DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – New Japan Pro Wrestling broke new ground in Daytona Beach on Friday, as IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega partnered with CEO Fighting Game Championship to deliver the “When Worlds Collide” card at the Ocean Center.
Omega teamed with Kota Ibushi in the main event to defeat Los Ingobernables de Japon’s Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi.
“A lot of people had sensed some tension between myself and Naito and wanted to see us collide,” said Omega, who was awarded a CEO title belt following the match by founder Alex Jebailey. “They got an early taste of that tonight.”
The 22-minute encounter featured four of New Japan’s top stars and ended after midnight with a Golden Trigger knee strike from both Omega and Ibushi to Takahashi, who was then covered by the pair for the win.
“A lot of people thought this was just going to be a ‘spot’ show and there was no way we were going to pull out all the stops, but I don’t take off nights,” Omega said. “People saw what I was working on. I didn’t sandbag. I produced everything backstage, and then I produced in the main event.
“I wasn’t going to let Naito get away with an easy win. Hiromu wanted to show everyone he could hang with the heavyweights, and he showed that, but we couldn’t let him sneak a win on Ibushi or a win over me. We had to represent as the best tag team on the planet and I had to represent as champion.”
Daytona Beach’s Ocean Center is a venue with tremendous history, as it served as the home to Hulk Hogan’s iconic heel turn into the New World Order in 1996.
“I was very proud to wrestle in the same venue as Hulk Hogan,” Ibushi said. “I also want to be a legend someday.”
“Hulk Hogan became ‘Hollywood’ here,” added Omega. “To honor Hollywood Hogan, I wore my Hollywood Jurina shirt to the ring. Both are legends.”
Including connections and delays, Ibushi’s trip from Tokyo to Florida took 23 hours, but he refused to back down on his promise to support Omega at the show.
“Kenny is one of my best friends, and I wanted to help him,” said Ibushi. “That’s why I’m here.”
The undercard also delivered four solid matches spanning multiple styles, with the opener featuring the legendary, 53-year-old Jushin Thunder Liger defeating Rocky Romero with a Liger Bomb.
The Guerrillas of Destiny defeated Juice Robinson and David Finlay in a tag match that allowed all four men to shine, and suplex machine Jeff Cobb battled fellow rising star Chase Owens in a very entertaining match that saw Cobb victorious.
“It’s so great to be a part of two companies coming together for the common good in CEO and New Japan,” said Cobb. “To be victorious in front of that crowd, in front of New Japan World, and show the dominance I’m going to bring into the Cow Palace at the G1 Special, that is going to help me mark my name down in New Japan history when I give Hirooki Goto a tour of the islands on July 7.”
Dragon Lee and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Roppongi 3K before the main event, and the majority of the crowd was behind Omega, who is a devoted gamer and will be staying all weekend at CEO. Despite the allegiance to Omega, the crowd at the Ocean Center also showed love to LIJ’s Takahashi and Naito, despite their indifference in return.
“It doesn’t matter if people cheer or they don’t cheer,” said Naito, who lost his IWGP Intercontinental title just less than a month ago to Chris Jericho but remains resolute in his LIJ leadership. “I’m going to bring the same Naito package no matter what. The crowd doesn’t bother me, I’m not going to change for fans who love me or ones who don’t.”
As world champion, Omega has a vision for New Japan, which primarily centers around delivering a compelling product that can be viewed throughout multiple continents as well as establishing a much stronger reach in North America. He was grateful that New Japan would entrust him to take a step toward accomplishing that goal, as the Daytona Beach event was broadcast live by the CEO Twitch stream and shattered prior wrestling viewership numbers on Twitch.
“We had great viewership, on a video game channel no less, and that goes to show these communities are willing to crossover and support each other,” said Omega, referring to the fan bases of eSports and pro wrestling. “My goal is to reach out to those people who don’t know what we’re all about. My vision is that we can be entertaining to everyone, it’s a universal entertainment that we provide.
“This wasn’t the same magnitude as forming the NWO, but we did something that no one thought we could do or would do. But we did it anyway, and we had an arena full of people that had a lot of fun. For a wrestling card to stand out at a gaming convention, it goes to show how much our entertainment value can provide.”