Chapter 2

-Challenge-

If you say 'Pro-Wrestling FMW', I think majority of people think of Atsushi Onita. But the FMW (Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling) which just went bankrupt is a different company. It was owned by myself. Onita-san was the owner of the former FMW.

Atsushi Onita joined All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1973.
He was a Junior Heavyweight (less than 100kg) (220 pounds) wrestler and well known as a long-term personal assistant for Giant Baba.

He often toured in U.S. with Masanobu Fuchi, who joined AJPW the same year.
In 1982, Onita became a NWA International Junior Heavyweight Champion.
He was a brightest hope as a top class wrestler, and I still remember him from the era.

But soon after that he seriously injured his left knee cap during his match. It was splintered fracture. Having the operation for inserting the wire inside of the knee, he managed to recover though it wasn't 100%.
He had to give up his wrestling career in 1985, and he had a Retirement Match against Mighty Inoue.

His second life begins here.
Onita used his retirement money to buy land and the price soared upwards.
He got in on the bubble economy and used the profit to set up several businesses.
But unfortunately, they failed and his savings had ran out.
As a result he was bankrupted.

In disappointment the thought he had in his mind was to go back to wrestling.
'I want to be a wrestler again. I want to stand in a ring once more.....'

It was so hard to give up his hope.
Onita started working for the Japan Women's Wrestling as an account executive.
He also tried to join other wrestling companies as a wrestler, but no one accepted him.
In 1989, he borrowed some money from his friend, and finally he decided to make his own wrestling company.
This is was the former FMW, Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, Inc.
Onita was managing the whole the business all by himself.

Generally New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling are called 'major'. Compared with them FMW was not even counted as a proper wrestling team.
Such a tiny team was formed. Originally the term 'Indie' was used to describe a 'non-major wrestling company' like UWF.
UWF derived from NJPW and they were an 'Independent' company. Independent from NJPW.
'Indie' just didn't mean a small company.
But nowadays everyone uses the term 'Indy' for the small wrestling teams.

He had a prefabricated office in Nishimagome, Tokyo.
The size was only 8 tsubo (apx 26.4 ft2) small, there was only a table, a chair, and a phone. No sofa. You might have heard the story that Onita had only 50,000yen (500 USD) with him when he started FMW. Onita talks to the fans and media passionately (We call it 'Onita Theater').
I've heard that he said he used to share a portion of Korean BBQ with me because we couldn't afford to pay for two. To be honest I don't remember that. But it is true that we were so poor.

The first ever match for FMW was October 6, 1989 at the Tsuyuhashi Sports Center in Aichi. Then on October 10, 1989 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The wrestlers who appeared there were Tarzan Goto, Monkey Magic Wakita (Super Delphin), and Masanobu Kurisu. Tarzan was a Onita partner from the beginning. Super Delphin established Osaka Pro-Wrestling later. Masanobu Kurisu was a wrestler who had an unusual working history in between NJPW to AJPW.

As you know FMW used to use 'Total Martial Arts Style' as the company image, as there were also a professional boxers and Karate Masters.
Although calling ourselves 'Total', in fact it was quite a messy match making because there were not enough wrestlers.
Anyway, we had no choice in using Martial Arts mixed with Pro-Wrestling to make more matches for the cards.

Sometimes we were ridiculed by the audience.
But Onita's ability as a producer was extraordinary.
He felt the limit of using Martial arts style and used Death Match Style instead.

I think the remarkable successful matches were on December 10, 1989 in a 'Pro-Wrestling vs. Karate in a Barbed Wire Death Match' by Onita & Tazan vs. Jerry Blayman & Mitsuhiro Matsunaga as well as August 4, 1990 in a No Rope Barbed wire Exploding Death Match by Atsushi Onita vs. Tarzan Goto.

The Barbed wire Explosion Death Match has become a synonym for FMW later. The first Barbed wire Explosion Death Match was held at Rail City Shiodome, Tokyo. It is next to JR (Japan Rail) Shinbashi Station, near Tokyo Bay. The land used to belong to the old JR. Nowadays, the area is filled by some new office buildings.

It was vacant for a few years for further development, and we used that open space for the event.
The audience went wild with cheering and screaming in the fire spark blast and the blood. Onita-san jumped into the barbed wire and his body was cut. After the match, wearing bloodied, sweated, and a torn up vest top/pants, he talked to the excited audience from the ring. He told them about his passion for the wrestling. That was the origin of the 'Onita Theater'.

Since this match FMW became very famous.
Fearless, extremely appealing to the audience with the tears & blood.
It was the new wave called 'Jado Puroresu'. (Evil Way Wrestling)
Although people compared with those major wrestling teams and treated us like weirdoes we carried on our style.

Whimsical Decision for the team continuation-

As soon as FMW was established,
I applied for the company, and was chosen by Onita.
I became a ring announcer. I was 23 years old.
I never thought I could be the company owner and fall into such the trouble...

Why did I become a owner from just a ring announcer?
The answer is easy. No one wanted the position.

CEO Onita's retirement triggered the event.
Onita announced the retirement as a wrestler in 1994.
It's his second retirement since AJPW.
Since the announcement, we had a year long Japan tour.
And finally he retired on May 5, 1995 at Kawasaki Stadium.

He used to tell us 'If I retire, Japanese Wrestling could be like a land subsidence.'
'If I leave then you wouldn't be able to continue the company without me.'

When we were told that we agreed. Because it was true that Onita made this company, and he was the one who was supporting the business.
Onita was very proud of himself and his motivation made this company grow as big as a 'major' wrestling company.

In fact, Onita was the main image of FMW as acknowledged by himself and the others. When he appeared on TV programs, he was focusing using his own name more than 'FMW'. He wanted to close down FMW when he retired.

However, in reality, FMW held popular wrestlers like Hayabusa or Megumi Kudo and a lots of others.
If FMW split up, what are they going to do? It's not only wrestlers but also staff, they'll lose their job and can't afford to live without the support.
At that time, nobody had a clear vision of FMW's future.
Only we know was we are going to carry on FMW without Onita.
Trusting in him, we never thought he's going to ditch everybody who worked together along him.
Surely the media also believed that FMW is going to continue the business without Onita.
They might have thought that it'll be hard without Onita though.

But Onita was going to finish FMW off at this point.
He changed his mind later a month before his retirement.
Mr. Matsubara (Onita's step father who became a share holder for New FMW) suggested to Onita not to close down because he thought it'll make people doubt Onita's personality.
'People who worked so hard for you will lose their job. Of course they'll think what sort of man you are.'

I think Onita might have a thought that FMW will be bankrupted later anyway, but if it happens after  he left, he'll get better public opinion about him. [Atsushi Onita was great.]

Then Original FMW's 'Family' was united once again and stepped out to the new chapter.
In fact, Onita's opinion was much more important than ours.
We couldn't do anything to it even after the hand over.
I think that caused troubles in many ways later.

Our official company name was originally 'Frontier Martial Arts Pro-Wrestling, Inc'. then it changed to 'FMW, Inc'.
FMW, Inc's CEO was family member of Onita, but all the decision making were taken by Onita himself.
After Onita's retirement, we changed the name back to 'Frontier Martial-Arts Pro-Wrestling, Inc'.
We had a few sister companies also since the establishment.
Let me call Onita Era's FMW 'Old FMW' to avoid the confusion.

I worked at the sister company called 'FMW Creatives' as a PR Director.
This company was for Onita's media appearance management, and the merchandising.
Anything non-related to the wrestling event was through this company.


After his Retirement match, FMW Creatives was planned to be Onita's personal company.
That is called 'Onita Furoshikiya' (currently known as 'Dai Produce')


Onita-san offered CEO position to Mr. T.
Unfortunately, he didn't take it. That's why he offered it to me. He said, 'Arai, if you don't take it, FMW is over.'
I just had turned 30 years old. I didn't know how to run the wrestling business. I was hesitant but at the same time, I thought it could be a good chance in my life. I must admit that I had an ambition. Then I thought, 'Ok, let's do it!'.

We had over 20 wrestlers continue the business as before would save everyone's life.
I'd never thought about the life without FMW before.

Onita fought against Hayabusa in No Rope Barbed wire Cage Exploding Time Bomb Death Match at Kawasaki Stadium on May 5, 1995 and received 30,000,000yen (300,000 USD) as retirement money. By the way, there's no record for that days ticket sales anywhere.

He took all of the event sales profit and the amount is unknown. Just before his retirement match, I agreed to take over the position as CEO, and he said, 'I'll lend you 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD) to make a brand new company and start from zero.'

In fact it was a easy option for me as the Old FMW had a debt because Onita borrowed. Maybe Onita hesitated to give his OWN company as it was. Anyway the second launch for FMW was set up.

In August 1995, following Onita's word 'Start from zero', New FMW had been established. I became a CEO. We decided to use our old company name 'Frontier Martial-Arts Pro Wrestling, Inc' for the registration as we wanted to go back to the starting point. We called our self 'NEO FMW'. Additionally, the old FMW still exist as a dormant company. It's changed to the limited company and this company has nothing to do with us.

NEO FMW had 7 Office Employee including myself. They are all transferred from the Old FMW. The share holder was only myself in the beginning. Mr. Matsubara (Onita's step father) suggested to split them into half. I had no idea about the share, so I let him to have 50%.
This became the grudge later.

We bought all the equipment from old FMW including the training machine, champion belts, even the photo copier.
I paid Old FMW (Onita) 5,000,000yen (50,000 USD) from the 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD) which I borrowed from Onita and we took their 2 advertising cars with the existing loan as well.

Onita was very clever. He lent us 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD), but already made us pay him half. I wished I had the business ability like him.

Onita used to tell me 'Split up when you have a loss. Don't make any debt.'. Of course we didn't want to make any loss. Maybe Onita cautioned because he knew how this business is difficult. He has enough experience in the past.
Or maybe he just didn't want us to make him look cheaper if we became more successful.
He also told me 'If it didn't work after 6 months, that's the way it is. You should think about finishing'.

NEO FMW was born, it was full of anxiety.
But at the same time we started to see the bright sides as well.

-Is the wrestling business profitable?-

Until I became a CEO, I was a complete amateur for the business.
I remember I had to buy a book and attend a business course.
Before I was a multi task worker at FMW. I did ticket collecting, selling the ticket and merchandise at the venue and also the ring announcement. It wasn't the back office job. Everything was so new to me running the organization as a top.

How much do you think we made from a Korakuen Hall monthly shows?
I don't think many people know...
In central Tokyo, we often held the title matches as well.
You might think that we must be making a huge profit from this event.

Let me write about the way we operate roughly.
We have 2 types of events. One is 'Own Event' and the other one is a 'Sold Event'

Own Event means booking the venue and paying all the expenses by ourselves.
Ticket sales is the major income from this. We sell the ticket by ourselves, the ticket agent or asking the local VIP to distribute.

Sold Event means promoters buys the event as a whole package.
And they pay the all the expenses.

First I'll explain about Own Event.
For FMW a Korakuen Hall show was the important income.
The venue cost is 800,000yen (8,000 USD) for a weekday.
The fee for the lighting and the sound engineer, and the other expenses cost around 700000yen. (7,000 USD)
We were able to hold the event there with 1500000yen. (15,000 USD)
If it's full house show (1,800 people), the total sales is 6,000,000yen. (60,000 USD)
We kept the 4,500,000yen (45,000 USD) profit for a couple of years, and that definitely helped to run the business. We depended on this income a lot.

Own Event doesn't always mean profitable in this economy downturn.
Except the major wrestling companies, it is quite hard to have Own Event unless there is a local born wrestler. There must be some independent promotions that hold an own event, but prepare the loss for it.

For FMW the Own Event's expenses for Non Tokyo show is around 1,000,000yen. (10,000 USD)
The venue cost is apx 300,000yen (3,000 USD), transport fee is apx 200,000yen (2,000 USD), printing fee for thickets and posters and other expenses ads up to around 200,000yen (2,000 USD). Food and hotel bill is at least 150,000yen (1,500 USD). The wages for the temporary venue staff and the other expenses is around 100000yen (1,000 USD). It's an unexpected bill usually, so let's say it's 1,000,000yen in total (10,000 USD).

When we ran Old FMW, there was the time we couldn't afford for the hotels.
It was cheeky that we entered the hotel at different times and shared 7 or 8 single rooms with 14 or 15 people. NEO FMW didn't have to do such a bad thing. It's kind of a good memory, but you can't get rid off the tiredness without proper rest.

The Disadvantage of having an Own Event in the country side is lack of the ticket promotion. Because we don't have a local branch, ticket sales is weaker compared with Tokyo Area. In this case, we used the local box office or the sports shop as the ticket distributor. Although they charge 10% commission, they pay us the ticket sales on a same day.

And the ticket at the door on a day of the event is 100% profit for us. But the sale is very unpredictable. If it rains, it falls.
If the research of the area wasn't enough, for example there are other wrestling event near by or  the local festival or the local election on the same day, that effect the ticket sales.

If we use a local VIP as a ticket distributor the commission is 50%.
We don't want to use VIP but it is necessary.
Without this sales, venue is not going to be filled. The VIP who has strong connection with local authority usually sales 100 tickets at a time.
We can't sleep pointing them with our legs!
I don't think there is a wrestling promotion which doesn't use the VIP in Japan.

But we can't depend on VIP all the time.
Some VIP don't inform us how many tickets were sold until the last minute, or they don't pay us on time. The worst case is when they just steal the ticket sales.

There was a incident one of the VIP had 300 of our tickets. The ticket value was 6,000yen (60 USD) each. If all is sold, we get half the profit which is 900000yen (90,000 USD), but he claimed it was stolen.
Annoyingly, it's not only money that's lost but we weren't able to sale the tickets at the door because we didn't know how many tickets and which seats were sold. (seats are all reserved) There might be 2 people having the same seat ticket and would cause the chaos.
We never know if it was really stolen, we just couldn't ask anymore because they are VIP.

How much do you think we made from Korakuen Hall monthly shows?  I don't think many people know. In central Tokyo, we often held the title matches as well.  You might think that we must be making a huge profit from this event.

Let me write about the way we operate roughly.
We have 2 types of events. One is a 'Own Event' and the other one is a 'Sold Event'
Own Event means booking the venue and paying all the expenses by ourselves. Ticket sales are the major income from this. We sell the ticket by ourselves, the ticket agent or asking the local VIP to distribute.
Sold Event means promoters buy the event as a whole package and they pay the all the expenses.
First I'll explain about Own Event. For FMW a Korakuen Hall show was the important income. The venue cost is 800,000yen (8,000 USD) for a weekday.  The fee for the lighting and the sound engineer, and the other expenses cost around 700,000yen. (7,000 USD)  We were able to hold the event there with 1,500,000yen. (15,000 USD)
If it's a full house show (1,800 people), the total sales are 6,000,000yen. (60,000 USD)  We kept the 4,500,000yen (45,000 USD) profit for a couple of years, and that definitely helped to run the business. We depended on this income a lot.  A Own Event doesn't always mean profitable in this economy downturn. Except the major wrestling companies, it is quite hard to have a Own Event unless there is a local born wrestler. There must be some independent promotions that hold an own event, but prepare the loss for it.

For FMW the Own Event's expenses for Non Tokyo show are around 1,000,000yen. (10,000 USD)
The venue cost is apx 300,000yen (3,000 USD), transport fee is apx 200,000yen (2,000 USD), printing fee for thickets and posters and other expenses ads up to around 200,000yen (2,000 USD). Food and hotel bill is at least 150,000yen (1,500 USD). The wages for the temporary venue staff and the other expenses is around 100,000yen (1,000 USD). It's an unexpected bill usually, so let's say it's 1,000,000yen in total (10,000 USD). 

When we ran Old FMW, there was the time we couldn't afford for the hotels.
It was cheeky that we entered the hotel at different times and shared 7 or 8 single rooms with 14 or 15 people. NEO FMW didn't have to do such a bad thing. It's kind of a good memory, but you can't get rid of the tiredness without proper rest.
The Disadvantage of having an Own Event in the country side is lack of the ticket promotion. Because we don't have a local branch, ticket sales is weaker compared with Tokyo Area. In this case, we used the local box office or the sports shop as the ticket distributor. Although they charge 10% commission, they pay us the ticket sales on a same day.
And the ticket at the door on a day of the event is 100% profit for us. But the sale is very unpredictable. If it rains, it falls.
If the research of the area wasn't enough, for example there are other wrestling events nearby or the local festival or the local election on the same day that affect the ticket sales. If we use a local VIP as a ticket distributor the commission is 50%.
We don't want to use VIP but it is necessary. Without these sales, venue is not going to be filled. The VIP has strong connection with local authority and usually sales 100 tickets at a time. We can't sleep pointing them with our legs!

I don't think there is a wrestling promotion which doesn't use the VIP in Japan.
But we can't depend on VIP all the time.
Some VIP would not inform us how many tickets were sold until the last minute, or they don't pay us on time. The worst case is when they just steal the ticket sales.
There was a incident one of the VIP had 300 of our tickets. The ticket value was 6,000yen (60 USD) each. If all is sold, we get half the profit which is 900,000yen (90,000 USD), but he claimed it was stolen.
Annoyingly, itís not only money that's lost but we weren't able to sale the tickets at the door because we didn't know how many tickets and which seats were sold. (Seats are all reserved)

That was the bad case of using the VIP. There are some good cases though. We used to have a big event in Sapporo, Hokkaido every year.
There was a VIP who sold a lot of tickets, and brought us 4,000,000yen (40,000 USD) each time. The VIP has pros and cons indeed.
Let me explain about a 'Sold Event'.
The promoter buys our rights for the event. To be chosen, you have to be a popular wrestling team.
We would sale an event for 1,500,000yen (15,000 USD). It's a lot cheaper than our Korakuen Hall profit though it was more expensive than the other independent company's Sold Events.
Usually, in the sold event, itís a promoter's job to sell tickets, and book the venue. Apart from that, we have to arrange and pay all expenses like tickets and event posters printing fee, transport and food.
Long time ago in Japan, people who hold a comedy show would be called 'a Promoter'. Wrestling promoters are basically the same as them. We turn up to the venue, make the wrestling ring and fight as usual. The profit from Sold Event is fixed rate. It doesn't matter if it's a full house show or empty show, we get paid the 1,500,000yen (15,000 USD). Usually, we would get a loss profit when the ticket sales are bad, but not with a Sold Event.

But there are different types of promoters. Some try to pay less because of the poor ticket sales, or the wrestler who's on a poster didn't appear. Once we didn't get paid at all. Those sort of unexpected incidents are such huge damage to us. We just had to suffer from it.
It's quite famous that Yakuza was behind Rikidozan's wrestling events. I must say that even nowadays the relationship with promoters in wrestling business is still very complicated. FMW had about 10 events a month. Average rate was about 6 Own Events and 4 Sold Events.
As I mentioned before, we had a monthly event at Korakuen Hall, we also had an annual big event at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium. The profit from the big event is not stable. Sometimes it rises and falls, but still it was very important income for us.
The most profitable big event was the Kawasaki Show in September 1997.
The main match on the card was Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Kenta Kobashi & Maunakea Mossman. Looking back whole FMW history, it was a great match. I can tell that with confidence. All Japanís top Heavyweight star Kobashi against FMW's new hope Hayabusa. I remember I was watching it with sweating hands.

For this event, we paid 20,000,000yen (200,000 USD). Total net sale was 55,000,000yen (550,000 USD). Amazingly, the profit was 35,000,000yen (350,000 USD). That era was the most successful time for FMW.
You may think FMW would never falls into the financial difficulty only looking at that number. To carry on the business cost more than you think. We have to spend to keep it going.

This is only our case, the rent for our office and Dojo cost 700,000yen (7,000 USD) monthly, parking for the advertising car, gas & electric bill cost 300,000yen (3,000 USD) monthly. Thatís a total of 1,000,000yen (10,000 USD) that goes out from our pocket. Then thereís everyone salary including the wrestlers which cost 9,000,000yen (90,000 USD) per month. Thatís pending 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD) a month in total already. Then thereís the production fee for our pay per view which is about 3,000,000yen (30,000 USD), food bill and employee insurance, and the other expenses all together must be around 500,000yen (5,000 USD). So the monthly expenses are apx 13,500,000yen. (135,000 USD) Then if we add the PR/Printing fee it becomes more than 15, 0000,000 yen (150,000 USD).
In reality, it wasn't enough. We were still paying from a previous loan, and taxes. We had to pay the venue fee in advance as well.


During this 7 years I don't remember once there was more than 5,000,000yen (50,000 USD) in our bank account more than a week. After the poor profit of touring nation wide we always had to depend on the profit from Korakuen Hall.
Then we would have a big event every 6 months, but afterwards we go back to the country side touring again...
It was like rounding a circle. We arranged most of the payment goes out after the Korakuen Hall show or the Big Event and kept our company going somehow.

Having a lot of wrestlers, the Dojo, and touring nation wide regularly, the business is tough without the media relation. Only having the shows doesn't cover the cost. It is the reality of the wrestling business.

-Flying High Hayabusa-

Like what I said NEO FMW were facing the difficulty in business side.
Now I'm going to tell you what 'the wrestling' side was.
NEO FMW was launched on May 17, 1995 at Fukaya City Gym in Saitama.

We still had a baby face team lead by Megumi Kudo and a heel team lead by Shark Tsuchiya & Crusher Maedomari. It was a face of female FMW. (In the end, we only had Emi Motokawa left in FMW Female division.)

On the other hand Eiji Ezaki otherwise known as Hayabusa was the face of the male division. I knew he was different to the others since he joined FMW as a trainee in 1991. He was on a different level. Since 1993, he learnt in US and Mexico and changed his identity to Hayabusa, the masked man. Working abroad as a trainee sounds good, but I can say that really he was just gotten rid of by FMW. But why? Because Onita didn't like him. When Ezaki joined FMW, he was a personal assistant to Onita. But Onita dismissed him from being his personal assistance within a week. The reason is simple. Onita didn't like his look.

Ezaki has very defined eyes and nose, and he was quite pretty as a wrestler. When Onita went to the night club with promoters, all the girl's attention went to Ezaki.
I've heard Onita was very jealous of him.
Good or bad, he was a leader of the team. But he also had such a childish side.
Even in a wrestling match, Onita didn't let anybody else to get more attention than him.
The jealousy towards Hayabusa didn't end. Even after Onita's retirement...

As many of you might know from Mr. Takahashi (ex-Referee of NJPW)'s book,
details of wrestling matches are all arranged before hand. It's not only cards, but also the story line. That's called an 'angle'. It is quite necessary using angles for pro wrestling. For example, making one losing many times, revenge, or making a good rival through the 'staged' great fight.
That would make wrestling more interesting for the audience.

Mr. Takahashi also told this in his book, this angle system let wrestlers fight hundreds of matches a year without damaging their health.
It doesn't mean they are not working hard enough.
There is no lie about Onita & FMW fighters blood and scars.
They need a strong body to take the impact of the move. Wrestlers fight for their lives. If they fight each other seriously attacking weak parts or injured parts of body, as a result they'd have to give up their wrestling career. They'd even lose their lives. Does this deserve to be a professional sport which is supposed to give you dream and inspiration?
I didn't know pro wrestling is a 'show' until I joined FMW.
To be honest it shocked me.
But as much as I worked for them, I appreciated their health and importance of the body.
They don't hesitate to dedicate themselves for pro wrestling in such a risky environment.

Genichiro Tenryu said, 'I wouldn't do drop kick if it's not in front of the audience. It's painful!' Tenryu's word must be the truth in all wrestler's minds. The wrestler who is too afraid of injury and fails to show a fighting spirit is a problem, but also the wrestler who's not afraid at all and will do whatever is a problem well. Also, a company that doesn't care about their wrestler's injury is out of the question. I'm sorry, I have gone off the subject a bit.

By the way, Onita made up all the story lines in Old FMW. Of course he was the one who got the good ones. He used Hayabusa very effectively in his own angle until his retirement.

Back then Ezaki was already a masked character named Hayabusa. He made an amazing debut in NJPW's Super J Cup against Jushin Thunder Liger a year before. Hayabusa became a top wrestler. But he was just a one of Onita's chess pieces. On April 20,1995, Hayabusa came back to Japan from the US and declared Onita to be an opponent for the retirement match. On April 23, 1995, Hayabusa kneeled down on a floor and begged Onita. It happened because there was an emergency situation. Tarzan Goto was going to be the opponent, but he left FMW suddenly. Hayabusa was chosen and to be the loser of Onita's Final Match which was a Barbed wire Cage Electrocution Explosion Time Bomb Death Match. It was too hard for Hayabusa. The Explosions and barbed wire ripped his skin down his body. Onita grabbed the microphone and shouted at Hayabusa.


'You are not enough! But I'm leaving so you have to keep FMW's fire!'
I don't think Onita thought anything of what he was saying. He was just shouting theatrically, and used Hayabusa just as a subject of his performance.


After Onita was gone, the first thing we did was decrease the death match. FMW = Death Match image was very strong to the audience.
The reason why FMW went in the death match direction was because Onita had no choice. He was junior heavy weight, and he had a damaged knee and  had already retired once. He could not bend his knee in a 90 degree because it had a wire in it.
Plus he was working as a company boss, and often appeared on media as a TV talent. He had no time for training. As a result, he couldn't do orthodox wrestling anymore.

Wounded in a death match, a worn out man standing up with a microphone. Shouting out his enthusiasm for FMW. It was a desperate self-promotion. People were so moved by him including me, Onita had become a 'Charisma of Tears'.

But now Onita was gone. FMW needed to be reborn.
Onita used to call Old FMW 'Jado Puroresu' (Evil Way Pro Wrestling).
We wanted NEO FMW to become more of a major style.
Using more orthodox wrestling style, and sometimes Death Match.
You could say that we learnt from AJPW. In fact people called us the 'second division of AJPW' for a long time.

It was impossible to lose all death matches. But it was clear that NEO FMW had to be different from Old FMW and the other major wrestling promotions. We tried to be different and Hayabusa was the key.

Since May there were 11 shows every month nation wide. The match maker was Go Ito who was the referee. There were Team W*ING (Mitsuhiro Matsunaga & Kintaro Kanemura), the heel group 'Lethal Weapon' (The Gladiator, Ricky Fuji and international wrestlers) and Team NEO FMW (Hayabusa & company). It was a sensational success. (After that Team IWA Puerto Rican joined and it became 4 different teams.) It went very well and the relationship between promoters were very good, the company image became less Onita.

As I wrote before the profit wise wasn't too great but the audience response was good, the wrestlers were more motivated and worked so hard. We also felt the flash back from old days just after the launch of Old FMW.
The Mixture of anxiety and tension and hope for the future as well as excitement when we had finished the event together with the wrestlers, it felt like there was a sense of accomplishment coming back.

On the other hand, there was a serious problem.
For example Old FMW used to release videos from BMG VICTOR but we couldn't. 'FMW without Onita is worthless.' was what I was told when I visited them. Maybe it was quite a normal response. But I remember we were so shocked by that.
Fortunately there was a savior as Toshiba EMI supported us for the video releases and GAORA has became our broadcaster for Cable TV.

GAORA didn't pay us for the broadcasting cost, but they gave us the permission for using the video freely. We let them film the matches, we  would then edit them, and then hand those to Toshiba EMI releasing the commercial videos. It was very helpful.
The video sale was nearly our whole profit. As our business struggled, we had to ask them to pay us in advance about twice or three times. We managed to avoid the worst because of this money.

We were growing out of the death match and getting a new audience base, we had TV aboard casting by GAORA and a video release from Toshiba EMI. NEO FMW was on track within half a year.

May 5, 1996, we managed to come back to 'the sanctuary' in Kawasaki Stadium. It was the first big match since Onita's retirement. We had double main event with men and women. The Men's main was a '20,000,000yen (200,000 USD) prize No Rope Barbed wire Electrocution Exploding Land Mines Double Hell Time Bomb Tornado Tag Death Match' with Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka vs. Terry Funk& Mr. Pogo. The Women's main was Combat Toyoda vs. Megumi Kudo. It was a retirement match for Toyoda, and it was the first female No Ropes Barbed Wire Electrocution Explosion Death Match.

Although we were aiming to be in a mainstream, we chose to have Death Matches because it was a big event. It was necessary for the sanctuary of 'Kawasaki Stadium' show. NEO FMW tried to show a lots of top wrestlers with many types of matches.
The result was profitable financially. We felt the success of NEO FMW for the first time.

Hayabusa became the face of FMW and settled in well, and we could expect almost the same number of the audience as the Old FMW. 'Yes, we can do it.' I thought. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but I finally I got a little of confident being a company CEO.

In June 1996, in return for our hard working wrestlers, I introduced the monthly salary system for the first time in FMW history. Until then, we only paid them per match (the total was paid at the end of the month). We changed to 'the minimum 9 matches guarantee' system. That means we would pay extra if a wrestler exceeded more than 9 matches in a month, but if there was no more than 9 matches in a month, we would pay them a basic salary of 9 matches would have earned them.

We also reviewed the individuals salary. If it was too expensive, we lowered them.
Since Old FMW, there was always this problem. The wrestlers from outside would get paid more than the FMW wrestlers. 

For example, Mitsuhiro Matsunaga and Mr. Pogo from W*ING were employed as FMW's permanent wrestlers and paid as much as the foreign wrestler. 'Since I joined FMW, I have moved in to a luxury apartment from an old apartment without a bath. My salary went up triple compared to with W*ING. It would depend on how many matches I had in a month though, but sometimes my salary was over 1,000,000yen (10,000 USD) a month. I was one of the highest paid wrestlers in the Independent Wrestling scene.' is what Mitsuhiro Matsunaga wrote in his biography. Regular FMW wrestlers salary were much lower than that. Money is the easy weapon to get better wrestlers from the outside. Onita struggled with money because of this before. But for me I wanted regular FMW guys to have a stable and better life.
I decided to change their salary base justifying the difference. I was sorry for the W*ING guys though.

Around this time we started getting more sponsorship from Nichibu-kai (Mail Order), Young Teioh (comic magazine), Nisshin Akai Kitsune (noodles). Hayabusa even appeared on a Nisshin Akai Kitsune TV commercial for a short period. Business was so far so good. Only days I had to be careful were our pay day (25th) and payment due day at the end of the month. Apart from those, I could concentrate to work as a PR and management. I was handling everything fine somehow.

To me, maybe around a year after the NEO FMW launch was the best time.
After that I continued to go through the hardship.

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