Thursday, January 25, 2024

Jack Kennedy: Born & Raised in America, Trained to Wrestle in Japan

(originally published 8/19/22 on

Usually, when an American pro-wrestler begins wrestling in Japan, they have to learn to adapt to the Japanese pro-wrestling style, previously having been trained in a much different American style of pro-wrestling. But in Jack Kennedy’s case, he received his pro-wrestling training in Japan at Yanagase Pro Wrestling (YPW).

“I started training at Yanagase in Gifu, Japan on October 28th, 2020.” Jack Kennedy explained. “I actually passed the dojo tests for Pro Wrestling ZERO1 and NOAH earlier that year, but due to visa reasons I could not move into a dojo and start training. Yanagase was closer to my home in Nagoya, so I started there. I made my debut on December 25th, 2021.”

Yanagase Pro Wrestling is Jack Kennedy’s home promotion. Based in Gifu, it has been active since 2017, and YPW has a lot to offer in terms of talent. “Yanagase lays host to many wrestlers from the areas of Aichi, Gifu, and Osaka.” he said. “There are also wrestlers from other companies that pass through, like Shigehiro Irie, Quiet Storm, Yuji Hino, Kikutaro, Daichi Hashimoto, and my Wrestle Addiction opponent, Yasufumi Nakanoue.”

Jack Kennedy also explained that YPW also has a lot of match diversity, and that its venue has a quality menu. “The shows always have an interesting variety when it comes to the matches. Hard hitting, comedy, and even some more western style matches. We also have a women’s group called Ladius that usually has Friday night matches 2 times a month. Sae and Mari Manji, the key wrestlers of Ladius, have helped me with training many times. The venue, M’s Cafe, also has really good food and a ticket to the show comes with one drink.”

Although Jack Kennedy would sometimes get trained by wrestlers who were passing through YPW, his training was mainly done by Team Japan Olympic wrestler Akinobu Takeuchi, ZERO1 stars and former NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Champions Hide and Yasu Kubota, and Yoshitatsu, who is a former WWE star, a former AJPW World Tag Team Champion, and a current co-holder of the AJPW TV Six Man Tag Team Championship.

Jack Kennedy broke down his training: “[Akinobu Takeuchi] was in charge of teaching me how to bump, chain wrestling, and fitness aspects. Aki also was a gracious training dummy for testing out moves. The Kubota brothers also taught me various bumps and chain grappling moves. Yoshitatsu taught me a lot about wrestling psychology and other aspects of the business. He’s very much like a mentor for me. The same can be said for the owner of Yanagase, Maki Yuhara and Kunihiko Ohno, the manager of M’s Cafe, the venue that hosts Yanagase. The best part of my training though was probably the food the manager would make for me after I finished training.”

Although Jack Kennedy has amateur wrestling experience, he uses a powerhouse style in the pro-wrestling ring, using moves such his, “Jacky Driver” finisher, which is a Michinoku Driver from a fireman’s carry. “For me there’s nothing better than picking one or two people up and throwing them as far as I can.” Kennedy explained. “It’s also fun when people try to beat me in a test of strength, then they resort to illegal tactics. When I train, I try and get some amateur wrestling with my coach in because I think it helps keep me well-rounded. I haven’t been able to pin him in our sessions, but he also hasn’t pinned me. I haven’t incorporated it too much into my matches so far, but I’m always looking to improve. It’s another way to win a match.”

Along with using a powerhouse style, Jack Kennedy is very aggressive during his matches. “I try to fight with the spirit and ferocity of a wild tiger.” Kennedy explained. “I want to fight the strongest and only the strongest. Unfortunately with my size, it’s hard to find bigger prey, but I’m hoping someone steps up to the plate soon. It’s frustrating. I don’t like my time being wasted. I feel like I haven’t had the chance to really cut loose yet. Think like a mix of Ryu and Sagat. I’d love to reach the intensity that someone like Minoru Suzuki or Jon Moxley has.”

And when winning a match, Jack Kennedy thinks it’s best when done as a heel. “Heels definitely seem to be more appealing.” Kennedy said. “Not much consequence. You can pretty much do what you want. If it wasn’t for coronavirus, I’d probably be a heel and just steal food from people. Of course people get behind a face, but you can move the people a different way if you get them angry enough. It was interesting reading the interactions Terry Funk, Stan Hansen, and Vader would have with angry fans whether it was in the US or Japan.”

Before becoming a pro-wrestler, Jack Kennedy had difficulty deciding which athletic avenue to pursue, due to his size of 6’3” 242lbs. “I always had a big body and wanted to keep playing sports, but I was too short and couldn’t shoot well enough to play basketball.” he said. “I also wasn’t big enough to get into the NFL as an offensive lineman. While wrestling isn’t completely about size, it still felt like something I could use to my advantage.”

Although Macho Man Randy Savage is Jack Kennedy’s favorite wrestler, his interest in pro-wrestling as a fan increased in the 2010s. “I didn’t really watch wrestling when I was younger, but still recognized the big names.” Kennedy explained. “My interest started to grow when I played WWE 2K14 with my brother and watching Daniel Bryan’s 2014 WWE run. I became interested in Japanese wrestling when I first came here for school in 2016. I decided I wanted to become a wrestler in 2019 and started intense muscle and fitness training in preparation.”

Although Jack Kennedy wrestles on the Japanese pro-wrestling scene, the American pro-wrestling scene is still a part of his life. “I still watch a lot of American pro-wrestling whether it be as just a fan or studying old school WCW or WWE.” Kennedy explained. “There are aspects where it’s tough to learn things to use in my matches here because many of the matches are television matches and it just feels like a different form of expression. This even goes for AEW which still has some great television matches. Japanese wrestling is also more subtle and lets the talking usually happen in the ring. Still the differences between America and Japan aren’t that big and it’s easy for me to enjoy both. People want to clap, cheer and have a great time.”

Being closer to the matches is one of the things Jack Kennedy likes the most about being in the business. “I still watch matches from the perspective of a fan,” he explained. “but now I’m as close to the matches as you can possibly get. For me, the feeling after a match is also hard to explain. It’s a mixture of joy and depression, mainly because I usually have another 2 weeks until my next match. I’d wrestle every day if I could.”

Jack Kennedy names his best match as a match that he had for YPW earlier this month. “I try to improve every match I have, so my most recent match on August 13th against Yanagase Kamen Fuerza is my best match I think.” Kennedy said. “I made my debut against Fuerza and I like to think in the time since I’ve only improved. Rewatching the match, I recognize there are always aspects I need to improve, but I still think I can see the growth. I’m hoping to take this October 2nd match against Nakanoue to an even higher level.”

As for his favorite match, Jack Kennedy picks the March 19th YPW match in which he tagged with Michio Kageyama against Shinji Kamakura and Shigehiro Irie, who is a former KO-D Tag Team Champion. “Irie has such an explosive style where he utilizes his strength and moves like a human cannon ball.” Kennedy commented. “His offense is fun to watch up close. I usually don’t like tag matches because I don’t want to rely on anyone’s strength but my own, but I hope I get a singles match with him someday.”

Someone who Jack Kennedy would like to wrestle but has not yet done so is NOAH star and former GHC Heavyweight Champion Takashi Sugiura, who Kennedy has watched a lot of. “He’s not a big guy, but his style and matches are so hard-hitting, he might as well be 6’5” 300lbs.” Kennedy said. “A good example is a match between him and Moose from Impact. Moose really is 6’5” 300lbs but the way Sugiura fought him might as well been two elephants going at it.”

In Jack Kennedy’s free time, he can usually be found at the gym. “I go everyday.” Kennedy explained. “I should actually rest more often, but mentally it’s really hard for me to just take it easy. So I always have to be in the gym. The body isn’t everything in wrestling, but I do take it very seriously. In my most ‘free’ spare time I play video games. I really need to study Japanese more. My daily conversation is fine, but grammar isn’t my strong point.”

As for a long-term goal in the business, Jack Kennedy says, “It’s hard for me to think in the long-term. It’s easy to say that I hope I get to wrestle for a big company someday. I’d love to stay in Japan and work here but also work matches in America, Canada, Mexico and other countries. It’d be really cool to wrestle back home in Alabama. Maybe next year. Ultimately, my long-term goal is for pro-wrestling to be my career, but I have so many short-term goals I have to work through first. Each match, even ones for charity, are a chance to improve and help me achieve these goals.”

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