Part 1 - Recorded by phone on June 6, 1996 by Kazuhiro Kojima. The photo was taken at Uminonakamichi, Fukuoka during the May 1996 tour. (Picture by Toshiaki Yano)

Megumi Kudo has kept her mouth shut ever since she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after the current bombing match in Kawasaki on May 5th. The FMW girls in the doldrums and the company's poor management... In the midst of the biggest crisis of all, the Jado princess finally broke her silence! And then, suddenly, she made a major statement.

Before I get into the interview, I have to explain one thing. As reported in last week's issue, the FMW Wrestlers' Association had proposed to hold the legendary Shiodome show this summer as a measure of revival, and the office side agreed to it. It has been officially decided that a special event titled "Shiodome Legend" will be held on Thursday, August 1st at a special ring at the site of the old Shiodome station as the final event of the August tour "King of Fight II". For various reasons, the event cannot be held at the exact same location as the previous one, but Shiodome is still Shiodome. There is no difference in the fact that this is the "place of legends." The details of the event can be found on the last page of this interview, but the price of 10,000 yen for platinum seats is unusual for FMW... This is probably due to Masato Tanaka's comment at the press conference, "After all, it's Shiodome, so there will be an explosion match..."  Then Megumi Kudo, who was standing right beside him, had already made up her mind to do just that.

Kojima: Let's start with your impressions of the May 5th Kawasaki. You were sobbing in the locker room and was taken away in an ambulance...but you were relaxed before the match, weren't you?

Kudo: I was more relaxed than I thought I would be until right before the match. I was more relaxed than I thought I would be until right before the match. Maybe Toyoda was more nervous than usual, or maybe I knew that from the tour, so I felt I had to calm down. Maybe I was really nervous in a way I didn't even realize.

Kojima: I guess you were more interested in sending Combat Toyoda off right? More than the fear of an electric current bomb match.

Kudo: It was Toyoda's last match, so... rather than protecting myself, I was more concerned about what would happen if Toyoda regretted leaving the ring without regrets, and I didn't want to prevent him from doing so. You know, I could hear the sound and smell the smoke, but I didn't know what was happening behind me. I had no idea how much more powerful it was. My mind went blank, and the moment I thought "I'm on top," my body stopped moving...

Kojima: I remember the second time you got blasted (Toyoda caught your hip attack, and you both went straight to the explosion), I was so impressed by the scene where Toyoda's leg went down and you both got stuck.

Kudo: Yes, I was lucky the first time because my feet were still on the ground, but the second time, with Toyoda holding me in her arms, I moved through the air and bam! There was no way to escape, and the only place I could put myself was barbed wire with a bomb attached...my mind really went blank.

Kojima: So, how did it go, current bombing, was it a good idea to do it?

Kudo: I'm glad we did it now.

Kojima: Now?

Kudo: Immediately after the match I didn't have that feeling at all. I didn't even know if it was a good match or a bad match, and Kawasaki Stadium is a big place, so I didn't know how the audience would react.... But when I was taken to the hospital and Toyoda came out of the room, I asked her if she had any regrets. Toyoda said, "I think it was a good match. I don't regret it." Hearing that, I knew we had done the right thing.

Kojima: One more thing. Toyoda said she was happy with this, but it wasn't exactly a main event in the strictest sense of the word. What do you think about that?

Kudo: ...I guess I didn't have enough to bring to the table, or maybe they thought, "Are we sure we want them to end the show?"  But Toyoda and I were there with FMW Women's, and I think May 5th Kawasaki marked the end of the line for us. But we still have a long way to go, and I think Toyoda did what she did because she wanted to leave something behind... I'd like to aim for the main event again with a new member.

Kojima: The new FMW girls...well, to be frank, they are not doing so well. It's like they're in the doldrums.

Kudo: That's how I see it, after all. If we had the same card and the same fights every time. But when I watch from the corner, I can see that both Nakayama and Kambayashi have grown a lot. In the past, I was more interested in their movements than those of their opponents, but in the last tour, I could tell what they were doing even without looking at them. It's definitely progressing. But, you know, the audience couldn't see it, and it didn't show up in the results, so I kept my mouth shut....

Kojima: As a fan, you're a Junior All-Star, and you're coming back with a match that everyone appreciates, right? And yet, they're not getting a pat on the back in the FMW ring, and it sets their teeth on edge.

Kudo: It's the opposite, to be frank, both Nakayama and Kambayashi are thrown into a higher level of competition than other wrestlers of the same career in other organizations, in our ring. That's why I think they shine when they fight with other wrestlers from other countries, of course.

Kojima: I see. But the gap with Megumi Kudo and Shark Tsuchiya is not so easy to close.

Kudo: We need someone to come out of the woodwork to change this situation, not everyone working together. For example, Nakayama is now able to lead Kambayashi in her own way, and I want her to take a step forward here...

Kojima: In such a situation, of course, Megumi Kudo also has to move. You attended a press conference in Shiodome, so I thought you were really motivated.

Kudo: I think everyone needs to show the best they can do now that the company is in a dangerous situation, otherwise, what's the point of doing it in Shiodome? That's why I'm going to do the current bombing in Shiodome!

Kojima: What? A blow up match? Why?

Kudo: Because the most important thing for me is about to disappear! For me, FMW is more than just a company where I work. I'm very attached to it.

Kojima: ....

Kudo: Until now, I think there were parts where we relied on the boys, and other parts where we were reserved. However, I believe that girls have created a buzz in their own way over the past year, and I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I would like to appeal to the girls in Shiodome to have more confidence and show that girls alone can pull in customers. .....

Kojima: For Megumi Kudo, "the best thing you can do" is a blow-up match... Indeed, if you avoid such a fight now, you might be considered irresponsible as the "face" of FMW. Besides, Shiodome is like the birthplace of FMW women.

Kudo: It was the place where I did my first street fight and the place where I said for the first time that I would work as a FMW woman. If possible, I wanted to do it again with Toyoda in Shiodome...but that would have been just a memory, and we would have to do something new with new members and create a new "legend."

Kojima: But an explosion match? At the time of May 5th Kawasaki, there was a good reason why you had to do it, but this time, I feel like there will be voices against you about doing it...

Kudo: I, too, am more scared now that I have experienced it once, and the pressure is on, but I still have to do it...I can't hear the voices around me anymore.

Kojima: Not wanting to destroy the company was at the root of the first Onita vs. Goto match. But there was also a grudge between the two at that time.

Kudo: My opponent has been decided...and it is someone that I hold a deep grudge with...

Part 2 is Kojima and Kudo conducting the interview while walking around Shiodome Lot

Kojima: Here at Shiodome...everything around us has changed, from the scenery to everything else.

Kudo: It was only 6 years ago and where we had the ring is not here anymore?

Kojima: I think we just passed by it, but the roof that was there at that time is also gone, so I really don't know anymore. "Yurikamome" didn't have any shape or form at that time.

Kudo: What is that?

Kojima: The one that just passed overhead. It's a new transportation system that goes through things like Ariake.

Kudo: Oh, that's not a monorail (chuckles). I didn't know that (laughs).

Kojima: But for some new fans may end up saying, “Shiodome legend?" I don't know what that is.

Kudo: That's right. The fan base has changed a lot, hasn't it?

Kojima: For those fans who don't know, let me explain...August 4, 1990 was the first time FMW had an explosion match, and it was that day here in Shiodome, Megumi Kudo had her first women's street fight match in Japan against Combat Toyoda (fighting under her real name at the time, Noriyo Toyoda). She lost the match, but she was the first to make it clear that she wanted to fight as a member of the FMW women's team, breaking away from her previous existence as an outsider (the Outbreakers)... right?

Kudo: Yes. That is why I am so particular about Shiodome as a venue.

Kojima: That's why you've decided to hold an explosion match. Who will it be with? Since you called it "an opponent with a grudge," everyone probably thinks it is Shark Tsuchiya....

Kudo: Tsuchiya was not on my mind at the beginning. After all, this case is going to be done in Shiodome first. So I want to do an explosion match.  So, I thought about who to work with, and in that order, and although I thought Tsuchiya, she was not someone I felt like it had to be done with her.

Kojima: Why not? Is it not the best stage to complete the show down?

Kudo: You know, I believe that the formula of "death match = complete settlement" is necessary, but in this case, I think it is meaningless unless it is a "death match where something starts from here".

Kojima: A death match that starts something...?

Kudo: It's not so much that it starts, but rather that it has to start. If something doesn't start for the next time, tomorrow will never come, right? That is why Tsuchiya and I haven't done an explosion match yet. If I won or if I lost, it's over...there was no point in going all the way to Shiodome if we were going to do that, and I wondered what would happen after that.

Kojima: ....Yeah....

Kudo: The first priority is to keep the company alive and maintain it, in this case. If we don't think that far ahead, I don't think there's any point in doing an explosion match...

Kojima: I see... So who is the person who meets those conditions?

Kudo: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this.  I'm just making up my mind on my own, and first of all, I don't know if I'll be able to get in touch with her or not, or if she will be able to make it to Shiodome in time....

Kojima: Who's that?!

Kudo: Gundarenko

Kojima: Svetlana Gundarenko!

Kudo: That's right, I want to destroy that blue cape with an electric current explosion match as a settlement in my own way...

Kojima: This was surprising or unexpected...perhaps fans today may not even know that Gundarenko, who won last year's "L-1" by a nose, had entered the FMW ring and even had a tag-team match....

Kudo: Toyoda beat her, but I lost both my singles matches against her...I think the only way to recover this with one shot is to blow her up...

Kojima: Setting a bomb on the wire mesh of is one way to go, certainly.

Kudo: The bombing match to protect the company, and the Gundarenko match to settle my heart... I don't have that long ahead of me, and just as Toyoda retired like that, I think it's time to settle things one by one without regrets. Just like Gundarenko overcame the extreme conditions of the L-1 tournament, and I came back alive from the electric current bombing...both were extreme conditions, and both were the first time for a woman, right? There were so many things I couldn't do back then, but now I finally have something to put on the same level... In honor of Gundarenko who survived the L-1 tournament, I will prepare another "hell ring" for you... If it were true, it would make sense to do it after two consecutive wins in different kinds of martial arts competition, As I said before, our first priority is to keep the company alive, and if you ask why we're doing it in Shiodome, it's because FMW is in danger, right? We can't afford to go through the steps to blow up anymore, and we can't afford to take that kind of time and effort! I guess it would make sense since she has beaten me twice to do some kind of martial arts match with her, but as I said before, the first priority is to keep the company alive, and if you ask why we're doing the match in Shiodome, it's because FMW is in danger, isn't it? We can't afford to go through the steps to do an explosion match, and we can't afford to take that kind of time and effort!

Kojima: ...

Kudo: Electric current blasts in a a mixed martial arts competition hasn't even  been done by the boys, right? If something starts from there, it won't end with the settlement of my heart. I still have a lot of things I need to do.

Kojima: You've lost to Chigusa Nagayo, too, haven't you? Don't you have to settle this?

Kudo: You know, winning or losing with Nagayo, it is very significant for me to be a rival with her, but in my mind, we have a relationship that goes beyond the "wrestler" aspect. Winning or losing, we have enhanced each other. I want our relationship to be more than just this.

Kojima: .....?

Kudo: Sometimes I fight, and sometimes I try to include lower wrestlers, and I want to fight for the revitalization of the women's professional wrestling world as a whole. I would like to fight for the revitalization of the women's wrestling world as a whole. In my case, this, which is not a front, is not possible with normal athletes, but, after all, I know that part of it, and my "work allocation" outside of my activities as a pro-wrestler is wider than other athletes. Even during my time off, I have to fly to the country side to make appearances, you know. I think it's the same for Nagayo....So if the crisis in FMW continues, "I'm going to do it even if the time is not ripe".

Postscript

After the interview, Megumi Kudo's left upper arm still had a stiff spot. It was caused by a laceration she sustained in an electric current bombing match at the May 5 Kawasaki event, where bacteria entered and swelled up around her lymph gland. Another survivor, Combat Toyoda (who will continue to use this term until her retirement ceremony at Korakuen on June 28th), said that she still suffers from burns and neck pain even though she has started his life as a civilian. The two were a different shock to me when I saw the actual match than when I saw the men's match, and I was made acutely aware of the risks involved in women's current bombing. Nevertheless, Megumi Kudo made her own decision to once again enter the electric current bombing ring, a very natural choice for Kudo, who, as the "face" of FMW, is in a position to protect the company.

However, now that he has made such a big deal about the "electric current blasts in Shiodome," she will have to fight someone in the blasts even if Gundarenko refuses to fight her. In that case, the first candidate would be Shark Tsuchiya, who, ironically, Kudo says "never crossed my mind at all." In fact, Tsuchiya has a greater necessity to fight in a current bombing match, and they both have lost to Chigusa Nagayo in a one-on-one match, so they are even in terms of conditions. Kudo, who has two belts (Independent World and WWA World Women's) from Combat Toyoda, has a big job left to do in defending these treasures against Tsuchiya. And yet, when I dared to look at Tsuchiya from the opposite side of the venue, the rail of the Yurikamome and the Metropolitan Expressway crossed overhead. It was as if the past and the future were crossed.......

The reason why Tsuchiya was removed from the strike was because she wanted the audience to see this match as a third party, was it not? This is true not only for Tsuchiya, but for all FMW women. The key phrase that came up in this interview, "the death match where something starts" ... this was the answer that the FMW girls, who were completely "dead bodies" for the May series. As I mentioned in last week's issue, both Nakayama and Kambayashi have been growing in areas invisible to the audience. How can it be delivered to the audience? Another problem that needs to be addressed, considering the FMW women as a whole, is the toning down of the Mad Dog Military, whose sense of existence is waning due to the weakening of the regular FMW women's army. The only person who can make that breakthrough is Megumi Kudo.

She must have understood this well after the May series, in which she kept her mouth shut and did not take any action, ended in a state of no wind. Kudo is the only one who can create the wind and a movement. Chigusa Nagayo has trained newcomers with her own hands and sent them out to the ring. If this is the GAEA style, then the FMW style is for Kudo to say something through her fights, and for the young fighters who catch it to digest it in their own way and grow. To be clear, it is not efficient, but just as Hayabusa, Tanaka, and other "superb" wrestlers jumped out after Onita's retirement, it would be fine if an ace were born with a bang after Kudo retired. I can't help but feel that will happen. whether it's Gundarenko or Tsuchiya. Even if it's the theme of humiliation against Chigusa Nagayo, August 1st Shiodome can't lose....

Part 3 - two months later after Parts 1 & 2 on August 9, 1996 - Megumi Kudo announces her retirement

It was a really sudden statement. "I've decided. If there is a show at Kawasaki Stadium on May 5th next year, I want to put an end to my professional wrestling life there... I will retire!"

May 5, 1997. Megumi Kudo Retires This is no longer a rumor or a speculation, but a daring fact that no one can stop... . The issue of retirement has been discussed many times before. Ever since she bet on her retirement against Combat Toyoda on March 28, 1996, saying, "If I lose, I'll leave the ring," the word "retire" has been in the spotlight every time something happens.

Even in the long interview with Kudo in this magazine, which has become an annual tradition, the main topic has always been her retirement, and she has made such startling statements as "I am seriously thinking about it" and "I don't think it is that far away." Since she gave up wrestling once due to an injury, it may be inevitable, but the "retirement" mentality has been hanging over Kudo for too long. This was one of the factors that contributed to her popularity as a "tragic heroine," but it was also an image that was never appreciated by the leading wrestlers of the organization. As shown in a "treasured photo" published in April of this year, Kudo had decided last spring to follow Atsushi Onita out of the ring. However, seeing the plight of FMW, which had been shaken to its foundations by the sudden departure of Tarzan Goto and others, Kudo withdrew her intention. Of course, this has not been made public, but the rumors of her retirement have stopped abruptly, perhaps because her strong will was conveyed to the audience.

She was so busy focusing on her own death match road with Tsuchiya and decorating the road for the retirement of her close ally, Combat Toyoda, that she had been missing from her consciousness the issue of her own retirement. When she said, "I want to fight Svetlana Gundarenko in an electric current bombing death match," at the time of the Shiodome event, she had hinted at a countdown to her retirement, but it was hard to believe that she had set a goal so close to her retirement.

Interviewer: Why now, all of a sudden, are you saying, "I'm at my physical limit?" was thinking.

Kudo: I've already reached that point. It's the same with energy. I had already reached my limit years ago. But I couldn't quit, thinking about the FMW children under me. Combat Toyoda retired, and I thought that if I left now, people would think I was a "heartless" person who gave up on Nakayama and the other children. Compared to the time when my back was so bad that I couldn't even walk and was sidelined repeatedly, my condition is relatively better. However, it is just a "dormant volcano," and other parts of my body have become rattled by protecting my back.

Even now, before a series starts, I have to go to the hospital for a full body tune-up before I can go out on the track. But I can't take a break when I think about my younger children. On top of that, Hayabusa's prolonged absence from the sport had effectively made him the "signature wrestler" of FMW, which put the brakes on my retirement on the emotional front. During his time off, I was often rushed out to fill in for Hayabusa at local events and sales promotions, and on box-office posters produced by local promoters, Kudo's picture, larger than any other wrestler, would be laid out in the center with a big bang. Now that Hayabusa has returned, such a burden will be alleviated, and the recognition of wrestlers such as Masato Tanaka and W*ING Kanemura is rising rapidly among wrestling fans. The burden of being a "single signboard" and having to bear the responsibility has lessened.

Interviewer: At Shiodome, you fought three members of the Mad Dog Military, didn't you?

Kudo: I told you after the match that it was not about a grudge between me and the "Mad Dog Military" but a fight to convey something to Nakayama, and to Kambayashi who did not come out with me on that day. I think Nakayama understood, and I think the scene when she brought Maedomari into the iron cage with a bang was the highlight of the match for me. Watching the video of the show, what made me most happy was that when Nakayama beat Miwa Sato in the second match, she did not look surprised or happy, but rather he looked as if it was a matter of course. She had a crisp face like, "It's natural." I felt that she had grown up to this point. Next, it was my turn to surpass Tsuchiya and Maedomari. But you know, in reality, I was taking away the chance of Nakayama and Tsuchiya and the others to fight one-on-three, right? I finally understood. I had been sticking to my current position for the sake of the younger children, but that's not really true. Because I am here, Nakayama and the others can't overcome a hump.

It is not her fault that Nakayama cannot peel off his skin. I'm sure that once I'm gone, she'll come to realize that she's the top and she can change. I'm going to retire in eight months. I hope the day comes when you can see me smiling on the apron. This is my last hope as a pro-wrestler, I guess...

The limits of physical strength and energy. The only two words that would come to mind if the "sense of responsibility" that had been desperately covering them was removed would be "retire." Some may say that it is selfish, but considering Kudo, who has been running far beyond the goal she should have achieved under extreme conditions, it makes sense to send her off with an honest heart. However, there is one thing that concerns me. Will Megumi Kudo have any regrets if she retires?

Kudo: When I came back to FMW, I didn't think I would be able to continue wrestling for such a long time, and yes, that's more than enough to satisfy me.

Interviewer: The best happiness as a pro wrestler is when you and Tsuchiya had a barbed wire death match last year in the main event at Korakuen, and when the match was over, a huge crowd gathered in the ring and called out "Kudo," didn't they? I'm sure you tasted it at that moment, and I'm sure that when you were able to see off Combat Toyoda's last moments in the ring at Kawasaki Stadium, and that too in the current bombing death match that Toyoda had requested, I'm sure you had no regrets." Also, according to Megumi Kudo, her last "self-satisfying" match was a WWWA match against Aja Kong (December 6, 1993, Ryogoku Sumo Hall)

From that point onward, it seems that she was fighting only for FMW, and that it was a period for her to fully pursue her "true joy" as a professional wrestler. Now that the "necessity" of Shiodome is gone, the electric current bombing with Gundarenko is no longer an object of strong interest, and she has no desire to fight with his peers like she did with Combat.

Kudo:  I am no longer so obsessed with the "inevitability" of Shiodome, and I have no desire to fight with my peers like I did in Combat. I have already settled things with Tsuchiya, and there is no point in making up rules. I will take a step back from the "Mad Dog Military" and I will devote myself to supporting Nakayama. When I think about it, my life as a pro wrestler up until now has been very happy, although it has had its good times and bad times (laugh). If it were true, it would have been best for me to retire at this point, and retiring after losing a tag team match at Budokan at the upcoming Midsummer's Eve show would be an interesting way to end my career (and still putting Kaori Nakayama in the spotlight), just like the Jado princess.

However, as I mentioned before, such selfishness is not allowed for a "signature wrestler." She would naturally be asked to make a "nationwide retirement tour" like Atsushi Onita did, and she would want to do so because she knows that she has come this far thanks to the support of her fans.

Taking this into consideration and setting the goal of "May 5th Kawasaki," the time limit for announcing his retirement was approaching. She had been struggling with her feelings for some time after the Shiodome event, but she had already begun discussions with the company, which led to this "shocking" confession. One problem, however, is that she has not yet received the official go-ahead to wrestle a match at Kawasaki Stadium on May 5th next year.

Of course, Kudo's retirement match at Kawasaki Stadium is only her "wish," and if it is not at Kawasaki, she will not postpone her retirement match. In the unlikely event that the show is not held at Kawasaki, a commemorative event will be held on or around May 5th at an alternative stadium.

Kudo: I have been rumored to retire many times, and even now that I have announced that I will retire, I don't really feel like it is someone else's problem (laughs), but I have no regrets, and I will try to nurture Nakayama in the next eight months. The only thing I would like to say is that I would like to have my retirement match not with a meaningless wrestler, but with a wrestler whom I have in my heart. I still have an idea of what I want to do, but I don't know what will happen in the next eight months, so I can't say anything right now..."

She will probably make her official retirement announcement after the "Midsummer Night's Budokan," (August 12, 1996) in which she and Nakayama will compete as a pair. If Kudo and Nakayama are still around on the second day of the Budokan (after the second round), we would like you to keep an eye on Kudo's thoughts and Nakayama's efforts.