On a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast, former IWGP U.S. Champion Lance Archer sat down with Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone. Archer, who regained the IWGP U.S. Championship this past Wednesday on Dynamite, revealed that he did have a NJPW contract as well as an AEW contract offer.
“I did. New Japan, as far as Japanese wrestling is concerned, a lot of times, the old school way of doing business, especially with the foreigners, was just a tour by tour thing, and that’s how I’d actually been with the company for nearly nine years,” Archer explained. “I came in.
“I had a contract for the tour that I was on, and when that tour is over, it was done, and it wasn’t until the most recent years that they actually started signing a lot of the foreigners to full-time contracts. And I’ve never had one with the company because I’ve been there so long. That was the style of business they’d done with me. Literally, almost the exact same time that the All Elite offer came in, the New Japan offer came in. So I had two on the table right at the same time.”
Archer ultimately signed with AEW, and it was announced in February 2020. Archer explains why he chose to sign with AEW.
“There were a lot of pros and cons, and it took a bit for me to weigh all the goods and bads as far as making that decision,” Archer recalled. “A place I’d been in for nearly nine years, a lot of friends and people that had kind of become family over in Japan, and then the opportunity that All Elite Wrestling was providing, All Elite Wrestling was changing the professional wrestling world.
“I don’t even think, to a degree, I would have received the offer from New Japan if AEW didn’t exist. They didn’t even know that AEW offered me the deal. I’m just saying that AEW was changing the wrestling world completely from how everybody was doing business, and so that’s kind of where that came out with me.
“So the opportunity to come back home, to tour the United States, this is prior to anybody knowing what was going to happen in 2020, the new challenges of coming back to the U.S. and being in AEW, a company that was growing and changing the world professional wrestling, all these things were just too enticing and something that I actually wanted to take on. I wanted to bet on myself and be a part of AEW.”
Archer recalled the first time he met AEW President Tony Khan. He revealed Khan’s reaction when he told him about his NJPW contract status.
“It was in catering in Dallas. That was the crazy part,” Archer expressed. “I actually come to the Chicago show when Chris Jericho was crowned the first champion. I was in Chicago working for an independent company called Warrior Wrestling, and they had the autograph stuff that was going on and whatnot and the pay-per-view was that weekend so I came to the show. And everybody’s so gracious and cool to have me backstage.
“I knew a lot of the guys and girls that were with the company already, and so I was just hanging out and I’d seen Tony, but we never even had that opportunity to have a conversation. And then when AEW came to Dallas in December 2019, I went to the show again, just to see my friends and talk and hang out. I was in catering, and Tony came right up to me and he was like, ‘Oh, hey man, nice to meet you. I’m Tony,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m Lance Hoyt or Lance Archer.’ We just kind of shot the s**t for a little bit, and we’re talking this and that.
“He kind of inquired about my contractual status with New Japan, and I kind of told him, I was in the old style of business, because at that time, again, I didn’t have a full contract with company and his eyes kind of widen. And he was like, ‘Oh, really?’ And then I had a conversation with Chris Jericho that evening.
“I came by the hotel and hung out for a bit, and Chris pulled me aside, and we had a good conversation about things and then that Friday, after you guys were in Dallas, I got an email from QT [Marshall]. He was like, ‘Hey man, can you come down to Corpus? We’d like to talk to.’ I went down to Corpus the next week and had a good conversation with QT and Cody, and then everything kind of fast track right there.”
Archer made his AEW debut through vignettes and eventually made his TV debut. He recalled his first in-ring match in AEW that came under unique circumstances.
“My physical debut was in Salt Lake City when the world shut down. We were supposed to go to Rochester the next week to a sold out house, and I had flights booked and everything and then, nope,” Archer noted. “We were rolling the punches. Professional wrestling was one of the only live sports or live anything that continued on, and that night with Marko Stunt was live.
“I was debuting live in an empty arena, and thank goodness we had our guys and girls that were gracious enough to surround the ring and make some noise and yell and scream, which made such a huge difference through this entire pandemic. That noise helps you focus and do what you normally do. I was just excited. It was just fun. Marko, he’s a very durable young man to say the least, and it was one of those moments where I stepped out there and I tossed him from every corner and chokeslammed him as high as I could.
“It was kind of a fun, cool feeling to know that it went so well to the point where Marko said he was getting phone calls and texts from other guys who weren’t there at the show going, ‘Hey, man, are you okay?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ I think the biggest injury he had from that was he had some rugburn on his shoulder because of the fake grass that was on the ground when he took the chokeslam and hit the ground. So for me to be able to go out there and destroy him the way I destroyed him but to ultimately not actually physically kill the man was a pretty cool thing.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.