El Phantasmo gets set for an NYC streetfight Friday night
El Phantasmo may have lost his ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ match in Ryogoku October 10 over the KOPW 2022 trophy, but he isn’t taking his ‘baby’ status lying down. Punching Shingo Takagi low after the bout before destroying the KOPW trophy itself, ELP set a course for a rematch Friday night at Rumble on 44th Street, and fan polling has determined the match will be a New York City Streetfight. Before things get violent in NYC, ELP discussed Takagi, the KOPW trophy, and plans for 2023.
I think Shingo is one of the top ten wrestlers in the world
–The last time we spoke was just before the G1. You were heading into that tournament with a point to prove; do you feel like you were able to do that?
Phantasmo: Yeah, of course. A lot of people were surprised with my performances, because they’ve gotten accustomed to me taking the p*ss in the junior heavyweight division, but I’ve proven this year that I can actually wrestle. I finished joint first in Best of the Super Juniors, and, I don’t remember where I ended up in the G1, but it wasn’t last.
–You were in the mix right up to the end, where you defeated Shingo Takagi. Before the G1, Shingo had given an interview where he said you were more interested in showing off than winning a fight. Did that deepen the chip on your shoulder going into this match?
Phantasmo: It definitely resonated with me at the Budokan. Then the ironic thing is, when we went to Ryogoku, the entire match he was more interested in trying to spank me, and wear new T-shirts.
–So Takagi was showboating more than you in Ryogoku.
Phantasmo: Right. In the Budokan I showed him that I don’t need to show off, and I can beat him in a serious fight. In Ryogoku he came back trying to beat me at my own game. We’ve definitely rubbed off on one another, in a positive way.
–Before the “who’s your daddy” match, you tweeted that you thought Takagi was the best former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. For all that’s gone on between you, there’s some mutual respect there.
Phantasmo: Of course. Have I been a s**t head to him? Yeah. I want to press his buttons, get a response, and sell tickets to this match in the process. But I have to acknowledge his reign during the pandemic. I have to acknowledge what he did to carry this company last year, and if you think anybody has even come close to his efforts, then you’re a fool. I think Shingo is one of the top ten wrestlers in the world, and he’s had the results to prove it.
There’s a stark contrast to wrestling junior heavyweights
–During the G1 match, you used the CR III for the first time to beat Shingo.
Phantasmo: I spent the last three years beating people with the CR II, and only a small handful of people have been able to kick out of it. So I was really racking my brain thinking of ways to increase the power. I thought of turning it into a piledriver, but that’s so dangerous that it needed a special opponent like a Shingo for me to actually use it.
–Taiji Ishimori had an interesting response to you using that move.
Phantasmo: It used to be his move, which I had no idea about beforehand. That’s pretty cool that we’re so connected as a tag team that even though I didn’t know it was his old finisher, and he didn’t know I was going to do that, we both came upon the same idea together.
–With the transition to heavyweight, you’re obviously having to hit harder, but you’re getting hit harder as well. Was that a tough transition during the G1?
Phantasmo: I’m still feeling the effects of the G1, and this Who’s Your Daddy match with Shingo. It’s such a stark contrast from wrestling junior heavyweights. There it’s much more fast paced, and not focused on that knockout style. It’s a lot of more flashy kicks, whereas Shingo, or YOSHI-HASHI are trying to lariat your head off. It’s still going to take time to get used to, the same way that Will (Ospreay) and Shingo both have done.
There’s nobody better suited to KOPW than me
–After the Who’s Your Daddy match, we were all surprised that you didn’t just live up to the stipulation, but that you posed with the pacifier and everything else.
–Then you hit Shingo low and broke the KOPW trophy. Was that the long game for you? Was that the backup plan if you lost in Ryogoku all along?
Phantasmo: I never really thought about losing. It just came natural to do what I did. The fact is, win or lose I was going to break that trophy in front of him. Him making me wear that Tshirt and use that pacifier, that took me off guard.
–So you went along with it out of shock?
Phantasmo: Look, he got his moment. Well done Shingo Takagi. But I got my moment after and that’s what matters. Everyone got their laughs in at me sitting there with a pacifier in my mouth, but is Shingo going to remember that? No, he’s going to remember how I punched him in the nuts and broke his stupid trophy.
–The rematch is now set for Rumble on 44th Street, and it is listed as a KOPW 2022 match. Whatever happens with the trophy itself, are you interested in that title? Or are you more concerned with beating Shingo?
Phantasmo: Look, if NJPW put any effort or budget into making their trophies then maybe I might show them some more respect. G1, BOSJ, New Japan Cup aside, the Super J-Cup I won in 2019 looked like it was bought at a Dollar store, the second one was a little better but fell apart, and this KOPW one was an abomination on the eyes. There isn’t the best track record for good looking titles lately.
–Physical trophy aside, does the title itself represent anything to you?
Phantasmo: Yeah. There’s nobody better suited to KOPW than me. There’s nobody more creative, there’s nobody that can push the boundaries and limits of what the KOPW idea represents.
I thrive in this kind of hardcore chaos
–As we’re speaking the poll is currently underway. You’ve chosen a New York City Streetfight.
Phantasmo: The whole idea of KOPW is bringing something different, different rules and stipulations than fans usually see in NJPW. This is my first time in New York City for New Japan, and there’s quite a hardcore reputation in New York.
–ECW would often run In New York through the ‘90s.
Phantasmo: I believe that makes it the perfect place to show the RVD, the Sabu, the Super Crazy that’s in El Phantasmo. People who have followed me for a long time know that I have a level of hardcore innovation that Shingo can’t keep up with.
–So you feel that whatever the choice of the fans, the stipulations favour you.
Phantasmo: 100%. New Japan fans haven’t seen me in a hardcore environment, but I was wrestling for 15 years before NJPW, backflipping off ladders, walking on the top of steel cages. I’ve wrestled in barbed wire deathmatches in England. I thrive in this kind of hardcore chaos, and I don’t think Shingo can jump off a ladder like I would. He might have the support of the people in new York, but all the support in the world doesn’t matter when you have a guy crashing down on top of you and you’re sandwiched between a table and two chairs.
I want to do something special at New Year’s Dash
–There’s certainly a lot of surprises in store, and on the Night Before, where there’ll be a mystery card on October 27.
Phantasmo: I like that idea. I like a lot of the different things that NJPW and STRONG are doing in the US. You’re going to have a rabid audience in New York, that doesn’t know what’s gonna happen, and a locker room of NJPW wrestlers who don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s going to create something very special.
–If you come out on top of this match with Shingo, it’ll likely be one of the last, if not the last KOPW 2022 matches. The question then is what happens at Wrestle Kingdom? It’s one night this year, which makes for a lot of competition for these spots. What’s your plan heading into the Tokyo Dome?
Phantasmo: Wrestle Kingdom is going to be a stacked one night event this year for sure. But before I came into New Japan, you know what excited me most about January?
Phantasmo: New Year’s Dash.
–Like with October 27 in New York, you like the mystery card format?
Phantasmo: Everyone fights to be on the Wrestle Kingdom card because it is that important, it is that significant. But you can get more time and make the most of that time if you head into New Year’s Dash with a gameplan. January 5 has been when so many things have changed so dramatically for NJPW, and I have my own ideas for 2023. Whether it’s KOPW 2023, NEVER Openweight or more, I want to do something cool and something special at new Year’s Dash.
–Finally, what can fans expect from you October 27 and 28 in New York City and on pay per view?
Phantasmo: You can expect a hyped up ‘Baby Phantasmo’. This is my first time in the biggest sh*thole city in the world. I’ve been everywhere in the world, but this is my first time in NYC, and you guys are in for a wild treat when the KOPW trophy gets extreme.