Update on his wrestling career: I've been fun--employed, living life and enjoying it. As far as the musical single, it's a hobby that I've been having fun with, if it catches on and something happens, that's cool. It's just an outlet for me. I've been in touch with my people from Lionsgate developing this TV show that's in the works, not a reality show! It's a documentary show and taking some time off from wrestling. Let my body heal up and checking out the scene.
Reasons for leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling: I wanted to stay closer to home to work that's in development which is pretty cool. But besides that just recharging the batteries. I love New Japan (Pro Wrestling). People that know me and know my story and know that Japanese wrestling is the apex of pro wrestling for me. To have been in Japan, to have been the inaugural IWGP Intercontinental Champions, to have been accepted in there wrestling culture and to have spent the time there was a dream come true and I needed to back up for a second, reassess the scene and decide what I wanted to do.
Going back to wrestling in Japan or the United States: That's the beautiful thing of having options. As I understand it, when I gave my notice to New Japan they made it very clear when I wanted to return, the door was open for my return. Now that All-Japan (Pro Wrestling) is trying to kick things up, (Masahiro) Chono is there, my good friend Low-Ki is there, I understand that D-Lo (Brown) is there, I've been told there is some interest on that side of the street. Domestically, when I left WWE, I was told that the door is still open. I was there when they were here in Houston recently for Smackdown and I came by and said hello, gave hi-fives to everybody and there was no serious conversation about a potential return but if there was a discussion and I would be defiantly willing to talk and that's kind of where we left it. Same thing with TNA. I'm always willing to talk but it's just not there right now. The scene is real interesting. WWE is banged up with injuries and a lot of young guys that they are trying to make. TNA seems to be restricting financially. Domestically, it is an interesting time right now to see what happens now. I'm just kicking back with my feet up and seeing how things develop but there's no telling.
Would TNA even be an option?: It's an option for two reasons. Your wrestling fans will understand me but your WWE fans will have no idea what I'm talking about. The first reason is when I started training in Duke "The Dumpster" Droese's warehouse wrestling school, I was training to be a professional wrestler and I thought at that point of my career if I had the chance to wrestle in Puerto Rico that would be pretty damn cool. Then Norman Smiley took me under his wing and started polishing me up about Japanese wrestling and that was my goal. I wanted to wrestle in Japan that was my dream! As luck would have it, I was able to spend time in WWE. So for me, I'm a professional wrestler, I'm not a "WWE superstar", that's where I made my name and that's where I had most of my fame and success but before that I wrestled in the territories of Puerto Rico in the independents, had my time in WWE, had my time in Japan, so if I were to go to TNA, TNA would be another chapter of my wrestling career like the guys back in the day that did territories. You did time here and time there and that was your career and that's kind of how I see myself. I don't see myself as Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola, I see myself as Cola, I'm not branded and I go wherever I want to go. The second reason why I would go is Samoa Joe. As far as the Japanese style, wanting to go and having that kind of match, Samoa Joe is a guy that I wanted to wrestle for ten years and I think Joe and I can do some epic, epic damage to each other.
TNA changing its public perspective: Wow, how much time do we have? It's weird cause it's difficult to give criticism without being labeled a "hater" or I've had people tell me: "You sound salty" or "You're criticizing WWE", I give criticism where I see its due and I think TNA has made the mistake of focusing on older guys for the sake of nostalgia or name without spending enough time building younger stars and that's the kind of stuff that WWE is dealing with now. When you don't spend enough time grooming and developing younger stars then there tends to be a backlash. I think the problem is and I heard a lot of people say this and some of guys there say this but it kind of seems like WCW light and what WCW was like at the end and as far as the fans are concerned, they want something else.
The best and most lucrative time for the business was during the "Monday Night Wars" where there were twelve million people a week tuning into wrestling. Where did those people go? They are out there somewhere. What are they watching now? They are not all watching WWE and they are not watching TNA. I think in order for TNA to be a viable option for WWE is to go in a totally different direction. I think that a guy like AJ Styles was pretty much the backbone of the company, he is TNA Wrestling for all intents and purposes, and he shouldn't be upset. There is no reason for a guy like him to be upset, he should be well taken care of and happy and there shouldn't be guys questioning if they are getting paid and that's another big issue that I've been hearing about and it's there finances . So if their talent pool isn't happy and if they have guys that are grumbling because they are not being given an opportunity because of guys higher up the ladder that aren't making way for those opportunities and for being allowed to make those opportunities for the younger guys then you tend to run into some trouble.
TNA or the WWE Performance Center, what's makes more sense for a young wrestler: It's what you want as a professional wrestler. How do you define a successful career? On a few occasions, I've been asked to do training seminars and I break the guys into three groups. I want one group that does professional wrestling as a hobby. You got a full time job, a couple kids and a wife and you wrestle on the weekends for fun, you get out to the school once a week for practice and professional wrestling is your softball league, those guys stand in one group. Those of you who are hoping to have fun for a while, maybe get to wrestler overseas for a bit but you're not trying to become a "superstar" but you want to wrestle in Japan, Mexico, Europe and willing to make the sacrifice and go through the pro wrestling phase then go stand in this group. Then if your goal is to be a superstar, you want to be on TV, you want to be a famous wrestler, you want to be a "rich and famous" wrestler then WWE is the place to go, if that is what you want and if that's your goal, then the performance center is the way to go. However, just because you go there, doesn't mean you are going to make TV. You got over a hundred that are trying to compete for TV time, you have to come out with a gimmick that will get you on TV whereas TNA that pool is a lot shallower so you have a much better chance to make it to TV and apply your trade. If you're coming out of college and you have the option to go to the NFL or the CFL, it's kind of a no-brainer.
WWE being more appealing with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk on top: Sure! We often would joke that about wrestling for F.I.P. many years ago in Crystal River, Florida in front of thirty drunken Mexicans at a bar, I don't know what the hell it was but guys wanted to wrestle Bryan back in the day, he was tremendous. I can't tell you how I proud I am to see two of those guys who I admired back in there Ring of Honor days on top in WWE. Especially having that international background and that appreciation for pro wrestling that came from my school of thought to make it to the top in that company. Talk about going against the odds, they are everything that a WWE champion has never been. It thrills me and the thought of going back and working with Punk or working with Bryan or working with those guys is great I know there style and they know my style and I think we would complement each other well, its intriguing.
State of Pro Wrestling in Japan: The state of Pro Wrestling in Japan is that New Japan (Pro Wrestling) is the top dog. New Japan is doing great business and draws great houses everywhere. I remember talking to the office one day and I won't say who made the statement but the statement was made that if Tanahashi left New Japan the response was "Big, big problem. Serious Problem." He is that guy that sells the tickets and with Okada emergence as a top tier player, he has made that New Japan ticket hotter. Sadly NOAH Pro Wrestling is up against the ropes. They are not doing that great. Recently a bunch of guys from NOAH left to join All Japan (Pro Wrestling). I don't believe NOAH has any television right now and when (Mitsuharu) Misawa passed away that dealt them a blow. All-Japan was on the rope as well and it looked like they were going to go under but the new owner (Japanese corporation Speed Partners) seems to have big pockets. Muta left to form his own company Wrestle-1 and All Japan is getting back into the game and from what I gather New Japan is actually helping them out a little bit.
Would WWE be better if TNA was excellent? I think there is a different mindset in Japan from the mindset of how they do their business. I think the WWE mindset is to crush all and don't give anyone breathing room. I think that's how it comes across. The most prosperous time for pro wrestling is when there was competition during the "Monday Night Wars". That's when everyone was watching and that's when it was hot when the NFL wanted to pay Vince (McMahon) to move Monday Night Raw because it was cutting into their viewership. That's very significant. For the Americans that want to wrestle in Japan and if you're a young guy coming up from the Dojo, you're going to learn how to properly wrestle, pro wrestle and you're going to be in amazing shape cause you have to go through the Dojo and I think there is a training video on YouTube of myself working out with the young guys. Try doing that hung over and trying to play it off.
It's a huge experience and if you look at New Japan, take a guy like "Machine Guy" Karl Anderson, he is one of the best talents you never heard of, Masahiro Chono won the G-1 Climax two years ago, the last time you saw that was with Rick Rude which was eleven or twelve years ago who is killing things over there and one of the best guys you probably never heard of. You asked me the question before if a wrestler should go to the WWE Performance Center or to TNA? If you had the option to go to Japan first was there, I would say go and later on if those options are there, definitely. The guys that were my wrestling heroes made their way in Japan like Eddie (Guererro), Dean (Malenko), Chris (Benoit), (Chris) Jericho, and (William) Regal spent their time in Japan and they would all tell you, that's what made them better than they were.