The Rebel talks G1 Climax 33
Champions are always a target in the G1, and the NEVER Openweight Champion David Finlay is doubly so this year. Carrying the standard for BULLET CLUB into the tournament, the Rebel is determined to build on a career turning point of a 2022 campaign.
BULLET CLUB is a weapon for me to achieve my goals
–So David, since you took over the lead of BULLET CLUB, you were the finalist in the New Japan Cup, you won and defended the NEVER Openweight Championship, and you’ve grown the forces of BULLET CLUB with the War Dogs of Coughlin, Kidd, Connors and Moloney. How would you say your time in BULLET CLUB has gone so far?
Finlay: Everything is going according to plan. I said last year to expect me, and I don’t think people knew what to expect. But I had this in the works for a very long time. I’m having a killer year- the best of my career. The only one that’s been able to beat me one on one is SANADA, and he’s the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. That’s the only guy that’s been able to come anywhere close.
–A few years ago you told the story that when you were training in the Dojo, Jyushin Thunder Liger told you ‘I used to be scared of your father, but you’re just funny’.
Finlay: What do you think the old man thinks now?
–I don’t think anyone’s laughing now. What do you attribute that to? Was the timing right, was Gedo a part of it? What let you tap into that savage side of yourself?
Finlay: When I first came to Japan, I was this 21 year old kid and they told me that ‘oh, if you just follow the system, if you do things the Japanese way, you’ll get X,Y,Z’ but that never happened to me. I started noticing that the people that were successful- Juice Robinson got successful when he dropped the façade and became his true self. Jay White did the same. In the end I realized that opportunities don’t get handed to you, you have to take them.
–And you have a family history of that.
Finlay: One day I looked at myself in the mirror, and I remembered that my last name is ‘Finlay’. I’m a Fighting Finlay. That last name has a reputation. But a legend in this business made a point of telling me he wasn’t scared of me, that I made him laugh? That ate at me for years. I don’t think anyone’s laughing now. My goal is to be feared.
–There’s a feeling, a dangerous air with BULLET CLUB that has maybe been missing over the last several years. How do you assess the new members in the BULLET CLUB War Dogs?
Finlay: Well, Clark, Gabe and Alex all had similar paths to mine. They were all told to follow Shibata’s path as laid out for them, and what happened? They got forgotten while Shibata goes off playing Pure Champion in Ring of Honor. They saw themselves in me, and I saw myself in them.
Then Dan (Drilla Moloney) said it himself, he was in United Empire for one tour and realized that they are boys and we are men.
–You’ve made it very clear that this BULLET CLUB is different from what came under Jay White, or Kenny Omega.
Finlay: In my BULLET CLUB, I really don’t care about popularity or what the fans think. I’ve been saying it and I’ll say again, this is for killers and savages only. I want every member to be carrying championship gold, and If you can’t carry gold, you bring me bodies.
–The reaction from fans online to you taking the lead in BULLET CLUB has seen a lot of fans saying this isn’t the group they’re accustomed to-
–Well, I think the negativity has come from fans who started watching while Kenny Omega was leading the group, or Jay White.
Finlay: I just now said I don’t care about popularity or what the fans think, didn’t I?
–You did. But in that case, what drew you to lead BULLET CLUB specifically? How does BULLET CLUB benefit you more than starting a different group entirely?
Finlay: Let me take you all the way back ten years ago. It was another Irishman, Prince Devitt that started this thing, and it wasn’t about Tshirt sales. They didn’t care about too sweeting fans, they cared about brutality and making a statement.
–So you feel BULLET CLUB lost its way.
Finlay: In the years after you had the nerdy side of BULLET CLUB in the Elite. You had the Tshirt selling machine that The Good Brothers were. They got soft, they cared about merch and this and that. I don’t. At the end of the day the greats don’t build legacies on how many Tshirts they sell. What’s important is what you achieve in this business. So I want to be feared, and I want my legacy to be greater than anyone that’s come before me.
–When you came into BULLET CLUB, Gedo changed his catchphrase to ‘Bloody Hands’. What part has Gedo played in this new David Finlay, and the new BULLET CLUB?
Finlay: I didn’t get a phone call from Gedo until after I cracked Jay White in the head with my shillelagh. At the New Japan Cup he said everything there was to say- ‘I’ve got the balls’. That’s true.
There’s nobody on this roster that I fear, and nobody whose health and safety I care about. I care about results, and Gedo saw that. And he saw BULLET CLUB was without a captain and without a direction. So he called me with an opportunity, and why wouldn’t I take him up on that? To me BULLET CLUB is a weapon that I can use to achieve all of my goals.
I couldn’t be happier with this block
–Let’s talk about your G1 Climax schedule. You’re in C Block this year, and it seems like quite the “murderers’ row” of hard hitters, and very much your stye of opponent- were you happy with the block you drew?
Finlay: ‘Murderers’ row’ was the first phrase that came to mind for me as well, and I couldn’t be happier. One on one, I have a perfect record against every single opponent in my block that I’ve faced; I haven’t faced everyone, but the ones I have faced, I’ve beat.
–Being the NEVER Openweight Champion will put a target on your back this year.
Finlay: Absolutely. Everyone wants to beat me. I wanted to be the guy that everybody wants to beat and here I am. It is murderers’ row, but I’m king of the killers.
–C Block starts night two July 16 against Tomohiro Ishii in Hokkaido.
Finlay: Ishii’s a stud. I can’t talk much bad about him, but at the same time, I don’t think it’ll be any different than the New Japan Cup. I think he’s going to come in harder, badder and with a chip on his shoulder looking for his win back, but he’s not going to get it.
–Second, July 19 you face Mikey Nicholls. Perhaps some fans might not realise the short fuse that Nicholls has, nor the fearsome reputation he holds in Australia.
Finlay: They don’t call him ‘mad’ for nothing. He spent years in NOAH, when NOAH had a very hard hitting style, and he’s also the biggest guy in the block. But again, not worried about it. King killer here.
–July 23, you face EVIL. A lot of fans will be interested in this BULLET CLUB derby; can you talk about where EVIL fits in with BULLET CLUB, and where HOUSE OF TORTURE fits in with BULLET CLUB at the moment?
Finlay: I’ve said that my BULLET CLUB is for killers and savages only. SO EVIL has to peove to me that he’s a killer and a savage. We’ll see what happens.
–With all respect to EVIL, you’ve said bring gold or bring bodies, but HOUSE OF TORTURE tend to lose more often than they win…
Finlay: No comment.
–But can you-
Finlay: No. Comment.
Tama’s not going to walk out of Korakuen
–Understood. On July 26 in Korakuen, Tama Tonga. That will be a big match for Tama; after the dominant form you won the NEVER title in, one would imagine Tama Tonga has your name circled, and is desperate to take you down.
Finlay: I know how this business works, and I know that there isn’t a man on this planet that wants to kick my ass as badly as Tama Tonga does. He comes from the second toughest family in this industry after my own. But I beat him twice this year alone.
–Do you think the Korakuen hall crowd will be a factor?
Finlay: I mean sure, that’s basically Hontai home turf, so sure they’ll be behind him, cheering him all the way, but how did that work for him last time? I played with my food for 25 minutes and then he left on a stretcher. Now we have a 20 minute time limit, so I won’t play with my food as long, but he’s not going to walk out of Korakuen. His G1 ends with me, so everyone else can thank me for the two points they’ll get by forfeit.
–Do you think the 20 minute time limits this year fit your style of wrestling?
Finlay: I don’t see it making too much of a difference. It doesn’t tend to take me more than 20 minutes to whip somebody’s ass. Get in, get out, go to the bar, have a good time. That suits me.
–July 30 in Aichi, Aaron Henare. Several years ago, both of you wrestled on the undercards before the G1 matches, and it’s safe to say both of you got chips on your shoulders. Henare went his own path into the United Empire; do you perhaps have some respect for the way Henare handled himself?
Finlay: I think he’s done well for himself, but let me get one thing straight. There’s not a single other person in this company that I respect. I think everyone’s beneath me. Understood?
Finlay: But that said, Aaron is a borderline killer. He grew up on the streets of Auckland, he’s a fighter, but the same thing will happen to him as everyone else. I’ll go in, beat him to a bloody pulp, get my two points.
I have to show I’m ten times better than Takagi
–August 2 in Hiroshima, Shingo Takagi. You beating him last year set you on a big streak, and one would think he would have your name circled this year.
Finlay: Everyone in the block has my name circled. I’m the only champion in the block, so if you beat me, that means a shot at my title, that means potentially more money in your pocket. But I have Shingo’s name circled.
–You’re targeting Shingo specifically?
Finlay: Last year I was quicker than him. I caught him with a rollup. But I’m not sastified with that. I want to beat him like I beat Ishii, or Tama Tonga, or ELP. I want to dominate Shingo. Takagi’s a former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, as tough as they come, as good as they come. But I have to show him that I’m ten times better.
–August 8, your block ends with Eddie Kingston, which brings us full circle. Eddie beat Jay White before you attacked him at Battle in the Valley in February.
Finlay: Eddie got to do what I wish I could have done when he sent Jay White packing. Beyond that though, I’ve never had any thoughts about Eddie Kingston.
–You don’t rate him?
Finlay: Look, he was an indie darling for years and years, and finally got his big chance to talk and talk on national TV. But not he’s in deep waters. By the time he gets to me, he’ll have wrestled an entire G1, so I can’t wait for him to find out what the real big leagues are. I’m not Jay White, he fought like a coward. I fear no man, people fear me.
I’ve gone from town joker to king maker
–If you were to top your block, you’ll be facing someone in B block in the quarterfinals. There’s lots of names of interest there., including Okada, Ospreay and ELP as well. Is there someone that you think you’d want to face in the last eight?
Finlay: I haven’t thought about it too much, but I can see Okada making it out the block. I like the new edge he’s had this year, and I’ll be honest, I genuinely think that Okada is the best wrestler in Japanese history. So how good would it be for the greatest leader in BULLET CLUB history to beat the greatest wrestler in Japanese history? That sounds like money to me.
–You mentioned a new edge in Okada, as he’s facing a lot of the new generation in NJPW. There’s a new edge to BULLET CLUB, and youth in the group now as well. If you’re successful this summer, what’s next for the group?
Finlay: BULLET CLUB will be collecting gold left, right and center. I’ve formed a team of killers, guys you want to cross the street to avoid if you see them. We’re all like minded, all with the same focus. We plan on sending a message to the entire wrestling world that we’re taking over.
–The main target would be the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. You lost to SANADA in the finals of the New Japan Cup; would you want that poetry of challenging SANADA at Wrestle Kingdom, or perhaps even before then?
Finlay: If SANADA is still the champion, that makes things a little sweeter for me, because I get my revenge on him, but I don’t really care. The ultimate goal is that IWGP World Heavyweight title. Right now, I hold the NEVER belt, and that shows the world that I am the baddest on the planet. The world title signifies that you are the best. That’s what I need to accomplish, and like I said, BULLET CLUB is a weapon, and one I’m willing to use to get what I want.
–At last year’s press conference, you summed up your G1 campaign with two words ‘expect me’. Can you sum up the theme for David Finlay’s G1 33?
Finlay: I went from town joker to king maker in just a few months. Imagine what I can do for the rest of the year? This is just the beginning