Match card for POWER STRUGGLE: https://www.njpw1972.com/tornament/30836?showCards=1
All tickets are SOLD OUT, so you can enjoy all matches on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/
On Saturday November 3, Kyushu Sangokushi presents Power Struggle, live on NJPW World from the Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka. Headlining a stacked card will be EVIL, finally getting to challenge the IWGP Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho in his first defense. In this exclusive interview, the King of Darkness shares his thoughts on a huge opportunity.
‘Jericho match or no, I’ve not forgotten about Zack’
— So I’d like to talk about this match with Jericho at Power Struggle on November 3. This issue started after Jericho won the Intercontinental title from Tetsuya Naito at Dominion..
EVIL: Actually before that at Dontaku (May 3), when Jericho attacked Naito and went on a rampage, I came in to help run him off.
— So it goes that far back for you?
EVIL: I don’t know whether you could say we were connected from that point, but it was the same as at Dominion. Then, it was after the match and Jericho felt he that he could do whatever he wanted and keep beating down Naito. At that point, I stepped in. That was about putting a stop to him, it wasn’t me throwing my hat in the ring.
— It didn’t matter that it was Jericho per se?
EVIL: That ring is my domain. My domain, my rules. And if you don’t abide, then I’ll have to make you.
— You were putting Jericho in his place. Months later of course, at King of Pro Wrestling, it was Jericho assaulting you. Did you expect him to try to get revenge at some point?
EVIL: I was honestly focused on beating Zack at the time.
— People getting jumped after a match is one thing, but before it is all but unheard of.
EVIL: I kind of knew that he’d come after me at some point, but I see where the idea came from. Before a match, it makes more impact, it’s more embarrassing, more humiliating. In that regard, I get it. He got me good.
— It’s really an any means necessary approach. He certainly doesn’t care about the New Japan rulebook.
EVIL: He’ll really stop at nothing to get what he wants. But when it comes to that, I have a few tricks of my own…
— He’s a champion, and a global star. He’s really throwing caution to the wind in coming at you. You’re both certainly motivated.
EVIL: It’s pretty clear already this is going to be a dangerous one.
— Of course, this attack from Jericho came just as you were planning to get revenge on Zack Sabre Jr. for the times he beat you in tag matches during the last tour. How do you feel about that issue being put on the back burner?
EVIL: (Zack) pinned me twice. I was dead set on righting that wrong, and then it became a no contest. Jericho comes in, asks for a singles match and New Japan gave it to him just like that. The company moved fast enough to give you whiplash.
— At the same time, Zack was paired with Tetsuya Naito for Power Struggle. So this ZSJ/EVIL issue is pending.
EVIL: Jericho match or no, I’ve not forgotten about Zack. He didn’t overwrite that save file, he just started a new game.
— EVIL vs ZSJ is still in the background.
EVIL: The match was made, so I’m focusing on Jericho for now. That way, me and Zack becomes an ever bigger match.
— You mean you plan to win the Intercontinental Championship and defend against ZSJ?
EVIL: I could absolutely see that happening, of course.
Jericho talking about the guys he’s beaten. Those names are supposed to intimidate me?
— Jericho called you out in a video message posted online recently. Did you get a chance to see it?
EVIL: He likes the sound of his own voice, huh.
— He brought up names of people he’d faced, like the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero. He said he’d ‘make you famous’.
EVIL: That was then, this is now. Those names are all big, for sure. But now, are those names supposed to intimidate me? It just makes him a bigger stepping stone to jump on in my book. The biggest.
— You don’t dispute that Jericho is a world class talent?
EVIL: He’s been all over the world and been at the top of his game. He is one of very few to do that. I recognize that. That’s it.
— So to get to the crux of this, who is Chris Jericho the wrestler in EVIL’s eyes?
EVIL: He’s been at the top in Japan. He’s been at the top worldwide. He is a superstar, no question… but he’s not my kind of wrestler.
— You don’t care for him much?
EVIL: He’s been in New Japan for a year now, and in that time he’s somebody I never once thought about up till now.
— His match with Kenny Omega drew viewers the world over, but it didn’t do anything for you personally?
EVIL: Right. It was a case of ‘oh, hey, Jericho’s really in NJPW’, but that match didn’t resonate with me enough to think ‘I want him next’.
He had that goofy makeup on under his mask at Ryogoku; he’s a talentless makeup artist to boot.
— Is there anybody in WWE that is your type of wrestler?
EVIL (not listening): Jericho’s not my type. Not at all. That’s the truth.
— I see.
EVIL: And man, his makeup! At Ryogoku he had that stupid goofy half assed makeup job under his mask. Was that… what was that? Was it supposed to be intimidating in some way? He talked about ‘hiding his gorgeous face behind a mask’ and then he takes it off and he’s a crappy trick or treater!
— Harsh words. Do you agree at all with Jericho suggesting that by facing him you’ll become a superstar?
EVIL: Jericho’s undeniably a big name. But he’s a big name. As a wrestler he’s done. A faded superstar is still a ‘superstar’ I guess.
— A ‘faded superstar’?
EVIL: Jericho’s going round saying ‘by facing me you’ll become famous’ ‘you’ll be a star’ ‘your career will skyrocket just by sharing a ring with me’. Ok fine. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take everything you’ve done, all you’ve achieved, everybody you’ve beaten and use that to make you the biggest stepping stone you can imagine. And, as I step on you, I’ll plunge you into darkness!
— As you’re likely aware having seen him with Kenny Omega back at Wrestle Kingdom, the American wrestling fans tend to have Jericho’s back most of the time. Is that something you’re conscious of?
EVIL: There’s no denying that when you wrestle him you get that international attention. I was just in Ireland, and the fans there were telling me to go and kick his ass.
— I see. What do you think about the hardcore style Jericho has adopted as of late?
EVIL: He sees himself as the very image of ‘anything goes’. My answer to that though- if that’s the way you really want to go about this, be careful what you wish for.
— You’re certainly not afraid to get hardcore. The G1 match you had with Okada last year springs to mind.
EVIL: I don’t see myself as having any limitations. Any kind of match is ok with me. But especially when it comes to this match with Jericho, there’s no limits, no restrictions. I’m prepared to cross any line you want to draw.
I’m just thinking about beating him up.
— What do you think of Jericho’s submission hold, the Walls of Jericho?
EVIL: When you think of Jericho’s famous moves, the Walls of Jericho, the Lionsault, the Codebreaker, they’re all relatively simple moves that he’s managed to really take for himself and make his own. In that sense, even though he’s really not my type of wrestler, there’s still things about him I absolutely respect.
— You can respect someone without liking them.
EVIL: He does a lot of damage with simple maneuvers. That’s kind of similar to my philosophy. I have to be really careful of every little thing he does.
— At King of Pro Wrestling, you received one of those Codebreakers.
EVIL: I did. That’s a powerful move, very effective. The memory of how that felt is burned in my subconscious now.
— So Naito faced Jericho on June 9 at Dominion. Has he given you any advice on how to take on Jericho?
EVIL: Nothing too in depth, he just told me to be careful because of how violent Jericho can become. Apart from that, there were some parts of the Dominion match that I made sure to bear in mind and prepare for when it comes to Power Struggle.
— You two have fairly similar styles. You could really mesh with one another in the ring.
EVIL: I’m not giving it much thought in that regard. It’s simple. Blow for blow, if it gets violent, it gets violent. If we go outside, then we go outside. I’m just thinking about beating him up.
The King of Darkness the only one that can turn Shinsuke Nakamura’s white belt black.
— It seems highly likely that you and Jericho will be the main event at Power Struggle, and the venue of the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium is quite significant to you.
EVIL: Yes. I had the debut match against Goto there (November 7 2015) beat Shibata here for my first title, the NEVER Openweight Championship (November 5 2016) and beat Okada in the G1 there (August 5 2017). It’s a place where a lot of the big turning points in my career have happened, and I think this Jericho match will be right up there with my most significant moments.
— This is the first time you’ve challenged for the Intercontinental Championship. Your thoughts on the title?
EVIL: Jericho hasn’t defended that title at all, right? Not once, and he hasn’t been around. So even though he had that name value, the belt seems to be paling in significance somewhat. But that makes it interesting in a way. That’s why I say I want to shroud that white belt in darkness.
— The title is synonymous with (current WWE wrestler) Shinsuke Nakamura because of how he elevated it.
EVIL: It’s not just Nakamura, but a lot of the champions that came after that painted that belt with their own color. The King of Darkness is the only one that can plunge that belt into pitch black. Not Jericho.
— You want to make the white belt black?
EVIL: Hm, hm, hmmm. This is EVIL! EVERYTHING is EVIL! All of it: EVIL! Chris Jericho, remember that.