New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s Juice Robinson‘s profile has risen dramatically over the past few years. The former CJ Parker left NXT as a wrestler best known for a bad gimmick and injuring Kevin Owens. But after training in the New Japan dojo and joining their heavyweight division, Robinson has become a fan favorite (especially in Tokyo), an all-around much more entertaining wrestler, and has been called one of the best English language promos in the game. At NJPW’s G1 Special In San Francisco, Robinson’s IWGP U.S. Championship match with dojo-classmate-turned-Knife-Pervert Jay White is one of several highly anticipate bouts on a stacked card.
Robinson spoke to press on a conference call hosted by AXS TV about this title shot, his WWE past, his Japanese wrestling future, and more. Excerpts from the press conference are below, and have been edited for length and clarity.
With Spandex: Hi Juice, I was wondering if you want to tell us anything about your strategy for competing with a broken hand?
Juice Robinson: Well, I know that New Japan announced that if I use it as a weapon – because there is a hard splint on the outside and underneath of my hand, so it’s considered a weapon… It’s funny to me because I don’t know if Suzukigun can use weapons all they want, but I can’t use a cast, but I can’t use it as a weapon, and I’m going to have to keep it away from Jay, because if he gets to my hand the match isn’t going to last very long… So I gotta play keep away.
With Spandex: Things have been getting pretty heated, to say the least, between you and Jay over the Kizuna Road tour and at Dominion. Did you expect this type of behavior from Jay back in your dojo days, and why do you think he’s changed the way he has?
Juice Robinson: I did not. In fact, I didn’t think that Jay would go this way even around Dominion time. I thought Jay was just kind of a guy trying to act like something that he wasn’t. I didn’t think that the Switchblade character had much to it. I thought it was the same old Jay White… yeah, he proved me wrong.
I think that he’s frustrated with what he’s done so far as U.S. champion. I don’t think that he’s had as much spotlight as Kenny Omega, and I think that he feels deep down that the title’s lost a little bit of luster ever since it passed from Kenny to him. I think there’s a lot of frustration that he’s feeling right now, and he took it out on me and my poor hand.
With Spandex: Social media is a big part of being a wrestler these days, or for building their brand, but you are not on social media. Why are you not on social media, and are you worried at all that that could hurt your career?
Juice Robinson: No, I don’t think it will hurt my career at all… I think social media’s silly. There’s a lot of guys on there, some of my friends, who just go on there, and the things they say – even our president, the things he says on there – it’s just something I don’t want be a part of… If you want to see me, come to the matches… see me curtain to curtain. You don’t need to know what I had for lunch… I could get drunk and say something that I shouldn’t, hurt somebody’s feelings, open up a can of worms that I don’t want to. Some people just aren’t meant to have it.
Juice Robinson on how moving to Japan changed his in-ring style: I think that it just became a little more physical. I didn’t consciously do it. I just played along. Just whatever was happening to me I just gave back. It didn’t take very long, two or three weeks, to be pretty much how I am right now… I’ve never been shy to lay it in… I think that’s better than some of the stuff you see in other companies… I like seeing sweat fly and spit fly… I think it’s good for the business.
On how he decided to try and work with NJPW: Matt Bloom came down to – I believe it was just changing from FCW to NXT… he was kind of transitioning from the end of his in-ring career into a commentator for NXT, so he was around a lot. We became friends because he was a fan of the CJ Parker character; he thought it was cool… He knew I was frustrated the whole time and would always try to give me pointers, help me try to stay positive, and he became a coach. And the frustration continued to climb, and I told him, “I’m not going to be here very much longer. I can’t stand it. I gotta get out of here.” And he said, “If you ever do leave here, you gotta let me try to get you a look from New Japan.”
I said, “New Japan? There’s no way I could work for New Japan.” I didn’t think that I could. And around that time I saw Wrestle Kingdom 9. I watched Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura. Then I started to really get into it; I watched the G1. AJ was a big part of that, Chad… and I would go back and I watched Kenny Omega and Ibushi from Budokan a few years back. And I thought, “Oh, it’s really not that much different. It’s what I wish WWE was, more wrestling and less talk. Less talking and less bullsh*t. More telling the story in the ring. More classic pro wrestling, not so much, ‘Oh, this is sports entertainment.'”
And then I kind of started to get fired up about it, and I just got lucky, and we were in the Bay Area, whatever WrestleMania was that, I think 31, and they were inducting Fujinami into the Hall of Fame so Tiger Hattori and the president, Sugabyashi, were there… and I went out [to wrestle Baron Corbin], and I was just joking around because I’d already told Matt I was done, and I was just acting like Shawn Michaels… calling myself Mr. WrestleMania Axxess, tuning up the band, acting like a complete assh*le, and Fergal – I mean, Finn Balor, and Matt Bloom were like “Hattori, you gotta take this guy to Japan. He’s a good dude. He loves wrestling…” A few months later I was walking into the dojo, so it all happened really quick and really smoothly.
On his time in NXT: When I was in NXT, I didn’t really wrestle that much. They don’t really wrestle that much there, maybe a couple times a week. I think my first four, five months in New Japan I’d already wrestled more than I ever had in my career… I hadn’t done too many ten-man tags or eight-man tags, six-man tags.
On what it would mean to him to be the first U.S.-born IWGP U.S. Champion: It would mean a lot to me, because I know our company’s really, really trying to get the ball rolling in the U.S. And even taking the U.S. part out of it, taking me being an American out of it, to win a title is huge. I’ve never, ever had a title besides the FCW tag team championships with Donny Marlow and one time with Jason Jordan… it would be huge, a huge moment in my career. I know they say sometimes titles don’t matter, but sometimes they do. And that would be huge for me.
On his “flamboyant” nickname: I was told that was what they were going to introduce me as from now on. That wasn’t really my decision… I always liked colors, I always liked having fun, and, you know, just being a little, I guess, flamboyant… but, you know, there’s so many people who walk out there that are like dead serious, that walk out there the exact same… screw that, I want people to know that I’m having fun. When the bell rings, I’ll get serious… The office came up with the “flamboyant” moniker and it was not my choice. However, the pants were, and I stick by those.
On which wrestlers he thinks would be good fits for New Japan: In WWE there’s a lot of guys. I always think Cesaro would be just so good in New Japan… I think Cesaro, Luke Harper, Jason Jordan – I think those guys would be great. Obviously, the Club. I mean, they were already here, so, yeah, they would do good. And then on the indies, nothing’s coming off the top of my head. There are guys, but… My friends who are flyers, well, we have Ospreay. Who can do more tricks than him? He’s the best in the world at that. We got Lance Archer, he’s a real good big man. Fale, he’s a great big man, so it’s kind of full over here.
On who he’s looking forward to working with in the G1 this year: I’m in a good block, I feel. I like this block… The two I’m really, really excited for are Ishii and Ibushi, just because I haven’t had singles matches with them… the Ibushi match is at Korakuen, man, I’ll be nervous for that one. You gotta keep up with him. I’ll have to drink a lot of coffee that day… and then, you know, I like wrestling Yano too, I don’t know why. You never know what’s going to happen.
On what he expects from fans at the G1 Special: I’m always nervous when I’m in America that fans are just going to boo me out of the building, because maybe just, they think I’m CJ Parker, or… a lot of American fans, back when I was on Twitter, I’d get a lot of tweets… a lot of people don’t like, maybe they think I’m having too much fun, or I’m too hokey or corny or this or that. It’s usually always American or European fans… It’s funny, the first G1 Special I thought they were booing me because they were going “Juuuuice!” And I was like, “Well, I figured they would,” and I realized later that they weren’t. Even last time, me and Finlay were about to go out and wrestle Gedo and Goto, and my music started playing, and I went, “Oh my god, they’re booing me.” [Finlay said] “No they’re not, you idiot! You do this every time! They’re doing the ‘Juuuice’ thing…” I hope they don’t [boo me] in San Francisco, who knows. They may love the knife pervert and hate flamboyant Juice Robinson. It’s not gonna change the match… You want them to cheer for you, when you’re playing the good guy. I hope I don’t get booed too hard.