AEW Champ Kenny Omega, aka ‘the Cleaner,’ on Collaborating With Impact Wrestling
The possibilities are endless in the mind of All Elite Wrestling champion Kenny Omega. The top top-tier performer — and a company executive vice president — crossed over into the world of Impact Wrestling in December. It’s been surreal for viewers: A star contracted elsewhere appearing on Impact programming, even joining the Hard to Kill pay-per-view?
The cross-promotion began a few months ago when Impact executive vp Don Callis began supporting Omega in the AEW ring. Impact tag champs Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson followed suit, showing up on AEW Dynamite alongside their former Bullet Club brother.
'Straight Up's Steve Austin Teases Season 2 Celebs Including Luke Combs, Tiffany Haddish & Brett Favre
All this activity could be a sign of things to come if Omega, aka “The Cleaner,” has his way. TV Insider chats with Omega about weathering a challenging 2020, the AEW’s first video game, and what he wants the company to focus on in 2021.
AEW has somehow moved forward during the pandemic.
Kenny Omega: At one time we wondered if we could even run shows. I think we found a viable solution when issues with COVID happened. Everyone was on board with [the measures taken] to create a safe environment for us to do what we love to do. When you face a challenge with your brothers and sisters in arms and overcome it together, you become closer. I think that is how we are as a roster now.
What have you learned from the process?
That safety is paramount. COVID is a terrible situation for everyone across the board. The best thing we can do is be prepared to take care of one another right when something bad happens. There is no reason to do what we were taught to do at the entry level of wrestling, which is to tough [injuries] out. It doesn’t help anybody. We’ve had very serious situations and maybe didn’t do the right thing [in the past]. Luckily we didn’t pay the price for it.
What’s it like to undergo this transformation on AEW TV under these unique circumstances?
It just felt like wrestling needed a shot in the arm. It could have come from anyone, [but] it just so happened I had a good idea—something unique that I was in a position to pull off and had the support to do. We thought, “Let’s pull the trigger on this and get people talking. Let’s take the first step in trying to unite a large fan base that has very much been divided.”
Enter Don Callis, who has been an important part of your new presentation.
For a long time, I thought Don was one of the most psychologically gifted professional wrestlers. For him to become [disenchanted] with pro wrestling and come back years later—he had a lot of catching up to do, but he [ended up] one of the greatest pro wrestling commentators in New Japan, and as an executive at Impact Wrestling, he turned their business around as well. I knew linking up with me—someone who had big goals—[meant] we weren’t going to take failure as an answer.
How has it been working with Impact Wrestling?
I went to Impact, [Lucha Libre] AAA [Worldwide] and back to AEW, so I have been able to see three different rosters—all incredibly talented, regardless of what fans say is the best. As a performer, I’d love to work with each and every one of them. It’s exciting that we’ve blown the doors wide open and there are all these potential opponents. I just hope as we present these new matches, the fans enjoy watching them as [much as] we enjoy performing them.
How are you handling your growing role behind the scenes?
People forget I don’t have this plethora of television experience. [But] a lot of the challenges talent faces are ones I [now] face as well. I’ve had a lot of high-pressure situations where it was go big or go home: Sometimes a match will get cut two or three minutes in—problems you wouldn’t have to face in the indies or Japan or Mexico. It’s a group learning process. I do take responsibility in trying to learn quicker than everyone because I want to be there for others.
What are some of the goals you have for AEW in 2021? Will the women get more TV time?
I think we are taking baby steps. We have hungry performers who are passionate about getting a chance to do their best. Passion speaks to me more than the performance of a maneuver, and right now, our women are really chomping at the bit to get these TV spots.
They’re all training hard. Our roster keeps getting better. [No one has] lost their passion. They are still striving for that big goal, which is for the women’s division to get more time. I’ll have the biggest smile on my face the day we get it. I know we will.
So an AEW video game is in the works?
It’s been a while since there has been a party wrestling game. I remember when I was younger, we would play Nintendo 64, switching back and forth between GoldenEye and WCW/nWo Revenge. I was the only wrestling fan among my friends —but they loved the wrestling game. I would love for this to have a similar effect.
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT