2022 has been an electric year for Great-O-Khan, both in and outside of the ring.
Inside the ring, the menacing member of United Empire earned his first taste of gold upon winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships, twice, alongside Jeff Cobb. He was also an essential element of the build to Forbidden Door, appearing on AEW television ahead of competing in a landmark match on the PPV itself. A graduate of NJPW’s Young Lion system, Great-O-Khan is not even two years into his post-excursion career and has already become integral to New Japan’s marketing and promotions, his persona transcending the squared circle he dominates so fiercely.
Outside the ring, Great-O-Khan earned worldwide praise from fans for his heroics in saving a young girl from a drunken predator, subduing the man and ensuring the girl felt safe with offers of pancakes, in turn being awarded a letter of appreciation by Kawasaki City police. A hero in every sense of the word, we saw another side of Great-O-Khan when he ventured to America, gallivanting across the Las Vegas Strip seemingly having the time of his life thus cementing his spot in the hearts and minds of all fans.
With translation help from NJPW, I was able to ask Great-O-Khan a series of questions, ranging from his career in New Japan so far to his appearances in AEW, from his time spent on excursion in England to his thoughts on MJF, and of course what toppings he has on his pancakes.
Q: What are your thoughts on your performance in the G1 Climax this year and Will Ospreay losing in the final?
The results were disappointing but our matches were highly regarded, and we felt that the fans were clamoring for both us and Ospreay to win. That is an achievement in itself.
Q: You are a two-time IWGP Tag Team Champion, alongside Jeff Cobb. Do you have your sights set on any singles title in the near future?
We do not seek championships, championships come to us. Should the champions beg us to challenge for these things, then so be it.
Q: You’ve recently incorporated the “Slam Dunk” and “Pancake Hold” into your move set. You seem to be able to find inspiration from anywhere, your amateur wrestling background, anime, and now basketball and food. Are you always looking for new, original moves to add to your arsenal in your every day life?
We don’t search, we feel. When we find something useful, we incorporate it, not just in our wrestling, but backstage and on social media.
Q: Does it frustrate you that you defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan yet he continues to use the Mongolian Chops?
No. We are benevolent types. The “legendary wrestler” mimicking our moves is something we find highly amusing, if anything.
Q: With the announcement of the Historic X-Over event between NJPW and STARDOM, which STARDOM wrestlers would you most like to team up with at the show?
We care not.
Q: Which STARDOM wrestlers would you like to see join the United Empire?
We do not seek members. It is up to the wrestlers to plead their cases to us.
Q: NJPW have announced their return to the UK with Royal Quest II. Can we expect Great-O-Khan to make his long-awaited return to the UK? (Interview took place before Great-O-Khan was officially announced for Royal Quest II)
You may. Be prepared by watching NJPW World immediately.
Q: You spent almost two years on excursion in the UK with RevPro, as part of the Legion and teaming with Rampage Brown, do you have any fond memories of your time in the UK?
At first, we couldn’t communicate effectively with broken English. But when wrestlers in Portsmouth tried to learn Japanese and tried to understand our English we were grateful.
We have an amusing anecdote. One day, we were asked to give lessons on amateur wrestling to students in the Portsmouth dojo. There were over 20 people coming to our session on the first day. But because the lesson was so grueling only two people came on the second day. Many wrestlers invited us to dinner, took us sight-seeing and taught us the proper English manners. Lord Gideon Grey especially has our gratitude. We were glad to see historical architecture like the Tower of London and Glastonbury Abbey where our beloved King Arthur’s grave is. We only have good memories of England.
Q: You are wildly popular with fans in both Japan and worldwide. What do you attribute that to?
No words are needed in wrestling. A dedicated attitude is appreciated all over the world. Debuting in England taught us that.
Q: You were an important part of the build to Forbidden Door, what are your thoughts and feelings on your time spent in AEW and performing at Forbidden Door?
We felt that AEW is full of Indy wrestlers. There are plenty of formidable wrestlers there, but they are unrefined and ill-educated. A shame.
Q: Is there anybody in AEW that you think should be punished with an Eliminator?
MJF. Not because of hatred but interest.
Q: MJF has previously revealed that he is a fan of you. What are your thoughts on MJF?
We care not for pro-wrestling, so we haven’t seen or heard of MJF. Yet clearly he is one of a precious few who truly understand the meaning of true “professional wrestling”, and we think he must be one of the very best in the world.
Q: During your time in America it seems you really enjoyed yourself in Las Vegas. What was your favourite part of that experience?
Definitely Las Vegas. We posted some photos of Las Vegas on our Instagram for you to see. American people are crazy and funny – we would like to oblige our crazy side as well.
Q: What are your favourite anime or manga?
To name a few famous manga, love Slam Dunk, Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball, YuYu Hakusho and Fist of the North Star. Of course, we own complete sets of all.
Q: What toppings do you put on your pancakes?
Simple is the best. Syrup and Whipped cream. That’s it.