NEW JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING

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JAN.27.2017

#COLUMN

“Okada, no, all of New Japan. I see you. I see it all, laid bare”

Some may call him conceited and self absorbed, but Minoru Suzuki and his entire army took an unaware New Japan by storm on his return January 5.

Now, two years since last appearing in an NJPW ring, he challenges for the IWGP title February 5 in Sapporo.

In this exclusive one to one interview, Suzuki shows his true, chilling character. From disturbing silence to outright hostility, it’s a revealing and intense conversation.

■“What do you even mean ‘comeback’? We don’t belong here, don’t belong to you. We do what we want”

–So, on January 5th, you returned to New Japan after a two year absence. What was your mental state that night in Korakuen?

A return after a two year absence? Maybe that’s what you call it, from a New Japan perspective. No, we thought ‘we’ve arrived someplace new’. That’s all.

–Really?

All we thought was ‘let’s go there and take them for everything they’re worth’. What happened before has nothing to do with it.

–You said time doesn’t mean anything to you.

Well, what does ‘comeback’ even mean? We don’t belong ‘here’, don’t belong to you. We do what we want. There are idiots out there saying ‘oh they came back to us!’ but the words never crossed my mind.

–Maybe that wasn’t the right way to put things..

‘What are there guys saying?’ ‘Oh, they’re going to ruin our fun.. oh no, they’re going to destroy our precious entertainment’.. where do they get off, all high and mighty.

–That said, when you did emerge at Korakuen, a few boos aside, the reception was quite warm.

I don’t care if they enjoyed themselves or not. I’m not in the business of putting smiles on faces. I’m in the business of getting what I want. I only care about what my opponent’s thinking. Some loser in the crowd? I don’t really give a damn.

–Have you kept up to date with New Japan in the intervening years?.. ah you have.

That’s nothing to do with New Japan in particular. If I were to dumb it down for you, my antenna’s always working. Where are the richest targets? I’m always aware.

–And your antenna picked up New Japan.

What, you expected me to say ‘I don’t watch New Japan’? I watch, and I watch carefully. That’s why I could pick my spot like I did, and take out an immobile Okada.

–You swooped in after that punishing January 4 match.

I knew, you see. I knew what Okada would be thinking. I even knew what he’d say after it all the next day.

— Okada’s stance was that ‘if he wants to go, we’ll go’. You expected as much. The landscape in New Japan has changed over the last two years; was it with that in mind that you targeted Okada?

I’m not targeting Okada, I’m targeting the (IWGP) belt. It wouldn’t matter to me if Kenny had won that match. Either way.

–You did say that you were going to take every prize in New Japan. It was certainly a declaration of war on all fronts. But the main target, the top prize, is the IWGP Heavyweight Title?

What the hell gives you the right to say that? What belt is the top one to go for, that’s all according to you. You really think I care what’s on your agenda?

–I apologize.

And I’ll say it now- whatever we decide, whatever we want, we’ll take. Whatever anyone says.

■“I’m coming for his neck. He’s running scared, changing the subject”

–In your estimation, what kind of wrestler is Okada at the moment? Your positions have changed somewhat in the last two years.

Positions change, choices change, opportunities change, people change. That’s the kind of thing I keep up on. I follow everything in the press, keep up to date on everything.

–Has your opinion of Okada changed in the last two years?

Of course it hasl! Time’s gone by, and I’ve always known exactly what he’s been doing. He’s laid bare. I could give you a chart breaking down exactly what he’s done every day.

–Okada said, and I quote ‘I’m stronger now. Could you have beaten a guy as good as Kenny Omega? I want to show Suzuki how far NJPW has come in two years’

Hahaha. What are you ducking me for? I’m coming for you. I’m not talking about Omega, I’m not talking about being ‘away’ for two years. He doesn’t want to address me because he’s scared. I’m coming for his neck and he’s running scared, changing the subject.

–Okada also stated that he’d always hated you whenever the two of you crossed paths. Do you have anything to say about that?

‘Anything to say?” I don’t give a crap what he or anybody else feels about me.

–’I have no respect for him’…

I. Don’t. Give. A. Crap. Respect me or not, it doesn’t matter. Results matter. Ability matters. The rest is all talk.

■“I know exactly what New Japan is doing, and what they will do”

–In 2013, Suzuki Gun was feuding with CHAOS and you had a singles match with Okada. Afterward you said ‘him at 25, he’s a twinkling star. Me, I was more a blazing supernova’..

I forget.

–You don’t remember.

That’s right. I forget. What I said ages ago, like what others around might say, it doesn’t affect me here and now one way or the other. Whatever.

–You called him a ‘youngster’ a lot back then.

“Back then”, “back then”. Yeah, maybe I did back then. I forget. I wouldn’t call him that now.

–You said before that whatever belts you wanted you’d take. Do you have a particular vision for the future?

Why the hell do I have to tell the company what our plans are before we do it? You work for them, right? Well I’m not saying another damn word.

(Silence)

Alright, I’ll give you one thing, here’s your scoop. I know exactly. Exactly what New Japan is doing, and what it’s going to do. I know what meaning is put on which belt, and more than that, I know New Japan wants to go worldwide. That- that’s the goal.

–It’s New Japan’s international expansion that’s of value to you?

I never said that the IWGP title was worthless though did I. It’s a ‘treasure’. I said as much.

–There’s a wrestler at the moment who throws his ‘treasure’ around the place.

Hahaha. Monkey see monkey do, no? He’s copying what I did ten years ago.

— You certainly put All Japan’s Triple Crown through some rough treatment when you held it ten years ago. you think Tetsuya Naito is copying you?

He thinks he looks cool taking something important and treating it like trash. That’s fine. I’m not going to poke holes in it. It’s just a punk kid vainly trying to look badass. ‘oh maybe if I throw it this way I’ll look like a cool bad guy’. The result of a bit of trial and error. That’s all it is.

■“Who needs rankings? I’m above processes, it’s why February 5 is happening”

–NJPW has been to Hokkaido in the G1 but this year will be running in February in Sapporo for the first time in a long time. Do you have any thoughts on Sapporo as the venue for your title match with Okada?

Not really. Where matches happen, what circumstances, that’s you guys’ job. But taking the title, just like that? That’s all my ability.

–Some fans may say that you didn’t rise through the rankings and earn your title shot with Okada. How do you respond to that?

Rankings? Rankings? Who needs rankings? I’m above processes, that’s why February 5 is happening. Use your brain for two seconds.

–Your most recent challenge for the IWGP title was against AJ Styles in May 2014. It seems to some rather.. sudden?

You don’t think I have this all figured out? It’s this way because I made it so. I know. If I do this, management does this. All laid bare..

–In Sapporo, KES (Davy Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer) will challenge for the IWGP Tag Titles, and Taka Michinoku and Taichi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles. Will you be watching those matches?

I have something in mind, but I’m not talking.

–In your opinion, do you feel Suzuki gun and its members have changed over the last two years?

Maybe, maybe not. That’s for people watching to decide. I do what it takes for us to be in the ring and be successful. ‘Oh you did your best but it didn’t work out. But good for you, you’ve grown, you’re going through the process’, all that bullshit? No. Processes don’t make paydays.

■“I don’t care about people’s values, I don’t care about what people will say”

–So results are everything to you. Do you have a message for the New Japan fans?

What the-? Why the hell do I have to give a stupid message for the pathetic New Japan fans? Precious time, resources have gone into doing this interview for you. It’s all for you. There’s nothing in this crap for me, for us at all. So here, I’ll put it simply- you’re getting nothing from me.

–So watch the match and think what you will?

Hell, I don’t care if you don’t watch the match. The stupid little idiot kids that watch New Japan now. The kids, the 20, 30 somethings “New Japan is the best, New Japan has the best wrestlers”. Have you ever gotten a life beyond your bedrooms? Mind you, the same could be said for most of the roster.

–The fans only know about New Japan.

It’s a big, wide world you know? I’ve walked on it. I’ve journeyed. Journeyed a long time, almost thirty years. It’s a wide world. See it sometime.

–You’ve been through the school of hard knocks.

Well, yes, part of it is they only watch this, and only know about this. But it’s also that as far as everything else is concerned, they only believe what they’re fed. And they think they have the right to an opinion based on that? You haven’t ventured outside your hovel, but feel you have the right to judge me and what I’ve done? Pathetic.

–Do you want to change the minds of the New Japan fans?

No, I couldn’t care less.

(Silence)

The one thing I’ll say is that Suzuki gun has its own hopes and dreams, and a resentfulness of the fans. And that goes both ways. But the one place that gets forgotten about is in ring. When we wrestle the way we do, and there are still some flapping their gums, that pisses me off.

–Meaning?

Meaning how hypocritical are you? What’s different between us and your heroes, legends? Guy goes round punching opponents in the face with a closed fist (Genichiro Tenryu), and he’s one of the greatest legends of the business.

–You think the fans should be against that too.

We’re doing the same thing! Think of it this way ‘he was going to kill me so I killed him first, it was self defense!’ Really? Really? It’s all ending a life. Murder and manslaughter, all the same. Just a matter of perspective.

–And the same applies to what you do in the ring.

Look, I don’t care about people’s values. I don’t care what people will say. I care about the IWGP Heavyweight Title. That’s all I care about. I’m coming to take it, and I know what I’ll do when I get it. That’s it.

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