Wrestling fans often can't see the forest for the trees. We get so wrapped up in the usual debates about which company is better or whose favorite star has had the stronger year. As such, many viewers miss the moments that are playing out right in front of us.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say history will be much kinder to certain performers and landmark moments. To that point, Kenny Omega's run this year will go down as one of many defining facets of 2021 for All Elite Wrestling.
Last Saturday night, The Best Bout Machine wrapped up a phenomenal reign with the AEW World Championship at Full Gear. The longest-reigning champion in the title's two-year history undeniably added more prestige to the mantle as the first traveling flag bearer to introduce the belt to new audiences.
Even more, his bid to collect championship gold made him a dominant force in the industry, holding three world titles simultaneously at the height of his success.
Omega can be divisive among mainstream fans due to his kitsch character work and infamous soundbites. Still, it's hard to deny that the sheer optic of him draped in four belts was impressive. More importantly, he delivered several top-quality defenses on three different fronts true to his namesake.
Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown
This feat seems even more awe-inspiring given the news that the 38-year-old has been dealing with several nagging injuries. According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, "Omega has been suffering from injuries to his shoulder, knee, an abdominal hernia, and more."
Meltzer also confirmed that The Cleaner will take some time off to undergo surgery and recuperate. It's unclear how long he will be off television for, but the report suggested, "February is possible although that timeframe might be a bit premature."
The Canadian is not the first wrestler to work under these circumstances and certainly won't be the last. However, competing at such a high level for such a long time with this many injuries is amazing in retrospect.
During a clip of a chiropractic session ahead of his highly anticipated match with "Hangman" Adam Page, the former AEW world champion also revealed he has endured bouts with vertigo since 2018:
"Yeah, it's been an issue since 2018. I just get really bad vertigo. I get dizzy in the ring. I can't—the room spins. It's been a new skill I've had to inherit is wrestling in a spinning ring. So to make sure I get that straightened out as much as I can, as often as I can is really paramount for my performances.
"Yeah, there's a myriad of issues with professional wrestling and you can work as safely as you can, But you can't avoid everything. There's always something that could go wrong."
To put this in perspective, this debilitating sensation would limit an average person's ability to travel and work a nine-to-five job. This makes getting in the ring and functioning throughout Omega's strenuous schedule in 2021 seem unbelievable.
Astonishingly, no one had reported this considering how much he has done over the last year with both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and AEW.
A Labored Sprint To The Finish Line
Full Gear is the highlight of Page's career. It was also a crowning achievement for AEW as it closed out its longest ongoing storyline to date, but it wouldn't have felt as significant if Omega didn't have such a magnificent year.
The company's commentator, Jim Ross, put it perfectly on his Grilling JR Podcast:
"Adam had the night that he needed, the performance more specifically that he needed. Give a lot of credit to Kenny Omega. Omega's body is battered, he's got bad shoulders. I don't know what he's going to do if I were him and I'm sure Tony Khan is feeling somewhat the same way, you've got to get the guys some rest, he's got to heal a bit.
"Quite frankly that's not a bad thing because he lost the title, now he can not go invisible but be less prominent on the shows as a wrestler and more as a personality until he's more healthy. Kenny Omega deserves a hell of a lot of credit for making that match with Adam as good as it was. I think Kenny just elevated [Page], he made sure the transition from himself to Hangman Page was spot on and it was. I really enjoyed their outing."
These two stars have been on the same path since AEW launched in 2019. Although Page vowed to be its inaugural world champion, anyone with even passing knowledge of the standard Omega set in Japan expected him to claim the distinction instead. After all, Hangman was a relative newcomer for many mainstream fans who didn't watch Ring of Honor or NJPW.
Those same viewers probably didn't know much about The Best Bout Machine, either, but his reputation for producing acclaimed matches preceded him. Even though he appeared to be a favorite to carry AEW's top prize, it took Omega a year and a little help from Don Callis to secure it.
He and Page fittingly teamed up to win the tag titles before that because they both fell short of their initial goals. The unlikely pairing had a successful stint as fighting champions. Many consider their defense against The Young Bucks at Revolution to be one of the best tag team matches of the past decade.
After they lost to FTR at All Out, Omega went off to fulfill his destiny but a showdown with Page was all but preordained by then. Their trajectories led to the same place and it's abundantly clear it was important for The Belt Collector to finish this story before he took some time off.
We can talk about how great Omega is in the squared circle or analyze how much Impact Wrestling benefited from his appearances. With the recent news in mind, we can even expound on what his hard work and perseverance mean to the legacy of the AEW World Championship. However, it's difficult to debate how giving the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the world turned out to be beneath his over-the-top persona.
The renowned star from Winnipeg lent his reputation to AEW, and that's a large part of the reason why the company is home to high-quality pro wrestling. After all, Bryan Danielson came looking for a challenge after he left WWE because of what Omega represents.
His 346-day reign came to an end two weeks short of a year, but his parting gift—his final title defense in the main event of Full Gear—minted Page as a top star. The sacrifice it took to carry the flag for that long and the magnanimity Omega showcased as he gave the next guy up his moment is the mark of a great champion.