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Entry #1: "Will your baby be sitting on your lap?"
July 31, 2003: So by now you all know that I was lucky enough to be chosen to work the AtoZ Wrestling debut show in Japan. Woohoo!! Japan has been my number one goal for the longest time (that and to earn my Ribera's Steakhouse jacket-which I scored in burgundy). I promised John I would keep a running journal of my happenings over there and give everyone kind of an inside glance at my goings-on over there. But first, a little background into the preparation for this trip.
I had just returned home from a trip to Chicago to find out I had no ticket to my TNA dark match and I would have to grab BarbieHead and Momma to head to Nashville. So I am rushing around like a maniac, got pink hair dye in my hair and Lucy Furr rings my cell phone, going "Sister, get on your voice mail, you are replacing me in Japan!". Funny, haha. I didn't believe her at first but after some gentle reassuring from Lucy, I checked my voice mail and sure enough, I was going. I would repeat the first words out of my mouth, but hey, this is a family site. I think.
I headed down to Nashville, with my fears about the dark on the back burner and my fear and excitement concentrated on this trip to Japan. I had a week and a half to prepare and get everything in order. After getting back from Nashville (and running my cell phone bill up again by repeating calling people and saying holy hannah can you believe this?!?!), I threw myself into training, tanning and getting what I needed packed for the trip. My brother was already in Japan at the time and was awesome enough to email me different words I would need and other useful bits of information.
The Saturday before I left comes and sees me at the Ring of Honor show in Elizabeth, NJ. I end up getting stuck in Queens, NY afterwards where myself, Lucy and CM Punk get little sleep before heading back out on the road the next day (stick with me here-there is a point coming around the bend). I finally get back to the House of Honor late Sunday afternoon where the roomie and I finish my packing and wait for some pals who are picking me up and staying up with me all night before dropping me off at Philadelphia International. Man, thank goodness for Greg and CJ, I don't know how I would have stayed up all night without them and the help of some really good wrestling tapes.
Monday morning finally arrives and we are off to the airport, where I am completely convinced that there is no ticket there and this is the greatest rib ever pulled by my friends. The lack of sleep contributed to this illogical train of thought. But fortunately, I made it through and was about to head to my gate when the lady checking tickets looks at me, and with a straight face, asks if my baby will be sitting on my lap for this flight to Chicago. Baby? Me? What?!?! Then I realize what she is talking about. My stuffed penguin that I travel with (yeah I know I am 26 but I don't care, Pengy is comfortable as hell on a plane) is sticking out of my backpack. I think nothing of this oversight-that is until it is repeated three more times. I knew I had a maternal instinct but jeez...
My flight from Philadelphia to Chicago was a mess due to the delightful weather around Chicago. I end up missing my original flight to Tokyo/Narita Airport but as I got off the Chicago flight, I found another one that gave me about 20 minutes to catch. But I forgot that United usually closes the plane 15 minutes before take off and for those of you familiar with O'Hare, those minutes between terminals is crucial. I ran like Forrest Gump to that next terminal, cell phone in one hand, Pengy in the other, comic books falling out of my backpack and a need to hit the restroom like a champ. Thankfully I made the flight and Pengy and I settled in for what was going to be a 12 hour plus flight.
And guess what lucky person gets insomnia after being up almost two straight days at this point? Yup, born under a bad sign me. I ended up watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days three times, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind once, Daredevil once and various Food Network shows and even some cartoons.
Finally, the time passes and I am in Narita Airport. I am dead on my feet at this point. I make it through Customs pretty unscathed and head out into the lobby where I am looking for....hmmm, yeah I didn't have a clue who was coming to get me. But Mr. Agawa was waiting there, along with Japanese press, to greet me and tape my arrival for TV. That's right, two days of no sleep and 16 hours of travel, and Pengy and I are on National TV in Japan. This is the life!! : )
Entry #2: "Scrambled Porn or Sleep? Hmmm...too many options."
August 4, 2003: I left off where I was taping promos at the airport. Once we were finished there, we headed over to the AtoZ Wrestling dojo. The dojo was about an hour away from the airport, and of course my body wasn't going to allow any sleep, so I sat in the back and just watched the Japanese world go by. Now I had been told that cars there are like cars in Europe but to actually sit in one was a little weird for me. Especially the driving on the other side of the road thing. That was hella weird and sometimes frightening. But I digress.
The dojo was nothing like I imagined. But then again, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. From the outside, it looks a giant warehouse. Inside there are two floors: on the first there is the training area, kitchen, bathroom, and shower; on the second floor is the offices and sleeping quarters. All very simple but perfect in a way. There are no distractions from training here. It is a wonderful environment for training. Seeing how the dojo is set up, how they go about each and everyday of training shows me why Japanese women are superior to the vast majority of American women in the ring. (I am sure someone out there is going to argue with me about my choice words--save it. The best of the American females know who they are. I am not ignoring them or putting them down in anyway. More power to those ladies as they open doors for the rest of us.) The training I watched this first night was pretty inspiring to me. They train day in and day out, giving up their lives to perfect their craft. I knew right from that moment there I wanted to come back to train extensively. And I hadn't gotten into the ring yet!
So I hung out and chilled at the dojo for a few hours, met the girls there and talked over things a bit with my tag partner for Friday, Sachie Abe, and our opponents, Rie Tamada and Baby A (Bebe!). After they finished training, the girls who stay in the dojo all cooked a meal to share and were kind enough to invite me to stay for my first Japanese meal. I sat down with them to enjoy my rice and fish when something soft and furry comes flying past me. Again here I used words not to be said in a "family" environment. But in a nutshell our conversation went like this:
I think they were ribbing me. But I will admit I was bummed the next few days that their "pet" didn't come visit me again. Boooo.
After visiting the dojo, I was dropped off at my hotel, which was just a few minutes away. I checked and headed up to my room. Which was, as in true Japanese custom, very small. Paul London had informed me before I left that everything is smaller. So I get in there, and decide since it is only 8:00pm, I was going to watch some TV. Twelve channels, one which didn't work and one which was scrambled porn that cost 100 yen a movie. After realizing I didn't understand the normal channels and was too tired to decipher the scrambled porn, I turned off the lights in hopes of quieting the sudden loneliness I felt and went to sleep.
Entry #3: "Eat your heart out, my beloved Barbiehead!"
August 8, 2003: It is 5:30am on my third day of my trip. I am wide awake, can't sleep anymore and have no clue at this point how to get around or where to go. Groan! I don't even have to be up and functioning for another five and a half hours!! This is when Japan gets really lonely. No one to talk to, no way to email and I can't understand what is on the TV, although there was this charming little commercial (for bandages or wound ointment I am assuming) with little blue drops of something doing a dance around a bump on this chick's skin. Hmm...maybe it was wart remover. I don't know, but anyway, my morning consisted of a protein bar, some water, this commercial and more scrambled porn.
Finally, the time has come for me to return to the dojo and start my training with the ladies in my match: Sachie Abe, Rie Tamada and Baby A (Bebe!). We train for about four hours, on and off, in the ring and out. Eventually, April gets to the dojo right from Narita Airport to hang out and meet everyone again. Towards the end of the day, I hear the few words that would bring Barbiehead to her very knees: "Would you two like to go see Toryumon tonight?". Would we? Hells yeah!! Not only do I get to torture BH with stories of Toryumon, I get to mark the hell out for all these awesome workers she has told me about. What could possibly make this better? Woohooo!! The show is at famous Korakuen Hall!! Where on earth did I stumble upon such a ray of good karma?
April and I shower up and hit the mean streets of Tokyo, looking for love in all the wrong places. Ok, not love so much as really amazing wrestling in a right place called Korakuen Hall. Did I mention it was at Korakuen Hall?? Sorry, that was me getting all giddy again. My bad. The show was amazing to say the least. Reminded me how much I want streamers. Afterwards, we found a Sizzler in the Hall to grab a bite to eat (which for me was a salad and some ice cream
Fast forward to the next morning
Afterthought: For those of you who thought I was cruel to Barbiehead, please take solace in the fact that I brought back my Toryumon/Korakuen Hall show pass for her to keep. See, I am not so bad.
August 13, 2003: Day Four of "Allison Invades Japan". After waking up waaaaay too early again and bonding with Computer #46 at the Internet cafe, I was back at the dojo to work out some more. And when I say some more I mean 6 hours. Not to mention that I was feeling sore from the day before. Ah, but muscle soreness be damned! I wasn't missing a chance to train more with the AtoZ gals.
After training came the second greatest experience of my wrestling life--I got to go to Riberia's Steakhouse in Tokyo. Riberia's is a rite of passage for anyone heading over to Japan. You go, you eat a great meal, and at the end, they give you the coolest jacket ever. And you can't bring the jacket back for anyone, the point of it is to earn it.And, although I never thought it possible, I earned mine. A burgundy beauty. After dinner and receiving our jackets, the group of us (Mr. Ogawa, Shimoda, Hotta, Hotta's friend, Akino, Baby A-Bebe!-, Bull Fighter, April and myself) posed for pictures for Riberia's walls. When you walk into Riberia's, the walls are lined with pictures of wrestlers who had been there before. I popped to see my brother, Low Ki, CW Anderson, Frankie Kazarian and a host of others. Clutching my jacket tightly to my bosom, we headed back to the hotel to crash out as tomorrow was the big day. And man, I was nervous.
And yes, in case April stooged it out already (lol), I did sleep with Pengy AND my jacket that night.
To be continued....
Entry #5: "You want me to go WHERE?"
So it's Friday morning, the big day, and I am up early again. At least not at 5:30, maybe 7:30, so it is off to the internet cafe and 7-11. My nervousness has already kicked in so I am emailing everyone I can to help calm my nerves. Mom, Steve, Punk, Roomie, Barbie...I would have emailed the Pope at this point if he had AOL. I don't believe I have ever been this nervous before a match, especially one that is still 12 hours away.
After doing the email thing and making myself eat some breakfast, it was time to wake up April again. "Didn't you learn your lesson last time?" you ask. Nahhhhhhhhhh. But if I recall correctly, she was already up today. So we pack up and head downstairs for our ride to the show. The show was about 60-90 minutes away, so we had some time to relax and enjoy the sites.
So we get to the building and April and I run around the place like kids checking everything out. All the water and ginger ale I drank finally hit me so I went to the ladies room there with April but *GASP* where are the toilet?! Now April informs me that over there they have squatters (is that the name?) which are delightful toilet looking gimmicks in the floor of the bathroom. Hmm ok, dilemma. Now for those who know me, I have a lot of theories, one of which involves squatting when nature calls. I won't go into it but it does involve shoes. Lucky for me, Bull Fighter Sora was near by and taught me a little trick...in a row full of squatters, the last one in the line is usually a Westernized facility. Rock on!
Time flies when you are nervous and nauseous like I was and before I knew it, it was time to get into our suits for the opening ceremony. Where's Pepto when I need some? I am just a bundle of nerves out there. We go, we do the ceremony (which was hella awesome to be a part of...in fact, the ever delightful Dave Prazak just sent me a pic of it) and now it is show time.
I feel sick to my stomach with nerves until the very moment I step out in front of the crowd. I notice that they darken the room, which reminds me of ROH...which then eases me a bit. I feel quite plain in my gear next to Tamamda, Baby and Abe's beautiful joshi costumes. The match feels like it goes pretty quick, although we put on a 12-minute match. Two missile drop kicks, two germans, two and a half planchas...and somehow I get a powerbomb into a bridge on Baby A and win the match for Abe and myself. WOW! Never did I dream that I would make it to Japan, and to actually win?!?!?! WOW!
Afterwards, I am completely calm and at ease for the first time truly all week. Now I could just sit back and really enjoy what Japan and the ladies of AtoZ had to offer. I walk outside for some fresh air after I change and notice it is raining. And that is when I got choked up. Here I am, fresh from a match, in Japan, in the pouring rain. Just imagine if I got streamers, I would have bawled like a baby in the ring.
I cannot thank these folks enough for having me over.
To be continued...
Final Entry: "Alan Cummings is a hell of a heel."
Ok folks, I know it has been some time since I last updated and I never did quite finish my Japanese journal. This time between updates has allowed me the opportunity to ponder my whirlwind time in Japan and the days that led up to it. Combine this and add in a Friday night with no show and quite possibly the world's worst movie on TV and I have the perfect time to get my final update out. Oh, and what movie am I speaking of? Why, it is none other than Josie and the Pussycats (of whom I was quite a fan of when I was young). The ever adorable Rachel Leigh Cook and Parker Posey's talents are completely wasted on this atrocity. However, Alan Cummings is an incredible heel. It is almost as if he knows this movie sucks so he thumbs his nose at the movie's executives and plays up his heelish ways. But enough digressing, onto Japan!
I left off last with the show April and I did for AtoZ. I fell asleep on the ride home, which seemed to be my personal theme of this whole trip. I faintly remember making it to the hotel and crashing out for my one and only full night of sleep. The next morning I did the usual shampoo, rinse and repeat by hitting 7-11 and then onto the Internet cafe. And then
Fortunately for her, Mariko Yoshida was swinging by to hang out with us for a bit and to watch April's video footage of the matches from the night before. Yoshida was only going to chill for a bit, but luckily for us was able to hang out and join us for dinner. To make things even better, Leo-Na was on her way too. Could things get better? Hells yeah they could, because we were going to Korean BBQ!!! YES! My nephew Colby tells me all the time how great it is so I was pretty hyped to finally chowing down on some.
Since I was the only Korean BBQ virgin I allowed the other ladies to order for the whole table. At this point is when I learned that not knowing what I am eating can sometimes be a good thing. Yoshida tried getting me to eat tongue. I couldn't do it. Just couldn't. I tried. Colby loves that stuff. But all I could think of was how it felt when I got my tongue pierced and I just couldn't stomach it. I do believe I ate horse, though I am not 100% sure to this day. Probably best. Oh! OH! And as a side note, the toilet seat was heated. Took me ten minutes to return to the table. Didn't matter it was the middle of summer. I was taking the memory of a heated toilet seat home with me to warm me this winter.
The next day finds me ready to head back to the States. I was sooo not looking forward to the long flight home but it had to be done. I had a crappy seat, stuck in the middle of a row of men (not even cute ones, damn it!), though the gentleman to my left was very kind and understanding of my fidgeting. I watched Daredevil at least three more times (Go Trinity! I marked out for you girl!) and Chicago twice. For whatever reason, I got no sleep on the 12 hour flight back to Chicago. It was almost surreal, being on a plane that long. I got to Chicago and proceeded to sit on a runway for about 2 hours, then the 2 hour flight home to Philadelphia, where my awesome roomie was waiting for me. Ahhh home again. Back to my messy room and freezer full of frozen pizza.
All in all, it was an awesome experience, one I will never forget. I feel so fortunate I was given this chance to go over. There are so many people I can thank: everyone at AtoZ, Shannon Ward, PT, my family, everyone who has ever taken the time to help me, CM Punk, Chris Hero (who's a good sk??? I am!)...Hell I want to thank EVERYONE. I am just so grateful. And lucky as hell. : )