Kevin Knight on BOSJ, being mentored by Motor City Machine Guns and KUSHIDA, and ASÉ Wrestling

Kevin Knight talked to Samantha Schipman about a variety of topics
Kevin Knight.jpg
Kevin Knight.jpg /

Kevin Knight will be participating in NJPW's Best of Super Juniors 31 (BOSJ) beginning on May 11. He also wrestles in TNA, often with Intergalactic Jet Setters partner, KUSHIDA. Knight has also competed on two of the first three ASÉ Wrestling shows.

On ASÉ's first show, "The Jet" opened the show against JAH-C. On ASÉ COSMOS, he faced Movie Myk. I had the opportunity to speak to Knight prior to the third ASÉ show.

Being in the first match of a brand new promotion is a momentous deal. The match sets the tone for the show and has to grab fans' attention immediately. It carries a lot of weight and means that a certain sense of trust and expectations have been placed on one's shoulders to deliver.

"It means a lot to me that Darius (Lockhart) has that trust in me to set the tone of what we bring to ASÉ Wrestling. It was a pleasure to go out there and entertain the crowd and just have fun. ASÉ Wrestling is so different from anything else. It was dope to set the tone for everything else and get people ready for what we're going to bring. It was a cool. A great experience."

Being part of ASÉ for a second time means that Lockhart trusts him. "He knows my vision. We have the same type of vision for what we want to go after. And he gives me the ball and trusts me to create my piece with it. There's no 'alright, I want you to do this, this, and this.' You still have your freedom and everything."

"It's a great place to work, explore your creativity and connect with the crowd. The crowd with ASÉ Wrestling is so diverse. It's not just smart wrestling fans or not just kids. There's so many different types of fans, so it's like a new way for me to express myself. What I do here or what I do on a daily basis like at New Japan or something may not work here, so it allows me to flex a new muscle to become a more complete performer. "

ASÉ can introduce fans to wrestling that they might not see on TV or if they aren't going to their local indie wrestling show. ASÉ is "a great platform because it shows that people that look like me, we're not all the same. We have so many different flavors, so many different personalities, and things to offer."

"So many times when you make it to the bigger stage or whatever, they want to box you in to what they want you to be. A stereotype or whatever. But here at ASÉ, you can be yourself. Like I said, just be yourself and become a complete performer without so much judgement, I feel. There's no judgment here, so whatever you put out there, that's your art piece. So the freedom is liberating."

Navigating TNA after big changes to the locker room

Last year, Knight debuted in TNA (it was still IMPACT at the time). He's wrestled singles matches, but has also teamed with KUSHIDA. Earlier this year, he teamed up with Time Splitters, KUSHIDA's tag team with Alex Shelley.

Since that match, there has been some big changes in TNA. Scott D'Amore was let go in a surprising move that upset the locker room. Shelley along with his Motor City Machine Guns (MCMG) partner, Chris Sabin, departed the company in early April. The departures of three of the company's most influential men has changed the landscape of the company.

When asked what it's like being in TNA without them, Knight replied, "that's a great question because I don't know how to feel. Things have been changing so fast. Things are going -- not saying its bad -- but it's so different than it was at the beginning of the year. The first TNA pay-per-view of the year, Scott was there. I wasn't even booked on that show, but Scott told me to come out there anyway. So, that meant a lot. So it's just finding, just navigating a new landscape."

"Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley were such great mentors. They weren't just good wrestlers. They helped everyone in the locker room. They instilled a lot of confidence in everyone backstage. They gave a lot of leadership to everyone backstage. So somebody has to step up now for that role. So now I feel like there's a lot of opportunity for someone to step up and become that leader."

"But it's definitely a big blow, you know, with all three of them leaving at the same time. I was connected to a lot of them. I still have my boy, KUSHIDA. He's the man. I've still got KUSHIDA there to mentor me. I'm still so fresh and new in the wrestling game. Mentorship is so needed. So it's just navigating and finding myself."

TNA has generally been on smaller TV channels and where a lot of fans may not have access to watch their product. Many feel like MCMG are underrated and don't get the flowers that they deserve for their contributions to tag team wrestling for those reasons.

Knight reflects on what their mentorship has meant to him. "It's been a pleasure. It's been so surreal because me personally -- its like you said -- they don't really get their flowers. I never watched Motor City Machine Guns growing up because I never really watched TNA like that. So when I get there and see how big of a name they are, how smart they are, I appreciate their knowledge and their experience because every time I was there, Alex Shelley had a new story for me. "

"He had two, three stories for me. And they would be like, 'something looked good on camera, but actually this was supposed to happen' or 'do this at a certain time' or he was trying to find himself this way. He gave me a lot of perspective on how things go, like things aren't always going to be perfect. He's a very calm person. He knows how to operate in chaos. I learned so much just by watching how he operates that I try to incorporate in my day to day life. It's been great to just have that role model type."

Being in BOSJ

The Best of Super Juniors is one of New Japan's most prestigious tournaments. It is a grueling round-robin tournament featuring 20 wrestlers. Wins are awarded two points, a draw gives each competitor in the match one point, while a loss receives none. Last year, Knight competed in his first BOSJ where he finished with six points.

BOSJ 31 begins May 11 and ends June 9 with the finale taking place at DOMINION. Knight was invited to participate again this year. Due to the injury of YOH, KUSHIDA was named as his replacement. Does being in the tournament previously has benefits?

"Most definitely because everything last year was new. I did a couple tours of New Japan before, but it was all tag team stuff. I had three other people in the ring with me to collaborate with. When you're doing singles matches every single night, not only is it tough on your body, it's tough on you mentally. You've got to think of not only what you're doing tonight, you gotta think of the backstage comments you want to say. You've got to think of what you do tomorrow night, how you want to attack that."

"So it was a lot and then in between, those shows got them long drives; 6, 8 hour bus rides. Like Japan looks small on the map, but it's very big. So just having those travel days is grueling on the body. This year, the schedule is a lot different. There's not too many back-to-backs from what I checked. It'll be a little bit easier on my body. I'm looking forward to it, it's a challenge."

Before answering if he'd like to face KUSHIDA, Knight wanted to give a shoutout to YOH. "He's one of the coolest people backstage. He has a great sense of humor and he's always joking around. He has a great sense of style and everything. He brings a great vibe to the locker room, so that'll be missed."

"Literally after Sakura Genesis, I talked to KUSHIDA, 'I don't know when I'm going to see you next' because he wasn't going to be in the Super Juniors. I don't know when I'm going to see him next, so you know, I was like, 'KUSHIDA-san, I'm going to send you my matches. Please help me.' Like for advice and everything. His mentorship helps me so much. So now that he's going to be on tour, it'll be a little bit easier. He's someone I can bounce ideas off of or just ask him what he thinks. So, it'll be great to just see how he moves."

"And to answer your second question, I would love to face off against KUSHIDA. I've always been side by side with him. I know his every move. So if we get in the ring together, I have some counters to his stuff. I've been thinking about it. I'm looking forward to it if we ever get in the same ring. I would love to."

Although KUSHIDA is coming in last minute, he's still KUSHIDA. "Don't underestimate. He's a six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. I wouldn't doubt his abilities. Maybe it'll be a little tougher for the conditioning, he's a little bit older now. Just his mindset wise and how he attacks everything, he's always stretching, he's always paying attention to details. So I feel like he's going to be on his game. We just got done with Sakura Genesis, obviously, but I feel like he'll be ready. You can't underestimate KUSHIDA."

Be sure to follow Kevin Knight on the app formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

If you use any quotes from this interview, please H/T Daily DDT and credit Samantha Schipman.