October 21, 1990
I hate Kyoto.
I hate Kyoto so much. It stinks like exhaust. The toilets are holes in the ground, and when you take a crap, you squat and squeeze like a dog. The locals are tiny men in suits and school girls who look much sexier on the porn films me and the boys watched during training in Los Angeles. There is no food in this city; flavorless noodles, that stupid pocky candy, and lots and lots of fish are what everyone eats here. I'd kill for a damn sirloin.
I am surrounded by men in this locker room, and yet I am alone. I lace up my boots, looking down at the ground, trying not to make any eye contact with the others. These men are deceptive, like serpents waiting to strike. I remember the first week I came to this godforsaken city from good ol' Los Angeles. Total culture shock. Still is. I was lost in a city that was too big to care. I met Masa Chono in the locker room my second day. He was nice enough to show me around, and introduce me to the others. Then, we got to an long corridor, and he stuffed me in a maintenance closet, shoving a chair between the knob so I couldn't get out. About an hour and a half later, a janitor opened the door. When I went to get my things in the locker room, I found Keiji Mutoh had defecated in my gym bag. Welcome to Japan, Gaijin.
I'm guessing they don't respect me. I don't know why. I'm nice to everyone. I let everyone walk all over me, just like the boys told me to. "You gotta show 'em respect to get respect in Japan", the boys told me. I'm guessing it's because I'm not very good in the ring. My trainer was a lifelong jobber named The Human Bullet, a fat man with a pink face and horrible teeth. He was slow. He didn't like moving at all in the ring. My training consisted of me and the boys falling on our back for hours and being scolded for not falling on our back even more. Then we'd pay him $500 a month for it. A year passed, and he tells me I'm ready, and New Japan Pro thinks I'm a good prospect. I buy my own plane ticket, rent a rat hole in a slum in Tokyo, and before I leave, my trainer and the rest of the boys give me a new ring name: Marty Hogan. I hate it instantly. Trainer tells me since Hulk Hogan's so huge, I'd get over instantly with the name.
Seven months later, and I'm still here, lacing up my boots, tending to these horrible wounds. I still have a pretty nasty bruise on my ribs from a match with Stan Hansen a few weeks ago. I still have nightmares about working with that man. I remember talking with him before the match, trying to go over some spots.
He looks me over like I'm a damn insect. "Get the hell away from me, you little bastard," He barks at me.
The match itself was a debacle, which I admit was mostly my fault. The fans actually began booing us because I kept botching spots. At one point, I went for a dropkick, but my ankle slipped. I ended up doing what looked like a retarded back flip, and that's when the crowd really began booing. Stan got pissed. I remember the right to the jaw, the slug to the sternum, the kick right in the ribs. I could barely catch my breath. Blood trickled from my mouth. I looked up at Stan. He was running at me, and I knew what was coming. He planted the stiffest lariat I've ever taken. I hit the ground like a sack of cement. I honestly believe that if the referee weren't there to tell him to end the match, he'd beat me even harder.
A small man in a brown suit and bad hair announces to us that the official card is up. I get up to check if I've got work this evening.
There I am. Marty Hogan. My opponent for the evening...
Big Van Vader over Marty Hogan.
I look around at the rest of the boys in the locker room. They all give me glances as if they're looking at a dead man. I've heard stories of working with Vader. I've seen tapes of Vader. Part of me wants to just grab my bags and head back to Los Angeles. What am I doing here? I'm about to get my ass kicked by a man more than twice my size for what? My mom misses me. I should quit right now.
The boys are all glaring at me. They know what I'm thinking. I do not speak their language, but I know what they'd tell me if I did speak it. They'd tell me, "Don't you walk out, you gutless coward. Vader is going to kick your ass. The crowd will cheer. You will get you pay. You will eat a disgusting bowl of noodles or whatever they call it over here. And that will be that.
I take my place behind the curtain. I can hear the crowd awaiting Vader outside. I'm just a piece of meat for a hungry lion to rip to shreds and devour. I look behind me. Several feet from where I'm standing, I see him. He's waiting. He looks me in the eyes. I cannot see his eyes. God help me, I cannot see his eyes! He wears a red mask that crisscrosses his face. His hands are massive; in moments, I know he'll be stiffing me in the face and neck with them. I take a breath, and walk out from behind the curtain.
As I walk down the aisle to the ring, I hear the normal sounds of the audience. A few marks are jabbering in Japanese and broken English about Jushin Liger. A mother is tending to her baby. A salaryman is drinking a large plastic cup of cheap beer, obviously drunk. Nobody cares about Marty Hogan making his entrance. I enter the ring, tug at the ropes a few times, and throw my fists up in the air, to a few cheers from some scattered marks.
The lights in the arena go dark. Menacing music plays over the loudspeaker. Big Van Vader walks down the aisle, and the people are terrified. Vader grunts, screams, shakes his massive arms, and the crowd gasps and awes at his presence. A fan makes the mistake of patting Vader on the back. Vader quickly turns around, throws his fist toward the fan, and screams at him like he's going to murder him right then and there. Vader doesn't strike him, but I guarantee you he has traumatized that man for life.
Vader enters the ring, and even the referee looks scared out of his wits. Vader is a massive figure, at least six foot five, with a large barrel chest, huge arms, and fists the size of hams. Vader looks at me from across the ring. He bellows something at me, like "Bet you wish yo' mama was here, don't you?!"
I really do wish I was with my mother in Los Angeles. I don't even know what I'm doing here, in the middle of a land I can't hope to know, surrounded with people who show me utter disdain.
Vader brings an end to my daydream with a massive slap to the ear. My mind rings like a bell. I scream out like a child, and Vader roars to the crowd like a lion. He begins striking me hard and fast with rights and lefts. They teach you not to actually hurt your opponent in the ring; the thing about pro wrestling is, most of us need to work tomorrow too, so there's no point in trying to hurt each other. Vader does not subscribe to this philosophy.
I stagger to my feet, trying to remember some spots I wanted to work. I look up at Vader. The scowl crossing his face tells me I should just let him do what he wants. He hits me with a lariat to the neck. I hit the mat like a sack of bricks. Instantly, I am in my bedroom in sunny Los Angeles. My father calls to me in Japanese. I get out of bed, and float to the dinner table, where he is watching the Angels play the Rangers. The crowd claps respectfully during the game. Mom is cooking an omelet. She looks at me and dad, and hollers something loud and inaudible at us. It sounds like a threat, but I'm not sure.
My hair is yanked. I am back in the ring. Vader is lifting me up. He places my head between his legs. I know what is coming. I close my eyes. I can hear the referee jumping all around us. He says something to me in Japanese, like I understand him. Vader hoists me onto his shoulders. I look out into the crowd. Faceless people stare at me, smiles on their faces, awaiting the move that will end this match. I notice a small child in a red windbreaker in the third row. He is waiving around a large Giant Baba doll. He waves at me. I can't help but smile.
Instantly, I am whipped downward. My back crashes onto the mat. I feel like my spine has shattered into pieces. I struggle to catch my breath. So that's what Vader's powerbomb is like, I say to myself. I feel Vader's body crash down on me, pinning me, making it even harder to breath. I hear a hand slap on the mat. One. Two. Three. A bell rings. I feel Vader jump to his feet, hollering like a jackal.
I stare up at the lights. They are spinning. I finally begin breathing normally. I lay there on my back in the middle of the ring, as the crowd claps respectfully and Vader yells at the crowd. I imagine I'm at the beach in sunny Los Angeles. My mom is bringing me waffles. There are pretty girls in bikinis everywhere. I drink a glass of punch, and enjoy the sun and the bright blue sky.
I hate Kyoto.