|Image credit: Senor Lariato|
But the most impressive feat of 2016 was his victory in the finals of the G1 Climax. The world's most prestigious tournament has regularly featured outside stars, but rarely do they reach the finals. In 26 previous G1 tournaments, only two non-Japanese stars ever made it to the finals: Rick Rude (in the only single elimination version of the tournament) and Karl Anderson. Neither won. Kenny Omega broke that drought, becoming the first North American star to ever win the prestigious tournament. In the process, he was also the first gaijin to ever main event a Wrestle Kingdom. While that event held earlier today falls out of the purview of the 2016 award, just his movement towards that event was impressive. He scored victory after victory over NJPW champion Kazuchika Okada in multi-man matches leading towards the event.
This is all very impressive for a wrestler that wasn't even considered a heavyweight in NJPW until January 5th of 2016. His rise has been astronomical and he backed up every ounce of it with impressive in ring work, both on his own and as a trio with the Young Bucks. The three men won the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag title twice in 2016 and remain the only team to successfully defend it more than once.
Omega ended 2016 as arguably the best in ring worker in the world and the second highest man on the NJPW roster. Despite a loss today, he seems poised to make even bigger strides in 2016.
Next, we will look at a very different Japanese star, one that made major waves in two promotions this year.