Heel Master, top champ?: Yoshinobu Kanemaru Interviewed

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Kanemaru talks first junior heavyweight championship bout

Yoshinobu Kanemaru is one of Japanese pro wrestling’s most decorated junior heavyweights, but incredibly has never challenged for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship before. That changes on April 27, as he takes on Hiromu Takahashi in the main event in Hiroshima’s Sun Plaza Hall. We spoke to Kanemaru about a major stop on the Road to Dontaku.

Watch Road to Dontaku live on NJPW World! (English to follow on demand)

I don’t feel pressure after all I’ve done

-So, after your challenge to Hiromu Takahashi on April 8, the match is set for the 27th in Hiroshima. How are you feeling right now?

Kanemaru: Well, I think making the match official was the right call, and the timing was right for me to challenge. The pieces fell together.

-After 27 years in the business, this is your first challenge.

Kanemaru: Well, I’ve wrestled champions before. The only difference now is that the belt’s on the line. So I’ll put everything out there and see what I leave with.

-Do you feel like your time’s finally arrived?

Kanemaru: Not really, timing is everything in this business.

-Have you thought about challenging before?

Kanemaru: Not specifically, but yeah, I’ve always thought while I’m here in NJPW that I wanted to at some point.

-You’ve been AJPW World Junior Heavyweight and GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion, so there is the chance of a grand slam in Hiroshima.

Kanemaru: I never gave that any thought at all. It’s one of those things other people point out and you go ‘oh, OK, neat,’ but it isn’t something I had in mind.

-But both Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata both completed heavyweight grand slams recently, so it’s natural some might think of it.

Kanemaru: Well, if they realise it then good for them, right? I just haven’t put any thought into it.

-Do you feel any pressure?

Kanemaru: Pressure? Nah. Not after everything I’ve done. I’ve experienced a lot, wrestled so many matches that pressure isn’t a thing for me.

-So you definitely have the benefit of experience.

Kanemaru: You have those guys that slap themselves in their face or beat their chests before they go out, all pumped up. That’s a waste of energy in my book- I take it as it comes. I was a little different when I was younger maybe (laughs).

-So you choose not to get too worked up.

Kanemaru: Well, I think there comes a time where with experience you learn that you have to work smart.

Robbie did a good job… we’ll see when the tour starts

-What do you think of Hiromu, especially after his match with Robbie Eagles on April 8?

Kanemaru: He wrestles like a champion, both in his style, and in the results he produces. He’s someone that can suddenly hit that top gear, and then stay there.

-So there’s respect there, but is there anywhere you’d say you have him beat?

Kanemaru: Experience? I’d say that’s the only area I can say I have something over him.

-So that’s a key point for you.

Kanemaru: I can’t sit here and promise I’ll take the belt off him, but I can say I plan on putting the benefit of all my experience into this match.

-Hiromu had his knee heavily worked over by Robbie Eagles; do you plan on continuing that work?

Kanemaru: Robbie was very good at going after that knee. Maybe I’ll fake going for it and then do something else? I think I’ll wait until the tour starts and see.

-Do you have a path to victory planned out?

Kanemaru: That’s secret. But I want to get on the road, wrestle these preview tags (interview conducted before April 20) and then put a plan together based on what he does and how he moves.

-You’ve been at the head of the junior division in other companies. How do you feel about the job Hiromu has done as a champion in New Japan?

Kanemaru: Well, I think he’s full of ideas, and he has the work ethic to carry the whole division. He’s done a good job.

-What image do you have of yourself as champion?

Kanemaru: Hmm, I think being someone who’s not caught up in one thing.


Kanemaru: Being a champion means having to act a certain way, wrestle a certain way, win a certain way. You have to have a broad mindset.

-So you have to be versatile.

Kanemaru: That’s more important than being able to win in my eyes. Well, being ready for anything leads to wins in itself. You can’t win without being versatile, as a champion.

If I beat Hiromu, I want SANADA

-A lot of veterans know the importance of playing things by ear.

Kanemaru: Exactly. You see how the match is going, hear how the people are reacting, and change things up on the fly. The fans had to be quiet for a long time, but they’re all the way back now, so while winning the match is important, it’s just as important to show how great Just 5 Guys are.

-It even says in your entrance music that you’re all going to change everything.

Kanemaru: To me that doesn’t mean getting results and winning a bunch of titles. It’s in the lead up, it’s in how matches happen, and it’s in the in betweens. SANADA winning the title was a big shift in itself, sure, but the work starts here I think. Not that I’m in a position to say…

-Well, being a number one contender gives you some stroke.

Kanemaru: In that case, if a chance comes my way I want to put it to use. The real work starts here.

-SANADA suggested that if you beat Hiromu on April 27, he wants you to take the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship challenger’s spot on May 3.

Kanemaru: If he suggests it, why not? Maybe I might just take that title and then wrestle SANADA.

-It’s you and Hiromu April 27, Taichi and Shingo April 29 and SANADA versus, in that case you or Hiromu on May 3. So that’s three big events and three main events for J5G.

Kanemaru: You have to wrestle differently in main events. That’s something to keep in mind from the starting point of the tour. A lot if playing it by ear, like I said, so I want to get started before I form a strategy.

-Think as you go.

Kanemaru: I haven’t really had a chance to wrestle in this many main events back to back, and there is still a question of how we should put our matches together as a group. Results are important, but I have higher priorities in mind, and I want to put a lot of thought into the flow of these matches and the series overall.

-So the performance is as important as the result.

Kanemaru: I don’t know how anyone else feels, but that’s how I feel. Not to take anything away from SANADA though, him getting that belt was fantastic.

We have to show how great we are as a team

-Do you feel SANADA’s win elevated the morale of the group?

Kanemaru: Hm, I think that came before he took the belt. When we came together as the five of us and went ‘OK, let’s do this’.

-Did pressure come along with that?

Kanemaru: No, not at all. I think there’s always a good kind of positive tension as a competitor, but not pressure.

-You’re opposite LIJ all the way through this tour; how do you see them as a team?

Kanemaru: They’ve been together for a long time and that definitely shows. They have perfect timing on their double teams, cuts and everything. That’s something I’ve felt for a long time now.

-So how do you think Just 5 Guys can counteract that timing and teamwork?

Kanemaru: I think that’ll come, but it’s definitely key that we’re on point as a team, so I want to experiment as much as we can to improve.

-It’ll be interesting to see what team moves you have in store.

Kanermaru: But teamwork isn’t just about double and triple team moves. A lot of it is being able to adapt and be quick to hop in and get involved when your teammates need it. We might be in different factions now, but me and Desperado, it was always easy. Just one look and he knew to get in there for something.

-So you think that there’s still a ways for you to go as a team.

Kanemaru: Yeah. It isn’t just wins that we need to improve.

I’m full of hometown pride right now

-You’ve been a glue guy for so long, but it really feels with this team in particular that you’re thinking about the overall group.

Kanemaru: We can’t have all five of us tripping over one another. If we can’t act together than we can’t get anywhere.

-So you’re thinking about everyone’s roles within the team.

Kanemaru: SANADA did what he did, he produced and got the top belt. So that’s great. Now it’s on the veterans like me and TAKA to bring out some of the other strengths of the group. If we’re all up there like ‘me, me, me’ then we aren’t a team.

-And it’s that team work that we can expect to evolve through to Dontaku.

Kanemaru: I don’t think we can be perfect in the span of one tour, but little by little for sure.

— You have switched to some new gear since April- for all the team talk, there is a little bit of renewal for you as an individual.

Kanemaru: Well, there is that… And I never really liked black, to be honest.


Kanemaru: For street clothes I have no problem with black, but I never really liked it on my ring gear. I wanted white or silver, and went with silver.

-And does a different in ring style follow with the different gear?

Kanemaru: Well, being in Just 5 Guys and not Suzuki-gun I think should bring a difference to my matches as well. I’m thinking on that. Playing it by ear.

-Finally, the recent Koshien High School Baseball tournament saw your alma mater Yamanashi Gakuin take the win. Does that mean anything to you?

Kanemaru: Oh, it was great to see them do it. It felt for so long that they would make the final four and then crash out, but they finally won it.

-Does it motivate you any?

Kanemaru: Definitely! I’ll want to follow up on that and take the junior belt as well.

-So any final thoughts before Hiroshima?

Kanemaru: Only that I’ve still got a lot up my sleeve- and you might be seeing some of it Thursday, heh.


Originally posted at Read More 

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