Excellent, now we can get to the wrestling!
You recently returned to two major companies - Impact Wrestling and NJPW. I believe you previously wrestled in a mask for both of those promotions. Does it feel like a fresh start being able to return to both as yourself and, ultimately, were you happy with how both returns went?
Very. On the note of the mask or not, New Japan was funny because the J-Cup, the first day I got on the bus, I said hello to Liger and talked him for a second and he didn't... It wasn't until later in the day, he approached me at the arena, he didn't realise it was me because I'm so much older and bigger. When he had seen me before, I was a lot skinnier and smaller, and younger, I didn't have any tattoos, and I was wearing a mask a lot.
Other than the Super Juniors that I did, even that was eight or nine years ago almost now, that was the only time I was ever really was there unmasked other than my very first debut when I was a young boy, everything after that I was Puma or whatever.
Impact was interesting. I was really excited to go back because their roster is incredible right now. For the last couple of years, I had seen them put it together and I've watched a lot of stuff... I don't watch a lot of contemporary wrestling but I'll watch a lot of the stuff my friends are in and stuff like that, so even when I was at WWE for those few years, I was watching them build their roster and I'm like, "Man, these are really good guys."
I thought for a while if I was ever out, obviously New Japan is kind of in my blood so I've always wanted to go back to New Japan and Mexico and stuff like that, but I felt for a while that Impact was the place where a lot of my friends went there and their roster was so good, so I was a little bit like, I didn't know what to expect.
I came back to New York and that is a tough wrestling crowd, that city is tough and I remember thinking, I'm already polarising for die-hard fans. To die-hard fans I'm like the Kobe Bryant. Some people irrationally love me and some people just hate my guts, so I remember thinking, "This will be a tough crowd, it'll be interesting to see," and I was a bad guy for the last two years in WWE so I'm like, "Man, I've conditioned them to give me the heat," but they were awesome and the atmosphere has been great. Every show that I've been back, and the roster has far exceeded my expectations of it, and I thought they were going to be killer already.
Every single night, anybody in that locker room can open or close a show and it happens that way. There are shows where I have opened in the main evented the next night. Some nights the X Division will open then close the next, the women will open then close, and will be having the best matches on the show.
The tag team division, because a lot of times it feels like tag team wrestling is dying but I feel like with what Impact and obviously the stuff that AEW is doing with the pairings they have, that's what is making tag team wrestling relevant again and I think that's awesome.
Next: More TJP in NJPW?
Coming up: TJP on his WWE run