El Desperado returned to action after a near six month absence on October 14. Just before he and partner Yoshinobu Kanemaru started their Super Junior Tag League campaigns on the Road to Power Struggle, NJPW1972.com sat down with both men to get their thoughts.
‘I’ve never had to take time off, myself’ ‘That’s incredible, after 20 years’
–So today, I hope we can focus on the Super Junior Tag League, which starts this week.
Kanemaru (YK): Well, don’t bury the lede here! Despe’s return at Ryogoku was something else, wasn’t it?
Desperado (ED): Ahh, no, no, it was all down to ‘Nobu’s assist! Tell the truth… I haven’t even had the match yet! (interview conducted before October 14)
–Sorry, this interview is going out after your return match…
ED: So we have to talk as if everything went fine on Monday night?
YK: No problem, we’ll be fine.
–Desperado, you’ve been out of action since before Best of the Super Juniors due to a fractured jaw; have you been keeping up with the junior heavyweight division during your time away?
ED: It’s odd, but during my time off, I didn’t. I followed what Suzuki-gun were up to. I’m not like the fans, I’m not interested in looking at everything that minutely. If I did, it’d just stress me out seeing people do things I couldn’t.
–Do you understand how Desperado feels, Kanemaru?
YK: No. I’ve never had a big injury.
ED: Really? In 20 years, that’s incredible.
YK: Just some rough hangovers, heheh. Actually, to tell the truth, I did break a bone once, had to take a couple of days off.
ED: A couple of days for a broken bone?
YK: It was a toe. I fell down the stairs at home (laughs).
ED: Ah, so not an injury during a match at all (laughs). But breaking your toe affects you more than you might think. I broke a toe during a match once and couldn’t put my foot on the floor at all.
YK: Right. You know, if we’re not careful, this is just going to be an interview full of meaningless chit-chat.
ED: Let’s get down to business.
What sucked was having the jaw wired.
ED: I mean really, I think everybody takes time off due to injury differently, right? Taichi would be the type to watch matches and analyse them before he comes back.
YK: Yeah, maybe.
–Did you two stay in touch during the time off?
YK: No, not really. We can live separately. We aren’t one of those teams that need to be in constant contact during our private lives in order to work well in the ring together.
ED: We maybe swapped messages once a week. He sometimes asked me how it was going, that kind of thing. I don’t want to worry him, and it’s really just been a thing of leaving it to the doctors and gutting it out.
–Was it hard for you to eat with the broken jaw?
ED:Nah, I was able to eat right away. It’s actually the second time I’ve done my jaw in; the first time, I had to have a tube through my nose giving me this nutrient stuff.
YK: Gross. Does that make you full?
ED: Well, it was 300 calories, three times a day; morning, noon and night. So altogether it’s less than 1000 calories in a day, and even though they call it ‘nutrient’ I have no idea whether it was actually good for you or not. What sucked this time was that I actually broke my jaw in two places, and having it wired and set was awful. They pass the wire right between the small gaps in your teeth.
YK: Ooh, nope, nope, nope. Like a factory in your mouth. Anyway, at least you came back at a good time.
–Just in time for Super Junior Tag League.
ED: The last junior tag match I saw was the Kagoshima title match.
–El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori defended against Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles, the Birds of Prey.
ED: A lot of jumping around.
YK: I didn’t watch any of it. I figured they’d have that kind of match though.
ED: I got blown up just watching it. (laughs) On the one hand I want to say ‘yeah, it was cool, awesome, spectacular, good job, clap clap clap’. But on the other hand I thought you don’t have to flip all over the place to win a match, heheh. But you know what sucked? Komatsu and Tanaka’s match with Phantasmo and Ishimori, in Korakuen.
— You mean Roppongi 3K, SHO & YOH against ELP and Ishimori, when the BULLET CLUB team won the titles.
ED: It was like they were wrestling two singles matches in one. Not a tag match at all.
YK: We’re going to have to give them the benefit of our considerable experience, heheheh.
Write us down as ‘Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado with DOUKI’
–You two held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships for nine months last year and pretty much dominated the conversation. So this Super Junior Tag League is a chance for you to reclaim that spot.
YK: I haven’t held a belt all year. But this will be a breeze. Looking at the teams in this thing, you can see right away ‘ah, this team will do this, that team’s only capable of that’.
ED: Oh, one thing real fast. I want you to write us down as ‘Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado with DOUKI’. That way if I’m tired we can get him in there instead.
YK: Oh, yeah, good call. DOUKI will be in there about 80% of the time.
–That might be difficult… Let’s go through each of your opponents in turn. First of all is Roppongi 3K, who are looking to win their third consecutive Junior Tag tournament.
ED: Now you mention it, we lost in the three way final last year, right?
–With RPG3K and BUSHI and Takagi, yes. They beat you during the league as well, but if you look at tag title matches last year, you beat them twice.
YK: They beat us? I can’t remember that at all. All’s said and done though, we have them in the palms of our hands.
–They have won two junior tag tournaments and are three time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
ED: Considering they look so wimpy, that’s pretty impressive. I don’t like the idea of SHO aiming for my jaw though.
YK: Ah, it’s OK. Those two are totally incompetent when it comes to mounting any kind of concerted team effort.
ED: Right. We should be off to a good start.
They don’t look like they get along. I bet they don’t communicate well at all.
–The next night in Korakuen Hall, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo, the tag champions.
YK: They don’t seem like champions to me or not. Win or lose, I don’t think they seem title worthy at all.
ED: They seem like great singles wrestlers. But as a tag team? They’re just out there doing what they want to do as individuals. Out there with their precious workrates.
YK: They look at their opponents, do their stuff, and they’re lucky a belt falls into their laps. They don’t look like they get along; I bet they don’t communicate well at all.
ED: I bet.
–Phantasmo came along right as you got injured, Desperado, and he was strong in Best of the Super Juniors before winning the Super J-Cup. Your thoughts on him in particular?
ED: My thoughts? Why does that guy always look so tired?
YK: Haha! He never looks particularly motivated.
ED: Athletically, he’s gifted. His sense of balance, the things he can do, head and shoulders above.
YK: Have you wrestled him before?
ED: One time, in England. That was before BULLET CLUB, but he does pretty much the same stuff. One thing I can’t forgive that he did to me was spit on his hand before he chopped my chest. If he tries that again, I’ll mess him up.
YK: Gross! That’s something to watch out for. I think I’ll wear a shirt for this match.
Whether Taguchi and Rocky do well all depends on who takes the initiative to lead that team.
–October 22 in Iwate, you’re facing the two coaches, Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi.
YK: This is the only match that seems hard to predict.
ED: Right. This was the only team on the list that leaped out at me. It’s hard to figure out what they’ll do, so I’m kinda looking forward to it. RPG3K, it’s always the same old stuff, but those two have their own spins on things.
YK: For sure. I was impressed by Rocky in Best of the Super Juniors. He isn’t like all the flippy-do guys we have lately. He’s smart.
ED: He doesn’t just do goofy stuff. The goofy stuff is goofy though.
YK: Yeah, goofy is as goofy does.
–So even though they’re quite comical at times, you recognise their own ability.
ED: The only question is who will take the initiative and lead that team? How well they do all depends on that.
YK: They might be experienced, but a thrown together team is still a thrown together team. They don’t have experience together, and that’s why we’re better.
That’s all for part one! Check out part two where Despe and ‘Nobu break down the rest of the field!