It makes all the sense in the world in retrospect, but before Nic Nemeth showed up in the Tokyo Dome on Jan. 4 not many had predicted the former Dolph Ziggler would show up in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
So how did it come about? During his appearance on Talk Is Jericho, Nemeth gave a lot of credit to former IWGP Heavyweight champion Shinsuke Nakamura.
Nemeth explained how he & Nakamura struck up a friendship shortly after the King of Strong Style was brought up to WWE’s main roster:
“A couple of years ago, I’m not close friends with a lot of people, but a long time ago when Shinsuke came up from NXT, at the time I was doing the thing where everybody who shows up wrestles me. I didn’t really know him, I didn’t really watch Japanese wrestling, I don’t watch our wrestling. I famously don’t watch wrestling, I hate everything because I was in a bad place, but I love my job and doing what I do.
“After WrestleMania, Shinsuke comes up, does whatever he does, and we’re overseas. Him and I had to stay and do the dark match after TV and everyone else went on. We’re sitting next to each other, we put a couple of matches together, I’m not really outspoken. I had requested a bottle of jackfire whiskey and we had that for the ride. ‘You want a sip?’ We just start talking, we had a couple of whiskeys, and we were buddies.
“It was so great because he’s the biggest sweetheart in the world. We had a good bond I liked wrestling with him.”
Again explaining that he knew he was ready to move on from WWE prior to his release last September, Nemeth told Jericho that he sent an email expressing his gratitude and frustration to several higher-ups at the company last year:
“I sent that to a few different people, I don’t want to name names, but I sent it to very important people. Vince [McMahon] was the only one that wrote back, instantly, and was like, ‘This is a lot to unpack, let’s talk about it further.’
“‘Sir, if you want me to fly to Stamford tomorrow, I’ll be on a flight.’
“He said, ‘Thanks, we’ll think about it.’ Two weeks later, I was released.”
From there, Nemeth started planning his next move. And when he reached out to his friend Shinsuke, he got hooked up with NJPW:
“First thing I wanted to do was, I’ve never done independents. I’ve never gone around the country, except with WWE many times. I was like, ‘I’m still friends with Shin [Nakamura]. Hey Shin, do you think I’m still good at wrestling? What do you think about Japan?’
“He’s like, ‘I got you.’ Put a couple of pieces together, get to Rocky Romero, who is the go between, and luckily for me, they were happy and excited. That was one of the first things I did when I got released. First week in.”
Fast forward, and Nemeth makes his New Japan in-ring debut Feb. 24 at The New Beginning in Sapporo, challenging David Finlay for the IWGP Global title.
It’s all who you know...
H/t Fightful for transcription