly suggest watching the whole thing if you have time, but I have Jericho’s bit ready to go.
I love how the build of this is sort of a reversal of a similar angle Jericho was involved in 15 years ago. In the build up to Wrestlemania 19 Jericho had called out a recently returning Shawn Michaels. The two were very similar with their characters and in-ring style and it felt like Jericho was calling out the old man so he could put him down. Ultimately Jericho lost that match and Michaels stayed around for several more years. This time Jericho is the old man and he’s picking a fight with the younger version of himself, not someone who’s just making their comeback. While Jericho is billed as the “Alpha” of the match, since he did all of the things Omega claims to do first, he’s really the “Omega”. Jericho is probably nearing the end of his in-ring career while Omega hopefully has several years left in him. I’m most curious if this will be a one-off for Jericho or will it lead to more appearances. It’s also great to see Kenny Omega get rewarded with a marquee match that will help get more American eyes on the product. He’s not the only person to help elevate NJPW, but he’s the one that most American audiences may know about.