Michael Elgin saw another of his dreams realized recently when he signed a two-year contract with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
The powerhouse performer is excited to represent the company, teaming with Hiroshi Tanahashi to face the Briscoes at Ring of Honor’s 14th Anniversary Show Friday, Feb. 26 at 9/8CT on pay-per-view.
“I think me and Tanahashi made a great tag team as part of the World Tag League late last year,” Elgin says. “I’m glad we can compete together stateside. I think it will be a heck of a match with the Briscoes. When they say they are one of the best tag teams in the world, they really are. I’m here to prove that me and Tanahashi are just as good, if not better.”
The “Unbreakable” Elgin has impressed officials at NJPW ever since he began working for them at the 2015 G1 Climax last July. The official deal was something he hoped would come about. And when it did, he jumped at the opportunity.
“The company is a good fit for me,” Elgin said. “I always grew up liking Japanese wrestling. My favorite wrestlers were either from Japan or had made their name in Japan. I think it was just the fact I had watched it so long and understood what fans in Japan wanted from watching what they reacted to. I knew what to do with my style that would also connect with that audience. I guess it paid off because I have gotten a positive response from over there. Just last weekend with the Ring of Honor shows I was in the ring with [Kazuchika] Okada and the crowd was chanting my name. It was surreal to think about that happening.”
The 29-year-old Canadian is grateful to those on the roster who have made him feel welcome and eased his transition.
“Two guys who have helped tremendously were Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows,” he said. “I had known them from shows prior. They are just good dudes, and I’m happy they saw success over there. I’m looking forward to what will happen in the future.”
With many big names exiting the company in the past year, Elgin is driven to step up and more than fill the void.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have the crowd on my side,” he explained. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the New Japan officials bring to the table, and hopefully I get those big opportunities to prove myself.”
Elgin’s schedule is filled with regular commitments not only to NJPW, but working dates for ROH and other reputable independent companies. He can feel pro-wrestling in general shifting into another boom period.
“I think it’s a bit of a different boom period in that there are more independent companies thriving, than ever really, since the death of the territories,” Elgin said. “There was that kind of ‘Attitude Era’ where indies were doing well, but I really don’t think there were as many eyes on them. There are so many talented guys out there that aren’t in a large company that fans want to see, so they are making a living on the indies. I really think the coverage is bigger and broader than it has ever been on the independent scene. There are so many talented guys out there who many have never heard of, and the second they do, they become a fan. So I think the state of indie wrestling is tremendous right now. Every week you hear about more and more audiences coming out. So it’s great.”
Elgin is proud of the career he had thus far, making a name for himself in ROH. With ROH’s partnership with NJPW, the former world champion is getting the best of both worlds.
“Whenever it lines up where I’m stateside and they’re running shows, I’ll still be a part of ROH programs,” Elgin said. “Right now I saw it as an option to venture out and do something new. I think that is always good. I think giving yourself a new kind of look in the world of professional wrestling is good. I think spending time in Japan over the next few years is going to be very beneficial to myself and I think if and when I am part of Ring of Honor when I can be, it will be beneficial for them as well.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from fans and quite a few people within wrestling who I call friends,” Elgin continues. “They texted me as soon as they heard the news of me signing. It’s no secret to anybody who knows me or has been around me in locker rooms that being in Japan was one of my main goals in my career. Now I’ve accomplished that and it’s going to be long-term for at least two years. So I’ve definitely gotten a lot of support.”
It appears to be a growing trend for a gaijin (foreigner)to have their stock rise if they connect with the Japanese audiences and find success there. AJ Styles is among those who enjoyed a career resurgence thanks to NJPW. It made him a valuable signing for WWE.
Elgin says there was interest from WWE, but he didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle.
“Everyone is going to WWE right now,” he explanis. “There are only so many spots to be filled and only so many programs and so much time on TV. I really felt the two years with New Japan would give me more notice from them. It was also a goal to be there. Let’s say I reached out to WWE and went there after only four tours of Japan. I think I would have missed something because Japan was always a heavy goal. To be honest, growing up wanting to be a wrestler, I knew I wasn’t too tall. I knew I could work hard, but I always saw myself in the light of an Eddie Guerrero or Chris Jericho, who traveled across the world and became staples around the world before they went to WWE. I think that is the path I was meant to take.”
Elgin is experiencing blessings in both his professional and personal life these days. He became a father in September when son Jax was born. His wife Rachel also wrestles under the name MsChif. It’s no doubt been a time of change, but in Elgin’s eyes, good change.
“Being a dad has been tremendous,” he said. “There is nothing in the world like being a dad, being a parent. It makes every day better. It really does. It’s definitely tough leaving, especially for long amounts of time. My wife in the business as well, she understands and supports me. Every time I’m home, I’m here with them. I just cherish the time together. I hope in the future he enjoys wrestling and wants to follow in pursuit of it, so he understands at times why I wasn’t here.”
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Photos Courtesy: Ring of Honor