Young Lion No More: Yuya Uemura Interviewed 【NJoA】

Yuya Uemura gives his first post graduation interview

Days after his final pre-excursion match against Kazuchika Okada, Yuya Uemura walked the aisle at Resurgence, and pulled off an impressive win over Team Filthy to start his American trip in style. Now officially part of the LA Dojo, a new chapter in Uemura’s story is set to be written. Before he made nhis trip, we spoke to the man himself. 

The guy who’s been main eventing all this time to go back down to the first match to wrestle me is pretty incredible


–So, for full disclosure, this interview is taking place on August 2. Last night, you wrestled Kazuchika Okada in your send-off match. Did you sleep OK last night?

Uemura: No, not really. I was pretty wired until late.

–You had Okada, and Yota Tsuji had Tetsuya Naito, so two high profile opponents. How did you feel when you first heard that Okada would be opposite you?

Uemura: It was exciting, definitely. I actually watched Okada’s send off match on YouTube, against Tanahashi.

–Differ Ariake, January 31 2010.

Uemura: It’s interesting to see how times changed. Okada wrestled the absolute top in Tanahashi, went away, and came back at the top of the business. So now I really feel I have to do the same.


–It’s rare to see Okada in that environment.

Uemura: Right. I think it was the first time Okada had wrestled an opening singles match since he came back from his own excursion. So for him to come down to the first match to wrestle me is pretty incredible. 

–We saw a scary and violent side of Okada in that match. How was the experience from your perspective?

Uemura: Tough. I knew from the start I needed to do something extra to have any chance at all, and I flew right in at him, but he blew me up pretty fast.

–You ran out of steam.

Uemura: I was gassed after the first five or six minutes, but he hadn’t broken a sweat. I felt that no matter what I did, it wasn’t damaging him at all.

–That shows the shape that Okada’s in.

Uemura: Oh, no doubt. There was a clear difference in levels there. So I know I have to do what I can to close that gap and be able to beat him when I come back. 

–After the match was over, he hit you with that huge dropkick.

Uemura: That hurt like hell. Toward the end of the match, those lariats he hit me with were rough enough. But I think because I use a dropkick myself, it was a statement of ‘this is what a champion’s dropkick feels like’.

–Did you happen to hear his post match comments? He dropped some pearls of wisdom about international excursions.

Uemura: I did. I thought he would be his typical cold and composed self after the match, but he gave a lot of good advice. I’ll be doing my best to follow it.

I couldn’t wrestle the way I wanted at all


–Before your send off, you were tested in that gauntlet all the way through Kizuna Road. 

Uemura: Right.

 –Zack Sabre Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Taichi, Kota Ibushi and Shingo Takagi. Was there one match that stood out the most? You’d been asking for the Suzuki match for a long time.

Uemura: I really couldn’t wrestle that match the way I wanted at all. I was completely worked over. I’ve felt this way for a while; every time I wrestle my seniors, I keep thinking how great they are, and that really leaves me hurting. I want to be able to have myself be the lasting impression after a match, not my opponent. 

–And it’s not like Suzuki shows anyone any mercy.

Uemura: He’s beating you up and beating you up and beating you up… and then he wins. But that’s his style. That’s where you see a wrestler’s true character show, and I don’t want to be an underdog that gets sympathy for the punishment he endures. I don’t just want to beat him, but I want to be able to crush him. I’m more the type that can go beyond my limits if I have that thrown at me in return. But apart from Suzuki, I think definitely Shingo was on my radar ever since he was in Best of the Super Jr. in 2019.

–You’ve said you’ve learned a lot from watching his matches. 

Uemura: Right. From the first time I saw him, I thought he was different from any other wrestlers I’ve seen. To be quite honest, I grew up only watching and only knowing New Japan. But he has a different style, a different pace to his matches. I think that singles match we had really opened my eyes and gave me hints to the direction I want to take. In the end, all those matches were important to me.

–Ibushi was another great match. A very grounded, harsh style, and a different side to him to what we normally see.

Uemura: That was a lot of fun. Really nothing held back at all. 

–Ibushi likes wrestling that kind of a match. 

Uemura: I think it was definitely unique to all the other singles matches, for sure. 

You don’t get many fights like that lately 

–So you joined the Dojo in 2017.

Uemura: That’s right. April 2017, so a little over four years ago. And three years and four months since my debut.

–What highlights from that time have stood out for you?

Uemura: I think definitely one that stands to mind was the match with Ren Narita I had (in January 2019) when I used the Deadbolt Suplex for the first time. I’ve used it since, and I’ve always felt that if I can get that move off, it would win me the match.

–Narita was your debut opponent, wasn’t he?

Uemura: Right. Another highlight for me would have to be when the LA Dojo came over.

–Ah, on the last night of the tournament, it was Narita and Yota Tsuji vs Karl Fredericks and Clark Connors. Things got heated after the match, and you threw yourself in there.

Uemura: I didn’t think, I just acted. I was a second for the match itself, not involved, but when things got crazy I just found my body moving of its own accord.

–But Katsuyori Shibata had a lot of praise for the way you carried yourself that night.

Uemura: There’s probably arguments to be had either way, but I’m glad I did what I did. Even now you see a lot of brawls, but not many fights like that. Maybe it was reckless youth, but it’s rare to have something as heated as that. Just a massive fight.

–That really jump started your career. You went onto the Young Lion Cup and had a tremendous match with Clark Connors.

Uemura: I remember. I really left understanding how good Clark is. I don’t know what the fans thought about it, but I left really feeling he’s got such a great feel for wrestling.

–You certainly showed your potential as well. 

Uemura: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t consider myself especially skilled. My talent so to speak is in showing my fire, my passion and my emotion.

–You turned a lot of heads when we restarted after events paused in June 2020. You gained a lot of additional size. 

Uemura: Normally when we’re on the road, I lose weight. When we were in that pseudo lockdown state, all there was to do was sleep, eat and train. I was eating the whole time, drinking a lot of protein, and you saw the results.

–There was a lot of surprise from the fans.

Uemura: But I think if anything, with the extra power from the weight, I was able to move around much more easily than when I was smaller. 

I never once thought about quitting. But when I was feeling down, Tsuji was there. 

–Now that you have both graduated, what are your thoughts on Yota Tsuji?

Uemura: There’s no doubt that we both motivated one another. We’re both very different types, and he has what I don’t and vice versa. 

–Do you feel that your relationship is a little different to Shota Umino and Ren Narita before you?

Uemura: Yeah, I think so. We were together from the start, and we’re… I wouldn’t say in sync, but we understand each other. I think we both pulled each other through some of the tougher times training. 

–You owe a lot to him being there. 

Uemura: I do. I think he definitely helped me a lot. I never once thought about quitting, but when I was feeling down, Tsuji was there. So I think we were good for one another.

–And now you’re ready to head overseas.

Uemura: Right. Like Okada said in his comments, to me this isn’t just about learning to wrestle, it’s about learning a lot of things. It’s going to be a lot of life lessons. I think that’s important. And the other thing that Okada said that rings true was about how wrestling is a mirror to life, and it’s something we project ourselves onto. I never really got that until recently.

–I see. 

Uemura: If I’m able to truly project myself in that ring, I have to do a lot of learning about what life really is, what different feelings and emotions are. I’ve never lived abroad, and I’m sure that I’ll have a lot of new experiences that I can carry with me back in the ring. 

–Kazuchika Okada gained a lot from his excursion even though he wasn’t wrestling all that often.

Uemura: Right. Like if I just wanted in ring reps, I could do that in Japan. The point is wrestling is about emotion, so that7s why it’s so important to go overseas and experience new things. 

–Any last message for the fans?

Uemura: I put all I had into the last three and a half years as a Young Lion, but from here on, when I come back from overseas, I’m jumping right to the top. The world is still in a rough state, but I hope everyone keeps watching wrestling while I’m away. When I come back, I’m going to be taking wrestling to all new heights, and bringing a new kind of energy to the world!