When on December 22nd 2017, Kaito Kiyomiya returned from Canada on expedition at Korakuen Hall, the venue went quiet. He looked like a different person. Stylish hairstyle, bigger in body...however it was not only his appearance that had changed. The following January he challenged for the GHC Heavyweight belt that Kenoh then possessed. Many fans found Noah's bright new future there.
Kenta Kobashi also has great expectations for him. How is Kobashi looking at Kiyomiya? What is Kiyomiya's future path?
Q: You wrestled quite a few matches in Canada?
Kiyomiya: Yes, about twenty-one.
Kobashi: For how many promotions?
Kiyomiya: About ten. There are a lot of promotions in Canada. The major one was Impact Wrestling, the old TNA.
Kobashi: Canada has a lot of pro-wrestling.
Kiyomiya: It is amazing. Famous American wrestlers come to Canada. Fan excitement is unique overseas.
Kobashi: How did you find the differences?
Kiyomiya: In Japan we attack one after another, but the Canadian wrestlers will appeal indifference after attacking. It fuelled the fans, and so I was able to secretly relax during that time (laugh). It was good for the fans, and I turned it into my own strength.
Kobashi: What did you learn in Canada?
Kiyomiya: After I went to Canada, I could see around me. Even when I entered I could relax even when I felt nervous. I can now see peoples faces, and hear their cheers.
Kobashi: It is important that you are aware of what is around you. Some wrestlers are still nervous and do not look. You are a senior in Noah, aren't you?
Kiyomiya: How is that? (Strained Laugh)
Kobashi: When I heard you were going abroad, I thought it was a good thing. With the circumstances I had, I could not have experienced it, and I would like more wrestlers to experience it. Baba used to say "there is nothing to learn from the US", but I think there are a lot of things to learn in other places, even if Japan is the most technical. It is very important, even if it is just attacking and defending. Even studying other wrestlers I think has been good for you.
Kiyomiya: I had a good experience.
Kobashi: For athletes who go abroad, please do not misunderstand me. Even when you go up a rank when coming back, do not think it is solely to do with your strength. Kiyomiya understands, don't you?
Kiyomiya: I don't know about that (laughs)
Kobashi: What I mean is, is that you know what I am talking about, because you are humble. It is no good unless you combine the humble with the bold and not be arrogant. At twenty-one, you need to do it, if you don't, then when will you? In the old days you would have been considered a senior for doing it because there was a case for it. I guess in a way it still exists. However, you need to look to yourself to rise up.
Q: As a child you were inspired after seeing Misawa on the TV and becoming a pro-wrestler weren't you?
Kiyomiya: I first saw the inaugural GHC Heavyweight Tournament that would decide the first GHC Heavyweight Champion. It was the single match between Misawa and Yoshihiro Takayama. It was a complete shock to me, and I wondered how they were going to survive. I was a child! After that I looked to Misawa as a hero, and I have been watching it ever since.
Q: What was Misawa's appeal?
Kiyomiya: Even when damaged he stood up, and he would return it. In the end, he often won.
Kobashi: But that was seventeen years ago? You can only have been about four.
Kiyomiya: I didn't watch the event live. I think I rented it from a video store. I think I have been watching wrestling since I was a small child.
Q: Kiyomiya uses Misawa's techniques, the green costumes and seems to have inherited him. Is he aware of how big this it?
Kiyomiya: I have no intention of inheriting him, I respect him too much, and I need to establish myself as a professional wrestler and not rely on Misawa's technique and other things. Since I have been watching Misawa matches since I was a child, his moves will come out in my matches and there will be things I do.
Kobashi: By the way, you have also done a ground cobra face lock. Misawa did that once.
Kiyomiya: Really? I didn't know that! My natural tecnique is similar to Misawa? I want to treasure that.
Q: In your view, are you reminded of Misawa in Kiyomiya matches?
Kobashi: I am not reminded, but I see something new with momentum. The momentum jumps out. The desire for Misawa is a good thing to keep in mind, and I feel strongly that should continue.
In Yokohama in the match with Shiozaki, I think he took it a step further. That kind of match should be the representation of Noah from now on, and should be bought to opponents, other matches and to fans. He has to show that to them. In that respect, he has gone further.
Q: Do you have anything you are worried about, or want to ask Mr. Kobashi?
Kiyomiya: In the old days, Japanese wrestlers were super heavyweight. Mr. Kobashi felt he was able to stand up and defeat them, even if they were bigger than he? Even if he fell. I am heavy right now, but I am not super heavy, please let me know your mindset on fighting larger opponents.
Kobashi: If you know you will not lose, you will not lose.
Kiyomiya: I need to work on that, there are many wrestlers who are larger than I am, and although I have a long time to do it, I need to work on my thoughts which are harder.
Kobashi: Your feelings will toughen. Because you are thinking you are bad, you will gradually build yourself up. Are we all physically different now? All the Japense in the past have faced really big gaijin, and they have not needed any tricks. Wrestlers like Stan Hansen or Abdullah the Butcher, such large wrestlers cannot be lifted, and especially when it comes to a brainbuster or something. Old athletes had a pride, and would not have taken to being thrashed by such a young person like yourself. The competitive nature was funny.
Link to original article from Nikkan Spa (in Japanese)