Bullet Club member Tama Tonga was a guest on last week's episode of our WINCLY podcast. In addition to discussing the upcoming Bullet Club Block Party and the launch of All Elite Wrestling, Tonga spoke to Wrestling Inc. managing editor Nick Hausman about some of the recent changes in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Tonga was asked about his opinion on new NJPW president Harold Meij. While Tonga said he has yet to see a difference under the new leadership, he likes the direction their going in because he believes expansion will be good for the company.
"From my understanding, he was brought in to help us expand and I think he's working hard towards that," Tonga said. "I want us to expand, so I'm on the same boat. Anybody who's trying to help the company expand and do better for us, that's best for business for us.
"It might be a little too soon to notice a whole big difference," he continued. "I think it takes a little time to see the changes really take an effect. But it's happening, but I don't see the whole huge difference yet. Ask me in another year."
With some of the recent departures from NJPW including Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, it would be understandable if Tonga had his eyes set on a run at the IWGP heavyweight championship. But Tonga said he and his brother Tanga Loa have unfinished business in the tag team division and they hope to challenge EVIL and SANADA for the titles. He also said the members of Los Ingobernables de Japon are merely individuals teaming together, not a true tag team.
"I'm in a tag team called Guerrillas of Destiny so we're gonna be going after the IWGP heavyweight tag team belts. I don't feel we were done justice in this three-way at Wrestle Kingdom," he said. "I think we need to go toe-to-toe... It will be against EVIL and SANADA. I don't think they're a proper tag team, I think they're two individuals put together. We need to go after that and expose them for what they are: singles competitors, not a tag team."
Tonga also opened up about KUSHIDA leaving NJPW, revealing that they share a longtime friendship dating back to when they first started with the company. Tonga had a lot of praise for him, noting how much he did to carry the junior division. With KUSHIDA reportedly being on his way to WWE and joining NXT, Tonga doesn't see their friendship ending because he is also a Florida resident.
"It's gonna be a huge gap, but I know we've got guys to step up and fill that gap. But KUSHIDA and I made our debut together on the same day here in New Japan in 2010 for the Best of the Super Juniors, and we always remembered that. I worked with him a lot for the first couple of years, and then when I went heel we shared a lot of memories going against each other. He's just an all-around great dude," he said. "He just had his child last year, and so did I, and I feel like his story and my story kind of intertwine here and there, which is nice and unique. He's been great for the company, he held the junior division very, very tight and held it up very high, set standards for everybody to come up to. He's gonna be really missed out here. He's a good friend of mine, and he's gonna be really missed. But since I live in Florida, if that's where he's going, I'll see him out there."
Tonga went on to say that he was initially surprised at KUSHIDA's decision, but he understood his desire to become better. He denied the reports of plans for KUSHIDA to join the Bullet Club. Tonga left the door open for KUSHIDA if he ever wanted to return to NJPW.
"I first initial reaction was I was surprised, but I wasn't at the same time because we had an understanding from the beginning that we always want to grow and keep going... So when he told me about this, I was really happy for him, but he was sad because he felt that he was leaving something great behind," Tonga said. "I was like, 'Look, just do it! Just do it, man. Go and grow, New Japan will always be here. That's what I give New Japan, is the loyalty for those that have sacrificed themselves for the company. So thank you, and we'll always be here when you want to come back."
For more information and tickets to the Bullet Club Block Party, click here. You can listen to Tonga's full interview below: