Courtesy of NJPW and TV Asahi

Juice Robinson: “I want to wrestle Mox every f---ing day.”

By Justin Barrasso
June 19, 2019

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

Juice Robinson: “I want to wrestle Mox every f---ing day”

Circle the date.

On August 11, Juice Robinson will have his rematch against Jon Moxley during New Japan’s vaunted G1 Climax tournament.

“Revenge, that’s the word,” said Robinson. “I want revenge on Jon Moxley, and I’ll get it. He has so much charisma and an incredible persona in the ring, and that makes me level up. I want to wrestle Mox every f---ing day.”

New Japan unveiled the brackets for this summer’s G1, with Robinson and Moxley both in Block B of the 20-man tourney. Robinson lost his IWGP United States title exactly two weeks ago to Moxley, but the New Japan star known for his wild dreadlocks is battling a far more serious opponent: elemental, existential fears.

Robinson first developed a name for himself in NXT as CJ Parker from 2012 to 2015. But he left after requesting his release, in search of a dream that could not be accomplished in WWE.

The 30-year-old Robinson is not defined by title reigns. He is not motivated solely by a rematch for the U.S. title against Moxley. Robinson’s stream-of-consciousness promos are widely applauded across wrestling, and it is his desire to express emotion through his matches that is the driving force behind his work.

“I have to find out who I am,” said Robinson. “Do I want to be the guy in a costume, making the little kids smile and the babes have a good time? Or I am the guy whooping ass?

“Right now, it’s nut-cutting time. I need to drop some of the flamboyance. If I want to be a top guy, which I do, then it’s time for me to start acting like it.”

The Robinson-Moxley match took place on June 5 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Sumo Hall during the Best of the Super Juniors finale, and the match was full of fire and emotion. The bout will forever be known as Moxley’s first title win in New Japan, but for those watching closely, also stands out as a nonstop, relentless effort from Robinson that will be needed to propel him into New Japan’s main event.

“My goal is to have that Moxley match at Ryogoku any time my number is called,” said Robinson. “I need to be able to rise to the occasion and immediately kick ass.

“People are always going to come here because this is the best wrestling company in the world. No one can argue that. So I have to try to hold my ground. Big stars come in—Cody comes in, Jericho comes in, Moxley comes in. Now I’m not on their level, but I’m working to get there. I am trying to compete with some big stars, and I am doing everything I can to compete with them. Ospreay, Ibushi, Kenta, there are so many talented people here. I’m just a regular guy trying to fit in.”

Only a year ago, Robinson was engaged in a back-and-forth program with “Switchblade” Jay White. Now, as Tokyo begins to heat up with July right around the corner, Robinson brings a new look into the summer after cutting off his dreadlocks.

“The hair, it wasn’t me anymore,” said Robinson. “I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and said, ‘This isn’t me anymore.’ A haircut is not going to be the reason I’m popular. If it is, I don’t want it. I want people to know me and feel me because of what I do in the ring.”

The essence of his soul is found in the Juice Robinson character, which is a far cry from the person that wrestling fans knew in NXT.

“CJ Parker has been dead for a long time,” said Robinson. “People will ask me about WWE, but that’s over. I’m never going there again. Let’s stop talking about what I’ve done. Let’s move on and judge me based on what I do now. Watch it and feel it, because this is it.”

The term “sports entertainer” fails to capture Robinson’s personality or job title. He is a proud pro wrestler, sacrificing relationships and moments with family and friends in Illinois to perfect his craft in Japan. And he doesn’t have one regret about that decision.

“I’m going to be whatever I am,” said Robinson. “I’m not afraid to make a mistake or f--- up. I’m free. I’m just out there being me. All people should do that in life.

“I want to make people feel what I do. If I can make anybody feel about pro wrestling the way I do, then holy cow. Pro wrestling is the coolest thing to me. If I can give that feeling to anyone, then that’s the coolest thing in the world.”

Defined by an unwavering spirit, Robinson is ready to unleash a new side of his soul to the wrestling world this summer.

“And Mox, he should watch his back,” promised Robinson. “He’s in New Japan, this is my world. I can’t wait to see him in the G1.”

****

WWE’s “Stomping Grounds” is unique proving ground for Dolph Ziggler

Dolph Ziggler has a WWE title shot this Sunday against Kofi Kingston in a steel cage.

But does anyone actually think he’ll win?

This is not to suggest that Ziggler isn’t talented. He is phenomenal in the ring, with the ability to carry an entertaining match with practically anyone on the WWE roster. His mic work is top-notch, he has been a world champion before, and there is a genuine believability in his work. But who really believes that Ziggler will win the title on Sunday?

Ziggler cut a strong promo to open this week’s SmackDown, promising he would prove he is better than Kingston. A comparison of their career trajectories is interesting, but only Ziggler has been given the chance, and shone, as both a babyface and a heel.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIyB6Ycn0Ww]

Despite all his accolades, Ziggler has been positioned as someone who puts over the top tier of stars. His feud with Kingston is reminiscent of a storyline from the summer of 2016, where new champ Dean Ambrose defended his WWE title against Ziggler at SummerSlam. Ambrose won the match, and Ziggler was successful in enhancing the work of the champion. That is likely to be the same blueprint for this Sunday at Stomping Grounds.

Ziggler won a competitive match last night on SmackDown over Xavier Woods, cleanly defeating the New Day star—which is exactly what he is promising will happen to Kingston on Sunday.

The only way for WWE to change the way Ziggler is viewed is to have him win this match. Kingston is a magnificent babyface, and chasing the title would add another reason to watch SmackDown each week. Best case, Ziggler wins cleanly, then brags and boasts that he is better than Kingston, which is a solid storyline coming off the Super ShowDown where Kingston needed the help of Woods to retain the title.

Unlikely as it is to play out that way, the wrestling world is more exciting when Ziggler is involved, especially when he plays a role of significance.

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

• Big E’s comedic gold continued last night on SmackDown with his request that the last hour of the show be known as the… “freaky hour.”

• Monday’s Raw served as a reminder why we should never doubt Cesaro’s strength.

[RAW Spoilers] Cesaro is pretty strong from r/SquaredCircle

• Harvard Business School will be offering a course in the fall where students will study the business of WWE.

• Pentagon and Fenix reclaimed the AAA tag team titles from the Young Bucks this past Sunday at the Verano de Escandalo show in Mexico

• Oh, it’s true.

Jonathan Gresham ready to build to main-event status

Jonathan Gresham is on the card for Ring of Honor’s Best in the World pay-per-view on June 28, which is fitting—he is one of the best in the world as a mat-based, scientific wrestler.

Gresham wrestles Silas Young in a “Pure/Scientific Rules” encounter at the pay-per-view that could surprise people as the match of the card.

“Pure wrestling is the original pillar of Ring of Honor,” said Gresham. “To me, it is what made this company special and different from every other promotion in the world. This is why I’m here, to bring it back, to restore honor. ‘Pure Rules’ is ROH’s twist on the original pro wrestling rules. This is to put emphasis on wrestling.”

Keeping true to pro wrestling’s origins, there will be no closed fists or kicking in the match. Each wrestler will receive three rope breaks. Once a wrestler has exhausted all three rope breaks, they can no longer escape holds or submissions via rope break.

A lot of wrestlers may feel the restrictions of the match hinder their ability to shine, but this is an incredible opportunity for the technically precise Gresham to showcase his talents, especially against a great foil in Young.

“When I came to ROH, my goal was to bring back the best parts of this company,” said Gresham. “The parts that made me and many others fall in love with the product. I believe this will give opportunity to other wrestlers like me from around the world to shine on the ROH stage. Now ROH has a little something for everyone.”

Young plays his role as a heel exceptionally well, referring to himself as the “Technician of Honor” in an effort to mock Gresham. But Gresham has been proving people wrong his entire career, and he just returned from a tour of Japan in the renowned Best of the Super Juniors tournament that was won by Will Ospreay.

A 14-year veteran, Gresham’s wrestling stops have included England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Amsterdam, as well as several tours of Japan. But the Best of the Super Juniors tournament now adds to his glowing wrestling portfolio.

“Pro wrestling history is so fun to learn about and talk about to others,” said Gresham. “The history of it means so much to me.”

At the age of 31, having just signed a new deal with ROH, Gresham is hungry to embrace a more prominent role in pro wrestling. He can cut a tremendous promo, but it is his work in the ring that makes him so must-see.

“I believe everyone gets an opportunity to be a top guy, but it’s all about being ready when that opportunity presents itself,” said Gresham. “To be honest, I always wanted to be here. Never thought I would, so I’m just soaking it up. I’m not planning anything, I’m just enjoying the ride.”

New Japan releases G1 Climax match lineup

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax tournament kicks off on July 6 in Dallas during a live AXS TV special. The main event is appointment-viewing, as reigning G1 winner Hiroshi Tanahashi opens this year’s tourney against IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.

The 20-man round robin tournament, featuring ten wrestlers in Block A and another ten in Block B, runs for over a month and represents the most grueling stretch in wrestling. This year also marks Jon Moxley’s debut in the G1.

WWE does not have a similar tourney to the G1, though their tour schedule is nonstop. The question of how Moxley will handle the G1 will be worth paying attention to throughout July and August, especially so far away from home in the heart (and heat) of Japan.

But the artist formerly known as Dean Ambrose is a pro wrestler through and through, and there is nothing he cannot do. In his head, he might be a little bit intimidated, but he’ll never say it or show it. Moxley is the real deal, and once he gets in a match or two in the G1, he’ll be rolling.

Kota Ibushi vs. newly-returned Kenta (known in WWE as Hideo Itami) is also on the card for the opening night in Dallas, and the tourney is filled with must-see Moxley matches.

Just to highlight a few of the standouts: Moxley vs. Taichi (July 13); Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii (July 19); and the one I am personally looking forward to most, Moxley vs. Tetsuya Naito on July 28. That doesn’t even include matchups with Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Toru Yano, Jay White, and, of course, Juice Robinson.

The G1 winner will go on to headline Wrestle Kingdom 14 in January. Moxley is a full-time All Elite Wrestling talent being allowed to work overseas until AEW’s TV debut on TNT in the fall, which makes it unlikely he will win the tournament but he still adds a new level of excitement to this year’s G1. Potential winners include Okada, Ibushi, and White.

Okada just defeated Chris Jericho and is on a mission to prove he is the most elite champion in the history of New Japan. A win by Ibushi would instantly elevate him into the main event of the card, which is a place he certainly belongs, and White would add another dimension to his greatness with a G1 victory.

With the G1 leading the way, this summer marks a very interesting time in New Japan.

Conrad Thompson previews this week’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”

Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard will explore the 1994 “King of the Ring” on this Friday’s edition of “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard,” looking at the coronation of “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart.

The structure of the pay-per-view was peculiar, and the order of matches, which saw Bret Hart defend the WWF title in the middle of the card, as well as a main event of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper against Jerry “The King” Lawler, will be a topic of discussion.

“It’s a crowning moment for Owen Hart, and his win set the tone for his match against Bret at SummerSlam ’94,” said Thompson. “But we’re also going to look at two other aspects that weren’t so good. It’s one of the worst main events of that era with Roddy Piper and Jerry Lawler, who were oil and water in the ring. I’m also looking forward to picking Bruce’s brain about Art Donovan.”

The show took place in Baltimore and Vince McMahon brought in Donovan, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and famed Baltimore Colt, to join the commentary team of Gorilla Monsoon and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

“It’s amazing that Vince didn’t call an audible and have Art taken off the broadcast after one match,” said Thompson. “But that didn’t happen.”

The placement of Bret Hart’s title match against Diesel also stuck out to Thompson.

“Bruce says that the phrase internally about the marketing of Bret was, ‘What would we do for Hulk?’” said Thompson. “That was their reminder to position and present Bret in the same way they would have done with Hulk, but they don’t do that here. The world title match is in the middle of the card, and the main event isn’t even the King of the Ring final. Did Vince feel like Roddy Piper was a bigger star than Bret? I’m curious to hear Bruce’s reasoning.”

Thompson’s “Grilling JR” podcast also drops a new episode this Thursday, as Jim Ross shares memories of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

“We’re going to talk about his friendship with the late, great Dusty Rhodes,” said Thompson. “He’ll share stories and celebrate his memory, and that will be one of our more fun episodes.”

Tweet of the Week

Will CM Punk be a part of AEW? For now, his answer is clear.

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

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