SHO talks on a brave new era for the junior heavyweights in NJPW
The retirement of Jyushin Thunder Liger on January 5 at Wrestle Kingdom 14 was symbolic of one generation ending, and a new beginning for junior heavyweights in NJPW and professional wrestling at large, and that before the global pandemic which has affected every element of our lives and the wrestling world.
New Junior Generation highlights the different players in a brand new junior heavyweight landscape. SHO is next in line!
Interview conducted early June 2020
I want to catch up to him. I need to catch up to him.
–So, your name has been on the lips of a fair few of your fellow wrestlers.
SHO: I guess so…
–Desperado had high praise for you when you’re fired up.
SHO: That’s good to hear. And Hiromu said he’d like to face me as well.
–He did, but he also had some criticism of you.
SHO: He did. It’s true, I said that I felt it was a night and day difference between him and me. He said that if I go out and say something like that then there would be no way I could beat him. But in the end that’s just what I really think. Maybe it’s wrong to feel the way I do, but…
–You were being genuine.
SHO: We’re about the same age, about the same level of experience, but he’s done that much more than me. I’ve never so much as challenged for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and he’s won the thing three times. It isn’t a vague X factor thing, there’s a very clear gap between us. But I want to catch up to him. I need to catch up to him.
–Hiromu also said that you only really seem to show what you can do during the junior heavyweight focused tours, and you tend to hang back in tag matches.
SHO: Maybe I should just be a singles wrestler?
–Hiromu did suppose that you didn’t want to tread on the toes of your senpai during tag matches.
SHO: Hmm, well in tag matches I don’t want to screw up and cost the team, so that gives me a weird sense of nervousness. Maybe that’s a lack of experience? I don’t know. But from the outside looking in, it always seems like LIJ gel together so well.
–There really doesn’t seem to be that hierarchy in LIJ.
SHO: So maybe the faction is the problem? Nah, CHAOS is great! But I do think that being in the corner with my senpai affects me mentally. You can’t exactly do what you want, or at least that’s how I feel, anyway.
Anyone can see how good Hiromu is. I want him ASAP.
–Hiromu characterized you as being negative.
SHO: Well, I look at it as a positive. I have the drive to overtake him. Anyone can see how good Hiromu is, and I want him ASAP. Just having a title match with someone like him is something to be proud of. To then go and potentially win? That’s huge.
–Hiromu said he has high expectations of you, and that’s why he was disappointed.
SHO: Well, I think I need to show him what I’m like wrestling YOH.
–That match really seems key to you,
SHO: I’d love to wrestle YOH and have the winner challenge Hiromu. I think everyone is looking for a way to get at Hiromu; me Despearado, YOH, Rocky… We already beat Rocky though.
–On February 20 for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. (Watch on NJPW World!)
SHO: Wrestling Rocky made me realize that I wouldn’t have a problem wrestling YOH. In the end, Hiromu only has one belt, so we’ll have to fight one of these days. Us wrestling would be good for the team, I think.
Why not G1 vs BoSJ?
–Right now it feels that the people at the top of the junior division all debuted in the 2010s. Do you think your time has come now?
SHO: I think so. If you look at the Best of the Super Junior lineup from the year I debuted, everyone is completely different now. And not many NJPW originals back then either, a lot of foreign wrestlers and wrestlers from other promotions.
–Really only Liger and Taguchi would be carrying the standard as NJPW wrestlers from the very beginning from that era.
SHO: And then YOH, Taguchi and I came in. I think from here you might see Master Wato come up, or Ren Narita return… I think that collection could easily outdo guys like Shingo or Ospreay.
–You think the next generation of juniors will be made in New Japan.
SHO: The era that Liger came up in was completely different to the era that saw Prince Devitt and Kota Ibushi come through and wrestle guys like Taguchi. Then that style is very different to what we’re doing now. So I really do think it’s the birth of something completely new.
–You have big expectations.
SHO: Of course I do. Liger said back in the day that whether from major promotions or the indies, good wrestlers are good wrestlers. That’s absolutely right, but it means that we have to be even better than that. Man, I really want to do (Best of the Super Juniors). Could we do it at the Tokyo Dome? (laughs)
–You mean have the BoSJ finals at the Tokyo Dome?
SHO: Sure. If we were able to do it soon, there wouldn’t be a better place.
–Hiromu suggested running Best of the Super Juniors at the same time as the G1 Climax.
SHO: That sounds great too. I’d be up for that. There would be a lot of discussion about what should main event each night, and even though we’d be in our weight classes, there would be that feeling of competition with the heavyweights. It’s always a point of pride for wrestlers to be selected for the G1, so.
–There would be that clash of junior and heavyweight pride.
SHO: When Hiromu won the Best of the Super Junior, he said he would make that achievement worth even more than the G1. I really like the idea of doing a fan vote to decide the main event on the final night. Hell, they could vote for the match order every night.
–You’re fired up for this!
SHO: It’s a great idea! Let’s do it! G1 vs Best of the Super Junior this autumn!
There’s a lot I want to do, and a lot I want to say. So I need to earn the right to speak
–To bring things back to CHAOS, Robbie Eagles has said he’d like to face you.
SHO: I’ve never wrestled Robbie one-on-one. I’d love to. It’s great that everyone’s thinking about me!
–You’ve only ever wrestled Eagles during the Super Junior Tag League.
SHO: Right, and I came away really thinking how good he is in-ring. If he were in BoSJ, he’d be a good pick for the final.
–Is there anybody else you’re interested in when it comes to junior heavyweights?
SHO: TJP and Amazing Red. I’d like those two to be in BoSJ.
–They were both part of last year’s Super J-Cup.
SHO: TJP went on to be part of the Junior Tag league and Red had that incredible first round matchup. I always liked watching Amazing Red even before I got into the business. Just a Jackie Chan like style.
–You’re a big Jackie Chan fan (laughs)
SHO: Just watching him feels like watching an action movie, I love it. Then there’s El Phantasmo. I wrestled him in San Jose (for the British Cruiserweight Championship; watch on NJPW World!) but I want revenge for that loss. I’d like to take on Ishimori as well.
–Taiji Ishimori really threatened you in the New Japan Concurso bodybuilding contest.
SHO: And then we wrestled in the Tokyo Dome as well. I want to wrestle everyone to be honest! And beat them all, too. Last year before BoSJ, I sat down and thought about every single one of the nine guys I was facing. I came up with a reason I had to beat every single one, an approach for every single one.
–Every match was equally important to you.
SHO: So I don’t know what’s going to happen with BoSJ this year, but when I look at the wrestling scene, I can see something to get excited about and want to face pretty much anyone and everyone. I think there’s something that connects me to everyone, and I don’t want to lose to anyone. Can I face everybody, maybe?
–A one block Best of the Super Junior?
SHO: I’d like to do it. It would be tough as hell, though. Last year was rough enough; by match three I was taped up like a mummy! But I want to take on everyone. Every year when they announce the blocks, I always think ‘ahh, I wanted to wrestle that guy’. Or they could go the other way, with four blocks and then have the top members face off in single elimination. There’s so many possibilities, so many things we can do and I can personally do.
–It’s exciting stuff.
SHO: But that’s why I want the platform, I want people to listen to me. As it stands right now, Hiromu saying he wants the G1 and BoSJ to happen at the same time must have made some people in the company sit up and take notice. I’m not sure they would do that if I was the only person who had that opinion.
–The championship gives you that persuasive power.
SHO: Exactly. I want to make this the fans’ division, give them exactly what they want to see. Well, for now, I’ll just do all I can to make that happen.