* The following is an exclusive interview conducted with KJPW owner Shigesato Ishiyama. While Ishiyama's name might not be known to most pro-wrestling fans, he's a very well-known figure in the PC gaming world as the developer of the "GuroDen" series of pro-wrestling simulation titles for the PC, as well being the head of GCS (Gold Crown Software.) Please enjoy this in-depth interview, as we learn about Mr. Ishiyama's fondness of pro-wrestling, and what group he personally loved watching!
Interviewer. "When KJPW was initially announced on New Years Eve, it was stated that '...Mr. Ishiyama has been a life-long fan of professional wrestling...' Can you elaborate on your interest in pro-wrestling?"
Shigesato Ishiyama: "I attended matches regularly with my grandfather when I was going through my compulsory education. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but I enjoyed seeing the drama play out in the ring. When I was about 15; about the time most kids lose interest in things such as pro-wrestling and anime, I became even more fascinated with it. I still remember reading Pro-Wrestling Nikki Magazine and being enamored with the articles... But unfortunately, I had a strict upbringing from a certain age, and put my studies above all else... But I still continued reading Pro-Wrestling Nikki Magazine! I had to know what was going on."
Interviewer: "Did you ever consider becoming a pro-wrestler yourself?"
Ishiyama: "There was a very brief period in my childhood that I fantasized about holding the championship belt, but I was very sick as a child, and actually missed a year of my compulsory education... But I made it up quickly. I realized quickly that anything fiercely athletic, much less pro-wrestling would not be within my reach. I was okay with this though, because I think its personally better to experience things from the perspective of a fan. It's one thing to perform, but its another to watch someone perform. Whether it's ballet, opera, or even something as brutal as pro-wrestling."
Interviewer: "After graduating from Tokyo University, you worked for many well-known software companies, before founding your own company; 'Gold Crown Software' in 2004. Is it true you named your company after the Golden Crown Championship, belonging to Burning Spirit Pro-Wrestling?"
Ishiyama: "That's true, actually... I was actually more focused on my work than ever, but I managed to pull myself out of the office to go to BSPW events. BSPW was really what gauged my interest towards the next level, because there was a tense atmosphere among the different wrestlers on the roster."
Interviewer: "It was an exciting time in pro-wrestling."
Ishiyama: "Wasn't it? I only attended BSPW matches, but I know from reading the magazines and watching television that there was so much activity in almost every corner of Japan. Many fans look at BSPW and Oita Pro-Wrestling being the apex, but I'm not sure about that. But for me, BSPW is the company I look back with most fondness. Everyone has their favorites, and its almost impossible to say which company is the best, but all of the best wrestlers came to BSPW's ring. They even lured legends like Genji Yamato and Jason Ramsey out of retirement."
Interviewer: "Do you want KJPW to recapture the feeling of BSPW?"
Ishiyama: "I think it's impossible to recapture something like BSPW,, or what any other company had for that matter. Of course, I rely heavily on the advice of people such as Kazuma Fujita and Eizo Hayakawa, who know pro-wrestling much better than I do. It would be quite arrogant of me to immediately expect to know what I was doing, right?"
Interviewer: "On that, how is your relationship with the wrestlers? Not to infer anything, but there could be reasonable anxiety from wrestlers, wondering what this individual with no prior experience in pro-wrestling has in store for them?"
Ishiyama: "It's a natural response, isn't it? You feel very stressed and nervous when you have a new supervisor at work. In this case, the supervisor has no clue what goes into making your product. It's a nightmare for the employee, right? To be honest, I had a severe level of anxiety myself leading up to meeting with some of the wrestlers, basically thinking what you just said... I was very shocked though. Mr. Fujita was very open in talking to me about anything I've ever really wanted to know about pro-wrestling. I actually worried that I was being very unprofessional, and sent Mr. Fujita a letter of apology. The next day, he called me on the phone, "Hey, Ishi-chan! What is this letter about? Let's go eat!" It was strange to receive that from an employee--but also very reassuring... Everyone else on the roster has been very nice as well -- almost a complete contrast to how I expected them to act. I knew this from being a fan, but after watching them two times first hand, I see how hard they work in the ring."
Interviewer: "Being that you named your company after BSPW's belt, along with making several pro-wrestling software titles for the PC, your love for pro-wrestling wasn't necessarily a secret. You developed the popular 'Pro-Wrestling Global Densetsu' simulation series on the PC, including a licensed sequel involving Kazuma Fujita. You did make non-wrestling games, but was making pro-wrestling games your company's focus?"
Ishiyama: "No, not at all. Everything from the name, to each successive 'GuroDen' title happened by pure coincidence and circumstance. The name for the company honestly just popped into my head as I was filing my business loan application. I had developed GuroDen as a side project strictly for my own amusement, and needed a product to meet a deadline after one of our projects was canceled. Fortunately, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to projects, and I essentially created virtually a bug-free software in my free time, so it was very easy to make the game for the general public. The only problem we initially had was using the names of real wrestlers and companies. The original GuroDen had real wrestlers and companies, because it was never made for commercial purposes. We actually attempted to contact BSPW and other company's to use their wrestlers, but we were turned down at the time. After we had released GuroDen V3, we had reached out to Kazuma Fujita to involve him, and successfully produced two new versions of the game."
Interviewer: "Nowadays, you oversee most of the projects GCS is working on. You announced you were stepping away from hands-on development on projects around the same time KJPW was announced publicly. Was this a coincidence?"
Ishiyama: "Yes, and no. I've worked hard to build GCS with some wonderful people, but when the idea for KJPW was initially proposed to me, I felt like it was an opportunity to give back to a sport that has given me immense joy since I was a child. And as a businessman, I see plenty of financial opportunities to be gained in pro-wrestling... I was planning on lessening my involvement with most projects over the next year, but this certainly sped the process up."
Look forward to part 2 of this exclusive interview with GCS founder and KJPW owner, Shigesato Ishiyama! In the next installment, Mr. Ishiyama talks in depth about the plans that went into the creation of KJPW!