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WRESTLING COLUMNS

How to Survive in the Orient
April 5, 2006 by Daniel Johnson


WWE Hall of Fame member Jimmy Valiant recently stated during a phone interview, "It's a shame that there's not the territories like there were years ago, you know years ago there were so many territories you just go from one to another and you know you could become a big star here" and continued by referencing today's wrestling scene "it's harder because there's WWE or TNA; I mean these are the only two people happening where as years ago there were 25 or 30 territories at one time".

While territories may not dominate the world of wrestling today as they have in the past, there are still alternatives to mainstream American wrestling, perhaps most notably Japan.

When contacted through his website, www.coltcabana.com, Zero One Max star Colt Cabana described what first made Japan an appealing place for him to work, "I always thought it was very interesting and intriguing when my trainer told me it was his dream to wrestle in Japan and not in WWE. I figured it was everyone's dream to be in the WWE and it was hard to understand there were other full-time jobs in wrestling besides WWE. From there, I was open to look at all ventures and opportunities in the wrestling world."

In addition to finding inspiration to wrestle in Japan from one's trainer, fellow Zero One wrestler C.W. Anderson gave another reason, stating that he "loved the fighting style in Japan where it was a lot harder contact than over here in the U.S.," but also that in wrestling with a harsher style occasional dates may be more realistic than a full time schedule as one's "body gets worn down with the strong fighting style"

The "strong fighting style" of Japan is an aspect of the country that has developed in recent years as Valiant stated after being contacted through www.jimmyvaliant.com that during his tours of Japan in the late 70's and early 80's that "It was all Western style, it was all our style."

Part of the reason for the integration of Japanese and Western style wrestling in Japan has largely been backed by business integration of the two entities. With the passing of October, 9, 1995 Japan became an option for American wrestling companies impossible to ignore. On that date a highly anticipated New Japan versus UWFI feud concluded with IWGP Champion Keiji Muto defeating Takada. The event took in more than $8 million in total and became the highest grossing wrestling event ever that did not have a pay-per-view audience.

When contacted, American-born wrestler Ricky Landell expanded upon the importance of the American-Japanese wrestling connection, "I think by having Japanese companies and American wrestling companies work together in some capacity is beneficial for both. A couple of examples would be Ring of Honor bringing in big names from Japan, therefore bringing even more credibility to their product, giving their fans a great show while at the same time benefiting financially from ticket and DVD sales. On the other hand, a good example of a Japanese wrestling company benefiting from a connection with an American company would be Zero One Max's connection with AWA. The AWA World title, although again gaining much prominence most recently in the U.S., has always been a huge deal in Japan. Now, Zero One Max can benefit from the legacy of the AWA and the AWA World Title."

With any clash of styles, new compounds are bound to be created, which training centers must take into consideration.

One example of keeping up with emerging wrestling styles can be found in Boogie's Wrestling Camp, where Valiant trains upcoming wrestlers near his hall of fame, "I teach... old school here and new school...you have to keep up with the times or you're going to get lost in the shuffle."

Despite the achievement of styles blending across cultures, individual success does not always translate the same way as independent wrestling star, Juggernaut pointed out, "It depends what you want from your career. If you have a goal to work for the WWE, it's probably not a good idea to spend too much time over in Japan since it's almost a case of 'out of sight, out of mind', with the exception of the hardcore DVD watchers, people in North America tend to forget about the guys that spend a lot of time over seas. Some guys have had stellar careers spending the majority of their time over in Japan, if given the opportunity; you really need to know what you want. Very rarely does a big star in Japan ever make a comparable impact in North America."

If one must decide to either wrestle in the United States or wrestle in Japan than the latter is not necessarily the lesser choice.

For wrestlers that potentially want to travel to Japan, Landell remarked what made the trip first appealing to him, "Japan has the greatest fans, hands down. They have so much respect for the great sport of pro-wrestling. They sit quietly and watch intently while the matches take place, as a way to show respect to the wrestlers and the sport. The culture itself is built around respect, honor, and tradition, so it was a great honor for me to perform in front of them".

Anderson further elaborated on this point when asked for additional comments, "The culture of the people is something to see. They are very respectful and it is an enjoyable experience to be in Japan. Since the wrestling in Japan is harder hitting than here in the U.S. seems to be more gratifying to be able to keep getting called back and make a name for yourself over there."

Also intriguing about deciding to wrestle in Japan is the worldly experience that the country gives to wrestlers and subsequently creating an easier transition in traveling to other nations to wrestle abroad.

"I never actually had any thoughts about wrestling Korea at all, in fact I didn't even know there was wrestling in Korea, it was just an opportunity that came out of the blue one day, so I grabbed it," remarked Juggernaut and continued "I just really enjoy wrestling in as many places as possible, and in all the places I have been Japan is without a doubt on the top of my list."

Valiant recalled, "I went to A.U.E., which is around Saudi Arabia...went to Abu Dhabi; we stayed there three weeks in Abu Dhabi Hilton and we wrestled all throughout the emirates. Of course coming back you know... you go through London and then of course back to the states that way... you got to get my book (Woo...Daddy Mercy) man you know I tell all about all that and my experiences in Japan."

Whether Japan leads to other countries or not is up to individual wrestlers, but through having a unique style, business connections, and respectful fans, Japan proves to be a welcomed alternative to American wrestling.

by Daniel Johnson


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