Lance Archer's 2020 is starting a whole lot different than his 2019 did.

A year ago, it looked like Archer's established tag team of Killer Elite Squad with Davey Boy Smith Jr. was going nowhere fast. Heading into January 4th's Wrestle Kingdom show, Archer walks in IWGP United States Champion, defending against one of the industry's biggest stars in Jon Moxley.

"This is definitely my highest profile singles match that I’ve ever really had in my career. I’ve had a really cool, long, fun career, but most of that has been centered around tag team stuff. Whether it was in TNA, or in WWE and most of my time in New Japan, like you said, with [Killer Elite Squad] with Davey Boy Smith, Jr. So, this is certainly the biggest singles match of my career. It’s been kind of a crazy whirlwind of a 2019—from 2019 starting and being pretty slow, and nothing really happening for K.E.S. or myself; and then come to the G1 and it was a situation where initially I wasn’t even supposed to be a part of the G1 and then something happened, something changed; I don’t know exactly what, but I was included. I took every opportunity there to, I guess, reinvent myself and show the world who I really was and who I could be," said Archer.

Much of Archer's 2019 didn't happen as planned. His tag team split up -- unplanned. His run in the G1 -- unplanned. Even getting a title shot? Unplanned. Archer seems like he's riding the wave.

"It’s just snowballed since then, the whole situation back in October with King of Pro-Wrestling," Archer said. "Moxley couldn’t make it. Poor boy, he couldn’t make it to the show. But, for me, it was a great situation ‘cause they put me in that spot. New Japan advertises a title match, and that’s what the fans are gonna get. I got put in an opportunity to face Juice [Robinson] for that U.S. Championship, won it, and now I’m going into the Tokyo Dome as the champion, facing Jon Moxley. He’s being a little bit of a crybaby and he wants his belt back. That’s to be expected, I guess. I had no idea (where I'd be in 2019). Legitimately, there’s no knock to anywhere else or anyone else, there was thought of leaving New Japan just for the simple fact that I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what was going to continue to move forward or what was going to happen. But, it wasn’t a situation where I was actively looking to leave the company. It was just a point of actively looking to further my career. At the time, starting of 2019, I didn’t know if that was gonna be in New Japan. Obviously the business has changed even drastically since the beginning of 2019. So, I was just looking to see what was going to be the next best avenue for myself. We were still were apart of some small things here and there in New Japan. They did some small U.S. tours and stuff of that nature. So, I was still working. Still grinding it out, and treading waters, somebody might say.:

Archer's chemistry with Will Ospreay made many people take notice of his abilities, 15 years after he'd appeared on cable TV for TNA Wrestling. With Ospreay being regarded as one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world, Archer kept up, and put on matches that created buzz across the wrestling landscape.

"[Will] Ospreay and I had an amazing match in the New Japan Cup in March of this year. Which I think kind of was the initial catapult to lead to all the things that came from that. I don’t think if Will and I had not the match we had at the New Japan Cup that I would have even been included into the G1. Then, like you said, to have my first match in the G1—the first match of the whole entire G1, the first time ever in the United States of America, he and I were setting the standard, setting the precedence of what G1 performances are supposed to be for an audience that had never seen the G1 live, and it was in Dallas, Texas, my backyard. My family and friends, and people who have been watching me my entire career were in the building watching this unfold. It was an amazing, cool experience for that to go down the way it went down. There are some wrestlers, Will’s one of those guy, I’ve said time and time again: if you go and have a bad match with Will, there’s something really wrong with you. But, to say that I didn’t carry my own is being a little ignorant. Because I know I stepped up, and I know I did my part. I was trying to establish myself as one of the best big men in the business today," said Archer.

Archer is a traveled veteran of wrestling, having appeared in WWE and TNA both along the way. That's led to him to working with plenty of Young Lions. However, he does seem to feel a little remorse as to how Jon Moxley's lion will cope with losing a mentor after Wrestle Kingdom.

"Poor Shota [Umino]. He’s gonna lose a mentor after January 4th. So, he’s gonna be a sad, sad young lion over there. Hell no. He wanted Jon Moxley. I’ll kick him in the face, gladly, but I’m not adopting him. He chose the Death Rider, and he’s gonna die with him. That’s all I’m gonna say. There’s so many amazing talents and now we have the L.A. dojo and the some boys that are coming out of there. There’s gonna be more going into that dojo. You got some of the young lions that are just now starting to do their excursions and some that are in Japan right now. I don’t know. I keep an eye, they’re limited in what they’re allowed to do and things of that nature. But, I want to see that attitude, that murder hawk monster attitude. If one brings it about then I might take them under my wing and teach them how to kill everybody," said Archer.

So Shota Umino taking after Archer isn't in the cards, and neither is him bringing on any Young Lion to second him, if his reaction is any indication. With his former partner Davey Boy Smith Jr. heading back to MLW, the two have lost touch there, too. Archer is a lone wolf.

"We haven’t really spoken," Archer said of Smith. "I don’t think there’s any ill will. I mean, I have none towards him or anything like that. He made a business choice based on how he felt of the situation that existed for him. If he has any ill will towards me, I have no idea. I’ve never heard anything negative one way or the other. I hope the most success for him that’s possible. He’s kicking ass in MLW, just won their Opera Cup and everything. It’s one of those things, I think he and I, there’s no issue between him and I. K.E.S. didn’t have a bad split, it just was a business decision. In this business you never say never, so who knows what could happen in the future and K.E.S. could ride again. But, as of right now, he chose to go and do what he wanted to do. For me, I’ve had a few lucky breaks in New Japan and opportunities to really shine, and I’ve capitalized on them. So, we’re both doing our own thing and I think doing really well at it. Who knows what the future holds for us as a tag team. But, as of right now, he chose to go his own way, have his issues with the company, and so on and so forth, made that choice. I didn’t necessarily have the same issues, so I think that’s why I’m still with the company and things have gone the way they’ve gone for me there.

Archer is plenty excited for his own match on night one of Wrestle Kingdom -- a Texas Deathmatch against Jon Moxley. The winner advances to night two to take on Juice Robinson in a second title match. As hyped as Lance is for those, he understands the gravity of the entire card, as well.

"I get to kill two people in two nights on one of the biggest stages in professional wrestling. You can’t beat that, right? I know Jon [Moxley] is known for his deathmatch appeal and the things he did even before WWE and things of that nature, but you’re coming into my backyard. I’ve been there almost nine years, eight and a half plus years. I’ve put myself in a position where I’m not planning to slow down one iota, and then you wanna challenge me to a Texas Deathmatch? I’m from Texas. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun for the fans because there’s gonna be a lot of amazing, straight up pure wrestling. You have [Jushin “Thunder”] Liger’s last appearances in the business ever. You have the Intercontinental and Heavyweight title matches on the line in the first night, and then the winners of those will go on and we’ll have a double champion by the end of night two. You have [Hiroshi] Tanahashi, the Ace of New Japan; one of the best, in my opinion, to ever be in the business facing Chris Jericho, who has done everything and re-invented himself and made himself one of the best in the world; no matter where he’s gone, no matter what time period he’s working in, no matter what company he’s working with. Every time he steps into the ring he’s one of those guys that everybody is paying attention to and watching," said Archer.

Archer defends the IWGP United States Champion against Jon Moxley January 4 at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14. If he wins, he moves on to January 5's second night and defends against Juice Robinson. Fightful will have full, live coverage of the shows.

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