Friday, March 1, 2013

[News] KJPW Fan Event Report, Kazuma Fujita on Combat:60

-- A fan event was held this evening at Tokyo's Fighting Café Colosseo, with Naoki Fukuda, Riki Ichiro, Shinji Uchikawa, and Yutaka Awano appearing as honored guests. The audience was an interesting mix of male and female fans, with the women appearing just as enthusiastic as the men.

The event began with a simple introduction and interview portion. KJPW Ring Announcer Eizou Hayakawa conducted the interview, wearing his trademark gold yellow suit and silver tie. Each wrestler wrestler stood up from their stool, and gave a brief introduction, along with "opening message."

Naoki Fukuda: "Yes, I am Naoki Fukuda, age 30. I am a professional wrestler. My hobbies are body building and...professional wrestling... I'm a fairly boring guy." (laughs)

Riki Ichiro: "I am the WWA National Heavyweight Champion, Riki Ichiro! Age 32. I don't care if you find me boring. Let's fight!"

Shinji Uchikawa: "Hello, I'm Shinji Uchikawa. Age 27. I am just beginning my journey, so I would appreciate your support!"

Yutaka Awano: "Yo! I'm Yutaka Awano. Age 27. I used to be a university pro-wrestler, (Note: Akin to a backyarder) but please don't tell management that..."

Fukuda: "Awano-kun... I'm pretty sure they know..."

Awano: "EHH?? Really!? Is that why I'm always in the first match!?"

Uchikawa: "...We're rookies... We customarily work the preliminary matches to pay our dues..."

Awano: "Oh, that's right... Still, please don't alert management..."

Hayakawa interviewed each wrestler in length about their childhood and teen years, giving fans a unique insight into the early part of their lives. Riki was particularly interesting, as he told childhood stories of his family's Inn in Mine, Yamaguchi. One such tale involved Ichiro unknowingly assisting a patron in his day's errands, only to later find out the patron was a local gangster. In retrospect, he realized that the man missing part of his ear and the fact that he cursed a lot should have been a good indicator.

After the first interview ended, fans were allowed to come up and meet the five, with Eizou Hayakawa garnering his own support as well. Many fans even brought gifts, including one enthusiastic female fan who brought specially made chocolates for Naoki Fukuda. Naoki was even more embarrassed when he realized the chocolates featured the likeness of his mascot "Masuto-kun." Never the less, Naoki was very appreciative, and took a photograph with the fan. There was a comical moment as Naoki spoke about cherishing the chocolates as a keepsake. He went on about how hard the person must have worked, and the love and care that went into each and every individual chocolate... Before Naoki could even finish his sentence, Riki, Shinji, Awano, and even Ring Announcer Eizou Hayakawa each yanked a chocolate off the plate, leaving Naoki with just one... The fans in attendance erupted in laughter as Naoki stood there, staring down in disbelief at his lone chocolate. Finally, Naoki picked up the piece, before eating it; savoring each chew. After one, final swallow, Naoki breathed deeply, and hesitated before saying "...Delicious..."

Part two of the group interview resumed, which allowed fans themselves to ask questions. The two rookies, Uchikawa and Awano received a fair amount of questions, showing fans have a genuine interest in the two. The two were asked what "Wrestler Type" they saw themselves going into... Uchikawa said that he saw himself as a technical fighter similarly to wrestlers such as Jason Ramsey, who he admits to watching regularly. Awano said he wasn't sure what "type" he would become, other than "Awano Type..." The two were also asked if they saw each other as rivals. Shinji admitted that there was a sporting rivalry between all four of the rookie wrestlers. However, he said he considered his main rival to be Tsutomu Nishioka. Admitting that the two have conflicting personalities, Uchikawa said that they were constantly trying to one-up the other. Awano said he wasn't thinking about rivals yet, as he wants to simply strengthen himself. He sees "rivalries" and everything else as secondary next to his personal growth as a pro-wrestler.

With the EMPEROR'S CUP a little over a week from kicking off, Naoki and Riki were both asked for their thoughts on how they felt the tournament would break down. With the help of conveniently available poster of the EMPEROR'S CUP brackets, Naoki pointed out that both he and Riki were in opposite ends of the bracket. Riki jumped in, "Naturally, this means you and I will meet in the finals." Naoki agreed, saying that he and Riki meeting in the finals was likely inevitable. However, Naoki pointed out that he would first have to beat Kazuma Fujita in the first round... Riki noted the severity of this match up, pointing out that even he himself hasn't beaten Fujita in a match. Riki however had no doubt, promising to "crush Miwa, destroy Kawamura or Sean King, and then smash whoever is left!!" Acting as if he awkwardly missed his cue, Naoki jumped in, "...Which... would be me...!!" to the laughter of the group.

Overall, the end was a big success. Many more similar events are going to be held in the coming months.

-- Elsewhere, Kazuma Fujita himself appeared on FIGHTING TV Samurai's "Combat: 60" program to promote KJPW, and the upcoming EMPEROR'S CUP tournament.

Fujita appeared to be good shape, and in better spirits. He jokingly said that he thought that he had moved away from "the grind" of pro-wrestling; but here he is once again, preparing for yet another important milestone in not just his career, but for pro-wrestling in Japan. Fujita spoke very highly of the EMPEROR'S CUP and its concept, saying that Japan needed a strong Champion to look up to, and that for well over a decade, pro-wrestling has seen many larger-than-life characters. Ryo Inoue, Genji Yamato, Jason Ramsey, Yoshikazu Kanda, Takeshi Koyama. These were highly revered figures that fans considered to be "the strongest." Unfortunately, most of those names have faded into private lives, and fans have lost confidence in their heroes. "I want to regain their faith. Whether I win, or whoever wins... He will be the strongest. Please put your faith in him!"

Naturally, Fujita was asked about his decision to retire from pro-wrestling. Fujita stated that it was still a difficult decision to come to. However, he vowed that he would indeed retire at the end of this road... He said physically, he was better than most wrestlers with his level of experience and ring time. However, he admitted that his right shoulder has been in desperate need of surgery for nearly seven years, dating back to an injury he suffered at the hands of James Goodwin in Burning Spirit Pro-Wrestling. He noted that he didn't even realize how severe the injury was until his hiatus from the ring a few years back. He said that while the rest of his body healed, his shoulder never did. He plans on traveling to the United States in June for the operation, following the formal beginning of his retirement road on 05/31 later this year. When he's properly healed, Fujita said he'll return for the second match of his road, and progress from there.

On the overall pro-wrestling landscape, Fujita said that he was very optimistic for the future. He said that thanks to the use of social media such as Twitter, company's now have a direct line to fans, in addition to other wrestlers and company's from all over the world. He predicted Twitter, and other Japanese native social media platforms such as Mixi would likely be the future of media and storytelling. He said that the media served as a go-between for fans and wrestling company's in the past. But now, fans can comment directly to their favorite pro-wrestler, or company. He said this would be a valuable tool going forward, as they can directly gauge fan opinions and change what isn't working.

Fujita pointed out that the long cease in activity is slowly disappearing. Besides Kingdom of Japan Pro-Wrestling, other company's such as Pro-Wrestling FRONTLINE and Destination BATTLE GROUND; both of which have made their presences known in the last two weeks. His hopes are that more people will put their faith in pro-wrestling, leading to new, exciting company's opening up. Ultimately, Fujita said he wants to foster an environment similar to that of the BATTLEFUSION from the period between 2008 and 2010, which saw a record-level amount of activity among various groups, including Pro-Wrestling FURY, CRIMSON, DYNAMITE, Superstar Pro-Wrestling, BURNING PARADISE, and many others. However, Fujita's ambitions lie not merely in Japan; but abroad, as he hopes to one day create a WORLD-WIDE version of the BATTLE FUSION concept, with company's fusing together from all corners of the planet "True fans of pro-wrestling have a universal palette. They don't want to simply see 'Japanese Wrestling,' they don't want to see 'American Wrestling.' They want to truly experience the BEST professional wrestling has to offer, regardless of ideology and cultural differences. I want to see KJPW fuse with an American company, much like we have with EXODUS Pro-Wrestling. However, wouldn't it be truly unique to fuse with a Lucha Libre company as well? Or the many groups across Europe? This is my dream right now."

Hyping his 03/08 EMPEROR'S CUP first round match against Naoki Fukuda, Fujita vowed to win; promising to show a glimpse of what he was capable of in the past. He said that Naoki was easily the strongest wrestler in the tournament on paper, and that their match up is only natural. He anticipated a short match, rather than a long, drawn out game, and said he would try to defeat Naoki as soon as possible in order to conserve his energy for the proceeding rounds. With his usual warm smile, Fujita humbly asked the fans to show up to Korakuen Hall on 03/08 and cheer; regardless of who their support!

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