After the barrage of E-mail about my last column (thanks for writing, everyone, with all comments positive, negative, and "Who's Better Than Kanyon?"), I'm taking a different approach this week. Much of the inspiration comes from Mark Nulty's excellent column about the late Jonathon Boyd. My topic, fortunately, is still walking among us.
Almost seven years ago, two things occurred that radically changed my life. First, after four years of basic isolation from wrestling due to college, I started going to shows at the world-famous Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. I also started digging around on the Internet, and found a bunch of wrestling freaks in a UseNet group, many of whom are now on the staffs of 1wrestling.com,
Wrestleline, and many other websites both good and bad. Those two hobbies collided in the form of Hisaharu Tanabe, a funny guy in a Mickey Mouse hat who was doing his undergrad studies at the University of North Texas. Later on, Hisa started a Web site called the Puroresu Dojo, one of the most remarkable research and informational sources about professional wrestling in Japan. Many of you know him from that...I'd like to share my five favorite Hisa stories, so you know the friend that I do.
5) Hisa was my "roommate" at the first ECW Internet convention, in February of 1995. We'd talked a lot, that weekend and other times, about how many people don't get the attitude that many Japanese fans have about puroresu. I don't remember the phrase meaning "fighting spirit," but that quality in a wrestler is far more important to Japanese fans than high spots, booking strategies, angles, etc., the stuff that interests the WON crowd. The day before the show at the ECW Arena, Hisa, Katuyuki and "Keiji Muto" (I don't remember the guy's name, but man, he looked a lot like Muto) taught the gaijin amongst us a few Japanese phrases related to puroresu. And during Chris Benoit's match with Al Snow, bunches of poorly pronounced chants broke out from that side of the bleachers. If you watch the Double Tables commercial tape, you'll clearly see Hisa basking in the knowledge that some U.S. fans get it, as we staggered through a phrase that I think meant "New Japan."
4) Hisa is half student of professional wrestling, but the other half, like many of us, is the biggest mark that you'll ever meet. And that's meant in the best possible way. I hadn't seen Hisa or spoken with him in several months after he left Texas to start graduate school in the Northeast. One early evening, I got a phone call. It was Hisa...but he wasn't at school. He was on vacation, back home in Japan, and decided to call and talk about wrestling, because we hadn't in awhile. We talked for a long time, running up what must have been an impressive phone bill. It was about the time of the New Japan/UWFi joint shows, and I think a little while after Onita's retirement. It was one of the most fun and insightful phone calls I've ever had.
3) In our "youth," we both liked to have a cold beverage from time to time, and both liked to make a spectacle of ourselves, usually after said beverage. At a WWF house show at Reunion Arena, several were consumed during the course of the evening, whose main event was Lex Luger v. Yokozuna, managed by Mr. Fuji, in a stretcher match. We weren't in the front row, but definitely close enough to the action where Hisa decided to participate a little bit. Not physically, but the best way he knew how. It's pretty well-known, especially to Japanese fans, that Harry Fujiwara is from San Francisco. He was born in the good ol' U.S.A. So Hisa started hollering at him in Japanese. Fuji smiled and bowed a little bit, but it was pretty clear to any fan within earshot that Fuji didn't understand a word of his supposed "native tongue." Eventually, Hisa got frustrated and switched to English long enough to ask Fuji to run along and bring him some fried wonton. To Section D at Reunion that night, he made a terrible match memorable.
2) Those of you who remember my Texas reports from my tenure down there know my fondness for a team called High Voltage. Not the WCW boys, but two guys called Bo Vegas and Devon Michaels. Two juiced-up freaks with blow-dried, bottle-blonde hair, lots of attitude, and no wrestling skills to speak of as a general rule. The best part was they were babyfaces with ears like Air Force radar, so at the first taunting (quite often from me), they'd get very upset and switch from "we're gonna get back at those Sicilian Studs" to "shut up, asshole!" at the drop of a dime. One night, Hisa did me, and them, one better. They were cutting a promo in the ring during the last days of the GWF, and I was talking with another Sportatorium regular about what terrible talker they were, and my point was that when the GWF went under, they didn't have a future as thespians. You know, actors. Hisa, sitting on the other side of me, heard "lesbians." He looked at me and said, "Did you just call them lesbians?" Then, to no one in particular, "High Voltage are a couple of lesbians!" Finally, directed at the ring, "Hey, you lesbians, you're terrible!! Go home!!" Bo and Devon stopped in mid-mumble, as did interviewer Doyle King, and after a few seconds, they just gave up. Nothing more to say after that. I don't think that ever made TV, but it sure should have.
1) On September 4th, I was privileged to see Hisa and his long-time girlfriend be joined as man and wife. May he and his wife walk in prosperity, happiness, and love, for the rest of their days. Congratulations, my friend....