This interview with Joe Doering was originally published on The Wrestling Voice on September 30, 2008.
Only a little over a year into his tenure with All Japan Pro Wrestling, Joe Doering has quickly solidified a slot most spend years to achieve and has already racked up accolades that most at that level will never come close to attaining. Already pinning names such as Minoru Suzuki, Osamu Nishimura, & Suwama, Doering has built a reputation as AJPW’s top gaijin and one of the top gaijin anywhere in Japan today. It’s funny to think that this time last year, the AJPW offices had just signed this fresh gaijin who had just spent time as a young boy and now they seem to be behind him one hundred percent. Not bad for a man who practically flew under the radar before hand and seemed content with it, huh?
While Doering made his name in AJPW quickly, surprisingly he took his time before his venture to the Orient opting for sporadic, non-advertised appearances with TNA and traveling as a nomad for low-key promotions in Canada and the Mid-West. Had it not been for a pushing of Doering by his mentor Scott D’Amore, we might not even think the name Joe Doering was a wrestler today. But after almost four years of pro wrestling, Doering built up his skill and latched onto every opportunity possible, growing exactly the way each slot was designed for, and he has arrived at a point he himself has earned and he himself deserves. Now entering a new chapter of his career with a recent heel turn done one day after this interview, Joe Doering looks prime to make his name last not only in Japan but in wrestling period for years to come.
Douglas Nunnally: There’s just so much to ask you given all you’ve accomplished in under a year especially as a gaijin in the post-split AJPW, but let’s start off at the beginning with some cliché generic questions since it seems you just came out of nowhere. Growing up, when did you realize you wanted to be a wrestler?
Joe Doering: Growing up, I always knew I wanted to become a wrestler. Saying I was going to become a pro wrestler is a very early childhood memory of mine. I remember joking with my uncle saying he was going to be my manager. I knew from five years old that I was going to do it. I always had a passion for it.
Douglas Nunnally: What does your uncle think now that you’re a star in Japan?
Joe Doering: Everybody loves it. My mom still worries about me, but everyone is really supportive. Who knows though? Maybe it’s not too late for a run with “Uncle Krackel” in my corner. [Laughs] That was his gimmick name.
Douglas Nunnally: What were your favorites to watch in terms of wrestling promotions?
Joe Doering: I remember always watching WWF. My old brother, who actually turned me onto wrestling, was always a Ric Flair fan so I actually got to see some NWA when I was younger too, but it was hard to get on TV in Wisconsin where I grew up.
Douglas Nunnally: Who were your favorites to watch in WWF?
Joe Doering: Jesse Ventura of all people. I always loved his flash and the way he presented himself. I’m still a huge fan of his today. It’s a bit strange for a five year old kid to get hooked on him while WWF was pushing Hogan on everyone. Ventura just hit a nerve with me though. Jake Roberts was a favorite a bit later as well as Randy Savage and, of course, The Bushwackers!
Douglas Nunnally: How did you get started at the Can-Am Wrestling School?
Joe Doering: I actually got started in the TNA Academy in Nashville. I was looking around for a school and the TNA School came up so I jumped on it. I tried out and they liked me so eventually I just started going to Canada after a few months in Nashville and Orlando.
Douglas Nunnally: What was your training like with Scott D’Amore? How long did it last?
Joe Doering: I started at TNA where Scott was the head trainer in the summer of 2004 and had no complaints. I still train at the Can-Am Wrestling School to this day when I’m not in Japan.
Douglas Nunnally: Anyone noteworthy in your class?
Joe Doering: Jon Bolon of OVW, Sirelda of TNA, Phil Atlas, and Matt Duvall. I was also trained by Tyson Dux & Johnny Devine.
Douglas Nunnally: Did you become close friends with anyone in your training class?
Joe Doering: I consider Scott D’Amore a very close friend as well as Tyson Dux & Johnny Devine.
Douglas Nunnally: You wrestled a few dark matches and squash matches for TNA on PPV TV. How did that get started?
Joe Doering: I just got a call to do a few jobs and to see how I looked on TV. One match I had with Booby Roode is a personal favorite of mine.
Douglas Nunnally: Did you expect to appear in TNA more because of your connection with Scott D’Amore?
Joe Doering: I’m totally happy with how everything went down. I wasn’t ready at the time for anything more than I was given.
Douglas Nunnally: Skipping ahead to the meet of the interview, how did the initial summer tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling start? Who set it up?
Joe Doering: It was a talent exchange between the “TNA Dojo” (Can-Am school) and the AJPW Dojo. Phil Atlas & I went to Japan and Akira Rajin & Brute Issei came to Windsor to train for three months.
Douglas Nunnally: Some news sources, which labeled Can-Am “TNA’s Canadian Exercise Hall,” made Phil Atlas out to be the bigger deal for the upcoming tour. Was Phil expected to be the stand-out in the tour and you just the tag-along?
Joe Doering: Phil is an excellent wrestler and will be in TNA or WWE in the near future. I don’t know what other people expected out of us, but I went there to learn and get a job.
Douglas Nunnally: What exactly was part of the deal for you coming over to AJPW? Were you expected to act like a ring attendant and the like such as other dojo students & young boys?
Joe Doering: Yeah, we were young boys. We cleaned up the Dojo, worked with the ring crew, and did all the other chores. We had total respect for the way they do business there.
Douglas Nunnally: Now in the recent controversial book, “Ring Of Hell,” Matthew Randazzo V paints life for young boys in NJPW as constant torture for sick, perverted veterans. Was the life for young boys in AJPW completely the opposite or were there some problems?
Joe Doering: Well, we never got hazed or anything, but I did see some of it. I’ve heard it was a lot worse a few years earlier. While I was there, a sumo wrestler [Takashi Saito] was killed during a hazing incident. I don’t think serious stuff like that will ever happen again. Going out and getting the young boys drunk is a favorite one for me. Totally harmless fun though.
Douglas Nunnally: Had you been a fan of AJPW and had you seen anything from the company’s heyday in the mid-90s?
Joe Doering: I didn’t get into Japanese wrestling until I became a wrestler myself. Other than Muta in WCW and others on American television, I didn’t see much growing up. When I started training, I started watching whatever I could get my hands on,
Douglas Nunnally: Anything memorable stick in your mind from Japanese wrestling when you started watching?
Joe Doering: Their work ethic. Those guys were so tough. We still are!
Douglas Nunnally: In an obscure question, you helped out AJPW defeat Weekly Pro in a baseball game to end a four-game losing streak between the two. Was that a good initiation into the promotion?
Joe Doering: [Laughs] How the hell did you know that!?! I still have the team picture on my refrigerator. That was our first full day in Japan. I thought we were going to be watching a game, not playing one. I hit a huge homerun that is still talked about today. I have played again since and helped my team lose by striking out a few times.
Douglas Nunnally: How did you feel about your June 24th debut last year in the Korakeun Hall? Nervous?
Joe Doering: I was certainly nervous. It’s a world famous venue; a great start to my career in Japan and I’ll never forget it.
Douglas Nunnally: After that, you went on almost a two month winning streak in AJPW piling up some impressive wins for a young gaijin, the highlight of which had to be the angle on July 15th when you saved ref Wada and Keiji Muto from the heel faction Voodoo Murders [which Doering has now joined] and declared your love of AJPW. How did this angle come about?
Joe Doering: It was a lot of pressure. I thought I was just going to train & do some shows and a month into it; I’m thrown into the main event angle. It was a hell of a rub that started at Korakeun Hall.
Douglas Nunnally: When were you told that the promotion was going to get behind you in a big way?
Joe Doering: Shortly before the angle. I tried to take in stride. I was up to it and I delivered. I think everyone was happy with the outcome.
Douglas Nunnally: Where you shocked that they kept you over strong in the match considering it took a steel chair to pin you by a former Triple Crown Champion?
Joe Doering: Anytime I get in the ring with those guys, it’s a good day at the office. I learned so much from Koji and Mutoh. These matches turned me into a credible star.
Douglas Nunnally: Any wild stories you can tell us from the send-off party AJPW gave you and Phil Atlas after the summer tour?
Joe Doering: I have so many that I’ve forgotten most of them. All I know about that party is I have a great picture of Mutoh & I where I’ve clearly had a few too many sakes.
Douglas Nunnally: What did the office tell or let you know about their plans for you on the next tour?
Joe Doering: I didn’t find out until the end of my three months. That’s just how they do it in Japan it seems.
Douglas Nunnally: What did it feel like to go from a relative unknown foreign student to a full-fledged gaijin member of AJPW after just one tour?
Joe Doering: It was a hell of a rub like I said. They got a homegrown gaijin star and I got a ton of experience.
Douglas Nunnally: Was there any jealousy or bad feelings from Phil Atlas as you were the one turning out to be AJPW’s future ace?
Joe Doering: Nah, Phil is going to do just fine in this business.
Douglas Nunnally: Starting with your September tour, you began your feud with what you called your generational rival Suwama. What were your initial thoughts on Suwama?
Joe Doering: He’s a tough son of a gun; a shit-brickhouse if you will. I’ve had a few good matches with him and I enjoy working with him. He was the champ and I want another shot at him since we are one and one against each other in single matches.
Douglas Nunnally: How did this feud come about?
Joe Doering: I think the office thought we would be good together. I think they were right.
Douglas Nunnally: Now AJPW was already behind you at this point, but there were rumors that based on your showing in the feud with Suwama that the company was going to get behind you in an even bigger way. What did the office tell you after your feud with Suwama?
Joe Doering: I just showed up and did my job. I didn’t have any say in what they were giving me. What the office put in the book is all I can say. I had a good feeling though and was riding high, believe me. I was ready for all challenges.
Douglas Nunnally: This leads us to the Real World Tag Team League where you teamed with Keiji Muto to actually win the prestigious tournament. Making probably every young wrestler in the company jealous, how did you get selected as the one to team with Muto?
Joe Doering: We just kept the angle going and his choice was to pick me. It was a great honor and we pulled it off. I believe it was a big enough rub to last me my whole career in Japan.
Douglas Nunnally: Where you intimidated to be teaming with Muto in the company’s premiere tournament?
Joe Doering: For sure. I knew I had to go out every night and deliver. It was my time to “go to school.”
Douglas Nunnally: Thoughts on Keiji Muto?
Joe Doering: Legend, mentor, boss, friend.
Douglas Nunnally: How much has Keiji Muto helped you along the way?
Joe Doering: He’s been really good to me. I’ve learned a ton from him. He’s good about giving me feedback on my matches and things I can do better, et cetera. Being in the same ring over and over with a legend like that, you have no choice but to grow as a performer and wrestler.
Douglas Nunnally: Any funny or interesting stories you can tell us about him?
Joe Doering: He’s a really funny guy actually. He’s usually pretty quiet, but he’s quick with a joke and likes to laugh.
Douglas Nunnally: How fitting was it to not only pin Suwama in the first match, but to meet his team in the finals?
Joe Doering: That was our finish to our little program together for the most part. He turned babyface not too long after that.
Douglas Nunnally: How did you think the tournament went in the end?
Joe Doering: Great! I had some great matches. I get to go down in wrestling history with the win. Look at the list; I can’t believe my name is even mentioned with greats on that list!
Douglas Nunnally: You followed the momentum from the tournament into a tag team title match which you won with Muto by pinning TARU. So now you’re a RWTL winner and a former Unified World Tag Team Champion all with the legendary Keiji Muto. How does it feel?
Joe Doering: It was great. They really built me up. They put the book behind me and I ran with it.
Douglas Nunnally: So you had a pretty good first six months in AJPW, wouldn’t you say?
Joe Doering: Oh, yeah.
Douglas Nunnally: Did you feel any resentment in the locker room from your push for being so new to the promotion?
Joe Doering: AJPW has always had a heavy gaijin influence so I’m happy to be part of this new movement.
Douglas Nunnally: On Dory Funk’s farewell tour, you got to team with him for one tag match. How did that feel considering the emotion going through the tour?
Joe Doering: It was great. I got to work with him too. [Laughs] I even bumped him!
Douglas Nunnally: What were your impressions on the farewell tour for him overall?
Joe Doering: It was quite the scene at the Sumo Hall show for his last time in Japan; a very nice send off.
Douglas Nunnally: Were you excited to take place in this year’s Champion’s Carnival?
Joe Doering: Awesome. I learned more in that week than my entire career until that point.
Douglas Nunnally: How did it feel to pull off huge upsets against not only Osamu Nishimura, but also former Triple Crown champion Minoru Suzuki?
Joe Doering: Those guys made it easy on me; real pros. My match with Suzuki might be my favorite, not because it was my best but because he really brings it in there. I had to keep up or get the hell out of the way!
Douglas Nunnally: You didn’t win, but it definitely seems as though AJPW used the Carnival to get you and Suwama even more over and solidified you guys as the future aces. Thoughts on that?
Joe Doering: It was down to me and him in the semi-finals to see who would go to the finals against Tanahashi and he ended up winning the whole thing. It was a good scene.
Douglas Nunnally: How do you think you stand right now with Suwama seeing as you have teamed recently since his face turn, but Suwama ruined your chances at the finals of the Carnival and won the belts?
Joe Doering: I would have liked to have a title match with him. I think we could have put on a hell of a show for two young guns. There’s always the future.
Douglas Nunnally: His title defense with Kea went the full hour draw. Think you’re up to the challenge?
Joe Doering: That would be tough! I give a lot of credit to those guys. It’s a difficult thing to do in this day and age.
Douglas Nunnally: Who else in AJPW that you haven’t wrestled are you looking forward to working with?
Joe Doering: The Great Muta of course! For the title of course as well!
Douglas Nunnally: How about people outside of AJPW – who are you most looking forward to working with?
Joe Doering: Hiroshi Tanahashi, [Hirooki] Goto, Tiger Mask, [Masato] Tanaka, and many others.
Douglas Nunnally: Since the NOAH departure of 2000, AJPW’s been in and out of relevance and it seems that with last year’s Voodoo Murders angle, the Real World Tag League, this year’s Champion’s Carnival, and Suwama’s recent run on top people are slowly starting to pay attention again. Is the locker room getting excited again with the increased attention and interest?
Joe Doering: Recently, we had one of our biggest shows in some time at the Sumo Hall. I teamed with my teacher Scott D’Amore so it was be a nice moment for us. I think it was a nice top off for my first year in AJPW too.
Douglas Nunnally: How do you feel the AJPW crowds have been in accepting you, not only being so new and getting so much but also being a gaijin?
Joe Doering: They have ultimate respect, something I wish the States could understand.
Douglas Nunnally: What do you feel is the key difference between the two crowds?
Joe Doering: Respect? I think the American fans have it too, don’t get me wrong. The Japanese people appreciate the sport side of the business though while the American fans love the entertainment, but maybe that’s just because that’s the way it’s presented. I’m not sure I can give a clear answer to that.
Douglas Nunnally: Seemed clear to me. What would you say has been your highlight among the highlights in AJPW thus far?
Joe Doering: Wining the Real World Tag League with Mutoh.
Douglas Nunnally: Your favorite match thus far?
Joe Doering: This year’s Suzuki match in the Champion’s Carnival.
Douglas Nunnally: Anyone backstage you’re particularly good friends with?
Joe Doering: [Taiyô] Kea is my best friend here. Tiger, the gaijin middle man, as well and many of the young boys I began training with.
Douglas Nunnally: How tired was Kea after his hour-long draw with Suwama?
Joe Doering: He was blown up, that’s for sure, and rightfully so! He worked his ass off. I respect the hell out of him. He’s a great worker and some I look up to.
Douglas Nunnally: Now are you able to work when you come home or do you need to be booked through AJPW?
Joe Doering: I work a few Indies when I get a chance here and there.
Douglas Nunnally: Is it weird to fighting people like Minoru Suzuki in huge arenas one week to fighting people that we haven’t heard about yet in rec centers?
Joe Doering: I enjoy working period. I like trying new things and experimenting more on the Indys. It’s also fun coming back and working the American style. I like trying to work on my Hybrid style – a mix of each. Mostly Japanese style, which some of the guys I work with probably don’t like since it’s a bit snug. [Laughs]
Douglas Nunnally: What are your feelings on Japan the country, seeing as how you’re spending an awfully big amount of time there lately?
Joe Doering: It’s a great place. I highly recommend visiting. It’s another world full of great people.
Douglas Nunnally: What’s one thing over there that’s vastly different than the States that a lot of people might not know?
Joe Doering: There are so many things. From the food to the toilets, the self washing floors, the sex magazines, anime…at the end of the day, I love the people. [Laughs] It’s been a riot working here.
Douglas Nunnally: Any desire to travel anywhere else such as Mexico or Europe?
Joe Doering: I’m actually looking into going to Europe if I can fit it in. I have a lot of dates to fulfill in Japan right now.
Douglas Nunnally: So now to switch focus to some broad issues in wrestling, you went over to AJPW right as the Chris Benoit tragedy hit. Half a world away, was this a big story over in Japan? Was it a big topic in the locker room?
Joe Doering: It was reported in all the newspapers, shows, et cetera. I remember that day it happened. We couldn’t believe it. Then we found out what really happened; it was a sickening feeling.
Douglas Nunnally: Would you say the drug culture in the US is also a problem over in Japan as well?
Joe Doering: Not at all.
Douglas Nunnally: With your hectic tour schedule, are you able to keep abreast of current happenings in the wrestling world?
Joe Doering: I try to keep up with it a bit. I like to read the rumors like anyone, but I’m not really up to date with what’s happening in the states. I watch TNA and WWE when I’m home though.
Douglas Nunnally: What would you say you’re enjoying the most right now for angles, matches, and promotions?
Joe Doering: I really like Santino [Marella]; I think he’s great. I’m enjoying the [Shawn] Michaels & [Chris] Jericho stuff right now too. I prefer to watch older tapes though on YouTube and the like.
Douglas Nunnally: Who would you say your favorite wrestler is right now?
Joe Doering: I like watching Booker T, AJ Styles, Santino, the Motor City Machine Guns, and the Divas & Knockouts. [Laughs]
Douglas Nunnally: Now let’s get you thinking outside the box – what would you say your worst match ever is or is there a particular match that just stands out in your mind as an absolute train wreck?
Joe Doering: Anything with Gutter from Detroit Indies. Yikes!
Douglas Nunnally: What made those matches bad?
Joe Doering: They had Gutter in them!
Douglas Nunnally: To finish up, do you have anything else you want to say, plug, or anyone to thank?
Joe Doering: Sorry for taking so long to get this back to you. Check me out on YouTube. There’s some good stuff on there right now. Check out the Can-Am Wrestling School and BCW at bcwrestling.com. They have some really big shows coming up! Thanks for the interest in me!