If the bidding war was already on before, Kenny Omega's announcement to Tokyo Sports (h/t Cageside Seats) Sunday that he will be leaving New Japan Pro-Wrestling only intensified the offers thrown his way by wrestling's greatest empire and an upstart promotion of renegade stars.
The former IWGP heavyweight champion, who lost his gold Friday to the legendary Hiroshi Tanahashi at NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 13, has two potential suitors with different potential outcomes for his career trajectory.
Who are they, and which company will Omega pledge his allegiance to in a budding wrestling war?
All Elite Wrestling
It would be a mistake to insinuate that at least part of Omega's popularity among wrestling fans was not attributed to his relationship with The Young Bucks and their Being The Elite web show.
As one-third of The Elite, Omega entertained fans away from the squared circle in 20-minute episodes that were equal parts ridiculous storylines and in-depth promos documenting the journeys around the globe of the titular group.
His relationship with the team, as both part of The Elite and in Bullet Club, earned him mainstream recognition, while his in-ring performances earned him the "Best Bout Machine" moniker.
Many of those performances came against the same indy talent he would work alongside and against as part of The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes' All Elite Wrestling promotion.
Omega would almost certainly be a driving force behind the greatest opposition WWE has faced since the height of the Monday Night Wars. He would be at the forefront of the promotion, working with his friends and continuing to deliver the type of wrestling product fringe fans tired of the WWE sameness eat up.
He would have the opportunity to work alongside the Bucks, Cody and the stars he has developed close friendships with since leaving WWE developmental in 2006 and continue building momentum for the industry beyond McMahonland.
At age 35, though, he would also be passing up the opportunity to shine on the grand stage.
Does WWE allow its Superstars the creative freedom they can find elsewhere in the industry? No. Does it have an in-ring style/narrative that it leans heavily on, almost too much, at times? Sure.
What WWE does provide, though, is an enormous payday, a chance for Omega to create matches and moments he cannot achieve elsewhere and opportunities beyond the realm of sports entertainment he would not achieve as part of AEW.
At least not while that company is in its infancy.
In a 2017 interview with Live Audio Wrestling (h/t Uproxx), Omega admitted he desired a high-profile match with one of WWE's top stars:
"I'm not gonna lie, there are things that I haven't been able to do that I would love to do at some point in time. One of those things is, I really feel I need to have a high stakes main event with AJ [Styles]. I really feel I have to. I'm not sure where it will be, I'm just saying that it's always in the back of my mind."
It was, after all, Omega who booted Styles from Bullet Club in one of The Phenomenal One's final appearances for New Japan.
With Styles expected to re-sign with WWE, per Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats, the only way said match takes place is on the grand stage WWE provides.
Potential dream matches with the likes of Seth Rollins and fellow Bullet Club alumnus Finn Balor are also exclusive to WWE as long as those Superstars remain under contract.
On top of the potential in-ring allure is the money.
WrestleVotes reported WWE has made a strong monetary offer to land The Cleaner, though no details or numbers are available at this time:
Texted a source regarding Omega & WWE’s offer to him. Got back “If they don’t land him, it’s not their fault for lack of effort. They’ve done what they can” Translation: WWE wants Omega. I’m assuming the offer is strong, especially financially. Decision is all his at this point
And then there is the appeal of competing at WrestleMania, an extravaganza Omega has never wrestled at.
Omega was the face for a New Japan Pro-Wrestling company that saw continued increases in attendance for its annual Wrestle Kingdom shows, as reported by Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline.com. On January 4, he battled Tanahashi in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13, which drew 38,162 paid fans.
WrestleMania, along with the pomp and circumstance and media coverage, has drawn at least double that figure the last four years. Wrestling the top stars in the industry, in front of that sea of fans, has to be an item left on Omega's career bucket list.
Prediction: Where Does Omega Land?
Taking the positives and negatives into consideration, and the fact Omega is 35 and in the prime of his career, he should next be seen in...a Vince McMahon-owned ring.
While The Cleaner has always taken an artist's approach to his craft, heavily taking into consideration the quality of every one of his matches, there comes a time when he has to weigh creative freedom and the chance to work alongside his friends versus the unfinished business of returning to the company that dismissed him over a decade ago, flipping it the figurative finger and excelling as its top star.
Omega has accomplished everything he was going to in New Japan. He has battled the best on that company's grandest stage, been the face of that promotion and earned a reputation as the industry's best. He has created opportunities for himself thanks to his relationship with Nick and Matt Jackson and the Being the Elite show.
Now it is time for him to prove to himself and his doubters that, under the brightest lights and with the weight of the world on him to deliver WrestleMania classics, he can excel. He can stick it to the likes of Bill DeMott and Hardcore Holly, both of whom determined he was not what the company was looking for during his time in Deep South Wrestling.
At a crossroads in his career, where he has essentially become the popular kid at the high school dance everyone wants to pal around with, he has the opportunity to choose his partner.
For the sake of freshness, dream matches and the right to tell his staunchest doubters "I told you so," he owes it to himself to venture to the WWE Universe and etch his name in the history books as one of the most gifted, creative and talented to ever lace a pair of boots.