The story of Juice Robinson is a more inspirational success story of a man that chose to leave WWE than that of Cody Rhodes or even John Morrison. The former “Moonchild” from WWE NXT has had a career resurgence since signing with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) at the end of 2015. It was a huge career choice for Juice – leave the comforting paychecks and less active schedule with WWE for a fresh slate in New Japan. It has proven to be the right choice at the right time in the young career of Juice Robinson, as he will enter his first ever G1 Climax tournament this year with such heavy hitters as the IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada in his Block.
JUICE ROBINSON: The Rise of Juice from WWE to NJPW
In 2011 Joe Robinson arrived in the WWE, first working his way through Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) before heading to Full Sail University on NXT TV. Over the course of 4 years, the former CJ Parker showed tremendous athleticism and shined as an undercard heel. The Third Eye palm strike was perfected in NXT, where CJ Parker broke Kevin Owens nose at Parker’s final NXT Takeover appearance. He proved to be an all-rounded wrestler and he has only gotten better year after year since then. It was almost like Juice Robinson looked at the landscape of pro wrestling today, his current position and saw where the young stars are crafted, like David Finlay Jr. and Jay White in NJPW, and wanted to be better than he was.
Now with the chance to open up his potential and improve in longer matches, Juice is cooking on all cylinders right now. The fire has always been in Juice’s offense but now he is armed with a deadly new finisher, Pulp Friction – a jumping version of The Kill Switch/Unprettier. There is something about the way Juice performs with diving cannonballs and powerbombs, a mix of the cruiserweight/Jr heavyweight style with a heavyweight brawler, that’s a real asset to not only NJPW, but every fan that enjoys the explosive offense he provides. For a Gaijin to come to Japan and get cheered the way Juice does is quite remarkable.
The biggest matches of the career of Juice have occurred so far in 2017. A shot at the NEVER Openweight title in a fantastic effort against Hirooki Goto. Juice’s style meshed surprisingly well with Goto’s hard-hitting style. Then came the biggest win to date, a pinfall victory over the IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito in a tag team match. The commentators screamed “Juuuuuice” at the massive clean win. In maybe the best of Juice’s career, Naito was taken to the limit and needed not 1 but 2 Destino’s to finish Juice. The Japanese audience has really warmed up to Juice and in the short time he has been in New Japan, a shot at the second biggest title in NJPW is an incredible feat.
NJPW decided to highlight Juice Robinson in a 4-Part Youtube series called NJPW OnTheRoad: Juice Robinson. The appeal of the 28-year-old sensation is very evident in the series, he is down to earth and works very hard to get where he is and he wants to work harder in the future. From the South Of Chicago, in a small town of 1500 people, he has humble beginnings and maybe is an insight to why is is so laidback today. Juice left College to pursue a career in pro wrestling. His father has supported him in all of his wrestling ventures, telling him in an emotional moment that whether you “win or lose your title match, I still love you”. When Juice went to Japan to train in the New Japan Dojo, he wanted to wear plain black trunks and cut his hair to start fresh. NJPW management thankfully decided that was not going to be necessary and the wrestling world has really embraced the new Juice Robinson.
A member of the Taguchi Japan stable, with such top stars as Ryusuke Taguchi and Ricochet, shows how much Juice is moving up the ladder. At 6’3” and 220 pounds, Juice is perfect for the NJPW mid-card currently, capable of a great match with the Juniors division to the Heavyweight division. A workhorse full of charisma, the quirky but fun attitude of Juice may take him further than even he imagined. Juice Robinson vs Katsuyori Shibata was a real moment in the career of Juice earlier this year, going shot for shot with one of the most exemplary strong style wrestlers of this era. Juice may have lost these big matches and came up short for championships but it is too early to say just how many he could win in just a couple years.
The G1 Special In USA on July 1st featured a tournament match between two young men rising up the NJPW ranks for the inaugural IWGP US title: Juice Robinson vs Zack Sabre Jr. A first time ever meeting in the ring and a phenomenal match. Even though Juice lost in a great effort, Sabre had to use his submission skills to tap Juice, wrapping his arms behind his back in an Octopus hold. Time will tell if that championship is Juice’s to hold and defend in America and Japan, it is a big opportunity and so are the NJPW USA shows. The expansion of New Japan has to be something Juice is happy to get in on, at just the right time.
If you look into the future of Robinson, it is as bright as any athlete his age. Entering the G1 Climax this summer will be a massive test, a match with Kenny Omega could be a show-stealer and allow Juice to show management and the crowd even more of what he can do. The endurance is always something he excels at and moves like The Juice Is Loose are show stealers. What Juice lacks in experience will be improved upon in the next few years, the alliances and enemies he makes will shape his progression for the better. One of the brightest future of anyone today with a great arsenal of moves and personality, the world better be ready for Juice, because he is already a step ahead of the curb.