Posts Tagged ‘Great Muta’

On October 10, my good friend Akira Nogami celebrates 30 years of active competition in the wrestling business with a special card dedicated to his imprint on our grappling industry, to be held in Tokyo at Shinjuku Face Arena.  A literal plethora of who’s who from the world of Japanese Puroresu will be on hand to honor our brother-in-arms, and I am stoked to be taking a part in this special evening of in-ring combat, by direct invitation of Akira himself.

Akira Nogami in 2010 (photo: SMASH)

Akira Nogami in 2010 (photo: SMASH)

Akira and I have a storied history together, both as adversaries and as tag team partners in our business.  If I could hand-pick my opponents, Akira would easily make the top five of that list on any given day.  He is smooth, flowing like water and moving like a panther inside of that ring.  I have often likened him to the legendary former NWA World and WWF Intercontinental champion, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, in terms of his fluid wrestling style.

Some of my best memories from Japan have been shared with my brother, Akira.  We have fought some amazing battles.  We melded like clockwork in a team called Synapse, alongside female standout, Syuri Kondou (a multi-time women’s wrestling and kickboxing champion).  Upon our inception in the summer of 2012, our trio was passionately compared to the classic 1996 nWo unit with Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in the belated World Championship Wrestling (WCW) organization.  We were cool baddies.  We kicked ass and took names, downing the competition all across Japan for much of 2012-2013.  In February of this year, on the same card where I won the WNC (Wrestling New Classic) championship from “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri, we disbanded our Synapse team, all going our separate ways.

SYNAPSE 2012

Akira, StarBuck, Syuri (photo: Kazuhiko Kato)

Akira started his legendary career in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), famous for hosting and organizing the world-famous 1976 wrestler vs. boxer match-up between Antonio Inoki and Muhammed Ali.  Akira was part of the same class of ’84 that saw the launch of Keiji Muto (aka The Great Muta), Shinya Hashimoto, Masahiro Chono and Masakatsu Funaki.  Nowadays, Akira grapples for Keiji Muto’s Wrestle-1 office in Japan.

My first encounter against AKIRA, from SMASH.8 in September 2010 in Tokyo

My first encounter against AKIRA, from SMASH.8 in September 2010 in Tokyo (photo: SMASH)

Akira first notable title win was the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight championship, defeating Jushin Liger in August 1991.  Since then, he has been a journeyman wrestler, both in Europe, the USA and Japan.  Akira took part in the NWA world tag team tournament in 1992, held under the Bill Watts regime as the head of WCW, teaming with Hiroshi Hase in the opening round.  Akira was injured, and could not compete a month later in the second round alongside Hase, so he was replaced by Shinya Hashimoto (Hase and Hashimoto would lose to Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes in the semi-finals of the tournament).  Akira is also a former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight tag team champion, alongside old foe Jushin Liger, and the first ever WNC champion from 2012, defeating Tajiri in the WNC title tournament finals.

I am proud to be taking part in this big card on October 10 in Tokyo to pay tribute to the career of Akira Nogami, a real friend and brother in this hard, dog-eat-dog business called professional wrestling.  He is someone who has always had my back, whether we have been against each other, or if we have teamed together.  We share a mutual respect and a bond of friendship, a warrior’s bond.  This is truly rare in any walk of life.

Akira-san, I salute you!  KAMPAI!!!

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The cultural significance of PURORESU.

Having wrestled on 20 trips already in the ”Promised Land” of pro wrestling, Japan, I thought to scribe a piece regarding the cultural impact and significance of Puroresu (pro wrestling in Japanese) on the social and pop culture landscape of not just Japan, but the world in general. After all, were it not for New Japan wrestlers Akira Maeda and Satoru Sayama breaking off in the mid-’80s and forming their UWF promotion in Japan, there certainly would have been no RINGS or Pancrase to jumpstart the MMA craze that has been blazing worldwide for many years now. Truth be told, the entire MMA scene, UFC included, can thank Japanese pro wrestling for their scimilating impact on the fighting business in general.

Going back to ancient Rome, the gladiators of old would reenact famous battles of lore, by dressing up in gimmicks and thereby producing very visual storytelling through their art of battle for the screaming fans of the coliseum. The most famous and loved gladiators were protected to a great degree by the emperors and promoters of their day. The action-hungry audiences at the coliseums had their distinct favorites, and some of the gladiators could even retire alive from active competition, if they lived to see the end of their fighting careers. If a gladiator managed to retire, he would live the rest of his life in luxury, reaping the rewards of his earned fame.

gladiator

In this way, professional wrestling is the natural extension and lineage of the gladiators of ancient Rome. After all, there is no other game or sport in which the competitor must ”woo” their audience, and specifically engineer and draw a desired reaction from their viewers. Just like in the old days of Rome, the success of the fighter is still, to this day, completely dependent on the relationship and interaction that the wrestler has with their audience. A boxer does not trap his opponent in the ring corner, and then turn to the crowd to ask if they would like to see him hit his opponent, but a wrestler can, and will, do exactly that. In doing so, the professional wrestler draws his audience emotionally much deeper into his matches, as compared to a boxer or mixed martial artist, who simply focuses solely on his opponent during the match.

hulk-hogan

In this way, pro wrestling becomes the ”Sport of Kings”, because it mixes the perfect balance of theatrical flamboyance in regards to the characters themselves and hard-hitting, fighting aptitude. Pro wrestling is simply more entertaining to watch than any single other fighting art: There is more variety in the movements, techniques and flow of the match, than compared to any other combat style. The chess-like element of utilizing ring psychology to build a compelling match that builds towards a passionate and dramatic crescendo is a very demanding artform and very few are masters at it. In this way, professional wrestling is the finest and most intricate, psychological fighting art of them all.

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In mixed martial arts, the combatants are solely interested and focused on ending the match as quickly and effectively as possible. This does not always make for a very interesting or emotionally compelling fight. Even nowadays in the UFC, there are many more pro wrestling-like elements to the matches and fighters themselves, as compared to the past. UFC fighters like Chael Sonnen sound like reincarnations of wrestlers like ”Superstar” Billy Graham when doing promos. Some UFC fighters even play to the crowd, just like pro wrestlers do, during the course of their matches. 10 – 15 years ago this phenomenon would have been unheard of, or perhaps even balked at.

In our modern day and age, mythology is rapidly disappearing from our western culture. In the past, mythology was handed down from generation to generation, as a kind of parable of lessons to be learned in life, plus it always featured the ever-present battle between good and evil in mankind. Nowadays, Hollywood and the movie industry offers little in the way of actual substance, instead opting to try and fill the viewer’s emotional register through special effects, multiple camera angles, quick editing cuts and flimsy but funny dialog. In the process, our culture is losing its grip on true heroism and real life icons. In the movies, everyone is a fictional character, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the same character in The Terminator as he is in Conan the Barbarian. Therefore, the movies do not offer actual heroes or icons, but instead they offer virtual, imaginary heroes and icons. This is where professional wrestling comes in to save the day in our modern age.

mythological-gods

In no other game or sport are there such strong characters, as in the world of professional wrestling. When people witness the charisma and passion of Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin or perhaps even good ol’ StarBuck, what they are seeing is the real thing. The character is real, the passion is real and the charisma is real. Even though the professional wrestler might have an extravagant artist name (such as Hulk Hogan, The Great Muta or StarBuck), it stands to argue that the person behind the character name is as real as real gets.

muta

The Great Muta clamps on a headlock

Sometimes people ask me how much of my wrestling persona behind StarBuck is a made-up, fictional image. I tell them: ”None of it!”. I am not acting or pretending to be something that I am not inside of that ring. I only take my personal strengths and turn up the volume to the maximum level in terms of those traits, to make my wrestling persona even more effective. Yet, the man you see in the ring fighting is the real me.

I know that there are many gimmick wrestlers in our business who do not portray their actual selves. Doink the Clown and Eugene in WWE are good examples of this: one is not a true circus clown and the other is not a mentally handicapped person. The Undertaker is not a living dead man. In the same way, I know of big time rock musicians who drink non-alcoholic beer on stage in front of their fans, only to project the image of them being hard drinkers and party animals, while the truth is very different and they might be family men with children at home. Yet, I am not talking about the gimmick wrestlers in my underlying argument here.

Rikidozan - the pioneer and founding father of Puroresu

Rikidozan – the pioneer and founding father of Puroresu

In Japan, we have seen very many ”real life heroes” throughout the years in the professional wrestling business. Men like Rikidozan, Inoki, Baba, Tenryu, Fujinami, Misawa, Mutoh, Hiroshi Hase and countless others have undoubtedly portrayed their real personas inside of the ring. In the same way, famous gaijin talents like Stan Hansen, Dick Murdoch, Dynamite Kid, Terry Funk and many others have also portrayed their ”real me” personas inside of that ring. In this way, professional wrestlers are the modern day equivalents of iconic heroes of lore. We are modern day gladiators. In this role, as modern day fighting icons with strong, cultural, real life characters, we safeguard and uphold the tradition of the ever-burning battle between good and evil, and this in turn makes us the heirs of traditional mythology in modern times.

There are many lessons to be learned from professional wrestling, and it is no light matter that our game is aptly said to be the ”Sport of Kings”, for we, as professional wrestlers, are the Kings of Sport!

Long live our tradition and mythology – SOU DESU NE!

I have really been blessed in my wrestling career over the past few years, after making it big in Japan, becoming a name and draw there in 2010.  I have had a load of fantastic matches during my time in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, bringing back the old school approach in my wrestling style to the Japanese fans, perhaps bringing to mind the golden days of acclaimed names in our business such as Harley Race, Ted DiBiase and Dick Murdoch between the 1970s – 1980s.

StarBuck vs Nishimura

In January 2011, I was voted by the readership of Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine as having the Match of the Year for 2010 in the SMASH organization against “The Japanese Buzzsaw” TAJIRI (from Nov. 22, 2010), and the runner-up ballot went to my match vs. AKIRA (from Sept. 24, 2010).  In 2012, the readership of Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine voted me as MVP of the Year in SMASH, plus I won the accolade for Match of the Year for 2011 in SMASH once again, this time against Dave “Fit” Finlay (from Nov. 24, 2011).

Here I offer up promos and videos of my personal favorite matches from Japan, which I have contested over the past three years.  Enjoy!

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StarBuck vs. AKIRA:

StarBuck vs. TAJIRI:

StarBuck vs. Genechiro Tenryu

StarBuck, TAJIRI, AKIRA vs. Keiji Mutoh, Shuji Kondo, BUSHI

StarBuck, AKIRA, Syuri (Team Synapse) vs. TAJIRI, Hajime Ohara, Kana

European professional wrestling legend and 37-year ring veteran Dave “Fit” Finlay defeated me this past Thursday night, November 24th, at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo at SMASH.23 to become the new SMASH Champion.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

Finlay fought like a ravenous beast, putting me on the defensive for the whole match, which lasted 15:58 before the Irishman was able to put me away and pin me following his jumping tombstone piledriver.  The Japanese crowd responded in shock as Dave Finlay was announced as the new champion.

There are very few men in the wrestling business who are as brutal and remorseless in that ring as Finlay.  The man is a legend in this sport, and I brought my A-game, but it just wasn’t enough on the night of November 24, 2011 in Tokyo.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

Many are already calling my match with Finlay as the match of the year in SMASH, which is saying a lot, as there have been numerous great matches throughout the year.  For a fantastic look at the action from the SMASH.23 title match, check out the ringside photos here.

photo by SMASH (from SportsNavi Japan online)

I was also given the opportunity to face one of my all-time favorite wrestlers in Keiji Mutoh (aka The Great Muta) in Tokyo the night before SMASH.23 at All-Japan Pro Wrestling‘s event, as I teamed with SMASH compatriots Akira Nogami and Yoshihiro Tajiri to face the trio of Mutoh, Kondo and Bushi from AJPW.  I pinned Bushi in 13:48 of a hot match following my trademark spike piledriver.  Check out the photos from that match here.

photo by AJPW (from SportsNavi Japan online)

On a separate note, I heard the sad news about the passing of American superstar Bison Smith (found dead on Nov. 22 in Puerto Rico) while I was in the dressing room at the AJPW event.  Bison was a big star in Japan, and his death at 38 – the same age as I am – is indeed an early passing.  The cause was deemed to be heart failure.

Dave "Fit" Finlay

This coming week on Thursday, November 24th in Tokyo, I will face European ring general and legend Dave “Fit” Finlay at SMASH.23.  Finlay will surely be one of the toughest, sternest challenges I have met to date in my entire active ring career, as I’m set to defend the SMASH Championship against the Irishman at Korakuen Hall in the main event of the aforementioned card.

Finlay is perhaps best known from his latest tenure in WWE, where he was the United States Champion in 2006, defeating Bobby Lashley for the honors.  Finlay was a road agent and trainer for WWE, particularly coaching the WWE Divas over the years, improving their game considerably.  Prior to his stint in WWE, Finlay was the TV Champion in WCW, defeating Booker T in 1998 for the strap, in addition to a multi-time champion around Europe.

Finlay is largely considered one of the toughest SOB’s out of Europe to ever lace up a pair of boots, and he has hurt of a lot of people in the wrestling business inside of that ring.  Believe me when I say that I have the highest respect for Finlay as a professional wrestler, and I am taking my SMASH Championship defense against him at SMASH.23 very seriously.  Anything less would be foolhardy, and StarBuck is nobody’s fool.

In addition, I will be facing one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time in Keiji Mutoh at the All-Japan Pro Wrestling event at Korakuen Hall on Wednesday, November 23, as I team with SMASH superstars “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri and Akira Nogami to face the All-Japan trio of Mutoh, Shuji Kondo and Bushi.  Many fans will recall Mutoh as The Great Muta from the NWA in 1989-1990 and WCW periodically throughout the 1990’s.