Lance Archer on returning to NJPW, reuniting with Suzuki and more
Before Resurgence on August 14, fans hadn’t seen Lance Archer in an NJPW ring since February 2020, but he has been far from out of sight or mind on the US wrestling scene. Joining AEW in spring of that year, the Murderhawk Monster brought his brand of violence to fans across the States, to the point of defeating Jon Moxley for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in his home state of Texas. On September 26, he returns to the same venue of the Curtis Culwell Center not with the red and gold belt, but with an old partner and brother in Minoru Suzuki. We caught up with Lance for his thoughts on the immense Autumn Attack.
I’ve always had that respect, regardless of the side of the ring we were on
–Let’s start by talking about Resurgence. Although the US fans will have seen you in AEW, it was your first NJPW match in over 18 months. How was the experience?
Archer: It was like coming home. The business changes a lot; I’ve been lucky enough to wrestle in several major companies my whole career through TNA, WWE, nine years with NJPW, and then as the world has changed drastically, having the opportunity to join AEW. But to be able to go out to LA, and be in that first event with fans on the US side, it was an honor.
–Not to mention that you were walking into the main event, as the US Champion.
Archer: Yeah. I was representing as the US Champion, and I was wrestling (Hiroshi) Tanahashi, who was always one of my favourite opponents.
–Although you lost the match, you did address Tanahashi afterward on the microphone and showed your respect for him.
Archer: I’ve always had that respect, regardless of what side of the ring we were on, or what the situation was, be it G1, Tag Leagues or whatever. For him to come to America and challenge me, for me to face Tanahashi in that ring, it definitely felt like old times again, and that was a really good feeling.
Resurgence was a success for the whole wrestling business
–Tanahashi was particularly appreciative of the US crowd.
Archer: And he didn’t disappoint them. I think he had a lot of fun- too much fun in my opinion, since he beat me- but being in front of that cheering crowd, while I know in Japan there are these restrictions on cheering. So this was a bit of a different experience for him. So him winning definitely sucks for me, but it was a great experience for him. To be back in there in front of a crowd, that was there for New Japan, and a great size crowd too-
–It was a 2,222 sell out.
Archer: For a first time back situation, that’s a great accomplishment for NJPW in the USA, and a great accomplishment for wrestling in general. And they saw a real mix with the Good Brothers there from IMPACT, myself and (Jon) Moxley from AEW, Tanahashi, Nagata, Ishii from the Japanese roster, and then all the US guys, and Ospreay shows up, so the experience for the fanbase was an amazing one and you had so many cool moments with me and Tanahashi capping the whole thing off. It wasn’t a success for me personally, but it was for the fans, it was for NJPW and AEW, and it was for the whole wrestling business.
–You and Tanahashi have been linked through your career in New Japan, with G1 Climax matches from the start of your time in NJPW, all the way through to Resurgence. How important is Hiroshi Tanahashi to you as an opponent?
Archer: People always credit Tanahashi with saving New Japan’s business, because there were dark times for NJPW in the early 2000s, and when he became the Ace of New Japan and all of wrestling, he really elevated New Japan to a global company. When I first started with New Japan in 2011, and they added me to the G1, it was in Nagoya against him in my first ever main event. I’ve had amazing experiences with him, even though I’ve lost every time.
–You said after Resurgence that you wanted a rematch.
Archer: Absolutely. I want it one more time, and I want it in AEW. I’ve had a lot of storied moments with him, but 2019 is at the top.
–That G1 was very significant to you.
Archer: It was the real rebirth of Lance Archer, and the birth of the Murderhawk Monster. It all started in Dallas with Will Ospreay, and that was such a massive moment for me in my hometown, and in a historic event for the company, but the Tanahashi match that year was the most memorable to me.
Archer: It was in Korakuen Hall, in front of that packed crowd, hot as hot can be, and there were duelling chants of ‘Tanahashi’ and ‘let’s go Archer’. So unfortunately, even though I lost again, it was such an honorable moment.
I’m part of the bridge between NJPW and AEW
–There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about so-called ‘forbidden doors’ in wrestling. That was a phrase that Hiroshi Tanahashi first spoke into existence.
–If there is a forbidden door right now, you might argue that the IWGP United States Championship could be seen as the key. How do you view that championship? It’s one you have a unique history with.
Archer: With Tanahashi saying that ‘forbidden door’ phrase, it was all headed into that match with Chris Jericho, and even before AEW really existed, Jericho has always been about trying to make things happen, crossing over promotions. But Jon Moxley, joining NJPW and AEW at the same time after leaving WWE, he was the first to really cross over. Then he became the US champion, and then the typhoon happened…
–A major typhoon struck the day of King of Pro-Wrestling 2019. Moxley’s IWGP US defence against Juice Robinson had to be cancelled, and you were put in his place, with the title vacated.
Archer: The way New Japan runs their title matches is that if a title match is promised then it happens regardless of the situation. I arrived at the building three hours before bell time, but I was put in that match, won it, and it was my first major singles title in my whole career.
–You’ve done so much in your career, but this was your first top-flight singles title.
Archer: And like I said, I’d been in TNA in the early years, WWE for a time as well, but this was my first singles title, and the only other time I’d even had an opportunity was against Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental title. But I came out on top against Juice Robinson, who was a tremendous champion in his own right.
–And that led to you and Jon Moxley at Wrestle Kingdom 14, in that Texas Deathmatch.
Archer: It was the first time to have Wrestle Kingdom over two nights, but our match was so different to anything else that whole weekend. I lost, but that match definitely elevated me. Then a year and a half later, and Mox was defending it against KENTA, Nagata, Karl Anderson in the US; and then I was wrestling him in Dallas Texas in front of friends and family again, just like in the G1 against Ospreay.
–And you won the title in an AEW ring. The last time a New Japan title changed hands outside of an NJPW ring was when La Sombra won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Shinsuke Nakamura some eight years prior in CMLL.
Archer: It was absolutely special for me, one of the more special moments of my career. I was able to twice represent NJPW as its US champion, even if the second time wasn’t in a New Japan ring. It really feels for me now that, along with Jon Moxley and some other guys, I’m part of that bridge between NJPW and AEW, and that’s huge because I think that bridge is important to both companies, and to the whole business.
My whole career in Japan is linked to Minoru Suzuki
–Let’s move on to Autumn Attack. September 26, night two, you’re back in the same building where you won that Texas Deathmatch over Moxley.
Archer: The Curtis Culwell Center, correct.
–And reuniting with Minoru Suzuki. We had an online event with Suzuki recently and a fan asked after you. Suzuki made it very clear that even though you were active in a different country, you two have a special brotherhood. How important is this reunion on September 26 to you?
Archer: It’s extremely special. My entire Japanese career has been linked to Suzuki in some way or other.
–From before NJPW even, correct?
Archer: Right. The first time I wrestled in Japan was for a very small independent company called MAKEHEN. It was in ShinKiba First Ring, a tiny building, maybe 300 people tops, but it was against Suzuki-san in a tag match.
–Then you met in All Japan.
Archer: 2009, I had the chance to do a little tour with AJPW, and Suzuki was, I think he was the Triple Crown Champion at the time. Then fast forward to 2011, and I was one of the original members of Suzuki-Gun. So the whole nine years in NJPW was with him.
–So your whole journey in Japan was connected to Minoru Suzuki.
Archer: Last winter, he sent me one of the newest Suzuki-Gun tracksuits. I took a picture wearing it in front of the AEW backdrop. Some fans asked me if I wished I could go back and rejoin Suzuki-Gun, but the truth was I never left, I just took a different path in my career. So now to reform the team in the US is really cool, really special. Hopefully when we can move forward in the world a bit better, I can go back to Japan and have a bigger part in the group over there.
I’m looking forward to the chance to come home to Japan
–You and Suzuki will be taking on Team Filthy, which is a bit of a dream match for NJPW STRONG fans. Tom Lawlor has had a very similar career path to Suzuki, starting in pro-wrestling, going to MMA, and coming back to pro-wrestling at the same age that Suzuki did in his career.
Archer: Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.
–Do you have any thoughts on Lawlor, and what he’s done in MMA and pro-wrestling?
Archer: I’ve been on independent events with him, like Warrior Wrestling in Chicago, and Resurgence, obviously. I know he’s the STRONG champion, and he wrestles in MLW as well, but I haven’t had the chance to see what he’s done first hand. But Team Filthy and Suzuki-Gun? That’s the fun crossover you can only get with wrestling right now, between NJPW, IMPACT, AEW, ROH, MLW, and who knows what’s next. That’s what’s great for the fans and gets them wanting to buy tickets, watch pay per views, subscribe to NJPW World, all that stuff, because there’s so much crazy cool stuff happening.
–To wrap up, fans in the US will be seeing you in Texas again very soon, but do you have any message to the Japanese fans? As you mentioned, hopefully you’ll be coming back out to Japan before too long.
Archer: Japan is what helped change my career for the best. I have friends there, people I consider family there, all because of the opportunities NJPW gave me for all those years. It’s such a shame that we’ve had to deal with COVID, but hopefully we find a way forward for this soon and we can all travel again, see Japan, experience Japan again and understand what an amazing country it is. And then to experience Japanese crowds again, in whatever capacity is something I’m excited for. When I signed with AEW, one of the key points for me was that if the opportunity came along with NJPW, and it didn’t interfere with my schedule, then I would be able to do it. As soon as we can figure out the real world stuff, then I’m looking forward to what would be for me the chance to come home. Back in a Japanese ring, and representing AEW and NJPW together.
–Just one more point: we have new Young Lions, Oiwa and Fujita that recently debuted. Some comments on social media expressed sadness that you weren’t here to ‘show them the ropes’ in your ‘unique’ way…
Archer: Hahaha! I made sure to give all the Young Lions at Resurgence a big ‘welcome’ and I’d be happy to ‘say hello’ to Oiwa and Fujita when I can get to Japan (laughs).