Kenny Omega’s (Digital) Fighting Spirit

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A different kind of title bout took place at CEO 2016.

Many have said that Kenny Omega has come a long way to be one of the next top stars in the future of the sport. Despite his hectic schedule, Omega has poured his passion into constant training and practice. That dedication has led to him being ranked among the best. It is almost unanimous among fans and professionals like that, one day, Omega will take his place and compete on the Grandest Stage of Them All–

–The Capcom Cup.

While Omega’s match against “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada this past Sunday is being hailed as a hands-down match of the year candidate, Omega himself is working on perfecting his craft in another sport as well. It is well-known that Omega is a video game fan. The name of his finishing move, the One-Winged Angel, is a well-known reference to Sephiroth, the villain from Final Fantasy VII. The name of another signature move of his, the V-Trigger, belies the game – and the eSport – Omega has pursued in conjunction with his rise in the New Japan Pro Wrestling ranks.

Omega has been a loyal Street Fighter V player since the game’s debut on Sony Playstation and a fan of the Capcom fighting series long before then. Many may remember his most famous match when Omega – a New Japan contracted wrestler – played against WWE superstar and New Day member Xavier Woods in a first-to-five exhibition at last year’s CEO tournament in Orlando, Florida.

 

While many saw the exhibition match as a way to further the interpromotional feud between New Japan’s “Elite” of Omega and the Young Bucks and the New Day of Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston, for Omega it was about more than just publicity.

During an interview with Steven Jurek from Daily Dot taped at the tournament last year, Omega spoke of his dedication to playing the game. “You have to manipulate your schedule to find the time,” Omega said. “For example, when I was getting sessions in before coming out to CEO, I was taking the 4-hour bullet train to get back to Tokyo to go to the weeklies, then taking the early-morning bullet train to head back to where the venue was where I was wrestling the next day. If I didn’t do that, there was nowhere for me to play. So I just had the most viable, possible route to get practice time in.”

Community Effort Orlando has grown in a very short time into one of the biggest tournaments each year on the fighting game circuit. And while Tournament Organizer Alex Jebailey’s love of wrestling is apparent – as seen in the fact that he was able to get Omega and Woods together – the tournament is also known for some of the highest-level Street Fighter V play in the world. Omega not only saw that, but took that responsibility seriously.

“I want to be able to hang, you know what I mean?,” Omega said during the interview. “I want to be able to not just say I like Street Fighter because there are a lot of Street Fighter fans and there are a lot of people who like to spectate. But if Alex Jebailey is giving me the opportunity to be on stage and play the game, then I want to play the game for these people.”

To speak further of his continuing dedication, Omega hasn’t given up on the game simply because the opportunity to face Woods has come and gone. Omega recently made another appearance on the fighting game web series “The Excellent Adventures of Gootecks & Mike Ross,” starring two of Street Fighter’s most well-known players. During the episode, it was revealed that Omega has risen in the Street Fighter V online rankings from an ultra gold player to an ultra platinum player, meaning he faces higher ranked players each time he plays in matches online.

Tournaments such as CEO and Evo are major fighting game events throughout the calendar year and are all part of the Capcom Pro Tour. Players amass points and rankings, as well as winning prominent designated tournaments, to qualify for the Capcom Cup. The Capcom Cup is the “WrestleMania” of the fighting game circuit as those who qualified during the Capcom Pro Tour meet in a double-elimination tournament (the standard format for fighting game tournaments) for the title of Street Fighter Champion.

How long will it be before Omega rises not only to the top of the mountain in New Japan Pro Wrestling, but also in the Capcom Pro Tour? Okada may keep Omega busy, but not busy enough to attempt to master a second sport.

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