President & CEO of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Harold Meij, did an interview with the publication Uproxx ahead of Wrestle Kingdom 13 on January 4. He talked about his most anticipated match in that event, as well as his favorite wrestlers growing up. Here are some of the highlights:
His favorite wrestlers growing up:
"At that time there weren't as many wrestlers, of course, as there are today, but the two that really stood out to me, in my mind – one was the Destroyer and the other was Abdullah the Butcher … And I remember those two guys, you know, are almost in every match, and they really stood out, so as a kid I vividly remember those two. So I'd have to say, you know, from my childhood, those would be my favorite wrestlers.
"Well, first of all, I mean, like the Destroyer was a masked wrestler, so he had a white mask on with just the eyes and the mouth coming out, and so you never knew. He was kind of mysterious, and I'd never seen that. I mean, any kind of sports that I'd seen as a little kid, you know, soccer or whatever, baseball, they were just, you know, you're in a uniform, but you don't have a mask on. It's kind of mysterious, and 'Who is this guy?' and 'What would he be in real life, as a person?', that kind of thing, and it gets a whole layer of mystique to it. And, of course, he was also – you could tell that he was a foreigner.
"So was Abdullah the Butcher, of course, but – So, as a little kid, you sort of see up to them as well, like 'Wow… these kinds of people can be strong as well,' you know, so, as a foreigner living in a foreign country, as a Dutchman living in Japan, you kind of see them as a hero as well. So those two things really helped me solidify a good image of those two wrestlers in my mind."
Which Wrestle Kingdom 13 match he's most looking forward to:
"We talked a little bit about the philosophy, and I think that's one of the things that sets New Japan apart from a lot of other promotions, or other sports for that matter, is we emphasize more the philosophical part… Keeping that in mind, I have to say that the Tanahashi vs. Kenny is going to be something special. Because they're almost – I almost want to say they're almost opposites, they're almost two extremes to each other.
"And if you've seen any of the comments that both have given, I mean, Tanahashi, for example, on the one hand, he is the essence of New Japan. He's almost Mr. New Japan. I mean, he started with New Japan, he was brought up as Young Lion, he was there during the bad times, he was there during the good times. I mean, he's been taking a lot of initiatives to help the company as well. Not just inside the ring, of course, as a wrestler, but also outside the ring he did a lot of PR. He went to personally sell tickets during our darker times… he is the epitome, really, of the tradition of New Japan. It's in his DNA… That's who he is.
"Now, Kenny on the other hand – incredibly high-quality moves, incredible stamina and agility, but he's almost self-taught. Almost. He didn't go to the dojo, obviously, so he doesn't have that part of him. He came from other experiences from the world. He's wrestled and fought the world, really. So it's almost, you know, two polar opposites. And yeah, I almost have to say that I almost don't want to see the outcome of that."
Meij also discussed how he got into New Japan and his favorite New Japan match. The full interview can be seen by clicking here