Onita is coming back!
'I think I'll have to come back soon.'
In the Autumn of 1996, Onita started to talk about his come back.
NEO FMW was on track. In the summer, we just had a successful event in Shiodome, Tokyo.
The main card was Mr. Pogo vs. Terry Funk in a No Ropes Barbed Wire Electrocution Explosion Spider Net Glass Crush Death Match.
We put barbed wire like cobwebs underneath of the ring and glass on top of that.
That suited a Top Heel Match Japan vs. USA. The Semi-Final had a 'disappeared' angle since May's Kawasaki show with Hayabusa facing Koji Nakagawa (FMW).
On July 5, 1996, Onita appeared in their press conference as a commissioner which he requested to be a part of.
He wanted to make a clue about a come back to wrestling. It was the first time as a member of the 'TV Talent' Atsushi Onita appeared in NEO FMW.
Even after his retirement, Onita used to call me almost everyday.
He doesn't look like that sort of person, but he feels lonely easily.
Back then we were not in a bad relationship at all.
He became an Actor/TV talent and I was in the wrestling business as usual.
There was no reason why we would hate each other. We were in a different field.
Since the Old FMW time, he used to call my land line or mobile almost every night, and it was always after midnight. I knew it was from him.
Sometimes I hesitated to answer, but I had to get it anyway. If I ignored him, somebody else would get his phone call!
As soon as I picked up the phone, he would always shout like,
'Hey! Why don't you pick up quickly, you son of the bitch!'
And I always apologize. 'Sorry, sorry...'
The conversation doesn't start without my apology, so that's the way it was.
I think it's my fault that it made him so arrogant.
It was almost like an old bad habit, if Onita shouts at me, I just can't help it. I can't stop saying sorry to him.
He is a type of person who shouts to get rid of all his stress. But soon after he shouts, he calms down and feels lonely.
Then he says 'Do you want to' come over to my house? You are not busy, are you?'.
He doesn't drink much. When we meet, we eat and he usually does his talk for a long time. The subject is from work related to some random things like, 'I'm thinking about starting a bean pancake business...' etc, etc...
It could be my imagination though, since he became a TV talent, he might have found it wasn't so easy. He was invited to many programs, and also chosen for the sub-character, 'Shoroku Hachisuga' of NHK's famous period drama, 'Hideyoshi'. I thought he was so lucky to get this role considering he only had a 2 year acting career, but he didn't think so.
In Pro wrestling scene, he is such a famous man. But in show biz, he is just one of those ex-pro wrestlers turned TV talent/actor.
'The Charisma of Tears' power didn't work much and he seemed to be frustrated.
I think that was a reason why he felt alienated and acted like a lonely child. And would often complaint to us.
'Hey, I've heard you put Ezaki on top and are doing boring wrestling. Are you kidding me!?'
I heard such criticism from Onita long before his come back, before the summer.
'I'm so sorry! Please teach us!' Every time I told him to make him happy and get over the situation. Then he became more intense and often talked about his come back.
That made me frustrated. I imagine that Onita had never thought FMW without him could be so successful, and he didn't like the fact Ezaki -Hayabusa- became very popular as a heavy weight baby face. An actor who is broadcasted on national network has become so jealous of just a wrestler.
I found out this later. There was a woman who used to work in Old FMW, FMW Creative. She joined Office Onita afterwards. She was very closed to Onita. She came to see our show and told him, 'It was great! The audience was so excited, and Hayabusa was cool...'
Back then Onita was avoiding all the information from pro wrestling. No wrestling magazines were allowed in his home/office.
But hearing the story that his trainee is doing so well with non-death match style must have made him feel like he was denying himself. Especially hearing from a woman close to him...
When Onita asked me how our business was doing, I was pretending and said, 'It's less audience than your time. Audience is rather quiet too.'
But he knew it was a lie and shouted at me. 'Don't tell me a lie, you son of a bitch!'
In the Fall of 1996 he became more eager to come back and I had to tell him,
'Onita, I'm against your idea. We had a year long retirement tour! And you are going to come back after a year? That'll make fans and promoters angry!!' He sounded a bit toned down and said, 'Oh...do you think so...?'
But it didn't keep him quiet so long. He strongly denied my opinion and was appealing me more. He used the reason of his come back as getting more media attention to NEO FMW.
And suddenly, the day finally came.
Onita decided his come back by himself
'Arai! I'm going back to the wrestling!'
'I make Pogo retire, ok? He chooses me as a partner and says, 'I want to fight with Onita once again!'
I'll say no once, but Pogo kneels down and bows on a floor and begs me 'Please!'.
Then, 'Okay.... we are men, I can't say no to this...' and you know...'
He just made up the angle all by himself and was trying to make Pogo retire, just for him to come back!
Mr. Pogo is the top class heel wrestler in Japan.
Onita makes Pogo beg him, and makes up his retirement angle.
'A retirement match for Pogo? Pogo doesn't want to retire yet.'
'No, he'll be fine. He can come back after 6 months!'
I was quite annoyed by such an easy answer.
This man really loves appealing himself as 'a needed' man.
But I and all the other FMW staff couldn't say anything to him because we knew Onita was the one made an achievement for our company.
Without anybody stopping him, Onita began to remark more about his come back to the media.
'NEO FMW is in danger! They don't have much of an audience. They can't afford to pay for Mr. Pogo's retirement money!'
It's true that NEO FMW was struggling in the beginning, but we all continued making effort, and the business had just got on a track. Then we are interfered by retired Onita like this...using a ridiculous angle.
'What was our effort? Why were we working so hard?'
We were deeply upset and disappointed by this.
Maybe the greedy man is stronger than the pessimistic man.
Finally, he got in a ring again for 'one night only'
December 11, 1996 at the Komazawa Gym, Tokyo. The Main Event was Pogo & Onita & Tanaka & Kuroda vs. Terry Funk & Hisakatsu Oya & The Headhunters. It was an Onita style death match, he grabbed all the good bits as usual. And his microphone performance...'Thank you, Pogo...Thank you!!'
Applause and tears to the rival wrestler who's retiring...
He is a veteran of touring nation wide for many years, the audience got wildly excited. The venue was packed with 7,000 people in the audience. It seemed to be a huge succeeded event.
But the problems occurred already. First of all there was a video contract.
Onita brought in BMG Victor who terminated our contract before, and decided to release this event video from them without asking us. It is clearly a breech of the contract between Toshiba EMI our current contractor.
'Onita...it's really bad...'
'No no, they'll understand. Talk to them, ok!?'
'Yes...I'll do my best.'
And my bad habit again...I was running around to sort this problem, and had to beg Toshiba EMI many times.
They gave BMG a permission to use only Onita's match with his other matches.
Toshiba EMI released this event video without the main event. It became very odd.
Secondly, Onita arranged the bank transfer 4,000,000yen (40,000 USD) royalty from BMG Victor to HIS office account. And then he grabbed 5,000,000yen (50,000 USD) from the event profit which was 8,000,000yen (80,000 USD).
I know he made it successful, but it's a huge damage as we were spending a lot for this event. And Pogo is 'retired' for now, and he can't work at least 6 months. We had to guarantee his salary upfront and paid him 3,000,000yen (30,000 USD).
We asked the Onita Office to pay for Pogo because they got the royalty of the video, but they didn't pay us. For now, it had to come out from our pocket. Although it was a very successful own event, and made huge profit, we gained nothing. It was an extremely strange situation.
It was 2 years later when the Onita side paid us back 3,000,000yen (30,000 USD).
To Onita the Komazawa match must have been great and he wanted to appear more. He often ordered to the match maker Go Ito to include him on our card. For me, for Ito, and for the NEO FMW wrestlers, Onita is the great founder of the company. We couldn't resist. Especially since this time, Onita's influence became much stronger with the company. 'We are getting encroached by Onita...'
We talked about it, but it was too late. It must be my fault. Because of my attitude towards Onita, he behaved like the current boss. I shouldn't have never let him behave like that. It was just like gone back to the old days.
after such a bitter event, my loyalty for Onita had not changed much. I joined a
wrestling company and that's because of Onita.
He was the one who chose me at the job interview. I was nothing. I was just a boy. I think he is a nuisance, but I always end up thinking like,' It's for Onita...' I kind of know why. I have an unforgettable good memory of him.
The memory is...my first announcement at Old FMW debut event on October 6th 1989, Tsuyuhashi Sports Center in Nagoya. I never had an experience for announcing. Up to the third match, Taiho Ring Announcer did it. At the fourth match, it was my turn. I made the sound towards the microphone nervously, and I just froze. It didn't make any sounds! No sound from the speakers!
'Oh no! We can't start the match!' I thought.
I was so nervous in a ring. It's the first event for FMW. It was very important for us. I just put the microphone down and did the announcement without it. The audience responded with applause. Onita seemed very impressed about my quick decision.
He said, 'You are amazing! You could be the best ring announcer in Japan!'. At the end of the show, he gave me such a compliment with his smile.
'Yes, I did it!' When I heard his word, I remember I thought, I want to be useful for him. I'll do the best to make him happy. That was the starting point of our relationship.
By the way, I was quite miserable before I joined FMW although I was always wanting to be useful for someone. Nothing worked out for me.
I was born in 1965, down town Adachi-ku, Tokyo. I was quite serious and often got bullied. Only pleasure I had was watching pro-wrestling.
My favorite promotion was Kokusai Pro Wrestling (IWE). I also watched AJPW and NJPW on TV, but I was more attracted by Kokusai Pro which was lead by Rusher Kimura. They had a bit of a shabby atmosphere.
I have an unforgettable memory of Kokusai Pro. Back then, Kokusai Pro used to give children free tickets for a Korakuen Hall show.
I had the free ticket and went to the venue, but some reason, they didn't let me enter. I was so upset and went home. I told my dad about what happened. He phoned their office and complained for me. The staff of Kokusai Pro was very professional. They listened to us and apologized politely. I was on the phone as well, but they didn't treat me badly either because I'm a child.
A few days later, I received an envelope by mail. Inside there were 2 tickets for next event with a letter. It was written by Mr. Suzuki, I can't remember his title properly, I think he was a sales manager. I remember that Mr. Suzuki was also a ring announcer for Kokusai Pro. It might have inspired what I was going to be in a future.
My dad was working for a clothing company. He knew someone who made Kokusai Pro's wrestling wear. I really wanted their track suits, and he asked them to make one for me in kids size. He really did! But it caused a lot of trouble.
When I went to see Kokusai Pro wearing them, Mr. Chin who was at the stall, accused me of stealing. I explained how I got them and he understood.
But later on, I heard the man who made the track suits was fired from his position because of that. I felt so bad about it, and felt deeply angry with Mr. Chin.
I never thought that Mr. Chin would join FMW 20 years later.
I asked him about it before, but he didn't remember it at all.
After I graduated my junior high school, I studied at the aviation academy.
At the same time, I was doing volunteer work for people with disabilities in Adachi-ku, Tokyo. It was short of staff and as I left my academy, I became a part of permanent care taker staff. I found it really hard because my job was to make disable people more independent. When I was a volunteer, all I needed to was just help them. But as a professional, I had to push them towards independence. I questioned myself. I haven't achieved anything in my past. I didn't think I had a right to do such a job. In the end, I resigned. It was just like I abandoned my task. When I was jumping job to job, I read an article of Atsushi Onita in a magazine.
'I've got a bad knee, but I love pro wrestling. I want to bet everything on myself on it.'
I was moved by that. Reading the article, I could feel how much he loves wrestling and want to wow the audience.
'If I work with someone like him, maybe I could be enthusiastic too?' and I knocked the door of FMW.
-The Secret Story of Barbed Wire-
I found a vacancy ad for a ring announcer at FMW in weekly pro wrestling magazine and contacted them immediately. Just in case I practiced a bit on the river side a few days before the interview although I had no confidence.
Against my expectations, they liked my voice.
'You are good! Mr. Onita, he is good!' said Ted Tanabe who was going to be a referee in FMW. It was August 1989. I was 23 years old.
'Well can you come tomorrow?' Onita asked.
He seemed to like me. I never thought I would be offered the position on the same day as the interview.
Back then I was into UWF, and had a ticket for next day's event.
'Excuse me, I'm going to see UWF tomorrow. Can I start the day after?'
I might sounded quite rude, but I just said so and he accepted me.
And I was going to start working for FMW the day after the interview.
'I got a job in pro wrestling business!'
I was so excited and as soon as I got home, I phoned the FMW office. 'I'll start tomorrow.' I wanted to work as soon as I can, and I ripped up the UWF ticket. I felt so good.
Here I am. I am here in the beginning of Old FMW, and as I wrote before,
I got the good feed back from Onita at the launch event. 'I'd love to work in this industry.' I was still young and felt so honor.
October 6th at Nagoya and October 10th at Tokyo in 1989, after those 2 days, I became confident and thought I can do it.
When we started 20 wrestlers had joined and only a few stayed. Yukihide Ueno (Battle Ranger) and Flying Kid Ichihara. Female wrestlers were only Yoshika Maedomari (Crusher Maedomari), Kumiko Matsuda (Tsuppari Mack), Miwa Sato, and Eriko Tsuchiya (Shark Tsuchiya).
So in the launch event, the debut show only had one female match, and some martial arts fighters like Mitsuhiro Matsunaga, Monkey Magic Wakita (Super Delphin) and karate master Masashi Aoyagi.
In March 1990, I had an important job other than ring announcing. 'You'll get attacked today. Go for juice! Juice!!'
'Juice' means blood. I guess some readers knew this word mean from Mr. Takahashi's book. I didn't know it at all, so I had to ask Ted Tanabe.
The angle for this day was Onita's opponent Beast The Barbarian entering aggressively, and attack the ring announcer.
I think I was the first case of a ring announcer getting assaulted and bleeding. Not assaulting wrestlers or a referee. Onita is very clever.
hold a double edge razor blade in two, and leave 1mm out and wrap it by a bandage. That's
what we used to cut the forehead. (We called the tool 'a gimmick')
Onita made it for me. I made cut by myself, but I remember I didn't feel much pain.
Maybe because I was too concentrated. It had to be done behind the audience.
It's such a symbolic story for FMW. We used the death match as a company image,
and I was baptized only after a few months since my debut.
Since then just like the word 'sweat with blood', I worked so hard in behind the scenes to build this FMW ring with wrestlers.
I didn't get paid for a while since I received first 2 months wages.
My salary was only 800,00yen (800 USD) a month after tax.
There were many hardships, but It was so rewarding because I could be with them from the beginning.
Attraction of 'Evil Way Wrestling', Barbed Wire, Electrocution Explosion Death Match, Time Bomb Death Match and so on, they were all Onita's ideas and we developed them together. They are great direction for matches.
First ever barbed wire match for Old FMW was held in our first year.
December 10th 1989 at Korakuen Hall, Onita & Tarzan Goto vs. Mitsuhiro Matsunaga & Jerry Blayman. It was a Pro-Wrestling vs. Karate Match. The barbed wires were stretched around in between ropes.
'Generally it is said that Pro Wrestling is staged. What is staged? Only way to express ourselves is just hurting our body.' Onita said that at the interview after his match. I think he is really great inventing the new style of wrestling...expressing himself and hurting his own body. This December match was the origin of Onita Style Death Match. Since then many of matches were born which appealing to the audience with pain. The next year on February 12, 1990 at Korakuen Hall, Onita fought a Barbed Wire Barricade Death Match against Masanobu Kurisu, which filled the gap of Universal Wrestling's departure and it hugely contributed us to make new topics.
There was a barbed wire problem. For December's match, we used the barbed wire which was quite hard but we only use them to put in between the ring ropes, so we didn't see the problem. As we were making the barbed wire board this time, quite a few people got injured with that. Onita might be falling onto it...we thought it'd be very dangerous and asked Onita to re-think about using this barbed wire.
He only said, 'It's okay to fall.' I admired him.
In the end, we bought the softer one. The shop was suspicious of us buying so much barbed wire.
The death match was finished safely and we learnt something.
Hard or soft barbed wire is painful anyway!
Now Onita fights in a ring with a leather jacket on now a days, so maybe it doesn't matter to him anymore. In Old FMW era, his fought bare shoulder and arms.
And finally we introduced the Barbed Wire Electrocuted Explosion Death Match.
The first match was held on August 4th 1990, Onita vs. Tarzan Goto in No Ropes Barbed Wire Electrocuted Explosion Death Match.
When they contacted the barbed wire, it flashes and makes a 'Bang!' sound.
That was the first invention in the world, and visually very appealing to the audience.
If you adjust the time for turning the electricity, it wasn't too dangerous for the body, and it's very showy. I read lots of books about electricity and sought the advice from many people. We created the extremist death match in a world with Onita.
'We don't have TV or sponsorship. We have nothing. If you think hard work makes this company develop, what would you do? I'd just work hard and think hard by myself, and in my thoughts, thinking much harder, but no other option is found...when you think 'what would I do?' then...I just need to explode!' Exactly, Onita. I agree.
That day in Shiodome, we had 4,000 in the audience and it was sold out.
The screaming audience when Onita touched the barbed wire and he showed them his body get flashed and smoke. Even if I understood the theory, my heart was shaken and couldn't stop crying.
Onita in my image is the tough guy, who is challenging to cruel death matches bravely just like in the beginning of Old FMW. It is not the guy who shouts out at the coming back match. 'I'm a liar! Haven't you ever told a lie in your whole life!?'
-Evil Full Power-
Onita's come back was not only for 'the Pogo Retirement Angle'.
If you call it a good way, it was the spot appearance.
If you call it a bad way, it was just how he feels.
It influenced the number of audience. It was getting less and less every time.
Especially our monthly Korakuen Hall show which is an 'own event', and very important for our business.
We promoted our story line to wrestling magazines, and we aim to use it later in country side shows to attract the local audience.
There was a bad sign on October 26, 1996 at the Korakuen Hall show.
It was 2 months before the big event in Komazawa and Onita wasn't back yet.
It was the beginning of the Mr. Pogo retirement angle, which he 'is hoping to fight against Onita at his retirement match.'.
The audience booed Onita when he showed up. They must have being thinking like, 'he made so much fuss about retirement and is coming back already?' Fans are honest and scary. This feeling might have been spread to the others who didn't come to Korakuen?
Since then the profit of Korakuen Hall shows began to drop about 20%.
Even when we try to sell the event, the local promoter's response was very bad too.
That's because Onita did a year long retirement tour in 1994.
Because this was his final tour, he put the price up for a Sold Event to 2,500,000yen (25,000 USD). It's a million yen (10,000 USD) more than usual. Of course they'd think 'No kidding!' he's coming back already.'
As the final tour was sensational, the reaction to his come back was huge.
Maybe to Onita, his last tour was quick money. It's true that our company got the profit from it, but he shouldn't have never come back to the wrestling. I should have stopped him as a company boss but I couldn't. That was my weakness.
I showed my weakness to the other part. When Onita appeared on our show, he used
to grab 200,000-300,000yen (2,000-3,000 USD). He would say 'I'm making this
profit!' I mentioned before that Mr. Pogo's salary was high, but it was only
80,000yen (800 USD) per match. It was unbelievable for such a small company like
Onita's request for the match making became more severe. A year into his come back in 1997 he declared 'Masato Tanaka is my successor!', and tried to get rid of Hayabusa. Tanaka had only 3 years of a career, and he was the last personal assistant to Onita. The referee and match maker Go Ito was having dilemma. Since his retirement, we changed the direction to non-death match, non-Onita style,
and started to get new regular audience. They wouldn't accept the strange story line since Onita's come back. Profit from events were getting worse. However, the wrestling scene was more popular back then, so the total figure of ticket sales weren't bad yet. Masahiro Chono had a huge hit with NWO in NJPW, Naoya Ogawa the ex-Judo Master distinguished himself in wrestling, and in the same year Japanese Lucha Libre Ultimo Dragon's Toryumon was launched in Japan from Mexico.
Our business had been affected by Onita's come back though the damage was not huge yet. This better market condition might be making my decision numb. I as a CEO admitted Onita's come back to FMW and to keeping his position safe.
I thought it'll be all fine. Wrestlers were very angry with his nonsense come back, and I couldn't sort out it out. I guess I was too soft. I was just listening to what Onita wanted.
Knowing how we feel about him or not, Onita started choosing which show he appear at. He was rather quiet just after his come back, but he was getting more demanding. 'When is the Sapporo show? I'll be there.'
'In the next tour, I'll appear at Hakata and Osaka show.' He picked the venue where he wanted to appear.
This decision had to do with his women. Everybody knows he is a womanizer from gossip magazines. Since Old FMW's first tour, he had some girl friends in several cities. It was just like he's got a girl at each port.
'A mysterious letter reveals! Atsushi Onita's separated wife and mistress, 10 years love and hate theater.' (Weekly Hoseki December 1998 Issue)
'Hooligan in Sex World, Atsushi Onita, Never ending mistress link' (Weekly Bunsyun September 2001 Issue)
'Atsushi Onita boasted, 'I've got 30 mistresses!!' (Guts Magazine November 2001 Issue)
'A love letter which Atsushi Onita sent to Kyushu local Wife' (Flash Magazine September 2001 Issue)
'Atsushi Onita,' 'Come to my hotel, Fire!' love letter' (Weekly Bunsyun September 2001 Issue)
As you see it made some head lines in gossip magazines. His relationships with women gave us a headache. Basically pro wrestlers are popular with women. It's normal for female fans to follow him because he's well known.
For example he used to have a A4 (8.3 in × 11.7 inch) paper which filled with women's names, addresses, and phone numbers. He was always on the phone using it. For one reason we called the paper 'Totocalcio'. Since Old FMW time, his personal assistant had to carry the Totocalcio for him. One day, when Onita used Totocalcio, he put it back in his pocket and forgot about it. It was such drama. He threw things in our office and shouted, 'What are you doing!?' Look for it!!'
In the end he found it in his pocket and looked embarrassed. But he never upheld the Totocalcio.
His approaches to girls were very straight forward.
For example, he invites the girl who he is with after to his show.
Every girls knows who he is and have been to his matches before as a wrestling fan.
Then he shows the girl his braveness in the ring.
After the show, the hero of the night asks the girl childishly so many times. 'What did you think of me tonight? 'Was I cool?' until she says yes.
Maybe the macho man turns into a small naughty boy which makes girls think he is cute.
Like in those magazines, Onita would say 'I want to marry you' to any girls and they get so excited. Showing women 2 different images 'Strong' and 'Cute' which has got a huge gap and then telling them 'Marry me' to several girls win them over at the end. I admire him.
His type of girls aren't so good looking.
I never seen him try to chat to very attractive women.
I think his priority was how needy the girl is.
But those girls were all excited about marrying him.
Sometime it would lead to troubles.
Once we got a phone call at the Old FMW office. 'I'm going to die'
It was typical not able to get hold of Onita in such an emergency situation.
We didn't know what to do and in the end, his manager rushed to the woman's house.
Fortunately, nothing serious happened. But we were so worried this might come out and make the headlines.
When he was a wrestling company boss, it doesn't matter if he is reckless. We cared about him and could help him.
But in show biz, they don't do what he says, and he can't choose his work location either.
He had to work in the Tokyo area, so he wasn't able to see women in different areas.
The woman who appeared on Weekly Hoseki in 98, she was a jealous type who lived in Tokyo and often called the FMW office. I answered many times. She was one of those 'excited-for-marriage' women, so Onita couldn't see someone else in Tokyo Area.
There was no touring for him. No excuse for going to a different area. So he wanted to appear at a non-Tokyo match.
It would have still been better if we only had the women problems.
Onita was such a genius about self promotion, but this time was bad luck or what...
Anything he did wasn't going well. It could be because of changing the audience type within a year.
After 1 year of his come back, in October 1997, he made a new team called 'ZEN' as a opponent team to NEO FMW.
'How many parents can punch your own child truly these days? I want to be a parent who can punch. I am leaving from FMW and I declare that I can fight against my own children.' That was his statement.
The members were Yukihiro Kanemura, Mr. Gannosuke, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, Hideki Hosaka, and Hido. But the W*ING guys and the best school friend of Hayabusa (Mr. Gannosuke) and NEO FMW's new hope Kuroda all put together doesn't work as a rival team for NEO FMW.
I thought he only made this group for him to be the top. If he is the leader of the group, he always has to be in the front.
Onita wanted his group as a babyfaces. But we've already got Hayabusa's Team NEO FMW which were the babyfaces.
So Go Ito the match maker made ZEN as a heel. He had no choice. He also considered Onita to be in the center of attention. But Onita didn't understand it. 'Why am I a heel!?' He behaved so arrogant, and demanded Go Ito to correct the story line, but he didn't. We couldn't spoil it.
He didn't like being a heel, he hated it. Since he was brought up in AJPW and taught by Giant Baba, he was always wanting to be the baby face. 'It doesn't make sense! I made this company, why would I have to be a bad guy? I should be the big babyface!'.
He seemed to be grumbling around at the FMW Dojo, or with close magazine editors.
Maybe the audience guessed the fact Onita isn't into this gimmick, and the booing towards him was getting louder.
It was the true booing. It wasn't the booing because the fan was enjoying it and making sounds.
Between the end of 97 to 98, the angle was all about ZEN.
There were conspiracies and arguments and betrayals, and we couldn't focus on the angle.
He maybe finally realized his failure, and he declared ZEN's split. He made another team called 'Team Zero' .
Team Zero was made for being the opponent of Brief Brothers. Brief Brothers were born from the new group which Kodo Fuyuki made called TNR (Team No Respect).
Since 1997, Fuyuki had appeared at NEO FMW temporarily, and then became a permanent member. The Brief Brothers were overdoing their joke. They wore the white underpants as their costume.
January 16th 1998, at the Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, it was the first match Kanemura wore the underpants in the ring. The next month, Kanemura, Jado and Mr. Gannosuke had a skit wearing a underpants (briefs) and a kimono
at Korakuen Hall. It caused mixed response from the audience and the media.
We made three groups in FMW in Summer 98. Onita's 'Team Zero', Fuyuki's 'TNR' (Brief Brothers), and Hayabusa's 'Phoenix'. But in September, after only a few shows, Onita left Team Zero and they split up...
Onita suggested very random of his own ideas. NEO FMW had our own direction already being more of a Strong Style image. We got very confused by his ideas.
Ito did great job to keep our image. He was the youngest in our office, and that's why it might have taken some time to persuade wrestlers, but he had a talent to manage and produce wrestling, and he was a 'wrestling genius'. I must say that those matches didn't exist without him.
It's very difficult listening and considering favors for everybody.
But to Onita, even Ito's effort looked like a trick for him not to be Number 1.
The gap in between them became deeper and deeper everyday.
I remember I was feeling like I abundant in my position as CEO.
Doing much smaller jobs behind the scenes was more suitable for me.
Account management, negotiation with sponsors, video management...my task as CEO was becoming more busy. That's why I gave Ito more responsibility for the wrestling side and as a result and I put a severe strain on him.
If there were any problems, I should have stopped it and being more harsh to improve the business. But I wasn't good at facing others to tell them off. I couldn't win against Onita's charisma. Then the atmosphere within a company had become worst.
It was a year passed since Onita's come back.
-After the angle-
Whatever he does, the audience doesn't like it.
In our office, he shows his ego and blames everybody else.
Onita lost his trust from everybody.
They greet when they see him ,but are so frustrated inside.
Wrestlers started leaving him this time around.
Onita could feel the atmosphere and he complaint,
'Who are they?! Are they kidding?!'
It was my job to calm him down though that wasn't done enough.
The relationship between Onita and NEO FMW was about to be the worst.
Onita often punched the other wrestlers and became more violent.
'I want to be a parent who can punch their child.'
He said so in his come back comment.
Maybe to him punching the wrestlers in private was showing his way as a discipline.
But if you do that in a real family, the child gets scared and loses energy or hates the parent. It was the same in FMW.
As much as Ezaki made audience excited, Onita got angry.
After the show, wrestlers who had good responses from the audience were called to Onita's dressing room and shouted at and punched.
Even the wrestler who is from same area weren't allowed a better fight in front of his local audience.
It just became the usual sight and wrestlers were depressed.
He often said this word to me or Ito.
'Who do you think made this company!? I'm the face of this company!!!!'
Idling himself in the event and antipathy from the other wrestlers he became jealous towards Ezaki and stuck in his bottom of his mind.
In contraction, Ezaki was rapidly leaving from Onita, knowing he shouldn't listen to Onita. Otherwise we can't show the wrestling what the audience wants. But it caused more of Onita's anger.
In 1998, Onita's Anti-Hayabusa movement from the match making was extremely escalated.
'Hey! Do you think the audience gets excited by this!? You should do it like this!'
He poked Ito and tried to change the angle for himself. He has to put himself in the main event.
The worst show was in April 1998 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym. Onita appeared in the semi-final match. The main event was Hayabusa's match. Usually, the semi-final match would just finish simply. But Onita's didn't.
After his match, he continued his microphone performance known as 'Onita Theater', then he jumped into the crowd and took them outside with him. Empty seats were obviously shown. The ace, Hayabusa then appeared.
It was a weird view. Onita saw it and said, 'Look, the crowd came to see me. I should be in the main match!'
'It's ok. I don't care whatever Onita does...' Ezaki would respond. He must be so gutted, he sounded like he's almost neglected in this situation.
Money wise we suffered by Onita also.
It was about the copy right. We used the merchandise company 'F', and they had all copy rights to design and sell our merchandise and paid us loyalty. Onita said, 'Hey, the goods sales is very well because of me, isn't it!? Why can't I get paid? Have a chat with my dad.'
He demanded our important regular income, and grabbed it.
Once every few months, we got paid about 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD).
Onita took away the half of it sometime.
He also demanded the royalty of our video for his copy right separately.
Our most profitable Own Event, Korakuen Hall used to be around 4,500,000yen (45,000 USD) profit, and it had gone down to around 3,500,000yen (35,000 USD). It was because of the ticket sale losses and debt by Onita.
Less 1,000,000yen (10,000 USD) was really painful.
There was a turning point.
In the Summer of 1996, Mr. Matsubara (Onita's step father) offered moving our offices together to Shimomeguro, Tokyo. Mr.Matsubara was the owner of Onita's company, Onita Furoshikiya (currently known as Dai Produce).
'We separated our offices once though, Onita says he wants to work on the same floor with you.'
I was thinking NEO FMW had an office (Nishigotanda, Tokyo), our rent was 117,000yen (1,170 USD). It was only 39.6 small.
Business wasn't good at that time, and I didn't want to pay more expenses. That's why I had to think.
Then Onita side suggested to us, 'We asked you to move in. You can use half of the space and you can pay us just as same as you are paying in Nishigotanda.'
So we decided to move in. It was a very weird space.
It was 198 large that we split in half. Putting the desks together we had 7 members of NEO FMW staff occupying half.
And the rest was used by Dai Promotion, Onita's desk was there and surrounded by the partition wall.
It looked like Onita had a 'boss room' in the wrestling company. You can see our relationship looking at this room space. NEO FMW had nothing to do with Onita before, but now he's in it. He was invading our space.
The real reason for him moving with us soon revealed. He wanted a clue to come back to the wrestling, and money. 'NEO FMW was derived from my own Old FMW. So can you own the debt from Old FMW?' they asked us.
The rent had gone up after 2 months.
'You are using half of the space, so can you pay half of our rent?'
We had to accept these non sense requests.
The rent for this new office was 600,000yen (6,000 USD). We had to pay 300000yen (3,000 USD).
It was a Onita showing off by moving to such a luxury office.
And the loan for the Old FMW debt was 200,000yen (2,000 USD) per month.
All of these request were coming from Mr. Matsubara. Not from Onita's mouth.
He is our share holder and also he understands us and Onita both.
I've heard that if he doesn't listen to Onita's demands, he gets told off by his wife, Onita's mother.
He didn't have to be in a difficult situation if he didn't have our share.
I knew he's having a hard time, so I had to accept his...Onita's demand.
Sharing the office caused not only financial problems, but also direct complaint from Onita
If anything happens against Onita's favor, we get called to the 'boss room'.
'Hey, you! What is this poster! My picture is too small!! You can't sell the tickets!!'
We were shouted at just like we were brand new to the company.
Unlike other people I personally didn't hate this situation. I am here because of Old FMW and Onita.
Like I've mentioned before, I was thankful for him.
I remember that office was a weird space, but I thought that was normal back then.
Lots of problems built up together, and NEO FMW's business had gone worse rapidly since Onita's came back.
I made a big decision.
After I consulted Mr. Matsubara, I borrowed 10,000,000yen (100,000 USD) from a people's finance corporation bank. The event profit wasn't enough to run the business. When our check bounced, Onita spoke to the media, 'I will be responsible for paying half that debt of 20,000,000yen. (200,000 USD)'
Yes, he help pay us some of the money, but I was repaying him back everything he ever paid to us.
There was news that Onita was funding NEO FMW directly but it's not true.
We borrowed from him in the past and paid it off twice, and there wasn't any outstanding debt to him.
I never asked for his money into NEO FMW.
I think Onita is a pro wrestling genius and I respect him as a founder of Old FMW.
I couldn't be here without him. I think the other people in our company think the same way about him.
That's why we allowed him his non sense behavior
General people see him as a selfish man though...we couldn't stop him.
As a result, our business struggled.
-Declaration of Disengagement-
'Send some NEO FMW wrestlers to my own event. If they say no then fire them.'
It was November 1998. I was having a headache from Onita's new problem.
Onita was influenced by Antonio Inoki's new organization, 'UFO'. Inoki had head hunted Naoya Ogawa from NJPW for UFO. Onita tried to make his new unit called 'USO' (which means lie), and wanted it to be a wrestling company.
Here is his angle.
Onita quits FMW. Makes 'USO' and goes to NJPW and AJPW.
He disengages from FMW altogether and the letter will be sent to NEO FMW by registered mail.
All the wrestlers from NEO FMW except Hayabusa join USO.
The audience decreases. Then I beg Onita,' Without you NEO FMW is in crisis. Please help me!' Onita says, 'No, I can't go to your ring.'
Then I tear his letter up and beg him more, and he decides to come back to NEO FMW......
Basically, it's the same structure apart from the top. Instead of Hayabusa it is Onita on top. It is just like saying 'put me on top'. This angle never happened.
But he really approached NJPW and AJPW through the media.
And he had a match against Kensuke Sasaki at NJPW on January 4th 1999.
Onita was escalating his imaginary angle at NEO FMW.
'Arai, don't tell anybody else and don't mention I asked you to ask.
But ask everybody apart from Hayabusa, if they want to help me. If they say no then fire them. Make a list and bring to me.'
'USO' is NEO FMW without Hayabusa. Onita wanted to create the comfortable place because he could be a boss.
I usually agreed to Onita but this time I was confused.
Because he is trying to create his new organization within NEO FMW.
I was sure it'll leave a grudge, it doesn't matter if I am with Onita's side or Hayabusa's side.
He also disturbed my PR work for NEO FMW in front of me without fear. On a phone with a promoter he said 'Hi, it's Onita. Long time! I'm going to make a new company, and take those wrestlers from NEO FMW...so don't worry about them. From now on please support my new group.'
Basically he's asking the promoters not to buy NEO FMW tickets because he's organizing his own event using the same wrestlers.
We have already worked so hard for selling event tickets.
Onita put pressure on us for Sapporo's event. Sapporo usually gives us as huge a profit as Korakuen Hall does.
He asked a powerful local sponsor not to buy FMW tickets.
We worked in the same room, so when Onita is making a phone call, I could hear everything. He also asked NEO FMW staff to dial the phone number!
'Hey, *** (someone's name)! Do you have a list of promoters phone number?'
We were just like his secretaries. 'Excuse me, sir. I'm from FMW. Onita wants to speak to you. I'll pass on to him now.'
Our staff was on a phone to help Onita's event. Not ours.
I was about to ask Onita why he's using our staff to work for him, then he talked about his plan for head hunting except Hayabusa.
I didn't tell anybody about this but some people had some issues already like they got punched or verbally abused by Onita, so his reputation was very bad and people were so angry.
If I obey him, I'd have to sacrifice NEO FMW guys like possible redundancy...We were so united, so I didn't want to do it. I had to choose either Onita or NEO FMW.
One day I asked our staff to book a conference room at Ota Ace Hotel, where we used for a occasional meeting. I invited all the wrestlers and explained everything about what was happening.
The decision were all up to them. Wrestlers don't belong to company. Company belong to wrestlers.
'There were many things that have happened until now since NEO FMW started...I was told not to say anything, but truth is Onita wants to...'
In front of me, there was Hayabusa, Mr. Gannosuke, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, Kintaro Kanemura, Hisakatsu Oya, Ricky Fuji, Flying Kid Ichihara, Koji Nakagawa, Hido, Hideki Hosaka, Gosaku, Mammoth Sasaki, Naohiko Yamazaki, Kaori Nakayama and the match maker Go Ito.
Masato Tanaka was abroad, and Fuyuki, Jado and Gedo were employed by the Fuyuki Promotion at that time, so they were not there.
They all looked quite nervous. There wouldn't be much to say in a usual meeting, but this time the subject was more tense and we had a common enemy, 'Onita'...maybe that had made them out spoken.
'Well, even if it's over, he'll do the same thing again. We've got to sort him out.'
'What are you going to do, Arai? Which will you choose? Onita or NEO FMW?'
I knew the answer already....
I felt like I could finally call myself a CEO.
'I choose you guys.' I answered immediately.
So the disengagement from Onita was agreed by everybody.
Everybody was very quiet. I was expecting to hear more complaints about Onita,
but there wasn't. Maybe they were afraid of someone here would report to Onita afterwards.
'I'm going tell him to leave.'
After a while, I told everybody.
One of the wrestlers said with serious face.
'But...if you go on your own, you might just get punched once and that could be it.'
People often joke about Atsushi Onita's dictatorship.
When we were faced with it for real, it turned such a heavy problem for all of us.
Now we all know what Onita's plan is.
There will be a grudge in between wrestlers and Onita and it doesn't matter if I get punched or not.
We needed him to understand that we want him to leave us properly at once.
'We can't let you go on your own. Let's have a meeting and invite Onita there.' Someone suggested and we all agreed.
'Let's have an office meeting the day after the Yokohama show. I'll just make up a reason to invite Onita. He'll be there. I'll do the talking, you'll all be there also.'
But there was another fear hunting me...
'I might get killed by Onita....'
It might have been the fear of destroying my old habit. Because I was never against him before.
-The Best Bump Taking I could-
The day before the meeting, we had an autumn big event at the Yokohama Bunka
Gym. The main card was Hayabusa (Team Phoenix) vs. Kodo Fuyuki (TNR), which was
a title match over 2 belts the Brass Knuckles Championship belt and Independent
World Heavyweight Championship belt.
Onita appeared in the semi-final singles match as a USO member.
Match making process of this match was difficult. We kept changing his opponent until the last minute.
Finally Mr. Pogo was chosen...same as his come back match!
'You be quiet and listen!! This time Arai allowed you to be here, but don't you ever come back to this ring! Nakamaki, Pogo! If you try to come back to FMW again, I'm going to kill you!!'
Before the match began, Onita shouted at Pogo and Shoji Nakamaki (current secretary for Onita at the parliament), who was there as Pogo's second with a microphone.
It was a rough fight death match using a lot of weapons. Onita won the match.
'Pogo! Nakamaki! I'm leaving this ring and going to NJPW! You sort out with Kojika and go back there! Do you understand!? NJPW announced today...I will appear at the January 4th Tokyo Dome show!'
I'll take your full filled heart with me, and I'm going to Tokyo Dome!'
It was a very long performance and the audience started chanting 'Go home! Onita, Go home!'
They were waiting for Hayabusa's match.
Then Onita went into the crowd and started preaching to them....
As usual he was just trying to clear his frustration for not being in the main event.
Finally the next day and the time had come. For NEO FMW, this is the true big death match. Just in case, I asked to a private investigator to install a small CCTV in the meeting room. I thought, 'If the discussion went wrong and became a court case, it might be useful for the evidence.'. But it was very difficult to put the camera on the partition wall. We couldn't make a hole for it. We tried to put it in between the ceiling and the partition wall, but it'll just look too obvious. In the end, we used a lots of posters to fake it and the CCTV was put just in between the posters. Even though it looked unnatural, so we were thinking about what to do...then the wrestlers started gathering in the meeting room.
We all said in the previous meeting, 'If someone didn't show up, try not to hate him/her.' But every wrestler came on time. I remember I was surprised and felt really happy. I told Onita to come 2 hours later than our meeting time.
We were just waiting for him. I sat on a chair, and wrestlers were standing around me.
It's a shame to tell you, but I joined the life insurance before this meeting.
That's how much I was scared and didn't know what is happening next.
The death payout is 150,000,000yen (1,500,000 USD).
I thought if something happened to me then FMW could still survive with this money.
It felt for a very long time while we waited...we were all prepared and ready when Onita finally showed up.
'What...what are you all...'
He definitely looked perplexed by us.
It was a Saturday so nobody else were there in the office apart from the wrestlers. Onita walked through the empty office and entered the small meeting room and saw all the wrestlers faces.
'We have to have words with you, Onita-san...sorry I made up an excuse for you to come here '.
Surrounded by wrestlers, I began the talk nervously.
Onita sat on a chair slowly. He was wearing a jacket and jeans the same as his usual style.
He had a bitter smile through out the meeting. To him it was just like he got bit by his own dogs. Maybe he just had to fake a smile because of this situation.
'We can't help USO'
'We don't need your interference for our match making'
'We don't want you to be in a FMW ring anymore.'
'Why? You could have told me directly. You don't need to gang up like this.'
After I told him those declaration, he said quietly. 'I'm sorry that's everybody's opinion.'
When I answered so, he seemed give up.
Wrestlers were maybe feeling guilty for him, the atmosphere in a room was very heavy indeed.
Onita stood up and said 'Okay...'
He left the meeting room, but he stayed in a office and read a magazine.
We couldn't just leave until Onita left the building.
Not knowing where to go, wrestlers were just standing by.
Onita might have thought that unless he finished the conversation it wouldn't end.
He went into his room and called me. 'Here it comes...'
I thought he was going to punch me. If it was in a meeting room, wrestlers were there so he can't be so violent, but in his room...
I was wrong. He just tried to discuss our future.
'Well...this time you won. So are you all moving out from my office then?
He told me so like he was spitting it out.
I said, 'Yes, of course. We'll look for our new office immediately. I couldn't see his face. I told him that we were moving without looking at his face, Onita seemed to understood my thoughts and he only said, 'I got it.'
He opened the door and looked towards the wrestlers and said, 'Good Bye.'
There was a man who pursued his own style, like a lone wolf, my favorite Atsushi Onita. His quiet behavior might be his ultimate bump that he could take. But our search for new office was delayed because we had to move out at the same time as his office. For six months, we had to spend time in the same office uncomfortably.
Click here for Chapter 4