I’ve been asked many times how I succeeded in not only surviving but thriving in a country which values style over content, Tatemae (建前) over Honne (本音), and brain-dead women with crooked teeth over just about anything else. The answer is dead simple: pro-wrestling taught me everything I needed to know about making sure that I was a massive success in Nippon. Don’t believe me? Read on.
1) Mic skills – Where to start? Wrestlers with limited skills like Hulk Hogan could still electrify the crowds even when at an age when the simplest wrestling moves escaped them. In the Jap, you need to be able to work the mic in a variety of situations. Critical to your initial approval will be your ability to handle the mic at karaoke. I electrified the mayor of my city and the local Diet member with a highly memorable version of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer when I first arrived with a stunning bang in Nishibiwajima-cho (西枇杷島町), proving two things: my awesome skills at the mic with even the most limited of material, and the ability to generate heat with even grandmas and snack whore hostesses in audience. An absolutely legendary performance of a screaming and howling me doing AC-DC’s “Back in Black” at a snack whore establishment next to my karate dojo guaranteed notoriety which lasts until this day.
2) Technical skills – sadly often the smallest part of the equation. Stars like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were huge successes despite extremely limited wrestling ability. You could be the same in Japan, teaching English with no real understanding of English grammar or even the ability to string a proper sentence together. None of it matters if you’ve got The Look, my blue eyes and almost blond hair guaranteed me complete immunity while spewing chunks in a technical rainbow colour sense at a school party less than two weeks after arriving in Japan. Not only that, but I was praised for my massive drinking ability and overall charisma, not to mention my pure Canadian blood. After all, real Canadians are blue-eyed and blond-haired, hit on the school nurse, and end up banging the youngest teacher on staff.
3) The Look: in Japan it doesn’t matter if you can’t ski, all you need to do is own several thousand dollars in ski equipment and the latest in skiing threads. If you look the part, you are the part. Half the population of Britain still makes a living in Japan by pretending to be professional DJs in the Jap without having a) any musical taste whatsoever or b) any professional musical ability to mix songs without the aid of an iPod and Traktor DJ. Pro-wrestling taught me that if you had a great look but absolutely no wrestling talent, you’d still be a success, and Japan is no different. Kevin Nash was an appalling wrestler but looked the part, and had what many would argue was an overly long career based on his size and apparent power. A total lack of technical ability and often injuring other wrestlers while conducting apparently innocuous techniques didn’t hinder his career one bit. One night in Club Buddha, a much bemused crowd in Nagoya was taught that when an English Teacher breaks out with no technical ability whatsoever but performs the electric lightning, running man, and climbs the ladder in quick succession followed by pounding back the best part of a bottle of absinthe, a legend is born.
4) Finishing Move: If you don’t have a great finishing move, you’re toast. Shawn Michael’s Sweet Chin Music, Hogan’s Big Boot (even when he could barely lift his leg above his waist), the Undertaker’s Tombstone, I could go on and on. If you’re in the Jap and don’t have a pose or line that entertains your pals, you’ve got nothing. Making deliberate mistakes in Japanese that your friends know are retarded and then complaining about how difficult Japanese is? A variation on the peace sign as done by Morning Musume and interpreted by Assistant Language Teacher in the middle of a stunningly crap lesson by Watanabe-Sensei? A ticket to instant stardom. Returning the world famous light your pubic hair on fire salaryman special with a reach for the stars rock star pose which summons a massive fart? Just make sure you can live up to the hype you’ve summoned with your ability to cut a promo.
5) Cutting promos: a great wrestling promo is a thing of beauty. Summoning aliens and gods from beyond in the style of the Ultimate Warrior, the powers, the prayers and the vitamins from Hogan, or any number of beyond the grave schticks from the Undertaker? The ability to be able to pump your own ego and status among your Japanese acquaintances is of primordial value. It is important to be able to claim massive achievements which are totally unprovable, or inflate minor achievements into world-beating accomplishments in your own country. Almost make it to the NHL? Release a rock album known only in your own place of birth that was a massively local success? The truth doesn’t matter, particularly if you’ve got The Look.
6) Taking a Bump: as demonstrated by one of the most depressing White Men in Japan ever (The Ham), a temporary burst in popularity can be secured by taking a bump properly. In his case, it meant “just loooooosssssssiiinnnnnnnnggggg it”, dropping to the floor like a pole-axed steer and writhing around like a newly revived Pulp Fiction Uma Thurman. Chris Jericho made a career of selling bumps and making the other guy look good. When your Japanese teaching counterpart makes a truly idiotic remark (“Canadians don’t eat seafood and sell all their lobster to Japan”) you know what you have to do: take the punch and sell it as big as you can (“That’s right Nakamura-sensei! Canadians die if they eat fish! Ahahahahahaha!) to win the approval of the crowd.
7) Dramatic heel turns: as much as I despise what Hulk Hogan became at the end, his turn as a heel NWO founder made for much heat and interest among pro-wrestling aficionados. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Macho Man turning on the Ultimate Maniacs Savage, Chris Jericho, The Rockers exploding, Sgt Slaughter joining the enemy, Andre becoming the not-so gentle giant, all of these illustrate the massive heat which can be generated by a sudden heel turn. A legendary performance with my streetwise partner James in a bar in Okazaki, a sudden dumping for no reason other than boredom of an erstwhile dating partner in Gifu, the move from smooth foreigner to wicked gaijin in less than 5 minutes with three Russian chicks and two incredulous Jfriends at the ID Cafe in Nagoya (deep-throat kissing and massive grinding to the sounds of Eminem while pounding back Kamikazes, a slap on the ass and I’m gone), nothing makes for an increased reputation as a media-savvy English teacher than the ability to pump the crowd reaction through the roof. If you’re an unimpeachable blond, blue-eyed gaijin, you can keep them talking for years with a well-timed move to the dark side guaranteeing you notoriety and even more dark charisma with the Jgirls, culminating in invitations to drifting competitions, blowjobs in dark alleys, and a never-ending series of SMS’s wanting you at the party of the month.
Need I say more? If you’ve got the skills to succeed as a pro-wrestler, you are going to be truly a legend of our time in the Jap, a classic White Man in Japan with memories to last a lifetime.