There have been many North American wrestlers, like Big Van Vader and Stan Hansen who, notwithstanding their marquee value on this side of the world, found their greatest success in Japan. Hoping to join that esteemed list, and well on his way to doing so, if his success to date is any indication, is breakout sensation Joe Doering.

The road to the Land of the Rising Sun began for Doering in his hometown of Chicago, where his brother got him into wrestling as a kid.

“One of my first childhood memories is me saying I wanted to be a pro wrestler,” Doering told SLAM! Wrestling recently at a Border City Wrestling show. “I started watching it when I was four or five years old, and I’ve wanted to do it since as long as I can remember.”

His desire never waned, and ultimately led him to the doors of the short-lived TNA Wrestling training school. From there, he headed north to Windsor where he trained at Scott D’Amore’s Can-Am Wrestling School.

“Joe was a very good student,” shared D’Amore about his student, “a very good athlete (with) a great size and a great look. He trained hard, and took things seriously — his attitude was always (very positive).”

Those attributes made Doering an easy choice to be part of a talent exchange with All Japan Pro Wrestling. At that point, he had moved several times — from Chicago to Nashville to Orlando to Windsor — to pursue his training, so the question of whether he could adjust had been answered. In addition, he had all of the characteristics that D’Amore knew All Japan would be looking for.

“They love big guys in Japan, and his size and talent made him a natural,” said D’Amore. “I knew Mutoh-san (AJPW owner Keiji Mutoh, aka the Great Muta) would love him.”

Indeed, that was the case, and after spending three months at the AJPW dojo, Doering was offered a job as a full-time gaijin on their roster.

Since being there, Doering’s run has been incredibly successful. Mutoh took him under his wing, and that placed him immediately into the main picture. Soon thereafter, the team of Mutoh and Doering captured the AJPW tag team championship. That, said Doering, was a definite dream come true.

“To be in tag matches with (Mutoh) almost every night — who could ask for more than that? I really learned a lot,” he said humbly.

In fact, that air of humility is pervasive when Doering discusses any aspect of his career. Despite the success he’s achieved, he hasn’t let it go to his head. Indeed, during this interview, there were times where it seemed he was holding back on touting his accomplishments, as if somehow he would come across as prideful or boastful. It’s a trait that’s been noticed by nearly everyone he’s dealt with.

“(Despite all his honours), his attitude has stayed great throughout,” confirmed D’Amore. “Just the other day, Mike Tenay said to me that Joe has gotten as big a push as any American has in the last few years over there. It (made me wonder) how he would take to be protected so much in booking… to team with an all-time legend and almost never lose. (But) when I went there this summer, they all talked about how humble he has remained. He’s very grateful for the opportunity they’ve given him.”

“It’s been the best experience of my life,” Doering said about his Japanese tenure to date. “Not just for the wrestling, which I’m learning more and more every day. But also just getting to see things that most people don’t get to see.”

And if he has his way, he’ll continue doing that for some time to come. While Doering undoubtedly could make it in North America if given the opportunity — “I think he’ll be a huge force,” predicted D’Amore — he’s happy to stay in Japan for the time being.

“Right now,” he said, “I don’t want to be anywhere other than where I am. I want to keep growing and learning. I do want to work in North America,” he noted, “and that’s a future challenge for me. When I’m ready, then I’ll look at my options at that time. But I’m more than content right now.”