Wrestle Kingdom 11, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s flagship event, is just two weeks away! And here at With Spandex, we could think of no better way to kick off our coverage than an interview with one of the men you’ll see in action. Maybe you know him as Trent?, or perhaps you know him as half of the Best Friends. But in New Japan, his name is Beretta, where he and Rocky Romero are collectively known as Roppongi Vice. And together, they’re currently the #1 contenders for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. But it’s been a long road to the Tokyo Dome, and Beretta was kind enough to sit down with us this past weekend and talk about how he’s arrived at this point.
Let’s talk about your transition to New Japan Pro Wrestling. What was the post-WWE timeframe for that? There were a few stops at TNA and some various independent promotions.
I did indies right off the bat. I did PWG [Pro Wrestling Guerilla] early, maybe once my 90 days was up. Then I did [NJPW Best of the] Super Juniors that year, a few months after being released. I did fine, I thought I did good, they were happy with everything. But it’s so hard to get into New Japan. There was no spot for me on the main roster, so I floated around. I did indies, did TNA a couple of times. Literally two different tapings. One was two shows, the other was one show. I wrestled everywhere, and then suddenly, I got hurt. I was like, “Oh shit, this is bad.” Right when I’m about to heal up, Alex Koslov is leaving New Japan. They had remembered me and thought I was okay … Next thing you know, I’m on a leg that’s barely healed and full-time wrestling in Japan ever since.
Is New Japan starting to feel like home now?
Yeah, it’s definitely feeling like home. The locker room’s great, it feels like a family. You’re with those guys so much, it’d be shitty if I didn’t get along with everybody. But I do! I love that place. At least for a foreigner, it doesn’t feel political at all. You just go there, you be yourself in the locker room, you don’t have to be weird and make sure you shake everybody’s hand every day. Then you go wrestle, and you have freedom to do whatever you want. So I love that.
This upcoming Wrestle Kingdom will be your second. How was your first time, and what’s changed since then?
I don’t think much has changed. But, like … I don’t like being in four-way tag matches. I don’t think anybody really likes four-way tag matches.
Well, this time around, it’s just Roppongi Vice versus The Young Bucks.
I like matches with storytelling and a slower pace. I’m not a good crash-and-burn wrestler. I don’t know what I’m good at! But I’m very excited for this year. I think it’s the first time in a few years, at least, where it’s two-on-two for those titles. We’re ready to go real hard and show what the junior division is all about – that we’re not this crash-and-burn thing, we can wrestle as good as anyone, and we’re not “spot monkeys.”
Let’s talk about the Bucks a little bit. What has their impact been, and do you think they’re changing wrestling?
They definitely came up with their own Young Bucks style. Which is great, when they do it. But, in a way, it gets watered down when everybody on the indies is trying to do a Young Bucks match. The Bucks do it in a certain way … I don’t know, they’re great. They have changed what tag team wrestling is.
We touched on it earlier with the Alex Koslov injury – was that the start of you and Rocky Romero getting put together, and how long did it take to start feeling like a team?
We were good buddies when I did Super Juniors [in 2013]. I did Super Juniors, and then I actually did one more. I did Super Junior Tag Tournament, I teamed with Spanky [a.k.a Brian Kendrick] for that the same year. And we were buddies, I was hanging out with Rocky every night. And actually, before I came in, we did a Ring of Honor weekend, just two tag matches in a row. The second night, we wrestled reDRagon [Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish], and we clicked … We sat in the ring that first night and just came up with some moves through each others’ moves. It was right away, I thought.
Going back to this year’s edition of the Super Junior Tag Tournament, can you talk about that final match versus ACH and Taiji Ishimori for the #1 contenders’ spot?
Should I talk about the trophies?
You can talk about whatever you want!
Did you see those trophies? Going into the match, I was like, “If we win this thing … I don’t post wrestling on my personal Facebook, but my parents would be really proud if I posted a picture of me with a really big trophy. They’d post it, and they’d feel real proud of their son, and I’d be okay with them posting it.” But anyway, they give us the trophies and they’re not even… whatever. Let me talk about the actual match. It was cool, it was fun… There was a story where me and Rocky weren’t getting along, which did exactly what it was supposed to do. We were the underdogs who weren’t getting along… Could we keep it together for the finals? The people were more behind us than they had ever been throughout that whole tournament, so that was cool.
New Japan owner Takaaki Kidani went on Twitter recently and made the following statement: “We will announce something soon. We are entering a phase where you are either with WWE or against them. WWE have a lot of weaknesses and time is not on their side.” Any insight on that?
I think I saw that somewhere. I have no idea what he’s talking about! I hope it’s something cool … I don’t see why it has to be a competition. As a New Japan guy, I probably shouldn’t say that. I should be like, “Yeah, let’s do it!”
Either way, it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, or just to be an observer.
Yeah, it is. It’s really interesting, because right now it’s almost like WWE is taking over the territories again. But this time, everyone’s like, “Yeah, cool, do it! Take us! Take all our guys!” But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I don’t think WWE is doing a bad thing, they’re just getting a lot of wrestling, and New Japan’s still there to battle them. I don’t know. The Monday Night Wars, but somehow not on a Monday night? I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just a guy.
For someone who might be tuning in to see their first Wrestle Kingdom, what should they expect? And as a fan, what match are you excited to see?
I’m excited to see Kenny Omega and [Kazuchika] Okada. I think Kenny is unreal. He’s the first foreigner to win the G1 Climax, which is huge. If New Japan is going to expand, he’s the guy to bring it to English-speaking countries. As far as what to expect, it’s just great wrestling. If you’re a wrestling fan, it’s the best wrestling you can get. It’s the biggest show of the year for the company with the best wrestling in the world. So expect a great show, with guys going as hard as they can to try and steal that show.