The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast welcomed NJPW star Rocky Romero back as he and Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman discussed NJPW Strong and the wrestlers that have gotten a spotlight on the show. Alex Zayne and Fred Rosser have been on the podcast before and talked about the honor it was to be part of NJPW.
Rosser revealed that it was current AEW star Lance Archer that helped him get into contact with Romero for an opportunity with NJPW. Romero told his side of the story.
“Alex Zayne is a perfect example but like a Fred Rosser even,” Romero pointed out. “I feel like nobody knew how good Fred Rosser really really really was because he didn’t always get the right light shined on him in WWE, and I’ll be honest and I don’t mind telling Fred this, I kind of forgot about Fred until the day he came by the show whenever it was last year sometime. And he was saying hi to some of his friends, Juice Robinson [and] Lance Archer, people who he worked with in WWE. We were having a conversation.
“He was saying, ‘this is the place that I’ve always wanted to be. I feel my style is good for this place,’ and I’m thinking what was that breakout Fred Rosser match? And I couldn’t really think of one, and then this opportunity comes, New Japan Strong. And Fred just happened to reach out to me, and I would say, ‘dude can I throw your name into the hat with New Japan and see if they would love to have you for Strong?’ He was like, ‘please.’ I was like, ‘this might be a good opportunity with just the timing of it,’ and they said yeah.
Romero continued praising Rosser and questioned why WWE did not push someone as talented as Rosser. Romero said he’s glad that Rosser is in NJPW and hopes that borders can open up so he can have matches against the wrestlers in Japan.
“He came on and just killed, like he’s so good. Wrestled with him last week on Strong and like first time I got in the ring with the guy, and I’m like, ‘how does nobody know how good this guy is? This is insane.’ It’s like, how did they not take advantage, you know, WWE take advantage of the talent that this guy has? I mean, he’s just straight attitude, throwing people around. He’s strong. I mean like this is everything that you want in a wrestler, and I’m thinking, ‘oh man, like thank God he’s here in New Japan.’ I mean, he’s gonna do great here.
“He’s going to be perfect here. I mean I want to see him wrestle [Minoru] Suzuki. I want to see him wrestle Zack Sabre Jr. Oh my god, they would kill it. I want to see him wrestle [Kota] Ibushi [and Hiroshi] Tanahashi. He could have those kind of big-level matches, and I don’t think anybody knows it yet. I do hope that when you know the world kind of opens up and the bridge is open, I hope Fred is one of the first guys to [from the] new talents that get to make it over. I think he’ll really impress some people.”
Rosser, the first openly gay wrestlers in WWE, has used his platform to spread change like with the Block the Hate movement he has brought to NJPW. Hausman asked Romero if NJPW would embrace Rosser’s LGBTQ message unlike WWE.
“We have the openness in New Japan to be who we are and talk about whatever is going on through our lives and whatever it is. So I feel like it’s really up to him, how much he wants to push his message out there,” Romero noted. “Then, of course, the company would never stop that. They would promote him exactly the way that they would promote anybody else. New Japan itself doesn’t necessarily get behind… they’re focused about the in-ring stuff, and that’s kind of like the forefront of everything. And then, obviously, our personal backstory just kind of come into play that’s a big part of it.
“I think the stuff that he’s doing outside of the ring, and we talked about it on Strong a lot about what an advocate he is outside of the ring. He’s just a guy that you can look up to. I don’t want to put him on the spot and be like, ‘he’s the perfect role model’ but like that type of figure. Inside of the ring, outside of the ring, he’s just handling business and I think that’s really cool and just a great addition to the roster.”
Rosser also said on his appearance on The Wrestling Inc. Daily that he was willing to tryout at the LA Dojo for a spot in NJPW. Romero recalled that conversation he had with Rosser.
“This is that conversation that we had when he came to the LA show,” Romero recalled. “I think it was last year I want to say, and he said, ‘yeah, I would love to be in New Japan.’ He’s like, ‘oh, I heard you guys have a dojo,’ and I think he said, ‘I’m a big fan of [Katsuyori] Shibata. I would love to go down there and train with Shibata.’ And this was like right after the first match with the Young Lions. The LA Dojo Young Lions had wrestled, and he was like, ‘those guys are good.’ He’s like, ‘that’s the kind of wrestling I want to do.’ He said, ‘I just want to come in and train some time.’ So I was like great.”
Romero said he spoke with Katsuyori Shibata, the head trainer at the LA Dojo, but he noted that the COVID-19 pandemic halted any plans from going forward. However, he said that Rosser is always welcome to train at the LA Dojo and believes Rosser has impressed Shibata.
“So I had mentioned to Shibata and Shibata was like yeah, tell him to come in any time. We’d love to have him,” Romero recalled. “It’d be awesome to see what he brings to the training as well, but then, everything happened, pandemic and everything. It never really happened, but I think eventually, once Shibata gets back and things are open again, like it would be cool to have Fred in there.
“And I know that Shibata’s watching every week on Strong because he’s a part of the commentary team on the Japanese side. So he’s watching this guy and probably going like OK. If he’s gonna throw one of the Young Lions around, that’s just going to impress Shibata even because he’d be like, OK. I want to see what this guy does. Tell him to come down for sure.”
NJPW has released a documentary about Shibata’s transition from wrestler to coach, and Hausman asked Romero what, if any, the differences are between the LA Dojo and the NJPW Dojo.
“There’s a lot of similarities, but there’s also some unique differences that make it unique because of Shibata,” Romero said. “Traditionally, obviously, the costume is exactly the same. The basics of the training is the same, as you know, the 1,000 Hindu squats. I think on the first day, the guys did probably about a 1,000 or 1,500 Hindu squats just to start off just to say, ‘hey, we’re here welcome’ So the fundamentals of it is probably about the same, but then Shibata has his own twist because he has his own theories on wrestling.
“Even some of the training that they wouldn’t do in Japan like adding in certain types of lifting, like the equipment at the dojo is not so much bodybuilding based. The New Japan Dojo, it’s very bodybuilding based. The machines that they have there and stuff like that. Over here, it’s more kind of like CrossFit. It’s definitely like cross-training more than anything, and then Shibata, as well, his MMA influence is in there. It’s kind of got its own unique flavor, but the essentials are all the same.”
Romero also noted that card workouts are a big staple in the dojo as well, a workout inspired by Karl Gotch, who is a big inspiration to NJPW founder Antonio Inoki and has trained wrestlers like Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama), Barry Darsow (Smash), Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Minoru Suzuki. Romero revealed that he had trained with the LA Dojo Young Lions and admitted that he was gassed during the training, but he noted that there is a good balance with the workouts.
“They do a lot of card workouts,” Romero stated. “The Joker’s are like 50. Sometimes I heard they’re like 75. I just worked out with the guys last week, and I hadn’t had an intense workout like that in a while and I was dying. And that was just me with the with the Young Lions.
“They’re like, ‘oh do you want to lead?’ I was like, ‘nah, whatever Shibata has on the menu for you guys today, let’s do that,’ and I was like, ‘I need to whip my butt into shape.’ So it’s a good way to get pushed, and it’s cool too because having them having to work so hard and me kind of being the older veteran, we push each other. And the fact that like I want to keep up with them and they want to impress me, so I feel like it’s a good balance.”
Rocky Romero can be seen every Friday night as part of NJPW Strong on NJPW World. You can follow Rocky on Twitter @azucarRoc. Rocky’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.