Like a Dragon, the series formerly known as Like a Dragon, then Yakuza, now back to Like a Dragon again, is no stranger to celebrity cameos. The whole series is partially built on capturing the likenesses of famous Japanese actors for its main cast. But as other features have been built in, smaller cameos have come into play as well. Pro wrestling cemented a presence in these smaller systems and that’s the case yet again with Like a Dragon: Ishin! Former AEW World Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega is coming to the game as a “Trooper Card,” a moment that is genuinely shocking for not having come up much earlier.
Related: Yakuza: Like a Dragon Review | Working Class Hero
Actor Rahul Kohli is coming to Ishin! as well which is pretty cool, but almost more of a “standard” cameo for Like a Dragon. Because movies and stuff. Omega is more of a fascinating case, especially because not only is Kenny Omega a huge name in the weird crossover world of Japanese and North American pro wrestling, he’s one of the biggest in the gaming community as well. Which makes it even weirder his appearance here is in a game that’s set in the 1800s.
Kenny Omega is a wrestler and executive for All-Elite Wrestling, a direct competitor to cultural juggernaut WWE that has only been around for a few years. But from 2014 to 2019 Omega was rising the ranks of New Japan Pro Wrestling. During this time the “Bullet Club” stable (a group of dastardly, rule-breaking wrestlers from western regions) was nearing its arguable peak, rocketing NJPW to a state of awareness outside of Japan that was unprecedented. And Omega winning the company’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at the January 2015 Wrestle Kingdom event set him on the path to leading that charge.
So when Yakuza 6 came around in late 2016 and loudly featured a crew of New Japan Pro Wrestling stars as the main attraction for its Clan Creator minigame, it was bizarre to not see Omega involved. The group, led by NJPW top banana Kazuchika Okada, comprised Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Tatsuya Naito and Toru Yano. Naito being in there especially made Omega’s absence strange, as Naito’s character in NJPW only took off in popularity around the same time. To be fair the other guys are longtime staples, though. Okada and Tanahashi are both basically John Cena types, and Yano is a goofy guy who waddles out to shrug and plug DVDs… so why the hell is he even there (the people love him, that’s why)?
In an interview that came out alongside the Ishin! news, Omega himself mentioned being distraught by his omission from Yakuza 6, driving him to even personally boycott the series. Omega is known as a huge gamer, especially rising into prominence in the fighting game community practically alongside his global prominence in wrestling. That boycott didn’t last long (can’t argue with 2020 Prima Game of the Year Yakuza 7), but it took a few more years for the story to get a satisfying conclusion.
Now you can use a wacky, time and space-traveling samurai Kenny Omega in Trooper Card form, allowing you to use the ability “Essence of the One-Winged Angel.” If that sounds familiar and potentially IP law-averse to you, you’d be on the money. Omega’s finishing move is the One-Winged Angel and it’s exactly the reference to the thing it seems like. I mean, check out what happened at Wrestle Kingdom this year:
Both Like a Dragon and Kenny Omega are in such radically different positions in 2023 compared to where they were in 2015 and earlier it’s wild to put them parallel to each other. But seeing a guy so embedded in Japanese pop culture finally show up in a series he’s been into since the turboniche PlayStation 2 days, after he and the games arguably blew up globally around the same time, is pretty darn wholesome. In a weird and comically violent way that only videogames can be. Almost like a wacky Yakuza substory mission, but in real life!