Justin Barrasso
Wednesday August 17th, 2016

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

Kenny Omega Captures the G1 Climax

Although SummerSlam is mere days away, the most memorable moment in wrestling this summer just took place this past weekend in Tokyo.

Ten thousand miles away from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York–the WWE’s home this weekend–is Tokyo, Japan. History was made in the Land of the Rising Sun as Kenny Omega captured New Japan’s Pro Wrestling G1 Climax.

Omega believes that no one else in the world–including WWE’s John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns–could have excelled in the G1 in a similar fashion.

“Absolutely not,” said Omega. “That’s not even me speaking in character–that’s just them not being on my level, at all, physically or mentally. I’m not taking anything away from them–they’re fantastic, great performers, great people. But what we do here is completely different from what they do there.”

Omega’s victory is also noteworthy regarding his future. While he could still lose the contract in a match before January’s Wrestle Kingdom show, a spot in the main event–and likely run with the IWGP championship–will keep Omega in New Japan and away from the WWE until at least 2018.

“Do I think John Cena could come here and do what I do?” asked Omega. “No. Do I think anyone else could? No, not even close. That may come across as sounding egotistical, but it’s just the reality of the situation. We have a very physical style, and the physical demand for what they do is different.

“If they asked the same question oppositely, could I do John Cena’s schedule with all of the charity events he does? He’s always on the move–could I do that as well as John Cena? Definitely not. It’s apples and oranges, you can’t really compare. All the same, I respect what they do, and I do believe that respect is mutual and goes both ways.”

Omega won the B-block of the 26th annual G1, then defeated A-block winner Hirooki Goto in the finale. The victory gives him a briefcase–similar to WWE’s “Money in the Bank” title contract, except Omega will have to defend the contract in matches–for a title match at Wrestle Kingdom in January, which is New Japan’s version of WrestleMania.

In an exclusive to Sports Illustrated, Omega–along with G1 runner-up Hirooki Goto, 2015 G1 winner Hiroshi Tanahashi, and IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada–spoke about the grueling 10-match, 26-day tournament that can be viewed on New Japan World.

“For a lot of foreigners, especially lately, we’ve all mingled with the idea of a foreigner appearing at the Tokyo Dome main event, but we talk about it as somewhat of a fantasy situation–a pipe dream,” said Omega. “Times are a-changing, especially this year. We’ve had a lot of departures, and the company is more open to relying on the foreign talent that we have.”

The G1 is a punishing, round-robin tournament that runs for just under a month. AJ Styles described the G1 as the most grueling experience he has ever encountered in wrestling.

​“AJ wasn’t lying,” said Omega. “That wasn’t just a personal opinion, that’s the consensus–this tour is the hardest in the world. You’ll notice, as time goes by, you can see more tape on wrestlers than you can see skin. People are being held together with tape. Our trainers are always preoccupied, from start to finish, trying to keep guys moving and held together.”

Omega, however, seemed to get stronger with each match, particularly so in his victory over Tetsuya Naito. He admitted he did not know how he was able to continue to excel throughout such a grueling tournament.

“I’m still trying to figure that out myself,” explained Omega. “I feel bumped and bruised, mentally drained, physically exhausted, but I’ve been able to keep the pace that I’ve wanted to keep. That’s part of the motivation I felt with this being my first G1, and the motivation to represent all of the foreign wrestlers, and the motivation to be the G1 MVP. I don’t just want to be a guy in this thing. I’m not happy just to participate. I want to see it through to my full potential, so if I can be MVP, I’m going to shoot for it. That’s what I shot for, and luckily, it didn’t result in an injury or my retirement.”

Following “Ravishing” Rick Rude and WWE’s Karl Anderson, Omega is only the third North American to ever reach the finals of the G1, and the first to win it all.

“I’m trying to etch my own name in the annals of time,” said Omega. “I hope that no matter where I end up–TNA, Lucha Underground, WWE, a backyard federation–I want my legacy to be in Japan, and this G1 is a big part of that.”

The victory elevates Omega into legendary status rarely–if ever–held by a North American wrestler in Japan.

“It’s hard to deny that–through passion and hard work and dedicating my entire career to Japanese pro wrestling–I haven’t at least earned an opportunity to become one of those legends,” said Omega. “We’re talking about Dynamite Kid, Karl Anderson, Terry Gordy, Bam Bam Bigelow, ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, and Stan Hansen, he’s the number one. I’ll even say ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude, he’s an inspiration to me to this day–I do the swiveling hips all the time as a tribute to the man.”

The G1 also featured a 30-minute time limit draw between IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada and reigning 2015 G1 winner Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Okada expressed disappointment in his inability to capture the tournament

“I’m IWGP heavyweight champion, but I couldn’t win,” admitted a disappointed Okada. “I tell everybody that IWGP champion is the strongest and the number one guy, but I couldn’t do it here. I’ll get revenge to everyone I lost to in the G1.”

Reigning 2015 G1 Climax winner Hiroshi Tanahashi was humbled to know he would not repeat as champion in 2016.

“I wanted to win the G1 two years in a row, but that dream is now done,” said Tanahashi. “I never lost to Goto in the tournament, and I will make a comeback in the New Japan ring. My story is to be continued.”

In a rare glimpse of wrestling psychology in Japan, Tanahashi explained how he and Okada continue to make their matches special.

“I always think of our situation,” said Tanahashi. “This past match in the G1, Okada was IWGP champion. I have no belt, so I showed my challenge spirit–I’m fighting from the bottom–I try, try, try, try.”

Goto won the G1 in 2008, but he could not overcome Omega in this year’s tournament’s finale.

“Omega is unpredictable in the ring. You always need to pay close attention to him. But I’m proud to be part of the G1. It’s very famous here in Japan, and one of the most well-known wrestling tournaments in the world.”

Goto described the G1 Climax as demanding on your mind, body, and spirit.

“The G1 is totally different from every other tournament,” said Goto. “Keeping the motivation from beginning to end can be very, very difficult. Each match is very hard, and this is the hardest tour of the year.”

The historic victory allowed Omega to reminisce about his career in Japan, which has reached entirely new heights in the wake of his G1 triumph.

“I had humble dreams back in my first trip to Japan with DDT in 2008,” said Omega. “I thought getting to Japan was my end game. There was even pressure from my girlfriend at the time to call it quits–‘time to get serious and end the childish fantasy phase of becoming a pro wrestler, so get a new haircut and get a new job.’

“But upon leaving Japan, I felt like I could do more. With each and every new accomplishment, I felt that I had not seen my true potential, so going to Japan became not enough. Winning a title there was not enough, winning match of the year was not enough. I just always have this hunger to do more, and I’m never satisfied. I thought just showing up to my first trip to Japan would be enough, mission accomplished. Now, I don’t know where it ends.”

News of the Week

Conor McGregor is looking for a fight. But only on his terms.

McGregor fights an extremely dangerous opponent in Nate Diaz this Saturday at UFC 202, yet the buildup to the fight has been as much about the WWE as it has been the Octagon.

McGregor, who is known as “The Notorious One,” created a firestorm on social media after calling WWE wrestlers “messed up p------,” and followed up on that comment last Friday at a UFC press event in Las Vegas when he specifically called out John Cena.

“What’s the main guy? John Cena? He’s 40 years of age. He’s walking around in an illuminous orange t-shirt and a headband talking about how nobody can see him. I see him right there – he’s a big, fat, 40-year-old, failed Mr. Olympian, what a f-----.”

McGregor is working from a position of strength. Pound for pound, he is one of the top fighters in the world, which means Cena–who is 39 years old, not 40–has to be very measured in his reply. McGregor is extremely bright and knew what he was doing when he called out Cena–even in a WWE ring, while working as a heel, McGregor would be cheered while Cena would be booed.

McGregor vs. Cena would add major star power to WrestleMania 33.

The introduction of The Shockmaster–or, perhaps more appropriately, the debacle–took place twenty-three years ago on August 18, 1993.

Fred Ottman, who more notably went by Typhoon and Tugboat in the World Wrestling Federation, was debuting in WCW as The Shockmaster.

Ottman’s Shockmaster was set to be unveiled as the mystery partner for Sting, the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, and Dustin Rhodes in their upcoming “War Games” match at Fall Brawl against Sid Vicious, Vader, and Harlem Heat. The Shockmaster’s entrance was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

“It was really bad that night,” admitted Ottman. “It was live TV, and it was a nightmare. I’d driven to Daytona, Florida–where it took place–from my house in Tampa, and it was a hard drive back at night. All Dusty Rhodes [who produced the segment] could do was shake his head.”

A two-by-four was added to the wall to provide more structure, but that caused Ottman’s fall.

“I tripped over that two-by-four,” said Ottman. “And they couldn’t mic me, so Ole Anderson did the voice. There was pantyhose over the holes of my mask because the glitter from the mask was falling into my eyes. Mike Graham gave me the cue, but his last words were, ‘Fred, you’re going to have to hit this thing hard.’ The next thing I knew, I fell and exposed myself on live television.”

The whole segment was a disaster–from Ole Anderson’s horrible voice for The Shockmaster, to the outfit, to the tripping and falling – but it will forever live on in wrestling infamy.

“I still have the helmet in my house,” said Ottman. “It is the holy grail whenever I do the comic cons, and the new action figure. It was a humiliating night, but people are still talking about it.”

In other news…

• Finn Bálor will become the first-ever WWE Universal champion this Sunday in front of a very supportive crowd in Brooklyn at SummerSlam. Vince McMahon is very protective of the WWE title–which is held by Dean Ambrose–but I have been told that the call to have Bálor debut his demon character and capture the Universal title at SummerSlam is coming directly from Paul Levesque.

• Brock Lesnar will receive his punishment from WWE and drop the match to Randy Orton on Sunday, but the decision could be a blessing in disguise. As evidenced by his short promo on Heath Slater on Monday, the time is right to turn Lesnar into a full heel, which we have not seen since prior to WrestleMania 31. Lesnar’s personality and gruff manner–along with his size and strength–make him the perfect antagonist.

• John Cena ended Smackdown by sending AJ Styles through the announce table with an Attitude Adjustment. Styles had just finished pummeling Cena after his victory over Alberto Del Rio. Although conventional WWE booking has Cena winning cleanly on Sunday, I would love to see Vince McMahon give the green light on a clean victory for the “Phenomenal One.” Cena and Styles can then resume their feud once Styles is world champ.

• On the topic of AJ Styles–who Kurt Angle stated last week is “the best in the world”–AXS TV aired his match against Kazuchika Okada from last October this past Friday. That was their rubber match from 2015, as Okada and Styles had each defeated one another twice before that contest. Okada walked away victorious, which led to his IWGP title defense against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January, and Jim Ross does a magnificent job with the call of the match.  

Evolution of Punk debuted on FS1 on Monday, and the documentary serves as a reminder of the importance of CM Punk’s first fight. Although Punk has left the business of professional wrestling, he represents every wrestler–more so than ever after McGregor’s barrage of insults–in his September 10 fight against Mickey Gall at UFC 203.

• In addition to SummerSlam on Sunday, NXT presents Takeover: Brooklyn II right before UFC 202 on Saturday night. The card, headlined by Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, has six matches scheduled–and half of the card features matches with former TNA stalwarts in Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries.

• Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor XIV kicks off an incredible weekend of wrestling on Friday. Jay Lethal defends his ROH world title in the main event against the Bullet Club’s Adam Cole, and the show also includes New Japan’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP world champion Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and the ROH debut of Katsuyori Shibata.

• Damien Sandow–repackaged as Aron Rex–debuted in TNA this past Thursday. Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame was also named president of IMPACT Ventures, TNA’s parent company, while former president Dixie Carter transitions to a new role of chairman and chief strategy officer. Corgan is now responsible for day-to-day operations of IMPACT.

• New Japan’s Super J-Cup returns for the first time in seven years, and that card is also set for this Sunday.

• This weekend is a bit of an extreme example, but there is clearly a great deal happening in the world of wrestling. Another point of interest occurred last Thursday when ESPN.com launched its new WWE vertical. ESPN enlisted the help of several accomplished writers, and their relationship with WWE has already helped them deliver some fantastic content–but will the relationship with WWE prevent ESPN from legitimately critiquing the product?

• Ten predictions for the weekend: John Cena defeats AJ Styles while the New Day retains the tag titles against Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in a bad night for The Club; Finn Bálor, Dean Ambrose and Sasha Banks will be the respective WWE champions come Monday morning; Roman Reigns will be booed out of the Barclays Center and fail in his bid to win the United States title; Adam Cole ends Jay Lethal’s Ring of Honor world title reign at 427 days; Matt Sydal–who was Evan Bourne in WWE–wins the Super J-Cup; Conor McGregor evens the score with a victory over Nate Diaz; and Randy Orton scores a pinfall victory–“outta nowhere”–against Brock Lesnar.

The Wrestlers’ Tribune: Timothy Thatcher

Timothy Thatcher defends his EVOLVE championship on Friday in Joppa, Maryland for EVOLVE 66 in a no holds barred match against former UFC fighter Matt Riddle. If Thatcher retains the title, he will then defend the very next day in Brooklyn, New York vs. Drew Gulak at EVOLVE 67. The 6’3”, 220-pound Thatcher is the longest-ever reigning EVOLVE champion and one of the most technically sound wrestlers in the world.

I Will Only Be Who I Am

I would rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in.

A Swedish punk rock band–the Refused–once said that, and it is something I equate to how I approach the bizarre world of professional wrestling.

I became involved in pro wrestling in 2005. I was a journalist and did a story on a local business, Supreme Pro Wrestling (SPW), in Sacramento, California. After I had finished talking to those in charge, I asked if they needed help with anything. I had been a fan of pro wrestling since being babysat by my grandmother. Then, after I had moved later in life to Sacramento, I had been going to SPW shows for a year. They said they were in need of referees.

I thought how great that would be–a pro wrestling referee. The thought of becoming an actual wrestler never entered my mind. So I agreed. I was told I needed to attend the training because I would have to understand the work and dedication that was needed. “Not a problem,” I thought to myself.

So for eight months I did all the training. I was refereeing the SPW shows and other shows around California. Then I was told by my trainer, “Big Ugly” JD Bishop, I was to wrestle my first match in September.

Excuse me?

I’m just a referee.  I was told I was figuring it out too well so I was going to wrestle now.

Oh. Right. It was important that I did this to the best of my ability. Out of respect to those who had come before me in this business. Out of respect to those who believed in me. Those ideas were so important to me I went full bore into the pro wrestling adventure. There were many people in the area that were involved just to “say” they were a wrestler. I refused to be one of those people.

I have to work very hard to be mediocre in everything that I do. I am not a natural athlete. I don’t just pick things up, so I never thought I would amount to anything. Just do some shows on the west coast for a couple of years and then quit. So I listened to what other people told me I should do. Told me how to wrestle.  Had me be a cartoon character in the ring. My heart wasn’t into it, and my work showed that.

An unfortunate situation turned into a positive. Two weeks after I started training, SPW was kicked out of the building where they ran their school. So for the next two years, we trained in Big Ugly’s garage on small mats. No ring. No room, really. So wrestling became the main focus. That is what I admired and wanted to pursue. My focus was not on running and jumping around but instead on mat-based offense. Submission holds. I would start with this base and expand on it further as the years went on.

I was heavily influenced by the European style of wrestling. Men who were hard men that wrestled like they meant it. These people were not looking to be actors but true professional wrestlers. They were not cartoon characters. Then I found a version of Japanese pro wrestling, BattlArts. Much like the European style, I admired those who fought with all their spirit. The task of victory was their focus–not who had the prettier outfit or the coolest catch phrase. To me, this was pro wrestling in its truest form. This was the focus that I needed.

So I stared to make a shift. I studied the Europeans in their element. Terry Rudge, Pete Roberts, Dave Taylor, Marty Jones and Colin Joynson were some of the best wrestlers most people have never heard of. William Regal and Fit Finlay had wars in the mid-1990s in the popular American company World Championship Wrestling, as well as starting anew in WWE in the 2000s. I saw Yuki Ishikawa battle Daisuke Ikea on DVDs from Japan. The passion and spirit the two showed every time they shared a ring. Incredible. These men made me feel the struggle and aggression of a match. I didn’t sit there saying, “That was cool.” I felt every punch, kick, suplex and submission. I felt the desire for victory. These matches spoke more to me than any others had. These men were not playing wrestler, they were pro wrestlers.

It is interesting how matches can be dictated by people besides the competitors in the ring. When I watched men like this, it felt they were in complete control. They were doing what they felt compelled to do. What they wanted. How they wanted to present pro wrestling to the audience. No one dictated anything to these athletes.

I felt this was my path. I lacked the skill and experience of these men but I had to find the way. I began training in proper catch-as-catch-can wrestling. That is what pro wrestling was originally built on over a century ago: proper submission grappling with pin falls. I learned from Ricky Lazaro, who had learned from legendary catch wrestler Billy Robinson. I trained with Oliver John of Ken Shamrock’s Lions Den, Yuki Ishikawa at the new Battle Arts Academy in Mississauga, Canada, and UFC fighter Josh Barnett. I got the hell beaten out of me at every turn–but I learned and evolved. I eliminated everything I didn’t think was necessary. A waste of movement was a waste of energy, which is a waste of time.  Gone was the cartoon character, the pandering to the people, the talking, and gone was personality. I was going to be judged on my skills between the ropes alone. People could take it or leave it. I was to be in control. I wanted to be like my heroes. If people didn’t enjoy it, then they could look someplace else. This was who I was going to be.

I am also heavily influenced by punk rock. Something that was supposed to be rebellious. If everyone liked it, they were not doing their job. It was supposed to make people think differently about music. I would like to think I follow in the same vein. Pro wrestling has become sports entertainment. People look at it in a certain way. My intent is to make people think of pro wrestling in a different way. Anything that most people do in a ring, I do my best to not do. I want people to have genuine emotions about what I do. In a world where fans react a certain way because they are supposed to, I try for the opposite. George Carlin said once he was comfortable with silence during his act as this was when his voice was heard. I am completely fine with silence. It throws people. Much like comedy, sports entertainment needs immediate feedback. People feel they need fan reaction continuously. That is not important. I only need one reaction.

Pro wrestling isn’t going to change the world with its message like music or George Carlin. But the message of each competitor is an important one for them to convey. Even if I am labeled as “trying to be what wrestling used to be like,” then so be it. The wrestling company Evolve has given me a platform and I am forever grateful. I have my message of struggle. I have a message of pride and respect. This is not easy. People either really like what I do or completely hate it. True emotion. People’s stance on me is not easily persuaded. I am here out of respect for those that came before me. No interest in fame or money. That is not the end goal.  I will only be who I am.

Thatcher’s upcoming title matches on Friday and Saturday at EVOLVE 66 and EVOLVE 67are available on iPPV in HD at www.WWNLive.com, the WWN Roku Channel, and the Fite App.

Weekly Top 10

1.) Kenny Omega, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Omega exerted his dominance with a spectacular showing in the G1 Climax.

2.) Brock Lesnar, WWE

I still can’t get over Dean Ambrose calling out Brock Lesnar’s “laziness” at WrestleMania 32–what, exactly, did he want to do to enhance their match?

3.) Finn Bálor, WWE

Bálor unleashed The Demon on Seth Rollins on Raw, and his loyalty and devotion to building NXT into a viable brand will be rewarded this Sunday.

4.) AJ Styles, WWE

Styles enters the biggest match of his WWE–and wrestling career–this Sunday against John Cena.

5.) Hirooki Goto, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Think of Goto–who finished as the runner-up in the G1 Climax–as New Japan’s Bret Hart. While he doesn’t have the personality of “The Hitman,” his matches are realistic and superbly hard-hitting.

6.) John Cena, WWE

Cena’s future with WWE is clouded by upcoming film and television roles–so isn’t it best for business if Styles defeats Cena this Sunday?

7.) Jay Lethal, Ring of Honor

The Ring of Honor world champion successfully defended his title against Satoshi Kojima in Tokyo, but he faces an even more dangerous opponent in the Bullet Club’s Adam Cole this Sunday in Las Vegas.

8.) Randy Orton, WWE

Orton has been fantastic since his return in July, and looks to build on that momentum with a victory over Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.

9.) Bray Wyatt, WWE

Wyatt enters SummerSlam as the biggest wild card in a SummerSlam world title match since Ric Flair worked his way into the middle of the Ultimate Warrior–“Macho Man” Randy Savage match at Wembley Stadium in 1992.

10.) Seth Rollins, WWE

Rollins is extremely talented, but WWE is constantly depending on him to deliver these long, drawn-out promos on Raw.

Five Questions with… Mark Briscoe

Mark Briscoe is currently one-half of the IWGP heavyweight tag team champions with his brother Jay Briscoe, and the two are eight-time Ring of Honor tag team champions. Briscoe looks to add some singles gold to his collection as he challenges ROH world Television champion Bobby Fish this Friday at Death Before Dishonor.

SI.com: You are challenging Bobby Fish for the Television title this Friday at Death Before Dishonor. What challenges does he present, and how do you envision the match?

Briscoe: Bobby Fish is an animal. The way he trains is unbelievable. When we were on the road in June, I watched him do his workout circuit by the pool at the hotel. He’s doing push-ups, he’s doing burpees, he’s jumping rope, and then he hops in the pool and swims two or three laps. Then he hops out of the pool and just doesn’t stop. His strikes are effective, his submissions are effective and he’s really one of the best all across the board. He’s versatile in the ring, he has personality, and he’s a hell of a tag and singles wrestler. Tempers have flared in our relationship, but in the past, we’ve always got along. We have a little bit of tension now, and just look at his “Fish Tank” interviews. As harmless as they may seem, there are subliminal messages coming out of Bobby Fish’s heart. It seems like it’s all fun and games, but the “Fish Tank” is poison. It’s communist propaganda and derisive rhetoric, so I’ve been working my butt off because I know I’m going in the ring with a man who is hungry. I’m going to match and surpass him.

I’ll tell you how the match is going to go down–Bobby Fish thinks he can outsmart me. That’s part of my strategy–make people think Mark is a dummy. That’s completely the opposite of my red neck kung fu–not only is it precision strength, but it’s precision counters and maneuvers and mind games. Bobby won’t rush me, because truth be told, he doesn’t want to straight up throw down, and he’ll try to be the thinking man’s wrestler and go after an arm or a leg, but I’ll be ready and I’m taking the title home. I should be able to put him away within fifteen minutes. I’m going to stick and move, counter and take it to a brawl and win that title. I’ll throw that title on the dashboard of my truck, and I might just wear it to hold my pants up.

SI.com: Do you prefer singles wrestling or wrestling in a tag team?

Briscoe: We always wrestled one-on-one growing up. We weren’t thinking tag team–it was so obvious that we kind of overlooked it. That became so obvious to us when we started training, but as a kid growing up, I wanted to be the world champ. I wanted to be the Intercontinental champ, the TV champ. It’s not really until you get into the business that most people who end up becoming tag team wrestlers actually become tag team wrestlers. We’re all singles wrestlers at heart.

Tag team wrestling has allowed me to become a better wrestler. The thing about tag team wrestling is not only are you in there working with your partner trying to look the best that you can, but you’ve also got two other guys on the other side of the ring. The better we make them look, the better we look–and the better they make us look, the better they look. Pro wrestling is a team sport. We’re going out there to rock and roll and give the crowd what they want to see, so you’ve got to be selfless rather than selfish. When you look better and your opponent looks better, then the show comes off better. You’ve got to be a team player in pro wrestling.

SI.com: The Briscoe Brothers are current IWGP heavyweight tag team champions in New Japan Pro Wrestling. There is a junior heavyweight tag team division in New Japan. Would you be open to a unification of the tag titles and combine the juniors and heavyweight tag teams?

Briscoe: I’d be open to it. The line is blurred in this day and age between junior heavyweights and heavyweights. Bobby Fish is a perfect example. Bobby and Kyle O’Reilly are multiple time IWGP junior heavyweight tag champs, but Kyle O’Reilly has also been in the hunt for the Ring of Honor world title and Bobby Fish is the world TV champion. They actually beat us for the Ring of Honor tag titles, and I don’t see us in a different class or a different division. But weight classes are one thing that New Japan has held tried and true. There is the junior heavyweight division and the heavyweight division, and I kind of like it. I’d be open to a unification at some point, but I also like the current configuration.

SI.com: You have had tag team battles with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, as well as other WWE stars like AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn. How closely do you follow your friends in WWE?

Briscoe: I love seeing my friends do well. I watched Seth Rollins versus Sami Zayn a couple Mondays ago, and I thought to myself, ‘I remember when these guys were first coming on with Ring of Honor.’ They came in and rocked the freakin’ world, and now they’re wrestling on national TV every Monday night on the biggest stage in wrestling. It’s awesome seeing all those guys there–AJ [Styles], Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, Doc [Gallows] and Karl [Anderson], Cesaro, Dean Ambrose–the way that independent wrestling and Ring of Honor changed the entire professional wrestling business, the entire industry. It’s just an awesome thing to see, and I always take pride sitting and watching these guys at WrestleMania. I remember when we wrestled at an armory in front of 50 people ten years ago, so it’s pretty cool.

SI.com: Will the Briscoe Brothers ever have a run as WWE tag team champions?

Briscoe: I remember someone asked my brother that one time, and he had the best answer I ever heard. He said, ‘You’ll have to ask the good Lord about that one, because I can’t call it.’ I can tell you for sure that we’re happy where we are, and there are no plans of making any moves any time soon. I can never say never, and that is what everybody aspires to be when they say they want to be a pro wrestler. Now, sixteen years into it and four kids and a wife later, priorities do change. Time with my family is of the utmost importance to me, and especially with New Japan still in the mix, we can be at the pinnacle of the pro wrestling business. We don’t need to say we had a run with WWE, but at the same time, whatever will be, will be.

Tweet of the Week

Kenny Omega’s historic G1 Climax victory, celebrated here by AJ Styles and Finn Bálor, make it unlikely that Omega will jump to WWE before 2018.


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

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