Trained at the NJPW Dojo by Antonio Inoki, Rocky Romero has been wrestling for over two decades.
In his time, wrestling Rocky has held IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, the CMLL super lightweight Championship three times, the Ring of Honor tag team championship three times, and is an eight-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, not to mention numerous tournament wins in NJPW.
Romero also was the fourth incarnation of Black Tiger, the rival to Tiger Mask, a mantle previously donned by Eddie Guerrero.
Rocky is also a musician and of course, is also ⅓ of the proudly self-proclaimed “worst podcast in the world” Talk’n Shop along with the Good Brothers: Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson.
In his interview with Chris and Steph, Rocky discussed heel heat in Japan versus the US, becoming Black Tiger and using a terrible British accent, and why there should be more long title reigns.
On Japanese Heat vs. US heat
Coming from the US, Rocky was quickly acquainted with the differences between Japanese and American fans especially in regards to heat. As he discussed with Chris and Steph, Japanese wrestling has gone through stages of whether or not booing heels was popular:
“It was much harder in the beginning because I felt like the Japanese fans were so used to just being extremely respectful that they didn’t want to boo you for a while there”
“Once New Japan started to mess with the old school babyface/heel dynamic people started to boo again and they were like “oh it’s okay to boo the heels and be upset.”
It’s crazy the amount of heat that obviously they get in the arena, but the actual heat that they get outside where [fans are] emailing, sending typed up letters, handwritten letters to the offices being like “The Bullet Club is cheating way too much and we’re not happy with it.
We’re new Japan Pro Wrestling fans and blah blah blah blah blah […]” And they complain for real. Like it’s really interesting because it’s working but on a whole other level.
Especially to a Japanese fan, they think that it’s more realistic than it is in the states.
It’s not just an act. They don’t want to know if me and Jay White got a beer, they don’t want to know about it. They don’t want to see it, it bothers them.
And they complain to the office.”
On Becoming Black Tiger And Picking Up a Bad British Accent
Briefly after making his way to Japan after wrestling in the CMLL, Rocky started to work under the mantle of Black Tiger, the rival to the manga character turned real-life pro wrestling character, Tiger Mask.
Black Tiger has been portrayed by wrestlers such as Eddie Guerrero, Silver King and Mark Rocco As part of Rocky’s transformation into Black Tiger, he emulated the style of the original Black Tiger, British wrestler Mark Rocco.
This meant not only using his moveset but also speaking in a British accent:
“They liked me, they didn’t know what to do with me, and then this was the time they had just signed Tiger Mask and they were going to make him the centerpiece of the Junior Division and he’s a student of the original Tiger Mask, so he wanted to do kinda like a similar situation–he didn’t have a Dynamite Kid, but he wanted you know a Black Tiger.
I think it might have been him who suggested it possibly. I think he might have been like “oh what about Rocky Romero [he] would be great. He’s young, can do this blah, blah, blah.”
And then they asked me and I was so confused I was like “what? You want me to do that?” You know like really good wrestlers do that like Eddie Guerrero, Silver King, Mark Rocco, like really really accomplished wrestlers and I was like, “You want me? Okay.”
So then I tried to take it as seriously as possible and I wanted it to be as close to the original, because I figured that’s what Tiger Mask was thinking.
They came up with the idea that I was going to be a student of the original Black Tiger, so I started talking with a weird British accent, terrible British accent, because nobody knew it was me, right.
And then I started to wrestle exactly like Mark Rocco did.
I studied like hours and hours of tape looking for those little mannerisms like the way he would adjust his hood, all this stuff, the way he would walk and then speed up and slow down and I just tried to mimic all that so much that I wasn’t even Rocky Romero at all for like the first probably eight months.
Then I started to incorporate things that I liked and things I needed to do for me and then I kinda made it my own but in the beginning, it was all like a carbon copy of Mark Rocco.”
On Why There Should Be Longer Title Reigns
Rocky spent a good amount his time with Chris and Steph offering some insight into the state of the business including NJPW’s approach to storytelling, the pandemic, and working with other companies. In addition Rocky talked about long term storytelling and what the sweet spot for title reigns is:
“The hot potato-ing of the belt, although it does happen and can show how competitive a division might be, I think overall someone holding a championship for a long time making defenses that mean something, in the long run is always going to be a more interesting story.
Look at the Undertaker and ‘The Streak’ for example and how much controversy that created each year; when he finally did lose what a big deal that was and what a moment it was.
Like everybody can tell you where they were, what they were doing when the Undertaker lost– everybody who watches wrestling religiously or at least watches Wrestlemania. So, I feel like that is a great example, maybe twenty-something years, nineteen years might be a little too much for somebody to be a champion, but I feel like yeah a year.
The Okada run was the perfect example of that. Okada had that year and a half run or whatever it was where he just had an incredible match, incredible match, incredible match […] finally Kenny beats him for it in that hour and a half long match or whatever it was and it’s like [a] big deal.”
For more check out Chris and Steph’s full interview with Rocky Romero.
You can watch Rocky every week on New Japan Strong, listen to his music on iTunes, Spotify and wherever you find your music, and of course join him and the good brothers out on their podcast Talk’n Shop.
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH ROCKY ROMERO
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