I grew up watching American pro wrestling and still indulge in the guilty pleasure from time to time online. When I found out there is a homegrown wrestling circuit right where I live in Tohoku, I had to go. Tohoku is the north eastern region of Japan, historically called Michinoku. Michinoku Pro Wrestling can be seen sharing their unique brand of wrestling throughout the region's larger cities such as Tsuruoka City in Yamagata, Akita City in Akita, Morioka in Iwate, and Sendai City in Miyagi. They even occasionally make it down to Tokyo, Osaka, and several other locations. I went to see a show inside a rented out hotel event hall, seemingly used for weddings as wrestlers descended a white staircase to the ring. It only added to the drama about to unfold. For a little over two hours I was excited, scared, disgusted, and delighted--but I was not disappointed!
Things started off a little childish with the three Yappaman (one is a woman) team doing many unimpressive team attacks, anime-like poses, and a lot of light punches or kicks. This act was surely for the kids in the crowd. Soon, however, the warm up act was over and then some of the more serious wrestling started. When I say more serious, I actually mean more ridiculous. Crazy costumes, over-the-top stunts (bowling ball to the groin--ouch!) and a crowd getting pumped up was all possible thanks to the efforts of the wrestlers. Most of the wrestlers were very athletic and at a high skill level with their gravity-defying splashes from the top rope and offensive or heartwarming personalities to match. The crowd favorite has to be The Great Sasuke. He loves children and throws out candy to his adoring fans. Children happily accept candy from this masked man then shout his name during the match. If he is good, how do we know who the bad guys are? It is very obvious as the four man group of tough guys have funky hair styles and are even called "Bad Boys." And then there are my favorites, the Baramon twins. The crowd loves them one moment, boos them the next, and runs away soon after. These two guys raise the energy level with their comedy, use of weapons like a traffic cone or kendo stick, and their spitting. During the match and randomly throughout the show the two put water in their mouths then go and spit it directly at unsuspecting crowd members! Ki wo tsukete kudasai, or be careful, as the announcer reminds us. Other memorable characters include a mountain priest, a parody Tohoku baseball player, and a special guest turtle man.
From my American wrestling fan experience, I found the Japanese pro wrestling very fascinating. Don't let the smaller crowd and venue deter you, this act is on par with other pro wrestling entertainment, even if the budget is slightly less. It was also interesting seeing some wrestlers shake hands and bow to the audience, which until the latter half of the show was very quiet with their brief applause.
Reserved seating tickets at ringside are 5000 yen while non-reserved are 4000. Discount for children and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased at select ticket sellers like convenient stores, or bought on the day of the big event. Check website for details.
For an unforgettable experience in Japan, get ready to rumble with Michinoku Pro Wrestling!