The recent announcement by Ring of Honor and New Japan Wrestling confirmed that the promotions will continue to work together to grow their products. For North American fans, it is certainly exciting to see the international stars of wrestling. What do some of the young New Japan wrestlers think of the chance to wrestle more often in North America?

In May, Ring of Honor and New Japan promoted a series of profitable and very well attended shows in Toronto, Philadelphia and New York. At the Toronto shows the fans were certainly appreciative of the high quality performance put on by all of the wrestlers on the card.

Takaaki Watanabe in May 2014, wrestling in Windsor for Border City Wrestling. Photos by Brad McFarlin

SLAM! Wrestling caught up with two of New Japan’s young wrestlers Takaaki Watanabe and Yujiro Kushida. In the past, wrestlers from Japan were sent to North America as a way to refine their training and to gain experience with a variety of opponents. Even the legendary Giant Baba toured the USA and Canada extensively in order to hone his skills as a young grappler.

New Japan sent Watanabe to North America to gain some more experience by wrestling for promotions all over the United States and Canada. For the past year he has been criss-crossing the continent picking up new ideas and styles. “I stay in U.S. now. I wrestle around American pro wrestling. I wrestle around Canada now. I wrestle many independent companies,” said Watanabe.

Kushida traveled to North America to gain experience a few years ago when New Japan sent him to Canada. “I stay in Canada before, four years ago in Windsor,” said Kushida. “Scott D’Amore wrestling school, yes I did.” He’s also formed a successful tag team with Detroit’s Alex Shelley, the Time Splitters.

When asked about his impressions of Canada Kushida pointed to the weather and wrestling venues. “Summer more hot in Canada. Arena is hockey arena, so in Japan not the situation,” said Kushida, referring to the steamy Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto’s east end. Hockey in Japan is a marginal sport and the arenas would not often have ice that needed to be covered for a wrestling match to take place.

Reflecting on his time in Canada, Kushida felt that it was beneficial to his career. “Scott D’Amore is very good experience for wrestling and good wrestling school,” explained Kushida. “He understand Japan wrestling and American wrestling. So both mix good for me.”

When asked if it was difficult to work a Western style of wrestling against opponents that didn’t know English, Watanabe had a broader view of the wrestling world. “Now America wrestler wrestle in Japan. Many wrestle, so now styles kind of same,” said Watanabe. How does he communicate with an English speaking opponent in the ring? “We speak wrestling.”

Yujiro Kushida

The New Japan and Ring of Honor announcement certainly was welcome news to wrestling fans. To the young Japanese wrestlers, Kushida and Watanabe, it is an opportunity.

“People are so excited. I respect ROH,” said Watanabe. “New Japan fans like very excited. Also, these fans very excited,” Watanabe pantomimed to the cheering fans at the Toronto, Ring of Honor and New Japan show last May.

Kushida sees the North American expansion as a great way to get more exposure. “Now New Japan Pro Wrestling is every wrestler is high quality,” said Kushida. “New Japan company want to be more big because necessary many fans. Chance for New Japan Pro Wrestling and me because we go to U.S. and Canada hopefully [grow] more and more and more.”

Like a true professional wrestler Kushida showed his affection for the sport and his long term aspirations. “I love wrestling,” said Kushida. “Hopefully long time get the money wrestling.”

Watch for more New Japan and Ring of Honor cards promoted not only in North America, but also in Japan. The first co-promoted U.S. show has been announced for February in Las Vegas. This is a partnership that benefits the two wrestling leagues, the fans and the young wrestlers looking to make a big name on the international wrestling scene.