Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI look ahead to twin title matches
January 4 & 5 see Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI head into a pair of title matches with different issues brewing. On January 4, the IWGP Tag Team Championship is on the line in a match between two teams with pride and conviction in their beliefs. For January 5, a NEVER Openweight 6 Man Championship match with more personal stakes; to put the devious HOUSE OF TORTURE in their place as they head into 2022. We spoke to the challengers as the Tokyo Dome looms.
There’s a warmth in CHAOS. We look out for each other
–You came out on top of the long World Tag League series. How are you feeling now?
Goto: It was a long run, but I didn’t come away with any serious injuries, and it went by really fast, I feel.
YH: It was done in a flash. I got hurt midway through, but those two, three day breaks in there really helped.
–You were alternating with Best of the Super Jr. of course.
Goto: Right, so there was a bit of luck to getting hit hard and then having the next day off to recover.
–Were you able to pick up a decent rhythm by the end?
Goto: Yeah. In the first half we couldn’t quite put things together, it would be win one, lose one. In the second half we really had it down, and we were in sync.
YH: We finished first at 9-2, so we were constantly improving, and putting in the work on new combinations.
Goto: We’d come up with something new every match, right? Wrestle and then think, ‘how about trying this?’ All these new ideas would come, and YOSHI-HASHI was the best person to create with.
YH: A lot of it would be taking a move I do, and a move he does and putting them together. We were able to come up with a lot of stuff that way.
–This was only your third tag league together, actually after 2017 and then last year.
YH: There was supposed to be one more time, but I got hurt.
–2018 in Kobe.
YH: I think we probably would have tagged that year, but with my shoulder we couldn’t do it.
Goto: It took a while for us to really produce a result like this, but a lot of its fate, right. You can draw a line between all these points to where we are now.
–Do you think your run with the NEVER Six Man Championships helped the two of you as a team?
Goto: Oh definitely. We had to work so long and fight so hard as a team that it had to help us when we went from three to two.
YH: We grew together with every one of those defences, and having Ishii there was a great learning experience as well.
–He came through for you in the World Tag League final as well.
Goto: That’s the bond we have in CHAOS. That’s why we both went to help YOH in the BOSJ final as well. We look out for one another. That’s something I didn’t feel in my career in hontai before joining CHAOS.
YH: It was a rougher place when I started there, but with all the years going by it’s become a lot smoother.
–Those bonds are what brought you those trophies.
Goto: Of course. And I think YOSHI-HASHI was really composed in that final.
YH: Everything was clicking. So many times in my matches, I’m switched on mentally, but something’s hurting. Or I’m physically fine, but my head isn’t right. Here, my knee wasn’t perfect, but other than that, I was where I wanted to be.
Goto: I’d never seen him so composed. That spoke to our experience together I think.
Naraku is our secret weapon
–Hiroshi Tanahashi said the same on commentary.
YH: I think somewhere I learned to tune out everything else and not be in my head. I learned to calm down a bit.
Goto: That’s why he’s so dependable. I don’t see him as on a different level, there aren’t any social status issues. We’re right on the same wavelength and that’s really important for a team.
YH: For me, what struck me about Goto was how explosive he is. I really think he’s more explosive than anyone in NJPW. I would think that I was doomed and we were done, and then he’d be there in a flash right where I needed him.
Goto: It was all in those assists. It was great to have someone who could complement the way I move, somebody really compatible.
–Of course, you won a lot of matches with the Shoto.
Goto: It started with a different name.
YH: The GYW.
Goto: YOSHI-HASHI came up with the name. It works because our opponent is laid out on his back. There were too many moves with initials, so.
–Then there’s the move you won the trophies with- Naraku. Before the final, YOSHI-HASHI said you would send HOUSE OF TORTURE to Hell, and that’s exactly what Naraku means.
YH: We’re all falling together with that move, so that’s the image that came to mind.
Goto: We came up with it a while back, but kept it as a secret weapon for when we needed it.
YH: We definitely want to keep it in our back pocket. It’s a neckbreaker, an elbow drop…
Goto: And a slam all at once. It makes this huge noise, it has a ton of impact.
YH: But that started as something different. We worked on it a lot.
Goto: Right, it’s a lot of trial and error.
I’m not finished taking EVIL down
–So now you have won World Tag League, you’ll be facing Dangerous Tekkers on January 4. You challenged for the tag titles back at MetLife Dome in September, but that was a three way match.
Goto: Now it’s a straight tag match, it’s ours for the taking.
YH: With the three way we had to think about the extra team. Now we just focus on the champions.
–And you beat those champions in Hiroshima.
Goto: But they really wrestled a perfect match. Zack and Taichi are super aggressive.
YH: They’ve put together those defences. They’re really impressive in big matches.
Goto: We barely survived them.
YH: You just found that time to get the roll-up.
Goto: In the end, it all comes down to those bonds though.
–That’s what tag wrestling is about in the end.
Goto: We don’t plan on losing as far as that’s concerned.
–What do the IWGP Tag Team Championships mean to you?
YH: Back in 2014 in Kobe, I teamed with Okada to challenge Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson, then I teamed with Ishii to challenge G.o.D a couple of times, but couldn’t get the titles. I think with Goto, all the pieces are in place now.
Goto: I love the fact the tag belts haven’t changed all these years.
YH: Oh they’ve changed! I liked the silver design they had years back, before the nWo spray painted them, heh.
–Design aside, you challenge as a team twice over the two nights at Wrestle Kingdom.
Goto: Ah, the NEVER 6 as well. There’s revenge we need to get. I haven’t forgiven EVIL one bit.
–That title match is on January 5. This time you’ll team with YOH in Ishii’s former spot.
Goto: We’re getting those belts back! SHO interfered in YOH’s BOSJ finals, and there’s issues there, and us with EVIL and Yujiro. I still have nightmares of when we lost those belts (in Osaka).
Tokyo Dome really is the place of dreams.
–How did you feel when SHO joined HOUSE OF TORTURE in September?
Goto: What the hell was that all about? All that time he was this nice, cheerful guy, was he carrying all this resentment around with him? That sudden switch, it really made me just doubt human beings in general. Was it all a show? I really can’t trust people the same way anymore.
YH: That bad??
–It really affected you!
Goto: I really don’t get it. What was he so mad at all this time?
YH: I think he was just trying to take the easy way to the top, right?
Goto: he did it for himself? What was the point of it all?
YH: Well, he was trying to make a break for himself, I guess.
–But you can’t process it.
Goto: I don’t get it at all. I don’t get who he hates. YOH?
–Well, that would seem to make the most sense.
Goto: So why hate YOH? I want to hear it from him. When he ran in on the BOSJ final, was it because he hated YOH, or because he wanted to wreck the final?
–Well, let’s refocus on the January 5 title match.
Goto: This is part of the motivation for me. I want to make SHO wake up.
YH: Either way, him choosing to make that move isn’t something we’re going to let slide.
Goto: We have to crush all of them. Then maybe he’ll see.
YH: With YOH, he has always been a great wrestler, but everyone knocked him for not showing emotion. But he put it all out there when he made the BOSJ finals, and I think he came out of his shell. Now he can live up to his true potential, he should be right at the top of the junior division.
Goto: He has to turn that disappointment in the final around, and teaming with us is exactly the right way to do it.
YH: Ishii isn’t on the team this time, but with SHO in the other corner, I couldn’t think of a better third member than YOH.
–So your final thoughts on two title matches in two nights?
Goto: Well, night one tag championships, night two NEVER. We’re leaving with double gold. There are a lot of people still suffering because of this pandemic, and a lot of people that need inspiring. If we can give these people strength in a little way, then that’s something.
YH: I’ve been a challenger so many times without making it to the top, but we managed to win the NEVER belts and defend them all those times, and then followed up with the World Tag League as well. Winning championships on the biggest stage there is couldn’t be more of a dream come true, and I want to show that to the people coming to the building or watching on TV and NJPW World all over the globe.
–It’s the stage of dreams.
YH: Just like music, wrestling is an expression of life and energy. It can motivate so many people. I want to show those people, whether they’ve been watching for a long time, or if they’re new, that you can live your dreams.
Goto: Let’s do it together!