Satoshi Kojima is coming to All Elite Wrestling.
The wrestling icon makes his AEW debut this Sunday at All Out, bringing his distinct brand of intensity and international accolades to a star-studded show in a match against Jon Moxley.
“Moxley has earned the respect of wrestling fans around the world, and he’s earned my respect,” said Kojima, speaking to Sports Illustrated through a translator. “To be able to face him is a moment in my career to be proud of.”
For all of his accolades, the 50-year-old Kojima has zero interest in feeding his ego. He is too busy being the life of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling locker room, dispensing post-match advice to eager ears of the Young Lions–NJPW’s rookies.
For those fortunate enough to follow wrestling in Japan for the past two decades, Kojima needs no introduction. He has had such a steady presence that it is as though he is part of wrestling fans’ extended family, which certainly makes it easy to take his brilliance for granted. Three decades into his career, it is still a privilege to watch his tenacity in the ring, channeling his fighting spirit in a rare manner that few will ever capture.
“The meaning of fighting spirit is something I came to understand when I became a wrestler,” said Kojima, who said he made his debut in July of 1991. “This is my understanding of the concept, and it may be different from someone else’s. A professional wrestler’s focus can’t just be on their opponent, but the crowd as well. I’ve been in this business for 30 years, but it’s something I’m still learning and improving at.”
Kojima has experience wrestling in America. Recently, he appeared this spring for Impact Wrestling, though that run feels snake-bitten after a highly anticipated bout against Eddie Edwards–which would have delivered beyond expectations–was derailed by Edwards’ appendectomy. He also was the face of Court Bauer’s MLW, winning their world title in a run that carried over from 2002 to 2003, and had a run in 2014 with the NWA title. He expressed his deep appreciation to the legions of wrestling fans that have already welcomed him to AEW, and he cannot wait to step in the ring and hear a thunderous response from the crowd in Chicago.
“I’m getting so many positive messages every day from fans all over the world on Twitter,” said Kojima. “My English isn’t that great, but I know enough that it all makes me happy. I’m hugely grateful.”
While Kojima’s greatest success has occurred in New Japan, but he also had a significant eight-year run with All Japan Pro Wrestling. A rare occurrence took place in 2005 when Kojima defeated Toshiaki Kawada for All Japan’s distinguished Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Just four days later, he defeated former tag partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan in a cross-promotion title vs. title match to win New Japan’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
“That was the most fulfilling period of my career,” said Kojima. “To get results like that, growing and developing as I went, it was definitely my most meaningful, both mentally and physically.”
Moxley promised a violent affair at All Out, which will be a foot-to-the-pedal sprint filled with physicality. Kojima’s trademark lariat clothesline will undoubtedly be on display, and this match will showcase an icon from wrestling’s past against one of the top stars of the present.
“I want to show Moxley the sum total of all my wrestling experience,” said Kojima. “We’re going to show the fans a fight to remember.”
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