Kenny Omega Is the First Ever NJPW IWGP United States Champion

Kenny Omega

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Usually when a wrestling blogger opens up with a sentence like that, it is assumed that they are being snarky and a know-it-all insider. I, on the contrary, mean it in a genuine sense. Who didn’t see this coming? Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks have been touring the entire world as the gaijin faces of the NJPW franchise.

They also have been taking over social media with their Being The Elite YouTube series, their video game convention appearances, satiric references, and work on Twitter. Since The Bucks have earned yet another reign as Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in NJPW, it is only right that the heavyweight stud of the trio (and the leader of the entire Bullet Club) have some gold around his waist as well.

But why not the IWGP Heavyweight Championship? Or even the IWGP Intercontinental Championship? Both belts are being held by top native stars in Okada and Naito respectively, and the company is right to keep a solid ratio of gaijin to native champions on the card. However, I would argue that NJPW showed its resolve and faith in Omega by crowning him the first ever IWGP US Champion at #G1USA this past weekend. By giving Omega this particular strap, it showed that New Japan Pro Wrestling is banking on Omega to get them over in the United States for good almost single handedly.

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If NJPW can successfully infiltrate the American market, they could be in position to make the biggest run at WWE’s top spot in a long time. Also, even if they stay the solid #2, they can still become the #1 in Japan and hold that position indefinitely. Bullet Club started the wave, but Kenny Omega and the rest of The Elite have completed a long sub journey for NJPW that I am sure they have been working on for decades: Find a gaijin (or gaijin in the plural sense) who could main event a WWE pay-per-view any weekend of the year but wants to stay in Japan for the long haul. It took until 2017 AD, but NJPW may have found their man in Kenny Omega, and the IWGP United States Championship belt is their most blatant way of showing it.

How Omega will respond to this opportunity remains to be seen. One can only guess that he truly wants to be IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the immediate future; but, with his creativity and ring work, there is a chance that Omega can have the Shinsuke Nakamura effect on the current tertiary title and one day soon have it main event pay-per-views and other major NJPW events.

It is not without reason, as Nakamura’s prime in Japan occurred when Bullet Club was in the middle of their meteoric rise and Tanahashi was still in his reign as the promotion’s ace. Competition isn’t the issue for Omega, what is the problem, however, is the rivalries that the promotion will assign him. The final match of the IWGP US Championship tournament was amazing, but can Omega do that when any up and comer that comes along?

It all remains to be seen. In the end, however, New Japan Pro Wrestling couldn’t have put their faith into a better gaijin.

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