Fred Rosser has been a walking embodiment of resurgence ahead of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s aptly named NJPW Resurgence card this Saturday, August 14. Formerly known as Darren Young, Rosser is the first openly gay WWE Superstar in history. The former member of the famed Nexus stable has gone on to reinvent himself as one of the top wrestlers under the most workrate-intensive brands in the entire industry: New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Rosser is a driving force behind NJPW Strong, the American counterpart to the largest Japanese wrestling promotion in the world, as the venerable brand looks to make inroads in America. In its first U.S. show in over a year, NJPW put over 2,000 tickets on sale inside the LA Coliseum Torch at the LA Memorial Coliseum and sold them all.
As fervor continues to build for live pro wrestling in a post-pandemic world, Rosser remains focused on his upcoming six-man tag team match alongside Rocky Romero and Wheeler Yuta against TJP, Clark Connors and current rival Ren Narita.
“He’s 22 or 23. I’m 37, going to be 38 November 2,” said Rosser about Narita in an exclusive interview.
“He’s young. He’s young and he’s dumb and he’s got a lot to learn and he’s going to find out at Resurgence and beyond that ‘Mr. No Days Off’ isn’t a gimmick it’s a lifestyle. A constant grind and struggle. It’s gonna be a dog fight.”
Rosser knows a thing or two about dog fights. He was recently involved in a wild brawl against Hikuleo—the son of legendary wrestler Haku who recently made his national television debut in AEW—in a No-DQ Match. Prior to that, Rosser’s November 13 match against Tom Lawlor at NJPW Showdown earned him Match of the Year honors in 2020 as voted by fans.
Rosser has found his niche amid the warm embrace of NJPW fans and the support of the promotion in general. With Tokyo as the site of the 2021 Olympics, the resurgent NJPW import found no problem rooting for the host city, which earned 27 gold medals.
“I was watching the Olympics with my family and they were always rooting for the U.S.—I was always rooting for Japan,” said Rosser.
“My family would always say ‘why are you rooting for Japan?’ Because Japan was the first to put me on the marquee before WWE did. So it’s me, myself and I at this point in my career. New Japan brought me in so I must deliver, I’m going to deliver and the best is yet to come for me.”
Rosser’s rise in NJPW gives hope to the growing number of former WWE and NXT Superstars who suddenly find themselves out of a job due to mass roster cuts. The most recent such incident saw 13 WWE NXT talents released in a shocking Friday night development just one week ago.
“There’s so much that I’ve done after WWE. It’s not fun when you get that call, it’s just the nature of the business,” said Rosser of the recent NXT releases.
“I always say Michael Jordan can’t play basketball forever, and I’m never comparing myself to Michael Jordan, maybe his work ethic, but Michael Jordan can’t play basketball forever. Things come to an end with WWE. You have to understand that you beat your body up with WWE so you have to utilize what you’ve made of yourself with WWE and use that on a resume. I’ve been lucky enough to have many great sponsorships, I’ve been lucky enough to still continue to do what I love.”
Rosser’s journey through pro wrestling has been a long one, defined just as much by his successes as it is his road blocks. In addition to being able to casually deliver an inspirational nugget of wisdom, with the ease of somebody talking about what they had for lunch, Rosser lives it. Prior to achieving his ultimate goal of working for New Japan Pro Wrestling, The Forbidden Door was slammed in his face as Rosser was turned down by AEW ”not once, but twice.”
Despite vowing to be a progressive-minded promotion, AEW’s main event scene is almost exclusively white. Even as a black, LGBTQ male who is prominently featured across multiple promotions—including both NJPW Strong and NWA—Rosser still feels there is work to be done when it comes to representation in leading national promotions like AEW.
“There’s a lot of work to go,” said Rosser.
“We need more reps, we need more reps at representation, we need more athletes speaking out. Being the first openly gay WWE Superstar, I have a duty to instill confidence in our youth and to lead by example. I’m not a social media type of person where I just talk about it, I go to the school before the pandemic, I speak to fifth graders, I speak to organizations like Viacom
“That’s why I call myself the Suntan Superman. I’ve got to be a support system, a beacon of hope for not only the LGBTQ, not only the African-American, not only the Asian community but all communities.”
NJPW Resurgence airs on FITE TV on Saturday, August 14, 2021 at 8:00 PST.