On September 11, 2000 at night in Atlanta, I was the only reporter present at the meeting between Muto and Hayabusa, and I heard an amazing conversation.
In response to Hayabusa's direct appeal for a match, Muto said, "I have something even greater in mind. Will you help me in this great movement that will shake the wrestling world to its very foundations?"
At the FMW Korakuen Hall show on August 28th, Hayabusa said, "I want to fight Great Muta.'' Two days later, when I told Muto about this in Tucson, Arizona, he said, "Hayabusa is one of the few wrestlers in Japan who can compete in the American major leagues, but I won't know until I actually meet him.'' as his answer. In response, Hayabusa flew to Atlanta to take advantage of his four days off, even though the FMW series was in progress.
Two days later, in Tucson, Arizona, he told Mutoh, "Hayabusa is one of the few wrestlers in Japan who can make it in the major American wrestling tournaments, but I have to meet him. I won't know until I see him in person." In response, Hayabusa took advantage of his four days off to fly to Atlanta, even though the FMW tour was in progress.
At 9:40 p.m. on September 11, the flight was delayed for more than five and a half hours. Kaz Hayashi and I were waiting at Gate B1 at Atlanta International Airport when the unmasked Hayabusa appeared in front of us. He looked exhausted. According to our original plan, he was supposed to arrive at 4:06 p.m.
However, the United flight from Narita was delayed for more than an hour, and he missed his connecting flight at Chicago O'Hare Airport. The next flight was cancelled due to aircraft failure. Finally, he boarded a Delta flight, but the Chicago area was hit by a thunderstorm, and the plane didn't take off. "I was kicked and stepped on. The plane was full, and I was in the middle seat...," said Hayabusa in a hushed voice.
Anyway, we got into Kaz Hayashi's car, who had come to pick us up as a facilitator for the meeting, and drove straight to the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta. From the car, Hayashi calls Muto on his cell phone. Just as Hayabusa was checking in, Muto arrived. Hayabusa bowed and greeted him, and Muto said, "Hi. I am Muto. I look forward to working with you." He responded politely.
While Hayabusa carries his luggage into his room, I talk with Muto in the lobby lounge. The first to open his mouth is Muto, "What did he come here for?" he asked.
"So, like I said the other day, I guess he wants a match against Muta, right?'' I explained, and Muto replied, "I see...this sounds delicious to me.'' Muto had a smiling face.
When Hayabusa returns, Muto suddenly asks, "So, what did you want me to do?''
"Anyway, you're probably tired, but you don't have time, right? Since we're here, let's have a drink and talk.'' Muto said.
The venue was moved to "Club Hanamizuki''. Muto's response to Hayabusa's request for a match was, "If we were to have a match, it would be nearly impossible as a practical matter unless you spent at least two months in WCW.''
"That's impossible..." (Hayabusa)
I have a more interesting idea. By the way, do you know any wrestlers from other organizations?" (Muto)
If it's an Indie wrestler, I know most of them." (Hayabusa)
"What I'm thinking of is creating a unit of carefully selected athletes that transcends the boundaries of the organization. A cross-border team made up of only top wrestlers who are cool and can do their jobs... Please don't include any bad guys.'' Hayabusa's eyes lit up at Muto's words.
Various names of wrestlers are mentioned, with Muto responding with such statements as "that guy is too conservative and won't do it," or "that guy stinks and it won't work."
Whose names were mentioned? I do not intend to reveal the entirety of their conversation, including the off record parts, but I think you can understand what they were talking about by just including those parts. The meeting lasted until 3 a.m., and ended with Muto saying, "Let's have dinner in Ginza again next time," and the mood was great.
How will the two realize their dream? It remains to be seen. It was nearly 4:00 a.m. on the following day when Hayabusa returned to his hotel room after a late-night meeting with Muto in Atlanta.
Hayabusa, who had brought his costume with him, was planning to visit the WCW "Thunder" show in Roanoke, Virginia, that day to make a direct appeal to participate in the show, he had a flight scheduled for 7:25 a.m., but because of the time, he decided it would be better to change his flight and changed the time to 9:40 a.m. He was still very excited. Still, his spirits were high and he could not sleep right away.
Unfortunately, Muta was not going to participate on "Thunder," so we boarded the Delta flight to Greensboro, North Carolina exhausted. The flight time was only an hour or so, but the WCW show was 2.5 hours away by rental car...
Hayabusa was in a fainting state beside me as I pushed myself to drive. The wrestlers were to be at the building by 2:00 pm. We arrived at the Roanoke Civic Center 15 minutes before 2:00 pm. To negotiate our entry, we first look for the chief agent, Johnny Ace.
Jumping into a major U.S. promotion show is an unthinkable thing, but after consulting with assistant booker Terry Taylor, Ace gave us the OK right away.
Half an hour later, a whiteboard with the day's lineup is placed backstage. Hayabusa is in the second match of the "Worldwide" before the "Thunder" match. His opponent is Frog.
Taylor asks me, "I hear he's like Sabu, does he use tables or something?"
I told him, "He's a brilliant wrestler."
Taylor then replies, "Okay, we start at 7:30, so get dressed between 6:00 and around 6:30."
Hayabusa said, "I want to see Mike (Gladiator)," so I went looking for him in the catering room and found Mike Awesome right away. He said, "This haircut ... it's embarrassing. It's for my gimmick...don't look at my corners," Gladiator laughed. He's made a big rise in the company and is now one of the top guys, but he's not comfortable with the company-dictated haircut.
Konnan then came over and said to Hayabusa, "We were in AAA together, do you remember?"
Hayabusa would meet the "The Chosen One" Jeff Jarrett, Rey Mysterio, one of WCW's biggest superstars "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, who transformed into the biggest muscle monster in the history of wrestling. Someone from the office would also come over and meet him.
One of members of the young wrestler's Three Count team would come up to me and ask me to hold his camera and take a picture of him and Hayabusa.
"I've seen a lot of your matches on video. Please will you take a picture with me?" (Not noted in the magazine but it was Shane Helms)
In the meantime, Jimmy Hart, the agent in charge of Worldwide, asked me about "copy right" (portrait rights).
"These issues that must be cleared legally."
However, this was resolved and ring announcer David Penzer contacted WCW's legal department and had the necessary documents faxed to them.
Afterwards, Hayabusa chatted with many wrestlers and took a commemorative photos at their request. I got a call from Kaz Hayashi in Atlanta, he said that his opponent, The Frog, was "a very good wrestler.'' "Tell that to Hayabusa."
Finally an hour before show. I am told "The match cannot take place unless a portrait rights release is signed."
I go and search for David Penzer again, but he says "Jimmy Hart is waiting for me."
I look for Hart in a panic. I looked everywhere: in the booking room, behind the screen, in catering... I couldn't find him, so I decided to wait in front of the booking room. After a while, he finally appeared and said, "I'm sorry, but he can't have a match."
Ace showed up and explained the situation. "Virginia is one of the few states that requires a wrestler's license issued by the athletic commission."
Elliot Marnick, a local promoter, told me..."it requires blood tests and a lot of formalities. "There's nothing we can do now," he said, leaving Hayabusa stunned.
Ace said, "I really want Hayabusa to come back. I want him to participate in the international tournament that I'm thinking about right now,'' and even though he was in a meeting, he pulled Big Boss Vince Russo over.
Russo is usually very unfriendly towards us in the media, but he was kind enough to pose for a rare photo. ``Anyway, I'll talk to the boss (Russo). Please come back,'' said Ace.
This is how it all happened. Hayabusa received a love call from WCW. (Photos and text/Jimmy Suzuki)
The only follow up part I could find about this was the next week issue had one blurb following a Hayabusa match that stated: Hayabusa is moving toward his dream, and it goes without saying that one of those dreams includes a cross-border tag team with WCW's Muto.
Keiji Muto was then interviewed by the magazine the following week about his time in WCW, and I did not see any mention about Hayabusa in it.