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Q&A with Timothy Thatcher, his time in NOAH

2 years ago

Q&A with Timothy Thatcher, his time in NOAH

Q&A with Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Timothy Thatcher

By: Jamie Johnson and Mitchell Adams

Read our exclusive interview with current NOAH star Timothy Thatcher. Hailing from the Bay Area, California Thatcher discusses life on the indie circuit and remembers first crossing paths with Hideki Suzuki in WWE developmental brand NXT. As luck would have it, the two would become close friends and highlighting his GHC Heavyweight Championship match against Kaito Kiyomiya, well-travelled career and time with the likes of Hideki Suzuki.

Monthly Puroresu: You were brought into Pro Wrestling NOAH as a surprise wrestler at a time where many overseas wrestlers were making their mark felt. What was the original plan for your time in NOAH?

Timothy Thatcher: What had happened was after myself and Hideki Suzuki were fired by WWE, Hideki had decided that he was gonna go back to Japan and he said when he goes back, he was gonna work for NOAH, and he asked me if I wanted to come with him. And I said, “Yeah, of course”. From there I didn’t know any plans. They told me, “you’re gonna start on this date” and “you’re gonna be a surprise, so don’t post anything”.

Well, thankfully I don’t have any social media, so nothing’s gonna be sent out ahead of time. But that, that’s all I knew ahead of time. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t know I was gonna be part of Sugiura-gun, I just knew when I was coming and for how long I was gonna stay the first time.

Monthly Puroresu: Flying by the seat of pants, sounds like.

Timothy Thatcher: Yeah, pretty much. That’s when this is most exciting. Come on! You got everything all laid out, it’s gonna change anyway. So I prefer just to, show up and take what comes. Do The best with what is given to you.

Monthly Puroresu: On November 10th you’ll fight Kaito Kiyomiya for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, going into this match undefeated is such a major accomplishment. What do you look forward to most about the match?

Timothy Thatcher: Kiyomiya is an exceptional talent. He’s in his second reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion. The first one he won was when he was 22, so he was the youngest one to ever win the GHC Heavyweight Title. I’m also the first American to get a heavyweight title shot since Eddie Edwards in 2017, and he won the belt when he got his shot. So, I think it bodes well for me. Kiyomiya is very talented and I appreciate putting my skills up against any competitor that is on the rise and has proven himself already.

Monthly Puroresu: Keiji Muto gave him the Shining Wizard and a couple of other moves, sort of passing the baton, it seems like. Do you see Kiyomiya really becoming this superstar that obviously he thinks he is and NOAH thinks he is. Do you see him helping elevate NOAH on that global stage and? How do you expect to your and his style to help create something of a spectacle?

Timothy Thatcher: Well, yeah, Kiyomiya is definitely an incredible star and he’s only getting better. That match he had with Muto was amazing. I was lucky enough to be sitting there watching it at the time. And just this past week too, him and Kazuyuki Fujita had a brutal, violent match. Kiyomiya took a hell of a beating and still came out the winner in that one. When he won the N1 Victory as well over Hideki Suzuki, it was a very impressive and fight. So, I’m not gonna make it any easier for him. I think our match might be a bit on the brutal scale, but, that’s how pro wrestling is, isn’t it.

Monthly Puroresu: So far in NOAH you’ve battled with legends of wrestling like, Takashi Sugiura, Masakatsu Funaki and Satoshi Kojima in a mixture of tag team and singles matches. What have you gained most from these experiences, do you think?

Timothy Thatcher:  The singles matches with Sugiura and Kojima were very important to me because those are top stars in Japan and have been so for a long time. Sugiura has been carrying the company, so to have a match with him was very important for me. And Kojima is another one that has been a stable in Japanese professional wrestling for quite a long time, one of the very few people to hold all the top heavyweight titles in all the major Japanese companies. So, to have singles matches with them was a wonderful proving point for myself because it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before, it matters what you’re doing at the moment. I had no Japan experience beforehand. This is my first go. So having matches people like that is incredibly important to me.

Monthly Puroresu: You can kinda see it in their eye though, if you earn their respect, it’s more of an unspoken thing?

Timothy Thatcher: I’m also very grateful to be a member of Sugiura-gun as soon as I came in. So Sugiura has taken me aside and spoken to me about some stuff. So, I’m very grateful for him. He’s an incredible wrestler.

Monthly Puroresu: You clearly wrestle a very stripped back, tough, visceral style. Is this something that you have always sought to do?

Timothy Thatcher: As with all our pro wrestling journeys, they kind of lead in a direction. When I first started training we only had a ring for two weeks, and then we got kicked out of the building. So the whole rest of my training was on mats and my coach’s garage. So your focus ends up being a little more on submission and striking and all this stuff. So that kind of led me in the direction of that and then that’s always what I was enamored with.

Monthly Puroresu: We have a piece in the latest issue of Monthly Puroresu about the Wigan style, going all the way back to Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch. Did you grow up watching some of that stuff? Or what was your first exposure to that style that you’re helping evolve?

Monthly Puroresu Issue #10, THE SNAKE PIT: Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Catch Wrestling and Puroresu

Timothy Thatcher: The first ones that were an eyeopening experience for me was obviously guys that were down the line from that – Mr. Regal wrestled Ric Flair in WCW. They had pretty much a European’s Rounds match… they had one round every week, so it was like just five minutes each week. But they did the straightforward wrestling style. I was very enthralled with that.

And then another turning point moment, I grew up in the Bay Area of California, so All Pro Wrestling had the King of the Indies tournament in 2001 and the first match that I saw in that was “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson against Doug Williams. And I was there live. I remember watching those two wrestle and I was like, “this is how this is supposed to be”. Those are two matches that always stood out in my mind.

And then obviously from there I kept pursuing, and the internet wasn’t a thing when I started watching. So, you slowly found your way into this. And then I was lucky enough that I found a guy [Ricky Lazar] that was Billy Robinson’s assistant coach. He lived just outside of Sacramento, and Billy was doing all these seminars for catch-as-catch-can wrestling, and Ricky Lazar was his assistant coach that would go and show all the techniques because obviously Billy at the time was late in his seventies, so he couldn’t show. So I got to train with him for a long time. It’s incredible how stuff lines up sometimes.

Monthly Puroresu: Continuing on the theme of styles, NOAH has a very distinct presentation for wrestling in Japan, very reminiscent of the Kings Road style of the 1990s. But also, with influences from the British European catch style. Your style fits into that perfectly. Is that something that drew you to NOAH particularly?

Timothy Thatcher: Yeah, 100%. it’s my kind of wrestling.

Monthly Puroresu: Can you sense a difference in perception in NOAH versus the perception when you were with WWE?

Timothy Thatcher: Sadly with WWE, I was there during the COVID time. So, I only worked in front a handful of fans for WWE near the end of the go… once they started letting people into the PC for the NXT tapings and stuff like that. But yeah, the Japanese audience always is a different feel because you can definitely tell that they sit and they pay attention and they watch. Obviously when you’re in the moment, I’m kind of focused more.

Monthly Puroresu: Would you say regardless of the crowd and their perception and what you’re hearing, when you’re in the ring, are you really just focused on your opponent and what your techniques are gonna be?

Timothy Thatcher: Yeah, the goal, the task at hand is the person in front of me. Everything else surrounding it is a wonderful bonus, but we found out during COVID and all this stuff, and you’re wrestling literally in front of no one. I didn’t have to change too much, you know. Whereas some other people I think had a hard time. But I think Japan, and especially NOAH I think the audience reacts that way anyway, and even though Japan’s still [under restrictions], they’re starting to loosen it up and stuff, but when I came to, it’s still, everyone just sits the mask in there and they’re still separating people when I first came.

And it’s just polite claps, but they do pay attention and you a couple times I got to second Hideki Suzuki for the match with Kiyomiya and his other N-1 tournament matches with Go Shiozaki. I could actually sit and watch the people and how they go, and they are focused in on the match where a lot of other places people are focused on their phones, maybe more, but you know, that’s how it goes.

Monthly Puroresu: You’re a well-traveled wrestler. You’ve spent a lot of your career in the U.S. with Evolve and in Europe with wXw in Germany and PROGRESS in the UK. What are some of the differences that Japan has thrown up for you?

Timothy Thatcher: It’s just the perception of professional wrestling, I think, in places is sometimes different. Always you have individuals that share the same passion, but different. I really liked wrestling in Europe, in Germany, very much so. It was incredible to me. And PROGRESS was very good too. And, Ireland and OTT… I had a wonderful time in Europe. Those fans were very excited to be there, and they’re very excited to be part of the wrestling and they loved a good wallop and all that.

America, it’s very different wherever you go in America, which is very interesting. It’s all one country, but a very different vibe at each place that you go. And, just the different companies that you work for. And then Japan is more, as I said, more of a “let’s pay attention, let’s watch how this happens”. They’re students and there to watch it unfold [rather than being active participants, like U.S. crowds]. Everyone appreciates the wrestling in their own way. So it’s just a very interesting experience.

Southern California’s interesting too because, as I said, I came up in California, so that’s where I spent a lot of time and there was a big change there as well when I was working in Southern California early on in my go about how the crowd reacted. It seems now California is pretty rocking and rolling for the wrestling. Like the companies pulling out are pulling out great crowds, and the crowds are real happy to be there. Man… California, I wrestled in front of eight people sometimes!

Monthly Puroresu: PCW Ultra will get a thousand or so people and that’s a totally different crowd. Prestige will run 15 miles away, and it’s really a different vibe, and you see the wrestlers pulling out some different things. It doesn’t take driving very long in SoCal where people have a totally different idea of what’s gonna make ’em happy in wrestling.

Timothy Thatcher: Yeah [laughs]. PCW Ultra, I started with them when they first started, I worked for them their first year and enjoyed watching the audience grow there. And especially when they started. But they started in one building, and it was a certain kind of crowd and then they switched to another building. It was a very different kind of crowd. It was very interesting. What is wonderful about professional wrestling is I think it draws people of all walks of life. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s very interesting to watch and people want different stuff, which is great. I’m like, “okay, I’m gonna provide this. If you don’t like me, well thankfully someone else will come you’ll probably enjoy, but this is what I do”. Some people like it, some people don’t. That’s OK.

Monthly Puroresu: You spent a lot of time in WWE NXT and that’s where you came across Hideki Suzuki. You seem to have a fantastic relationship with each other in the ring. Was that evident from the start? Did the idea of being a tag team come naturally for you both?

Timothy Thatcher: So, the story with Hideki [Suzuki] is we wrestled each other in 2019 for Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport, and I think we realized on that go we both have the same mindset about this. And, I enjoyed that match even though he kicked my head into next week. Then I didn’t see him again. I had no contact with him for a long time and he was in as a guest coach right as I started with NXT and so I gotta see him again there, and sit and talk with him. But then COVID happened and then everything shut down. So, I didn’t hear a seat from him for a long time. And then when he actually finally was able to move over and become a coach for NXT, I was like, “I’m gonna train with him as much as I can”.

I know how hard it is being someone from a different country and coming in and stuff, and him and his wife, obviously being from Japan and have to live in Florida is a rough thing. My wife’s from England and so she kind of feels the same. And so we started just trying to get together and our two wives would go to this aerial silks class together. So, they would go do that and me and Hideki would go to Starbucks and sit and talk wrestling the whole time and stuff like that. So, it was wonderful. After I start [with NXT], they move me over to help coach near the end of my NXT go, and both me and him, and Martin Stone, Danny Birch, were in charge of the open ring. So, we were supposed to be coaches that were there.

People would come and wanna learn anything. A lot of times no one would come so me and Hideki would just wrestle each other the whole time. So, it was a wonderful thing. I’ve learned loads from him and I appreciate his friendship very much. And, as I said, he was the one that asked me if I wanted to come to NOAH once he made the decision that he was moving back to Japan and I said yes.

Monthly Puroresu: Wrestling culture and the media has changed a lot over the past few years. Has what you are trying to accomplish in the ring changed as well?

Timothy Thatcher: No. Once I had the focus of where I go, cause when you start, you don’t know what you’re doing, right? You have no focus. But once I focused in and figured out, “okay, this is how I wanna wrestle”. This is how I believe professional wrestling should be presented, then I kind of stayed down that path. Little stuff changes here and there because life changes and situations change, but I think my mindset is still the same and the way I approach pro wrestling is still the same. And, I don’t think it’ll change because at this point I’ve been doing it for too long in this direction. I can’t do anything different now.

Monthly Puroresu: Being in NOAH at a time where there is a distinct focus on Western expansion must be really interesting. What are your impressions of this?

Timothy Thatcher: Yeah, it’s incredible. The power of Keiji Muto is incredible. Everything surrounding his retirement tour now that he’s doing it and being able to convince [WWE] that Shinsuke Nakamura is coming in January, and Sting is coming as well, from two major companies in America that are open eyes. This whole thing has brought eyes on it, which I think is great because obviously he was such a big star around the whole world and will always be, because there’s a lot of very talented people in NOAH. And, I’m very grateful to be a part of it and grateful that I was one of the Americans that was able to come and be a part of it.

It’s great that the company is making a push for expansion and moving their way back up because I know they had some rough goes business wise for a while, they’ve changed ownerships a few times, but now that they’re under the CyberFight banner, things seem to be going in the right direction. So, it’s wonderful because I believe they deserve it. Because, I think NOAH is a great company. I was watching it before I even thought it was working here.

Monthly Puroresu: Your career has been linked with the likes of WALTER, now Gunther, for many years. Once you were together in the Ringkampf stable, do you have any desire to step back in the ring with him again and how do you see that materializing, if ever?

Timothy Thatcher: I mean, he’s a bigger star now. So, he’s kinda in a different world now. WALTER is another wonderful man that was so kind to me and I shared many great times with him, a very good friend. And Ringkampf, me being a part of that was so important to me at the time that it happened and, it was really incredible. It led to me spending so much time in Germany and everything, which were some of the best times I’ve ever had. Wrestling him is always a joy, even though I get so battered every time. But it’s what this is about and I enjoy it very much because some matches that I’ll forever be linked to are with him. I’m very happy that he’s the big superstar now, so that’s great. All that stuff is not up to me.

Monthly Puroresu:  Do you guys still keep in touch?

Timothy Thatcher: We talk from time to time, So yeah, it’s nice. As I said though, he’s real busy now. They sent him all over the place. He’s living the full on go now. They were wrestling in Germany the other day, so him and some other friends from Germany were all going out together and they were sending me photos and stuff. That’s good. I’m glad. I want him to get whatever he wants out of wrestling cause he’s a wonderful man.

Monthly Puroresu: There is a clear crossover between MMA and Pro Wrestling NOAH. Your style represents this sort of in itself. This is one of the things that makes NOAH so special in the eyes of many fans. What do you think about that prevailing style in NOAH?

Timothy Thatcher: It’s a style I definitely very much enjoy. As you said, the fact that Masakatsu Funaki and Kazushi Sakuraba work for the company and Fujita-san, all those guys are incredible. I very much admire them as pro wrestlers. Obviously their fight stuff was incredible too. I’m definitely more the pro wrestler out of it. As I said, I trained and I like to use the catch-as-catch-can techniques when I can. But, obviously all those gentlemen have much more a wealth of experience in that.

Monthly Puroresu: Is it different being in the ring with those kinds of guys, like “Ironhead” and those that have been MMA fighters. Is your approach any different?

Timothy Thatcher: No, not for me. My stuff is all the same. I’m excited when I get those kind of matches. You know, that’s up my alley. As I said, I think that’s why me and Hideki when we had our match in 2019 clicked. I think, this is how it’s supposed. So, I’m a big fan of all those fellas.

Monthly Puroresu: You don’t have a massive online presence like a lot of other wrestlers today, yet you enjoy popularity online, and you continue to reach new audiences. Does this show that there is more to wrestling today than just videos online?

Timothy Thatcher: I would like to think so. I didn’t get on any of that stuff and all that and then it just got to a point I was like, well at this point I don’t think I need it. I am still under the belief that professional wrestling is about what happens in the ring. That is the most important part of this. So, I don’t know. It has worked well for many other people, but I just couldn’t do it. It’s not for me, you know? So I prefer to focus on my craft and what I do is what you see in the ring and that’s all you really need. Other than that, I don’t know how much more else is, do you really care what my dog looks like, what my cat looks like? That’s not important really too much to what I’m trying to accomplish here, you know.

Monthly Puroresu: Outside of wrestling, what have been your main takeaways from Japanese culture?

Timothy Thatcher: Tempura, and soba is a wonderful thing! Those are very good [laughs]. I’m very grateful. It’s amazing how when I get to work someplace, I actually go and stay for quite a while. I was pretty much living in Germany for three years, you know, back and forth. So, I got to see a wonderful part of Germany and England and all that, just from my experiences there. And now I get to [do that in] Japan because I’m coming for extended stays. So yeah, it’s very nice.

And thankfully I have friends that will help me get through because I’m a dumb American that’s very bad at learning languages. So, it’s fun to have people that’ll help me so I don’t feel so lost. But it always is very nice to go and experience the countries that I work in instead of always the rush, most of the time of wrestling as you show up and it doesn’t matter where you are, you just see the airport, the arena, and then the airport again. So I’m very grateful that my adventure has led me the way that it has

Monthly Puroresu: As you continue to break new ground in Japan, are there any wrestlers you see as future dream opponents?

Timothy Thatcher: Sure. I was very disappointed because stuff happens, but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to work before the N1 Victory tournament. The bracket of people that I would’ve had singles matches with was incredible; It was Funaki, and it was Sugiura, and it was Kitamiya, and Kiyomiya, and Kojima – all these very talented wrestlers that maybe I’ve wrestled in tag matches and such, but singles matches is kind of different. So, it was too bad about that.

Of course having a match with Funaki-san would be great. Fujita-san would be great. Sakuraba would be great. There’s loads, when he comes back from injury, Shiozaki. Nakajima – he was supposed to be in my block too. A singles match with Nakajima would be great. There’s loads. I have a great admiration for many of the wrestlers that are in NOAH. So, as I keep going having singles matches and tag matches with all these people it’s very important. So every day is exciting. I look forward to them.