Tama Tonga has been a unique presence in New Japan Pro Wrestling for years. The son of Meng/King Haku, the Bad Boy trained in the NJPW dojo and eventually became one of the original members of the Bullet Club along with Prince Devitt, Bad Luck Fale, and Karl Anderson. Since 2016, he and his brother Tanga Loa have worked as tag team the Guerrillas of Destiny, and have been IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions three times. Tonga has also held the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship three times.
For the past year or so, he’s played an intriguing role in the Bullet Club infighting storyline, with a match with Kenny Omega during last year’s G1, a memorable and much-memed rare appearance on Being The Elite, and what looked like a gesture of faction leadership at this year’s Dontaku. The slow-burn storyline took a dramatic turn at the G1 Special In San Francisco when Tonga, Tanga Loa, and their father attacked the rest of the Bullet Club after Omega defeated Cody to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
The evening before that show, I talked to Tonga in the lobby/bar of a San Bruno, California, hotel about his career, views on Bullet Club and the art of wrestling, and more. That conversation is below, and has been edited for length and clarity.
With Spandex: So you guys are opening the show tomorrow, probably, right?
Tama Tonga: I think so. We got, uh… (to group of people, including Kazuchika Okada, entering lobby) What’s up, guys? How you guys doing? Me big famous. Interview. Big famous… More famous than you. (laughs) Hey, Okada, don’t worry, I’m more famous than you. Relax. Hey, buy me a beer, man!… Yes. Sorry, I had to tell Okada that I’m more famous than him. He knows that. It’s okay. But yes, I think we might be opening tomorrow. I’m looking forward. I’m excited.
And coming up you’ve got the G1. Do you prepare a lot differently for the G1 than for the rest of the year?
I do… How do I explain this? I’ve had a lot of time off. I’ve had a lot of time off, so it’s every day the gym, running, just to kind of prepare my body for the grueling tour. One month. How many matches are there? Not just singles, but in between matches too. Just trying to get my body prepared for that. You got me nervous now, thinking about it!
(Laughs) It’s alright!