Jon Moxley might not have won his first G1 Climax, but he went all out, certifying himself as one of the toughest in NJPW’s ranks. In our exclusive interview, Moxley reflects on his campaign, and talks about his forthcoming plans in NJPW!
–First of all, can you talk about the experience of your first G1?
Moxley: G1 Climax 29 was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. The intensity never let up. There’s no peaks and valleys in the G1, no ‘go hard tonight, relax tomorrow’. It’s just full throttle constantly for four or five weeks.
A lot of times when you have a blow away performance, and win, you’re on top of the world. You kinda want to have a cigarette and then go and raid the fridge, just relax, y’know? But there’s five, six, seven matches left with the top talent in the world that are trying to hurt you and take you out. I know that everybody brought a certain level of intensity, where they wanted to be the guy that took me off the map and out of NJPW. Guys wanted to make their names off of me. I had a target on my back through the whole tournament, and I proudly brought the fight to them before they brought the fight to me.
Nobody got out of the ring unscathed. Maybe some people got their hand raised (F***ing Yano) but everybody knew they’d been in a war after they got out of the ring with me.
–What matches in particular were most memorable for you during the tournament?
Moxley: The first main event I had in Japan was against Tomohiro Ishii in Korakuen Hall. It was the first time I’d been in Korakuen Hall at all, and the main event in that historic building creates a certain kind of pressure. If I’d have gone out and laid an egg on that one, it wouldn’t have been good for my prospects for the rest of the tournament. Being in my first main event, it was really important I got the win, while I showcased my abilities in their purist form.
Ishii was the perfect opponent for me, because I don’t like BS, gimmicks, interference. I don’t like to mess around, I just like to go in gun slinging. Whoever’s the fastest draw, we’ll find out and see who goes down. I don’t want to think about outside interference, I just want to go straight ahead. ‘F*** it, f*** you,’ ‘F*** you too’ and just do it. That’s Ishii, so we’re just perfect opponents for each other. We just had a showcase of glorious violence.
He was another guy trying to make his name off of me, flying through tables. He was trying to out hardcore a hardcore guy, and as I proved, you can’t do that. At the end of the night, standing victorious was one of, if not the most special, purest feelings of my entire career. That’s why I keep doing this. It isn’t for money, fame, or chicks, cars, anything like that. It’s for that feeling, of bleeding, sweating after going full out for 20 minutes. You’re exhausted, but the fans are standing with you because they don’t want to go home yet. You don’t want to take a shower because you don’t want that moment to end.
I hadn’t had that feeling for a long long time, because in companies I’d previously been in, it was always clouded by some other factor. Here it was just the purest feeling. New Japan is just pure pro wrestling, and that’s what I love, that’s what I do.
–Were there ever any particularly difficult moments of the tour?
Moxley: The hardest night of the G1 was when I faced Jay White. He isn’t the most physically intimidating opponent when you compare him to monsters like Shingo, Goto or Ishii, but he had a lot of help at ringside. Every time I got the jump on him, someone came in and it was like wrestling three guys at once.
More than that it happened to be… the second day, I wrestled Taichi on the first day, and it was fine. I went through him like a buzzsaw, off to a good start. I’d come in prepared and felt great but I don’t know whether it was the travel or over training or what, but I woke up the second day and ‘ahh!’ I couldn’t move my head side to side. The nerve running through my neck to my shoulder blade and to my triceps. I don’t know whether it was a pinched nerve, or something like a stinger, but even with ice or massage there was no real alleviating it. I kept coming back to different degrees. I could manage it through that 5-0 streak, but by the time I got to Jay White, my second to last opponent, I was really hurting.
I’m not making excuses, we all know why the match went the way it did- F you Gedo- but every time I hit the mat… it was very painful to get through. I felt like I weighed a thousand pounds. I felt a shot of pain every time I hit the mat, hit him, or he hit me. It was a grueling 15-20 minutes at full tilt. I didn’t want to be lazy; I could have tried to protect it or worked a safer style, but this is the G1 and I didn’t want to take my foot off the gas. In the end, I didn’t win, but I was proud of myself just for gutting it out.
–Before the G1 you compared it to the Olympics. After you’ve gone through the tournament, how did it live up to your expectations?
Moxley: When you look at an Olympian, you’re looking at the top of any sport. Look at Ibushi having won the G1, the things he can do in the ring, the preparation he had to go through, what he had to go through with his ankle injury. You can compare him to any athlete in any sport. Hell, you can compare him to a bodybuilder. Look at the traps on that kid! He even has great hair. I hate him. I hate Kota Ibushi. You know how much work I have to go through for my mediocre traps and bad haircut? He’s gifted. But nobody slacks off for those five weeks. Anybody that goes through that tournament is comparable to any other athlete in any other sport.
— You spent a lot of time with Shota Umino during the tour. What’s your impression of him, and what are your expectations for him for the future?
Moxley: Shooter’s a great kid. It’s the family business for him obviously, and that gives him a leg up on the competition, but that puts more pressure on him too because his dad being a famous referee and being born into the business isn’t always a good thing. There’s extra pressure on you because people think you’re being handed a spot and aren’t working as hard as they are. That isn’t the case with Shooter. He’s in the Dojo every day, doing all the work.
One thing that really impressed me during the tour was the Young Lions. They work out before every event, and it makes me cringe watching them taking falls, taking suplexes, hitting the ropes, beating each other up, doing squats, bridges, crunches, running the stadium steps every night, even if they have a match that night. They’re in the Dojo busting their asses. The militaristic discipline was really impressive and Umino is right in there working his ass off. I expect that hard work to pay off, and I think he’ll be a big star one day. He’ll be a champion in New Japan, and when I’m old and broken down and he’s a big star maybe he can throw some Yen in the mail! If I can be any part of someone’s journey on their way, that’s great. I was given a lot of opportunities in this business, so if I can sprinkle a little dust on anybody, that’s all good.
–In the Budokan on August 11, you faced Juice Robinson. You’d beaten him on your debut to win his IWGP United States Champion, and on that night he beat you and prevented you from reaching the finals of the G1. What are your thoughts on this issue with Juice?
Moxley: I told the world, and I told the media. If he wants a shot at the US Championship, he gets it, but only if it’s no disqualification. I don’t want a referee in the way to save him from his fate. If he can beat me in that environment, fine. Take the championship; you deserve it. But let’s put this thing to bed, no DQ, and no ref to step in between us.
–You were in the B block during the G1. Was there anybody in the A block you’d like to face in the future?
Moxley: I enjoyed being a part of B block. We had a certain pride in the B Block; the A block was kind of an all star cast, and people looked at it like the premier group, but we were more of the brawlers, the bruisers, the crazier types. But if I’d have faced someone like Okada in the finals, I think I could have won. Him, Tanahashi, those are bucket list guys that anyone wants to get in there with. KENTA is a guy who just wants to kick you in the face as hard as possible. I’d face him. Zack Sabre Junior, you might not think it, but i’m a big fan of technical wrestling and submissions and I’d like to get in there with him. Lance Archer would be a challenge, chopping down the big tree. Even Fale, even though I don’t like messing with BULLET CLUB, beating a guy that big is a big notch on your belt. Even people who weren’t in the tournament; Minoru Suzuki, for example.
–Do you have any other goals right now, things you want to do or achieve in NJPW?
Moxley: As United States Champion, I think I’ve gotta settle the score with Juice Robinson. Before I do anything else, that’s number one on the agenda. So let’s get an answer, sign the contract, get the plane tickets and get that out the way. After I put him in the ground, I plan on remaining US Champion. After that I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people gunning for that title. I’ll have my head on a swivel, there’ll be challengers coming from all directions. Already there are people who beat me for the G1, so they could make a case to challenge me. People could pop out all of a sudden and then we have an issue.
The plan, if I have one, is to stay right here at the top and not take any steps backward.
–In your interview before the G1, you mentioned that you’d talked to Karl Anderson about the idea of going into the G1. Do you have a message for him now that you’ve done it?
Moxley: When the idea of doing the G1 was floated to me, I texted Karl and asked him what the whole deal was. He said ‘you’ll love it,’ because he knows the kind of guy I am.
I didn’t win, and I got the crap kicked out of me, so I guess I can blame him for the state my body’s in. Hope you enjoy your fat contract while I was getting the crap kicked out of me, jerk. Then again, this was probably the most rewarding experience of my life so I’m glad he didn’t talk me out of it.
–To go back to your match with Ishii, you slammed his head into the famous signs in Korakuen Hall. Was that something you had planned before?
Moxley: No, I found out it was famous later! But I guess those metal signs are like beacons that wrestlers are drawn to. You see something like that and you just want to bounce somebody’s skull off of it. I’m surprised it’s still there and hasn’t fallen off.
–You talked a fair bit about Minoru Suzuki before the G1, and you mentioned him earlier. He wasn’t in the G1 but he said on Twitter he’d be interested in fighting you. Can you talk more about Suzuki?
Moxley: He’s just one of those guys I’ve always been a big fan of. He might wrestle another ten years, you don’t know, but you never know how many chances you might have to get in the ring with some guys. I’ve had the chance to wrestle the biggest stars in the business, guys I grew up watching as a kid all the way to today’s best. There’s very few on the list to check off and say ‘I wrestled him once’. Just to get the chance, just to see what would happen. You never know the chemistry we might end up having, or even if I got choked out in two minutes, so be it, it’d be an experience.
–You mentioned KENTA. He had said that in America the two of you never got a chance to face each other, that there was a big gap between the two of you. He’d like to face you and show what he could do in New Japan as KENTA. What are your thoughts on him?
Moxley: I love KENTA. He was one of my favourites to watch during the tournament. I watched him every night, watched his match with Okada from the crowd actually, it was tremendous. I love his simplicity, his violence. Just straight up, no BS, hard strikes and hard submissions.
If you’d have seen me and KENTA over there it wouldn’t really have been me and KENTA. At the end of the day I think me and KENTA showed with this tournament: over there they really do put you in a box. In NJPW, you’d be getting violent KENTA, violent Jon Moxley. You’d be getting a fight and that’s what people pay to see.
Our experiences in A and B block kinda mirrored each other. I watched his appearance in the press conference, when he said ‘I’m F***ing KENTA’. I get what he was saying. He wasn’t trying to be cute or funny. He and I were coming from different places to anybody else in the tournament. We were coming to prove a point. A lot of people were surprised we started at 4-0, 5-0. He beat Ibushi, I beat Naito. A lot of people were surprised, but I wasn’t. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were in the finals because we were both bringing a lot of deep seated anger, violence and frustration that a lot of people at the outset weren’t ready for.
–To look ahead, we’re in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 and 5. Is that interesting to you?
Moxley: 100% I plan to be at the Tokyo Dome. I don’t know who I’ll be facing, whether I’m still US Champion. But I’ve been in Wrestlemania, in the G1, and this is the next step. Anyone who’s anyone in Japan has competed in the Tokyo Dome, so I absolutely plan on being there.
–You’ve wrestled in some of the most famous venues in the world. Was there any particular venue during the G1 that was significant to you?
Moxley: I’d never been in Korakuen Hall before this tour. that might be my favourite as one of the smaller hotter, sweatier buildings. I always had a lot of affection for the former ECW Arena (the 2300 Arena) in Philadelphia. I had a lot of great moments there in my younger years. Deathmatches, hardcore stuff. I was a fan of ECW growing up so it was special for me to wrestle there, but it’s a hot sweaty dump, and Korakuen is the same way. It just brings a certain kind of fan. Me and Ishii could have had the exact same match that we did but in a different building and it wouldn’t be quite the same.
Sumo Hall as well, that’s where I first worked in japan, the place where I debuted in New Japan and where I fell in love with wrestling for the people in Japan so that’s special as well. The Tokyo fans are the best, so to wrestle in front of 40,000 of them in the Tokyo Dome I imagine would be an amazing experience.