Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only

Notes from "With Love From The Ring" (1981 Jumbo Tsuruta autobiography)


Recommended Posts

Ringu Yori Ai O Komete (“With Love From The Ring”) is a 1981 autobiography by Jumbo Tsuruta. At just over 200 pages, the book is an interesting snapshot of the kayfabe around the wrestler as he turned thirty. My series of posts on the 2020 biography by Kagehiro Osano already covers much of this, and for the most part I’m not going to repeat that stuff here. Think of this thread more as fun flavor text. There are six chapters, and I have transcribed all but the last, which appears to be largely poetry. (Note to Loss: This stuff is light enough that I don’t think it warrants a new thread for each post like the aforementioned bio.)

Chapter One

  • Tsuruta gives the kayfabe version of his birth, which goes that he was named Tomomi because he seemed small.


  • He gives a little info about his mother’s first marriage. She bore two children to a man who “drank wine all day” and got on very badly with her mother-in-law, until she walked back home to her father and cried. Many years later, Tsuruta would meet his half-sister Toshiko, who he claims asked to see him backstage at a show. (Tsuruta would support her bar, Champion, with free advertising; I recently tweeted a photo of him there.)
    • In the modern day, Tsuruta claims that his mother becomes “like a child” when she watches wrestling, shouting at the top of her lungs: “Tomomi! Go for it! Suplex! That's right, hit him! Go! Ref, count, count, count! Count!" However, when he asks her favorite wrestlers, she basically names everyone but him, then says “I don’t like how the Yamanashi boy is acting” when he asks what she thinks of him.
  • His father was a veteran. (Tsuruta repeats the story that he died the day after his son returned from Munich, which Osano debunked.)
  • Tsuruta recalls wanting to be like Takeda Shingen, the 16th-century warlord who was born in his native province, when he was a child. Tsuruta directly references Shingen’s famous Fūrinkazan banner—which literally reads “Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain", but is understood as shorthand for the line "as swift as wind, as gentle as forest, as fierce as fire, as unshakable as mountain” from The Art of War —and claims he thought of it to calm himself during his first flight to America. 
    • Possibly relevant cultural context: this book was published a year after Akira Kurosawa’s film Kagemusha, a historical drama about a criminal doppleganger of Shingen who is forced to impersonate the dying warlord. The Fūrinkazan banner is shown prominently in the film’s powerful ending, sunk in the river.
  • Tsuruta claims that he is haunted by an incident where he fell asleep on top of a cat and suffocated it when he was a teenager. He recalls that he was locked in the barn one night without food for skipping on his farm duties (cutting grass for the cows).
  • His first love was a classmate in fifth grade. So smitten was he that, when he was at their school for a summer track and field training camp, he snuck into their classroom one night. He wrote her name on the chalkboard, and took her seat cushion to use as a pillow. Now, he thinks that was strange, but at the time it made him feel happy and excited. This story ended in humiliation, as he was forced to sit across from her for lunch one day. Too nervous to eat until the girl next to him asked why, Tsuruta grabbed his milk…only to pour it into his nose.
  • Tsuruta’s first year of college coincided with lengthy student protests. He still practiced basketball, but there were no classes. It was a time where he felt guilty over choosing to go to college, as his family was bearing this financial burden when he had so little to show for it.
  • Tsuruta tells one lie about the Munich Olympics that bothers me a little. I believe him when he writes that the Black September attack was a traumatic event. However, he claims that he had been scheduled to wrestle one of the men who was killed. Neither of the two Israeli wrestlers who were killed, Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin, competed in Tsuruta’s division. This is the one passage of the book that makes me wish it was ghostwritten, although I could not find any compositional credit.
    • On a lighter note, even a light drinker such as Tomomi could not go to Munich without a taste of beer. However, he was so taken by the beautiful blonde woman who served it that he spilled it on his lap.
    • Tsuruta then comments that the Moscow Olympic boycott had been a great shame. (His future tag partner, Yoshiaki Yatsu, would most certainly agree.)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter Two

824188839_jumbodory5-73.jpg.5f60996e040576f55bea050af99bec50.jpgJumbo's first NWA title shot, 5/20/1973.

  • Tsuruta tells the story of what drove him to join AJPW, which is basically what was written in the 2020 biography minus the details about Akio Nojima. He claims his mother protested, thinking her baby boy was too soft and sweet to be a pro wrestler.
  • After eating dinner with his AJPW coworkers in a restaurant at the airport terminal, Tsuruta entered the lobby to find his Chuo University teammates there to see him off.
  • When Tsuruta arrived in Amarillo, he was expecting to find referee Ken Farber to pick him up from the airport. He waited for half an hour, slowly building to a panic over his weak English and inability to afford a return trip. As it turned out, Farber had been ribbing him the whole time, watching from the restroom door. (Tsuruta claims that Tenryu got the same rib when he first arrived, but in his case it went on for a whole hour.)
  • Tsuruta does not mention Dory Funk Jr.’s version of events, which was that they first met at a TV taping on which Dory, assuming Tsuruta was experienced, had already booked him.
  • He claims that Dory Sr. hated the Japanese and did not have high expectations for him, but that Junior had his back. This is definitely contradicted by other accounts. First of all, Senior was the one who stuck his neck out for Baba and used his leverage as the champion’s dad to push the NWA general meeting from August to February. (This was in the brief period when NJPW was planning to merge with the JWA, so Baba needed to get into the NWA before the fiscal year ended.) He also reportedly remarked of Tsuruta that he already had everything he needed to be a top wrestler.
  • Tsuruta claims that Terry was a speed freak: “We drink beer, make a lot of noise, and fly down the highway late at night, because if we don't, we will fall asleep. Otherwise, you will fall asleep. The Highway Patrol may be chasing us, but we don't give a damn! We are more than happy to have thrilling car chases!” Also, Terry would often sleep with his tights on. He also writes that Terry would stay in his hotel room after shows and work on a screenplay for a “cowboy love story” starring himself. Dory, meanwhile, was the calm, collected “philosopher”. For all their differences, though, they would both sing country songs at the top of their lungs when they were at the bar. (As a tag team, Tsuruta makes a sumo analogy, comparing Dory to the strong, firm Taiho, and Terry to the vigorous, agile Chiyonofuji.)
  • The Amarillo wrestlers’ diet mostly consisted of Mexican food and KFC.
  • Dory advised Jumbo to lean into his Japaneseness in his performances, which explains his greater tendency to use chops when wrestling in the States.
  • Tsuruta claims that Bob Backlund was one of the wrestlers he worked alongside during this time, but it is known that their paths did not actually cross until Tsuruta’s second excursion in early 1974.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I promise that Chapter Four has more interesting stuff to note.

Chapter Three

  • Jumbo writes that Baba told him the plan to have the two of them challenge for the Funks’ tag titles on an international call from Hawaii.
  • Other ring names that were considered in the fan poll were Tiger Tsuruta (I’m guessing this was a reference to Takeda Shingen, who was known as the Tiger of Kai), Hurricane Tsuruta, and Iron Tsuruta.
  • Tsuruta confirms what I could tell from his facial expressions before his Trial match against Verne Gagne; the news of Koma's death, which he had received that morning, had hit hard.
  • A section of this chapter shows the rationalization that puroresu kayfabe had developed for the carny shit. He never says it's a work, but pro wrestling is painted as an entertainment event first. A wrestler needs to have "thrilling" matches in order for wrestling to attract an audience. (Jumbo doesn't go into this aspect, but in the Pillars book, Ichinose tells an anecdote about talking to a taxi driver who saw that wrestling was fake. As he explained it, the guys really are trying to win, but they're not trying to hurt each other, because it would hurt their bottom line if wrestlers got injured all the time. I'll admit, this makes old puro angles like "Tiger Jeet Singh breaks Strong Kobayashi's arm to win the tag titles by forfeit" a bit more compelling.)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter Four

  • The chapter starts with an interview segment, though it’s unclear if Tsuruta is interviewing himself.
    • Tsuruta writes of going to his sister’s establishment with his coworkers. As the bio posts covered, Tsuruta was not much of a drinker, but he says that he likes the atmosphere. He notes that Kojika and Okuma are the heaviest drinkers, while Tenryu and Takashi Ishikawa were more about the atmosphere as well. (For as notorious a drinker as Tenryu would become, he actually claims  that he was sober through the first chunk of his wrestling career.)
    • He says he has played the guitar since he was a kid, inspired by the Beatles, but he didn’t get serious about the hobby until entering pro wrestling.
    • He claims that, like Terry Funk, he wants to produce his own movie: a musical starring vehicle with a Rocky-like story and Elvis-inspired music.
  • After the interview, Jumbo writes about music some more. His favorite artists: John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Yosui Inoue, and Takuro Yoshida. He almost played bass for a student band in high school. He fondly remembers seeing Elvis in Amarillo after winning his title back from Billy Robinson.
  • He claims that he designed his trunks himself (these are the red and blue trunks with the three stars in the back). The stars are placed higher to make his legs look longer. However, he generally keeps his dress outside the ring simple. He contrasts the “dandy” Mil Mascaras with Kojika, Okuma, and Harley Race, who wear gaudy checkered patterns and make haphazard color choices.
  • Jumbo talks about various celebrities he knows.
    • In 1980, Tsuruta shot a commercial with actress, singer, and notable Moonie Junzo Sakurada.
    • Jumbo met Momoe Yamaguchi at the CBS Sony studio, who said she liked wrestling and wanted to meet up sometime. He admits that he envies her husband.
    • He has several actor friends, such as Ken Takakura, Jiro Hira, Hayato Tani, Kinya Kitaoji, and Koji Takahashi. He states that he often works out with them.
    • He talks about appearing on the radio show of Taku Baimura, and hitting it off with him. He told Baimura that he liked to read the novels of Ryotaro Shiba. (Tsuruta deeply admired the mid-19th century revolutionary Ryoma Sakamoto, about whom Shiba wrote a very famous series in the 60s. Ryoma Goes His Way has been credited with increasing Sakamoto’s presence in popular culture.)
    • The blonde woman who was frequently seen in the front row of 80s AJPW shows is identified as Baba fan Edith Hanson. The daughter of Danish missionaries in northern India, Hansen had been a television personality in Japan since the sixties.
  • Jumbo writes a bit about his experiences with women. He does not allude to his relationship with Yazuko Aramaki, which had recently ended (of course, they were far from finished with each other). He does recall trying to date a blonde girl during his time in Amarillo…but that damned Baba kept making sure that he wasn’t getting too involved with any girls. (If this is true, I’m wondering if Baba was fearing a Diana Inoki situation. Masanori Toguchi eventually left All Japan over their refusal to cover the costs to fly his family over to see him wrestle, so perhaps Baba wanted to make sure his top prospect didn’t become too domestically rooted.) Jumbo does state, though, that he would prefer to marry a Japanese woman.
  • In the span of two pages, Jumbo goes from making a dad joke about having to win a "jumbo lottery" to find his ideal mate, to recalling that he went through a Kierkegaard phase in high school. What a guy. He also talks about his great admiration for the aforementioned Ryoma Sakamoto.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter Five

This isn’t really worth doing a bullet list. Jumbo spends most of this chapter in a philosophical/motivational speaking mode, writing about his double life as Jumbo Tsuruta and Tsuruta Tomomi. He writes “wrestling is love”, which makes me wonder if Keiji Mutoh unconsciously plagiarized his fellow Yamanashi man when he started using “Pro-Wrestling Love” as a marketing term.

There is one thing, though, that interests me. Towards the very end of the chapter, he writes:

I used to be a wrestling boy from Yamanashi.

I was the one who ran frantically at eight o'clock on a Friday night.

I was the one who cheered Rikidozan on the TV in the electronics store.

Even now, I have not forgotten that feeling of excitement.

I wanted to be like Rikidozan that day.”

For just a moment, the real Tsuruta might have slipped through the cracks.

In an episode of the podcast Write That Down!, Fumi Saito tells a personal story about Jumbo. When Tsuruta was AWA champion, Fumi was finishing his bachelor's at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, where he also washed dishes for a Chinese restaurant. He recalls that he would eat dinner with Tsuruta when he was in town, and claims that Tsuruta told him he had wanted to be a pro wrestler since the sixth grade. This is the only acknowledgement I've seen from Tsuruta that he had been a wrestling fan, but if we take what he said to Fumi as true, it recontextualizes some things. You will recall that in the Jumbo bio posts I wrote about Tsuruta's experience at a sumo stable in the summer of 1964. It is very plausible that a Japanese kid dreaming of becoming a pro wrestler in the 60s would want to get a taste of the sumo life. Perhaps even the idea of becoming an Olympian to transfer into pro wrestling occurred earlier than Jumbo ever let on, as Tsuneharu Sugiyama and Masanori Saito both entered the JWA after competing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...