WWE veteran Fred Rosser, fka Darren Young, joined Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman on The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast to talk about Rosser's upcoming debut with NJPW on NJPW Strong. He discussed how this opportunity came about starting with current AEW star Lance Archer who was with NJPW before.
"Well to make a long story short, this whole story about me getting to New Japan isn't a gimmick. It's not a storyline," Rosser noted. "It was something that I've always wanted to do. WWE was always first for me. I've always been fascinated with the New Japan style. I love all styles, but it's WWE, the American wrestling and then Japanese wrestling was number two. So fast forward to maybe 2010, I was always good friends with Lance Hoyt, and then fast forward to September 2019, him and I were on a show in Pomona, CA. And at the time, he was still with New Japan. A lot of wrestlers always ask you, 'oh, what have you been up to? What have you been up,' and from guys like Hulk Hogan to Karl Anderson to Lance Hoyt, I always stress it's always been a bucket list of mine to compete in Japan or with New Japan.
"I've wrestled all over the world, but anytime I did a tour with WWE, it was either in the UK or I wasn't on tour at all whenever they toured Japan, so it's always been in the back of my mind. So I stressed it to Lance Hoyt that I had strong interest. So he had gave me this flyer that I saved. It was a show at the Globe Theater. November of 2019, New Japan was running a show, and Lance Hoyt had gave me this in September at the Pomona show. He told me to show up and bell time was 7 p.m."
Rosser recalled his experience at the New Japan Showdown show where he wondered if he was a fit with NJPW. He came to the realization that he was, and he admitted that he was willing to tryout at the LA Dojo even at 36 years old. One of Rosser's opponents in his NJPW debut, Clark Connors, is a LA Dojo Young Lion, and he is 26 years old, but Rosser said Rocky Romero was able to get him an opportunity with NJPW without having to undergo a tryout.
"I was there at 5:00 p.m. to meet all the wrestlers, to meet Rocky Romero and to just watch the show from beginning to end because I never intended to show, and I wanted to watch and see if I fit in with their style," Rosser recalled. "And that's the one question that kept coming back into my head over and over again. 'I'm here to see if I fit in. Do I fit in? Do I fit in?' From beginning to end watching the show, the answer was yes, so I stayed after. I talk to Rocky Romero who's been very influential in getting me into New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I stressed to him that it was a bucket list of mine to perform here. I'm not unfamiliar with tryouts. May 4, 2009, out of 75 guys and girls from all of the world, I beat them all out in a WWE tryout. So if I needed to go to the LA Dojo to try out, I was willing to do that at 36 years old.
"There is no shame in my game, but Rocky said, 'no, we'll see if we have something for you,' and this was, like I said, November 2019. And then fast forward to probably like May or June, Rocky Romero had reached out to me, and he told me about this opportunity right when the pandemic was like just crazy. So he told me about this opportunity with New Japan, and I was just torn. So I had to double check with my family to see if it was a good idea because I don't want to affect anyone in my family, but my family blessed me with this opportunity, and I ran with it."
Rosser spent nearly 12 years in WWE, and he was asked what it was like to step into a new locker room. Rosser admitted that he was a fanboy seeing guys like Jay White, Jeff Cobb and David Finlay, but that quickly changed once he was able to step inside the ring. He revealed a conversation he had with NJPW play-by-play commentator Kevin Kelly where Kelly had told Rosser that he was a great fit in NJPW.
"Well with New Japan, a lot of the guys I was familiar with seeing them on the Internet and all that stuff," Rosser said. "I hadn't been able to share a locker room with guys like Jay White and Jeff Cobb and Dave Finlay and a plethora of other talented talented superstars, and at first, it was a little intimidating because you watch these guys and like, 'man, I don't know if I can keep up with these guys. Their style so hard hitting, and it's intimidating' but something happens when I go from being a fan of these guys to when I'm in the locker room and I'm putting on my gear, I go from being a fan and fanboying to I'm your competition.
"September 11, 2002. It'll be 19 years that I've been doing my thing and wrestling. So I go from being a fanboy to competition, and being able to hang with these guys, the transition from WWE to New Japan, Kevin Kelly was one of the first guy that I did an interview with about my whole experience pretty much saying the same thing to him I'm saying to you. He said that my transition from WWE to New Japan is great. I'm a great fit for New Japan. He's happy to see me in New Japan.
"He knows that fans are going to see me and be like, 'I know that guy. That guy looks familiar. That's Darren Young, but he's going by his government name. Wow, out of all people, why New Japan?' Well, now the fans know the backstory. Now, it's time for me to deliver, and I'm a man of few words. Actions speak louder than words, and I can't wait for everyone to see my debut."
Rosser's experience in the wrestling business has trained him to work in front of a crowd and react to a crowd reaction, but the COVID-19 pandemic has halted public gatherings. Rosser spoke on what that transition was like for him to wrestle in front of no crowd, and he spoke on earning the respect of his fellow wrestlers. Rosser then stated that he would make a name for himself in NJPW.
"I have my own podcast, Pro and Bro Wrestling, and it's very therapeutic for me. I think we're on episode 59 where this week I talked about my experience with with New Japan, and so I've been able to watch as a fan and now I'm able to actually be in it," Rosser stated. "And the fans are so important for me. They kind of cushion falls. They cushioned the abuse that we take in the ring. It gives us time to have our beats and moments where we can kind of register and sell what's being done and be better storytellers.
"The fans are so important, but something happens when I hit the curtain and all my attention is on my opponent and working the cameras, working the people at home. That's my main goal, to make sure that my story is told the best way it can and the commentators, Kevin Kelly's been in the game since '91, and he's incredible storyteller. He's going to make me look like a million bucks on commentary, and that's so important, but not only the respect of the fans that is so near and dear to me, but the respect of my peers. When I can come back from the curtain and have Fit Finlay's son, Dave Finlay say to me that everything I'm doing in the ring translates very well on camera, and the respect of your peers is very high to me.
"For example, one of my bucket list matches was against Shawn Spears who I had in 2019, and when I came back from the curtain and he came back from the curtain, he was like, 'man, I needed that.' And that's the ultimate ultimate honor from your coworker, your associate that you brought the best out of them, and that's what I want to do, not only with New Japan but any ring I step into. I always want to bring the best out of my opponent, and I can promise you, I have definitely done that in New Japan, but I'm definitely going to make a name for myself in New Japan that's for sure."
Fred Rosser can now be seen Friday nights as part of NJPW Strong on New Japan Global. Rosser's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.