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Q&A with Yuji Nagata

3 years ago

Q&A with Yuji Nagata

With the Forbidden Door Opened, Nagata-San is Out for Justice

By: Thom Fain

It’s been over twenty years since Yuji Nagata debuted on TNT as one of New Japan’s finest exports, working for WCW at the tutelage of Sonny Onoo.

Onoo — whose sense of fashion and selection of cool shades were matched by only his repertoire of dirty tricks — continues singing the praises of Nagata as he enters the twilight of his career. And for his part, Jon Moxley has stated the IWGP U.S. Title will go on the line when he wants, where he wants, and against whom he chooses. It just so happens that the opponent he chose tonight on AEW Dynamite is a two-time New Japan Cup winner, two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and a bull between the ropes ready to lock horns with any maverick who dares step into the ring.

Prior to his flight to Jacksonville, Monthly Puroresu caught up with Nagata while he was at the NJPW LA Dojo training for tonight’s big match:

Monthly Puroresu: What’s Nagata-san been up to these days, waking up early and training I presume?

Nagata: Right now in the U.S., I’m waking up, having breakfast and then training at the LA Dojo. After that, apart from shopping and eating, I’m staying in my room as much as possible.

Monthly Puroresu: Is there any secret to your success at this age? Thinking back to last year at Summer Struggle, your match with Minoru Suzuki was highly rated and critically acclaimed and it was one of my favorites of the entire 2020.

Nagata: I don’t know if you can call it success, but between working out every single day and doing what I can to take care of my body I’ve been able to stay in good shape.

Monthly Puroresu: What’s your perception of Katsuyori Shibata’s LA Dojo?

Nagata: I think he’s doing a good job of giving his trainees solid fundamentals in wrestling, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for those guys.

Yuji Nagata at the NJPW LA Dojo by MP Studio

Monthly Puroresu: It’s been a long time coming, seeing you back on TNT wrestling in the squared circle. Friend of the magazine Sonny Onoo told us you’d been waiting for this opportunity for some time – did you see it coming?

Nagata: The reaction from fans who remembered me from my days in WCW was beyond what I had expected. For those people to remember me after 23 years is really special. I never thought I’d be wrestling on TNT television again, this time with AEW, so it’s all the more important to me now to show everyone how great Yuji Nagata is in 2021.

Monthly Puroresu: What is your opinion of Jon Moxley as a wrestler?

Nagata: He’s a very aggressive type of guy, and he wants the fight to be brought to him. I’m looking forward to doing just that, and I think this is going to be a real war.

Monthly Puroresu: Do you enjoy touring in America and entertaining fans here? Many of us who watch NJPW frequently are former World Championship Wrestling fans who didn’t find a home for many years until started streaming in English.

Nagata: Oh, absolutely. Especially with the pandemic being the way that it is, I’m really lucky and happy to have the chance to wrestle in the States like this.

Monthly Puroresu: The IWGP U.S. Title is popular among fans not only for its look, but for its legacy going back to the first tournament that crowned Kenny Omega. Would you like to see it featured more prominently?

Nagata: It’s the real representation of NJPW advancing across the entire United States, so yes, I’d say it’s tremendously important.

Monthly Puroresu: The hard-hitting Strong Style of wrestling has put many men down, only to never return to the ring. But Nagata-san keeps going. As you look back on your career is there something you’re most proud of?

Nagata: I’ve been a part of some violent battles and tough fights almost every night for years, but I’ve never had any major injuries. I don’t know if that’s personal pride, but I’m definitely grateful to my parents for raising a tough son!

Monthly Puroresu: What would it mean for Yuji Nagata to become the IWGP U.S. champion?

Nagata: I think the reaction all over the world to me being in the mix for an IWGP title again has surprised even me. I think it’s up to me to show the kind of hard hitting fight that I can bring for that US title and that’s what I plan to do.

Monthly Puroresu:  Do you have any “dream” opponents that would be first in line for a title shot?

Nagata: I don’t have any particular names in mind, no. I’m always ready to fight anyone and take on any challenge.

Yuji Nagata training in the NJPW LA Dojo 1 by MP Studio Yuji Nagata Training at the NJPW LA Dojo 2 by MP Studio Yuji Nagata training at the NJPW LA Dojo 3 by MP Studio