Kenny Omega spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about FunimationCon 2020 as the future of conventions, his passion for My Hero Academia, hosting the My Hero One’s Justice 2 tournament, Dave Meltzer’s original 6-star match rating, AEW, and wanting to perform at NJPW & ROH’s G1 Supercard show at Madison Square Garden.
This interview contains spoilers for My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Funimation is ahead of the game doing a virtual ‘FunimationCon’ because this could indeed be the future. Maybe there won’t be mass in-person conventions anymore. You’ve experienced the changes firsthand in AEW, having talent-only shows due to the Coronavirus pandemic. How do you feel about FunimationCon 2020 and the future of conventions in general?
Kenny Omega: I mean you always have to consider that, this may be just the way things are from here on in. I sort of count my blessings that when this pandemic happened, which is a terrible thing, that at the very least, we’ve reached an age where everything can be done digitally. How we can still stay in contact with people from across the world, how we can still stay in touch with people even a few blocks away! If we can’t be live and in-person with people, if we can’t be live in a crowd… At the very least, we have a number of platforms where our voices can be heard, our faces can be seen. Worst case scenario things are going to be like this, for a long time, possibly forever. Who knows?
The silver lining to it all is that we as human beings have reached an age in technology where we can stay in touch. We can still communicate with each other and find ways to entertain one another. I think that’s at least one positive coming out all this is that there is hope.
You’re known to be a passionate fan of My Hero Academia, I was wondering about your feelings on My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising? I felt Nine wasn’t a traditional villain, he was more akin to X-Men’s Magneto, considering the wolf-faced man, Chojuro Kon, remarks he didn’t treat him like a monster for his looks. Quite reminiscent of Magneto & Mystique.
Exactly! I do believe in a lot of cases, If you can level with the villain, if there’s a human side to them, if you can see their perspective… They’re effectively more interesting of a character. You brought up Magneto, another one is Thanos. I think one thing that My Hero Academia does better than any other series, that’s including Marvel, DC, everything is they provide emotional strength to their characters. I think it was a pretty good idea to always give the human side, and give perspective to both the heels and the villains.
Especially, if you’re gonna go for like a movie type feeling to something, you want to make your evil, an incredible evil. But I don’t think that’s going to the last cinematic release for My Hero Academia. I think that’s going to be here for a long time. Whether it be featured in a season within the series or whether it’s featured in the movie, I think you’re gonna get those purely evil people that don’t even need-
Like for example, The Nomu in the first season. They had no real motivation. They’re just killing machines, right? So, they sort of already had went with that angle. This very powerful, almost indestructible killing machine that only thinks about death, destruction, and killing.
That’s almost like The Terminator approach. It has one mission. It has one thing it needs to fulfill, and that’s death and destruction. I think that the writers are so talented for the series that they can take a numerous amount of approaches to their villains and their heroes and keep it interesting. They could even have heroes that appear to have a dark side to them like Bakugo, for example.
I sort of still feel that maybe down the road, he made just drift over to the dark world for a while. He may he may become the ultimate villain at the end of it. Who knows?! But they’ve given ideas and character layers. These characters can sometimes drift more into one zone than another and I think that’s fantastic. it’s a lot of food for thought after processing you know a gigantic arc within a story.
You’ve been connected to gaming professionally since your New Japan Pro Wrestling days. Even integrating the Final Fantasy 7 inspired “One Winged Angel” into your day-to-day wrestling move set. What started the journey to anime & gaming that led you to connecting with Bandai Namco and hosting the My Hero One’s Justice 2 voice actor tournament at FunimationCon 2020?.
That’s a very good question, I’ve always wanted to get as involved as possible with my passions and my hobbies outside of wrestling. You know, I love wrestling. It’s a great sport and been a fantastic job to me. It’s allowed me to travel the world and meet a lot of new friends. And it turns out that a lot of people that watch wrestling, a lot of people that wrestling have very similar interests to me. Which is video games, anime, things like that. With how the current climate of the world is… If you have an interest in something, if you have a hobby, there’s always a deeper level to it.
So, if I like video games for example, there’s competitions for video games, there’s people that collect retro games, and try to try to amass entire libraries of games. The same with anime. If you watch anime that was released in the States and in Japan & you enjoy anime, then you can take that as deep as you want to go. You can delve back into the annals of time, into the archives, and there’s hundreds of thousands of anime shows and movies. Especially working in Japan, I was living in Japan for about 11 years. It allowed me to really take my hobby and one of my passions, which is both anime and video games to a really deep level.
Pumped to take part in #FunimationCon tomorrow and call some of my favorite #BokuNoHeroAcademia fights in the PS4 fighting game, (My Hero One’s Justice 2).The real English voice actors are repping their characters so there’s a ton of pride on the line! https://t.co/ltaEE4gB4G pic.twitter.com/4tXrT6DeMD
— Kenny Omega (@KennyOmegamanX) July 2, 2020
I found first and foremost that I really love sports anime. And so that that took me down one path to really find and hone what my favorite sports animes were and get really into it. Read the mangas and all that stuff. Being a comic book collector as a child and a fan of Saturday morning cartoons and all that, of course, I was a huge fan of superhero stuff. Once My Hero Academia came out, I felt, ‘Okay I can give it a shot.’ And within the first 30 minutes, or I guess I could say twenty one with commercials of the first episode… I was more connected to that story in that world than anything that I had seen or read in the past decade, probably.
I knew that they were a winner and I’m just so glad that it has seen the success that it has because now we can continue that story. The journey continues. One thing that’s really sad is when you love something, you support it, and you follow something along & can’t wait for the next book or the next season or the next movie to release… And there’s no fan support, so it just kind of dies off.
Luckily, we’re already, four or five seasons in. I don’t know if I’d consider it the halfway point but we’ve seen a lot of material for Boku no Hīrō Akademia, My Hero Academia,. I’m just thrilled that we’re still continuing on this journey and it seems that, a lot of people are with me on this, that we’re going to see even more. And that’s really exciting for me.
When you received that 6-star rating from Dave Meltzer for your match against Kazuchika Okada in NJPW… Did you feel that put more pressure on you to have to deliver every time? Does it serve as motivation? I remember Steve Austin commenting on his podcast that he went to check out your match because of that Meltzer rating.
Yeah, I mean it’s a double edged sword really because when you set that standard, that precedent that you can have a six star match… For some people there’s an expectation that, ‘Oh, if I see Kenny Omega, this is what I expect and hope to see!’ And there’s a lot of variables that go into making a 6-star match. Now, I’ve had I think four or five matches that have went over 6-stars or 6 and over. I’ve had more than that go over 5 stars. But I never feel the pressure to have to deliver what one critic deems over a 5-star match.
What I’m trying to do is just diversify my resume, I never want to have to give what in one person’s mind is a 6-star match. That 6-star match to him isn’t necessarily what I think is a 6-star match. It isn’t necessarily what my neighbor that was beside me thinks is a 6-star match. It’s not what little Jimmy who lives across the world and generally likes watching Sailor Moon, maybe he doesn’t consider that a 6-star match. I’m trying to always have performances that can appeal to all sorts of different people, from all walks of life.
I think as long as there is somebody in the world, that looks at one of my performances and considers it time not wasted. Or one of the best things that they’ve seen, I feel like my job is complete. So, yes there’s pressure to always give a performance that I think merits somebody’s interest and high praise. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that one person’s praise.
Do you have a personal 6-star match, one that’s your favorite?
That’s a very good question. Of course, I’m very proud of the match that was the only one that’s ever been rated 7-stars (NJPW Dominion). That was the culmination of a year’s worth of storytelling and I felt like it was a great way to end the story. It not only gave something brand new for fans but fully implementing storyline elements from all the matches that came before it. So, that match I’m very proud of. My most recent 6-star match that I had in AEW was one that I was extremely proud of because I could get it with my friends.
That I had RTW was one I was extremely proud of because I could do with my friends. Generally speaking, it’s very difficult to obtain a 6-star rating. At least by the Meltzer system, in America. I think for us to pull it off is just a real feather in the cap for all four of us to do something that no one really in North America has ever done. Not only that but again like I said, one person’s opinion is fantastic, someone who’s very studied and knowledgeable in wrestling. But the general feedback from anyone that’s seen the match and other critics alike really enjoyed it.
That for me is the ultimate payoff, when you start to see almost universal praise. Of course, you might find someone who will vilify it which is fine. But when you see generally incredibly positive feedback from sometimes even people who don’t like your stuff. It’s a real good feeling that kind of lets you know, you did a good night’s worth of work.
I actually bought a ticket to the NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard Show at Madison Square Garden last year because I thought you were going to be performing there to be honest.
Oh, we all thought I was going to be there! Even though I’d already been involved with the AEW project at that point and everyone knew my intentions of going there… It was always my hope that I could still be a part of that show. But you know, things happen. It was just a preference that there was no one from AEW to represent on that card.
But I was always ready, willing, and able. I still feel that it’s a shame that it couldn’t have happened because there was nothing on my end that had caused that to happen. But I understand there’s not just a service to the fans but there’s a very unknown business side to everything we do. I’d call about to happen. Whether it be in wrestling or fear of working any kind of job. There’s a hierarchy and there’s stuff that happens behind closed doors that no one ever hears about or talks about. And those decisions were made without my involvement, and it was decided I wouldn’t be on the show.
Again, I still apologize to fans because of that and it is a shame because I would have loved to show people something special from New Japan in one of the world’s most famous arenas.
I hope to see AEW arrive in MSG someday if and when the pandemic ends! Thanks Kenny!
Thank you so much man, I really hope to be back in arenas again someday soon!
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