Hiromu Takahashi speaks on Best of the Super Jr. 27
Best of the Super Jr. 27 and World Tag League is less than two weeks away. The 2018 tournament winner will be looking to repeat come December 11 in Nippon Budokan and has a lot to say about his competition in the junior heavyweight and heavyweight stakes.
This interview was conducted before November 2.
We will be the lasting memory at the end of the year
–So as we’re speaking just after G1 Climax finished, what have your thoughts been on the tournament?
Hiromu: I liked it. I really did. I honestly thought it was an awesome tournament. As a wrestler myself, I have to be a bit let down I wasn’t in it, but it was great to watch.
–The action more than surpassed your disappointment.
Hiromu: The really hot matches certainly made me feel jealous. I’d be cheering on the match but thinking it’d be so much better if I can outdo it.
–They’re your competition after all.
Hiromu: Every year we have Best of the Super Jr. in May or June, and however great the matches are during that, the G1 tends to overwrite everything and make people forget.
–You’re right, there is a lot of recency bias when it comes to fans.
Hiromu: But then last year’s final, that was unprecedented.
–The BoSJ final was a lot of people’s match of the year.
Hiromu: Then they both went heavy, both went into the G1. Their match this year in Kobe was fantastic as well. But this year, BoSJ has a little priority, don’t you think?
–It’s certainly coming after the G1.
Hiromu: So we’ll be the lasting memory at the end of the year. I think that’s why I’ve been so interested in what the G1 guys have done. All the juniors have been.
I really wanted to be in it.
–There had been a lot of speculation, when the status of non-Japanese wrestlers was up in the air, that you might be in the G1.
Hiromu: I mean, I really wanted to be in it. Certainly when I was still (IWGP Junior Heavyweight) champion. But I think losing that belt lost me any claim to it.
Hiromu: That’s not to say the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion should be in the G1. I don’t think Taiji Ishimori should have made a push to be in the tournament per se. It’s all personal preference.
–You certainly showed yoyur ability against heavyweights during the New Japan Cup this year, against Tomoaki Honma, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii.
Hiromu: True, true..
–And you lived out your dream of wrestling on prime time TV when you faced Kazuchika Okada in the semi-finals. That was a real wrestler of the year effort.
Hiromu: Heheh. Well, that’s what I was aiming for.
–That’s what you wanted. You really were, regardless of weight class, the focal point of NJPW for a while, really up until July 25 and EVIL, but after that challenge for the double IWGP titles, things haven’t quite gone your way.
Hiromu: The loss really hurt, and so did my shoulder; that’s where I hurt it. So from August on was pretty tough for me.
The guy across from me wasn’t the EVIL I know
–How do you feel about that match with EVIL, looking back?
Hiromu: We-ell, I don’t know how much of that match was really EVIL…
–What do you mean by that?
Hiromu: I think there are a lot of questions underneath it all. What does he really want to do? What’s he really thinking? There’s just so much that’s hard to figure out.
–You’d said before that you find it hard to believe EVIL enjoys wrestling this style.
Hiromu: And I never saw him playing the political game in BULLET CLUB. That’s why I wanted to poke fun at him a little bit, by bringing up KENTA and Jay White before they came back to Japan.
–And now there does seem to be some discord within BULLET CLUB with EVIL and Jay.
Hiromu: I think I was the first person to suggest that kind of intrigue, so you’ve got me to thank I guess. Anyway, going into that title match at Sengoku Lord, I think I was so preoccupied that it became hard to focus.
–But it did all lead up to a very intriguing matchup. A monitor sellout for the boys. Hiroshi Tanahashi came over and watched with the website team.
Hiromu: Hmm. But for me, it just didn’t feel quite right. That guy opposite me wasn’t the EVIL I know.
Hiromu: More than anything I had my eyes on the IWGP Heavyweight Championship… I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to that match, but I would like to wrestle EVIL again when the timing’s right.
You want a bullet point for Ishimori? I think he’s a boring guy
–Right after that match with EVIL, Taiji Ishimori challenged you for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Your shoulder injury might have played a factor, but the end result was that Ishimori beat you for the title.
–After the match, Ishimori said that you talk a lot about big dreams, but that you should ‘wake up and taste reality’.
Hiromu: What a bore!
Hiromu: You want a bullet point for Ishimori? I think he’s a boring guy. I mean if you don’t dream big as a wrestler, what do you have that stands out? If he wants to keep plugging away, straightforward like that then fine, but he has no reason to pick at my dream. He’s boring. But he’s very steadfast, very serious.
Hiromu: That’s the word that comes to mind, doesn’t it? You see how he puts his offense together. It’s piece by piece, very smart, very straightforward. Very effective offense, no mistakes.
–Certainly he didn’t put a foot wrong when he wrestled you in Jingu Stadium.
Hiromu: He was my opponent, but as much as it pains me to say it, he wrestled a perfect match. Completely flawless. But BoSJ won’t be like that.
–You’ll certainly wrestle one another at least once in the BoSJ, even if you don’t meet in the final.
Hiromu: Look, at Jingu my shoulder was messed up. It still wasn’t right, and he targeted that. EVIL had hit it with a chair a couple of days before, and it was in a bad way. I don’t want to make excuses. It all comes with the territory in the end. It’s painful to talk about it, too, since whatever I say it’ll sound like a lousy excuse. I lost and that’s all there is to say.
–So it should be safe to say that Ishimori is your biggest target during BoSJ 27.
Hiromu: Obviously he’s a target, but the bigger target is winning the whole thing. Me vs Ishimori is definitely something I’m thinking about, but I’m thinking about me vs all of the juniors. I don’t want to get in that trap of thinking ‘if I beat the champion I still get a title shot’. It’s win the trophy or bust.
–All in the Budokan.
Hiromu: It’s got to be me! I want to be the last image on a major event this year, heheh. That’s why I’m thinking it isn’t just about Ishimori, but about all of them. Everybody’s such high level that I need to bring it to everyone or I won’t be able to win.
I wanted Wato to be inspired. I thought I was giving him the big Hiromu-Rub
–During September this year, there was a league to determine the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. You and BUSHI made the finals but came up short against Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado.
–During that match you crossed paths with Master Wato for the first time, and you had some harsh words for him after the match.
Hiromu: That was interesting…Those comments though, it was a case of telling him ‘think more’. I wanted him to be inspired, I thought I was giving him the big Hiromu Rub, heh.
–You said that Wato won’t get to shine on his own if he keeps on saying ‘yes sir, yes sir’ to his senpai. You said ‘ 9if you want me to remember you, you need to show me what you really want. I’ll be your opponent any time, any where, as many times as you want’.
Hiromu: I hoped it would sink in on a deeper level. I wanted him to think about why Hiroyoshi Tenzan is with him all the time, what it serves, what Master Wato thinks about Master Wato.
–Wato said after he returned to NJPW that he had you in mind as a major target.
Hiromu: He had me excited. You know, heading into that match I said I expected him to come back from Mexico like he was strapped to a rocket, not this guy striving to become the Grand Master or whatever.
–So we’ll see the next chapter of all this when you face off during BoSJ.
Hiromu: We’ll see. But if it’s like how he was in September, I don’t think he’s got a chance.
I want to make the fans glad they bought a ticket
–So as we get set for Best of the Super Jr., how are you feeling, physically?
Hiromu: I’m in great shape. I’m doing a lot of cardio, a lot of conditioning. I’m running a lot; I always have, but for me, if you think of a match like a 100 meter sprint, it’s the last five meters that are crucial.
–That last spurt is important, so you can’t be blown up.
Hiromu: It is! That last spurt is such an important factor, and daily practice adds up. So when we were off during the G1 I thought that I should work on my breathing in the last part of a match, and that’s what led me to do so much running.
–Do you have any message for the fans, as we wrap up?
Hiromu: The situation in the world is what it is, but I want people to come to the venues if they possibly can. There are people who are a bit nervous about it still, but we have all of these steps in place, all these precautions. I wouldn’t push anyone, though, and we have NJPW World as an option for those fans.
But if there are people who think ‘I can’t eat, or drink and I can’t yell so I’ll stay at home and watch on World’ and to them I’d say that you should actually come and sample this right now. The live energy is much stronger than you’d think in person.
Hiromu: However you show your support, being in the building live is so different from watching on TV. I really want people to feel that.
–And crowds have evolved a lot from the early days of these precautions.
Hiromu: And people thinking of new ways to show support, that’s so exciting as well. That’s what I want to show this tour. World is great but live is so much better, and I want to make people glad they bought a ticket.