Imagine being heralded as the best wrestler on the planet, labeled "The Best Bout Machine," breaking Dave Meltzer's fabled rating system and signing with a company you fully expect to be the face of, only to lose the two highest-profile matches you have had in All Elite Wrestling.
That is the reality facing Kenny Omega, the internationally acclaimed performer whose in-ring efforts have earned him praise as one of the greatest to ever lace a pair of boots.
As he embarks on the latest chapter of his career, though, he sits at 1-2 in singles competition, a dismal record in comparison to the high expectations that accompanied his departure from New Japan Pro-Wrestling. While that may sound like a bad thing, Omega's plight has resulted in the best, most intriguing storyline to come out of AEW.
Hubris Breeds Defeat
One of the underlying themes of Omega's run has been an overwhelming sense of confidence, bordering on hubris. Whether it was his approach to the match with Chris Jericho at Double or Nothing in Las Vegas or overlooking Pac by maintaining his focus on his original All Out opponent, Jon Moxley, Omega never shied away from believing he would emerge victoriously from those matches.
Said confidence was on display early in the match with Pac, during which he openly mocked The Bastard. He was unabashedly certain early in the contest that he was Pac's superior, and by match's end, he was passed out, put to sleep by his more focused and determined opponent.
The audience's stunned reaction reflected a brilliant bit of booking that elevated Pac and continued Omega's losing ways in big-time matches.
And suddenly, the ultra-confident Omega finds himself on the outside looking in at the AEW Championship picture.
During the post-All Out media scrum (h/t Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com), CEO Tony Khan addressed Omega's loss, saying the defeat to Pac evened up Omega's record. In reality, though, Omega's two victories in AEW came in a Six-Man Tag Team match in which he partnered with The Young Bucks to defeat The Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid at Fyter Fest and in a singles match against Cima he was always expected to win.
Those wins do not carry the same magnitude of his losses, which were at the two biggest AEW to date and against two of the most elite performers in the business. Those defeats single-handedly diminished Omega's championship aspirations anytime in the near future and left the confident former IWGP champion searching for answers.
November 9 in Baltimore at Full Gear, Omega is set to battle Moxley in the match originally scheduled for Chicago. Whereas The Cleaner was certain he would defeat the former Dean Ambrose at All Out, he limps into their Full Gear contest defeated and deflated, looking for answers.
What went wrong? How was he so confident that he would defeat Jericho and get past Pac en route to AEW gold, only to find himself with a losing record in singles competition before the most heated of his pay-per-view clashes?
Purposely or not, AEW has an incredibly engaging story on its hands that it must exploit. Omega's ego has led him astray, cost him victories and left him reeling early in his quest for greatness stateside. The charismatic star known for his classic bouts in Japan has failed to secure wins and now faces uncertainty and the unfamiliarity of defeat.
Do not allow Omega to brush off the losses and simply turn his attention to the upcoming grudge match with Moxley like nothing happened. He must feel those losses and be affected by them. Ignoring them like they are of no consequence diminishes AEW's commitment to match outcomes. Worse yet, it hurts the sport-centric theme the company is trying to establish.
Omega is arguably AEW's biggest star, and forcing him to fight from underneath rather than dominating like WWE's top babyfaces of the past 20 years, John Cena and Roman Reigns, is a refreshing change. People genuinely like Omega. They will stick around for the emotional roller-coaster ride.
Let him experience frustration and disappointment. Let him humble himself in search of that elusive big-match victory. Or let him descend into desperation, turning heel and using his immense talents for evil. Either way, the result will be the continuation of the deepest, most engaging story AEW has to tell right now.