Just what does KENTA really feel about ‘HIRO’ Goto and the NEVER Openweight Championship? We caught up with the champion during World Tag League!
To be honest, I don’t trust anybody. Not NJPW employees, not you doing this interview, nobody.
–A lot of people are talking about your backstage comments of late. Is that buzz something you’re aware of?
KENTA: Not at all! I’m just doing what I want to do and having some fun. What people think when they watch is up to them. Nobody else is in my thoughts…
–Post match interviews and backstage comments isn’t really part of the WWE culture. Was that part of the transition to NJPW you were particularly aware of?
KENTA: It sounds like you’re angling for some juicy insider stuff. Here’s the thing, in WWE, promos were in English, obviously. In Japanese I can do a lot more with double meanings or turns of phrase that are pretty difficult in English, right?
–It’s easier to put yourself out there now you’re back in Japan?
KENTA: I’d say that’s pretty obvious.
–When we last interviewed you, it was before you joined BULLET CLUB. You seemed to be on your best behavior then…
KENTA: Best behavior? I was fumbling around for who I was. Put it this way; I hardly trust anybody. Not NJPW employees, not even you doing this interview.
–You don’t trust me?
KENTA: Why should I? It’s all pretty transparent. There’s no buzz around here lately so we’ll get that guy to say something the geeks will like and then you call me in here. I never said I wanted to do this, you know.
–If you didn’t want to do this…
KENTA: I’m not going to do what you think I’m here to do. I’m not some cheap hack who comes in here and ‘pew pew’ shoots for you to get clout, and I don’t want you to make me. That’s why I don’t trust you.
–Well, erm, sorry?
KENTA: But I *do* trust BULLET CLUB. Jado and Gedo are two guys you can really hitch your wagon to. They’re a great comfort.
–There’s lots of photos of you and Jado on social media.
KENTA: It’s fun to be on the road with Jado. Mentally, and I mean this in a good way, you wouldn’t think he’s 50.
–To get back to your backstage comments, you used to be very critical of your opponents.
KENTA: I am now, aren’t I?
–Well now there’s a little backhanded complimenting going on, it feels like…
KENTA: Well, maybe that’s just how things turned out. When I first came in here… actually nah, I don’t want to talk like that, I’ve only been here four months!
–You don’t want to go in depth?
KENTA: Just that if people choose to take things a certain way, that’s up to them.
–It feels as if you’re keenly aware of everything that’s going on online. Are you a vanity searcher?
KENTA: Well if I did vanity search or not, I think people can feel free to talk s**t about me online if they like, but the losers who insist on tagging you while they’re at it? They get slapped back fast.
–There were a few harsh comments when you entered the G1.
KENTA: If it was now, I wouldn’t care but back then… oh dear, I’m saying too much again! Look at me!
–You don’t want to talk about it?
KENTA: It was this summer just gone, right? I’m not talking about something so recent.
–You feel like I’m hassling you for an answer.
KENTA: Right. The clickbait store is not open for business.
–My apologies. But you have gotten a reputation for being good with Twitter.
KENTA: Not at all!
–You’ve been using Twitter for a while, but you haven’t wrapped your wrestling into your social media presence as positively as now.
KENTA: That’s just me with English. I’m sorry, I’m not a native speaker, I wasn’t born and raised in America. English is difficult. Sue me.
–Hirooki Goto has been getting a lot of your ire on Twitter lately.
KENTA: That’s because if he were serious, I wouldn’t have a chance. You can’t beat a natural airhead like him. I can put all my energy into thinking of something and he just slams it right back without a thought going on in his mind. The other day in Hamamatsu, when he was talking about some ‘executive committee’ BS?
–He said ‘what does KENTA want getting involved like that? We can’t win any of our matches like this. What does the executive committee think?’
KENTA: What a brutal comeback, right off the cuff. I can’t win against that guy.
I didn’t think Goto was cute at all until Hamamatsu
–Your backstage comments during the tour were more concerned with Hirooki Goto than the tag league itself.
KENTA: Everyone saying ‘oh I won, oh I lost, I’ll do my best tomorrow’, everyone sounds exactly the same every damn… Oh look, there I go again!
–You don’t want to talk about that either I assume?
KENTA: I don’t really want to be that serious about it, y’know? That might make some people think ‘he isn’t concentrating on the tag league’, and people that agree with that and people who don’t. That’s on the people watching the comments. You’re free to make what you think of it.
–Lately you’ve talked a bit about professionalism, you’ve been saying some quite pertinent things backstage.
KENTA: That’s what I mean, don’t say that kind of thing to me! If you want to feel that way then that’s fine. I don’t know.
–In your opinion, do you think your teasing of Goto is having some effect?
KENTA: I think it pretty clearly does, don’t you?
–In a different way to Tomohiro Ishii?
KENTA: Well, TOMO is a really straight-ahead kind of guy right? That makes him super cute. At first I didn’t think ‘Hiro Goto’ was cute at all, but then after I saw those Hamamatsu comments, about the committee, then I realized how cute he is! Not at all like TOMO, but still cute.
–And you’ve been going after YOSHI-HASHI with your ‘ugly’ comments.
KENTA: Well, it’s for his benefit isn’t it? I mean I wouldn’t go as far to say that if people weren’t picking on him nobody would say his name and he would lose all value, I wouldn’t say anything terrible like that but…
–But it really does feel like you’re doing your homework on him…
KENTA: Hey, lay off! You say something like that and it makes me seem as if I’m desperately searching for some talking point to make of him, just to make him seem moderately interesting. Gross. It’s hard work every day, you know.
I’m having a blast
–You won the NEVER Openweight Championship back in August in London. What does the title mean to you?
KENTA: Nothing, really. I don’t really know what being NEVER Champion means per se. But these last few months, when I’ve been entering with the belt, I’ve been getting this feeling that the NJPW fans want somebody other than me to hold it, right?
–That does seem to be the case, yeah.
KENTA: In that case, somebody should come and get this thing. If that doesn’t happen fast I’m going to get attached to this belt. Right now I don’t have any particular feelings for it, so somebody needs to come and get it off me fast.
–You’re not that attached to the title right now?
KENTA: I mean, I’m getting more and more attached to it. Someone needs to take it from me right away if they want it. Now or NEVER, you could say, heh.
–When you say you aren’t so attached to the NEVER title right now, is that because you have loftier goals in mind?
KENTA: I wouldn’t say that either, necessarily. Right now, I’m just doing what I couldn’t do at all over the last few years, and that’s do what I want to. Take each match as it comes and enjoy actually wrestling. If getting belts or moving up the card comes as part of that, well, then, that’s great but…
–So you’re enjoying yourself now?
KENTA: I’m having a blast.
–When you got your wins during the G1 you’d often say backstage that you were having fun.
KENTA: Ah, that was a lie though. That was putting on a front, looking tough and saying I was enjoying myself.
–So how were you actually feeling in that moment?
KENTA: I didn’t have enough left in the tank to enjoy myself. Conditioning wise, match quality wise. And there were a lot of eyes on me, sizing me up… Ah! There goes my gun again! It’s far too soon to look back on this summer! Stop badgering me here!
–Apologies. Up to now, you really haven’t talked that much in interviews or to the press about joining BULLET CLUB. Can we get into that?
KENTA: I told you, I don’t want to talk about it! God damn, you don’t have to know everything behind the scenes. Just shut up and enjoy it. Let the magic play out, ooh and aah and clap. Stop mining for gossip here.
–That’s how you feel?
KENTA: You guys in the NJPW office have your own secrets, but here you are prying into the wrestlers’ lives. I’m not giving you a damn headline.
–I’m very sorry. But to fans that know the connection you have to Katsuyori Shibata, your actions were a huge shock. Backstage after your attack Shibata said ‘I put my neck on the line for him to come here, and this is what he does; he doesn’t understand a damn thing’.
KENTA: Hehehe. He likes to think he put a word in for me. But what if me and Jado had everything going on behind the scenes beforehand, hmm? I’m not saying we did or we didn’t, but think on that for a second.
–On November 3 in Osaka you once again assaulted Shibata. Can you sum up your thoughts on him as of right now?
KENTA: Look, I’ve said this enough times that people are probably getting sick of it, but it’s all pretty simple; I’m not here to make friends.
–You have made that point clear.
KENTA: I’ve been in a lot of different companies over the years, and I didn’t really make any friends. Maybe the only friend I made was Katsuyori Shibata… Well, I guess he’s my former friend now.
–But that’s what a lot of fans are struggling with. Why end that friendship out of the blue?
KENTA: How dare someone else decide whether something like that was out of the blue? How dare you pretend to know what emotions went into that moment? Hey, look, if that’s what you think, whatever. But know this; that man was the only person I could call a friend in this business.
–Shibata was your first friend in pro-wrestling.
KENTA: And now he isn’t my friend anymore. But in my opinion, what I can’t believe is this idea that Hiro Goto and Shibata are friends. Like what did Shibata teach him? He went to LA, right?
–Yes, he went to the LA Dojo before the G1.
KENTA: I’d love to ask Goto what the hell he actually learned when he went there. Eh, both of those guys are airheads, they probably got on fine, I’m sure.
The NJPW World cameraman might have taken my heart
–Have your thoughts on NJPW changed any since you started wrestling here again?
KENTA: I keep telling you, it’s too early to ask me that stuff. I’ve been here since July right? Barely four months. That’s like asking someone in May how they thought their year’s gone. But you want a review in progress? I don’t trust anyone in the office, and I don’t trust anyone who isn’t in BULLET CLUB. The end.
–You’re pretty clear on not trusting the office.
KENTA: Damn right.
–At Wrestle Kingdom 14 in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 & 5, there will be a double IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship match. People are calling it the ‘Double Gold Dash’. Do you have any thoughts on the title situation?
KENTA: What does everybody else think?
–A fan poll was in support of it, but there has been some criticism.
KENTA: That’s good, isn’t it? To have different opinions. Some people don’t want to see it, some want somebody to have two titles. People are talking either way, it’s a good buzz. Either way, I’m not IWGP champion, so what do I know?
–But being NEVER Champion lends your opinion some weight. You certainly have a right to it.
KENTA: But I’ve never been IWGP Champion, so I don’t know how those guys feel. Maybe I’m not like Joe Public fan over here. But I can’t know how I feel without having been in their position. Maybe if I were IWGP champion I’d be saying ‘I want two titles now’. Like, in boxing you have guys holding all kinds of belts at once, right?
KENTA: Hah! I can see right through you. You’re here thinking ‘there’s nothing in this interview that’s going to get page views’. I told you.
–Maybe when we’ve earned your trust we can do this interview again.
KENTA: Hahahahaha! Not for at least another year, sucker.
–But as we wrap up here, I do want to ask about your relationship with the NJPW World cameraman…
KENTA: Ah, yeah… I don’t know whether the regular guy’s been at ringside or not, but a few times there’s been this different cameraman backstage. It’s… not the same.
KENTA: It’s not like he’s harder to work with, really, but when he nods or shakes his head, the angle’s all wrong. The original cameraman was with me all the way through the #TOMO stuff. That cameraman, that’s a real woman.
KENTA: But then the cameraman on the opening day of this tour was different, and he’s all nodding and shaking the camera with too much energy. Too immature, like a teenager. My girlfriend is no girl! Then the next day, it’s someone else again and there’s no enthusiasm at all, it took me right out of it.
–So each cameraman is subtly different.
KENTA: Right. My girlfriend should be someone that is mature, but still fun. Dignified. A little bit of self-respect. So when I get that cameraman nodding all over the place like that it kills the scene, throws me off. But lately the right cameraman’s been coming, so it’s been a lot better.
–There you are, giving your heart to a NJPW staff member.
KENTA: Ah! Really? I don’t know I’ve given my heart to him. Maybe he’s taken it.