Kenny Omega returns to New Japan Pro Wrestling with Style.
On January 4, 2023, Japanese wrestling promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) held its annual Tokyo Dome show. Wrestle Kingdom 17 marked the 32nd time the show was held in the legendary venue on this day. It's a special occasion for many reasons. Not only does the big Wrestle Kingdom show to mark the end of the year for NJPW, but think of it as the season finale. It was also a memorial show held in honor of NJPW founder Antonio Inoki who passed away in October of last year. It's also the end of NJPW's 50th-anniversary celebrations.
The One Winged Angel flies again
But for most viewers, even before the first bell rang the main attraction was the return of Kenny Omega to NJPW on the grandest stage. Kenny Omega had left New Japan after losing the title to Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13. Back then, Omega entered as champion to a remix to the Undertale track Hopes and Dreams/ Save the World.
The 39-year-old Canadian has a history of incorporating video game culture into his character. For years he used a remix of the Dr. Wily theme from Mega Man for his entrances, to the point it was even remixed by the Capcom Sound team themselves. And his move set is also heavily inspired by gaming culture, for years he used the Street Fighter Hadouken as a palm strike and has since replaced it with a running knee strike called V-Trigger. But most important to this story is his finisher, The One Winged Angel, named after Final Fantasy VII villain Sephiroth.
So as the night turned towards the penultimate match, all eyes were on Kenny Omega's triumphant return to the promotion and the stage that had shot him to superstardom a few years prior. Omega had left New Japan as the fallen hero and returned to claim this throne as the Best Bout Machine once again. Reenacting the iconic Super Smash Bros. Ultimate reveal of Final Fantasy VII villain Sephiroth in full cosplay.
While other outlets have also reported on this, we feel it's important to explain the context of it as the story and reason behind this entrance make it even more amazing.
Kenny Omega faced off against IWGP United States Champion Will Ospreay who has been filling Omega's place as the top foreign guy in New Japan since his departure. Will Ospreay himself has been on quite a journey over the course of the past three years, which often invited comparisons between him and Kenny Omega which laid the foundation of this rivalry, to begin with.
And over the past three years, Kenny Omega was the shadow that loomed over Ospreay's career in NJPW. Everything Ospreay achieved paled in comparison to Omega, a fact which always gnawed at the British wrestler.
This invites parallels between Final Fantasy VII's relationship between protagonist Cloud Strife and Sephiroth, and the match at the Tokyo Dome. Knowing that both are avid gamers, Will Ospreay's return to his Aerial Assassin gimmick the same night evoking his love for the Assassins Creed franchise, that conflict may have served as an inspiration for this rivalry and match.
The match itself more than lived up to the hype, wrestling critic Dave Meltzer already cited it as one of the greatest matches he has ever seen and it currently sits on rank 5 on the user-voted website Cagematch.
But the match wasn't the tale of Will Ospreay overcoming his demons by finally stepping out of Kenny Omega's shadow. Much like Cloud, the Aerial Assassin has yet to exorcise his self-doubts to face the One-Winged Angel. We also can't ignore the parallels between the two performers. Omega rose to international superstardom only after a losing effort against IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in 2017 — on the same stage no less. This match will undoubtedly set Ospreay on a similar path.
With Omega returning to NJPW and Will Ospreay set for what will undoubtedly be a career-defining run in 2023, New Japan Pro Wrestling is primed to make a return to form after the Pandemic crippled the company's potential. And who knows, maybe we'll get to see the upcoming second part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake influence this story even further!
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