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It was his birthday yesterday.


I met him years ago, at a Vancouver All Star Wrestling event... then a couple of years after that I moved to Japan and met him again, and he remembered me from Vancouver. We've been drinking buddies for eight years now. He's a great guy, a great wrestler (in my opinion, one of the absolute best veteran indie wrestlers in the world) and a true friend.


Hopefully I'll have some Kuuga-related drinking and wrestling stories to tell in the new year. Here are a few pictures from the past 8 years:




This is the bar where about 40 of Kuuga's friends had our year-end party. It was three hours of all you can eat Chinese food, and all-you-can-drink. Good times.




This is from the karaoke party in late October. I am pleased to be one of the group of people around whom Kuuga feels comfortable removing his mask. We were drinking buddies for seven years before I saw his face.





Eating kushikatsu in Osaka's exotic Shinsekai area, shortly after my birthday.



At the rooftop BBQ in Namba Parks this summer


I'll post more later.

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I'm not sure exactly what I did (if anything) to "earn" membership in the "People Cooger Doesn't Have To Wear His Mask Around" club. Most of the times we've gone drinking have been either: Pro wrestling parties (so, a mix of friends, family, and fans) or situations that combine drinking with promotion (so the wrestlers are all in character), or to places that put up posters and do other advertising or sponsorship in exchange for wrestlers coming there (and again they want them in character).


The first night he took his mask off while I was there was at A-Toys, a wrestling and MMA bar in Osaka run by the fighter Tetsuo Kondo. It was a Dotonbori Pro Wrestling drinking party, and a pot luck dinner. People started drifting out around 10, but I stuck around because we were watching WrestleMania II on the TV. Around 11, with only a few people there, Kuuga removed his mask to wipe off some sweat... and just left it off.


Ebessan (the third one) was also there. He wrestles under his real name, Osamu Suganuma these days. He's also a great guy to drink with, warm-hearted and funny.

The atmosphere at most of these drinking events is just amazing: It's very much an "If you are Cooger's friend, then you are also my friend" kind of situation.


It's been like that since my first time drinking with him, eight years ago, at an Osaka Pro fan party. Back then my Japanese was pretty bad, and it can't have been easy to let me know where and when and how to get there and so on... but Kuuga has always gone out of his way to communicate carefully and make sure I understand, and even arrange to have someone meet me at a landmark close to the party...


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That's from Kuuga's Osaka Pro Godbye party. Somebody brought Dom Pérignon.




That's from the time Kuuga, Kenji, myself, and one other guy tried to finish of an entire cask of sake. We got more than halfway there.




Sometimes, at Cooger's drinking parties, I meet other pro wrestlers.


At this party, I met a very nice Joshi Pro Westler from Osaka named Kana







And some horrible pro wrestling bad guys. BOOOOO!!!

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I want to believe she drank everyone under the table.

Sadly, I think she was just drinking oolong tea that day. A pretty significant percentage of Japanese people are non-drinkers, often due to allergies. Not sure if Kana has allergies or if she is a non-drinker or if she just wasn't drinking that day...


She definitely brings an electric kind of vibe into a room just by being there, though.

It looks like you guys are having a blast! This is a lot of fun, thanks for sharing :)

It really is a blast hanging out with those guys and their friends. A consistent source of good times for me since moving to Japan.

The size of those glasses of beer, I'm jealous. Great stuff, Gordi!

Thanks! Kuuga and Ebessan are very strong drinkers. About 75 per cent of the times I've been really drunk in Japan, it's been with them. We often have "nomihoudai" parties, which means all-you-can-drink.

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Bonenkai is the year-end party. Shinnenkai is the first party of the year. Today was the Dotonbori Pro Wrestling Shinnenkai.


It was in what I like to refer to only half-jokingly as "Deep Osaka." One of those clubs where there is no sign on the street and it's very difficult to find if you haven't been there before. My old wrestling/drinking buddies Kai and Kenji took me to a couple of "Deep Osaka" places a few years ago and I got a huge kick out of it. Generally those places have a small but loyal regular clientele and one of them has to take you to the club the first time you go. In this case, Cooger sent me the address, but he had also never been there before so he wasn't able to give me any more information other than that it was close to a particular shop in Namba.


On Tuesdays I teach a group of mechanical engineers, and I told them of my dilemma (Japanese addresses can be hilariously difficult to figure out). We spent the first 15 minutes of our class working out the most likely location of the party, and the best route for me to take from the train station so I wouldn't get lost.


My private students are awesome, basically always ready to help me out with stuff like this even though they are paying for our time together.


I went to Osaka an hour early in case I couldn't find the place. I found it immediately. My students' directions were perfect.








It's in a part of the Shinsaibashi neighbourhood, close to the famous Glico sign, that is nothing but little restaurants, clubs, burlesque houses, and so on, all piled one atop the other.


Once I found the place, I wandered around for a bit, then waited outside the party location to help my various friends find it as they arrived.




The building itself is floor after floor of little private clubs and karaoke rooms and such.




Our shinnenkai space was, TARDIS-like, much bigger inside than seemed possible from the outside. Comfortable, but intimate. I could see why they picked this space. We got one free drink, and there was a pretty basic but slightly eclectic selection of free snacks (French fries, edamame, gyoza, whiskey chocolates, brandied cherries...) and other food and more drinks were in the extremely reasonable 200-300 yen range.




There was a kind of talk show, and a question-and-answer period, and individual wrestler interviews...



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And then suddenly, somehow 90 minutes had passed and there was only half an hour left and everyone was kinda sad because we hadn't had much chance to hang out... but then the master of the club said we could stay an extra 90 minutes and there was much rejoicing.


I'd understood, at best, a third of what was going on with all the talk show stuff (but I still enjoyed just being there with my friends, eating and drinking and soaking up the atmosphere).


It's easier for me though, when the wrestlers come sit with us at the tables. I can ask questions when I don't understand, and everyone is infinitely patient with me.




It was great to see Billyken Kid again. I don't think I had talked with him in about 4 years, but he was all, "Oh! Gordi! Hisashiburi!" as soon as he saw me. (I can understand why I'd be relatively easy to remember, but I still get a kick when they even remember my name).


We had a nice long chat, and he regaled our table with stories of wrestling in Mexico and how his mask got designed, and of wrestling Liger and how Mascara Sagrada was one of his favourite wrestlers as a kid (Billyken really lit up talking about him) and how he got to wrestle Mascara Sagrada Jr. in AAA (Blue Demon Jr., La Parka Jr., Mascara Sagrada Jr. & Perro Aguayo Jr. defeat Goku, Jiraiya, Shiiba & Tobikage 10/4/98 - Tobikage is Billyken).




All four of the wrestlers at the party are current Dotonbori Pro champions, but Akagi's belt was not ready yet, so we made him one. (Also we were the first people to get to see the other new belts).


Later on, he took off his mask and I made believe that I was shocked that Akagi is "Mach" Hayato Nanjyo. That cracked up my table, and fortunately the man himself took it in good humour. He's had a lot of gimmicks:


Dark Ranger

Hayato Nanjyo

Kabuto Daio Beetle

a.k.a. Kabuto Beetle

a.k.a. Beetle

Mach Hayato

Miracle Giant

and my personal favourite: Miracle Man




Young TORU is the current Dotobori Pro Champion. He also beat Koji Kanemoto in August 2017 to become VKF champion. There was a small group of young women at the party who are all clearly in love with him.




And of course my main man. Next week, some of the boys from Vancouver All Star Wrestling are coming to Osaka. we were kind of making plans for that. We're going to go to the same awesome all-you-can-eat-and-drink Chinese restaurant where we had the Bonenkai last month.

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A kind of remarkable thing happened toward the end of the party. Three guys (presumably regular customers) came into the bar and they seemed nonplussed to find it busy... but then one of them noticed that the guys on the video screen wrestling (they were playing what looked like fan cams of VKF matches all night) was also the guy sitting at the next table, and within minutes they were kanpai-ing and laughing and drinking with us.




Also, everybody got a nice memento:



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That's a really great story! I cracked up when the 3 regulars stumbled in on the party and then became part of it :D


Thanks, G.


I always feel like it's a really great atmosphere whenever I get together with Coogar and our mutual friends. It's very much a case of "If you are his friend, then you are also my friend" at those parties, and I feel like that's something kind of special.


Today I got a real treat: A chance to share that with some of my old friends (and a couple of new friends) from Vancouver All Star Wrestling.


5 of the boys were in Osaka today to work a show, and we had a welcome party for them at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Chinese restaurant where we had our Bonenkai in December:




Tomorrow, they are going on a tour of the local Kansai area, including my home town of Nara City. After that, they will work shows in Nagoya and Tokyo.


They had all been given semi-traditional orange hanten or haori-type jackets, which we all wrote messages on in black marker.






Bruiser Joe/Breaker Joe/Breaker Bruiser is in a tag team (The Breakers) with one of my good friends from my wrestling days, (I-Ton/Breaker Iton). What a blast it was to drink with him and my pro wrestling friends in Osaka! Next best thing to having Iton here. Joe was hilarious, getting everyone at the party to chop his chest (particularly the ladies), and cracking jokes all night long. He did not give a damn about the language barrier, he was just having fun talking to everyone.




Salty the Seaman, Bruiser Joe, and I share a common pro wrestling Senpai: SLAM Wrestling hall-of-famer, legendary Canadian indie referee, and all-around great guy "Vicious" Verne Seibert. Like with Coogar, any friend of Verne's is a friend of mine. Salty was pounding drinks all night, he had no trouble keeping up with Coogar, and he was obviously having a great time.




Great Kasaki, on the other hand, was in a kind of rough shape by the end of the night. Coogar is a guy that it's hard to say "no" to sometimes, and he always has all kinds of drinking games going on at parties like this. I myself have been three sheets to the wind a few times after drinking with Kuuga (and Ebessan).

Apparently, the boys were drinking up a storm last night and Kasaki bowed out early and started drinking Pocari Sweat (a popular Japanese "ion supply" sports drink). However, someone (it was Kuuga) slipped some sake into the Pocari Sweat bottle when Kasaki wasn't looking.

Like I said... a little worse for the wear but he kept going and interacted with the folks at the party all night long. Somewhat Ironically, though he is half-Japanese, I ended up translating for Kasaki (as for most of the boys) (to the best of my ability) a few times.

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"The Alternative" Ashley Sixx is a guy I'd never met before tonight. He was active on the Toronto indy scene for several years and (though he said nothing about it) I'm pretty sure he's the guy I've heard about who survived a bout with cancer and returned to wrestling. My first impression of him was definitely good, but I spent more time talking with Joe and Salty and Kasaki.


There was also a tall and handsome young wrestler named Nathan Kabe who got a LOT of attention from some of the ladies... but somehow I didn't get a good pic of him.


Anyway, they all seemed like great guys and it was so much fun for me to see them enjoying a party and a feast with my Japanese wrestling friends.


Also, the food was awesome:




And there was SO MUCH food. They just kept bringing out dish after dish after dish for three hours.



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Kuuga and Billyken Kid were the Dotonbori Pro representatives at the party:






I had this match on my iPad: Adachi, Asian Cougar & Masked Falcon vs Heaven, Extraterrestrial Life & Yoshida (Zipang 07/19/00). We watched it. My friends Sara and Tani-yan were both delighted to see some old Asian Cooger before he had his scar, and the wrestling alien cracked them up. Kuuga didn't even blink when I showed him the video. Totally no-sold it.


Also, we celebrated two birthdays at the event:









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  • 1 month later...

World Plus opened a new 24-hour gym, walking distance from my apartment, on the 1st of his month. I'm member #124, out of 500. I love my new gym.




Today, I wore my AJPW ring jacket because it was a beautiful and sunny day. There is a young competitive bodybuilder who trains at the gym. He's been quietly friendly from day 1, and when he saw my jacket he came over to talk to me. Turns out, he just finished his studies at Senshu University. I was all, like, " Oh! Riki Choshu and Hiroshi Hase trained there." Then he busted out a picture of himself with Choshu, Hase, and recent Young Lions Cup winner Katsuya Kitamura. My new friend was trained directly by Kitamura

Hide is not a pro wrestler, but he is an amateur wrestler and bodybuilder so he got to know quite a few of the boys while studying in Tokyo and working out at the Gold's Gym there... including my friends Zeus and Bodyguard.

It's amazing to me... Before moving here I used to joke about how I'd have so much fun as a wrestling fan in Japan... but I honestly never dreamed that it would actually be such a big part of my daily life over here.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

I've watched quite a bit of Asian Cougar from 1998 IWA Japan cards and really enjoy the guy. He is a total spot freak and just crushes the other dudes with spin kicks and leg drops from improbable angles. The senton to the floor with the chairs also probably the most insane thing a wrestler did as a regular spot. Good on the dude for still being well 20 years later.

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  • 11 months later...

We got together again over the (Japanese).long weekend. It was a pretty great evening. We went to four different places, starting with the Namba Parks rooftop BBQ, moving on to the Chinese restaurant I wrote about above, then moving on to a couple of different hole in the wall type Osaka Izakaya. Different special guests joined us at each location, including Pancrase veteran Fuke, MMA fighter and promoter and bar owner Tetsuo Kondo, and some referees and a Young Lion or two, and so on. It was hard to keep up.

It was great to see some old friends again, particularly Taizou, whom I hadn't seen in maybe six years. He's the bald guy with glasses in the pictures above. We hung out all night, though I ended up tapping out and heading home after we left the fourth place (the party kept going for who knows how long). I was too drunk and too full to keep going.

The food was pretty great, as usual. Beef and chicken at the BBQ, karaage at the Chinese place, spicy fries and shrimp chips at one Izakaya, various fresh vegetable dishes at the other...

The highlight for me was meeting Osaka-based indie Joshi wrestler Fairy Nihonbashi. She was VERY nice, energetic, funny, and charming. I hope to meet her again.

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  • 1 month later...

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