Justin Barrasso
Wednesday May 11th, 2016

SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Stratusfaction Guaranteed

Trish Stratus is the greatest wrestler in the history of women’s wrestling, and she believes that Sasha Banks is the future of the division.

“Sasha, to me, is a star,” said Stratus. “There are a lot of comparisons, but I don’t think we are that similar, actually, at all. But she’s the star of the division, and she’s the one. She really knows her character, she owns her character, and she’s so solid in the ring.”

WWE has redefined and rebranded its women’s division in hopes that another Stratus will be unearthed–which, as fans of the business know quite well, is no easy task.

“The ‘Revolution’ began with us,” said Stratus, who was a seven-time WWE women’s champion. “It was a change in the way women were perceived in the business.”

Stratus actually main-evented Raw with Amy “Lita” Dumas on December 6, 2004, which marked only the third time that a women’s match closed out one of WWE’s premiere shows.

“We got to the building that day, and there was a board with all of the matches written on it,” said Stratus. “Amy and I were riding together, and we thought the board wasn’t complete or that they hadn’t written the main event yet. Then one of the agents–Fit Finlay–said to us, ‘Are you ready for this?’ Then upper management started coming over and saying congrats, and I was like, ‘Holy sh--, this is a big moment.’

“I didn’t care what I was wearing, it was all about the match and telling the right story. There was a moment in my career where I wasn’t sexy any more–I was going out to wrestle. There was a shift in my career where it was all about the wrestling.”

Despite the notion that Vince McMahon is not a supporter of women’s wrestling, Stratus explained that McMahon views his talent in a different perspective.

“Vince is behind any character that draws interest on his show,” said Stratus. “Does it draw ratings, interest, and evoke emotion? We did at the time.”

Changing the way women were perceived in wrestling, Stratus revealed, took a team effort.

“That was all the girls involved, the writers, and Fit Finlay,” said Stratus. “Finlay was there to help me and guide me. He is the one who brought the Trish Stratus character alive. He saw it in me and brought it out of me. He knew I had it in me, and every match I wanted to do better than the last one. I was fighting for him, and he was my coach.”

Extra Mustard
Indie wrestling stars the Young Bucks are ready for anything, even the WWE

The former sex symbol is now 40 years old, but remains as beautiful as ever. Stratus is keeping active with an upcoming movie role in Gridlocked and her own product line, which includes Stratusphere Yoga.

“The role for Gridlocked came through Adam [Copeland, WWE’s Edge],” explained Stratus. “I had a role in [the 2011 film] Bounty Hunters to play a kicka-- character and in some fight scenes, but I didn’t even have an agent. Adam was getting into acting and he said I should go for it, and he introduced me to his agent.”

Stratus’s love affair with yoga began serendipitously after suffering a herniated disc in 2005.

“I actually used yoga to rehabilitate an injury when I thought my career may have been in jeopardy when I had a herniated disc in my back. I was champion at the time, and WWE kept asking, ‘Can you have surgery so you can come back and wrestle?’ I just didn’t want to go under the knife if I didn’t have to.”

Stratus found yoga, which helped her completely rehab her back.

“I never had surgery and fully recovered, to the point where there is no herniated disc in my back any more,” said Stratus. “I was more athletic in the second half of my career, and fell in love with yoga.

“I traveled around learning all these teachings from around the world.  I opened a studio in Toronto–Stratusphere Yoga Studio–and the evolution has happened organically.”

Stratusphere Yoga is designed for both women and men, and Stratus is grateful for the opportunities outside of wrestling.

“The opportunities I’m finding are so diverse,” said Stratus. “I’m getting the opportunity to do so many different things. I created a product line, I opened a studio. I love to be constantly challenged. Knowing how Vince works and how meticulous, hands on, and passionate he is about things, I took that from the WWE and I’m applying it to my business.”

Stratus’ meteoric rise in wrestling–from beginner in 1999 to the greatest of all time by 2007–did not occur by accident.

“People think, ‘Trish Stratus rose so quickly up the ranks,’ but don’t forget–I was working side-by-side with Vince McMahon,” explained Stratus. “I had to raise my game. He’s the boss, he’s right there and I’m doing the scene with him, so I had to elevate my game.

Stratus’ schedule–which includes roles as mother, wife and entrepreneur–has no room for a return to wrestling, though she has considered it.

“Could I physically go back and do what I did before?” asked Stratus. “At this point, yes, I can do that. But I’d only go back if it was worth it and if it was a challenge for me. Something that’s different and unique, like playing a heel again, which would be super cool. I’ve gone back as a babyface, so it would have to be something challenging and something that would elevate either the division or a talent. Not just me for my own sh--s and giggles to raise my brand. It would be good if there was a moment to elevate a character. I’d love to work with Ronda Rousey, but I don’t know if she’d be up for that.”

Courtesy of Stratusphere Yoga

Stratus and Lita were integral pieces of the “Attitude Era,” and were treated like equals by peers such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Triple H, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker.

“Me and Amy were part of the boys,” said Stratus. “We hung out with them, we joked with them, and we were very much on the same level with him. We knew it was a special time.”

Stratus’ work with Lita remains legendary, and she remains grateful that the two entered the WWE at nearly the same time.

“We had that spark, that chemistry,” said Stratus. “Like Rock-Austin, we had that from beginning to end. I was lucky to have that kind of rival in the business.”

News of the Week

What has happened to Dean Ambrose?

The past few weeks have not been pretty. In that timespan, Ambrose–who was the hottest talent in the entire WWE as recently as March–hosted the “Ambrose Asylum” talk show, befriended a… potted plant named Mitch, and most recently, shredded the alleged $15,000 jacket of Chris Jericho.

Ambrose lost his steam when he was pinned cleanly by Triple H in a WWE title match at Roadblock. He also lost cleanly at WrestleMania to Brock Lesnar in a No Holds Barred Street Fight in a match that desperately needed blood and lacked a signature moment. Ambrose’s booking has been questionable ever since, despite the victory over Chris Jericho at Payback.

With his current spot in limbo, Ambrose waits for his return to the main event picture. The impending returns of Seth Rollins, John Cena and Randy Orton only complicate the main event picture for Ambrose, and WWE is also intent on keeping the belt around the waist of Roman Reigns for the considerable future. The immediate future looked far brighter for the “Lunatic Fringe” just two months ago, but it now appears he will be on the mid-card for the foreseeable future.

CM Punk and Ryback are fighting two entirely different battles.

Punk felt disrespected and even insulted by Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque for their refusal to place him in the main event at WrestleMania. Punk felt he earned that honor by helping carry the company after the departure of many superstars. He accepted The Rock’s return, but could take no more once the main event at WrestleMania 30 was promised to Batista.

Ryback , on the other hand, was sent home after a contract dispute and is unlikely to return. His post on his Tumblr account provided his side of the story, and a critical piece of his argument is that wrestlers–both the winners and the losers–should receive equal pay.

The irony to the Punk/Ryback connection, of course, is that Punk verbally obliterated Ryback when he broke his silence on the Colt Cabana podcast in November of 2014, saying the “Big Guy” broke his ribs, continually hurt him in the ring on purpose and that Ryback was a serial steroid abuser.

As for Ryback’s next landing spot? If TNA is able to produce a big money offer, he would fit in nicely with Drew Galloway, Bobby Lashley, EC3 and Mike Bennett. Otherwise, the 34-year-old could replace Michael Elgin–who is signed to New Japan for the next year–in Ring of Honor, potentially even replacing Moose if he decides to sign with WWE in June. Ryback would instantly enter the world title picture in TNA or ROH, which he perhaps never will again in WWE.

In other news…

• I wish that JBL did a sit-down interview with AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Even if the angle is ultimately designed to put over Roman Reigns, people will be so much more invested in the program once learning the history between Styles, Gallows and Anderson. Even without footage from New Japan, JBL could offer a history lesson on the legendary WWE superstars who also tasted success in Japan.

• I can deal with Zack Ryder losing to Kevin Owens, and it is encouraging to have Ryder involved in meaningful moments on Raw for two consecutive weeks. Owens taunting the broadcast booth is one of my favorite parts of Raw each Monday.

• Does the guest commentator role help or hurt matches? The Miz nearly submarined the Kevin Owens-Cesaro match last week, and Natalya had some difficult moments–she was unable to answer some of Michael Cole’s basic questions–during the Charlotte-Paige match on Raw. That match also served as a reminder of how Paige is one the most under-utilized talents in all of WWE.

• EC3 made a surprise entrance this past Saturday night at the EVOLVE 61 show in Queens, New York. EC3 came to the aid of Drew Galloway–who is also TNA world champion–in his match against NXT’s Johnny Gargano. EC3 then cut a promo trashing Triple H, former head NXT trainer Bill DeMott and even TNA. Galloway and EC3 are on deals that allow them to wrestle on other cards, permitting it does not interrupt with TNA’s schedule–and it will be very interesting to see if TNA tries to capitalize on the very well-received angle by EVOLVE head Gabe Sapolsky.

• Dalton Castle deserves a run as Ring of Honor Television champion, and it appears that the creative team agrees. After winning a four-way match at Global Wars, Castle (along with The Boys) is the new number one contender for Bobby Fish’s TV title and is destined for a run with the strap. Fish defeated Tomohiro Ishii for the title at Global Wars, but the contrast of Castle and Ishii would have been a pleasure to watch.

Extra Mustard
NXT’s Johnny Gargano on meeting Macho Man, being a wrestling fan

​• The most memorable part of Global Wars was the controversial finish. After failing to deliver even one superkick during their eight-man tag, the Young Bucks interrupted the main event between Jay Lethal and Colt Cabana and unveiled the newest Bullet Club member in Adam Cole. The 26-year-old Cole is extremely talented–hopefully he will also be part of Bullet Club’s revival in Japan, as well. I also hope the Bucks keep their serious edge, which will add another element to the best tag team on the planet.

• The United States title has lost all of its shine in the WWE. Kalisto fights on the pre-show, gives his interviews on Facebook and has yet to evolve beyond the “I’m here to fight giants” stage that began last November.

• With Sasha Banks currently off television, my focus turns more and more each week to Becky Lynch. In addition to her beauty, she is beginning to become comfortable on the mic. Am I the only one excited to see her get even with Emma and the newly debuted Dana Brooke?

• The Vaudevillains’ ascension to a tag team title match feels forced and rushed. Although it is time for new tag team champions, the answer is not Simon Gotch and Aiden English.

• We here at the Week in Wrestling offer all the best to the eight talents released last week by WWE. Wade Barrett could be someone’s world champion, and Damien Sandow would be a perfect fit for Ring of Honor.

The Mouth of the South

Courtesy of Jimmy Hart

“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart clearly recalls that fateful Monday night in Memphis, Tennessee–despite denials from Jerry “The King” Lawler – when Lawler forever stuck his foot in his mouth regarding the future of a young Hulk Hogan.

“Now Jerry always says he never said this–and I love the King–but he did,” said Hart. “I was playing at the Ramada Inn doing the club thing back then because I didn’t want to travel any more. I used to come down every Monday night and watch the matches. So when I was down there, Lawler said, ‘What do you think of that big guy in the ring?’

“‘What’s his name?’ I asked.

“‘Terry Bollea,’ said Lawler.

“Hulk was working as one of the Boulder brothers at the time, and I said he was awesome.

“‘He’s too big,’ Lawler said. ‘Trust me, he’ll never make a dime in this business.’

“To this day, Lawler claims, ‘I didn’t say it!’ But he did. But I love the King, and let me say this about the King–if it weren’t for Jerry, I wouldn’t be in the wrestling business. He gave me my first break, and I’m always grateful for that.”

Extra Mustard
Hulk Hogan hopes to be back in the ring for WrestleMania 33

As one of the greatest managers in the history of the business, Hart needs no introduction. He signed with the WWF in 1985, managing Intercontinental champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at the first WrestleMania, and the list of wrestlers he managed includes the Hart Foundation, The Honky Tonk Man, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Typhoon, The Nasty Boys, Money Inc., The Giant and Hulk Hogan.

Hart is also the original rock and wrestling connection having broken into the business after a successful run in the music industry. He was part of the Gentrys, who earned a gold record for “Keep on Dancing.”

“In ‘64-‘65, we were just getting out of high school, and we signed with MGM Records,” explained Hart. “They took us on a promotional tour, and the first place we went was Dallas, Texas. That’s the first time we saw Chuck Berry. Of course, we’d listened to all of his records back in high school. We saw Chuck Berry, Roy Head–who had a song called ‘Treat Her Right’–and the Beach Boys. We were just so excited. We did the show, flew back, and we were back in school by Monday.”

From his ring jackets to his megaphone, Jimmy Hart has always been colorful–which was something he learned while on tour.

“I remember something Dick Clarke told us on our first tour,” said Hart. “He gathered everybody together and said, ‘Remember one thing–dress different. If you dress like the audience, then one day you’re going to wind up sitting in the audience.’ That’s why I always said that I don’t know if I’m the best, I don’t know how good I’m going to be, I don’t know if I’ll even last in this business, but I am going to be colorful and do everything I can to entertain the people.”

Hart transitioned into wrestling through his connection with Lawler.

“Jerry and I went to school together,” said Hart. “He went into wrestling, I went into music. Jerry is younger than me–matter of fact, I graduated a year before him. He always loved the music, I always loved the wrestling. A few years after we came off the road and were doing a lot of club dates, Lawler was a big star in Memphis then, and called me about the chance to do an album with him. I jumped at the chance to do that, and we became great friends. About seven or eight months later, I was managing him in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Hart soon became the top manager in the legendary Memphis territory, and Vince McMahon then made it a priority to sign Hart to a deal with the World Wrestling Federation in 1985–and he paved the way for “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s entrance.

Extra Mustard
WWE releases Steve ‘The Brooklyn Brawler’ Lombardi after 33 years

“George Scott, who was Vince McMahon’s right-hand booker back in the day, had watched my tapes and brought me up from Memphis,” said Hart. “Three or four months later, they saw Randy Savage down there. When I got off the plane to go back to Memphis, the office called me and asked if I’d give Randy a buzz and see if he’d be interested in going to New York and joining the WWF. Randy was very excited about it. I’d known the family, because I was wrestling with Lawler, and I’d become friends with Randy, Angelo and Lanny, so everything just fell into place.”

Hart is extremely well-known for his Hall of Fame managerial career, but he also played a crucial role behind the scenes creating iconic theme music.

“I wrote Honky Tonk Man’s greatest hits, [Ted] DiBiase’s ‘Million Dollar Man’ song, ‘Oh What A Rush’ for the Road Warriors, ‘The Wolfpac’ for [Kevin] Nash and [Scott] Hall, Hulk’s ‘American Made,’ and the Hart Foundation theme for Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.

“One of my favorites was writing Shawn Michaels’ song, and of course, Dusty Rhodes’ theme song, ‘Common Man.’ With Shawn, [Sensational] Sherrie [Martel] did the song originally. Then we put Shawn’s voice on it, and he did a great job with it. I wrote a lot of the songs for WCW, too.”

Hart believed entrance songs offered far more meaning if the talent sang his own song.

“If you look back, Shawn sang his song, Honky sang his song, Million Dollar Man did his that we wrote, and even the Mountie sang his own song,” said Hart. “The theme for the Rougeau Brothers is still one of my favorites, and I love their famous line – ‘We don’t like heavy metal, we don’t like rock and roll, all we like to listen to is Barry Manilow. Hey!’ We had a good time doing that.”

Vince McMahon appreciated Hart’s contributions, and he was allowed to work out of a music studio in Memphis, Tennessee when he was not traveling with the WWF.

“I cut a lot of that in the studio down there in Memphis at American Studios, but we also had another revival group of the Gentrys after our original group broke up and we cut over at Sun Studio,” said Hart. “Sam Phillips–the guy who produced Elvis [Presley], Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis–his son produced us. So I had a studio that I could go to back in the day whenever we came up with an idea in Knoxville, and they would let us cut our songs in there.”

Wrestling fans still fondly recall The Wrestling Album, which was released in November of 1985 and featured such hits as Junkyard Dog’s “Grab Them Cakes,” Hillbilly Jim’s “Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy,” and Jimmy Hart’s “Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield.”

“They really had a toss-up between ‘Grab Them Cakes’ or ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ as the single for the album. They went with Junkyard Dog because they thought that a babyface had a better chance for a hit record than a heel.”

Hart revealed that he never had any input in the wrestlers he managed (“They just put me with the characters they wanted to put me with.”), but is grateful for the array of talent he managed.

“I’ve been lucky,” said Hart, who still looks like the same “Mouth of the South” at 72 years old. “Look at the people I had to manage: Earthquake and Typhoon, the Honky Tonk Man, the Nasty Boys, the Rougeau Brothers, the Hart Foundation, Dino Bravo, Adrian Adonis, Terry Funk, Dory Funk, Jimmy Jack Funk, Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster, Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan, and that’s just up in New York. And look at Memphis–the Poffo’s, Joe Loduc, Austin Idol and Dream Machine, Handsome Jimmy Valiant and Koko B. Ware. I’ve been so blessed to work with these guys, and if it weren’t for all the fans who came to see us and bought tickets, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Hart is busy with his new beach bar in Daytona, Florida, aptly named Jimmy Hart’s Hall of Fame Bar and Tiki Deck. He also works with WWE sporadically on his Legends’ contract.

Extra Mustard
Ring of Honor’s Moose on his Patriots teammates, Belichick’s coaching style

“I’m there at the beach bar most of the time, and I still do stuff for the WWE,” said Hart. “I was just on the Edge and Christian Show, and I did a thing with JBL about my career that will be coming up pretty soon. If it weren’t for the WWE and Vince McMahon giving me a break thirty-two years ago, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, so I’m very grateful.”

Hart also revealed the origin of his “Mouth of the South” nickname.

“The ‘Mouth of the South’ was just a great little thing,” he explained. “That started when Andy Kaufman and myself were above the wrestling studio in Memphis at a radio station called FM-100. And one day we were on there with a DJ named Ron Jordan, and he kept asking me the questions. Andy tried to butt in, and Ron Jordan said, ‘Jimmy, why don’t you let Andy talk? Who do you think you are, the ‘Mouth of the South?’ And I went, ‘Oh, I love that,’ and that’s how it came about.”

In a career chockfull of highlights–including a hit with the Gentrys that surpassed a million copies in sales and an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame–Hart still considers the original WrestleMania as his career highlight.

“WrestleMania I still stands out,” said Hart. “If WrestleMania I had not taken place, we wouldn’t be here today. WrestleMania III was awesome, and being in the Hall of Fame and having a gold record with the Gentrys was great, but still, it’s being a part of WrestleMania I. Going to the ring with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine for that match and then coming back and doing the match with King Kong Bundy against SD Jones, that’s part of history. If it hadn’t been successful, we wouldn’t be here now.”

Weekly Top 10

1.) Kevin Owens, WWE

Owens was fantastic on Raw in his victory over Zack Ryder, as well as on SportsCenter on Tuesday with Jonathan Coachman.

2.) AJ Styles, WWE

Styles is holding more than his own in the angle with WWE champion Roman Reigns.

3.) Chris Jericho, WWE

Jericho opened and closed Raw on Monday, and found a way to put over both Dean Ambrose and Big Cass.

4.) Tetsuya Naito, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Naito won a terrific wrestling match at Global Wars over Kyle O’Reilly. The IWGP champion was distant and aloof throughout the match, continually showing disrespect to his title. His character has made an entire reversal for the better since this time a year ago.

Extra Mustard
Evolve’s Gabe Sapolsky discusses Paul Heyman, Daniel Bryan, WWE

5.) Adam Cole, Ring of Honor

The newest Bullet Club member is destined to be the next Ring of Honor champion.

6.) Roman Reigns, WWE

Reigns and Styles are building an extremely compelling story.

7.) Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, WWE

When will Gallows and Anderson work a series with the New Day?

8.) Jay Lethal, Ring of Honor

Lots of question marks for Lethal–will he continue to feud with Colt Cabana? Donovan Dijak? Or move his attention entirely to Adam Cole?

9.) The Young Bucks, Ring of Honor

The Bucks showed a far more destructive side at Global Wars. Will they make a run at the ROH tag titles?

10.) EC3, TNA

EC3’s surprise appearance at EVOLVE is a fantastic opportunity for exposure away from the TNA lens.

Coming Soon: G1 Climax with Josh Barnett

New Japan Wrestling returns to AXS TV on Friday, May 27 with ten broadcasts of the 2015 G1 Climax. As a former New Japan competitor–and UFC heavyweight contender–AXS color commentator Josh Barnett understands the significance of the G1.

“New Japan is the best product in professional wrestling,” said Barnett, who wrestled in New Japan when on hiatus from UFC. “They have the best talent. Those guys hitting the ring for New Japan are actual, bona-fide wrestlers. They’re not glorified choreographers, they’re not sports entertainment. They’re wrestlers.”

The matches feature a bevy of talent, including Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi and AJ Styles. If Barnett ever returned to the ring, the 38-year-old revealed his return would take place in the G1.

“If I was to come back and get back into a healthy wrestling schedule again, it would be in New Japan,” said Barnett. “I would relish the idea of matching up with some of New Japan’s top guys.”

The ten episodes from the tournament will air over six weeks, with double-premieres on June 3, 17, 24, and July 1. Each episode will feature at least one match in full, and begins at a special air time of 8pm ET with Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Styles, and Tetsuya Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale.

“Leave all your expectations at the door,” said Barnett. “Come in with an open mind, watch the matches and treat it with real, earnest interest. It will be much better than you ever expect.”

Five Questions with… Kazuchika Okada

Known as the “Rainmaker,” Kazuchika Okada is the biggest star active in Japanese professional wrestling. Despite his young age–Okada is only 28 years old–he is already a three-time IWGP heavyweight champion, as well as a two-time winner of the G1 Climax (2012, 2014) and also captured the New Japan Cup in 2013. Okada had a brief run in the United States with TNA in 2010, but he was booked so poorly that New Japan Pro Wrestling furiously cut off all relations with TNA. Okada, who delivers one of the most devastating dropkicks in the business, is currently looking to regain the world title from current IWGP champ Tetsuya Naito.

SI.com: You began your career training with Ultimo Dragon in 2004. After working in Mexico, Japan and the United States, how do you describe your style of wrestling?

Okada: I am new school, but Ultimo Dragon taught me that wrestling is a fight. He taught me the importance of the fighting spirit in the ring.

I started wrestling in Mexico, and then I came to New Japan. I tried to be different. I learned the Mexican style, the Japanese style and the American style. My dropkick is from Mexico, but my fighting spirit is from Japan. The TV and the entertainment is from the U.S., so everything combined. I was a young age, 16 years old, in Mexico. I traveled to these different countries, and I have the new style from Mexico and TNA. I wrestled two years in Florida, then back in Japan, and everything combined for a new style. It’s different. I was looking for old school wrestling that looked new. Dropkicks are old moves, but I wanted to make a new version of an old move.

SI.com: The reason New Japan no longer works with TNA is because of the way you were mishandled. Were there any positives to working with TNA, and what did you learn from the experience?

Okada: I learned in TNA that I needed more than just a good match–I needed a character. That’s how I became the “Rainmaker.” It was good for me. TNA didn’t use me, but I got hungrier to wrestle. The struggle made me better. I was always a good wrestler. I feel like I can wrestle anybody. Of course, I wanted to main event wrestling matches in TNA, but in their eyes, no, that would not happen. So I went back to New Japan. I took the timing and technique I learned in the U.S. back with me to Japan.

Extra Mustard
TNA champion Drew Galloway focused on life after WWE

When I was in TNA, somebody told me about the “Rainmaker.” I thought it was a nice character. In Japan, there is no character–it’s fight, fight, fight. So I needed a character. When I was just a strong wrestler, TNA didn’t use me. I didn’t have a character, so I knew I needed one. That’s what the agents in TNA kept telling me, so I made this character and I took it to New Japan.

SI.com: Would you ever want to leave New Japan and go to the WWE?

Okada: Never. Many guys told me I should go, but there has been no offer.

SI.com: What did you think of Shinsuke Nakamura’s decision to leave New Japan for the WWE? Will he have to adjust his “strong style” of wrestling to the more American, WWE style?

Okada: I was very surprised he left for WWE. I was so surprised, but it’s no problem. That’s what he wanted–he wanted to go.

There is more emotion in a match in New Japan. The matches here in the U.S. are so fast that sometime they lack emotion. It is move, move, move. When I lost last year’s Tokyo Dome [at Wrestle Kingdom 9], I almost cried. There is that much emotion, and that is a big difference in style.

SI.com: Given that New Japan and Ring of Honor have a talent-exchange program, do you have a burning desire to be Ring of Honor champion?

Okada: No, I don’t want to be Ring of Honor champion or anywhere else. IWGP is the number one title in the world.

I want to make New Japan the best company. I think I’m the best, but New Japan is not the best company yet. I want to wrestle at Madison Square Garden and MGM with New Japan Pro Wrestling. We can make it happen.

Tweet of the Week

Kevin Owens and Tyler Breeze have united to raise funds for the victims of the Alberta fires. Please consider donating and spreading the word.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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