Canadian freelance writer living in Melbourne. Saw a Kangaroo once. In the Zoo...
Seen tons of snakes though. What's with all the snakes??
A Juicy Interview (Literally)
Professional wrestling. Even just reading those words can take you back to a simpler time, where a clearcut good vs evil was on display, and larger than life characters invaded your living room via a TV screen.
Even if you've never seen a wrestling match, chances are you've heard of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. That's because wrestling, despite not dominating mainstream media, is iconic and everlasting, producing a one of a kind atmosphere and spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed
Next week, the second largest wrestling company in the world will arrive in Australia bringing with them future icons. New Japan Pro Wrestling will be putting on shows in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth.
One of the stars of New Japan, is Juice Robinson, a 28 year old pro-wrestler who competed all around the world before making New Japan his home in late 2015. Since then, he has become an exciting mainstay on some of the company's biggest shows and has developed a reputation for putting on exhilarating matches, no matter whom his opponent is.
I caught up with Juice to talk about growing up a fan, his journey to NJPW, and visiting Australia for the first time. "I grew up watching in that sweet time, around '98." says Robinson. "I was 9-10, and the babysitter would put on Monday Night Raw while looking after me, and that was it."
While Juice was one of millions of kids that age who tuned in every week to see their favourite superstars, his was a passion that stretched beyond just simply watching. At age 19, he dropped out of college and began wrestling, training with well-known manager and trainer Truth Martini at his House of Truth wrestling school. "He taught me everything. Like, aside from how to actually wrestle, he taught me the ins and outs of the business, how the locker rooms work, how to act as a professional. And he's the one who got me in with WWE".
Yup, THAT WWE. In 2011, Robinson signed a developmental deal with the largest wrestling company on the planet. Performing under the name CJ Parker, he developed a bad guy persona that saw him locking up with a who's who of current stars. Yet despite having all the tools, the opportunity to shine wasn't always awarded to him. And he began to grow restless. "I I just wasn't happy. No offence [to WWE] but there's only so many times you can do the same training, same match."
In an industry where securing a full time gig is considered, by many, to be the ultimate goal, Juice wasn't satisfied with just being a guy who went out and wrestled by the numbers every week. He knew that he was a star, and believed in himself enough to risk leaving the security of WWE behind, In 2015, Robinson asked for his release. And just before he left, he met some key players who believed in him too. "We were in San Jose for Wrestlemania, and New Japan happened to be at Axxess. A good word was put in for me, they were told 'you gotta see this guy wrestle'. They did, and shortly after I was offered a spot with them."
"I think it worked out pretty well."
That's a bit of an understatement. Since 2015 Juice has completely reinvented himself, evolving from a utility player in WWE to a top-level pro-wrestler who holds wins over Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega, two of the biggest stars in Japan.
With Australian wrestling currently experiencing its own exciting growth period, the time has never been better for New Japan to pay a visit. The tour will see Robinson and the entire NJPW roster wrestle in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. "New Japan is really the last pro wrestling company out there I feel" says Juice. "It's got that respect, that competition, and just pure pro wrestling. There's nothing else like it right now."
Fans in Melbourne will get to see exactly what Robinson means at Festival Hall this Saturday.
A Who's Who of Stars Will Be Seen At Festival Hall
Of course, with this being Weekend Notes, I would have been remiss had I not asked Juice what he is most looking forward to when he visits Australia for the first time. "Oh man, I'm looking forward to the summer weather. And Kangaroo. I hear you guys eat Kangaroo down there. I gotta try that!"
We do indeed. Lean and packed with all the protein a top level athlete requires. Here's thinking that there may be quite a demand this weekend.
With special thanks to Destroy all Lines for arranging this interview, and to Mr. Robinson himself for his time