Kenny Omega looked rusty in his return match, and that was the point

TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi vs Cody during the King of Pro-Wresting at Ryogoku Kokugikan on October 8, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by New Japan Pro-Wrestling/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi vs Cody during the King of Pro-Wresting at Ryogoku Kokugikan on October 8, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by New Japan Pro-Wrestling/Getty Images) /

After a roughly nine-month absence, former All Elite Wrestling World Champion Kenny Omega finally returned to the company on the Aug. 17 episode of AEW: Dynamite. “The Best Bout Machine” came back to team with The Young Bucks to take on La Faccion Ingobernable (Andrade El Idolo, RUSH, and the debuting Dragon Lee) in the opening round of the AEW Trios Championship Tournament.

In his first match back from a list of injuries that would rival Chris Jericho’s list of 1,004 holds, Omega looked like…well, he looked like a man who hadn’t wrestled in nine months. Wearing a shoulder brace and a compression shirt, Omega gave fans glimpses of what made him arguably the best wrestler in the world but fans saw more instances of him struggling to hit signature spots.

Yes, Omega hit the One Winged Angel to score the clean pin over Lee to help him and the Bucks advance to the tournament, but this clearly wasn’t the same Kenny Omega that fans have watched over the last few years. Of course, that could somewhat be by design.

There’s a good chance that Omega struggling to hit his signature offense is part of a larger story.

Watching Omega grab his knee while going for his Rise of the Terminator dive and fail to bounce up for a moonsault attempt after executing his rolling senton, it was hard to not at least consider that everything we were seeing was part of a grand plan to present Omega as a shell of his former self.

Omega further drove that point home in his go-home promo that AEW posted to its YouTube channel.

"“So for the past seven, eight, nine months, or whatever it’s been…many times I questioned myself. Am I really gonna be able to come back to AEW and perform at the level of these professional wrestlers? And certainly, it’s gonna take me a while to catch up to [the Young Bucks]. It might be a while before I’m able to challenge for a singles title again. But this very much is a work in progress and I’m very glad that [the fans] are joining me in this journey.”"

Between this and his tweet after the show, the pieces are there for a lengthy arc in which Omega looks more and more like the guy who churned out classic match after classic match.

With Omega seemingly returning as a babyface (he walked out through the babyface tunnel with Michael Nakazawa and Don Callis on Dynamite, as did the Bucks), a story that plays off of him recovering from several serious injuries and leaves fans questioning whether he’s still got it will keep fans interested without expecting him to turn in prime Kenny Omega performances in every match.

Aside from the practicality of limiting the bumps on one’s bump card, a “Can Omega regain his form?” storyline allows fans to empathize with a character that was arguably at his least sympathetic the last time we saw him on AEW television.

Simply put, Omega’s character was a jerk whose heightened arrogance was only matched by his obvious talent that slightly justified his on-screen behavior. That’s what he needed to be to help complete “Hangman” Adam Page’s quest to the AEW World Title. Now, fans will get to experience a humbler Omega that’s working to get back to where he was pre-Full Gear 2021. There will be setbacks and failures, but that will only make his full comeback all the more satisfying.

(It should also quiet the folks who think that Omega will become a lesser worker once he’s forced to become less reliant on his athleticism.)

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How this plays out over the next few months remains to be seen. In the short term, though, it makes you want to see how Omega fares the next time out, which is the point of any pro wrestling story.