His appearance in Osaka Jo Hall on June 9 shocked the world. His words addressing the crowd were a bombshell. ‘See you in the G1 Climax’. With those words, KENTA declared his intention to join pro wrestling’s most prestigious tournament. In the second part of our extensive interview, KENTA gave his thoughts on other G1 contenders, and who he would like to face in New Japan.
(interview conducted June 10)
‘Jon Moxley? I would really like to face him as KENTA’
–So when you appeared at Dominion, you let it be known that you wanted in the G1 Climax. This will be your first G1, but how much have you seen of tournaments in the past?
KENTA: If you look at wrestling all over the world of late, there isn’t another tournament that’s as tough, as rigorous as this one. To come out on top of it all, that’s a tremendous, tremendous achievement. Incredibly difficult, but if I were able to make my mark and get results there, then that will instantly put me on the global map. It’s a huge opportunity.
–I see. The past few years you’ve been away, you haven’t really experienced Tokyo and Japan in the middle of summer.
KENTA: WWE would run their Japan tours in the summer, so I’ve spent a little time each year.
–The whole country’s gotten really hot during the summer these last few years.
KENTA: Well, I live in Florida, I like to think I’m used to the heat. Then again, doing matches in those temperatures is another matter.
–Not to mention it’s a whole month of matches one after another.
KENTA: I haven’t been in that environment for a while now. I wouldn’t say I’m concerned, but a part of me is wondering about how it’ll go.
— Jon Moxley was also in Osaka Jo Hall, and he also declared that he wanted to be a part of the G1. With both of your histories in WWE, are you particularly aware of him?
KENTA: Man, I really want to get in there with him! I mean, in WWE, he was right at the top, and frankly, I was right at the bottom. Over there, ‘Dean Ambrose versus Hideo Itami’ wouldn’t be a thing to write home about. I would really like to face him as KENTA.
–I see. Jon Moxley versus KENTA is a different prospect.
KENTA: Right. I want to kick his ass.
–The handcuffs are off for you, it makes a lot of these matches exciting.
KENTA: Yeah. It’ll be my first time facing most of these guys as well, so all the matches are fresh.
‘Naito’s got something. Something that makes him so popular. I want to see for myself what that is’
–As we speak here (June 10) the G1 blocks haven’t been announced yet. Looking at the names that probably will be in, Tetsuya Naito stands out. You’ve been in a tag team match with him before, correct?
KENTA: That’s right.
–March 8, 2014, Naito and Naomichi Marufuji teamed against you.
KENTA: Yes, against myself and Masato Tanaka. Very different style to today. Very different Naito to today! I mean, he’s so incredibly popular now.
–He definitely has a big following.
KENTA: He’s got something. Something that can make him that popular. I want to see for myself what that is.
–He’s very strong willed as well. That tag match was a very hard hitting one. If you faced him again I’m sure it would be quite the violent affair.
KENTA: That’s exactly what I want. From the bottom of my heart, I want to put it all out there. Straightforward, just go.
‘I have tagged with Ibushi before. He’s a different person now’
–You’ve also shared a NOAH ring with Kota Ibushi.
KENTA: I have. Not in a singles match, but in tags. Then again, he’s a different person now to the man he was then. I mean, I saw the match he had at Dominion with Naito. That was unreal. No doubt, he’s one of the top guys in Japan right now. He’s exactly the kind of guy I want to face. I want to test myself against the best.
— Zack Sabre Junior also spent a lot of time in NOAH, and has become a focal point in New Japan.
KENTA: Right, but it’s the same with him. I went to WWE, what, five years ago now? So I think he’s a very different guy now. I’m not sure whether I have a relevant frame of reference for them.
–I see. Even in Osaka, reporters were asking you who you’d like to face, but given this conversation we’re having, it’s clear the answer to that is ‘anyone’.
KENTA: Absolutely. Whoever I’d be facing, you can look at it as a fresh match.
–And you’ve never tangled with Tanahashi or Okada before?
KENTA: Not at all.
‘I chose to come here after a lot of thought. Quite frankly, if this doesn’t pan out, I’m done.’
–So, whatever block you’re in, it’s all fresh for you.
KENTA: Like I said before, I’ve been away from Japan for five years now. Everything is different now. The wrestlers themselves are different, and this whole business is different. I’m really not equipped to talk about a lot of the scene now. As an example, in Japan, there’s been this term ‘pu-joshi’ to talk about all the female fans who love pro wrestling lately. That word didn’t exist when I was here last.
–You were definitely popular with the ladies though.
KENTA: Ahhh, I wouldn’t say that! But there wasn’t a focus on that demographic then. What I want to say, it’s like the old Japanese fairytale, Urashima Taro.
–Urashima Taro gets taken to a kingdom under the sea. He thinks he’s been gone for a few days, but when he emerges it’s actually been hundreds of years.
KENTA: Right, even though I’ve only been away from Japanese wrestling for five years. It’s like, I see my kids every day, so I’m not so aware of how much they’re growing, but when other people see them for the first time in a while, they go ‘Woah! Look at how much you’ve grown!’.
–And in all this, you want to show the world pro wrestling done your way.
KENTA: It took a lot of thought for me to decide to come here. Quite frankly, if this doesn’t pan out, I’m done. That’s the resolve I have going into this. I’ve deliberately chosen a situation for myself where I have no excuses, and that’s my mindset. That said, I want to enjoy wrestling. Plain and simple.
— I see.
KENTA: Honestly, these past five years, I really don’t recall any moment that I enjoyed the process of wrestling. So here, if I can enjoy it, in my heart, I’m happy with however many points I get.
–How’s your physical condition going into the G1?
KENTA: I’m good. I’ve had time to focus on the tournament, get ready. Mentally I’ve been getting more and more hyped up for the tournament. Being able to appear in front of the fans in Osaka was a big boost.
–Did you watch the matches at Dominion?
KENTA: On the monitor, but yeah, I took it in. The nerves were kicking in before I went out though, so I had to focus on getting out there.
–Even KENTA gets nervous.
KENTA: Right. To have that reaction from the fans, though. Goosebumps.
–It was a very welcome atmosphere.
KENTA: I don’t know if every single fan wants to welcome me with open arms! There’s a lot of voices in all that, good and bad, but to get that huge reaction blew me away a little.