Exclusive Q and A with Finn Balor
You would be hard pressed to find a hotter name on the international wrestling scene. Fergal “Prince” Devitt is one of the most successful wrestlers to come out of Ireland, competing in the UK and abroad in Japan. Currently in New Japan Pro Wrestling, the former 3-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is the undisputed leader of Bullet Club, a cast of foreign “gaijin” wrestlers. Devitt recently took time out of his busy schedule to conduct an interview with CXF.
Did you grow up as a wrestling fan? Who were some of your influences and how did you get into the business?
My earliest memory of life is watching old World of Sport on TV with my grandad, so really wrestling had been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Of course at that age, I didn’t really understand what I was watching, even still it captivated me. Then Sky TV came to Ireland with WWF and Sean Mooney and the rest is history. Warrior, Koko, Savio Vega, Rick Martel, I loved all the different styles and even at a young age appreciated the villains. HBK stood out for me as being the total package, I even super kicked a kid in my art class out the fire exit door one day in secondary school. At 18, and just finished school, I enrolled for Hammerlock UK‘s summer training camp. It wasn’t even a choice, I had to do it, there was literally nothing else I wanted in life. I never once looked back.
How did you get your break to go to Japan and did you have any familiarity with Japanese wrestling before you went over beforehand? Was there a specific moment when you knew you were going to make it in Japan?
I was wrestling at an NWA convention show in Nashville when Dave Marquez at the Inoki Dojo invited me to train in LA. I had been there about 3 months, training by day, and sleeping in the ring at night. Living off instant noodles and egg whites from a carton. I couldn’t have been happier.
I was then offered a 3 month trial to train in Tokyo. I’ve been there ever since…
I never think about ‘making it’. I don’t look back, or at the present. I’d rather look forward at the list of things I still want to achieve.
Is there a big difference in training in Japan versus when you train elsewhere? What kind of routine do you have?
It’s like black and white.
The main difference is attention to detail, and that’s where the Japanese excel. It’s a very structured training starting with the basics and things don’t progress until every individual hold is perfected.
The other difference is conditioning. As opposed to a mainly body building type of training many western wrestlers will use, Japanese training is more about body weight and functional training which directly influences movements in the ring.
Some WWE wrestlers have noted that crowd energy sometimes gets lost in the big stadium WrestleMania environment. What are the Tokyo Dome shows like… atmosphere, preparation, crowd energy, etc?
That’s an accurate statement. I certainly prefer performing in a more intimate environment. Korakuen Hall, York Hall in London for RevPro , or the garage for ICW in Glasgow.
The Dome is very surreal, it had the big match feel, but sometimes when I’m out to there I feel like I’m performing more for the cameras than the fans in attendance as they are a lot further back from the ring than normally, even the front row, and the people in the back are literally watching the screens and not the ring.
How did you get partnered with Ryusuke Taguchi and who came up with the Apollo 55 name?
When Minoru (Tanaka) left NJPW, myself and Taguchi where seen as both similar in age and size and kind of thrown together by the office. I came up with the name myself. I’m really into sci-fi and space in general so I wanted to incorporate that. 5 in Japanese is ‘GO’ . Taguchi’s nick name was ‘Funky Weapon a Go Go!’ Jackpot.
How/why did you become Pegasus Kid II?
Again, that was the offices choice. They saw a similarity between myself and the original in the fact that we were both foreigners and both human. Because that’s really the only similarity I saw. I was never a fan of the original but I was honoured to be held in the same light at that stage in my career
Do you feel that Junior Heavyweights are more respected in Japan/Europe than in America? If so, is it just a regional preference or something that’s been given room to grow/killed via booking?
No. I disagree. No matter how hard junior heavyweight wrestlers work they will always be over looked everywhere by heavyweights. And rightly so in my opinion. Wresting is a circus. When you see a heavyweight in person, his size, and the stuff they do, they deserve the respect.
Even when you talk about America, there are clearly more juniors nowadays when you look at all the indy promotions. Sure WWE is the land of the giants, but I think in general junior wrestling gets its fair share of exposure worldwide.
What have you learned from wrestling such Junior legends as Jushin Lyger, Koji Kanemoto, and Great Sasuke?
I first wrestled Liger when I was 24. I locked up with him and it was one those moments in your life that you never forget. He didn’t even have to say anything, but it was like seeing the Matrix, where everything started to make sense. Since then I have learned so much from Liger, and others, Jado and Gedo especially.
I also learned that I’m still young. I meet people in Ireland and they condescendingly ask me when I’m going to finish “that wrestling.” I’m 32 and I reply, “I’m only getting started!”
Whose idea was creating Bullet Club and how did it come about? If you had to choose one wrestler from another Japanese promotion to induct to Bullet Club, who would it be?
When we did the Apollo 55 turn on Taguchi it got such a good response the office decided to beef up what was originally going to be only me and Fale as my bouncer. But it worked a treat. Really the four original members are best pals and travel together in Japan anyway so it made sense. The name again was my idea. I had been using the ‘real shooter’ and pistol sign, and then of course ‘machine gun’ had his thing so I wanted to tie them together. I also specifically didn’t want 3 letters or a ‘the’ in front of it. I messed around a few ideas and came up with that.
Even since the formation of Bullet Club, your entrances has become much more flashy and dramatic. What was the inspiration behind your Real Rock’n’Rolla Jacket and what made you think to paint yourself up as, we presume, Marvel’s Carnage for the Tokyo Dome?
When I turned villain, the office wanted me to do something like a Double J cocky heel gimmick, but I wanted to put a modern twist on it. So, I showed them a few things, including TRON imagery, and then my AX endorsement and it all tied in.
I had 2 ideas for the Dome. One was to rig the ring with lights the same as my jacket. But I felt that we had already done the lights and I wanted something new. I was looking around and decided I wanted to be painted entirely black. That was what I thought was happening. Then on the day the artist when with her own ideas and it turned out looking like Carnage but was never meant to be. It was meant to be more like Venom. The paint turned out to be a blessing as it disguised the fact I had lost 10lbs in the 2 days before the Dome in the hospital with a vomiting bug.
With the rise of digital television, where do you see New Japan in five years?
If they can get their finger on how to get more accessible to the audience worldwide, with English commentary, merch store and DVD sales there really is an opportunity for it to blossom as it’s the best ‘wrestling’ product by far.
How was your experience wrestling in Mexico? What is the wrestling scene like in Ireland/the UK? How do these regions compare to how things go in Japan?
Mexico was hot and cold. I got really sick the first time I went down there. On top of tearing my calf in Japan the day for I flew out. I also got the customary “welcome to Mexico” from some of the boys and still have the scars to show but that’s nothing. The CMLL office were fantastic and even though I don’t understand a thing of what’s going on in or out of the ring I had a good time, especially the 2nd trip. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to go back again.
Ireland is quiet, there is one promotion called wrestling.ie that is running quite regular now and really professional.
UK is on fire. RevPro down south. There is Fight Club that’s really different. I’ve been so many places and there are so many lads I wanna work with. The level of the talent out there right now it’s a hot bed. Can’t forget ICW in Glasgow. An over 18’s promotion with an amazing loyal fan base and great booking. That one could really break out.
Would you ever consider promoting again? If so, would it be in Ireland or elsewhere?
No. I don’t think so. I’m a wrestler. I’m not interested in promoting any more. It’s hard. I like agenting matches, and coaching or giving some advise to people that ask.
Is there any truth to the rumours that you could join the WWE? If not, has there been any attempt to lure you away?
There is truth in the rumour that I would like to go into the wild and live off the land, and also the rumour that I would really like to work with some homeless charities.
If NJPW and WWE worked combined shows, who would you most like to work with on their roster?
What has prevented you from doing a tour of the popular US indies (outside of PWG dates in the past)?
Before I went to Japan no one wanted me… And rightly so, I was far from the finished product. Everyone had a chance, I had mailed all of the large groups at the time. But that was a different time, no Twitter or Facebook and YouTube hadn’t kicked off… I was in the States for 6 months, I had done some indys but none of the bigger names.
Now, I’m so busy working all NJPW’s shows I don’t have much time. When I’m off I’m home in Ireland, I have the groups I work with in the UK. The idea of a flight to the States sounds awful for 1 match. Plus most places won’t get me a visa, I’m not 23 with nothing to loose anymore, I’m not risking being black balled for an Indy shot. I live a simple life, if something came up that I wanted to do, I’d be there, but for now I literally don’t have time. I didn’t have a weekend off from march till X-Mas last year. 1 US Indy will take the guts of 4-5 days for me to travel in and out. I can work 3 times in UK in the same time.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you thought about quitting the business?
Do you spend much time watching wrestling when you aren’t working or do you like to take a break from it? If you do watch, what have been you been watching lately?
I used to watch everything. I had tapes literally from every promotion in the world. I wouldn’t even know what they were when I was buying them. When I was 19 I bought a K1 tape not realizing it was kick boxing! Now I watch the best wrestling in the world in NJPW on the monitor or through the curtain, I don’t really watch much else. I check out NXT cos I have some friends there, or if I’m home I’ll check out Raw once every 6 weeks.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Every single day has been equally as important. The highlight has to be the friends I’ve made and the places I’ve got to see.
Which wrestlers, in your opinion, are underrated?
The Young Bucks
Zack Sabre Jr
If you had one piece of advice to offer to aspiring wrestlers what would it be?
Forget about everything and everyone else. If you really want it that won’t be hard.
Becoming a pro wrestler is easy. All it takes is YOU giving absolutely everything it takes. It’s that easy.
No one is going to help you more than yourself so go out and train with as many different coaches and work as many different places as you can.
Where do you see Prince Devitt in 5 years?
I’m on a train heading to the country side right now. Hopefully back in the country side 🙂
Special Thanks: We would like to thank the great wrestling fans at therealtsm.com and puroresufan.com for submitting the questions for this interview. All photo credits go to New Japan Pro Wrestling and Fighting Spirit Magazine. Of course, last but not least, thank you to Fergal Devitt for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in this interview!
Please keep your eyes on culturecrossfire.com for our next Q&A interview, with Devitt’s Bullet Club team mate, Tama Tonga!