You don’t expect modesty from someone who has taken on the name “Prince,” but for Ireland’s Fergal Devitt, it just comes natural. That’s in spite of the many achievements the bonafide international star has to boast about. For the past five years Devitt has plied his craft in Japan for New Japan, racking up an increasingly impressive list of honors, including his current reigns as both IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. Devitt was kind enough to grant us this interview just days before what is perhaps his most difficult test as a champion to date, as he attempts once again to beat back independent phenom Kota Ibushi, winner of the recent Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Please enjoy this interview as Devitt prepares to prove he still deserves the title of Best Junior Heavyweight in the world.
What is your daily training regimen like?
Honestly it changes everyday, it just depends how I’m feeling when i wake up or what I’m doing that day or if I’m limited to what i can do by knocks and bumps. But I generally try get some sort of physical activity every day.
Even though you’re known more as a high-flyer, but you also have a black belt in submission wrestling?
That’s true, but it was a long time ago now and I have been slacking on that end of my training to consider myself at that level now. At the time it was it was something that I was very interested in, and training with Hammerlock it was a requirement to be involved so we could handle ourselves if the situation needed.
You’ve trained on multiple continents in various styles. Which trainer has been most influential on you?
Well firstly Andre Baker at Hammerlock in the UK along with help from Johnny Moss and Jon Ryan. Those guys gave me my first taste and are still a huge influence on me. I’ve been lucky to travel and meet so many people to learn from which I think is key to anyones development in any sport. Others would be Liger, Jado, and Gedo, they have been kind enough to pass on a wealth of information to me over the last five odd years in Japan
You’ve made a 2nd home for yourself in Japan. Of course the world was shocked and saddened by the earthquakes and Tsunami’s that hit earlier this year. For those who haven’t been themselves, what makes Japan such a wonderful country?
The People. That’s what makes any country great. Buildings, mountains, rivers, trees…they are the same everywhere, but the people are what makes places special.
You are arguably the most successful foreigner in recent memory in Japan, what do you feel is the secret to your success?
I wish my bank account agreed with that statement! I don’t have a secret, I just enjoy it while it lasts.
You recently made your return to the US representing New Japan in its East Cost Invasion tour. What was that experience like overall?
Tiring. It was jammed between two of our busiest months in Japan, and a trip to England for me for the Andre Baker memorial show. So the timing wasnt great, but overall it was fun.
On the tour you faced Low Ki, someone who has demanded a shot at you for a while. Were you worried about having to defend your belt against one of the world’s best on his home turf?
I wasn’t worried at all; I was eagerly looking forward to it. Ki is a top talent and I was also looking forward to getting back in front of a US audience.
In recent years Kenny Omega’s career path has somewhat mirrored yours, as he’s been embraced by fans in Japan as a foreigner. How do you feel about him as an opponent and wrestler?
He has crazy hair, crazy movement and crazy charisma! But underneath all that he is a very talented fellow that I always look forward to getting in the ring with.
You and Taguchi seem to have very different personalities but have made an unstoppable tag team. What’s it like working with him, and what has made Apollo 55 so successful?
Well actually we are a lot more alike than people think, we are both just as laid back and easy-going as each other, so I think that’s why the team works so well. It has been a pleasure teaming with him
On that, Taguchi was the one who eliminated you from BOSJ. Do you feel like you have something to prove against him now as a singles competitor? Do you see this affecting your partnership?
If there is anyone I don’t need to prove anything to it is Taguchi. A match is a match. It’s in the past now and it certainly wont effect things on my end.
Fujita “Jr” Hayato is a wrestler that has turned a lot of heads recently. Fans were very excited about you two facing in this year’s BOSJ and it was quite a hard-hitting match. What’s your impression of him and how far do you think he can go?
Yes, and he turned my head when we squared off two weeks ago. He is a good solid wrestler with a bright future in my opinion.
Davey Richards has been one of your toughest opponents to date. He’s not only beaten you, he’s injured you. How did you feel when he was announced as returning for BOSJ this year?
Look, injuries happen, that’s part of wrestling. You can’t go around holding grudges about something like that. Regardless, Davey is a fantastic competitor, and for it to be the ‘BEST’ of the Super Jr. you need all the top guys involved.
Kota Ibushi is one incredible high flyer, and you two have been had some amazing matches. He won this year’s BOSJ in spectacular fashion and is your next challenger. Do you believe, with the roll he’s on, that you can stop him again?
Who knows? He is on a roll, the same roll I was on this time last year. Ibushi has every chance, I’m not doubting him for a second.
The ALLtogether joint New Japan/All Japan/NOAH earthquake relief event is coming up. How excited are you about this unprecedented event?
We have done similar things in the past at the Dome working with other companies so it’s not really anything new there, but whats most important is the cause we are working together for.
What are the origins of the name for your finisher “Bloody Sunday” move and the signature Prince Devitt pre-dive pose? Most think it’s U2 reference, are you a fan?
Not really a U2 fan, the Bloody Sunday is a reference and tribute to those how lost their lives on a date in Irish history which is considered to be a huge turning point in the war of independence in 1920.
As for the pose, I don’t really know. There was no thought behind that, it just kind of developed over time.
Any chance of you ever packing on the extra mass to make the jump to Heavyweight?
I used to by 93kg as Pegasus Kid II. I didn’t like it, so probably not!
You’re pretty interactive with fans on Twitter. Do you feel this has helped increase your popularity worldwide, or is it just something you do for fun?
It’s nice to be nice, especially when people are nice to me. But as far as raising my popularity worldwide? There are over 6 billion people in the world, and I would say barely 50 people ‘tweet’ me from time to time.
When you’re not wrestling and training, how do you spend your spare time? Any hobbies? Favorite bands, movies, books?
I’m a big football fan, Tottenham Hotspur. And I like getting outdoor doing some hill walking/mountain climbing when I can. Music-wise, some Tallest Man On Earth or The Album Leaf would be top of my most played list for sure.
What are some of your future goals in wrestling? What wrestlers that you haven’t faced would you like to take on?
I don’t set huge goals for myself. Just to continue on wrestling for the next couple of years is all I need to make me happy.
I would have loved to face HBK but I can’t see that happening now!
What would you consider the best match of your career so far? What is the achievement you’re most proud of in your career so far?
I don’t know about best match, but I consider making it to the J-Cup final 2009 against Marufuji a big accomplishment after getting injured in the first of 3 matches that night against Dino. An injury that would later need surgery.
Finally, anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
If you have any questions I’m on Twitter. I try to get back to everyone, even if it takes a few days sometimes.
You can can learn more about Prince Devitt by following him on Twitter (@fergaldevitt).
Also, check out this great, newly uploaded match between Kenny Omega and Devitt.