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By Mike Cranwell on 2010-05-25 14:12:35
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To read Part 3, click here.

MC: Watching you in Japan last year - watching you and Claudio - it was interesting. Claudio would do some good stuff and the crowd was okay. You would come in, you'd do anything, and it was like - Korakuen Hall, whoever - they loved you! They were just all about Chris Hero, and you don't see that with Gaijin, and haven't for a long time. How did you connect with them?
CH: I worked really hard at it, and I was just working overtime trying to get the fans into the matches. I think what it is, is first of all, when they first saw me, they didn't know what to think. I'm a tall guy with long hair, I do a bit of a high-flying thing - they didn't know if I wrestled like a Jr. Heavyweight or like a Heavyweight - so at first it was a little slow-going. Eventually, I think they just figured out that I love wrestling. I would always either be at the merchandise stand or whatever - that didn't start 'till last year - but I would sell my t-shirts and they would come up, you know I can read and write two of the Japanese alphabets, I have a pretty big vocabulary, so when they figured that out they were like 'Oh wow, this guy's actually making some kind of effort.' Now, as of last...I think it started in January, I met a guy who is a college professor; he's Japanese, but he lives in England, and he came up with the idea for me to do a blog. So I type up the blog and send it to him and he translates it perfectly and puts it up on my blog. I get so many hits on that thing from Japan, people come up to me and mention it all the time. It's a way for me to connect with them and for them to know my actual intentions. For years in Japan, the Gaijins have been Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen, Vader, all these guys that are just imposing, kick the shit out of them-types. So for someone like me to go over there, I've gotta put in the extra effort so that they know where I'm coming from. So ya, it's just me busting my ass and them appreciating it, and it's a really good feeling. I think it was my match with (former GHC Heavyweight Champion Go) Shiozaki last year that really put me on the map. I took Shiozaki to the limit, he beat the shit out of me. There's a thing in wrestling where it's like 'I don't want to lose because it'll make me look bad,' but more often than not if you look good in defeat, you'll be more over anyway, and that's exactly what happened in the Shiozaki match. They appreciated (the story), and Shiozaki lifted me up after the match, and from that moment there on, there's been a little different thing attached to me. And if you watched this past January's tour, Claudio's really come out of his shell like I said. The fans are really getting behind him, he's using his ridiculous strength...he put (350+ lbs Takeshi) Morishima in the torture rack, he spun around, put his hands down, ya just, they really respect that strength too.
MC: Being a big All Japan fan, what's it like being in the same locker room with Misawa, Kobashi, (Jun) Akiyama, (Akira) Taue, to me that'd just blow my mind.
CH: Well the strange thing is, now that I've been over there - I've done six tours for NOAH now - initially, you just kinda keep to yourself, do your own thing. They have separate locker rooms, so I would go whole shows without seeing Misawa, or I wouldn't see Kobashi. Maybe I'd see Akiyama because he's on the bus, but I wouldn't see him once we were at the venue. We have 4-5 locker rooms, so it's not like you're hanging out with these guys all the time. You're on the bus with them, but ya, it's really intimidating. Japanese in general are more quiet, more stoic; you don't know if they're being quiet, or if they're annoyed, so it takes some time to figure out what exactly they're doing and why. It took me a couple tours to get comfortable. Now I have a lot of good friends over there and I can joke with them. I have that respect level because I did stay and train in the dojo but also because I did stay over there, and also because I get a good response from the fans.
MC: Akiyama, until recently, was booking, is that correct?
CH: Uh, I have no knowledge of that really.

MC: So who would tell you what you were doing, when you were going on?
CH:  There's a lineup, there's different guys who will come up to you and tell you what you're doing. But ya, you really don't know what's going on, you only have a general idea.
MC: Ryu Nakada, was he very involved - did you meet him much?
CH:  Ya, I've known him a lot, he's actually the reason I went over. He took a liking to Claudio and I when we had our (CZW and CHIKARA) tag title reign, and wanted to bring us to Japan. Then Claudio got signed (by the WWE, Nov. 2006), so I ended up going over by myself, but I didn't end up doing so great, so I didn't come back until the next year when Claudio was able to come too, so then we came over as a team, and went from there.
MC: Did you ever get to work out in the gym with Kobashi, anything like that?
CH: In the same gym, but not with him specifically -
MC: Because he'd chop you? *laughs*
CH: *laughs* No no, every time I'd go to the gym Kobashi would be there. He just works harder than anybody I've ever seen, he's just there pouring sweat every time I go to the gym. On the exercise bike, doing squats, you know.
MC: Doing squats on those knees?
CH: Yeah, yeah, you know he's just a real hard worker. (Masao) Inoue, the guy who just came back from a broken leg, I didn't really know much about him, where he stood. But then he broke his leg, and he was out for a little while, and he rehabbed his leg, and he was always in there, working hard. Regardless of what somebody's wrestling ability is, or what they produce match-wise, this guy's got heart. He was in the gym every day, busting his ass, trying to get back to where he was before he hurt his leg. It was really, really inspiring - almost made you feel guilty that someone who's just working so hard...that work ethic, that Japanese work ethic is really amazing.
MC: NOAH - I don't wanna say they're in trouble, but it kinda seems like they're in trouble. They're fighting hard with Misawa gone, and it just seems like...I don't know if the booking's clicking, the crowds aren't showing up, they're quiet...
CH: You know, it's not just them. New Japan is doing better, but it's just wrestling in general is down. It's been over-exposed. It's been around. The new stars haven't been created. You don't have a (Giant) Baba, you don't have an (Antonio) Inoki - I mean you do have an Inoki, and he's doing okay with his IGF shows. You don't have a current Tiger Mask - you know what I mean. But ya, they're trying. I think with NOAH's core talent, they're making the right moves.

MC: Are you happy they're bringing back Kawada?
CH: Oh absolutely! I'm really surprised at that, but very happy. But ya, the fact that NOAH doesn't have that huge TV deal - they're still on TV in some aspect, but they don't have the TV deal that they had, it makes it hard to create new stars.
MC: G+ TV was covering a lot of their costs, so that was part of the issue.
CH: Ya I believe so.
MC: So you think they'll be okay, they cut a bunch of wrestlers recently. 
CH: Ya I think they'll be okay. They're budget's down, the guys are so good, they've changed up their style, they've changed up their matches. Different stuctures, different end results. Ya a lot of things really surprised me when the new regime started. I think it's good. Marufuji's the Vice President, he's very very intelligent, very modern. You see his matches, you see how he always brings something new to the table.
MC: Exactly. You can't just follow the formula with his matches, you don't know what you're getting.
CH: Yeah absolutely, and he saw that, and he decided to continually evolve his style, his in-ring product. So I'm not too worried. Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen. I think (NOAH will) continue to have shows. I think wrestling will always be around.
MC: One of the big changes NOAH made was (Takashi) Sugiura, who for my money is the top Heavyweight in Japan right now. How do you feel about his (GHC Heavyweight) Title reign so far, and how he's been able to connect?
CH: I think it's good, because I think before, Sugiura's look - and I don't mean his build, I mean the way his face looks, his intensity in the ring - he's kinda scary. It's hard for the public to get behind somebody who looks so scary, so I think if anything held him back I think that's what it was. Because you know he's not like Shiozaki, he's not like Akiyama, he's not one of these good-looking Japanese guys, he's just some crazy-scary looking dude. But the fact that he was siding for NOAH against New Japan really endeared him to the fans. 'Alright, he's a f***ing warrior, he's on our side,' that's what built him into a star. His matches have always been good, ya he's great in the ring. Uh, is that fans getting let in?
MC: Yeah.
CH: Alright, can we wrap this up?
MC: Yeah, let me jump right to...I did an interview with Chris Nowinski (in February), we talked a lot about concussions. In his own words, it's nothing short of an epidemic in pro wrestling right now. How do you feel about that, do you agree with that statement, do you feel it's overblown? You see way more than anybody else does.
CH: Well, I'll say this much: you see the style of matches I have, and I don't know if I'm just lucky, but I've only ever had one concussion, and that was over 10 years ago. I get hit in the head all the time.
MC: Do you wear a mouthguard in the ring?
CH: No I don't. When I was training to box last summer yes, I definitely had a mouthguard. I don't know, maybe I'm just lucky. I think the problem is when guys get their bell rung, and don't realize how serious it is, and they continue, and that's when they get that second concussion, and that usually leads to post-concussion syndrome. And I think that the trouble I've heard is when people haven't realized how severe their first injury was. But I've been knocked out before, you know had my bell rung quite a bit. But not to have a lasting effect of 'Oh my head' or whatever, because the first time I had a concussion, I definitely had a concussion. I couldn't get out of bed, I got on a plane and vomitted everywhere. This other stuff, that's just a part of wrestling. I'm not concerned for myself, but I would advise anyone with anything resembling a headache or whatever after a match to take it easy, I mean that's what happened to Nigel.
MC: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
CH: No problem man.

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