Kenny Omega: NJPW Made The Right Choice By Going With Jay White Over Will Ospreay
Kenny Omega believes Jay White was the right choice to be NJPW's top foreign star
In 2018, Kenny Omega was one of New Japan’s biggest stars, and their top ‘gaijin’ (foreign) wrestler. But when Omega left NJPW in 2019 to help found All Elite Wrestling, NJPW had a massive void they had to fill.
To counteract their homegrown stars like Kazuchika okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW strapped the rocket to Jay White, and in an interview with Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, Omega believes they made the right choice:
“When I left, if I were a betting man, I would have put everything I owned in my name - so couple of retro consoles and five dollars - I would have put that on knowing that Jay White and Will Ospreay were going to be the go-to international talents that they would heavily push. Next to that, I knew that very soon down the line, the lightning-in-the-bottle that they didn't know that they had with Shingo Takagi, I knew was going to come into his own and be an incredible force and be a talent that people would want to watch.
“It's really neat for me now to be on the sidelines and that, in one of our highest marquee matches, we've got the guy that I lost the belt to in the main event, Tanahashi, going against Mox, a guy who has beaten me and I've beaten him. Jay White is in one of the matches for their most prestigious bout against a guy that I'm very familiar with in Okada, there's Adam Cole, Hangman, the guy I lost the AEW belt to. There's a lot of history there and it's cool to see that when I said my farewell to New Japan, not knowing how things would go, that Jay White did step up and did become the guy New Japan needed and he became their box office superstar and became the guy you could base a pay-per-view off of, a guy you could put on posts, someone that when he speaks you want to hear what he has to say and you're compelled by what he has to say.”
As well as White, NJPW have also heavily pushed Will Ospreay, with the ‘Commonwealth Kingpin’ having ran with the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in 2021, but Omega believes that NJPW seemingly favouring White over Ospreay is the right choice:
"In a different vein, you have Will Ospreay, he can do anything,” Omega continued. “He's strong, he's fast, he's agile, he's a great representative for New Japan for all of the dudes that are hitting the pavement and making the Indie dates, he is their spokesperson to give everyone that current day five-star match that we all know and love, some of us. Different strokes for different folks. Ospreay, he's doing great in his role, not my thing so much. Jay White, he's become the star that they needed. I can't say one over another, but they do work quite well harmoniously.
“A guy like Will, who is great at moves and has a list of 20 very forgettable five-star matches. [laughs] I'm going a little too hard on Will. Will is great. I don't want to say anything bad about Will. Here's the thing, if we're being completely honest with each other, I do believe that with the current rating system, and how things are viewed, I believe that Will has earned every last one of those five-star performances that he has had. Do I think that if you go back into the works of some of the legends, I'm even going to throw my name in the hat, even if you go back to when I was having five-star matches and I was that sort of guy, I just think that the matches from back then were more memorable and as hard as Will is working, he just isn't quite… Will is there… I'm digging myself into a hole here, Will is there and Will is great. I'm glad to see him in a marquee match against Orange Cassidy. I'm just saying that I think New Japan made the right choice by going with Jay White. He was the star of the two, is all I'm saying."
Omega continued, explaining why he believes White is the bigger star:
"When you're in a position like Will, someone who can do anything so easily, it's tough to become very satisfied with the cheers and jeers of a small indie crowd, those little pick-me-ups, those start to mean more to you than focusing on 'how do I reinvent myself to become a company guy and an investment for a million-dollar company,' like what Jay White had to do. Jay White wasn't a freak athlete like Will, so he had to go into the think tank and come up with something that was marketable. Will just being Will gets crowds of a few hundred people cheering for Will Ospreay and he is satisfied with that. There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever," stated Omega.
Omega continued, "When Jay White went to the drawing board and he's looking at a guy like Will, who can do every single high flying move, who is younger, who probably has a more clean slate injury-wise, Jay probably thought, 'I'm gonna have to think outside the box and I'm gonna have to come up with a way for this company to invest millions in me to market me in a way I want to be marketed so I can be valuable to this company.’
“For Will, and guys like Will, where things come real easy, he just has to do all the moves that he knows and he kind of gets that false sense of 'I am at the very top and pinnacle of the wrestling world because I get high ratings from one guy.' It's a tough trap to fall into. I remember when I got my first five-star match, I thought, 'Did I really become one of these guys?' Then, I grew up after five or six of them. Will, the first thing he does is goes online and brags about his next five-star match. It's five (stars) to one guy, it's maybe three and a half (stars) to me, but it doesn't matter. If you're proud of it, that's great. I just feel that Jay White became the company man New Japan needed. That's all. I don't want to say anything poor about the efforts of Will because it's tough to do what he does. He does it easily, for him, but it's still back-breaking labor and he's still putting in the work that would kill any other person. For Will, doing an incredible job...here's a way to sum it up; Will is working harder than anyone, but Jay was the guy working smarter than everyone. That's the best way I can sum it up."
Omega and Ospreay notoriously don’t see eye-to-eye, with two often taking jabs at one-another on social media.