It takes a special kind of performer to be one of the most sought-after entities in the world of wrestling despite a grand total of two matches in the Western Hemisphere in the last calendar year, with neither of them happening in the United States.
After all but closing the door on any "match of the year" discussions just four days into 2017 with his match against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11, you might have expected Kenny Omega to go on a tear or a victory tour, riding that wave of momentum to high-profile singles matches all over the world.
But if there's anything to be learned about Omega, his career trajectory and his life in general, nothing is certain, or predictable. After a few weeks off after that seemingly impossible six-star rating on a five-star scale, and a one-off match in England, Omega has had a grand total of two singles matches in New Japan Pro-Wrestling -- a loss and a win to Tomohiro Ishii -- and largely settled into a series of tag matches with various combinations of his Bullet Club brethren opposite Okada's CHAOS faction.
An in-ring confrontation at the conclusion of NJPW's Dontaku 2017 event, in which Okada called out Omega and challenged him to a rematch of their WK 11 clash, took all of the tension that's built up in the interim and thrust it suddenly back to the forefront.
So how do you follow one of the most highly-regarded matches in pro wrestling history?
Omega has about a month to sit and reflect upon that answer, but a lot of it will be about keeping his nose to the grindstone. During a rare trip home to Canada, Omega's afternoon in Toronto is filled with hours of interviews with local media, followed by an autograph session with fans where he and the Young Bucks -- The Elite -- are the main attractions. They're also set for the main event of the opening night of Ring of Honor's "War of the Worlds" tour, a co-branded effort with NJPW.
Okada isn't far from his mind. It seems like Omega has already rolled over their upcoming match, and the future beyond it, hundreds, if not thousands of times, like a chess player plotting out all of the permutations in his mind. While the spotlight of such an opportunity is something he or anyone else would seek out at most any turn, like it has many times before in his career, the timing hasn't quite lined up with how Omega saw his future playing out
"If I'm going to give you a personal opinion, I would say that, I personally think it's too soon to revisit that match," admitted Omega to ESPN.com. "I would have liked to just let that performance be, come back to it at a later date. But there comes a time in business when it's just important to move numbers, put asses in seats, as the saying goes, and you have to come out guns blazing.
"I knew eventually there would be a second match, regardless of how good or bad it was," Omega continued. "I think there's going to be a third, [and] I still think there's going to be an Omega-Okada four. [But] I've been called to duty sooner than I would have liked to have been, and I'm put into a situation where that match is still very fresh in everyone's minds."
The situation would seemingly entail a tremendous amount of pressure, just over five months after Omega and Okada shocked the world. Rather than get too entwined in expectations, Omega is committed to playing the long game.
"My goal with Okada is going to be very similar with how I dealt with the G1," he continued. "I'm not necessarily going for 'match of the night', I'm going to try and tell a very different, unique story. In that, we'll sort of lay the groundwork for not just the match, but for probably the next match, and the match after that.
"I'm not going to add some sort of crazy thing just to say that, 'Hey, we did something crazy, we went longer.' That doesn't necessarily equal better. I'm lucky that my best strength as a wrestler has always been my brain. As naturally athletic as I'm gifted to be, where certain things came easily, I always rely on my brain first."
The timing of the Dominion showdown is interesting for a number of reasons, most specifically because the G1 Special shows in the United States take place just a few weeks later. It would come to reason that having Omega, a multi-lingual North American, as the world champion and standard-bearer for the company at such a pivotal point in the company's history is a no-brainer.
For his part, Omega doesn't preconceive anything about how things will play out, but he does insist that he's ready to shoulder such a load should the opportunity present itself. More than anything else, he's excited for North American fans to see NJPW presented in person, at a normal time of day.
"I am willing to accept the pressure. I actually don't even feel pressure, because it's a sure bet," Omega continued. "For me, I feel it more as a celebration, a homecoming. People have really wanted to see our product live. People aren't sick of staying up to watch us, but I'm pretty sure they've wished that, 'Why can't they do a show at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. instead of 4 a.m.', you know what I mean?"
"This is their chance, and I really want to bring a very energetic, sort of revolutionary style that I'm trying to craft right now," said Omega. "I want to show them that this is the chance to see this live. This is the only place you can see it.
"We're not mimicking anyone, this is New Japan. It's an option aside from the other wrestling brands that are around, and I don't just mean WWE, but it's different from TNA, it's different from Ring of Honor, it's really its own thing -- it's got its own distinct look, its own distinct style."
More than a decade after falling in love with Japanese wrestling, and six years after getting his first taste of NJPW action, Omega has a chance to help bring that style directly to a new and rabid fanbase. With tickets for both G1 Special shows selling out in a matter of hours after their release, the timing feels right for Omega to take the last big step there is to take in NJPW by becoming IWGP heavyweight champion.
"I really want to be an integral part of the New Japan brand in the United States, and other countries, for that matter, too," said Omega. "I feel that I have a certain versatility that other wrestlers do not. I think that, as an all-around wrestler, even as an all-around human being, I am someone who could accept the responsibility and not drop the ball in this particular situation. And I'm not afraid to fail.
"Being able to man that ship would be an incredible honor, and I feel that with me doing it, it's a no-fail situation," said Omega. "Whereas, if someone else is trusted with the responsibility of doing it, I don't know how it would go. But I have a very precise vision that I can't see failing, and I really want to be the guy to give my all and make this thing truly worldwide."