On today’s episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with Wrestling Inc.’s own Jesse Collings to look back at NJPW’s 2020. During their chat they discussed AEW star Jon Moxley’s current status as the IWGP United States Champion. Collings tied Moxley’s reign into how the pandemic has effected NJPW in 2020.
“Like every company, New Japan had to make adjustments to the pandemic, and New Japan had a very, just overall, different 2020, I think, compared to years in the past,” Collings said. “And it’s kind of up for debate amongst fans whether those changes were because of the pandemic or those changes were because this is what was planned all along, and we don’t really know that. And it’s been a weird year for them. There’s no doubt about it that I think a lot of people are down on them compared to previous years. I think they were held up to a very high standard coming into 2020, and I think not just the pandemic but different creative decisions.
“I think putting the world title on Evil and kind of going really hard with the outside interference and the heels cheating to win and doing that show after show has soured some people on the product. Some people have liked it because it has been different, but it’s been a very weird year for them, and it’s unclear if that’s because they’re dealing with crowds that can’t make any noise, or they’re dealing with half-filled arenas or they’re dealing with talents that can’t come to Japan.
“Jon Moxley wrestled on the Wrestle Kingdom show and hasn’t been back to Japan since, for obvious reasons, because he can’t get into the country without quarantining. He can’t do that if he’s also wrestling for AEW every week. So it’s been just a strange year.”
Moxley has confirmed recently that he does not have a contract with NJPW, but they do have a friendly verbal agreement. However, Moxley’s last NJPW show was back in February at The New Beginning where he defended the title against Minoru Suzuki. Collings discussed possible ideas that could be done with Moxley as United States Champion as well as the barriers preventing Moxley from defending the title.
“There’s a lot of different reasons for what I think is going on in New Japan,” Collings stated. “When the United States Championship was first created, the idea was that it would be a title that would be kind of synonymous with New Japan in the United States and Canada. The first championship was in that series of shows in Long Beach, CA. It’s been mainly on American or Canadian wrestlers since it debuted, and now, we’ve gone basically a full year, almost a full year, without it really being defended because of the pandemic and because Moxley hasn’t been able to defend it.
“Even though New Japan is running shows in the United States, in fact shooting angles about the United States Championship on these New Japan Strong shows, because of the political ramifications of Moxley being unable to work for a rival company in the United States, and I know that AEW and the management says, ‘Oh, they’re not our rival,’ but to a degree, they are. It’s created this very difficult situation where you have this title and he’s had it for a year and you have people talking about how he’s the champion and how they’re waiting for him to come back for him to defend it, but there’s still no timetable on when he’s going to defend it.
“There’s been a lot of ideas tossed around about having an interim champion like you would in UFC or MMA where someone would win the interim United States Championship and you can feud with that title, and then eventually, because eventually Moxley will be allowed to go back to Japan hopefully, then you can do the angle where the real champion comes back and fights the interim champion, but that hasn’t been done. They’re still going ahead with Moxley as champion.”
Kenta won the right to challenge Moxley for the title at NJPW Strong and has continued to call out Moxley to fight him. Collings questioned why Moxley just can’t go to a NJPW Strong and drop the title to Kenta.
“Juice is out. Juice has been in Japan, but he broke his orbital bone on the last tour, World Tag League,” Collings noted. “Now it’s going to be Satoshi Kojima vs. Kenta at the Tokyo Dome show, and I think Kenta is going to win that match. I think Kenta lives in the United States. That’s the frustrating aspect of this is that it wouldn’t be that hard for Moxley to pop up in Los Angeles one day and just fight Kenta, and he loses the title, except for the political ramifications that come.”
Jesse Collings is featured as part of Voices of Wrestling’s Best of NJPW 2020 ebook that is being released the first week of January. You can follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseCollings. Colling’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.