As Wrestle Kingdom 12 vastly approaching, one of the most anticipated matches in the lineup that was announced back on November 5, 2017 at Power Struggle 2017 is the IWGP United States Championship match between WWE legend Chris Jericho, whom last wrestled in Japan with World Championship Wrestling in 1999 as part of a partnership agreement between WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, and the champion Kenny Omega, whom was once upon a time a development talent with WWE more than a decade ago prior to signing with NJPW. While the concept of a “dream match” is not new to wrestling scenes across the world, this particular match has generated a lot of buzz from both sides of the Pacific as it is a first time ever match like no other, as not only two superstars hailed from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada wrestled at New Japan’s biggest show, it’s also a first clash between 2 biggest wrestling promotions in the world, WWE versus New Japan. At first, everyone thought that the match would have been a simple straight forward like all other matches, however, Jericho’s “Pearl Harbor” attack on Omega after the latter’s latest defense of the US title in the Global Tag League finals card has made it anything but. For those who are new to this site or reading any of my wrestling articles, yours truly is dissecting such topics for better understanding on how those rivalries and match-up were formulated, and this is no exception.
In order to comprehend the magnitude of this dream match, one has to spring the clock back to their developments. For this instance, though, the primary focus goes towards Kenny Omega rather than Chris Jericho as Jericho’s career was well-documented for those who knew about his accolades throughout his career, although I would address his career in the form of a reader digest version later on in this article.
As for Kenny Omega, however, his WWE development tenure after his initial 4-year run in his hometown promotion Premier Championship Wrestling was rather short. After spending another 4 years with independent promotions such as Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and aforementioned PCW, he joined New Japan via partnership with ROH in 2010. While initially paired with Kota Ibushi calling themselves Golden☆Lovers for 4 years, during which the pair won IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions at Destruction ’10 on October 11, 2010, his singles career was launched after joining “The Bullet Club” and re-branded as “The Cleaner”, setting his first target on then-reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Ryusuke Taguchi at Wrestle Kingdom 9, before feuding with Kushida and eventually lost the title a year later. Then, an unexpected rise of stardom came about as a result of the sudden departure of four of the promotion’s major superstars consisted of A. J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, and Shinsuke Nakamura, whom joined WWE within months apart in 2016. Omega seized the opportunity and assaulted the departing Styles to takeover the leadership while giving generous send-off to also-departing Anderson & Gallows; in doing so, he was supposed to make his heavyweight debut by facing Nakamura for IWGP Intercontinental Championship. But with Nakamura also announced his departure from NJPW, Omega found his replacement in the form of Nakamura’s contemporary, Hiroshi Tanahashi, whom alongside Nakamura and Katsuyori Shibata were coined as the new generation of NJPW’s Three Musketeers, whom Omega won the vacated IC championship before losing it to Michael Elgin. Despite of that blimp, he entered the G1 Climax tournament and went all the way to claim the contract to face the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada for the most prestigious prize. Alas, his match on NJPW’s biggest show ended in defeat. Then rumors swirled around the potential departure due to his existing contract was nearly expired, however, Omega eased the panic when he signed the extension heading nearly to the eleventh hour. He then entered the IWGP US championship tournament and became the inaugural champion at Long Beach for their G1 USA Special in early July, before entering G1 Climax 27 facing the likes of Bullet Club comrade Tama Tonga, the leader of rival stable Suzuki-gun Minoru Suzuki, members of Los Ingobernables de Japon Sanada and Evil, and Okada, only to lose via pin-fall to the leader of LIJ Tetsuya Naito in the Final.
Before discussing the setup of the match, though, here’s the readers digest version of Chris Jericho’s career in itself is as remarkable as the long form, WCW Cruiserweight & Television Champion, ECW tag team Champion, a member of WWE Grand Slam champions, which including became the first undisputed heavyweight champion, and multiple reigns of WWE Intercontinental Championships. In addition, he also hosts his own podcast “Talk is Jericho” now on Westwood One and a member of rock band Fozzy. Needless to say, Jericho has become another true sports entertainer much like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Yet, despite of having so much success with WWE, his biggest challenge is yet to come … in the form of Kenny Omega.
After wasting his challengers from Juice Robinson, whom Omega lost to during G1 Climax, Beretta and Rocky Romero from CHAOS faction, he cried for new challenger who he has not wrestled before, Chris Jericho challenged Omega via video vignette. By holding Omega’s picture and shredded in half, Jericho stated that he is the best in the world of such profession as the likes of Shawn Michaels, Edge and CM Punk are no longer around. Omega was more than gladly accepted the challenge, however, after trading barbs on Twitter in weeks after, he was in for a huge surprise as a “Pearl Harbor” attack was launched by Jericho during the finale of World Tag League decimated Omega by giving him a sneak preview of how far Y2J would go beyond during his time with WWE by using the IWGP US title and bludgened Omega immediately after watching another taunt via video vignette. Two days later, seeking revenge for the assault in Fukuoka, a bloody Omega brawed with Jericho during Wrestle Kingdom 12 Press Conference, which led to a change the match stipulation announced by NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi : no disqualification and no countout. by request with both men. Omega further stated that he had unestimated Jericho by the surprised attack at Fukuoka, thus declaring that no respect would be shown in that match and would show no mercy.
In some respect, Jericho’s setup for the Omega matchup is a lost art that originated by the late Rowdy Roddy Piper. From those who had know Jericho for years, the setup for the match, as they have declared, as “brilliant” and demonstrated as to why Jericho was a creative genius. In fact, this match reminded me of his past feud with Bill Goldberg that began with WCW in 1998 and ended with WWE in a match at WWE Bad Blood 2003. In spite of the obvious difference between Omega and Goldberg in terms of physical attributes, the similarity was striking as Jericho has had constantly taunted his opponents to prove they are better than him, and each times their opponents were assaulted in weeks prior. While Goldberg had attempted in dismissing Jericho’s quest during their times in WCW, the rivalry was reignited when Goldberg signed with WWE and the dream that wasn’t fulfilled in WCW due to backstage conflicts between Goldberg and, in particular, Eric Bischoff and the likes of Jericho and other up-and-coming superstars who wanted to move up from their positions, blossomed under WWE. So, with all that said, this is a historic moment with the world is watching. Let’s enjoy the moment and we’ll see where to go from there.