Welcome back to the ever shifting sands of the Sunday Supplements, cats and kittens. Tonight we’re going to talk about the wacky land of Japan. Not just anything about Japan, though, because god knows we could be here all night just discussing why they sell used girl’s panties in vending machines next to the soda. No, today, inspired by TAJIRI’s new promotion that we’re reviewing for this week, we’ll be talking about people who never made it in the rat race of American pro wrestling, who nonetheless hit it big in the far east for one reason or another.
Sorry Murdoch, None For You.
So call them gaijin, call them legends, or call them radiculous. These are 5 men that went nowhere in America, and hit it big in Japan. So saddle up your sushi, and buy some Hello Kitty merchandise. It’s time to head to the other side.
Number Five – TAJIRI.
In a way, it’s almost cheating to put Yoshihiro Tajiri on this list. I mean, he was highlighted in ECW and he was a valued midcarder/lower carder in WWE for several years. But when it comes to really making it as a performer, TAJIRI was always under appreciated, and never really got the chance to branch out and accomplish all that he was capable of. Finally, after a few years of doing things like kidnapping white women and teaming with Rhino (and I can’t decide which is more offensive), he got his release and went back to Japan, where he had not wrestled in a full decade. He was met with respect and admiration by thousands of Japanese fans who had seen him as their sole representation in WWE, and who loved him for his role there. They proclaimed their love for him, and their desperation to see him wrestle the top Japanese stars of the day.
Tajiri just put his cigarette out, shot them a glare, and told them to go fuck themselves.
And then began the rise of TAJIRI, a man almost unrecognizable from the bland and innocent wrestler people had seen in WWE. This new TAJIRI was much happier spitting mist in your face than actually wrestling you, and he went from promotion to promotion causing absolute chaos, attacking the top stars in Japan, and then refusing to fight with honor on their terms. And in such a simple but effective way, TAJIRI because the most interesting and dynamic presence in Japan. A man defined entirely by chaos, and ruled by nothing but his own free spirit. He finally found a home amidst the insanity of HUSTLE, and became it’s most credible star, representing them all over the country and engaging in memorable feuds with Minoru Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuji Nagata, using his wily tactics and mysterious intentions to get into the heads of each and every man who stood across from him.
For Fuck’s Sake, He Made Tanahashi UNPRETTY!
Going home allowed him to blossom into the performer that nobody knew that he could be, and allowed him to become something entirely unique and special in his home country. His is my choice for the best heel in Japan, and one of the most dynamic wrestlers in the world today. And we get to review him this week.
Expect squeals of excitement from yours truly.
Number Four – Johnny Ace.
Ah, John Laurinaitis. To most of us he is one of the commanding authority figures in World Wrestling Entertainment today, holding sway over the talent, and generally being Vince McMahon’s right hand McMan. To some others of us, he may be known for his tag team work in the NWA, as a member of the Dynamic Dudes with Shane Douglas, where they portrayed themselves as skateboarders. This despite the fact that both clearly didn’t know one end of a boarded object from the other.
Oh It’s Real. It’s Damn Real.
So what is the missing link between skateboarding wannabe and powerhouse executive for the most powerful wrestling promotion in the world? To put it simply: randomness.
John Laurinaitis, brother of Road Warrior Animal for the record, did some stuff in America throughout the 80s, in Florida Championship Wrestling and the NWA, but he never really stuck. So when the NWA parted ways with All Japan, Johnny chose to stay with All Japan, and would go on to have some memorable matches in tags against the likes of Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa. By the time the All Japan/Pro Wrestling NOAH split happened in 2000, he had been retired for awhile, and had been helping Ms. Baba in the office there, and he leveraged that experience to find himself in the worst job in professional wrestling history. He was the guy who took over as head booker after Vince Russo got fired from WCW. When the ship sank, it was Johnny Ace at the tiller. Vince McMahon must have seen something he liked, however, because when Jim Ross stepped down as Head of Talent Relations, Mr. Ace stepped right in through that door and has been there ever since.
Now there are any number of things that you might hear about the Ace Man. About how he’s a miserable prick who fucks every over, to how he’s incompetent at his job and hired the wrong one legged man resulting in the Zach Gowen unfortunateness. I can’t vouch for or confirm any of those rumors, but what I can say is that he is credited widely as having emphasized a concentration on more ring psychology in the WWE product since his hiring, with his Kings Road influence and experience serving to aid him greatly in passing along perhaps the best wrestling the world has ever known to a new generation.
He may not have been the greatest or most memorable gaijin of all time, but due to his standing in the wrestling world now, and his influence in passing on the traditions of puroresu, he has more than earned his place as a Japanese success story.
Oh, and he invented the Stone Cold Stunner, the Diamond Cutter and the RKO.
Number Three – Scott Norton.
Quick, make a list in your head of famous American wrestlers who costarred in movies with Sylvester Stallone.
Okay, other than Estelle Getty.
Alright, times up. Who’ve you got? If you said Scott Norton then you’re a fancypants smartass. But you’re also quite correct. Norton, a former national championship winning arm wrestler, costarred with Stallone in the 80s cheesefest (of awesomeness) known as Over The Top, and proved his acting chops to be every bit as viable as the kid that nobody remembers, and Sly’s ever descending lip.
Shown: The Greatest Movie Poster Of All Time.
After that he bummed around the independent wrestling scene, not really getting anywhere or doing anything, until he was discovered by New Japan Pro Wrestling and sent on a rocket to stardom.
In his Japanese career he won the IWGP Tag Team Championships with Hercules Hernandez, and spent a great deal of time tagging up with other hulking Americans to take on Japan’s best. But by far his biggest accomplishments were his two IWGP Heavyweight Championship wins, feats that put him in exclusive company as one of only five gaijin to ever win that coveted prize. He split time in WCW and NJPW after WCW officials noticed his hulking prescence, but despite being a member of the NWO, he never really found a place in America, and spent far more time getting the Japanese NWO over than the American one, even holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship while he was in both factions. A fact that WCW felt merited exactly one mention. Ever.
Scott Norton was never the biggest, the best, or the most famous, but he left a trail of battered and bloodied warriors across his legacy, and will forever be one of the greatest and most fondly remembered gaijins of all time.
And if he felt like it, he could totally rip your goddamn arm off.
Number Two – Bob Sapp.
There are twelve billion things you could say about Bob Sapp, the hulking behemoth from Colorado Springs, Colorado. You could talk about how he was a physical specimen who was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. You could talk about how he was contracted to be a WCW developmental talent when that fell through, and was seen as one of the most exciting prospects in wrestling history. You could talk about how he went to Japan and became the first African American to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. You could talk about how he’s an enormous celebrity in Japan, appearing in everything from commercials to movies to action figures. You could even talk about how he’s a miserable, but fantastically exciting MMA fighter.
But why talk when I can explain Bob Sapp in a simple math equation?
The Recipe To Bob Sapp.
Number One – Stan Hansen.
Stan Hansen. A name synonymous with badass, beer swilling, ass kicking, cowboy American motherfuckers. He’s a man with more great matches than you’ve had sexual encounters, and a man who is more famous and revered than you and everyone you’ve ever met combined.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of him? Well that’s okay becau…
As I was saying, that’s just fine because Stan Hansen could really give a rat’s ass about what anybody thinks. He is the ultimate Gaijin, he is the last untamed cowboy, and he is the scourge of Japan. He is Stan Hansen. And he’s better than you at everything. Yes, everything. Even that. And especially that, just ask your girlfriend.
Stan Hansen was born August 29th, 1949, 4 years after the end of World War II. Which was good for Hitler, because otherwise he might have found out what a Lariat For Justice feels like when delivered by an infant fresh off the boat from America. Hansen actually began wrestling part time while he was trying out from the Detroit Wheels, a team of the now defunct World Football League. This didn’t last long, though, as none of the pansies in the WFL would step on the field with him, so he turned to wrestling full time to sate his dual desires to hurt people and to be paid to hurt people.
As the years went on he became known as a good wrestler with a severe tendency towards breaking faces whenever he saw fit, until he caught the eye of Giant Baba in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Hansen went over there and wasted absolutely no time showing the Japanese what a pissed off cowboy looks like, as he would come tearing ass through the crowd swinging a rope around and violently removing anyone within scowling distance of him. The Japanese fans, being Japanese, loved the shit out of this and would queue up to take one in the kisser from the double hard bastard himself. While in Japan he became the only man to beat both Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki in championship matches, formed an American League of AssKickery with all of his best buds who came over from the States, and basically reigned down lariats and mean looks on anyone with the balls of steel to step in the ring with him.
To this day, if you were to try to find out who the most famous and well respected wrestlers in Puroresu history were, you wouldn’t have to go far before you found the name Stan Hansen, and mentions of his name bring the word “Lariat” to the lips of many an awed fan. He was the ultimate American, the perfect cowboy, and when he rode off into the sunset, he left a void that can never be filled.
So here’s to the King of the East, the Lion of Lariats, and the Maharajah of Massive Beatdowns. He’s a legend, a god, and the top spot of this week’s Top Ten.
Now then, let’s move on. Wait, what’s that behind you…
Well that’ll do it for us for now, boys and girls. I hope you enjoyed the brief history lesson that is disguising the blatant plug for this week’s review of TAJIRI’s new SMASH! promotion’s very first show. Keep an eye out for that coming up soon, and remember, if you see Stan Hansen, be sure to duck. You can’t say I didn’t warn you…