Kenny Omega was as surprised as everyone else in New Japan Pro Wrestling when AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura left for WWE.
Omega talked about the uncertainty that ran rampant through the entire promotion during a recent appearance on Chris Jericho's Talk Is Jericho podcast when Styles, Nakamura, Luke Gallows, and Ken Anderson all gave notice they were leaving for WWE the day of Wrestle Kingdom 10 on January 4 of last year:
“The company, it was in a scramble, in a state of disarray. ... Everyone understood the opportunity that was before them, but the company didn’t know what to do with themselves and they had no plan because, in a matter of a day, the transition period between the Tokyo Dome on the 4th and the 5th, the date to start next year’s storylines, they didn’t know what they were going to do. So they just said, ‘OK, Kenny, AJ was the leader of the Bullet Club. You are in the Bullet Club. Well, figure it out!’ Do you know what I mean? And there you go."
Omega said he and the Young Bucks took it as "a chance to really show what we're all about and change something." At New Years Dash last year, Omega and the Bucks turned on Styles, with Omega claiming Styles' mantle as leader of the Bullet Club. Omega immediately entered the heavyweight division, embarking on a breakout year in which he won the IWGP Intercontinental Title, became the first foreign-born wrestler to win the G1 Climax, and challenged Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 earlier this month in a widely acclaimed match.
”There was a time when I was in New Japan, especially when AJ was there, and I was sort of delegated to be, ‘You’re the cruiser guy, AJ’s our heavyweight guy. We know you can wrestle with the heavyweights, we all know that, but guess what? AJ’s here, so AJ’s going to be that guy and you’re going to be that guy.’ So I said, ‘OK, completely fine. I think AJ’s one of the greatest of all time,’ so I had no qualms about kind of being second banana to him even though I wanted to be first banana. Don’t get me wrong, but I understood that at that point in time, ‘OK, I just want to do the best I can in that position,’ so my goal became ‘I want to be the best cruiser champion this place has ever had in a long time’ and suddenly when I showed up before at the Tokyo Dome and they said, ‘Guess what, AJ and Shinsuke are leaving’. ... So then, my plan changed to, ‘OK, I can be The Bullet Club leader. I can be a heavyweight now. This is crazy!'”
Although Omega has gone on record previously that he had no interest in going to WWE, following the loss to Okada, he announced he was taking a break from Japan. This fueled speculation Omega might be headed to WWE, with John Cena making a couple of Instagram posts interpreted as potential teases of Omega's imminent debut. When discussing his future, Omega told Jericho he was going "day-by-day, just sort of being prepared for anything at this point. And I just want to do things that the company hasn’t done and I want to take the company outside of its comfort zone and do things that haven’t been done before.”
Omega currently is not booked for NJPW's next major tour, which ends in February with the New Beginning events in Sapporo and Osaka.