Interviewer: What was it like in the dojo for a senior (Hayabusa) and a junior (Tanaka) that joined two years apart?
Tanaka: It was easy to interact with everyone when I first joined, but
after two days I became a different person while living in the dojo.
Hayabusa: The dojo was terrible haha.
Tanaka: The image is quite different from what everyone thinks. It's impossible for people today to understand. Most wrestlers today would have quit.
Hayabusa: The practice wasn't incredibly hard, it was everything else that went with it is why everyone would quit.
Tanaka: When I entered this world, I thought practice would be the toughest, but it was actually everything else but practice.
Hayabusa: We are the same. I wish I was under Mammoth Sasaki or Mr. Gannosuke instead.
Tanaka: Gannosuke was terrible haha.
Hayabusa: It was terrible when I saw it haha. Gannosuke was so playful that I didn't think he could be a killer.
Tanaka: After I entered, the sake brewing began after the first or second night. I did not want to drink, but both Gannosuke and Ezaki forced me to join them. Ezaki alone is a nice person, but when he was Gannosuke he would become a different person.
Hayabusa: I was drunk also haha.
Interviewer: You both lived in the dojo together for about half a year?
Hayabusa: I left in October 1993.
Tanaka: We were together for about 10 months. I made my debut in July 1993.
Hayabusa: After his debut, there was an event at a local area there was an event to call me "Onii-chan" (older brother) so I started calling him brother after that. I think I am the only one that calls him brother.
Tanaka: You and Ricky Fuji. One time I was getting attacked at ringside and bloodied and Ricky came over and screamed "What are you doing to my brother?" and then he swung a chair at them haha. Back then I got told my debut match would be against Mr. Chin in Nagoya on July 30, 1993. I don't think it will be a normal debut match if it's against Mr. Chin. I don't think what I learned in the dojo will matter in this match.
Hayabusa: Well in some ways it would haha.
Tanaka: I had a lot of thoughts going into the tour, but then Sambo Asako happened to be injured. I don't know if he really was injured or good at exaggerating haha
Tanaka: That's why my debut was moved up. Then after finishing my match with Ricky, I was planning on making my real debut about a week later, but Sambo came back and my scheduled match was off. My parents had came in from Kansai to Nagoya to see my match. So I am watching the match from ringside when The Sheik came over and began attacking me and left me bleeding. I bled as my mom watched.
Hayabusa: Your mom had a front row seat to watch you bleed.
Tanaka: They were sitting far away and a relative who came with my parents said "Someone is bleeding. Isn't that Masato?" then Ricky Fuji came to ringside and said "What are you doing to my brother!?" and swung a chair haha. Sheik caught him and stabbed him and he was killed also. Then my mom started running down to ringside with a chair screaming "What did you do to my son?!" and if Ezaki had not stopped her, my mom would have been covered in blood by The Sheik.
Hayabusa: It's common for a newcomer get cut by The Sheik, but after that happened I began calling Tanaka brother.
Interviewer: Hayabusa went on a overseas expedition and came back a star. Did you two pass each other during that time?
Tanaka: No, when Ezaki came back, Onita was on the verge of retiring and we were at Korakuen Hall when we found out Tarzan Goto was not at the show and he wasn't coming back to FMW. Then I found out we also were losing Gannosuke. I asked Go Ito in the locker room "What are we going to do?" Onita's retirement match is not going to be done properly now. I was sad and then I thought since Gannosuke had quit, that Ezaki would quit also when I asked Go Ito, but he told me "No Ezaki is staying" so I was a little relieved.
Hayabusa: Go Ito told me that you had asked if I was going to leave with them.
Tanaka: It had only been a couple of years since I made my debut, and I didn't know anything about the company, so I was worried what we were going to do if you left also.
Hayabusa: You were an attendant for Onita, right?
Tanaka: Yes, after Ezaki and Nakagawa, I became Onita's attendant. I was always worried about getting in trouble with him, but I never got in trouble and it was an easy job.
Tanaka: Yes. I felt it was easy.
Hayabusa: It was not fun for me. As Onita knows, I grew up a fan of Tiger Mask and hated the wrestler Atsushi Onita, and Onita would always end up saying bad things about Tiger Mask to me.
Tanaka: You came in to FMW without being a fan of it right?
Hayabusa: That's right I came in without looking. I just wanted to be a professional wrestler. I knew very little about FMW when I joined, so I entered it just to enter it. So when I met him for the first time, it wasn't "Oh, Onita-san!" but it was "Oh, Onita-san." haha. However, while I was his attendant, I probably learned more from Onita than anyone else. I think there are a lot of people who think "Hayabusa doesn't like Atsushi Onita" but I don't hate Onita as much everyone thinks. When we see each other, we talk normally to one another. Mr. Onita also has a feeling that he had been paying attention to me since I was his new disciple there is always a delicate sense of distance from him. When he comes up to me he still calls me "Hayabusa" with care and I tell him it's easier to just call me "Ezaki".
Tanaka: It's easier for him to call me Tanaka also haha.
Hayabusa: Congratulations on winning the Best Tag Team Award (2015 Tokyo Sports)
Tanaka: Thank you haha.
Hayabusa: Is this your first time winning an award with Tokyo Sports?
Tanaka: No, my fourth. I won Rookie of the Year (1995), Tag Team (2002), and Fighting Spirit (2008).
Hayabusa: Wow, I only won one Fighting Spirit (1997). It's amazing you have won it four times, but it should be expected.
Tanaka: No no haha.
Hayabusa: I am serious. You don't drink alcohol, you take things seriously. You don't play pranks like we did, sometimes I would get angry and just want to let loose and have fun.
Tanaka: That's probably why I wanted to quit in the Dojo. I was happy with the practice and the pain, but I couldn't stand doing things like Penis Art haha. At night, I don't know why but I would see Ezaki just painting his penis by himself, but then he would tell me "do this and make it interesting"
Hayabusa: I'm doing it, so you do it too and you can't refuse haha.
Tanaka: That's right and Gannosuke who wasn't doing it but would tell me to "do it".
Hayabusa: I took the initiative, but it was fun even when I came back to Japan, I would run around the hotels nude all the time. When I was a young boy living at my parents inn I tied a microphone cord around it once and gave a girl staying there the other side and she jumped rope with it as I yelled "jump!" haha.
Tanaka: That would get you arrested now haha. If you went to court for that, you would definitely lose.
Hayabusa: I was already drinking at that point. Living in a Hot Springs Inn there was always alcohol available for me even though I was not suppose to.
Tanaka: There was the time where were at a hot springs inn that we went with Gannosuke and Gosaku that had a strip theater and a older lady came out and began stripping to the music haha. She was 60 or something like that and I had to drink after seeing someone older than my mother begin to strip haha.
Hayabusa: I was sitting by myself away from you guys and I got really drunk and I wanted to leave, but I couldn't walk without grabbing the railing so I had Tanaka come help me.
Tanaka: I asked you how many drinks did you have? You told me 5 drinks of sake. 5? You would be in bad shape if you just drank 3. Then Ezaki pulled it out as I was trying to help him stand up and he began to pee right there in the theater. It was only us wrestlers in the theater but the stripper saw Gannosuke and Gosaku laughing at Ezaki and thought they were laughing at her and stopped the show and told us "you are professional wrestlers so be professional now look at this boys!" as we all held back laughter.
Hayabusa: I drank so I didn't have to look at it haha. When we went on tour, things like that happened all the time. The tours back then were so long. After that, my younger brother (Tanaka) went to ECW, and the flow of the Entertainment route started.
Tanaka: I went to ECW for half a year, and when I was about to go fly out again, but I was told "Don't go" usually when you are an overseas student for half a year and come back, there is an announcement of a triumphant return match, right? I was just told, "Korakuen isn't selling well, so please wrestle on this show."
Hayabusa: The standard for not selling well has changed. Looking at current situation, the show would be considered a success, but this was an era where if the show didn't do 80% capacity at Korakuen Hall there would be fear the promotion would close down next month. It was a big deal because there were not people standing up in the balcony. That's when the flow of Entertainment came out. The main reason everyone was so worried was because DirecTV had closed down. That era is interesting, the quality of entertainment was low, but the quality of the matches was high. The Entertainment stuff was stuff we would do when I was student wrestling. When I was first got in the Dojo, I was told "never say you're from student wrestling" even though the media people knew it, they never wrote about it. I was thrilled when I was finished with the Super J-Cup as I worried that Riki Choshu would find out I had been a student wrestler and kick me out of the tournament. Now there many student wrestlers in professional wrestling.
Tanaka: There have been top class ones.
Hayabusa: The reason is that fans misunderstand it because there are people that think they have learned the basics because of student wrestling and I always think that's a different meaning. You learn the basics after becoming a professional wrestler. You do learn stage courage from it though, but you have changed so much since you went abroad.
Tanaka: Yes, if I had not gone abroad, I don't know if I would be who I turned out to be as a wrestler with out.
Hayabusa: Going abroad and gaining confidence is a great thing. Before I went, I was just trying hard. An overseas expedition allows you to be a prototype of how see yourself as a wrestler in the current state when you come back.
Tanaka: ECW had a lot of messed up wrestlers, but also a lot of wrestlers who did pretty professional wrestling. There were hardcore wrestlers like Sandman and Sabu and wrestlers who had good matches like Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn, and it was fun to watch them for along time. I didn't like American wrestling until I went to ECW, everything from the first match to the end was interesting. I watched the matches and learned how good ECW was and it quite fun. Getting to wrestle different opponents as I have never worked anywhere else besides FMW until I became a free agent. I don't know who my opponent is that night when I go abroad so I wrestled people I have never wrestled before, but the fans were quite excited, or they got excited which made me confident, and I did it with various types of wrestlers, so I feel like I am okay with any person.
Hayabusa: You also got to wrestle Mike a lot there.
Tanaka: I went there at a good and got to face Mike a lot before he died, but I am glad we had such a good rivalry. If it weren't for those matches, I would not have been called for WWE's One Night Stand PPV which would revive ECW years later. I still get offers from overseas, and if it wasn't for my matches with Mike I would not get those offers.
Hayabusa: Now when you go abroad you are a legend.
Tanaka: No, I am not a legend haha. There are people that support me a little.
Hayabusa: When Tanaka came back he was a completely different wrestler. The only thing that didn't change was the pain of his elbow. After all, he jumps with a murderers face haha.
Tanaka: That is often said haha.
Hayabusa: He looks like a killer when he jumps at you haha, and it hurts! I was always like "come on!" but I know if the elbow didn't hurt, it wouldn't be as satisfying. What was your biggest obstacle you overcame in ECW?
Tanaka: I was there for half a year and then FMW called me to come back, but ECW had made me an offer to come again for a ECW PPV and I was told it was okay for me to go back so I was excited. Then Paul Heyman said "Come back for a long run" and I told him "No I can't do that" as I had Victor Quinones translate for me. Then he came back with an offer of a tremendous amount of money haha.
Hayabusa: That's how it is like overseas.
Tanaka: I said because I am in FMW is it okay if I do the tours and then come back once they are over? So I went back and forth and I was allowed to live in the same apartment as TAJIRI and Super Crazy so I split rent with them and gave the money to TAJIRI. I spent a lot of money over there on protein and supplements. Over there is good meat.
Hayabusa: Yeah, if I made good money overseas I would like to eat good meat. When I was in Mexico, I would make money and go to a high end steak restaurants.
Tanaka: When I first went abroad, I thought Japanese people weren't popular at all. That was my expectation haha.
Hayabusa: I thought all professional wrestlers were popular and that is partly why I became one to be honest. I had such a simple desire, when I came down to it, I could not deny my feeling.
Tanaka: Eiji Ezaki would have been a popular wrestler. Maybe haha.
Hayabusa: Even if I was a popular wrestler I could hide my identity from most people. I would be in line at the store and I would be told "You're a big guy, what do you do?" and I could just say "I do physical labor" "What kind of physical labor?" "Well I wear Jika-Tabi boots, knickerbocker trousers, I wear head gear and I fly and bounce off high places." I didn't even have to lie. They just think I work at some weird job, not that I am Hayabusa haha.
Interviewer: From the Perspective of Hayabusa, Tanaka wrestled abroad
and you said he changed a lot when he came back, then he ended up getting
shoulder surgery and it seemed like he was able to gain a step back after it,
Hayabusa: During our time, it was important for professional wrestlers to be bigger, but when I saw Tanaka lose weight his speed was increased and he had better stamina. What's amazing is that his strength did not change either. When I saw his new look, I was amazed at first. I think it took courage that he dared to do it. Now that kind of wrestling style is becoming mainstream.
Tanaka: From my point of view, Ezaki is a wrestling genius. When I watch old videos, I now feel the awesomeness that I didn't feel at the time. He was so charismatic at the time. When it comes to attracting people with charisma, I thought I never could catch Ezaki at the time. What's amazing is that Firebird Splash and Phoenix Splash are still inherited by modern professional wrestlers as special moves. When I first saw it, I thought what is this move? I'm scared and can't even do a Moonsault.
Hayabusa: Didn't you practice doing it one time?
Tanaka: I did, but I soon realized I can't do this.
Hayabusa: It's different for each person. I wanted to be a power fighter, but I couldn't have such a match because my body didn't grow at all, so I started practicing jumping moves looking to be recognized that way. My original goal in wrestling was to be like Stan Hansen or Bruiser Brody. However, I knew I wouldn't be the best but I was confident I could be a good highflier. I practiced with Rey Mysterio in Mexico and with how talented he was, I was not that far behind him. I am not saying I was the best, but I was able to learn how to do many moves to completion.
Tanaka: I couldn't believe a person with such big shoulder width and so tall could spin around like that.
Hayabusa: The Firebird Splash was originally the Scorpio Splash, but in addition to creating the Phoenix Splash I also created the Falcon Arrow. Now there is many great wrestlers that use the Falcon Arrow. I am glad that move still remains. Well, my only request is that is that it is used more cleanly if possible haha. It's often sloppy.
Tanaka: After I returned from surgery and lost weight, I started doing the Sliding D and the number of people who have used a similar move has increased. Hirooki Goto used a sliding lariat in a match with me and Tomohiro Ishii uses one as well. Takao Omori does a Sliding Axe Bomber haha.
Hayabusa: I always felt that Tanaka's elbow had the most painful after he came back from overseas over anyone else haha.
Tanaka: But it did not look good. I was fat. So after I had surgery on my shoulder, I wondered if I lost weight and my stamina got better it would allow for it to look better.
Hayabusa: At the time I always had a lot of pressure when I would have a match against Tanaka so it was always a pain haha. Especially when we would have a singles match at a big venue.
Tanaka: We had many big singles matches at big venues, but I never won a singles match .
Hayabusa: Yes, that's right. I didn't realize that until I was told that the other day. I feel like I lost quite a bit.
Tanaka: I never won a singles match against Eiji Ezaki or Hayabusa. That's an issue as he is the only person I have never beaten. I have to get him back soon. I will my best at making sure it happens haha.
Hayabusa: But when I think about having to eat Tanaka's elbow again, I get anxiety just thinking about it.
Tanaka: I am going in tight. You have never eaten the Sliding D yet.
Hayabusa: I hate those elbows haha. I'm horrified.
Tanaka: I think it's much better than the jumping elbow.
Interviewer: Hayabusa, wasn't it refreshing to see Tanaka go to New Japan and defeat the young grasshoppers there?
Hayabusa: It's nice seeing that. It might not be what I say out loud, but I think "That's my Tanaka" which is a selfish phrase, but it's the feeling of "That's amazing, Tanaka!"
Tanaka: Yes, I hear things all the time the likes of "How can you beat New Japan wrestlers if you're from FMW?"
Hayabusa: That's a sad story, isn't it?
Tanaka: That fans think that that?
Hayabusa: It's true that Tarzan Goto taught me the basics of professional wrestling, but the rest is not something I learned in FMW. We both learned so much while going overseas. Everything I learned was useful in completing Hayabusa. It's just a matter of people not understanding.
Tanaka: Yes, and ignorance.
Hayabusa: It doesn't matter what promotion Hayabusa or Tanaka came from. Not to mention when it comes to winning or losing. Even if you lose, we still put out the content that made the match enjoyable. I would rather lose a good match than win a boring one. That's why my brother (Tanaka) is still one of the best today.