Rocky Romero Talks About His New Album ‘Sneaky Style’ And New Japan Pro Wrestling Of America

Rocky Romero‘s wrestling career, which has spanned multiple companies and continents, is most closely associated with New Japan Pro Wrestling these days. Romero plays several different roles in the promotion: wrestler (he’s been an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship eight times and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion once), manager of Roppongi 3K, and semi-regular member of the English commentary team.

Fans also hear Romero’s voice as not only a broadcaster, but a rapper on theme songs he’s written for himself and his tag teams. Within the past three years, Romero has released two albums (Six Trees Vice and Six Trees Vice 2), and his third, Sneaky Style, will be released on October 28, available to stream on Spotify and Bandcamp. With Spandex talked to Romero about his new album, the recently-announced New Japan Pro Wrestling of America, and more, and that conversation is below and has been edited for length and clarity.

With Spandex: When did you start writing [the new album]?

Rocky Romero: Maybe like February I was writing songs here and there, and then I got really serious about writing it probably like the last two and a half, three months. Like, once all the Super Junior was done, once the G1 started, I really started getting into it because I didn’t have any, like, wrestling, so that kind of like opened me up to start playing around a little more. A lot of stuff was written all around Japan and when we were in London, kind of like whenever we were on tour.

Are you most inspired to do music when you’re on tour?

Yeah, definitely when I’m on tour is when I like to, like, write… I feel like I’m more inspired to like play around, to make beats. Sometimes we’re on the bus, if we’re on the bus for like four hours or whatever that day then I’ll definitely be, like, making beats or checking out what I did the night before and, like, tweaking it. It’s definitely a good thing to do when you’re on tour so you don’t go a little, like, stir crazy… I don’t know, I think it’s fun. It’s cool to me.

In this album and when you’re making music in general, who are your biggest musical influences?

That’s a good question. The Beatles are my favorite band of all time. I often play Beatles, like, every day when I’m traveling. Like, hip hop wise, I like the music that Kanye West makes a lot. Especially the older stuff. Through Pablo.

Do you have a favorite song on the new album?

I like “Chico Drip.” That’s my favorite.

How did you get Chico el Luchador in the studio? That’s a pretty big get.

Yeah, that’s a pretty big get. It’s going to be a big announcement when it comes out. A lot of money. Just straight, hard cash. There was a big wire transfer that happened and basically, I don’t have savings anymore. But I was able to get him, so hopefully that brings in some streams. If not, I’ll really be screwed. I’ll actually be really pissed off.

And then there are some other features on here. When did you get Colt Cabana to do his [feature on the song “T-Shirt Trap”]?

Maybe like about three weeks ago? It kind of came to me that I need to get either Cabana or the Bucks on this. It was like all during the first week of AEW, so there was no way I was going to ask the Bucks. And I think Cabana would be cool because he’s kind of the guy who created this merch stuff that’s so common and associated with independent wrestling now, so he is totally the godfather t-shirt trapping, you know? So I reached out to him and he was totally on board. He was totally cool with it. I think he was traveling when I reached out to him… He got it out to me and I cut it up and pretty much that week I released it.

That song, could indie wrestlers actually follow that as a guide to merch success, do you think?

Definitely. It’s a really quick, three-minute crash course… definitely a guide to merch-selling. Even the tips that Cabana gives, I mean, I didn’t even know those. I’ve going to revamp as we speak.

And then you have also Mega Ran [on the song “I’m The One”], who did the theme song for the New Japan-ROH show. Did you meet him through G1 Supercard or did you know him before that?

When we did the CEO show, the New Japan-CEO show last year, I think I met him there the first time, and then we kind of crossed paths again at the G1 Supercard, and then he actually came over to Japan. I saw him at like a random house show in Kobe… Then we, like, linked up and we talked about it, and he was, like, totally down… That’s one of my favorite tracks on the whole album.

Did you ever think of doing a new theme song or a mashup theme song for you and Taguchi since you’re a team right now?

I didn’t think of that. It kind of all came so fast with Taguchi and I, so, yeah, I really didn’t have time to think about it at all. I didn’t realize that we were going to be such a good team, and I’m actually having a lot of fun. Like, I had no interest in doing this tournament at all, and even teaming with Taguchi, and to my surprise, I’ve actually really enjoyed the last two matches we’ve had – and we’ve got another one today against Kanemaru and Desperado – and it’s been a lot of fun. Maybe this thing has some legs. I don’t know… Imagine his song, like, remixed, and then me, like, rapping on it or something? That would be amazing.

Is there any wrestler out there who’s secretly good at rap or singing or something else in music, that you can reveal? Or really good at karaoke?

Ooh yeah, you know who was really good at karaoke when I used to go karaoke-ing with them, and it kind of pissed me off, was Jay White. Good at karaoke and, like, really good at Eminem. Really good. Like, word for word.

You’ve done so many things associated with Roppongi. If someone’s going out in Japan, what’s your guide to Roppongi?

That’s a good question. It’s kind of an experience in itself because it’s kind of a weird, shady area… It kind of depends on what you’re into. If you’re into clubbing, there’s like 1 OAK, which is cool; they always have really awesome special guests. Like, we were in there like last year and we saw Lil Jon and got to hang out with him. That was pretty cool. What else? There’s actually just a bunch of good little, like, bars, like there’s a tequila spot – I think it’s called, like, Cactus or something? – I like to stop in there sometimes… There’s always going to be places open. That’s why I think Roppongi can be kind of cool.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve been going to Shinjuku a lot lately. I’ve been checking that out because I never really explored Shinjuku. That’s been my new thing, so I haven’t even really been going to Roppongi that much lately. Don’t tell anyone. (laughs) It’ll ruin my whole gimmick.

Could there be a Shinjuku Vice or is it not as vice-y?

No, Shinjuku’s pretty vice-y. I think it’s more vice-y. (laughs)

Can I ask you a question about New Japan of America because they announced that yesterday?

Yeah, yeah, no worries. I figured we were getting to that.

Okay, I’m wondering if you guys are going to be recruiting more talent in the U.S. or getting more talent specifically for U.S. shows? I know TJP and Amazing Red have kind of been on the American tour circuit… but do you have plans to get more people specifically for New Japan of America?

I would say so. Obviously, earlier this year they did the New Beginning U.S. tour at the same time they did the New Beginning tour here in Japan, so that would definitely entail having some semi-regular guests or regular guests just for the U.S… I think that obviously Red and TJ would be at the top of the list because they’ve already been associated with the U.S. shows as of late… I think that would definitely open up some more spots for some new, fresh talent to join as well, as well as recruiting more Young Lions for Shibata to be training and having them go right into the ranks if they’re ready.

Do you know if there’s something that New Japan is looking to as, like, a model for success in the U.S., or do you think they see this as completely new ground that they’re breaking with this project?

I don’t think there’s necessarily a model that they’re following except for the model that they’ve been successful with in Japan and trying to recreate that with an American audience. We’re definitely a heavy touring company in Japan. I think that’s kind of how they’ve been able to survive for the past forty years or so even when times were really tough, so I think that they’re looking to build it organically, step by step, in a small way, like every step is going to matter.

With the additional shows and additional tours, is there any concern about overworking the talent? With the supplementary talent, is there a plan to not add too much stuff to people’s schedules, or is that not something people are worried about?

I think there’s definitely a couple ways you can probably look at it, right, because New Japan, even though we are tour-heavy, we’re not really doing, like, crazy singles matches every time or everything. So I think it’s going to be important to use the tag formula not to put the stress on wrestlers so that they don’t get injured as much.

Obviously, there would be some more traveling, but I think we’re still going to be able to have people be off, right? Like, for example, I could see Okada not being on every, you know, tour in the U.S., you know, so he can have some time to rest. We have so many, like, marquee names – you know, Okada, Tana, Jay, you know, Ibushi – so then I think they could probably just go around in a cycle and be only, like, one headliner. And then we have supplemental talent and then there’s the regulars, so I think that there’s definitely enough talent. We’ve kind of been building it for a while. And then there’s guys like, you know, Zack Sabre, or, you know, Suzuki, those guys can headline as well.

I’m not really worried about it. I don’t see the travel being too crazy. I think I’ll definitely be pretty busy on both ends, going back and forth. I think the American guys will probably be pretty busy, but I think it’ll be okay for everybody else, you know? Yeah. And then really even if they were to do twenty shows next year, I don’t think it would even be that heavy. I think the schedule would be pretty light compared to WWE.

Part of why I’m asking is I’m seeing a lot of people talking about, like, “Oh, are they going to make the schedule like WWE’s schedule, like really crazy.”

The WWE schedule is also crazy though because, like, their TV is on a Monday or whatever, so if they want to do a quick tour over like four days, they load, like, a worldwide tour over like four or five days, and then you end up back in the States on Monday, which is, like, crazy. New Japan, we’ll go to a city the day before, sleep properly, get up the next day, whatever, wrestle. The travel is, like, way easy.

They do a really good job with the travel so we’re not, like, exhausted. Whereas those guys are like flying all night, they get there sometime in the morning, they like take a break, you know, go and rest at the hotel for like three hours, and then they have to be at the arena, which is, like, crazy, you know? That’s like something we wouldn’t do and would never do, not that kind of, like, hectic style.