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

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.”