Tokyo Dome City
I recently returned from my Japan trip from January 2nd to January 9th. George Mayfield set up what would be announced as his last trip to Japan. When he announced Hayabusa & Kintaro Kanemura meetings would be taken place I made the notion to go on the trip. I didn't know it when taking the picture above, but the circular shape building is the new JCB Meets Port which opens in April 2008 with many wrestling promotions running there instead of Korakuen Hall.
Flying over the Alaskan Mountains
I left early in the very early morning of January 2, 2008 to the New Orleans Airport to Chicago to meet with George and the rest of the guys that were heading on the trip. The Sugar Bowl was the night before so the airport was filled with University of Hawaii fans with many of them going on the same Chicago flight as me before heading back home. I arrived to Chicago and met with George Mayfield and several of the guys going on the trip before we took off for a 13 hour flight to Tokyo, Japan. We left Chicago at around 1 PM Central Standard Time on January 2nd and ended up arriving in Tokyo after 7 PM Japanese Standard Time on January 3rd.
We took the bus out of the Tokyo airport where they took us to the Tokyo Dome Hotel which was in short distance from the YMCA Hotel (which was a surprisingly nice hotel) but before we made a walk towards our hotel, IWGP Tag Team Champion Travis Tomko was spotted in the Tokyo Dome Hotel lobby. Many of the guys including myself went up to him and shook his hands and noticed there were TNA camera men filming. The camera men asked us where we were from and told us that they were filming their TNA Global Impact show which is to air January 17th. They asked each of us where we were from and then in probably the only piece that will air if any of it does air they asked us why we came all this way to Japan with most of the guys lying and saying that we came to Japan to see TNA at the New Japan Tokyo Dome show.
We walked to our hotel afterwards and I went straight to sleep. Everyone else ended up going back to the Tokyo Dome Hotel to see if they could find anymore wrestlers to talk to. They ended up seeing Shoichi Funaki come down from the elevator as he talked to them and took pictures with them. I needed sleep, and I gladly took missing out on meeting Funaki for that rare bit of sleep I ended up getting.
Imperial Castle Closed. Keep Out.
Outside the Imperial Castle
January 4th was the big day. Lunch with Hayabusa and the New Japan 1/4/08 Tokyo Dome show. Before the scheduled lunch I went walking with another guy on the tour to the Imperial Castle to find out it was too early and was closed. We ended up walking around it as it was an enormous amount of land although beautiful and peaceful. What I pictured Japan always as was seen at outside around the Imperial Castle.
Lunch with Eiji Ezaki at the Tokyo Dome Sizzler on January 4, 2008.
It was now time for the Lunch with Hayabusa. We ended up heading to the Sizzler inside the Tokyo Dome Hotel where we waited for George to show up to tell us where in the Sizzler were our reserved seats were, but before George would show up out came Hayabusa & friend/magazine editor/translator Fumi Saito for the lunch. Fumi got us to where our reserved tickets and we sat down with Hayabusa. Meeting with Hayabusa was obviously going to be the highlight for me no matter what, and it was. It was the reason I came all this way to meet someone that I had followed for ten years, that I had went out of my way to get every possible television match that he was in, and that I have spent hours upon hours writing about his career. I enjoyed meeting with Hayabusa. I felt it went great for me personally. The problem with the lunch and overall a problem throughout the trip was that people who went on the trip to Japan were not really the biggest of actual Japanese wrestling fans. A lot of them were your typical ROH type fans which I don't care for. No offense to any ROH fans out there, it's just I don't like wannabe smart marks that aren't really that smart but damnit they sure think they are. That's a lot of that audience, not everyone of course, but I just can't get behind promotion that goes for those kind of fans. But those were the people on this trip, and I felt like I was the only one that really knew anything about Hayabusa's career beyond he wrestled on a ECW Pay Per View. Asking Hayabusa about what he thought of today's American indy wrestling scene after he had just said he does not watch Japanese wrestling anymore made me roll my eyes and it wasn't the only time I did it during the interview. I was also proud that I was the only one that felt like I knew how to talk to Hayabusa as I asked the most questions and never needed Fumi to translate once for my questions where as everybody else needed Fumi's translation help for Hayabusa to understand what he was saying.
But with all that out of the way. I asked Hayabusa who his best friend in wrestling was and was surprised to hear Jinsei Shinzaki be the answer after a previous interview hearing Hayabusa say he and Jinsei were not the best of friends when they teamed together back in FMW and All Japan. I asked him why he cut his hair before his Yokohama Arena November 23, 1999 match against Gannosuke as H in which he replied that the hair dye he was changing for every show was killing his hair and he preferred it short. He stated his natural hair color was his favorite though. I asked him what his favor color to wear in the ring was he answered red. I asked him a question that a reader of this site had asked me about in what Garuda has been up to lately with Hayabusa saying he has not retired, but just simply doesn't wrestle anymore and has another job. He stated that he actually hated the Death Matches he was in for May 5th in 1995 and 1996 and that they were so painful and that he got little opportunity to show his wrestling ability in the matches. He did feel it would have been better if he had gone over Atsushi Onita in his Retirement match but felt like it was Onita's promotion and decision and he earned the right to do whatever he wanted to do. He stated that his hardest match ever was the Iron Man match against Kodo Fuyuki on September 26, 2000 but that his August 31, 1995 thirty minute time limit draw match against Hisakatsu Oya might have been his favorite but he was hesitant on that decision. He didn't like the Darkside of Hayabusa gimmick because the horns to the mask were always annoying to him. He wasn't nervous at all for the biggest match of his life on May 5, 1995 but that he hated doing the moonsault off the cage in the match as well as doing it on December 22, 1997 in the War Games match. The biggest struggle was him understanding my question about him wearing the in ring costume he wore for the July 27, 1997 match because he had a hard time understanding exactly what costume I was referring to, but finally caught on to what I was talking about and he stated a friend had made the costume and asked him to wear it for the show. I told him and surprised him about how I had watched his Florida matches in 1995 which included his one and only time he wrestled as a heel which he smiled at. I told him how the crowd in Florida called him a Power Ranger during the match he actually remembered. When asked what he would say to someone wanting to get into the professional wrestling, he just simply said "Don't".
I asked him about the story that Ricky Fuji use to tell about how one time Eiji had gotten with a girl after an FMW show in 1991 when he was a rookie and afterwards Eiji was feeling so good about himself that he started posing in the mirror before getting a call which was Ricky Fuji stating that next time he should close the blinds and Eiji looked over to see all the FMW heels in the hotel across the street watching Eiji and laughing at him. Hayabusa laughed at the story and said Ricky was a liar, and that if anyone was doing any posing it was definitely Ricky Fuji but made sure to point out Ricky was a good guy and a good friend. He thought the Anus Exploding match was suppose to just be silly and not taken seriously but laughed about it. He felt Megumi Kudo was only a so-so worker. He confirmed that he felt like he was doing to die in the ring that night of the accident but that he was willing to die for FMW because of how much he loved it. He stated that he thinks he would be working for Dragon Gate right now if he was still wrestling today and that he doesn't know what promotion he wants to come back to the ring to other than naturally FMW if it was around still. Many of the group wandered off when they saw Scott Steiner getting lunch but I just wanted to hear more stories from Hayabusa and hear more answers to his questions. I asked him what he thought of Bret Hart and was surprised to hear that he was an idol to him. George then ended up having Hayabusa sign 150 items of his merchandise and during breaks Hayabusa would sarcastically act out of breath and laughed and agreed when I stated this was tougher than his Iron Man match. There was nothing better than making Hayabusa laugh and smile the amount of times I was able to during the Lunch.
Taking a picture with Hayabusa.
It was then time to go outside and take pictures with Hayabusa as he brought two masks a new red one and his old white one with him deciding to go with the white one. Fumi told a funny story how he asked Hayabusa where did all the masks and wrestling pants and boots he wore for so many years ago and Hayabusa just did not know where they were anymore as they were no longer in his apartment and he guesses they were just taken out of his house and put up for auction without him knowing because he has no idea where any of them are anymore. After taking pictures including a group picture that Hayabusa would put on his Blog talking about the group and how energetic the whole group was. Once he put the Hayabusa mask on, many of the fans and with it being right near Korakuen Hall where there's more wrestling fans in that area than any other area in Japan, many of the Japanese fans walked by and wanted to take pictures with Hayabusa as well which he agreed to with a smile on his face.
Hayabusa around the Tokyo Dome City.
Jeremy Borash randomly walking by.
During all this, Jeremy Borash of TNA randomly walked by to tell George that Mike Johnson of Pro Wrestling Insider said hello. George said thank you, but had no idea who he was.
We now had an hour and a half to kill before the Tokyo Dome show. I ended up going with a bunch of the group to a Japanese wrestling store called Battle Royal which was right outside the Tokyo Dome City. Right outside the building there was a long line for an autograph session with Vader. We ended up going inside and by the time we left, it was said that Vader was feeling horrible and couldn't finish the autograph signing anymore. Vader who recently had hip replacement surgery screamed in pain as he had to helped out to a car. As we were walking back to the YMCA hotel we randomly saw Vader sitting in a car by himself looking miserable. When we met up with George at a Hot Dog store right next to Korakuen Hall to go to the Tokyo Dome we were told that Tajiri and Shoji Nakamaki had just left. I ended up meeting with Matt from the Zero-One USA that informed me that Mirko Cro Cop's kick to Kintaro Kanemura's head had broken Kanemura's skull and that he had bleeding of the brain as a result and he ended up snoring while his eyes were still open at the Pro Wrestling Summit back on December 31st and that Kanemura was in the hospital and our meeting with Kanemura was very unlikely.
Tokyo Dome before the New Japan show and after the New Japan show.
My first of several encounters with Ricky Marvin
While we were waiting to enter the Tokyo Dome for the New Japan January 4th show, out of the sea of Japanese fans one of the group members spotted NOAH's Ricky Marvin with "Hey! You're Ricky Marvin!" which Ricky replied "Yeah, I broke my foot man." Ricky took pictures and signed autographs before it was time to enter the Tokyo Dome.
Before the Tokyo Dome show.
The Tokyo Dome was about 4 hours long and the crowd I would guess was around 18,000 in the building. The report before the show was that there were 10,000 tickets sold for the show the day before, but New Japan Dome shows are known for a decent walk up crowd. Although the show is already online I would say Kurt Angle vs. Yuji Nagata was definitely the most heated and best match of the show, but Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi was a great match itself. Overall a solid good show from New Japan with a weak mid card matches.
Walking out of the Tokyo Dome show.
The group trying to stab Abdullah the Butcher with their 30 dollar forks from him.
After the show ended and romantic music of all things began to play over the sound system as the fans started to gather out George let us know we had a chance to meet with Abdullah the Butcher, but that he was in the Roppangi district in Tokyo which was a 30 minute subway ride and that we would have to buy a signed autograph fork from him for 5 dollars. After traveling to meet Abdullah, he let us know that it wasn't 5 dollars for the forks, but that it was 30 dollars for the forks, 5 pictures of him, and the opportunity to take pictures with him. My camera was dead by this point taking so many pictures of the Hayabusa Lunch and the Dome show but it wasn't that big of a deal as I wasn't a big fan anyway and kept quiet most of the time. At this point I regretted spending 40 dollars altogether to meet a wrestler that I didn't personally care for to get a signed fork from him
Jeff Jarrett & I at the Tokyo Roppangi Hard Rock
Roppangi distrct where we saw A.J. Styles, Christian Cage, Petey Williams, Giant Bernard, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, Christopher Daniels, Prince Devit, Hirooki Goto, Rocky Romero and Ricky Marvin once again. Although I never went over to them to bug them when A.J came over to our table I did make sure to let him know that I was a fan of his work which he thanked me for, when Christopher Daniels came by I asked him about Curry Man which he replied "He's in America right now. That fucker has been stealing my moves for years." and I also got to say hello to Ricky Marvin again and Rocky Romero randomly walked by and said "sup?" to me. Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, and Jeremy Borash then walked in as the other set of guys were leaving as Jarrett came to the table and asked anyone if they wanted pictures taken with him. A guy of the group offered to take a picture with his camera of me with Jarrett so I agreed.
Tokyo Shin-Kiba 1st Ring before the Ice Ribbon show.
George asked the group who wanted to go to the All Japan show the next day. I needed to be away from the group so I was the only one that decided to separate from the group for the day and it was a great decision. I met a guy named Kurt who was friends with George whose job had him go to Japan half the year and as a result had learned how to pretty much go to any building in Japan or Osaka through the subways. I got to tag along with him and go to the Ice Ribbon January 5th show at the Tokyo Shin-Kiba 1st Ring. I really appreciated being around Kurt and talking to him as it felt like the first time on the trip I was having an extended conversation with someone that actually knew his stuff about Japanese wrestling. We arrived to the Shin-Kiba area through the subway where I found out not many people actually live in the area, and it's actually mostly just a timber area for workers. We arrived to the Tokyo Shin-Kiba 1st Ring and I was excited to see a familiar name on the card that I did not expect to see in Mr. Gannosuke.
A 10 Year old for the Ice Ribbon promotion wrestling in the opening match.
We were told before the show that no pictures were allowed to be taken of the show. I took one picture of the opening match which saw a 10 year old team with a 13 year old against two other 13 year olds in the opening match of the Ice Ribbon show. I sadly did not get to take any pictures of Mr. Gannosuke and Emi Sakura (Motokawa) singing and dancing together in the ring or Mr. Gannosuke's match with Chon-Shiryu against Muenori Sawa and Keita Yano as when I tried to take a picture of him, one of the female wrestler quickly ran into the stands and asked me nicely to stop. Right after Gannosuke's match intermission took place. Gannosuke came out and sat by a WMF table where he was selling WMF DVD's. Nobody was by him and I saw this as a great opportunity to meet Mr. Gannosuke which had me marking out more than even meeting Hayabusa because it wasn't expected. I told Gannosuke that we had actually converse through online before in the past and said I was BAHU and was a big FMW fan which he replied "BAHU? Oh BAHU! Yes. Thank you!" I asked him if he knew about Kanemura's recent injury which he stated he did know about. I ended up buying two of his Gannosuke Production shows from 7/5/07 and 11/29/07 as well as a Best of WMF DVD which consists of Gannosuke vs. Mammoth Sasaki in a Barbed wire match from 7/31/05. Gannosuke thanked and blessed me as I pretty much became his favorite person in the world for buying so much from his table. I really do regret not seeing if I could break the rules of the show and take a picture with him.
Outside Tokyo's Differ Ariake
Kurt and I then headed over to Team Vader's January 5, 2008 show at the Tokyo Differ Ariake which is right behind the huge Ariake Coliseum. There was concession stands for Kaientai Dojo, Big Japan, and Apache Army which I picked up a Mammoth t-shirt although there were no simple Apache Army t-shirts for sale. The show was empty with probably only 200 or so fans inside a building that could fit 1800 in the building. Matt over at Zero-One USA came by and sat with Kurt and I for the show and eventually told me that despite Kanemura's recent severe injury that he would be working the show and was not taking time off anymore, and that he was crazy for it. It was then revealed to the show that Vader would not be attending the show for his scheduled interview as he was in the hospital with health problems starting from when he began to feel horrible at the autograph session the day before.
Kintaro Kanemura & Mammoth Sasaki vs. Isao Takagi & Yutaka Yoshie from Team Vader's 1/5/08 Differ Ariake show.
Hideki Hosaka wrestled the first match of the show against Shadow WX with both Matt and Kurt not recognizing Hosaka with his new look since regularly wrestling for WMF compared to his days in FMW and All Japan. Kintaro Kanemura and Mammoth Sasaki came out for their match right after intermission against Isao Takagi (Arashi) and Yutaka Yoshie doing the TNR Dance on the top turnbuckle with Kanemura flicking off right at Matt in the crowd at the end of the dance. Kanemura's ability was limited in the match as the biggest bumps he took were being thrown into a large stack of empty chairs in the crowd and took a supplex off the top turnbuckle which got Takagi the pinfall over Kanemura. Kanemura was holding his head afterwards but with Mammoth randomly came in the crowd later in the show and was laughing and smiling with Mammoth before heading out of the arena. Tomohiko Hashimoto ended up winning the 4 man tournament for the Vader Cup and was completely bloody in doing so after defeating the male Angel Williams (who looks like a miniature Vader) in the final of the tournament. Takao Omori also worked the show and has new pants and with his haircut looks just like Eddy Guerrero in 2005. Kurt and I ended heading out with Kurt joking how monumental of an event we just saw in the first ever and last ever crowning of the Vader Cup Tournament. But before we left there was Ricky Marvin once again on crutches talking with his wife outside the parking lot of Differ. Ricky laughed at seeing me three times randomly in two days and Kurt and I offered him get well wishes before heading back to the subway. I really enjoyed that day with Kurt. Getting away from the group was needed badly for me. If I had joined the group I would have just seen one All Japan which is a promotion I don't really care for, been around a lot of guys I had been been around a ton already, and not gotten to meet Mr. Gannosuke and see Kintaro Kanemura, Mammoth Sasaki, and Hideki Hosaka wrestle live.
Skipping on the Neo 1/6/08 show to go to Church instead.
I turned down going to both the Big Japan January 6th show in Saitama which would have been a cool show to go to see Onryo live but it was so far out, and then I turned down seeing the Neo January 6th Korakuen Hall show with the rest of the guys to go to church. There was no excuse why I couldn't go to church while there because it was right next to the hotel and I feel even as a fulfilling a commitment it was interesting and something you don't experience everyday to go to a Japanese Catholic Church.
The outside of Korakuen Hall. Everything above the windows is where inside all the legendary matches have taken place.
My plan all along was to go to Kaientai Dojo's January 6th Korakuen Hall show as I wanted to attend Korakuen Hall and see Yuko Miyamoto live. I figured I would be going by myself again for the show as everyone else wanted to go to NOAH's Differ Ariake show instead but when they were not promised tickets everyone decided to go to the K-Dojo show instead. I ended up sitting on the other side of the building and talking with a Japanese wrestling fan for a good portion of the show. Even though he was very limited in English we were still able to have a good 30 minute conversation about Japanese wrestling with him coming off as very knowledgeable about every promotion.
Inside Korakuen Hall for K-Dojo's 1/6/08 show.
My picture taking had long died after meeting with Hayabusa so I took my video camera that look sub par quality pictures so I ended up taking few actual pictures of the entire show and mostly videos. The show looked packed with barely any empty seats in the area. The balcony was pretty empty although Osaka Pro's Tigers Mask went up there and watched almost the entire show after his opening match. The show was my favorite as far as actual quality of matches up and down the show. My biasedness might be coming in here but I felt the best match of the show was Takashi Sasaki and Yuko Miyamoto against Kunio Toshima & Saburo Inematsu which I felt definitely got over the best as the crowd was shocked when Inematsu was able to get the pin over Miyamoto. Masato Tanaka and Yoshihito Sasaki took on Kengo Mashimo and Madoka with the Zero-One team getting the win after Tanaka would pin Madoka with the Sliding D. Yoshihito Sasaki and Mashimo had a brawl all around ringside after the match that needed to be separated around a half dozen of times. Hopefully Yoshihito Sasaki will finally be pushed as a top level guy after 7 years. Yuji Hino, Gamma, and Naoki Tanisaki ended up getting the upset win in the main event over The Great Sasuke, TAKA Michinoku, and JOE after Hino pinned TAKA in a really good match. Instead of trying to find the rest of the group on the other side of the building I decided to leave Korakuen Hall by myself and head back to the hotel. Going down the stairs I saw signings on the wall of hundreds of wrestlers including Kodo Fuyuki's. I found out afterwards that George and the rest of the group had met with The Great Sasuke and Masato Tanaka and took pictures with them after the show. I was also surprised to see only 1,123 fans announced for the show as it seemed like such a packed crowd. Kurt would later tell me that if the video screen is used at a Korakuen Hall show that means not all the bleachers have been pushed back for full attendance of a show.
Dinner with Manami Toyota & Sonoko Kato
We ended up finding out that meeting with Mitsuhiro Matsunaga at his Mr. Danger's Restaurant was going to be canceled after both it and Ribera's were closed on Mondays. So on Monday, January 7th we were scheduled to meet Manami Toyota at the Tokyo Dome Sizzler. But before going there we were met with former FMW wrestler Miss Mongol who came over to the YMCA Hotel. She didn't stay long, but I did show her a picture of her that I had of back from 1996 in her early years in FMW as Aki Kanbayashi which she couldn't believe and then saw a picture of Victor Quinones and told me he was like a father to her. She ended up leaving soon after and we met with Manami Toyota and her friend from GAEA Sonoko Kato at the Tokyo Dome Sizzler.
Posing with Sonoko Kato on January 7, 2008. I loved her.
Toyota struggled with her english and I sat there quiet for most of the dinner although I really did enjoy talking to Kato who I wasn't familiar with until I finally found out her name and realized that had worked the FMW 5/5/99 Yokohama Bunka Gym show. Fumi was there for translation help and I did ask him about the knowledge between Mr. Gannosuke and Kintaro Kanemura's heat among one another. Fumi told me that nobody knows the exact reason for the hatred, but that it's there and both sides hate each other equally and that for the WE LOVE SABU show back in April 2005 that both sides wanted their own separate shows to book as Gannosuke booked the afternoon show, and Kanemura booked the evening show. We took pictures with Toyota and Kato afterwards and I really loved Kato's energy and positive attitude, much more than Toyota personally. I talked to Kato about her early days in GAEA and about her different hair colors and really enjoyed her company and was sad to say goodbye to her.
Outside of Ribera's on January 8, 2008.
Pictures of Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Owen Hart & Mike Tyson, The Road Warriors, and Andre the Giant at Ribera's.
Our scheduled meeting with Kintaro Kanemura on January 8th was also canceled after George didn't feel comfortable having dinner with Kanemura due to his recent injury. The group ended up going to Ribera's with Kurt as well with pictures of wrestlers that have ate at the restaurant for years. Pictures of John Cena, JBL, Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mike Awesome, Ebessan, TAKA Michinoku, Bob Sapp, Kerry Von Erich, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Scott Hall from AWA with the mustache, Bull Buchanan, D'Lo Brown, Kaz Hayashi, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Abdullah the Butcher, and Bob Backlund covered the building. They also had one of the most delicious steaks you could ever have.
We took a subway back to the Tokyo Dome area and took farewell pictures of Tokyo Dome City where we spent so much time throughout the whole trip whether it was at the New Japan Tokyo Dome show, Korakuen Hall, or meeting Hayabusa and Manami Toyota at the Tokyo Dome Sizzler and taking pictures outside with them so we took pictures around the whole area one last time as it was the last night in Tokyo.
Hayabusa & Megumi Kudo phone card and Tiger Mask masks for sale at wrestling store.
Terry Funk & Tiger Mask poster and old FMW Onita era Commercial Videos for sale.
On January 9, 2008 the last day while in Tokyo we went into a Japanese Wrestling store that was by far the biggest when it came to merchandise. From New Japan to early 1990's WWF action figures to DVD's of PRIDE to DDT, cut outs of Giant Baba to Bob Sapp, phone cards of Hayabusa & Megumi Kudo, Jinsei Shinzaki, and the W*ING team, Tiger Mask, Ultimo Dragon, and La Parka masks, and old FMW Commercial VHS tapes which I bought one. Although I didn't get it, I also enjoyed the Tito Santana covered in blood action figure. It was an amazing store and I ended up buying nearly Weekly Puro and GONG magazines that had either Hayabusa or Atsushi Onita on the cover. The trip was finally over after this as we soon head back to the YMCA Hotel and walked to the Tokyo Dome Hotel where we again took the bus to the Narita Airport and flew back to Chicago.
It was a great trip overall, a very eye opening trip for me. I learned a lot and experienced a lot while on this one week trip and that's all I can ask for. I greatly thank George for putting the trip together, Kurt for showing me around Shin-Kiba and the Differ Ariake area and getting me away from the group for the whole day, Fumi for being there to help Hayabusa and Manami Toyota and answering any type of question about all types of pro wrestling, Mike from Zero-One USA, Masanori Horie, Sonoko Kato, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Miss Mongol, Mr. Gannosuke, and of course Hayabusa for this once in a life time trip.