On Wednesday it was announced that Kenny Omega topped the annual PWI 500.
Omega had a critically acclaimed year in-ring and ascended to the top of AEW, becoming the AEW World Champion in December.
Omega previously topped the list in 2018 for his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling where he turned in classic matches with each passing event.
Speaking on the Pro Wrestling Illustrated podcast, Omega explained why being number one in 2021 elicited a different feeling than when he topped the list in 2018.
"The name of the game has changed, the rules of the game have changed. Now, it's American television wrestling. To me, I wasn't able to play to my strengths at all this year. That's what made it the biggest challenge for me in my entire career. I always wanted to try my best, learn, and challenge myself. I'm very competitive in nature and I don't like to say I'm the best and I'm able to accept if I'm not. I'd rather someone else be, but when someone bestow this name on me or have this expectation, I never want to let them down. If I'm put in a position where I'm the champion or in the main event or they need a certain match that I'm not comfortable with or don't have any experience with, I'm going to push myself to be the best I can be because there are a lot of fans watching in the arena or around the world that have paid good money or are giving up their valuable time expecting a main event level performance," said Omega.
Omega competed in a variety of matches and against different style of opponents during his run to the top. Most notably, he faced Jon Moxley in an exploding barbed wire deathmatch and Sami Callihan in a No DQ match.
"I feel so lucky that throughout this year, I've had a number of fantastic opponents that come from all corners of the globe and in some cases, it's people that I'm not even that familiar with. In a lot of cases, I'm working with restrictions of time, having to work with commercials or hard TV times or the COVID era with no fans. I'm used to wrestling long and physical one-on-one matches. Some of these matches aren't these conventional singles matches. They are perhaps a Lights Out match or an exploding barbed wire deathmatch or I'm wrestling in Mexico and it's a six-sided ring or a tag match. The whole landscape was different this year for me and it could have blown up in my face. All I tried to do was do the best I could with what I had in front of me. Much like New Japan, we have a great collection of talent in AEW and IMPACT that needs more recognition and a lot of talent in AAA that people don't know about. I'm glad they know a little about them because of Fenix and Penta. There are wonderful wrestling talents around the world and I was able to mix it up with them and do what I can do best but also challenge myself in ways that I haven't been challenged before. Whether it be due to preparation or being in the right mindset or creatively being on point, things worked out," he said.
Omega noted that it's "night and day" between earning the top spot in 2018 and earning the top spot in 2021. He said that he didn't think a New Japan wrestler could get the top spot because of WWE's mainstream success and visibility, but believed he shared the honor with everyone he faced during that year.
"For me, as difficult as it was to reach the top spot in 2018, I played to my strengths completely in that year. All of those matches were in my wheelhouse," he said. "I do New Japan style main event matches best. That's easy for me. Physically demanding and taxing and grueling, yes, but if I were to choose one style I truly excel in, it's that. This year, I really stepped outside of my box and comfort zone. Not only that, everyone else stepped up their game too. It's fantastic that I don't feel like, no matter how I look at it, I didn't run away with it. I don't think I was number one by far. You could have gone multiple directions and no one would be disappointed. Up until his unfortunate injury, number one could have been Will Ospreay. Number one could have easily been Shingo Takagi or Roman Reigns. Everyone had just a strong year. Depending on who you are and what you like in pro wrestling, maybe they are your number one, but if you select me as number one, I'm cool with it. It was a tough one this year, a great learning experience and something I'll never forget."
While Omega praised Ospreay in the interview, he had some fun with the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion on social media on Wednesday as the two got into a Twitter exchange. You can find their exchange by clicking here.
Elsewhere during the interview, Omega discussed the possibility of seeing Kota Ibushi. You can find his full comments by clicking here.
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