The last time Chris Jericho competed for a promotion other than WWE, he was a 26-year-old Canadian cruiserweight from Winnipeg, Manitoba making waves in WCW with cocky promos and signature submissions. At that same juncture in 1999, Kenny Omega (a.k.a. Tyson Smith) was a hockey-playing, wrestling-loving Canuck teen in the suburban town of Transcona just outside – you guessed it – Winnipeg, Manitoba. National bragging rights will certainly be on the line when the two improbably meet at New Japan Wrestling’s show of shows, Wrestle Kingdom, this coming January 4th in Tokyo.
The blockbuster bout, which was announced earlier this month, also represents the latest in a continuum of sports-entertainment clashes that pit an archetypal icon (Jericho) against a younger competitor in the prime of his ability and popularity (Omega). Part dream match, part passing of the torch, Y2J vs. The Cleaner has all the makings of a May-September pairing from heaven, and if history is any guide, it should coast into instant-classic status. For proof, here’s a select handful of similar inter-generational showdowns featuring opponents at least a decade apart in age (with competitors’ ages at the timeoted) that remain streaming favorites and set the bar Jericho and Omega hope to raise.