NJPW superstar Tama Tonga recently spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso to talk all things pro-wrestling. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
NJPW holding off on shows during the COVID-19 pandemic:
There is a different sense of unity in Japan. Here in America, the show must go on. Money needs to come in, so the wrestlers are still wrestling. New Japan stopped holding shows. That’s not just for the safety of the fans, but it’s also for the health of the wrestlers.
Difference between American and Japanese wrestling cultures:
It’s a different culture in Japan, a lot different from ‘the show must go on’ mindset. The majority of our income comes from live shows, which has been cut out, but the company has held onto the staff and reassured us that no one will be let go. The company is more of a family in Japan.
How Hiroshi Tanahashi is a true leader for the promotion:
New Japan does its best to look out for the entire wrestling scene in Japan. Even Tanahashi going in front of government, that may surprise people in wrestling, but it doesn’t surprise us. He really is our leader. You can see that unity in our roster, too. Our guys go from young to old. This isn’t a factory of young guys that get chopped up and spit out. The mindset around wrestling is different in Japan.
Starting his podcast and talking about the formation of Bullet Club:
You’re going to hear how it all started from our viewpoint. Behind the scenes, on the bus, in the restaurants—how the name came to be, which names were thrown around, and the ideas we tried that never got to the ring. This is a deep dive into the creation. And what better guy to kick it off with than the O.G. Karl Anderson? I was close with Karl before Bullet Club. We were the only foreigners, there were only four of us in Japan—it was Prince Devitt, Fale, Karl Anderson and myself. We all spoke English and hung out together all the time. Our booker saw how tight our bond was, and that’s how Bullet Club really became a thing.