WWE is interested in pursuing New Japan Pro Wrestling standout Kenny Omega, according to Paul "Triple H" Levesque, WWE's executive vice president of talent, live events and creative.
Omega solidified his stock as one of the greatest professional wrestlers in the world following his instant-classic main-event match against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 on Jan. 4 at the Tokyo Dome. The 33-year-old Canadian has since stated he is taking time away from NJPW to consider his future following his defeat to Okada, with his contract reportedly set to expire at the end of the month, fueling speculation he could be considering a move to WWE.
"As far as a Kenny Omega goes, I'm just interested in talent, period," Levesque told ESPN on a call to promote WWE's United Kingdom Championship tournament, which airs live on the WWE Network at 8 p.m. BST, Saturday and Sunday. "If somebody is talented as a performer and they wanna come work for the WWE, if they wanna come to the largest platform in the world where they can truly show what they do off on a global basis, then WWE is the choice for them. If they wanna come work for us and they're very talented, then I'm interested in talking to them, and that's across the board.
"To me, anytime anybody questions me on a talent -- Am I interested in them? -- the fact that you're questioning me on them means that person is probably pretty talented, so, yes, I'm interested."
Omega, whose real name is Tyson Smith, signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2005, performing in Deep South Wrestling, though he requested his release in August 2006 and has since been critical of the promotion. He instead set his sights on becoming a star in Japan, having grown up fascinated with the local culture, including Japanese wrestling, anime and video games, which all inspire his in-ring style and appearance.
He began touring Japan in 2008 with Dramatic Dream Team, where he made his name with future WWE Cruiserweight Classic standout Kota Ibushi, with their matches as the "Golden Lovers" garnering attention from the NJPW. Omega then signed with NJPW full time in October 2014 and was soon revealed as the newest member of the "Bullet Club," a faction of villainous "gaijin" (foreigners). In January 2016, he replaced the then-WWE-bound AJ Styles as the leader of the group before going on to have a breakthrough year full of astounding matches that saw him win the prestigious G1 tournament to earn a title shot against IWGP heavyweight champion Okada at the Tokyo Dome.
He stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated in the buildup to the Jan. 4 show -- NJPW's biggest of the year -- that he would "rather be the legend that never stepped foot in the WWE," and that winning the IWGP title means more to him than any WWE championship.
"I hear a lot of speculation sometimes about 'This guy has been working for a long time, so they wouldn't have interest, or they would, or they're going after football players, or this or that,'" continued Levesque. "I am interested in talent at every level. Somebody with charisma, somebody with the It factor, somebody who's athletic, who can do what we do, I'm interested in them."
Levesque also confirmed that the United Kingdom Championship tournament could become the precursor to a weekly WWE show in the UK, should the two-night tournament at the historic Empress Ballroom in Blackpool prove successful this weekend. That could, in turn, lead to WWE expanding with tournaments and weekly shows in other global markets, with Japan likely high on the list.
"When it comes to other markets, it's obviously a big world, and there are a lot of markets that WWE already exists in, that WWE is already big in," Levesque added. "Could we have a more on-the-ground presence there with a more localized product? Absolutely.
"The challenge now for us is more prioritizing where we wanna go. The UK being kind of our biggest, most exciting fan base outside of the U.S. is what made this the obvious first choice. From there, it gets a little bit more strategic in how we plan out."