10 Wrestlers Who’ve Said They Loved Working In Japan
Japan is seen as one of the greatest countries in the world to be able to wrestle in. Some of the greatest wrestlers of all time have come from Japan, and while not every wrestler gets to work there full-time, there are plenty that have had the opportunity to, whether it’s one-off matches for different companies, or on a tour with WWE.
The Japanese crowd is notoriously quiet, as they take in the matches like a sport, showing true respect to the talent. However, that can make things different from the traditional ways that fans react to matches, and while it’s not for everybody, some wrestlers have absolutely loved working in Japan.
AJ Styles is someone who was lucky enough to work with New Japan Pro Wrestling, which was one of the best runs of his career. He was a top star, but even he took a while to understand how the fans reacted to matches, yet when he did, Styles began to love it.
AJ told The Tag Rope Magazine, “There’s a lot of respect in Japan and you don’t realize it, at first, but then you just really love it once you get to know what’s going on,” showcasing his appreciation for the fans.
CM Punk is someone who got the chance to work in Japan for a long period of time as well, and he also returned to the country with WWE. However, he enjoyed being in Japan so much that he wasn’t even interested in signing for WWE originally.
Punk recently told Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast that, “the goal wasn’t to be a WWE superstar, I was content with wrestling in Japan.” Obviously things ended up changing for the Cult of Personality.
Another one of the all-time greats that loved wrestling in Japan was Kurt Angle. After his time with WWE came to an end, Angle actually worked for New Japan and he even managed to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
On his time in New Japan, Angle told The Wrestling News Hub Magazine, “I had an incredible time competing in New Japan. Going over there and wrestling guys like Tanahashi and Nakamura. My favorite was Yugi Nagata, if you didn’t see that match you have to watch it.”
Perhaps Kurt Angle’s experience in New Japan inspired his former Team Angle partner, because Shelton Benjamin also took the time to work for New Japan after he was released from the company.
Benjamin spoke with E&C’s Pod Of Awesomeness about how much he enjoyed working in Japan stating, “Japan, the best way to put it is ‘rejuvenating’. Going there, I never felt more appreciated.” As Benjamin reaches the end of his career, fans will wonder if he has another run in New Japan left in him, or if he will call it a day with WWE.
Kenny Omega is one of the greatest wrestlers in New Japan history, so it’s no surprise he loved working in the country. He put on Match of the Year classics, dominated the main event scene, and proved himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world for New Japan.
Omega spoke with ESPN about how proud he was of breaking down barriers for foreigners in Japan. “Any time I broke through the ‘glass ceiling’ by accomplishing things that foreigners weren’t apparently able to do, they’ve been huge personal victories and career highlights for me.”
Sasha Banks has never actually competed in a match in Japan, however, she has always loved that style of wrestling. So much so, that during her break from WWE, Sasha flew herself to the country to train and learn with Meiko Satomura.
She told the After The Bell podcast, “I always had a goal in life to go to Japan and train. I love learning everything about wrestling and the culture, style, and technique. It was legit, probably [one of] my best experiences I’ve ever done.”
Sasha Banks isn’t the only wrestler who had a dream of working in Japan though, as MVP felt the same way too. He got the chance to do just that, working for New Japan and achieving a decent amount of success, making it an experience that he loved.
When speaking with Vice.com, MVP revealed how much it meant to him to work in Japan, “Japanese wrestling is my favorite wrestling. Wrestling for New Japan Pro-Wrestling at the Tokyo Dome, that was my dream.”
Lio Rush has achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time. He’s been around the world and competed at the highest levels, and for him, competing in Japan is one of the best places to do it.
He told Alicia Atout, “[I was] probably more excited to be a part of New Japan than I was to be signed to WWE, to be honest, I love the culture, I love the fans, they respect the art of wrestling so much.”
When people think about Hulk Hogan, they instantly go towards WWE or WCW, however, that was only part of his career. Hogan spent a long period of time working in Japan, which actually led to some of his best matches in terms of in-ring work.
Hogan spoke with Sports Illustrated about his love for Japan, and how he’d have stayed there longer. “I could have stayed in Japan. I loved working there with Freddie Blassie. That’s when I was working for Vince Sr. He sent me over there and I fell in love with the place.”
Chris Jericho has wrestled in Japan at different points in his career, both early on and then again after he left WWE. In fact, it was his time working in Japan the second time that ultimately led to his decision to join AEW, changing wrestling forever.
He explained to Winnipeg Free Press why he enjoys Japan saying, “New Japan is a completely different animal. Yes, it’s still pro wrestling, but it’s a completely different style and much more reformed, more hard-hitting and, in a lot of ways, more fun.”