If you thought social media was only good for posting selfies, pictures of meals, and embarrassing oneself with misspelled words and shameless posturing, you just made the list…of wrong assumptions. Pro wrestlers Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega have taken wrestling twitter and social media marketing to great heights with their twitter feud turned real life feud in the ring of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The lead singer of Fozzy and iconic wrestler made waves with his heated words to the well touted Bout Machine, Kenny Omega. Most pro wrestling journalists and fans figured the PR stunt was for Jericho’s Cruise, Rock ‘N ‘Wrestling Rager at Sea, but found out after Omega’s defense at Power Struggle against Berretta that Y2J decided to take up a new challenge in taking on arguably the best wrestler in the world and the current IWGP U.S. Champion, Kenny Omega, in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The news surged and speculation flared for weeks afterwards. Chris Jericho, a long time WWE wrestler since 1999, declared free agency from WWE to sign with NJPW for this spectacle of a match. As news and rumors continued, Jericho made his first appearance in NJPW since 1998 by ambushing his fellow Canadian grappler as well as their mutual friend Don Callis in a manner we haven’t seen from Y2J since his feud with Shawn Michaels back in the late 2000s.
One of the last survivors of the Hart Family Dungeon (trained by Keith Hart,) Chris Jericho hasn’t competed outside of WWE in many years. His last match in New Japan was a tag team match with Black Tiger II (Eddie Guerrero) against Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Taikawa in 1998 while his time in WCW ended in mid 1999. Prior to this and becoming the Ayatollah of Rock N’ Rolla up north, Chris Jericho made a name for himself in his home country of Canada before venturing to Mexico and Japan. In Japan, he wrestled for FMW and prominently War promotion where he became Lionheart and found success in excellent matches against Ultimo Dragon and participated in the second prestigious Super J Cup before joining WCW and finding his way to the King of Sports (New Japan Pro Wrestling). Jericho’s tenure in Japan was a mix of both bad and good. He debuted as the ill-fated Super Liger (a clone of Jushin Thunder Liger) that didn’t merit much before he wrestled unmask and found himself in some interesting matches. His work would garner him entry into NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors Tournament.
Some say this very match is a battle of mirror images and a great passing of the torch. Some feel that Kenny Omega has not only traveled the path of global recognition like Jericho, but has surpassed him in a number of ways doing so. Kenny Omega, a former independent talent trained in part by Harley Race found himself in WWE developmental (Deep South Wrestling) back in a time when it wasn’t cool or trending on social media; back when Bill Demott was head trainer and hazing trainees was par for the course given the nature of the industry at the time. Frustrated, he asked for his release and soon found merit on the independent circuit (PWG, ROH) and Japan. A passionate gamer and anime fan, Kenny found a home away from home in Japan and set roots in Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) promotion which was home to the Golden Star, Kota Ibushi. The two soon had matches that sold out shows for DDT and garnered the best of Japan Indie Awards for their bouts as rivals and as a tag team (The Golden Lovers). Kenny soon found himself in NJPW with Ibushi and competed in the best of the super juniors in between winning championships (namely, the IWGP Junior Tag Title). Despite each time out losing the tournament, Kenny had excellent showings and soon found himself as part of the Bullet Club under Karl Anderson and AJ Styles.
In addition, he would then win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title before advancing to heavyweight in a prolific way: Pinning Shinsuke Nakamura in a tag match with AJ Styles, betraying AJ Styles and kicking him out of the faction, and then defeating the aging Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi, to become IWGP Intercontinental Champion in 2016. In the same year, Omega accomplished a feat in wrestling history by becoming the first gaijin to win the G1 Climax tournament (Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are winners of the past MSG and IWGP Tournaments that preceded the G1 today; NJPW does not recognize their wins as part of the lineage established for the G1 since the 1991). In addition to winning the trios belts with The Young Bucks (deeming themselves the Elite of the faction since 2016,) Kenny engaged in the three most intense matches this year in NJPW against New Japan Ace and IWGP Heavyweight Champion, “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada. The first bout in their feud got a six star rating, the first of its kind under known pro-wrestling Journalist, Dave Meltzer, surpassing many great matches that Meltzer has rated five stars over the years. Kenny Omega then became the inarguable IWGP U.S. Champion during the G1 Special in Long Beach this year to a sold out house, living up to his moniker as “The Bout Machine.”
So, as you can see, this is a tale of two cities and a tale of two Canadian grapplers (one at the autumn of his career while the other at the top of his game as a seasoned talent) fighting to prove who is the best in Japan’s number one promotion at its biggest pay-per-view show, Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4, 2018. Since the match was announced, Jericho and Omega have hyped it as the second main event level match against the actual main event (the last match that ends the show) which is Kazuchika Okada vs the G1 Climax winner of 2017, Tetsuya Naito of Los Ingobernables De Japon, for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Naito and Jericho have gone back and forth online over this matter (Naito knowing the brunt of being on the wrong side of a double main event) as well, and if social media has proven anything, it’s a very effective PR tool that has the bluntness of a steel chair while the grace of a finger poke.