Sunday, April 22, 2012

My First Japan Trip

 This was my first time visiting Japan, and for a wrestling fan, it is a perfect place to go. There's more wrestling shows than anyone could see, wrestling stores(over 7), and even wrestling restaurants! What more could a wrestling fan ask for? It is the ultimate wrestling paradise. In this, I will share the day by day highlights of my stay in Japan.

Even though I was only in Japan for a few hours, the first day was fun. As soon as our group got off of the bus at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, we see none other than Travis "Tyson" Tomko! We immediately went inside to say hello, and when we did, we were approached by TNA cameramen asking us what we were doing in Japan. This was filmed, and should be on Spike TV's TNA in Japan Special. Later on, as we were walking around the Tokyo Dome, we accidently ran into Shoichi Funaki, Smackdown's Number 1 announcer. Funaki posed for pictures with us and was very nice. Soon after that, we headed to the hotel to rest.

Day two was possibly the best day of the trip. We woke up, and immediately went searching for New Japan's Puroresu Shop. After a half hour of searching, we could not find it. However, we asked someone walking on the sidewalk about it, and he walked us straight to the store! Talk about hospitality. New Japan's Puroresu Shop is one of the many amazing wrestling stores in Tokyo. They have everything you could ever want including over forty shirts, action figures, tickets(including other promotion's tickets) and New Japan tracksuits. After spending alot of money there, our group headed over to the Sizzler to meet a certain puroresu legend.

That puroresu legend was none other than Hayabusa! Getting to meet Hayabusa in person was nothing short of amazing. He was very nice to us, laughing along with us and sharing many stories. He was kinda enough to sign well over 150 items, as well as answer questions, and pose for pictures with his mask on. Since we took pictures outside, fans started to notice him. He was nice enough to even sign their photos and take pictures, when he didn't have to. Many wrestlers could learn from him.

After meeting Hayabusa, we stopped at more wrestling stores before putting our signed items down. As we walked near a wrestling store named Battle Royale! we see none other than Big Van Vader. Vader, looking in rough shape, was singing autographs and giving out free tickets to his tribute show the next night. Unfortunately, something must have happened in-between, because he was in the hospital during his show. Hopefully he is alright. Next we headed for the TNA vs New Japan Wrestling Kingdom 2 Tokyo Dome Show.

The show was pretty good, with both Yuji Nagata vs Kurt Angle and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura being very good matches. Unfortunately, the dome was very empty, as no more than 13,000-15,000 fans could have been there. After the show was over, we all figured that was the end of our night, wrong! We went over to Roppongi and met Abdullah the Butcher, and then ran into many wrestlers in the Hard Rock Cafe, such as Ricky Marvin, Jeff Jarrett, Hirooki Goto, Scott Steiner, and many others. Most of them signed autographs and took even more pictures with us, making everybody happy as we went to bed.

Day three was yet another great day. Some people headed over to ICE RIBBON(a women's wrestling promotion with some workers being only 10-years-old), while others waited for All Japan Pro Wrestling in Saitama to begin. All Japan was a very unique experience.

Before we even got in, we were told to take our shoes off, and had to watch the show in socks or 500 Yen slippers. The show was so much fun, with two things sticking out. During the second match, us gaijin(foreigners) became the spotlight of the show. NOSAWA cursed and yelled at us in English, while Kaz Hayashi, Taiyo Kea, and Phil Atlas defended our honor. Abdullah the Butcher was up next, and after his match, proceeded to sing Happy New Years Gaijin! Hearing Abdullah sing was surreal, and maybe the biggest surprise of the trip.

The fourth day of our trip was very unique for everybody. One brave fan decided to take a very long journey to Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and got of all things, a Big Japan toolbelt! Myself and others headed out to NEO's 10th Anniversary show at the legendary Korauken Hall. Korauken Hall, for those not knowing, has had probably more wrestling shows than any other arena. A normal month for them can have anywhere from 8-17 wrestling shows!

NEO was another fun show, with lots of interesting characters on the card. Survival Tobita(a wrestler known for fighting monsters) wrestled, along with Ramu-chan(a grade school girl), and Lingerie Mutoh(a Keiji Mutoh impersonator who wrestles in lingerie). Kyoko Inoue returned to win a battle royale, which caused some fans to happily cry. The show also featured a very good Fuuka vs Haruka Matsuo, title vs title 15-minute draw. After the show, every wrestler came out to sign autographs and take pictures in a dangerously hot and crowded room.

Less than three hours after that, Kaientai-Dojo(TAKA Michinoku's promotion) took over Korauken Hall. The show was one of the best shows we saw with everybody working extremely hard. There were no bad matches, and many promotions came together to make it a success including DRAGON GATE, Big Japan, ZERO-1 MAX, and Michinoku Pro. The show had everything including fast paced matches, a death match, and even an intergender tag. If you get a chance, check it out, because you will not be dissappointed. After the show, we headed out to the gimmick table and parking lot, meeting wrestlers like The Great Sasuke, TAKA Michinoku, SHINGO, and Masato Tanaka. Boso Boy Raito even came up to me just to give me an autographed ball. What a great bunch of guys!

The next days were good without seeing anymore wrestling shows. On the 5th day, we met up with Manami Toyota and Sonoko Kato. Manami is just as beautiful as ever, and Sonoko was no slouch herself. They were having just as much fun as we were especially Minami, who was marking out over program books she hadn't seen in years. Then we headed over to the fighting sports bar, Fighting Cafe Colosso(, and proceeded to watch Zero-1. The owner was so surprised that we knew of the bar, that he took our picture to add to his wall! How cool is that?

On the 6th day, we found the most amazing wrestling store bar-none. The store, named Toudoukan( has the greatest collection of wrestling merchandise in the world. Want an American Wrestling magazine from the 1970's? No problem. Want a Crush Gals album or a signed Ultimo Dragon mask? You got it. The owner also speaks some English, and gladly took my picture with a life-size Giant Baba stand-up. We later found a store that is closing called Ambition. This is another great store, featuring 2 Kenta Kobashi jackets on display, and a Genricho Tenryu Revolution jacket. All the while playing NOAH matches on the television. We also ate a famous wrestler hangout named Ribera's steakhouse, which is covered in wrestling pictures.

For every non-japanese speaking person(like myself), do not fear, because almost everything there has some English on it, and mostly everybody knows basic English words. If you haven't been to Japan, but would like to go, stop making excuses and get to it. You will not be dissappointed!

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