So I guess I’ll write a little about my first solo trip to Japan. I remember that I got the email from Rick Bassman out of the blue. It had been about at least two years since I had been to Japan; the last time being a tour of Zero1 with my old tag partner & trainer, Navajo Warrior.
Since that time; Navajo and I had ceased to get along. We hadn’t teamed for a year or so, and I hadn’t worked for UPW since I had quit Native Blood (our former team). Getting a message I was going to Japan from Rick was quite unexpected.
I asked what was going on, details, etc.; and he told me that it was for 1 show, Zero1, and that he had no idea who I was going to be wrestling and that I needed to bring my old native gear.
Funny, I never even asked what the pay was! I was just so excited to get the hell out of AZ, hell, the US, and go WRESTLE! In Japan!
.Now, whenever I have big things, or possible big things, going for me, something always happens. I’m Jinxed.
I was at the IZW training facility about 3 days before I had to leave. The class was being taught by good old Mike Knox, which meant that half the class was dying and the other half was thriving off their misery. (If you have never attended a Mike Knox or Derick Neikirk training class, it definitely made who couldn’t cut it quite obvious). We were on the outside of the ring, I don’t remember exactly WHAT we were doing, but he and I were fucking around doing something; I think showing people how to throw punches, by what happened.
Anyways, we were punching the ring post, and I remember being a smart ass ( you think I’m bad now, I was WAAAAAAAAAY worse back then). I remember not paying attention and swinging, and then “CRACK”, and Knox laughing his ass off. I remember looking at my hand and the big lump that was rising beneath my middle finger knuckle, closer to my wrist than the knuckle. I was like “Holy shit, I think I just broke my hand!” & “I have to leave in 2 days!!”. Knox was still laughing and calling me a dumbass. Ahhh, words I often heard from him! LOL.
Well, most people would have canceled their plans. Hell, most people would have gone to the hospital. Not me, though, noooo. I’m a tough guy. And incredibly stupid, according to my chiropractor. He doesn’t know how I’m able to walk right now. True story.
As I said, most people would have let it heal. I yanked on my hand til it kinda straightened out, and proceeded to ice and drink it away until I left.In fact, on a side note; I seem to remember getting into a drunken brawl at a sub shop in Tempe literally a few hours before boarding the plane. My big brother Bill (R.I.P.) saveg my ass from getting arrested and getting me to the airport. He always kept me lout of trouble when I was fucking up. Miss ya bro.
Well, we can get into it about my old drinking days some other time. Eventually, I got to the airport and out of the country safe and sound. I flew 10 hours to Narita Airport and got picked up by one of the Zero1 wrestlers.
I was burned out from the trip, no sleep, hungover… oh, I was in Hell. All I wanted was to go to the hotel and sleep. That wasn’t the plan. Apparently, I had to go to the office. Getting there proved difficult as well.
One of the cab drivers wouldn’t let me in the car because my jeans had a tear in the leg. This caused a scene with the fellow that had come to escort me to where I needed to go. He didn’t like what the cab driver had said, by the way he yelled at him. Eventually, we got another taxi and away we were.
If any of you have ever been, you can agree with me, I’m sure. There is nothing like being in a city like Tokyo at night. It’s quite a spectacle to behold. So many people and lights, mini cars, skyscrapers, giant LED signs… it’s awesome.
We get to the building, and I got hustled into an elevator. The gentleman I was with (I am such a dick that I can’t remember his name!) informed me we were at the office. The doors opened, and what I saw was not what I had expected.
My mouth dropped. I thought vthere had been a mistake. I was here to wrestle, not get murdered by Cro Cop or Fedor. He just smiled and pushed me farther into the office. I met the people that worked in the office, all where very nice, and informed me that PRIDE owned a wrestling company called HUSTLE, which was partnered with Zero1. Apparently, I was here to try on some wrestling gear they had made for me. I also found out who I was going to wrestle. I remember just having to sit down when they told me.
My opponent was the owner of Zero1, Shinya Hashimoto.
I got back to my hotel room and my head was just swirling. Lets examine the facts.
1. This was my first solo trip to Japan, and to leave a good impression was a must.
2. I had broken my hand at absolutely the WORST possible time.
3. I was wrestling one of the TOP stars in Japan, Hell, he’s a legend worldwide.
4. I was WAY in over my head.
It doesn’t matter how confident in your abilities you are, when you get told your going to be working with one of the best, you definitely start second guessing yourself.
Fast forward to 2 days later, the day of the match. We get to Korakuen Hall, and I got to witness HUSTLE for the first time. HUSTLE, at the time, was heavily funded and was a freaking production. So much went into a show. Their gimmicks were GIMMICKS. This was their first “house show” PPV. The other PPV’s had been shot out of places like Yokohama Arena. This was the first time in Korakuen.
I was told to get geared up, got airbrushed (yes, airbrushed! They airbrushed tattoos & warpaint on me), and had my hair dyed red. When I say they had gimmicks, I meant it. I was transformed into the KATAKARI for the night, The idea was I was a tribal chief from the Philippines that fed on the shoulders of my adversaries. The name itself translates into “Shoulder Hunter”.
The premise of the match was simple. In Hustle, there were two sides. Team Hustle, and Team Monster. I, obviously, was on Team Monster. The two warring factions had their leaders, Team Hustle being Ogawa & Hashimoto, Monster being Takada & Mark Coleman. I was wrestling Hashimoto because he had recently injured his shoulder, and I was coming in to “eat” it. (He was planning on leaving for shoulder surgery in the states soon after)
Hashimoto arrived about an hour before we had to wrestle. He called me into his dressing room when he was ready, and he thanked me for coming. He didn’t speak much English, I didn’t speak Japanese;but for some reason I felt better. I just knew that he and I were going to have a good match.
Come bell time, I was nervous, but excited. By god, I was in Japan, the place where I had ALWAYS wanted to wrestle. I was facing one of the biggest names in wrestling in a semi-main event in one of the most famous wrestling venues in the world. I was going to do what I do and have a blast doing it!!
The match was great.
Everything went smooth as silk. My hand didn’t cause me any issues. The crowd was hot and the reactions we were getting was amazing. Hell, I got cheered and had the whole place doing a drumbeat! I went down to his jumping DDT into an arm-bar.
Afterwards, I went into Hashimoto’s dressing room to thank him for the match. What happened next is a memory that I will have forever. I found him sitting on a chair, talking to one of the Hustle people, I believe. I went up to shake his hand and thank him; and he looked up at me and smiled from ear to ear. He stood up and thanked ME for the match, then pulled me in and gave me a hug! I know it seems weird, but him doing that was the greatest compliment to my ability I have ever had. I only saw Hashimoto a few more times before he died, but everytime he saw me, he would give me a hug.
R.I.P. Boss. Thanks for giving a kid a chance.
I hope you liked reading y ramblings. It was fun remembering it to write it down!