A wounded animal drags itself to the woods to recover, to heal, to regain its strength. Juice Robinson instead goes to the backstage media area. This is where he groans in pain and fumes about what he has suffered.
And it’s consistently a moving experience for those peering in.
Pick any of Robinson’s post-defeat rants and you will find one-liners and heartache, poetry, and potty humor. The New Japan Pro-Wrestling star has earned a right to be called one of the better talkers working today. Every promo is heartfelt. In between wise cracks, he cuts himself open and lets us look inside. He considers the weight of his loss and promises to have the strength to push it off him.
Last June, Robinson prowled around backstage after having fallen to Jon Moxley at the Best of the Super Junior Finals event in Tokyo. The defeat ended Juice’s second reign as IWGP heavyweight champ.
It was, up to that point, the finest match of Robinson’s career. A perennial midcarder looked right at home in a main-event level brawl. Robinson showed off intensity and emotion as he got elbowed in the face, bitten about the brow, and suplexed through a table.
Afterward, the left side of Robinson’s face was reddened with bite marks and welts. He paced around the backstage area, unsettled and spiraling.
“Pat yourself on the back,” he barked. “You crowned him. You crowned him two weeks ago.”
Robinson’s sarcasm weighed heavy on each word. He knew that the brighter spotlight was on Moxley. The bigger story was Moxley becoming champion over Robinson losing it. They were simply on disparate tiers.
You could hear a layer of resignation in his voice as he looked back on his loss.
“He fucking bit me and he demoralized me,” Robinson said.
And after playing up his opponent, tipping his hat to Moxley and such, the now title-less fighter went through various stages of grief in front of the media.
He ached for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship he no longer had.
“He walked in and he took the only thing in the fucking world that means anything to me,” Robinson shouted. “Do you understand that? Has anyone done that to any of you?”
Nearing tears, he seemed to question if life itself had meaning anymore, saying we’re all going to eventually die anyway, so “Whatever.” He offered to meet any of his doubters at the Narita airport and whip them.
This was an unwell man. This was a man who was left unsure and hurt and shaken by his big loss. Suddenly, the outcome of the night’s card meant so much more. More than increasing his loss total by one, the failure was life changing.
Robinson, though, saw a positive in all of this. To him, the beating Moxley administered acted as a cleansing of sorts.
“One thing he did do tonight: he got rid of CJ Parker,” Robinson explained. “There ain’t one ounce of CJ Parker in this body right here. Not one speck of DNA pumping through these fucking New Japan veins.”
Robinson had floundered in WWE’s NXT brand as the loudmouth eco-warrior CJ Parker. He was seen as just another guy, a decent hand with a low ceiling. Now in New Japan, he had been changing that narrative, performance by performance.
As much as he has opened eyes when punching and scrapping in the ring, it’s been his work before and after the bell that has been his best stuff.
Kevin Owens, who debuted in NXT against Robinson, is among those who have applauded his promo skills.
“Nobody makes me feel what they’re saying the way Juice does,” Owens said of Robinson in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated.
“Juice is just on another level,” Owens went on. “The way he talks comes from a real place, and he’s genuine. He is the best.”
This promo at the BOSJ finals, like much of Robinson’s other verbal work, largely draws its power from that genuineness Owens spoke of.
He trips on his words; he repeats himself. That matters little, though, as the promo is raw material formed into a finished product right in front of us. His language is an evocation of everything stirring in his chest.
Robinson’s speeches sound like drink-fueled diatribes, like the kind of things you shout when all your inhibition is gone, and you start shouting your true feelings into the dark of the night.
It’s something he learned from Dusty Rhodes. While in the WWE developmental system, Robinson made sure to take away the key lesson of authenticity from the late Hall of Famer.
In a media call ahead of the 2018 G1 Special in San Francisco (per Wrestling Inc), he recalled those lessons.
“Dusty would always just preach being real,” Robinson said. “If you feel it and you believe it then the fans are gonna feel it and the fans are gonna believe it and if it’s real in your head and you make it real in your head and your heart it’s gonna come out through your eyes and your face and the words are gonna flow.”
Whether he is angry about Moxley biting him or remaining defiant after breaking his hand in 2018, he keeps up that same level of realness.
It’s easy to get distracted by Robinson’s outlandish fashion. He comes to the ring looking like a court jester, some psychedelic ‘70s kids show host, or a Blues Brothers enthusiast. Who can blame you then for dismissing him as a sideshow act?
Then he stomps backstage after the bout is over, starts cursing and bellowing and reminds us that he is a master orator.
“I went out there with my heart and my nuts,“ he said when he lost the US title last year. That seems to be his mantra every time there is a microphone near him.