Juice Robinson is one of New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s recent breakout stars. The former NXT wrestler worked his way up through the NJPW training system, and finally, after several championship match losses, won the first singles title of his career: the IWGP United States Championship. Robinson became the first American to win this title at the G1 Special In San Francisco to overwhelming support from the audience. Watching that match in person in the Cow Palace, it was one of those special bouts where the crowd is so invested, you can practically feel the tension in your pores.
I talked to Robinson the week before the G1 Special In San Francisco about winning over the Japanese audience, his promos, dream matches, and more. The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.
With Spandex: So normally the first thing we ask people is ‘Who was your favorite wrestler as a kid?’
Juice Robinson: That’s always hard, because I have so many favorites. I think first it was Stone Cold Steve Austin when I was really little, and then I started looking back a little to like ’94, ’95, because I didn’t start watching wrestling until ’98, and then it became like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, once I started renting the Coliseum Home Videos. I started appreciating them a little more. But I don’t know, I have so many. The Rock, he was one of my favorites. Macho Man. And then later on Dusty, of course. I don’t know, now I’m like into Roddy Piper, so I’m all over the place when it comes to favorites.
Was there any specific one of those guys, or any match or show that made you decide to be a wrestler?
Well, I remember for some reason… watching Shawn Michaels and Vader from SummerSlam ’96, like over and over and over, and WrestleMania 10 Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. I used to try to memorize matches for some reason, I don’t know why, when I was a little kid, but those were the two that really psyched me up for how wrestling really works, and I think by that time I started to realize, you know, that it was a work and not a shoot, so those kind of matches were when I really started to picture myself as a wrestler and picture myself doing it, and learning how to do it like that.
When you started training… at the New Japan dojo, did you get a lot of new influences, or had you kind of looked into the style of how they do things beforehand?