With his King of Pro Wrestling No Disqualification match approaching fast, NJPW1972.com recently sat down with Juice Robinson to discuss the IWGP United States Championship, his thoughts on Moxley and much more besides.
–Last time we talked, you were thinking about moving to Japan. You’re all moved in now? Everything’s done?
Juice: Everything’s done except furniture! I don’t have a couch, don’t have a table. There’s no sitting in my apartment, only standing. (laughs)
–Sleeping on the floor?
Juice: Well, I have a bed! So it’s standing or sleeping.
–What was most important to you when you were looking for a place?
Juice: I wanted to be on the same train line I’m familiar with, close to Suidobashi for Korakuen Hall. I wanted a gym close by, and I wanted to be within a stone’s throw of Shibuya and Harajuku to go out, but I wanted it nestled away a little bit as well, for it to be a bit quiet. Where I’m at is near a big park. It’s perfect.
–More than having a huge apartment, location was more important? Getting to work, getting to work out?
Juice: And to go and sit under a tree if I want, you know? Have that space to relax.
Everybody knows how bad I want to get the US title back, so I’m going to let my actions speak louder than words.
–You said a few months ago you wanted a place to keep your United States Championship.
Juice:… Which is somewhere in Las Vegas right now, I believe.
–What’s the difference between Juice Robinson the challenger and Juice Robinson the champion?
Juice: I think the biggest thing is that now I really know what to expect from (Moxley). The first time, I’m not going to say I was comfortable, but I was on a bit of a roll. I’d beaten Baretta, Chase, Fale, I was confident and I felt I was on top of the mountain. Then here comes Moxley, he bites my face off and takes my title.
Then the G1, I played it a little smarter and he didn’t play it so smart, so I caught him there and beat him. Now it’s the rubber match, and the big difference is I know what to expect with him, and we both know what to expect from each other.
I think match wise this will be similar to the first one. It’ll be a fight. But this time I won’t jump off the entrance, because that just about broke my pelvis. In the end, I want to leave with the title, and he desperately wants to keep it away from me.
–After you lost on June 5 you’ve been fairly quiet, and not giving comments backstage, or leaving it to your tag partners…
Juice: I was basically humiliated. I’d done a lot of talking before that match and I basically put my foot in my mouth and ate my words. So now I figured I should bite my tongue, and focus on beating him before I talk again. Truth is I don’t have all that much to say. Everybody knows that title meant- means- a lot to me. Everybody knows how bad I want to get it back, so I’m going to let my actions speak louder than words.
It’s going to be his style of match, so I’m going to have to get lucky. Or he’ll beat me and I’ll never see that title again.
–Do you think you had a different mentality, or a different style going into the G1?
Juice: I was healthy this year, which was big. Everybody said I looked more serious, but I was just more focused. I was trying to take one match at a time. The G1 is not the place to dance around and skip to the ring, but I’m still the same guy. After I win the title back, you’ll see me in Korakuen next week hopping around happy as a pig in s**t. Not now and not in the G1.
–You and Moxley were in the B Block during the G1. Moxley made the point that A Block had more of the wrestler’s wrestlers, while B Block had a lot of brawlers and different personalities.
Juice: It was more technique and finesse there, but in the B Block you had the brawlers, and the more… maybe not hard-hitting because the A Block were hitting hard too, but the B Block you had Shingo (Takagi), Goto, Ishii, Moxley, a bunch of guys that were just waffling each other. I was glad to be in that block. I had to be in the same block as Moxley to beat him, and I’m glad I did because otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
–In the Moxley match on August 11, he was trying to make you fight dirty. We saw him pull weapons out from under the ring, but you made sure it was finished in the middle with a wrestling hold.
–So like you said, this is the rubber match. The first time on June 5, you had to wrestle his kind of match, and you lost. In the Budokan, you made him wrestle at your pace and you won. Now this time it’s No Disqualification which…
Juice:…Automatically makes it his style of match. So I’m going to have to resort to what I did the first time and bring the fight to him. In the G1, he lost his cool, pulling out tables and chairs. He wasn’t thinking that night, I was. This time it is going to be his style of match, so I’m going to have to get lucky. Or he’ll beat me and I’ll never see that title again. Time will tell.
–You said that you know what to expect from Moxley now. How has your image of him changed over the last four months?
Juice: It hasn’t really changed since June. I caught him at a lucky time in the G1. I know he was hurting, he had a tricep issue, and I think he’s had surgery since. Now he’s probably coming in healthy, without the grind of the G1, when my body was perhaps in better shape. It’s going to be just like in June. He’s coming here to whip my ass. I knew that the first time, so nothing’s really changed, but now I have another chance in the same place.
I want people to think of me when they think of the US Championship.
–After that June 5 match in the post match comments you said ‘when I had that belt over my shoulder I never thought about the United States. I never thought about USA, the only letters that I give a damn about are IWGP.’ Where does the IWGP United States Championship fit in the New Japan landscape right now?
Juice: I would say it’s the number three championship, as far as significance. Right under the Intercontinental I would say. Perhaps equal. It’s not the granddaddy of them all, not the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but it’s up there.
I know I said I never thought about the US when I had the title. That was right after the match, and I was angry. I had a lot of critics after that, people that were only talking about Moxley and crowning him champion before the match happened. A lot of those people were American so-called ‘journalists’ and ‘experts’ and people that think they know everything. When I said that I was talking directly to those kinds of people.
The IWGP means a lot to me because this was the place that gave me the platform, and an actual chance to be a successful pro-wrestler, so that’s why those letters maybe mean more than the USA to me. Or, that’s what I meant when I said it.
–A lot of American fans have commented that the IWGP United States Championship is rarely seen in the United States. It’s only been defended in the US once this year. Some fans were upset that New Japan went back to America last month for Fighting Spirit Unleashed, but the US Championship wasn’t there.
Juice: Of course. It’s like with Cody. I’m the only one who defends that title. Cody had it for a cup of coffee, now Moxley. They win the title and just sit at home. How many times did Cody defend it?
–He had a defense scheduled last December but…
Juice: He limped out and they cancelled it. That’s not what a champion is. And what’s Moxley done? Sat on his ass, getting his triceps stapled up. Injuries happen, but at least when I had that belt I defended it as much as I could. I was on the road up and down Japan, a fighting champion, and damn it, I should be the champion again. Forever. When you think of titles, you think of people. Like when you think of Ricky Steamboat you think of him as an Intercontinental Champion. Think of the IWGP title and you think of Okada, or Tanahashi. I want people to think of me when they think of the US Championship.
San Jose and Los Angeles in November. That title is perfect to be defended on those cards, and it can’t happen if it’s around (Moxley’s) waist.
–To put the US singles match aside for a second, after King of Pro Wrestling, we have Power Struggle and the Super Junior Tag League, and then it’s the heavyweight teams with the World Tag League.
Juice: We do, indeed.
–Last year you teamed with David Finlay.
Juice: Times have changed…
–Well, when Moxley started airing those mysterious videos, a lot of people speculated that it was Finlay that was in them.
Juice: Coming to beat up his best friend? I know, I heard that. But for fu- come on Debbie, I’ll beat you up man! (Laughs). Seriously, he’s got to get healthy, and I’m not sure how long that’s going to take, but I’m guessing it won’t be in time for World Tag League. So, Mr. (Mikey) Nicholls, if you’re free, so am I. Mikey seems like a pretty good partner, especially since New Japan and CHAOS are getting along so well.
–After World Tag League is Wrestle Kingdom. Two days this year between January 4 and 5, and everybody’s talking about the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships. Tetsuya Naito, Jay White, Kota Ibushi have all been talking about being double champions, Zack Sabre Junior suggested putting the RevPro title in there for a triple crown. As someone going for the US Championship have you thought about adding your voice to all the others, and going for a triple crown of your own?
Juice: Well, that’s why I said the US title is looked at by the company and the fans as the number three belt. All those guys are talking about combining the IC and the heavyweight belts. But if you throw in the US Championship, throw in all three and in the end there’s two fewer champions walking around. So I think everything’s fine the way it is. Jay, Ibushi, all those guys can do what they want, but the US Championship should stay as it is. And it should be defended in America, not held by guys who apparently can’t defend it in America.
–Your idea to make the title distinct would be to have it defended regularly in the United States?
Juice: Yeah. I would have loved to have been the champion and defended it at Fighting Spirit Unleashed. In the main event in Hammerstein Ballroom? That would have been so cool. We’re going to San Jose and Los Angeles in November. That title is perfect to be defended on those cards, and it can’t happen if it’s around (Moxley’s) waist.
–To change the subject slightly, how would you assess New Japan’s performance in the US this year as a whole?
Juice: We’re starting to figure it out. We’ve had growing pains, some issues, but give it another year and it’ll turn into a finely tuned machine. When you think about visa issues, or late start times, the thing is you want to be perfect, and we haven’t been perfect as a company in America. Things happen. In the end, all the events have been great, the matches have been great, but it’s this time next year that you’ll see that finely tuned machine.
I’ll bring that title on the bus, on the road, around my waist. Where it should be.
–Let’s get back to King of Pro Wrestling. Yes or no question; is Jon Moxley 100% focused on Juice Robinson Monday night?
Juice: No. I don’t think so. I still think that even though we’re 1-1 and this is the rubber match, I still think he sees me as a little 21 year old kid that he can just walk in and whoop my ass. I have to prove him wrong, and that’s fine. Let’s do that one more time.
–All the way through the G1, with your match with Moxley last on the schedule, the speculation was whether you were more focused on getting two points or beating Jon Moxley. Which is more important; proving you’re better than Moxley on his own terms, or winning the US title?
Juice: That’s a great question, and such a difficult one to answer. I think that the title means more to me. I’d like to say that being the champion means more. But now I’m thinking back to ten years ago, and the way he still looks at me. I know he doesn’t respect me. I just don’t know.
He’s a monkey on my back. He thinks that because he’s been doing it a few years longer, and he went on that fast track to the top in another company, he’s always looked down on me and that pisses me off. I have to beat him to get his respect.
I really don’t know which is more important. Luckily though, they kind of come together. If I beat him, I’m also the champion, so they go together. So it’s all one. Beat him, earn his respect, and be the champion. And bring that title back with me on the road in the New Japan bus and around my waist. Where it should be.