Kenny Omega Talks Wrestlers Having To Evolve During The Pandemic Era: “Having To Work In Front Of No People Was A Huge Eye-Opener”

Posted By James Walsh on 07/26/21


AEW, IMPACT, and AAA world champion Kenny Omega was recently interviewed by Wrestling Observer Radio where the Cleaner discussed a number of different subjects, including how talent had to really evolve their in-ring storytelling since there were no fans due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Hear Omega’s full thoughts in the highlights below.

Says having to work in front of no-fans was a huge eye-opener for a lot of wrestlers:

Having to work in front of no people was a huge eye-opener for a lot of wrestlers. It’s a whole new skillset and an entirely different artform. It really brought into perspective that, ‘wait a minute, even though moves are cool and cool moves are even cooler, maybe it’s not all about the moves.’ When you don’t have the artificial reaction from the crowd, all that’s left is the athletes in the ring and you have to judge based on what you see and feel and how those performers draw you in. A lot of times, what draws you in, is how the crowd is reacting.

How he studies old wrestling tapes in a unique fashion:

One of the things I do when I study wrestling is, I like to watch matches that are heralded as incredible and perfect, and I like to watch on mute. If I can still take appreciation for that match, without hearing a crowd reaction, then those athletes really did something special. In some cases, there are performances that won’t hold up to the ‘mute button test.’ At that point, if I’m not hearing the fans and they’re not telling me what I’m supposed to like, what am I looking for? I’m looking for the energy in the selling, the energy in the face, the reactions, how the referee is performing and selling near falls. That’s why certain people thrived more than others during the pandemic. Whether it be an athletic issue or they didn’t have the energy, a lot of our wrestlers could draw fans in during the no people era where they had to expend extra energy to put in a performance that fans weren’t giving the television viewer at home. They had to show it in the face and actions. You had to be animated. Make the camera search for you and don’t have the lull time where two performers are tired and they will continue on with a choreographed performance. It’s got to be a struggle.

How even without fans it was a wrestler’s job to expel energy back:

The ones that approached ‘no people wrestling’ like any other day, ‘I know how to wrestle, I’ll just go wrestle,’ I found those matches duller and a little ignorant. I looked at it like, why are you taking this for granted and not evolving with the times? The energy of the crowd helped you at times, now it’s your time to give that back. This is the time to double down as a performer. It’s hard to wrestle in front of no people, but it’s also hard as a fan to get behind a performance if you don’t feel like the athlete is giving his all. It may be the same performance he has always given, but if you take away the natural reaction, it drives your attention more towards the competitors in the ring and forces you to almost over-analyze the performance. You found yourself working harder in front of more people because we couldn’t pander to the crowd and cut to reaction shots. It ended up being more ‘go, go, go’ and when it wasn’t ‘go, go,go,’ it is on you to be more interesting and if you weren’t, the match would fail.