EXCLUSIVE: Tanga Loa Wants NJPW’s Tag Division To Improve, Talks The Elite, Juice Robinson

Guerrillas Of Destiny and Bullet Club member Tanga Loa speaks with POST Wrestling's Andrew Thompson about Bullet Club splitting from The Elite, his friendship with Juice Robinson, wanting New Japan to improve its tag team division and the Bullet Club Beach Party in Tampa, Florida.

This coming April during WrestleMania 36 weekend in Tampa, Florida, one of the many festivities occurring during that week/weekend is the Bullet Club Beach Party. In years past, the group has hosted the Bullet Club Block Party but have decided to switch up the name considering the location they’ll be hosting from. It’s set for April 4th at Whiskey Joe’s and the Guerrillas Of Destiny, Matt Taven, RUSH, Ken Shamrock, The Briscoes, Bandido and a plethora of other names within the pro wrestling world will be in attendance.

To promote the event, POST Wrestling chatted with 6-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and Guerrillas Of Destiny member, Tanga Loa. It has been roughly five or six years since Tanga Loa joined Bullet Club and he has seen the group go through many alterations and make several transitions. He has enjoyed his experience as a part of the group thus far and during our conversation, he talked about the decision to have Bullet Club split from The Elite (The Young Bucks, Cody, Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll & Hangman Page). The official split took place at the G1 Special in San Francisco in the Summer of 2018 and Tanga Loa said the original members of the group began to feel like the true essence of Bullet Club was starting to get lost and it was time to pump the brakes and bring it back to what it was prior to The Elite.

“One, I think you could see fans could see there was a real difference in the Bullet Club at that time, and Kenny [Omega] and The Bucks are amazing talents, and then Cody of course, was a part of Bullet Club at that time too. Marty [Scurll] was too, and I think when two of the members, the original members of Bullet Club feel like the club is not holding on to its roots, the tradition, that mindset of what started Bullet Club, I think they felt it necessary to pump the brakes and establish what it meant to be a part of Bullet Club, and San Francisco, I think was that point where we had to draw the line in the sand.”

A decade ago, Tanga Loa was a part of WWE’s then-developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling which was soon converted into NXT. During his time in FCW, Loa captured the FCW Tag Team Championships with his fellow NJPW roster member Juice Robinson. This past January at Wrestle Kingdom 14, Tanga Loa and Juice Robinson shared the ring as their respective teams competed for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Loa reflected on how ironic and crazy of an experience it is that someone who he is close with in Juice Robinson shared the stage with him at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s biggest show of the year and just a decade prior, they were holding FCW tag team gold together.

“Yeah, we both recognize what a crazy experience it was going to be prior to the Wrestle Kingdom show, and individually as we looked at it, we both had talked about it prior to the match. We just laughed because like you said, it was nine, ten years ago we were FCW champions and we were cutting promos about being champs and were just being ridiculous, and then here we have a match showing just how much we’ve grown as individuals in this company but even just in the wrestling industry itself and to find our footing and to perform at Wrestle Kingdom against each other was just awesome. There’s always these milestones that we have as individuals but to share one with someone who used to be a tag partner ten years ago was pretty cool.”

One of the common criticisms that have been made about New Japan Pro-Wrestling is the lack of depth in their tag team division. Excluding this year, over the past several years at their big events/tournaments such as Wrestle Kingdom, Dominion and the World Tag League tournament, the IWGP Tag Team Championship match seemingly comes down to Guerrillas Of Destiny versus EVIL and SANADA.

Tanga Loa recognizes that and feels it’s time for New Japan to beef up their tag division. He added that he and Tama Tonga talk about that all the time. He also talked about Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) being scheduled for the 2019 World Tag League but due to Mark Davis tearing his ACL, the group had to be pulled from the tourney.

“I know Tama and I talk about it all the time. We truly believe it needs growth in the tag team division. There’s different companies who have really good tag teams but we’re not working alongside them. New Japan works alongside ROH and CMLL and then RevPro, and I do believe we were gonna have — this last Tag League, we were supposed to have Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) as a part of our tag tour. So he [Mark Davis] tore his ACL but we did have a great match with them at the Copper Box in London for our Royal Quest show and they’re a phenomenal team and there’s a lot of phenomenal teams out there. Unfortunately, we’re not in charge of how tag teams come into play but I know whenever Tama and I have off from the New Japan schedule, we talk about trying to get in somewhere with an independent show to test out a tag team. It’s a recruiting tour as well for us to let the office know, ‘Hey, there’s a tag team here or there that you guys should take a look at. We work well with them. They might be good for the junior weight division and/or the heavyweight division, depending on the size and their athletic ability.’”

New Japan Pro-Wrestling recently wrapped up their New Beginning USA tour. The company toured through Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina. Tanga Loa admitted that there were some cities where the attendance wasn’t what New Japan was hoping for but overall, those who were in attendance at the shows were loud and seemingly enjoyed themselves. He elaborated on how the New Beginning USA tour was groundwork for when the company returns to the U.S. on August 22nd for their Wrestle Dynasty show at Madison Square Garden. Loa is hoping for another U.S. tour on the road to Wrestle Dynasty but made mention of Lion’s Break Project 3, WrestleCon and Supercard Of Honor as ways for New Japan Pro-Wrestling to get the word out about their product in the States before returning to the Worlds Most Famous Arena.

“It’s groundwork, you know? Just like anything else when you start something. You gotta ground and pound. This first tour, the first official tour was a great time. We were lucky enough to start in Tampa to have a lot of family and friends come out, and really start us off with a bang and carry that momentum throughout the tour. There’s a couple of cities we didn’t get the outcome we wanted as far as attendance came but the people that did show up, they were live and they were in it because they love it and we appreciate that love and support, and from there, we finished off really well in Atlanta. More family and friends came out, and of course [David] Finlay is from that area. He had a good following out there and from there, you just gotta capitalize on that. Try to keep that momentum going. I’m not sure when the next U.S. tour is but, we already know what the next U.S. show is. Like you said, August for that Wrestle Dynasty show so, we just gotta hopefully get one more U.S. tour in before that show to keep that momentum of New Japan in the States going, because if we just have this one tour and then this dead period in the States until MSG, it’s gonna be kind of tough. Luckily we do have WrestleCon. I do believe New Japan’s gonna be there at WrestleCon for maybe a show, I think on April 2nd, and then we have the Beach Party of course on April 4th so that helps keep that connection to whatever the next real tour is. So yeah, we definitely wanna make sure we keep our presence no matter if it’s wrestling, a beach party or just meet and greets. However we can to keep ourselves relevant in the States is very important to Wrestle Dynasty and beyond so, the more we get in here the better.”

** Following their 2019 Dominion match in-which they retained the IWGP Tag Team Championships by defeating EVIL and SANADA, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa did a post-match promo and called out The Usos, The Revival and several more tag teams outside of New Japan. Tanga Loa stated that the point of that was to firstly, show respect to those aforementioned tag teams because he believes that are definitions of what tag team wrestling is. He said the message was also for the higher ups in New Japan to let them know that it’s time to make some additions to the tag team division in the company.

“Oh yeah. One, just wanted to shout out those teams that we recognized as amazing tag teams in our industry right now and they are the essence of what real tag teams are. So, one, that’s respect, name-dropping like that and then two, going back to what you were saying earlier — finding tag teams outside of New Japan to face against, especially for World Tag League, I mean, that’s a great tournament and that’s a great way for a tag team talent who’s not known around the world to jump on something in New Japan, to show their talent amongst New Japan tag teams. So, doing that, I think, besides the respect part, lets New Japan know, ‘Hey, it’s time to look outside our box and really take a look at young talent that’s available out there.’ There’s a lot of hungry guys out there and it’s important to keep an eye out for them.”

Along with Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa’s brother Hikuleo is also in wrestling. Hikuleo has done a handful of tours with New Japan and is currently enhancing his skills in Revolution Pro Wrestling. Both Tama and Tanga Loa are on record talking about how proud they are of Hikuleo and it was no different when Loa told POST Wrestling his thoughts about his 6’8 younger brother.

“I’ll always be proud of all his accomplishments. Even when we were kids and he started playing middle school basketball. He was a phenom in middle school and he was amazing in high school and college. Whatever he decides to do is awesome. His career right now in London is awesome. I’m happy for him. He’s in a groove right now. I can’t speak for him but from the outside looking in, he looks like he’s having a great time which I can only ask for. I want that kid to have as much fun as possible. So when he does get back to Japan, I have no expectations for him. I don’t want him to feel pressured when he gets back. I just want that flow, that groove he’s in to carry on over here and I just want him to f*cking have fun when he gets back.”

Information and updates about the Bullet Club Beach Party can be found at the event’s Twitter page. Tickets for the Beach Party can be found at this link and to keep up with everything Tanga Loa, he can be found on Instagram and Twitter @TangaloaNJPW. Guerrillas Of Destiny will be in action this week at Tiger Hattori’s retirement show and they’ll be defending the IWGP Tag Team Championships against Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi on February 21st. To hear the audio from our interview, head over to the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 635 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.