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A match a long time in the making
Kenny Omega has already created many enduring memories in AEW.
This week on Dynamite, Omega will produce another must-see occasion when he has his moment in the ring against El Hijo del Vikingo.
Omega and Vikingo were initially intended to clash at Triplemanía in December 2021, but the beginning stages of a prolonged stint on the injured reserve prevented Omega from defending the mega championship at AAA’s trademark event in Mexico. In his absence, Vikingo won the vacant title, and he has since become the signature face of AAA.
Their paths will finally cross on Wednesday evening in aptly named Independence, Mo., outside Kansas City. A celebration of pro wrestling awaits, as Omega—who cemented himself over the past decade as the industry’s “Best Bout Machine”—locks up with the most breathtaking, electrifying and sensational luchador in the world: Vikingo.
In this case, the hyperbolic adjectives are appropriate. Vikingo is a unique commodity, different from every other athletic high-flier. The way his body torques midair is a sight to behold. There is no better opponent on this stage for him than the internationally acclaimed Omega, who has hungered for the past two years for this very moment.
“Every Vikingo match has something embedded in it that we’ve never seen before,” says Omega. “It’s a very exciting time.”
This bout came together after Tony Khan reached out to Masked Republic’s Lucha Libre Agency, which manages all of Vikingo’s bookings outside of Mexico. Even though the roster is full of wrestlers that would have clamored for a shot to wrestle Vikingo, it is Omega who, given their history, makes the most sense for his debut in AEW.
“I thought our eventual clash would happen in AAA on Mexican soil, but it’s an opportunity that fell into my lap,” says Omega. “I’m not the booker, I’m not the matchmaker, I don’t make the rules, but I have been given a chance to wrestle someone that’s going to change the way people think about wrestling and change the way we think about lucha libre. There is a sense of pride to help with this introduction of a new power player in professional wrestling. The way Vikingo’s captured people’s attention and conquered AAA, he deserves a world stage to show what he has to offer.”
Omega also receives the opportunity to test himself against a 25-year-old wunderkind. Though he has a plethora of phenomenal singles bouts—his Wrestle Kingdom battles against Kazuchika Okada; his G1 Climax conquests against Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto; his IWGP heavyweight title defenses against Cody Rhodes and Tomohiro Ishii; his All In classic against Penta, his AEW deathmatch against Jon Moxley; the compelling manner in which he dropped the IWGP and AEW titles to, respectively, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Hangman Page; and his ferocious matches against PAC, to name more than a few—Omega’s one-on-one matches have become increasingly rare. His most recent one took place at the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom against Will Ospreay, which is one of Omega’s finest matches and the single best match in Ospreay’s career.
Even more rare is an Omega match on Dynamite, which last happened in 2021 (oddly, in the same arena in Independence—and even more peculiar that it also played host to Omega and PAC’s outstanding 30-minute Iron Man match on the go-home show before the inaugural Revolution in 2020). Only 39, Omega has paid a price for putting forth years of nonstop grueling, physical bouts—but he is relishing the chance to make magic in the ring tonight.
“I love showing different wrestling cultures,” says Omega. “Lucha libre is an art unlike any other. Vikingo is a modern-day innovator and an incredibly talented practitioner of lucha libre. People are going to be in for a treat.
“This is also a personal test for me. He’s made a couple stops here in the United States with GCW and Impact, and had a couple barn burners, but I want to offer a different experience visually. I’m hoping that the marriage of styles will create something very unique looking.”
A true student of the game, Omega understands that styles make fights. That means this match won’t be pure lucha. Or, for that matter, Japanese strong style. Or the classic North American wrestling style, or Britain’s World of Sport. It is going to be the best of Kenny Omega against the best of Vikingo.
“AEW is somewhat of a gateway drug for people that want to see new types of wrestling and these types of unique matches,” says Omega. “We’ll always be accommodating to any talent on the planet—it doesn’t matter where they’re from, their shape, size, color, gender—who can display pro wrestling at its best. Pro wrestling is not just one particular style. A big motivator in creating AEW was unity. Coming together for one common goal, an open door to a platform for the best pro wrestling.
“By seeing two different sides clash, I hope people receive a different kind of experience from the encounter.”
In spite of all the excitement surrounding this match, there has been a fair share of criticism on social media that not nearly enough build was given to Vikingo, who is largely unknown (for now) in the United States. Omega sees parallels between this match and two very specific encounters that helped shape him into who he is as a performer.
“The two times I was most blown away were by individuals I’d never seen heading into the match,” says Omega. “One was Rey Mysterio versus Psicosis in ECW, and the other was Great Sasuke versus Taka Michinoku when they first appeared for WWF. That took me down a rabbit hole so far that it helped create the wrestler I am today. So the people that want to cast this match away because they’re not too familiar with the name Vikingo, I hope they give it a shot. Allow this young man to display what makes him so special. We’re going to more than earn our spot in the show, and you get to be part of that experience.”
Another unique element is that Omega never lost the AAA mega championship, having been forced to vacate the title due to injury. The title is not on the line, and it is possible that Vikingo will not wear his mega championship to the ring, but it is the long-awaited showdown between the reigning champ and the man with the longest, most successful reign.
“AAA’s mega championship was so important to me,” says Omega. “It represents a particular idea and style, one I’ll never claim is my strong suit, so it was the result of arduous testing. I put myself through the paces. I was not trained in that style primarily. I watched hours and hours and hours of videotape to understand the ideas and concepts. In AAA, I applied all that I learned and became the longest-reigning mega champion in the world. That still means a lot to me.
“And at this stage in my career, I’m not quick to put my name on a singles match unless it means something. There’s not a belt on the line, I’m not contending for a title. It’s all about the opportunity to put my style against someone I think can be one of the greatest luchadores of all time. This is very much a personal test, but I also take pride in being part of the introduction of someone I think will have a very successful career. Vikingo is going to be known worldwide, so it’s an honor for me to be part of this. And I hope we’ll see him in AEW again.”
Omega against Vikingo is a pay-per-view main event that happens to be airing on TBS. It is a confrontation and collision directly pitting wrestling’s present against its future, a pairing of two of the industry’s most captivating in-ring competitors.
“Vikingo piqued my interest, because no one does it like him,” says Omega. “Wrestlers crowd around the monitor in the back to watch him. He’s something special. Competitively, I know he’s coming to take my throne. Or at least trying to—I’m aware of that, which makes it even more exciting.
“It’s a rare singles match for me on Dynamite. This would have been special with a lot of wrestlers on our roster. I’m the one that’s first in line with Vikingo.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The Four Pillars of AEW was an unexpected, intriguing scene. Will it lead to a four-way pay-per-view title match?
- The brief interaction between Mick Foley and Finn Bálor added another charm to the upcoming Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania pitting Bálor against Edge.
All roads lead to a WrestleMania main event
It looks like Sami Zayn is going to get his WrestleMania main event after all.
Kevin Owens, too, along with a pair that is making its case for the best tag team on the planet: Jimmy and Jey Uso.
All that leads to one point: Zayn and Owens challenging The Usos belongs in the main event of night one of WrestleMania 39.
The match, which was made official this Monday on Raw, would make history as a WrestleMania main event. It would be the first time that the tag titles have ever been on the line in a WrestleMania main event and would make the first tag team match to close out the show since the original WrestleMania in 1985 concluded with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
Placing the tag-team match in the main event will undoubtedly be disappointing to Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley, who otherwise would close the opening night. But the Bloodline-Zayn program has been one of WWE’s finest, most complete stories in the last decade, and Owens has further strengthened it.
One of these matches should open the show and the other should close it. For Flair-Ripley, it seems like there is no better spot than the opener. The main event is destined to be history with this tag match.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.