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Q&A with Satoshi Kojima

3 years ago

Q&A with Satoshi Kojima

By: Thom Fain

It was the talk of wrestling Twitter last week when Satoshi Kojima appeared on IMPACT wrestling – looking jacked and ready to roar, sporting black denim and boots as if he were going back into the New World Order. And that’s not as far as the nostalgia extends: Kojima challenged Violent By Design’s Joe Doering at Against All Odds, the upcoming IMPACT pay-per-view (which will also feature NJPW alumni Kenny Omega in a world title defense).

Kojima infamously fought Doering – a fellow All Japan Pro Wrestling triple-crown champion – during their parallel runs with AJPW, culminating in a triumphant “Cozy Lariat” title win as Doering departed for a stint in WWE. Both men are still wrestling at a high level more than a decade later. Kojima, who Monthly Puroresu celebrated in Issue #2 of the magazine, was kind enough to talk about his return to the U.S. and IMPACT debut while he was training in the LA Dojo.

As vigorous as ever, here’s what the former two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion had to tell his fans in the West:

Monthly Puroresu: You’re the leader of the Bread Club! When did you first think of doing that, and were you surprised to see it become so popular on Social Media with fans here in the West?

Satoshi Kojima: It was about five years ago now. NJPW were starting to make strides with broadcasting matches overseas, and I figured I should make an effort in English to go along with that- my English isn’t great, so I used a translation app. Anyway, I was thinking about what’s something specific to me that the foreign fans might be interested in and decided to let the world know I like to eat bread. I figured overseas there’s more of a bread culture than rice at meals like in Asia, right? Anyway, it took off a lot more than I imagined!

Monthly Puroresu: Is bread really the secret to your success?? Your charisma and ring skill remain at an incredibly high level even at age 50…

Satoshi Kojima: Thank you! I wouldn’t say I have a particular charisma or skill. But I grew up loving pro-wrestling, and even though I gave regular employment a shot after high school, I couldn’t give up on my dreams of making it in this business. So I think any success I’ve had is really down to loving the business with all my heart.

Monthly Puroresu: What’s your favorite type of bread in Japan that we cannot get in America?!

Satoshi Kojima: I get the impression that there are a lot of sweet baked goods in the US. I love sweets, but I like a bit of savoury too. The best baked goods you can only get in Japan are noodle sandwiches!

Monthly Puroresu: American fans still use the “too sweet” sign from the nWo days, and you were actually a member of nWo Japan! Along with your long-time tag partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan and current GHC Heavyweight Champion Keiji Mutoh. What’s a favorite memory of yours from your time together with those two?

Satoshi Kojima: When I was in the nWo, I was still in my 20s, so basically still green and trying to learn whatever I could. So I was definitely in the right place, because I learned so much from Muto, and from Tenzan as well. But we had great times outside the ring as well. Going to all these different towns, eating at all these different places. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of that time, for sure.

WATCH: Satoshi Kojima vs. Bill Goldberg – All Japan Pro Wrestling, August 30, 2002 

Monthly Puroresu: You’ve built a strong connection with western audiences over the years, what does it mean for you to come back to IMPACT and wrestle for fans who may not recall your success in MLW and the NWA?

Satoshi Kojima: It wasn’t until 2002, when I was with All Japan, that I wrestled in the US for the first time. But then when I came back to NJPW, I got more and more opportunities to come back to America. At the end of the day, my style doesn’t change that much wherever I am, but I just love being able to wrestle in front of fans wherever they may be in the world.

Monthly Puroresu: Having won almost 20 different championships, you still wrestle like someone hungry for a challenge. What do you think you’ve left to prove in the ring – both in Japan, and here in the United States?

Satoshi Kojima: Any pro-wrestler always wants to win recognition, win trophies and win belts. There’s nothing more important than expressing that desire every time you step in the ring.

Monthly Puroresu: I saw you made a pit stop at Shibata’s LA Dojo! What is your opinion of it? How is it different than the one you trained in back in ’91?

Satoshi Kojima outside the NJPW LA Dojo by MP Studio

Satoshi Kojima: It was pretty moving to see what Shibata’s been able to do in creating a Japanese style learning environment there in the US. I think the wrestlers there really have done an amazing job as well. There would have been a lot for them to get used to, but they’ve applied themselves really diligently, worked so hard, and thrown themselves into the culture as well.

Monthly Puroresu: There are a lot of wrestlers in America who trained and became big stars in Japan first. Why do you think the Japanese dojo system helps create such sound fundamentals for young wrestlers?

Satoshi Kojima: In Japan, a lot of the training process is as a human being I think. Yes, the training is really tough, but you’re also there to learn how to be polite to people, how to speak properly. There’s a lot of etiquette involved, and a lot of mental and spiritual toughness you gain in a Japanese system. I think if you have that training, you really will be able to succeed anywhere you go.

Monthly Puroresu: Your match vs. Shingo Takagi at last year’s Dominion was phenomenal, and in a short amount of time he has become a fan favorite in the West. What do you think makes Takagi so special – and do you recall the physicality of that match?

READ: Shingo Takagi talks Jon Moxley, G1 Climax and more ahead of NJPW in Dallas (2019)

Satoshi Kojima: I’ve known for a long time that he would be and is a big deal. Anyway you look at him, in terms of his moves, power, speed, stamina, he’s pretty much perfect. And he’s a great talker as well. He expresses himself so well to the fans and that gets them invested.

Monthly Puroresu: Do you intend to fight him again, and who might we be watching you fight here in the U.S. if you have your way?

Satoshi Kojima: I’d love to wrestle Shingo again, anytime. He’s a great wrestler no doubt. As for American wrestlers, I’d like to take on someone who’s had a lot of longevity in the business. John Cena would be ideal.

Monthly Puroresu: If you could write a perfect ending to your wrestling career, what would it be?

Satoshi Kojima: You’re not implying it’s nearly time for me to hang it up, are you?!? Honestly, I really don’t know. But seeing what Liger’s done post retirement with his YouTube and TV commentary, that’s been a real inspiration. In the end, I love this business so much, so I want to stay connected to it.

Editor’s note: Our staff of MP would love nothing more than to watch Kojima-san re-enter the G1 Climax and continue dominating the cerulean blue for many more years to come! Be sure to watch the “Cozy Lariat” in action at IMPACT  Against All Odds on Sunday, June 12, 2021.