INTERVIEW: Mikey Nicholls discusses his NJPW status, WWE, Shane Thorne & NOAH

Mikey Nicholls sat down for an interview with Andrew Thompson to discuss his exit from WWE, his run in NOAH, situation with NJPW and much more

Photo Courtesy: SP Media Graphics

For two decades, Mikey Nicholls has been in the pro wrestling business. His journey has taken him from Australia to Japan to the United States and a handful of other countries and states across the world.

Nicholls got his start in wrestling in Perth, Australia where he is currently working with the EPW promotion and is their Heavyweight Champion. Nicholls has been back in Australia on a consistent basis since the pandemic began and during our conversation, I asked him how the Australian independent scene has fared during the pandemic. From his point of view, mostly everyone has adapted well and is looking forward to being on the other side of it.

It’s actually been really good. The scene now is much better than we first started years ago and COVID’s obviously affected shows and things like that. It sucks because I’ll get asked if I can do a show or I’ll get booked on a show and then they can’t book flights or anything because we don’t know whether the borders are gonna close or anything like that so that’s been the only thing but, everyone’s kind of adapted pretty well and the scene now is probably the best it’s ever been so, obviously everyone still wants to watch wrestling so all the shows are still — there’s heaps of people that want to go and see it and I mean, with not having live entertainment for a while, anything people can get their hands on, everyone loves it so it’s great now.

This past January, Nicholls had his first match since February of 2020. Prior to that, he was performing for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and was coming off a World Tag League run with Jeff Cobb. The two tied for sixth place in the 2019 tournament.

Mikey has not wrestled for New Japan since then but he clarified that he’s still with the company and just waiting for the travel restrictions to loosen, on top of things getting better overall. He’s still in contact with NJPW and he had to return to Japan last year to renew his residency. Mikey shared that he was supposed to be in the 2020 New Japan Cup tournament but two days before he was going to fly out, travel restrictions were tightened.

Yeah [I’m still with NJPW]. I’m still in contact with them and stuff like that but because we’ve got — I don’t know the travel thing and then there’s quarantining there and here and then I don’t know if I need the shots and stuff like that so I’m all booked in to get at least my first vaccine shot so I’m trying to get all on top of all that so that when it becomes easier, there’s no hold up and no hassle to just jump right back into it so but, just the not knowing though is what kills me. It’s hard to get my head around the idea that I actually can’t control anything about it. It’s completely out of my hands and that’s kind of hard to come to terms with but, we’re getting there. I’m still in contact with them and still kind of checking in and just seeing how things are so, it should be — hopefully I’ll pick up where I left off and it’s kind of — it’s a bit frustrating because I was on a pretty good run over there. Like going from the first time I was there in the New Japan Cup, had a pretty good showing then and then me and Jeff [Cobb] did pretty well as far as we did pretty well in the [World] Tag League and it was just kind of I felt we got the ball rolling and then it just — the rug pulled out from under me. When I first — because I had to renew my residency over there so I went over there for three days and came back and then I was supposed to go back for the New Japan Cup. When was it? I don’t even know what year. Last year I guess. Two days before I was supposed to fly out, they cancelled all the flights and closed everything and I was like, ‘F*ck.’ So I had everything planned, merch made, t-shirts printed, everything all ready to go and I’ve just got a giant stack of stuff I can’t get rid of. So, just looking forward to getting back over there, getting back in wrestling stuff.

The State of Emergency in areas of Japan has been one that has caused multiple promotions and companies in the country to adjust their schedules and match cards. New Japan has had to cancel a number of shows and they’ve announced that multiple talents have tested positive for Coronavirus.

Mikey has kept in touch with the likes of Juice Robinson to gauge how things are in Japan. He also was able to get on a feel on things from Robbie Eagles who was present in Japan last December for the Best of the Super Juniors.

I talk to Juice [Robinson] and stuff like that and some of the stuff that [happened] over there just sounded rough. They bring them over, because they had to quarantine and stuff, they just bring them over for months at a time to try to mitigate that as much as they can, just sounded rough and I know when Robbie [Eagles] went there, he had to quarantine at the dojo for two weeks before the tour and then he had to quarantine in a hotel when he went home for two weeks after the tour as well so it’s just — I mean people are trying to adapt to it but it’s just, no one’s ever seen anything like this before so it’s just nuts. When you hear these stories and stuff, I say horror stories and stuff and then New Japan, obviously the crowds we were getting, you know, when I was doing regularly over there, they were great. Like amazing crowds all the time and then to see the shows now when they can only have one person every three seats, it’s crazy to watch.

Coming out of his run in WWE, it was announced that Mikey Nicholls would be partaking in the 2019 New Japan Cup tournament. He defeated Hikuleo in the first round and lost to Kazuchika Okada the following round. While only being with New Japan for over seven months, Nicholls feels that he found his footing and was getting comfortable with his in-ring style under a new umbrella.

The first tour of Japan for that New Japan Cup, I had my singles match with [Kazuchika] Okada which was one of the best singles matches I’ve ever had and he helped me out to get — just to really find my feet there and then going into the [World] Tag League as well with Jeff [Cobb], I felt like I was kind of hitting my stride which is another reason why it’s upsetting that I couldn’t kind of keep that momentum going. But I did, I feel like I’ve sunken my feet, I found my niche there of where I fit in and the style and the different things, putting together different spots, different moves here and there and then figuring out what works and what doesn’t. But this last run I had there which I think was the tag stuff with Jeff was the last run I had there, I think that’s probably the best that I’ve been. Not the most comfortable but I felt like I was getting better and I was at a point where I was at a really good point in my career and my ability and my style and I really had hammered down and figured out the ins and outs and really established which sort of thing I wanted to present but this latest tour with Jeff I think really helped. That last one I did really helped me just to figure out where I stand and you know, what’s the best way to go about it and things like that.

In 2011, Mikey Nicholls and Shane Thorne, going by ‘The Mighty’, embarked on their journey as full-time wrestlers in Japan when they joined Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Nicholls and Thorne were staples of the promotion’s tag team division and they went on to become two-time GHC Tag Team Champions and were the first foreigners to win Tokyo Sports’ Tag Team of the Year award since Stan Hansen and Vader in 1998. That period of Mikey’s career holds a special place in his heart and he looks back on his in-ring time and time with Shane very fondly. Nicholls described it as the most fun he’s had in wrestling and in life.

That was the most fun I’ve had in wrestling and kind of in life too. I mean, you didn’t have any responsibilities really. Now I’ve got a little girl and house and wife and everything like that so, but then it’s just like, ‘Yeah wrestling, woo.’ Sleep on the floor, whatever. Then it was great fun and like I said before, the way that we started, coming from nothing and then turning into what we became as a team and also, Shane [Thorne’s] my best friend so just kind of hanging out with your friend. That’s when we decided when we first started toying around with the idea of teaming up. It was like wrestling’s fun but it’s going to be much more fun if you do it with your friend. So like, [it] makes everything more fun. The two of us, everything, we just make each other laugh, just drink and mess around in the hotels and just cause a mess but with the NOAH stuff as well, I look back on some of the stuff we did and that’s — as far as career-wise goes, that was like the peak of my career I think. We had a run with [Takashi] Sugiura and [Minoru] Tanaka that lasted probably, I think it was a year or so. All the big shows, there’s five or six big shows that year and we wrestled them every show and those matches, they’re my favorite matches that I’ve ever had and they definitely hold a special place with me and like, just the whole crew that we had because it was a pretty small crew in NOAH towards the — when was it? Right before we left, it was a pretty small crew but the shows we were putting on and the matches we were putting on were just unbelievable but no one was seeing them so that was the worst part about it but I mean, combined together, we all kind of came together and put on really great shows and yeah, that holds a special place in my heart. I loved my time there and I love — that made me fall in love with Japan and Japanese wrestling, and obviously I still love it over there and I can’t wait to get back there and I can never thank everyone in NOAH enough for taking a chance on just two idiots from Australia.

Once Mikey departed WWE, Shane stayed with the company and is still a part of their roster. Thorne was most recently featured on WWE programming as a member of RETRIBUTION. Thorne’s name was changed to “Slapjack” and he sported a hockey mask in his matches. Mikey thinks Shane pulled it off because he’s naturally a jokester but if WWE were to just present Shane Thorne as himself and let him wrestle, they would realize the talent they have on their hands.

“I don’t know. I think they [WWE] were kind of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck for a while. The Slapjack thing was fine because I mean, he made it his own as well. He’s an idiot, so like, in the best possible way,” Nicholls joked. “So like, put a hood on him, put a mask on him, it gives him a reason to be more of an idiot so, and he’s really good at taking whatever they’re gonna give him and making the most out of it. What do they call it? Chicken salad out of chicken sh*t. He’s pretty good at doing that so I think personality wise, I think it fit him really well but, I think he’s such an untapped potential for them over there. Like take the hood off him and let him run wild and they’ll be surprised in what they see.”

Before exiting NOAH, the promotion was sure to make it known how much they appreciated Nicholls and Thorne for their contributions.

There was a tour held in their honor and at the conclusion of it, the entire roster including the veterans such as Naomichi Marufuji and Yoshinari Ogawa gave their stamp of approval to The Mighty for their NOAH run. As hard as it was to leave their now-former home, Mikey said they couldn’t not give WWE a shot.

It broke my heart to go but obviously growing up, you have — we couldn’t say no [to WWE], we couldn’t not. We couldn’t not go and the way they handled it was really well, really nice of them and they gave us a great showing and we wrestled [Naomichi] Marufuji in our last match so that was great and then at the end of the match, everyone came out and kind of gave us a hug and everything like that and I’ve got a couple of good photos from there where like, there’s one photo, we’re just in the ring and everyone’s there and it’s probably my favorite photo that we’ve got, that I’ve got. Wrestling wise, one of the ones that I hold onto. Yeah, so just coming from that and the whole vibe and everything, everyone was real positive about it. No one was, you know, no was upset — well people were upset we were leaving but no one was really angry. Everyone understood which was really good, and especially some of the guys over there. [Yoshinari] Ogawa and Marufuji and stuff, they were really cool about it and they were the elder statesmen of the company and stuff so like, it was really good to get their blessing.

Nicholls and Thorne joined WWE in 2016 and their name was changed to “TM-61”. The duo spent two years in NXT and that run included shots at the brand’s tag team titles, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals and a TakeOver spot. Throughout their time there, Mikey credited the likes of Shawn Michaels, Matt Bloom and Scotty 2 Hotty for being helpful to he and Shane.

Yeah, I mean there’s always guys backstage giving you tips and things like that. The craziest thing is when we went on one of the road loops. I can’t remember who we were wrestling. I think it was the — what are they called now? The War Raiders? Viking Raiders, and then we came backstage and Shawn Michaels is just like talking to us about our matches and I was just like, ‘What is going on in my life?’ But just all the guys there. Scotty 2 Hotty, he really helped us out as well with our tag stuff and things like that so just having those guys as a sounding board and to offer you advice and things like that, you can’t really put a price on that kind of stuff. It was great, and Matt Bloom was great with everything. He was really hands-on with training and stuff like that and especially that match with AOP [at TakeOver: Toronto], he was pretty hands-on with that so he was really good, but he was always good to us so it was great to have those guys as a sounding board and you know, criticism and what you’re doing right and wrong and things like that because you don’t really — some of the stuff you don’t give a second thought to and then there will be little things that they tell you and then you start incorporating that and you notice the big difference that it makes so it was really good.

In December of 2018, Mikey Nicholls made the decision to depart WWE during he and Thorne’s run in the company. It was a decision that came after Nicholls had his first child. He traveled back to America two weeks after his wife gave birth and it was a struggle being away from his family.

He admitted that it was rough making the decision to leave Shane in WWE as they started that journey together, but in the end, Mikey does not regret the decision he made.

Yeah man, because my wife is — she’s a saint. She was with me. We’ve been together… I hope she doesn’t see [this]. She won’t be happy that I don’t remember but I started dating her right before I first went to Hartley [Jackson’s] school and that was really the thing that started everything. So like, she’s been with me throughout the whole thing. When we were in Japan, she’d come over whenever she could, I’d get home whenever I could so we balanced that pretty well. Then we were doing good balancing it when I was in the States as well and then she got pregnant and that was a pretty rough pregnancy so, that was really rough. We thought we lost little girl a couple of times. So like, we thought we lost her and my wife was on bedrest for months and then little girl came two weeks early and she was perfectly healthy so, but now she’s almost three and she’s a nightmare in the best possible way. But I always thought that I’d be able to juggle the two but then I came home, my wife called me, said she was in labor so I got on a plane straight away and came home and then just holding little girl and then I had to get back to work so I was home for two weeks and then I came back to the States and it was just like, this is — I always thought I’d be able to [balance it but I was like], ‘This is not gonna work’ so then, some soul searching there and then as much as it killed me, I wouldn’t change it because the amount of time I’ve spent with them now and the relationship I have with her now, the idea that-that wouldn’t be what it is, it’s just yeah. I don’t even wanna think what it would’ve been like so I don’t regret it but it was obviously rough, pretty rough time. But, it’s worked out really well with the stuff in Japan so once that starts up again, because that’s a much better way to do it. Go over there for a couple weeks, come home for a couple weeks, go there, back and forth, back and forth as opposed to the — because my wife’s really family orientated so like, she’s very close with her mother and her sister and stuff like that so I never wanted to be the one to force her to move over with me [and] do it like that so I had to do the right thing and come home to her and like I said, I don’t regret it. I think it’s way better and everything’s going good now. We just need the world to reopen so I can get back to work.

Nicholls and Thorne have not teamed since Nicholls left NXT. Over the past several weeks, the duo has been posting images of each other as a team on social media, along with sharing photos of their old logo. When asked if there is a reunion on the horizon, Nicholls said he’s always game to team with Shane.

Well I think whenever me and Shane [Thorne] get together, I think it’s magic so if we can make that happen, you never know what’s gonna happen. Especially like you’re saying with the rumors [NJPW & WWE] and everything going around now, you never know what’s gonna happen so like, there’s nothing I’d want more than to get back in the ring with him as my partner and I think he kind of feels the same way so now it’s just a matter of seeing what happens, waiting it out and just playing it as it comes so to speak and then just going from that. But it’s also fun just messing around, post stuff every now and then to get people going. Yeah, you know, you gotta keep the interest there, but it was actually quite flattering, the reaction to that kind of stuff because he put our picture up and then I put our picture up and then just seeing all the people, it was good. It’s always fun.

Mikey will be defending the EPW Heavyweight Championship in Australia in the coming weeks. To keep up with all things Mikey Nicholls, head over to his Twitter and Instagram pages.

To view our full interview, check out the video player at the top of this article or watch it on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 6783 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.