Flyy’s the limit: Kevin Knight interviewed

Kevin Knight delivers first NJPW interview

On April 27, Kevin Knight will team with KUSHIDA in his first NJPW championship match, and a quest to relive Catch 2/2 of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. Before action in Hiroshima, we caught up with the Jet for another first, in his first official interview.

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When KUSHIDA suggested that we team I knew we would work well instantly

-So Kevin, welcome back to Japan, alongside KUSHIDA as you go for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in Hiroshima on the 27th.

Kevin: Looking forward to it.

-This is your second tour of Japan with KUSHIDA, can you talk about how the team has come together?

Knight: Well, it caught me by surprise a little bit. At first Clark Connors and I were talking about teaming.

-For Super Junior Tag League?

Knight: Yeah, and you see what happened, now he’s in BULLET CLUB, so I think that ship has sailed. But when KUSHIDA suggested that we team, I had so many ideas, and I knew that we would work well instantly, He’s always made me feel comfortable, always good to me.

-You guys have always gotten along.

Knight: Yeah. We don’t speak exactly the same language- my Japanese isn’t good enough, and I have to simplify my English as well- but we have the same goal, and that shows.

-You started the tag league last year in black trunks, and all of a sudden you had new gear and you were a new man. I don’t think we’ve seen a Young Lion graduate mid tour like that.

Knight: I thought being with KUSHIDA, and being in the situation, it was a perfect time to show my real self. It’s like, KUSHIDA, the Time Splitter, he went into the future and took me back with him, y’know? So it was cool. I didn’t know that nobody had done it before, so it was a little bit of ‘is this OK? Can we do this?’ but it worked out great, bringing The Jet out like that.

-Did it feel different, to be in the new gear?

Knight: It felt great. You know, when you’re a Young Lion it’s all pith and vinegar, just straight fire. I was wrestling the whole time thinking of (Katsuyori) Shibata’s voice in my head going ‘go, go, go’. There was no time to take a breath and express myself as a personality. Now I have a boost of confidence and take some time to show the people who I am. I can’t wait to see how much it grows from here on out.

It’s inevitable me and Kazuchika Okada get in the ring and see whose dropkick is best

-You debuted at Super J-Cup 2020, in the studio setting with no fans. Then you got to grow with more people at events and here you are with a full tour in Japan with regular crowds again. How has that journey been?

Kevin: It’s all about not losing faith and just enjoying the journey for me. That whole first year was in front of nobody, that was my whole experience. Then I was wrestling with crowds, but didn’t get to Japan. Then when I went, there were still restrictions, like only half of the matches had cheering. Now we’re back all the way so I get a full experience. Every time I come I experience something new, so I don’t ever falter or question where I’m at, I just trust the vision always.

-Before you came over to Japan for the first time, Katsuyori Shibata was asked about what to expect from you, and he just said that your dropkick was money, and once you hit it once, everyone would get you.

Kevin: Haha!

-People see you as an incredible natural athlete, were you athletic in school as well?

Kevin: A little bit, I played football and other sports as well in high school, and I think that taught me how to work toward a goal. Shibata is always talking about ‘repetition, repetition, repetition,’ and like I said, you do something over and over and trusty the vision and you’ll get there.

-So how many times did you repeat that dropkick? (laughs)

Kevin: Man, we must have practiced it a hundred times before I used it in a match. But now it’s to the point where I don’t have to think about the form, or the actually dropkick itself. Now I can be looking for the TV cameras, be looking to get more people’s eyes on what I’m doing and play to the crowd a little bit. I’ve done the dropkick a thousand times and I trust myself. I know there’s nothing I can’t do.

-Sometimes you see incredible natural athletes that want to do a million things at once, but that mindset the LA Dojo has presented means you can take something that everybody does like a dropkick and make it your own.

Kevin: I think it’s inevitable that me and Kazuchika Okada get in the ring some time and see just whose dropkick is best. When I first came to NJPW, I didn’t really understand the idea of practicing simple moves for a whole week at a time, but it means everything is on point all the time. The fundamentals are always there and I never overthink anything.

-Did you feel that effort pay off when you went to a new crowd at IMPACT recently?

Kevin: Yeah, IMPACT is a whole other universe to New Japan, but it was a great audience to wrestle an American TV style. I had no idea how they would react to me, but the goal is always the same. When I get there, they don’t know who I am, but when I leave, they’re not gonna forget me.

Shibata’s the disciplined uncle, KUSHIDA’s the fun uncle

-How would you compare Shibata and KUSHIDA as those teaching influences for you?

Kevin: It’s like two different uncles from different sides of the family (laughs). Shibata has been there from the very beginning, helping with details and the New Japan system. He’s like a disciplined uncle, and KUSHIDA is the fun uncle (laughs). He just comes with a lot of ideas, and training with him is always a good time. Not that being with Shibata is a bad time, but…

-Do you see any similarities between you and Akira as the younger members of your team?

Kevin: I think Akira is still younger and more naiive than me. He has more wrestling experience than me, but I have more wisdom and a little more life experience. I think TJP has to reign Akira in sometimes, but with KUSHIDA and myself, he’s only elevating my game and giving me these little notes on how to be better, how to appeal to the Japanese culture and audience, all that.

-Catch 2/2 have had a very impressive reign with the titles, and it feels like they’ve elevated the tag scene for junior heavyweights. What do you think is your vision for the division if you win on April 27?

Kevin: I think they’re great wrestlers, Catch 2/2, but they don’t have enough competition. I think KUSHIDA and myself can bring more fire out of them, but we’re going to be taking those titles from them. Catch 2-2 is ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’, but I’ll be damned if we aren’t walking away with those tag team titles around our waists.

-Your first match in Super Jr. Tag Leaguer was pretty early for the two of you as a team. How would you say you’ve progressed since, and what will you be bringing to Hiroshima?

Kevin: I can’t give you all the details- I want the enemy on their toes. They did beat us last time, but we were competitive all the way, and I’m proud of our performance that night. This time, we’ll do one better- btu I’m not going to give anything away here.

-Just as we finish up- before you wrestle for the tag titles in Hiroshima, we’re expecting the announcement of the Best of the Super Junior lineup. We don’t have any details yet, but is it safe to say that you want to be in that field?

Kevin: For sure. The tag opportunities have been great, but I truly believe that I can stand with the best of them as a singles wrestler as well. I’m not intimidated, and I believe in myself. So if I do get a shot in this tournament, you can best believe you’ll see a whole new side of Kevin Knight.


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