10 Reasons Chris Jericho Vs. Kenny Omega Is Hugely Exciting

WWE might start feeling a little bit worried, especially if this match delivers on its potential...

Last Sunday, I was with a non-NJPW fan when news broke of Chris Jericho's startling appearance at Power Struggle. Her wrestling fandom is limited entirely to WWE and a small handful of UK indie promotions - yet her response was, word for word:

"How can this be!?"

She said this several times, often with an exaggerated hand gesture, despite not knowing what Wrestle Kingdom was, or even much about the target of Jericho's challenge, Kenny Omega. Despite understanding little of the situation its innate shockingness rang true.

As someone who likes to stay in touch with New Japan, I was just as stunned. Jericho has potentially blown the global wrestling landscape apart with this move; it's a hugely exciting event, and one which could well be the beginning of a chain reaction.

We're about to look at 10 different reasons why this moment is so immediately compelling, but before we get into that, let's take a moment to appreciate the genius of Y2J. While everyone else has been playing checkers, he's been playing chess. Not even regular chess - he's been playing advanced chess. Like 3D chess, or that holographic monster game R2D2 and Chewie play in Star Wars.

10. It's A Monumental Shock

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Even in a vacuum, without considering all the surrounding implications, this announcement is a shocking one - and shocks in wrestling tend to be exciting.

Long ago, Chris Jericho cemented his place as one of the biggest names in WWE history. He's a multiple-time world champion, became the first ever Undisputed Champion back in 2001, and enjoyed a number of memorable feuds with the likes of Shawn Michaels and The Rock.

More often than not, a superstar of his enduring WWE legacy would end their career with the company that made them, just as Michaels did back at WrestleMania XXVI. Sometimes, others head to Impact Wrestling.

But no superstar with such a WWE-centric legacy has jumped to their biggest global competitors out of the blue. Sure, Hogan may have spent a brief amount of time in NJPW in the early 90s, and Lesnar in the mid 2000s, but both had left Vince's fold under something of a cloud. Y2J seemed to have departed on entirely friendly terms to tour with Fozzy, but the waters have muddied even further today with a report citing Tokyo Sports by PWInsider claiming the six-time World Champion is still under contract with WWE. Either way, it's a massive move for a performer of his standing to make.

9. A Huge Boost For New Japan

New Japan Pro Wrestling

It's widely accepted that the most truly exciting time to be a wrestling fan was during the Monday Night Wars. WWF and WCW's unscrupulous battle for dominance resulted in some of the most compelling television the industry has ever produced, as well as moments, matches, events and feuds that have passed into wrestling folklore.

Since the demise of WCW in 2001, nothing's quite felt the same. WWE's monopoly has held firm since, and despite the indie boom we currently find ourselves in, they have no real competitors at their level.

The closest thing to competition is New Japan Pro Wrestling, and despite barriers when it comes to reaching a western audience, they've shown promising signs of expansion in recent years. Nothing, however, will be as big a factor as the introduction of a megastar like Chris Jericho.

There's no telling how many new fans will tune in on January 4 to see a familiar face, but Y2J will, at the very least, raise interest in a promotion striving to secure new fans.

8. This Will Be Jericho's First Non-WWE Match Since 1999


Assuming Jericho vs. Omega goes forward in January 2018, it will be Y2J's first match outside of WWE since 1999 - a quite staggering statistic, in all honesty.

Jericho's current most recent non-WWE match came a few weeks before his electrifying Raw debut, and saw him defeat Terry Taylor (aka The Red Rooster!) at a memorial show for beloved WCW and ECW referee Mark Curtis.

Prior to that, Y2J, of course, wrestled for WCW - his last televised match being the semi-final of the United States Heavyweight Title Tournament where he lost (by DQ) to Booker T in about four minutes.

In case you were wondering, Booker lost the final of the tournament to Scott Steiner. You're an obsessive wrestling fan; I know you absolutely were wondering. I got you.

7. Jericho Is Not A Typical New Japan Acquisition


...at least in recent years.

Yes, over the course of its history, NJPW has seen various major WWE-associated stars wrestle under its banner - from Hogan to Lesnar to The Dudley Boyz - but in recent years, that hasn't really been company policy.

New Japan has been the most critically acclaimed promotion of the decade so far, without question, but has done so not on the back of imported star power. Instead, it relies heavily on an incredible array of homegrown talent - Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii, and so on.

Top foreign stars such as Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay usually have minimal or no WWE affiliation - the crucial exception being Cody Rhodes, who can't really be considered a star in the same league as Y2J, but may have paved the way for his shocking defection.

6. Omega Is One Of The Greatest Wrestlers In The World

New Japan Pro Wrestling

We've talked enough about the various surrounding factors making this bout so exciting - now let's talk about the match itself. Although I don't think anybody is expecting it to steal the show on a card topped by Okada vs. Naito, Omega vs. Jericho stands a very good chance of impressing in a big way.

The main reason behind this is that Kenny Omega is one of the best wrestlers in the world today - top five at the very least. He has already partaken in at least three of 2017's finest matches (that unbelievably trilogy with Kazuchika Okada), and enjoyed similarly stellar bouts with Ishii, Naito, and Michael Elgin.

Jericho might be no spring chicken at 46-years-old, but Omega excels in big-match environments. They won't come much bigger than this.

5. Jericho Can Still Go


Yes, Jericho's opponent is a man at the very peak of his career, and the NJPW newcomer may be solidly in his mid-40s - but let's not discount Y2J as a wrestler just yet.

Remember, only a few months ago Jericho competed in one of the best matches on this year's WrestleMania card, losing the US Championship to Kevin Owens during one of the most entertaining feuds of 2017.

He may have lost some of the speed and athleticism that caught the eye in his youth, but Y2J hasn't slowed too much - and, perhaps more importantly, remains a master of storytelling and ring psychology.

4. Jericho Is Taking This Seriously


Despite being a WWE loyalist for much of his career, Jericho can hardly be regarded an ultimate John Cena-esque company man. His podcast regularly features big names from the world of indie wrestling (including Omega himself), and his interest in the wider world of wrestling is more than evident.

Do not mistake this for an easy payday for Jericho. According to reports from Dave Meltzer on the Wrestling Observer Radio, Y2J was the proactive party here, seeking out Omega and NJPW booker Gedo to make the match happen. His eagerness is even apparent from the announcement video itself; he's darkened his look slightly to fit in with the grittier, more realistic world of New Japan.

We shouldn't be too surprised at Jericho's dedication and attention to detail. Never has WWE seen a superstar so adept at reinventing his own gimmick, from the whiny self-styled rockstar of his early years to the ultra-serious, suit-wearing heel towards the end of the 2000s - from the bizarre meta-Jericho we saw in 2012 to his final WWE incarnation as a deliberately cheesy egomaniac.

3. It's At Wrestle Kingdom

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Even without taking Omega vs. Jericho into account, Wrestle Kingdom 12 is absolutely stacked with reasons to get excited.

Okada vs. Naito is a fittingly huge main event;  Tanahashi vs. Jay White is the perfect clash of experienced veteran and arrogant upstart; the four-way Juniors match is a unique car-crash waiting to happen; and who the hell knows what to expect from Cody vs. Ibushi?

Omega and Jericho add a sizeable dollop of intrigue and star power to an already unbelievable card - and as we've mentioned previously, Kenny loves to excel on the big stage.

2. Could This Lead To A WWE Rematch?


(I doubt it, but who knows?)

One of the wilder rumours circulating in the aftermath of Jericho's appearance is the possibility of a WWE-based rematch, which would make Y2J something of a secret agent for Vince McMahon, infiltrating New Japan in order to lure their biggest American star over to Titan Towers.

Now, as tremendously exciting as that is, I can't see it being true. Then again, I'm not even sure if I'd want it to happen. Omega defecting to WWE would be a step back for New Japan, and it's surely more fun to watch the promotion grow and become a legitimate challenger to Vince's monopoly.

1. The First Of Many?


We regularly hear stories of disillusioned superstars within WWE's ranks, tales of wrestlers beaten down by large amounts of time on the road, gruelling match schedules, and sometimes a lack of creative direction offered. The apparent departure of Neville in recent weeks is just the latest example, and Cody Rhodes last year showed that a WWE superstar can stand to gain more on the independent scene (if they go about it in a smart enough way).

Jericho has done something far simpler than Cody, and an option available to far less on WWE's roster - but it could signal the start of an ominous trend from the promotion's point of view. Say Y2J's match is a tremendous success (perhaps he even wins the title from Omega!) - suddenly a whole host of new eyes will be on NJPW, hungering for the next big familiar face to jump over from WWE.

Jericho's defection could be the start of a systematic exodus from WWE, a slower-paced version of The Radicalz' switch from WCW to Vince's company at the turn of the century.

Guess who was one step ahead of the game back then, leading Ted Turner's most promising stars across the great divide? That's right: Chris Jericho.

And who knows, if the aforementioned report from PWInsider is to be believed and Jericho is indeed still under contract with Vince McMahon, this could potentially be the first of many deals between WWE and NJPW and I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog.

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Jack King

Written by Jack King

[email protected] Twitter: @JackTheJobber