Should Kenny Omega Return To AEW?

Kenny Omega’s style and philosophy on professional wrestling are polarizing, but his impact on the modern era is undeniable.

The Canadian grappler has his share of fans and critics, some will cite his exaggerated mannerisms and thespian deliver of promos to be too hokey to be taken seriously, and they might have a point. At the same time, he’s an incredible athlete that had a series of dynamic, fast-paced matches that one could argue that he helped define much of the style within America today through his stellar run as the top gaijin, or foreign wrestler in New Japan. Make no mistake about it, when Kenny Omega was in top form, he was pure excellence inside the ring ropes, and his incredible bouts with Kazuchika Okada were among the best in the history of the business.

More than just the in-ring work, Omega had a very important role in a contest that will be considered one of the most important matches in the history of the industry, especially in retrospect. After Omega, Okada, and the New Japan roster that had tremendous depth at the time made headlines within the business, Chris Jericho agreed to compete outside of the WWE for the first time in almost two decades to challenge his fellow Canadian to a dream match at the Tokyo Dome. Jericho said previously that he didn’t plan to work anywhere else during the rest of his career because of his loyalty to Vince McMahon and his wrestling empire. While Y2J was smart enough to step away from WWE at various points to keep himself fresh and reinvent himself along the way to add longevity, his WWE stints before his Tokyo Dome venture almost seemed like the company didn’t have anything scripted for him to do in terms of meaningful angles. An example of the perception of the office was that at Wrestlemania 33, despite a storyline that was one of the more over angles in the organization, Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens was slated as the second match on the card of the marathon event. The following year, Jericho was in one of the main event matches in front of 40,000 fans in Japan.

Omega’s reputation of consistent quality matches, and a hefty offer from New Japan’s parent company, Bushiroad, were enough for Jericho to return to Japan. Since that match, Jericho credits it as opening the door for him to consider working outside of the WWE, and thus it was a key aspect of the formation of All Elite Wrestling. Besides the fact that Omega was a member of the group that was the core of the launch, make no mistake about it, the buzz that Kenny Omega had prior to the start of AEW was a critical piece of the puzzle, as it built anticipation for a full-time platform for him in America on national television.

There’s no doubt about it, Kenny Omega was a critical part of All Elite Wrestling.

That being said, in an example of the harsh reality of the industry, the same dynamic style that brought his name to prominence might also be what cuts his run in All Elite short. As we know, just a few months ago, Omega was scheduled to compete at the Worlds End pay-per-view, but the bout was scrapped when he was rushed to the hospital with a very serious case of diverticulitis.

Just a few days ago, The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that there was no update on Omega’s condition, as it still hasn’t been determined if he will undergo surgery to repair the medical issue. When the former IWGP and AEW champion originally landed in the hospital, Meltzer noted that the swelling to the real-life Tyson Smith’s intestines was too serve for the typical diverticulitis surgery so doctors had to wait for the swelling to decrease to determine if it would still be required or if the condition could be managed with medication. With the recent update, Meltzer noted that if the AEW star eventually needs surgery to address the problem, it would extend his absence from the company.

At 40, Kenny Omega would be considered in the latter stages of his career, especially when you take into account that he started wrestling in his teen years, but it wouldn’t have been unrealistic to think he could’ve wrestled another five years or so. That being said, I’m not sure Omega should return to the ring, and if he does, you have the wonder if the potential risk to his health would be worth the upside that he brings to the table? Don’t get me wrong, Omega has a firm legacy cemented and will be known as one of the best of all-time within his style of pro wrestling, but it goes without saying that the high impact style took a major toll on his body. That’s where the critics have a valid point, the over-the-top car crash style can and does shorten careers. Keep in mind, Omega was forced to take a nearly 10-month hiatus from the organization in late-2021 for surgery to repair a myriad of injuries.

The argument could be made that Omega isn’t the same in the ring since the injuries forced him onto the sidelines. Assuming that Omega can wrestle, it will be months until he can lace up the boots again, and will be longer than that if he needs surgery for diverticulitis. If he can make another comeback, the question might be, can Tony Khan truly invest more TV time and promotional dollars into him? Granted, money is no object to Tony, but television time is critical and it will be a decision as far as how much of it should be used to promote Omega when he might be more prone to injury now than he was in the past. Remember, he was scheduled to compete at the Worlds End pay-per-view before the recent health scare. Obviously, injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, but Omega has a lot of miles on his body so that might be taken into consideration in terms of the future of the organization.

Perhaps, that’s the biggest takeaway from the lack of an update on his condition, Kenny Omega was a fundamental part of the early years of All Elite, but that doesn’t mean that he will be a major portion of the future, at least as an in-ring performer. At some point, even if he gets cleared for a return to the ring, is it worth the possible risk to his health? Again, Omega has an established legacy so does he need to risk more injuries? Will he add that much more to his resume at this point in his career?

While it would be great to see Kenny Omega return to the ring, I don’t think it would be a wise decision. As far what he does next, if he gets clearer then he will undoubtedly wrestle again, even if it might be better if he didn’t. If for some reason he can’t return to the ring, he will probably shift to a backstage or producer role in AEW so he will still be on the payroll. Along with that Will Ospreay, an athlete ten years younger and without nearly as much of a toll on his body, looks to be positioned for the “Omega spot” in the company. It’s somewhat ironic because the two had a pair of incredible matches last year, with one at the Tokyo Dome and the rematch at the Forbidden Door pay-per-view in Toronto. Maybe that’s where the torch was unofficially passed to the British grappler? Ospreay can have the Omega style matches for All Elite, especially because as mentioned, he’s younger without the toll of those risky bouts.

Sure, it might be difficult to image All Elite Wrestling without Kenny Omega as a part of its foundation, but the organization already showed that they would be fine without him since the promotion still drew comparable numbers without him on the shows as it did when he was regularly at the events. It looks like Kenny Omega’s successor was already chosen and that would be another reason for him to consider retirement from in-ring competition, and a role behind the scenes for the company.
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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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