Exclusive: Aaron Henare Opens Up About His NJPW Contract, Potential AEW Opponents, Jay White Leaving NJPW, More

Current New Japan Pro-Wrestling star and United Empire faction member Aaron Henare has been part of the NJPW roster since 2016. He was hand picked by Will Ospreay in April 2021 to join the United Empire faction. He recently had, which he describes, as the best match of his career as he challenged Shingo Takagi for KOPW Title.

Aaron Henare joined PWMania.com‘s Lewis Carlan for an exclusive interview to discuss the match against Shingo Takagi, United Empire, his current contract situation with NJPW, Jay White leaving NJPW and joining AEW, Will Ospreay’s injury, AEW opponents he’d like to face, his book and so much more. You can check out the complete interview below:

On April 2, you challenged Shingo Takagi for the KOPW title outstanding, Ultimate Triad match. Incredible, incredible match. How are you feeling after that war, I understand you had bronchitis going into that match? So tell me about that. And your thoughts on Shingo?

“Yeah, whether I was sick or not, that was going to be my hardest match of my career. But I didn’t know whether I had asthma or bronchitis because I haven’t had it for about 10 years. But I think being in Tokyo for a whole year, and all the smoke and everything sort of jammed my lungs up. But could either had pulled out of the match and not had that match in my career. Or I could have kept going. And everybody saw I kept going. But it did a lot of damage to me, and I went to the hospital the next morning to get the steroidal inhalers that I haven’t used in over 10 years, but I’m glad that I did do the match. With modern technology, no problem. So pretty rough, pretty hard, but I haven’t been haven’t had an empty DM since that match.”

Would that match have been even better if you didn’t have bronchitis?

“There are a few parts of the match where like we’re exchanging, like trying to go toe to toe with each other. And there are a few parts where you see me bend over and like trying to breathe because I was genuinely trying to catch my breath because I like it just looked like I had collapsed and yeah, it did almost collapse. But whether or not I was sick, that was going to be a war and I would have been probably just as tired.”

I’ve seen people on social media calling it the best match of your career. Do you agree? Was that the best?

“By far because to me, I don’t look at it as one match because they were five matches in that match. They were the submission. My submission, his submission. My pinfall, his pinfall, and then the last part me collapsing. That was me genuinely collapsing. I collapsed earlier once in the match when I rolled out to the outside after he submitted me and I was genuinely like, I can’t breathe. I’m glad the camera didn’t catch it. I was telling O’Khan on the outside, man I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. Like I genuinely couldn’t breathe. The last second of that match, I couldn’t breathe but I did quite a bit of damage to him. And he looked like he couldn’t breathe after the match either.”

Even though you lost do you feel you were really a winner in the match?

“Yeah, definitely. Definitely won the fans over. I mean, apart from the originals like yourself a lot of fans were questioning whether I had what it takes to be at this level. Though what they’re not understanding is that the equivalent time that I’ve been in the company waiting for this opportunity is the same as guys like Shota, like Narita, like O’Khan, we’re all from the same generation, and now that they’re all coming back from excursion all of us are sort of climbing up the mountain together. But definitely a career definer for me, I haven’t had as much critical acclaim as they like to say in America as I have in the last few weeks since that match. The foreign fans didn’t really see it, the ones that weren’t in Japan, but I did a signing in Ryogoku, and we were there for about an hour after the show. That has never happened before in my life. So usually signings will be over in about 20 minutes to 30 minutes, but this was a whole hour after the show. So I really felt not only in the ring being at that level but outside the ring being at that level too and having fans understand and respect that level too.”

Do you want another shot at Shingo? Do you want another shot at that title?

“Not just him, there’s guys like him, and like Ishii I still need to get square with him. And then guys like Goto. I’ve had a few singles matches with Goto, but they haven’t been on television. Only one’s been on TV and on New Japan World, but we had a few in Okinawa. Just non televised matches. He’s great as well. I love those real tough guys. No nonsense type of guys. In America, the equivalent would be Miro, he would be the closest, Rusev. But I really liked those guys just stand and bang. I love those types of guys.”

So you mentioned Ishii, so the feud between you and Ishii, which started four years ago. It’s not over yet.

“No, no, no, because we were three years ago, 2020, March 2020. We were supposed to have a singles match, which was the first main event of the New Japan Cup. About two weeks before that match, all the matches got cut, and I got sent back to New Zealand. So I haven’t had a shot with Ishii. Fans that weren’t in Sydney didn’t see the singles match ahead with him there. In 2019, I believe it was, but they were supposed to go again, and 2020 but COVID sort of shut that all down. So this COVID I mean, it’s been a rock on everybody. It’s put a hold on everybody’s lives. But it really put a hold on my career for three years. With getting sent back to New Zealand and then New Zealand being locked down, I couldn’t get out of the country. And then the year after I injured my neck so I had to go back to New Zealand again. And then last year, sort of got the ball rolling and then the shift took three years to get back to this position that I should have been in three years ago.”

So you’ve been with United Empire for a little over two years now. Do you believe United Empire is the top faction right now in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

“I mean, we’re definitely moving up. Three years ago when we last talked Bullet Club would have been the top in the world no matter the company, whether it’s New Japan or whatever, the Bullet Club was reigning supreme. But that just sort of fizzled into nothingness now it’s a little bit weird and what the United Empire guys we’re all active with genuinely all active all over the world whether it’s Australia or New Zealand or Japan or the boys are in AEW today, the Aussie boys whether it’s Will holding it down in the UK or Akira wrestling in Europe we’re the only faction in the world that are active everywhere in the world so I think that’s like some magic that no other faction in the world has and that’s the reason why we’ll call the United Empire.”

Any idea when Ospreay may be ready to go?

“I’m not sure, so I genuinely thought he just twinged the nerve in his neck to his shoulder. Turns out he told his whole pec. And he kept wrestling like he did it was at the start of the match. I mean, we knew the two boys were going to smash each other because that’s that’s just what you do you want you and your brothers to have the hardest time so they come out the strongest at the end right? But he literally I saw him trying to lift his arm, and I thought oh man, he might have pumped his shoulder out turns out he pull his pec, but he kept going as well. I’m not sure we heard at the start it was going to be two weeks for it to repair, but it sounds like it’s a lot deeper ingrained injury than just a minor tear. We all miss him, man, this is a guy that’s been to every single continent every single major wrestling country in the world and hand-picked every single guy on the team so I’m happy he saw it in me because my my career has got a lot better since then. I think was the best choice I made to come over to the Empire.”

New Japan Pro Wrestling in June, they are involved in two really big shows. First AEW, Forbidden Door 2 show upcoming in Toronto. Do you think you’ll be a part of that show?

“I’ve actually requested June off for a very special reason. Maybe not special to anybody else in the world outside of New Zealand. But there’s a particular thing we do. I won’t spoil it now. The fans will see it soon enough. But it’s quite big to us, and it’s probably the most important cultural thing that we do that defines us as Maori in New Zealand, but I know you’re gonna like it, If I am on that show, I would have to cancel it or delay it. But to be honest, I’ve been in Japan for six, seven years now. And I’ve delayed it about seven years, but just the sort of taster for all the other fans listening.”

But if you were on the show [Forbidden Door 2] and you were able to wrestle somebody from AEW, is there AEW star that you would like to go one on one with?

“There’s quite a few men like, like I mentioned Miro before, he’s one of the guys that I respect most in the business not only him but Cesaro, Castagnoli. Those two like just tough guys that aren’t afraid to go that they’ve been to the top as well. They’ve been they’ve wrestled the top guys everywhere. I think right now, it’s a wrester’s market everywhere. So now I think more than ever, wrestlers have the chance to wrestle guys that they never would have wrestled before you know, and I’m with that. I mean, with leveling up in Japan, that only increases my chances overseas. But for now, who I’m happy with just New Japan. Last year, I went to Rev Pro in the UK. I went to Greece did a few in Australia in New Zealand as well. But yeah, in AEW, definitely Miro and Castagnoli, are my favorite guys that I’d like to wrestle.”

Is there someone from All Japan Pro-Wrestling or NOAH that you’d like to face? I personally would like to see a one-on-one against Masa Kitamiya, I think that will be a terrific match. But is there anybody that’s on your mind from All Japan or NOAH?

“There is one guy not sure if the Western fans known but Suguira. He was actually in the dojo when when Noah and New Japan were working together back in 2016. He was in the dojo when I first got there and this guy, just the look in his face you could tell a tough mofo when you see a tough mofo you could tell a BMF when you see a BMF, and he’s one of those guys and after the match I had with Evil where he smacked the chair on my head people were sending me videos of Sugiura doing the same thing. Somebody, I think it was Otani, I’m not sure, smacked the chair over his head and he just went berserk and beat the sh*t out of him. But he’s one guy in NOAH that I really love. Kitamiya goes like real wild on tough, tough guys that just love standing there and banging the reason why I’m so obsessed with just standing and banging is because that’s the Kiwi style. That’s what we do. We’re not into dancing around like a baller. Running it straight, is what we say, just run it straight.”

On May 3, at Wrestling Dontaku, you team with one of my favorites, Francesco Akira and TJP to take on KUSHIDA, Kevin Knight and Shota Umino. KUSHIDA could very well be the Impact Wrestling World Champion at that time. If he is in fact Impact Wrestling World Champion, are you going to look to get that pin over him and become #1 contender?

“Given that especially as a foreigner coming back to Japan with a foreign title is like coming back with the crosshair on your back, a bull’s eye mark. It’ll probably be a race for all three of us to try to be honest, but then I don’t want to leave the opening because I know Shota, this will be our first time me and Shota in the ring since our young lion days since possibly 2019 I believe, Hemight have left before then but might have been 2018 but this will be the first time in years that we’ve been in the ring together, so happy to be in the ring with that guy. If he’s not around and then all of us are going to be targeting KUSHIDA.”

There are a number of Young Lions right now. Who do you think has the most potential right now in your opinion of the Young Lions.

“It’s obvious that I mean, if you watch the videos back I’ve been eyeing up Oskar and Oleg when they’re walking around, and I spent some time and actually trained with Oskar when he was in New Zealand training at the Fale Dojo. Then he came to the Dojo when I was still staying here during COVID, well part of the COVID after our quarantine, and there was one time where he, I think he had bronchitis as well, actually back in the day, but he was skipping for about 10 minutes straight. And although his lungs are collapsing, he just kept pushing forward. Gasping for air, but he’s someone that’s shown a lot of heart. Oleg, obviously one of the toughest wrestlers in the entire world. Number five ranked freestyle wrestler 125 kgs. Still, he hasn’t wrestled all year, he is still ranked number five, that’s ridiculous. Well, those two definitely have potential and, you know, United Empire doesn’t have anyone from Germany, and we don’t have anyone from Kazakhstan. So those are the two that I am eying up. In terms of the Japanese talent, Oiwa has big potential. It’s not so much whether it’s star quality, but he’s got the mind, he’s got the toughness, he’s intelligent. He’s strong as well. He actually studied to be a lawyer before giving that up to come to the Dojo. So quite similar to what I was doing. I studied public policy, and I worked for the New Zealand government, but I gave that up to come to New Japan.”

So about a year ago, you wrestled a few matches in the USA. I know when when the last time I spoke to you. I know getting to the USA was a goal of yours. So how was he experienced wrestling in the USA.

“To be honest, I think I read too many social media articles about America. I actually purchased that this is gonna sound silly, but I’m from New Zealand. I purchased a bulletproof vest, because I thought I was gonna get shot if I go to America. So the first time was in LA, the Vermont in Hollywood. I had no idea what to expect but I had a bulletproof vest underneath just in case because in New Zealand all we get articles and newsreels about shootings and police stabbings and how much the police hate black people and brown people. But I got there and it was just everyone was friendly. There was no such BS that the media says there is. So that was a little bit embarrassing, but I’ve got to go to Gold’s Gym and Venice Beach which is a tick off the bucket list. You probably remember the pictures of me and Great O’Khan going everywhere. That guy was like with Baywatch model on the beach there. And in Philly, Jeff Cobb brought us Philly cheesesteaks. So these are like the first times I’ve really been to like proper America. I started over in Florida back in 2016 before coming to the Dojo, but apart from that this this was these were the first times check out the capital DC and all the capital buildings and everything else was quite cool. Good heritage up in America.”

So what’s the current contract situation with with New Japan Pro Wrestling

“I’ve been fully contracted since 2016 and September since my debut. So I’m pretty glad that the company’s it’s a bit different to how you do it in the West. If companies are taking a loss, or for example, COVID. They don’t fire people in Japan. It’s like very rare that they fire people because to them is a corporate responsibility for them to take care of everybody that works for them. So you’ve probably seen that nobody in Japan, no wrestlers have lost their job because of the pandemic despite company losses. And I’m pretty grateful for that. But it’s also coming through the system. I was protected in that way because they came through the Dojo. I did the young boy stuff. I do do all the hard yards. I’m protected in that regard. But right now I got three more years on my contract, which is pretty good.”

Jay White recently left New Japan Pro Wrestling and signed with AEW. Do you have an opinion on that? Do you have thoughts on that?

“I was surprised to be honest. Because he was he’s someone that I mean, he’s a Kiwi boy, people forget because he acts like an American. But he’s someone that I look forward to we actually had a match in 2015. And ever since then, I looked up to him as a dude, as someone leading the way as a Kiwi. So yeah, it was really out of left field that he left and went to AEW, people were talking about, is he going to AEW? Or is he going to WWE? It’s his journey so I can’t really take anything away from his journey. Because what seems good for me, might not be good for him and where he’s at. But I mean, he had accomplished everything in New Japan, where I’ve still got a lot to accomplish in New Japan. But it’s sort of like, I heard the story of why Nakamura left New Japan. And it’s because he had already accomplished everything here, that he was looking for different horizons to try and accomplish things there. And that’s what I see with Jay. I got no hard feelings to him. I respect the sh*t out of him as a Kiwi boy. Did he have more opportunities? Yes. Did he work hard? Yes. It seems like he’s the he’s the captain of his ship. So he sails it the way he sees fit just the same way, I’m sailing to see how I see fit.”

So you wrote a book called “Primal Manhood – A Man’s Guide to Reclaiming Masculinity in the Modern World.” So tell me a little bit about that book. And what inspired you to write the book?

“I’ve been studying sociology, politics, social sciences. So I started studying social sciences and sociology, politics for quite a while now. And masculinity, gender studies as sort of like a central theme and social theory. So my interests outside of wrestling were about masculine psychology. So I got reading a few books, mainly the most profound one is a book called King Warrior Magician Lover. So I was reading this book, and it’s about the male psychological archetypes throughout time in history. And what I noticed is that the modern interpretations of masculine psychology are exactly the same as our indigenous concepts of masculinity. You probably have a lot of Twitter haters right now that are saying, ‘oh, he’s just like Andrew Tate,’ which is whatever those kinds of people have never actually read the book. We’ve never actually read masculine psychology before. But that’s what it’s all about. It’s taking historical concepts of what it means to be a man, as well as indigenous concepts of what it means to be a man, and creating the consistent themes about them. So it’s more a guide to helping guys who are struggling with with their lives with things like diet, exercise, relationships, and self-mastery as well, which is a lot of the reason why men fall to the side, why suicide rates or why depression rates in men are increasing right now. And these are all the things that I’m interested in, and I used to work on before becoming a wrestler.”

If somebody want to get a copy of the book, can they get it on Amazon? Where can they get the book?

“Amazon sold the rights to a different another publishing company through Amazon KDP. I forgot what it’s called. But it’s an American one and is one of the bigger ones. But Amazon’s the main place and just make sure you purchase it from your home country because some people have been purchasing from the Japanese link, it’s about twice the price. Primal Manhood – A Man’s Guide to Reclaiming Masculinity in the Modern World. And then the you’ll find out that I’m not a Tate, I’m not one of those red pill coaches on on Instagram. I used to teach sociology at university level, so I know what I’m talking about for all you Twitter people out there. And it’s a reflection of my culture and how we view masculinity as well. It’s not a Western lens, so you can’t you can’t apply your Western bias onto what I’m writing.”

Is there going be any more books coming from you?

“I hope so. I’m actually studying right now for the Polynesian Voyages. I’m not sure if you know much about the Polynesian Voyages. So actually the Polynesians traveled from Asia, all the way to the Americas, all the way to New Zealand, all the way to Hawaii. But in western discourse, you never hear about that. So I’m trying to like collect enough information to present it from a Western perspective, where Westerners can understand.”

So what do you hope to have accomplished by the end of 2023?

“I had the same same goal as the end of last year. What I said at the end of last year is that this year I’m gonna have a belt, whether its a singles belt whether it’s the NEVER title, whether it’s KOPW, whether it’s the six man belt, I’m gonna have it by the end of the year, I just have to do it. I can’t not complete that by the end of the year.”