By winning one of the world’s biggest wrestling tournaments in historic fashion, Kenny Omega is now the face of New Japan.

2016 has been a revival year for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Wrestle Kingdom 10 sent shockwaves through the wrestling world, the January talent raid resulted in a need for new stars & more. Yet the one constant for the long standing pro wrestling company has been one gaijin, Kenny Omega.

When Omega started 2016, he was behind AJ Styles as the leader of The Bullet Club. It took one night before Omega realized he was best suited as “the guy”. He and The Young Bucks attacked Styles and created their own group within The Bullet Club called The Elite. To chronicle Omega’s 2016 purely upon title wins would take a minute but here’s a quick summation. Although Shinsuke Nakamura departed for the WWE in January, he was stripped of the IWGP Intercontinental Title. Omega, easily upset and felt that he was upstaged by Nakamura’s departure, had to settle for beating NJPW’s current MVP Hiroshi Tanahashi for the belt. Also add in two reigns as NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Champs with the Young Bucks and competing in NJPW’s first ever ladder match. Most competitors would dream of a year like that. That was only the first half of Omega’s year.

Then the Canadian gaijin did something no Westerner has ever done – he won the most prestigious wrestling tournament in the world.

The G1 Climax is a one-month tournament to settle who will face the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11. The list of previous winners? Try Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Masahiro Chono, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tatsumi Fujinami & more. The list of previous Westerners to just make the finals? Karl Anderson & Rick Rude. That’s it.

“New Japan is home.” – Kenny Omega

There have been many a criticism of Omega. That he’s spent most of the year hankering for a feud with The New Day of the WWE. Or that he’s been winning titles he doesn’t truly care about. That he’s unfocused more often than he should be. But then there are nights like Saturday where he puts it all together. Against Hirooki Goto, Omega told a story. He’s always been told that he’s worked at a level lower than the former Bullet Club leaders. So in a rush, he channeled both of them. He hit Finn Bálor / Prince Devitt’s Bloody Sunday. He nailed AJ Styles’ Styles Clash. And yet, it took his own One Winged Angel to put Goto away.

The post match promo / acceptance speech from Omega was touch perfect. He laid down the challenge to Okada to roars from the crowd. He told the world he’s better than everybody, including the guys in Orlando (NXT shots!) and will remain in New Japan.

But here he is – the face of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Even in a world where Okada is considered the best Japanese wrestler to have never appeared on WWE programming, it’s Omega. He’s a star regardless of where you put him and if it is him versus Okada in the Toyko Dome? Expect plenty of fireworks and action. The two of them have never faced, possibly for a reason. Keeping them apart for this long is a far conscious way to book Wrestle Kingdom 11, even if the result may be intriguing to see. With Omega, it’s always been about what he hasn’t been able to achieve. 2016 has stated otherwise.

Kenny Omega started off the year stating he was no longer just a Junior Heavyweight. Now, he’s simply a star. Say hello to “The Cleaner”, possibly the next IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

Photo Credit: Voices Of Wrestling