I’m no boxing expert, but I know a good fight when I see it (these days, I’ll watch anything featuring current WBC flyweight champion Daisuke Naito. That guy’s got spunk!).
One of my earliest posts took a look at the legendary matchup between superstar pro wrestler Antonio Inoki and the greatest boxer who ever lived, but up to now I had only seen grainy YouTube clips of the actual match. No longer! TV Asahi is planning a rebroadcast of the Inoki-Ali fight for Saturday, Feb. 7 starting at 7pm, to commemorate the 33rd anniversary. I hope you won’t mind me giving them a shameless plug!
According to Oricon, rights issues had previously kept anyone from rebroadcasting the fight before, but they somehow finagled it in time for the network’s 50th anniversary. The program will show each round in a digest format, and features a retrospective documentary with Inoki reflecting on his experiences. As you can see from my original post, the fight wasn’t exactly a nail-biter, but here’s an interesting tidbit from the Oricon article – The day after the fight, sports newspapers ridiculed it as “the dullest fight of the century” but apparently Inoki’s “logical” tactics have been vindicated as helping lay “the cornerstone of mixed martial arts.”
Though I was not around for the original fight, I am glad to live in a time when I can watch archives in sweet, sweet HDTV quality that was unthinkable in those days.
PS: At the time of my old post, I remarked on Inoki’s intentions: “…Western exposure, as it has been for so many other Japanese entertainers, was merely a tool to show the Japanese public that he can knock heads with The Greatest and land roles in American movies.” I am shocked that I would make such a categorical and baseless statement. Even today, I don’t know what Inoki was thinking for sure. Maybe I could reasonably suspect this, but I guess at the time I wasn’t so careful in my writing.
An Akihabara Nerd to Run for the Upper House… Tarui Dresses Like a Fantasy Warrior on RPG-like Homepage
The LDP’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso is well-known for being popular among the Akihabara (read:anime/manga/video game nerd) set, but there is one man in the DPJ who considers himself an “Akiba-kei” (Akihabara-style otaku). That man is 39-year-old Yoshikazu Tarui, a former Lower House member. He is gaining attention for his uniqueness in such odd moves as putting pictures of himself dressed like a fantasy warrior on his business cards and homepage and displaying images of DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa dressed as “King Zawa.”
Open Tarui’s homepage, and a story on the theme of “a country built on entertainment” will begin. It’s set up like a role-playing game, and King Zawa asks “Warrior Tarui”: “Hey, what happened Tarui? What is it?” as the story progresses.
Tarui is well known as a professional wrestling and kickboxing fan in the DPJ, and “Killer Kan” a great general played by Acting President Naoto Kan also shows up. This is a pun on the famous wrestler Killer Khan who was big in New Japan Pro Wrestling and famous for his special move the Mongolian Chop. DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama’s appearance is still in the planning stages, reportedly.
Tarui is running in this summer’s upper house race as a proportional representation candidate, but in response to questions from Yukan Fuji (=ZAKZAK), he explains, “Since there are no Akiba-kei Diet members in Nagata-cho, I thought that I’d try and grab the segment of people who are interested in pop culture and digital contents, so I made this site.” His campaign promise is “promotion of the entertainment content industry.”
He has a fold-out business card with the word “Tarutsu” on the cover in the style of famous video game magazine “Famitsu” along with a photo of Tarui dressed as a warrior. Open the card, and along with pictures of Tarui with “King Zawa” and “Killer Kan” there is a pun-filled message: 「かったるい国政、変えたるい！！」 (I’ll change the tired old national politics!). On the back is the strong slogan: “Bring the first akiba-kei Diet member in history back to national politics!”
You’d think he’d have confidence in this masterwork, but Tarui actually seems to be keeping his distance: “I gave this to Kan, but I’ve been too scared to show it to Ozawa since I made it without asking. This might freak regular people out, so I am not giving it out so much. I am mostly just giving it to people in the industry.
Certainly, there are those in Nagatocho who are cool on the wacky concept, saying “all we can do is laught,” but a source close to Tarui explains that he’s “a totally serious person.”
Actually, in Tarui’s own running column in “Weekly Famitsu” magazine, he seriously explains his ‘pet project’: “Promotion of entertainment not only has economic effects for the country, but will also help to raise [Japan’s] image. Would you want to fire a missile at Korea after having seen Winter Sonata? If you consider those feelings, you can understand that entertainment content is truly the best diplomat for prevention of wat and boosting tourism and economic exchange!”
Even Aso must be surprised at this guy!
Both sides are likely to run celebrities and other fluff candidates for the national PR seats this summer, but a seasoned policy wonk with a taste for the absurd? I like.
Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can now watch highlights from the historic Muhammad Ali fight with Japanese pro wrestling legend Antonio Inoki (read more about the fight here):
It’s a sports documentary in Japanese, but anyone should be able to get a picture of what the fight looked like. And what does it look like? A boring mess! This description of the fight put it well:
Inoki spent much of the fight on the ground trying to damage Ali’s legs. Ali spent most of the fight dodging the kicks by stepping out of the way or staying on the ropes. Occasionally, Inoki’s boot would connect. By the third round, a wound had appeared on Ali’s left knee.
I guess that’s what happens when you put a boxer and a wrestler together and then try and mix-match the rules of each sport.
Japan Times reports on Takenaka’s announcement, which came at a post-cabinet meeting press conference:
Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka said Friday he will retire from politics when outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down Sept. 26.
Takenaka, a 55-year-old professor-turned-lawmaker, said he decided to quit politics because his job had been to assist Koizumi’s economic reforms.
But what I didn’t see reported in English was news of who will take Takenaka’s proportional representation seat in the Diet. You see, members of the upper house who were elected by PR don’t represent a specific district, so there’s no runoff to replace people who quit or die. Whatever party the person leaving belonged to gets to select the replacement.
In this case the LDP had a Ms. Shinobu Kandori at the top of their waiting list from when she ran in 2004. Kandori (41) is a former Judo star who went on to become a veteran and former CEO of Japan’s Lady’s Legend Pro Wrestling. Sometimes knows as “the strongest man in ladies’ wrestling”, her accomplishments in the ring include the distinction of being among the few female wrestlers to defeat a male wrestler (eat your heart out Andy Kaufman!) in an effort to break down the barriers between men’s and ladies’ wrestling. She was also a participant in the first-ever women’s version of anything-goes kickboxing called L-1. Outside the ring, she made waves by becoming the first female freelance pro wrestler, choosing to negotiate matches from outside the company. Her profile on her agent’s website lists her main hobby as gambling.
A Jan 2002 interview places Kandori’s legendary 1986 wrestling debut against Jackie Sato as the event that destroyed the image of female wrestlers as objects of adoration (“idols”) (Ed: corrected translation). Known for her brutality in the squared circle, Kandori specializes in chain deathmatches and no-holds-barred fights. Her theme song is “All We Are” by female-led hair metal band Warlock (watch and listen here on Youtube!). She considers herself a pioneer for women in wrestling, which her record no doubt backs up. Few before her in ladies wrestling had the muscular body of a Judo champ, which allowed her to try some new things like fighting men. Her goal as a leader of ladies wrestling was to make the sport more organized and to raise standards of who can become a wrestler.
But now she’s got some big shoes to fill. Her official blog doesn’t have much on it yet since the announcement just came out yesterday, but I wouldn’t count on seeing any more pictures of her chugging tomato juice from now on:
In case you were wondering what she’ll be bringing to her new job as a public servant, Wikipedia has an indication: Her unsuccessful political campaign in 2004 earned her criticism after she bluntly stated that she “honestly, like, [doesn’t] get this Iraq issue.” She also reportedly never made her mandatory social security payments, claiming that as a pro wrestler she never learned how to live in normal society. “The system is just too hard to understand,” she explained. “We have to change it.”
Thing is, the LDP actually sought Kandori out to exploit her fame (much like they tried to do with Horie), so in part she can’t be blamed for making such inappropriate comments. She’s just being honest, and if that’s good enough for the LDP, then it’s up to the voters to decide whether she deserves a Diet seat, right? Well, sort of. They voted her out, but now she’s back in on a technicality.
Translation: “Lend me your strength! It’s the million-person arm wrestling campaign”
Yes, the woman who once destroyed the door of Korakuen Hall’s green room in a fit of anger will join the ranks of Atsushi Onita (profiled before on this blog and whose official Diet secretary got in trouble earlier this year for kicking a rival wrestler in the face… and he apparently has beef with 26-yo Taizo Sugimura, another LDP Diet member of questionable merit) and the legendary Antonio Inoki.
Something tells me she won’t be offered any of Takenaka’s cabinet posts, but she might make a more pretty good Gender Equality minister.
UPDATE: Her other nickname is “Mr. Ladies’ Wrestling.” See that fact and a sweet action pose here.
Remember Nikolai Volkoff, the “Soviet” wrestler everyone loved to hate? Well turns out he was actually from the former Yugoslavia. And he’s most recently been spotted following in the footsteps of greats such as Jesse “the Body” Ventura, Antonio Inoki, the Great Sasuke, and Hulk Hogan (ran for president of course) and run for office. But this time, his opponents seem to be playing the role of the heel. The Washington City Paper has a great story on it. Highlights:
(Reacting to leaflets distributed claiming he used to spit on the American flag in his wrestling persona) “Spitting on a flag, that’s cheap heat,” he says. “I was a professional. I didn’t work for cheap heat.”
Volkoff truly believes that the anti-Commie mood he helped foment in the West through his un-American activities in the ring hastened the fall of the Wall.
(Opponents) Impallaria and McDonough both deny any connection to the fliers. But they don’t mind echoing the message.
“He was the Tokyo Rose of the 1980s,” says Impallaria. “He made his living spitting on the American flag and singing the Russian national anthem. Now he can say he was just doing a job. Tokyo Rose was just doing a job, too.”
Adds McDonough: “He did spit on the flag. I consider that reprehensible. Anybody can run for office. You can’t go around saying your wrestling career doesn’t matter. Volkoff isn’t even the name on his birth certificate. People need to know everything.”
As any good wrestler would when given a platform, Volkoff leveled some smack of his own at his antagonists. “Impallaria—that guy has 27 arrests,” he says. “How do you get arrested that much?”
Asked to respond to Volkoff’s blast, Impallaria says, “A lot of people are charged with a lot of things, but the real question is: Have you ever been convicted of anything?”
OK, OK, OK. Have you ever been convicted of anything?
“Anybody can look that up,” Impallaria says, declining to answer “the real question” any further. “I’m going to stick to the issues. I’m not going to lower myself to dirty politics.”
The Republican primary will be held in September. Vineberg says that despite his adversaries’ tactics, Volkoff has no intention of hiding his wrestling past as the campaign progresses. In fact, the press secretary has been contacting former ring colleagues to ask them to come to Maryland.
“We’ve been talking to the Iron Sheik,” says Vineberg. “Nikolai and the Sheik made a great tag team. America really hated them. I’m sure he’ll be up here to help.”
What is it about wrestlers that makes them such appealing political candidates in Japan and the US? Is it their masculinity? Giant authoritative boots (If so, Condee Rice might be considering running for office!)?
Perhaps it’s easy for the wrestlers to adapt to the campaigning process’s similarities to the carnival sideshow aspects of pro wrestling. I mean, pro wrestling and politics have a lot in common – head to head confrontation, tag teams, battle royales (battles royale?), playing to the crowd, constant touring, factionism. One difference – the winners aren’t decided beforehand in politics (we hope).
I wonder – do pro wrestlers enter politics in Mexico? The most famous luchador of all, El Santo, seems not to have made that career decision. Have there been any politicians from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling?
I was intrigued to note that the classic WWF’s own Iron Sheik is actually known by his real name, Khosrow Vaziri, in Japan. Apparently, the former bodyguard for the Shah did not get the same villainous characterization in Japan.
Of course, the Iron Sheik has popped back into the public eye with the release of some amazing interviews with him: