JONAH speaks on his first G1
It’s impossible to take your eyes off A Block in G1 Climax 32, and in the monster block, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of JONAH. Eight months removed from his first NJPW appearance at Battle in the Valley in San Jose, JONAH does battle in Japanese NJPW rings for the first time, with eyes on the G1 prize.
I want to be the next Vader, the next Bruiser Brody
–So, JONAH. You’re getting set for your first trip to Japan in, what seven years?
JONAH: Yeah, the last time I was in Japan was in 2015 for Pro-Wrestling NOAH, so seven years.
–How does it feel to be back in Japan?
JONAH: It’s special for me. I always felt like the Japanese style suited me; I was broken into the business by Hartley Jackson, who had trained in the original LA Dojo with guys like Bryan Danielson and Shinsuke Nakamura. He picked up that training style and brought it back with him to Australia.
–So you had a tough education then.
JONAH: Oh yeah. From day one I was doing hundreds and hundreds of squats, pushups, all the stuff they do at the New Japan Dojo. That set me up for my career, so I’m really happy to be back in Japan.
–For your first NJPW tour of Japan to be the G1 Climax must be special too.
JONAH: Absolutely. So many wrestlers strive to be a part of the G1, and I want to make this tournament special for everyone.
–This year it’s a 28 man tournament with four blocks, so a different structure.
JONAH: Yeah, it was surprising to see, but I think it’ll be exciting for the fans to have that different system and structure. I’m excited for the format, and I’m excited to be in the block I’m in as well.
–In past years there would be singles matches nearly every day, but this year there is a break between matches. Is that beneficial, or is it harder for you to get into a rhythm perhaps?
JONAH: You can kind of prepare for a lot of big matches all in a row, but here it’s a bit different. There’ll probably be other tag matches as well in that interval, so it’s about keeping up conditioning and keeping the body OK between those bigger matches.
–A Block has been called the ‘big boy block’ online, and there are a lot of big guys in here. Are you excited for that?
JONAH: I’m very happy about the lineup. For the last five or six years, I’ve been preaching about big man wrestling, and being over 300lbs, I’m excited for this. I want to be the next Big Van Vader, the next Bruiser Brody. The big, imposing invader. That’s the role I want to fill.
Size always beats technique
–So let’s take a look at your schedule, and you’ll be wrestling right from the outset. Your first match is on night two in Sapporo, and against Toru Yano.
JONAH: I know that online Yano has been Tweeting about running away from me. I think I’m the obvious favourite here, but he will do things that are crafty and out of left field, so I have to be careful.
–After that first match, your next league match will be July 30 in Aichi, and Tom Lawlor.
JONAH: The Filthy One.
–What are your thoughts on him? Obviously you’ve both been on STRONG, but haven’t crossed paths directly.
JONAH: He’s another one with a wild personality. He has those Daisy Dukes he wears to the ring, but he’s also very dangerous as a former UFC competitor and someone who held the STRONG title well over a year. I’m looking forward to it.
–What’s your key to victory here?
JONAH: I think it’s all going to come down to size versus technique, and I think size always beats technique, heh.
–We spoke to Tom, and he made the point that conditioning will be a factor for him against bigger opposition. Is that a concern for you, especially in the midsummer Japanese heat?
JONAH: That’s always the biggest challenge. I’ve always been able to retain my conditioning, even as I’ve gotten bigger. When I started wrestling I was 260 lbs (118kg), now I’m 332 (151kg), but I’ve been able to match my conditioning to my weight for the most part. But with the heat a factor as well, I really want to go for a knockout as fast as possible.
–You don’t want to flirt with the 30 minute time limit.
JONAH: I’m not interested in going 20 minutes plus, I want to win big and win fast. I don’t think there’s any one competitor here I’m afraid of, the biggest enemy is conditioning for me.
With Jeff, I want people to know I’m the number one hoss
–August 5 in Matsuyama, you face Jeff Cobb.
JONAH: Last year he went 8-0, right?
–Yes, his only loss was to eventual winner Okada. If he went 8-0 this year he would win the whole thing.
JONAH: That’s just so impressive. But I want to have the same record he had last year this year, and I want to give him a loss. For the longest time in our careers, from when I first met him in 2017, we’ve been compared to one another. We do very different things in the ring, but whether it’s look, or the fact we’re both agile big men, we’re constantly compared, but I want people to know I’m the number one hoss.
–You’ve wrestled in a few independent promotions, but this is your first time meeting in Japan. It’s the real cliché of a main event in any arena.
JONAH: It’s the old saying of the irresistible force and the immovable object. Jeff is definitely irresistible, and I’m definitely immovable. This is going to wow the Japanese crowd.
–August 7 in Osaka, Kazuchika Okada. How did it feel to know you were in the same block as Okada?
JONAH: When you think of NJPW, Okada might be the first name you think of. He’s synonymous with New Japan, and he’s someone I’ve watched for a long time from a distance.
–You’ve never wrestled before.
JONAH: Right. There was a time when we nearly wrestled in Australia and for various reasons it didn’t happen. So do finally do it in New Japan, and in Osaka, which is a great town for wrestling, I’m really excited to prove that I’m worthy of being in there against the best.
I have receipts from NOAH to give to Lance Archer
–Night 14 in Hiroshima, you face Lance Archer. Definitely another agile big man, and one the fans will likely be behind.
JONAH: Yeah, with his history in NJPW, the fans want to see him back in the country and what he can do after being in AEW. But I don’t care what the fans think or how my opponents feel. I just want my hand raised. This is going to be a fight.
–You have met before, correct?
JONAH: Back when I was in NOAH, Archer was part of that whole Suzuki-Gun invasion. So we have fought before, and I have some receipts to give him in NJPW.
–Your schedule works out to where you’ll be wrestling in the Budokan on August 16, and then potentially having the semi finals and finals on the 17 and 18th. Is that schedule of three big singles matches intimidating?
JONAH: It is. I’ve been in big weekends of wrestling before, but usually in that situation you might have a singles match one night and a tag match the next. Here it’s three big singles in a row, so as much as anything else it’s a mental test that you have to get through. At the same time though, I’m battle tested, I’m ready for war. That’s what it says in my entrance music, and I’ll prove that.
–That last league match is against Bad Luck Fale.
JONAH: Not an easy match! I think if anything he’s actually bigger than me. It’s a match a lot of fans have wanted to see for a long time. It’s rare for me to be the smaller guy, so this will be interesting.
This is a new chapter in the book of JONAH
–The next night your semifinal would be against someone from B Block. You have some history with Tomohiro Ishii in IMPACT Wrestling, is that a match you’d like to revisit?
JONAH: There are two names I have in mind, and Ishii is definitely one of them. We had a great match in IMPACT but I definitely have receipts to give there as well. Then the other one is Jay White.
–The IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.
JONAH: He’s the top guy in NJPW now, and if you’re not striving to be at the top you shouldn’t be in the business. So he’s the other guy I want to face.
–The final would be against someone from either C or D block- what would make the best final opponent for you?
JONAH: For me, it’s Zack Sabre Jr. We fought all over the world, and he used to be my roommate in Japan before we were rivals. We’ve fought in the USA, Australia and the UK, and now I want to come full circle here in Japan. If you’ve ever seen one of our matches, you’ll know they’ve been pretty violent. So that’s my ideal final.
–So to wrap up, this is your first time in Japan in seven years, and there’ll be a lot of Japanese fans seeing you for the first time. What impression of JONAH do you want those fans to go home with?
JONAH: I want them to know that I live up to my nickname. I am the Top Dog, the best big man in this business by none. I’ve grown so much as a competitor since being in NOAH, and through my time in WWE as well. This is a new chapter in the book of JONAH, and I want to show something new, a new side of myself not just to the Japanese fans but to the whole world.