Friend of our site

MMA Headlines


Bleacher Report

MMA Fighting

MMA Torch

MMA Weekly

Sherdog (News)

Sherdog (Articles)

Liver Kick

MMA Mania

Bloody Elbow

MMA Ratings

Rating Fights

Yahoo MMA Blog

Search this site

Latest Articles

News Corner

MMA Rising

Audio Corner


MMA Dude Bro

Sherdog Radio

Eddie Goldman

Liver Kick Radio

Video Corner

Fight Hub

Special thanks to...

Link Rolodex

Site Index

To access our list of posting topics and archives, click here.

Friend of our site

Buy and sell MMA photos at MMA Prints

Site feedback

Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

« | Home | »

Why have gaijin wrestlers been heels in Japan? Sano’s Japanese Wrestling Column

By T2y-Sano | January 18, 2006

Print Friendly and PDF

By Mr. Tetsuya Sano
Swimming Eye


The question (the title) of this post was made by Mr. Zach and I want to write my own answer for it. Did the topic of UFC complete it’s stage?


First of all, it is necessary to look back at the history of pro-wrestling in Japan to answer this question.


Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki became the two big stars from master Rikidozan (father of the Japanese pro-wrestling field).


Japan was defeated by America in World War II and the pride was damaged greatly. The Japanese think that “Americans are very big and strong”. An effort was made to regain the pride.


Rikidozan arrived. The course of business in pro-wrestling was changed, and he knocked down the gaikokujin (foreign) wrestlers with his big body from the front with a knife-hand strike as his weapon. He was promoted to sekiwake in the Grand Sumo tournament. The pro-wrestling of Rikidozan was very popular. The record broadcasting rating was done for the 5/24/1963 WWA World title match between The Destroyer & Rikidozan on Nippon TV with a 64% rating. (This is ranked as the fourth largest TV audience rating ever on Japanese television).

国民の気分を高揚させるために当時、力道山の相手は外国人であることが重要だった。 力道山の相手になった者の中には専業のプロレスラーではなく軍隊経験があり身体が大きいだけの理由でリングに上がっていたアメリカ人もいた(アメリカ人ライター、ロバート・ホワイティング著の東京アンダーグラウンド参照)。

Because people’s feelings were uplifted, it was important that the other party (opponent) of Rikidozan was a foreigner. The American wrestler represented a principal occupation and Rikidozan’s fight was a counter to military force experience. The entering of the ring was for a large painful encounter (reference: Robert Whiting, Tokyo Underground).


Perhaps this might be the base of reasoning for the treatment of foreign wrestlers in Japan. To be able to similarly for Japanese wrestlers in the past in America to be treated as a small heel (like Hiro Matsuda).


However, wrestlers such as Lou Thesz, Karl Gotch, and Billy Robison greatly showed attacks with technique in wrestling appeared. They showed that foreigners cannot be automatically heels. The Destroyer & Giant Baba tag team appeared on Japanese variety TV, and popular babyfaces like The Funks along with Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras appear. Hulk Hogan who appeared and made the catchphrase “The first (ichiban)” became popular and a cartoon from the popular apperance. Thought it is 200% angry when the person in question reads. *laugh*

僕がリアルタイムで見てきたレスラーで言えば小橋健太とGET(Global Energish Tough)を結成したジョニー・エースとパトリオット、やや小柄で地味ながらも複雑な関節技とオリジナルの投げ技を持ったテクニシャンのジョニー・スミス、負傷をものともせずにシリーズに出場したジョージ・ハインズなどもベビーフェイスの部類に入る。

A real-time group of wrestlers called GET (Global Energish Tough) consisted of Kenta Kobashi, Johnny Ace, Patriot, and original technician Johnny Smith. They appear with George Hines who also enters the class of babyface.

さらに、現在活躍中の外国人レスラーで言えばNOAHで活躍しているロウキー、彼がゼロワンに参戦していた時、外国人=ヒールという昔ながらの図式を描いていたゼロワンにおいてもその類まれな動きのキレとさまざまな技で入場時には橋本に次ぐ歓声を場内から受けていた。同じくゼロワンで活躍していたスパンキーも俳優のレオナルド・ディカプリオに似ていることからリングネームを“レオナルド”スパンキーに、入場曲を映画タイタニックの主題歌My heart will go onに、入場の際には女性の観客をリングに上げコーナーポストを船の先端に見立てて共に有名なポーズをとっていた。素早く独創的な動きとやられっぷりのよさで彼も人気者だった。

In NOAH, an old-time heel foreigner of Low Ki appears from ZERO-ONE and foreign wrestlers appear as heel in the days of Hashimoto when he lost his temper against rivals. A pose of the Titanic is struck with Leonardo Spanky and the theme “My heart will go on.” It attracted a large appeal from female fans and his movements were good, quick, and he was a popular person.

また本国アメリカでking of oldschoolを名乗っていたスティーブ・コリノも橋本、小川、長州を模倣した技や小ずるい攻め、日本語を使った観客とのコミュニケーションで会場を沸かせてきた。ノアで活躍しているリッキー・マルビン、現在はWWEに所属しているスペル・クレイジーらも持ち前の陽気さとスピード、テクニックに加えこの日本語でのコミュニケーションでベビーフェイス的人気を博している。

Another American wrestler, “King of Old School” Steve Corino appears and faces Hashimoto and Ogawa. He imitates Choshu. A communication leads to a large boiling of atmosphere in buildings with fans. Ricky Marvin in NOAH and Super Crazy (now in WWE) show speed and technique. For Japanese communications, they become babyfaces.


In America, there are skits with TAJIRI & Regal and also with Funaki as “No. 1 announcer.” The translation between the Japanese & English languages is done (and the Japanese also laughed with the confrontation between Funaki and John Cena).


A simple diagram of gaijin = heel is good even if that image has already collapsed in Japan. However, is it true that a foreigner wrestler has not won the Heavyweight belt in NOAH, the top group in Japan. Ricky Marvin wins a Jr. belt of the promotion. It is considered that WWE and K-1 fighters become foreigners treated in the “ace” class in groups like ZERO-ONE. To attract the fans, the tradition continues of “the Japanese is the leading part (role).”


Before his participation in K-1, Tom Howard appeared in pro-wrestling with a character abundant with popular techniques. (I am simply a fan of his wrestling work). Many gaijin aces seem to lose their temper personally in the ring.

that’s all...I’ll traslate these Japanese words to English slowly,sorry about it.

This March (in two months), I will go to Seattle (in America). If you are reading this and you are in the Seattle area, please post a comment here. If you can assist me in information or resources in Seattle, I would be very thankful.

Topics: All Topics, Japan, Pro-Wrestling, Tetsuya Sano | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

2 Responses to “Why have gaijin wrestlers been heels in Japan? Sano’s Japanese Wrestling Column”

  1. Rich says:

    Great article Tetsuya,

    I had another question about Brock Lesnar, which ties in nicely with this article. New Japan seems to be trying to promote Brock Lesnar as the modern day Stan Hansen or Bruiser Brody, in other words a big powerful Gaijin. With the idea being, and this is just my speculation, that he would eventually become a babyface and be beloved, much like how Hansen and Brody were. Obviously when making the comparison it’s clear that Brock doesn’t have the level of Charisma that Brody or Hansen possessed but he is also a far superior athlete. My question is Could Brock become the modern day Stan Hansen or Bruiser Brody, and fued with other Gaijin? Also is part of the problem simply the lack of strong rivals, obviously there’s noone in the leauge of an Inoki, Baba, or Jumbo, but could New Japan make due with the wrestlers they have?

  2. T2y-Sano says:

    I think Lesnar-san has charisma and it was grown certainly when he was in WWE.But that charisma was not made by only himself.
    And the most important thing with Lesnar-san is his problem with WWE.
    Most Japanese fans think He will be back to WWE till Wrestlemania.

    So,I think it is real start Lrsnar-san in Japan when this problem finish.

    But…I don’t know whether NJPW can survive or not…
    And most Jpanese fans(inclueded me) want Lesnar-san in WWE.
    NJ is dying……

    I think Jun Akiyama-san can be Lesnar rival in Japanese wrestlers.
    He is very good at bump and has suplex,ground techinique like Kurt Angle-san,Chris Benoit-san.But he is NOAH wrestler…that’s all. No one can’t be rival in NJPW.


To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
Anti-spam image