IWGP United States champion Kenny Omega hasn’t been shy when comparing his skills to those of folks currently working for Vince McMahon. In fact, it’s been a recurring theme in his rivalry with Chris Jericho, which will come to a head in their no disqualification title fight in the Tokyo Dome next Thursday, Jan. 4 at Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Omega’s recent interview with SI.com was done in support of that match, so it’s not surprising it includes more of the legit criticism/in-character shading of WWE we’ve heard from The Cleaner in the past.
After repeating a claim that no one in The ‘E can compete with him, or New Japan’s other main eventers, Justin Barrasso asked about his viewing habits. Kenny says he keeps up with the WWE product - although usually via highlights as opposed to full episodes of Raw and SmackDown - and it was there that he began to offer his thoughts on former IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champ Shinsuke Nakamura.
He hasn’t been impressed, although he doesn’t lay the blame at Nakamura’s educated feet:
“I’m happy for the response that he’s getting, of course, and all of us in New Japan knew when he left that he was going to get over with his charisma. But when I see Nakamura in WWE, it’s hard for me to say he’s done anything compelling in-ring since he’s been there, which is a shame. It will just take the one right story and the one right moment and then people will be captivated by everything that he does. Right now, he hasn’t had that.
... everything in WWE is super over-booked. Some people in WWE even need the steps and their footing in the ring choreographed. They have to pace their breathing before they even go through with a match in the ring. When you’re used to dealing with people who need that match management, who need to have that much choreography in their matches before they go out there and perform, then when a guy like Nakamura – who is this new age ‘strong style,’ and a lot of that is based off emotion and feeling and fighting spirit – wrestles someone who needs marks on the ring so that he can get his footing right with a set of instructions, that’s where Nakamura’s style gets lost in translation. Everything starts to come across as soulless, if that makes any sense.”
There’s a lot to digest there, and while you might not consider the issues with Swagsuke’s run to be entirely WWE’s fault - or maybe even have problems with the NXT and SmackDown version of Nakamura at all - there’s likely some truth in Omega’s read of the situation.
But coming from a man who, in the same interview, refers to his pending showdown with Jericho as “the inspired artist vs. Vince McMahon’s giant megastar” (hint: he’s the artist), we should probably take these quotes with a dash of kayfabe salt.