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!
You’ve worked for New Japan kind of the whole period they started expanding out of Japan…
Yes, I’m going on my ninth year with them. I’ve been there a very long time. (To Hiroshi Tanahashi, who is walking through the lobby) What’s up, Tana-san? (laughs) This is all going on record.
Tanahashi comes over to the table and tells Tonga he met Chad (Karl Anderson) while recently working in Taiwan. After Tanahashi leaves, I mention that my editor talked to Tanahashi in Long Beach and asked him about his haircare secrets.
That man puts in some work on his hair. I’m jealous.
You also have notable good New Japan hair.
I’ve been fortunate to have curly – sometimes it’s a little rough in the ring, you know, but I like it. I like it. I think I’m going to keep it for a while. Unless I do a haircut match. I’d have to win that for sure.
Yeah, hair vs. hair would be high stakes for you.
How’s it working with your younger brother [Hikuleo]?
It’s nice. It’s a whole new feeling. How do I explain this? Having family working with you is awesome… There’s a little responsibility there on my part to be the older brother and take care of him… but it’s been a blast having him there and seeing him grow as a wrestler. I see the things he’s doing now and I think, man, I used to do that. It’s great.
So you’ve been with the company for nine years. Has it changed a lot? The perception of the company over those years has changed.
It’s like day and night. It’s changed that much. When I first went in in 2010 it was a lot smaller, the shows – we had people, but now it’s like, we have people. Talent-wise, [there are] new young faces, new guys, hungry. It’s like everyone has that same mentality to move the company forward. So it’s awesome. It’s awesome. It’s changed a lot. And it’s changing for the better…
New Japan’s been my career. I did a little independent run. I started training in 2008, and then I went to Puerto Rico and did like six months there in 2010, and then I came here. So this has been my home. This is all I know. I don’t really know a lot on the independents. I’ve been getting my feet wet the last few years, but my main thing is New Japan…
When you went into the dojo, did they pretty much train you from the ground up?
Yeah. And it’s not just wrestling. It’s you go in, and it’s a lot about if you’re listening and paying attention, and being aware of everything around us. You wake up early. You wake up 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning, and you clean the whole dojo… We make sure that everything’s properly set before all the senpais, the elders, all come in and start training. It’s a good system. We were just talking about it over there with the new president [Harold Meij], and he admires that it’s not just about wrestling. It’s about life, respecting your elders… It’s like a fraternity house, but for men. No, like a clubhouse about life, I guess. “Fraternity house for men.” I better start drinking some more.
You’ve mostly done tag team wrestling. Do you have a favorite team that you’ve wrestled?
Yes, yes, yes, yes… I enjoyed working against, wrestling against Makabe and Honma back in the day. Every tag team has this chemistry, and I felt they were old school, and here my brother and I are new school and learning from their style, very old school tag wrestlers. So that was fun. That was really fun. Slower paced, but fun.
I can’t think of anybody else right now, but something recent I could feel that it’s going to be real fun – My brother and I went against Nick and Matt [The Young Bucks], and it was a six man, and I felt really good in there with Nick, and –
Oh my gosh, that was so good! That was so exciting to watch, like, oh my gosh, we’ve never seen them wrestle each other before, and it’s so good!
I think because we’ve been together for so long, working side by side, you just learn how they move, and finally we [went] head to head, and it was nice, it was fun, and two nights in a row. It was like break the ice, then the second night, I was like, “Oh man, I think we can go toe to toe with these guys.” They’re the most recent one in my head that I think would be fun.
Do you have, like, dream tag teams for the Guerrillas of Destiny to face?
No, I don’t have any dream, like, who I want to wrestle. I don’t have nothing like that. I look for guys that are good and fun. I think that’s where I’m at, is fun… I look for those guys who understand that.
Oh, we always ask people, ‘Who was your favorite wrestler when you were a kid?’
Mine was Ultimate Warrior. I was just hypnotized by his energy… He made me want to run around going crazy, and I was a very hyper kid, so I saw him and I was like, ‘That’s it.’ And he had all the muscles, so, energy and muscles, that’s all I thought about. And of course, you know, and my dad was there. Second best.
Did you always want to be a wrestler?
No… first, I really wanted to be a soccer player. Then I wanted to be an actor. Then I wanted to be a pilot. Then I wanted – I wanted to be a lot of things, but wrestling was not any of them. But once all those other things didn’t pan out, then I came into wrestling.
You were in the Air Force, right? Did you try to be a pilot?
No, I didn’t try. I fixed the planes, but flying’s for smart people. I’m not very smart up there. I got a box of rocks up there. I fixed the planes, but no pilot license, nothing like that. I’ll leave that for the smart people.
How did it come about that your brother started working with you in New Japan? Was that his idea, your idea?
We started together. We were a tag team together, and he got hired by WWE and I got New Japan, so we split. But the thing was that we were coming into wrestling together to be a tag team, and then we got split, so after he was done with WWE there was a window… so it was both of our ideas from the past, but… because I worked here, I pushed to have him come here and work together and see what we could do. And then we became the Guerrillas of Destiny.
[With] the Guerrillas of Destiny gimmick, there’s more layers to it than most gimmicks. Do you want to talk about that?
Oh man, which layer?
All the layers! What was the first layer?
Our family is a spiritual family. My dad is a big believer and so we knew, okay, we wanted the “G.O.D.,” we wanted “God,” but what was the lettering we were going to put into that, you know? Because of my background in military, I look at our journey as we’re all fighters in our own journey, and guerrillas are fighters for their belief, right? You always want to believe you’re heading somewhere, you know? So, you know, the guerrillas are fighting for your destiny… and I said we could always put in – my brother, I would always compare him to a gorilla because he’s strong, he’s always been strong… “Man, this could match you.” We don’t have to spell it like the animal gorilla, but we have the guerrilla fighters, we could play off gorillas like the animal, and then destiny. What is our destiny? We’re fighters for our destiny, whatever destiny you decide to bestow upon yourself…
The face paint was just something that we came up with. I think most people already knew that I was already painting my face. When my brother was in WWE or NXT they were doing promo night… and I was home at the time from Japan, and I gave him these [paints] and said “Why don’t you paint up your face?” … And what he painted up was three stripes over his left eye and over his mouth closed, and the meaning for the stripes over his eye was battle scars… and then the black lines over his mouth was just, you know, a warrior keeps his mouth shut. He takes the hits and keeps coming forward.
My face paint… finally went down to my beard, and it was two fangs, and then I had the devil’s horns above my eyes. Um, I chose that because I can be that. You know, I can be that… If you want to get deep, I can be – that face is when I go to war I can be that guy… but I can also be… like the comic side of that. So how do you want to take it? When you look at that face paint, are you scared, or do you think it’s cool? You can take both sides. I can be both. So, warning to other wrestlers. (laughs)
We haven’t seen the face paint in a while. Are you going to bring it back?
(Those who saw the G1 Special In San Francisco know he ended up bringing it back the following night.)
I base everything in how I wrestle on how I feel… I don’t rule out the face paint. I love it… When I put that on, I feel it’s game time. It’s – I’ll tell you this. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody this. I used to go to the clubs and the bars, and I used to wear shades at night because I felt that once I put on the shades, no one can see me! (laughs) And so I used to act like an idiot more than normal, dance, and I didn’t care what anybody else thought, because I had those shades, and I was cool. And nobody could see me, and that was my invisible shield… But when I put on that face paint, I feel free. I feel like nobody’s judging me… I can get away with – I wouldn’t say murder, but that’s how I feel…
I did the face paint because of Gallows. Gallows used to paint his face, and we were at a house show in Japan, and he was like, “Somebody paint with me,” because I think he was painting by himself in the group, and I said, “I’ll do it with you. Alright.” And I took some of this paint and painted up my face, and when I walked out of the bathroom… Gedo was right there, and I walked out, and he jumped. It shocked him… and that’s when I knew, “I’m keeping it.” If I can do this to him, I can do this to the fans…
With Gallows and Anderson, we’ve been seeing guys in two promotions using the “BCOG” slogan.
Those are my brothers, so… Whatever they do, I’m behind them. And whatever we do, they’re behind us. So the fact that they’re over there; we’re over here could be, uh, doors to the future, you know? Cross promotion, working together, I don’t know. That’s my brothers over there, so – they are OGs. I don’t know what else to say about it.
Tell me about how the Bullet Club got started.
There was a small foreigner group in Japan. There was Giant Bernard – he went as Tensai and is now coaching in NXT – he was there in Japan, and then Prince Devitt came, Finn Balor came, Karl Anderson came, so that was three, out of the whole entire Japanese company. Then I came in with Fale, and we were always hanging with each other because, you know, when you speak English in a foreign country… we just gravitated to each other in the locker room because we could have conversations. I think our booker saw that, how our chemistry together was just growing… and Prince Devitt, they were moving him to the front, so they said, hey, we need a group name.
I think he and Fale came up with – I think the first one Prince Devitt came up with was Bullet Brigade. And then Fale was like, “I don’t like the sound of that, bro.” So Fale came up with “club,” because in New Zealand everything is a club, and that’s more of a fraternity, so that’s how… them two came up with the name. And then we all just put in the main core four: Prince Devitt, and then Fale was his bodyguard, and then Karl Anderson and me – I was kind of like Karl Anderson’s wing man, coming up together. He was my senpai and I followed him, so with him joining it was the four of us, May something in 2013. And that’s how it started.
The current Bullet Club storyline is pretty interesting. A lot of people are engaged in Kenny vs. Cody, and then when you look at, like, comments on anything, another section is like, “Oh, Tama Tonga should be leader.” You’re like the separate, third option in this storyline. How has that gone for you? Because it’s been going on a while.
I don’t think anything has changed with me… I’m always going to put out my two cents. But – what’s up Umino-san?
Tonga says hi to Hiroyuki “Red Shoes” Umino, who points to Tonga and tells me, “Tama Tonga, troublemaker!” Tonga denies that he is a troublemaker.
Hey, I’m not a troublemaker, man… So back to your question, I’m just – Karl Anderson had a job, right? When Prince Devitt was head, and also when AJ Styles was head. He kept it solid. He always pushed Devitt, AJ, because he was the New Japan guy, so he understood. So I’m trying to be that, to fill that role. But I feel like our chemistry as a group has changed, and a lot of things have changed, so I’m kind of trying to figure that out. Where do I belong, and what do I do? So I’m watching from the sidelines, I’m watching what’s happening, and I chime in when I chime in. Might have to do more than chiming in.
This Best of the Super Juniors, Ishimori was one of the big stars. How did it come about that you were going to introduce the new Bone Soldier?
I’ve known him for a while. I’ve wrestled against him. And… I think he’s an incredible talent, and… with the Bucks moving up to heavyweight, we need some more junior weights. So I admire his hard work and his commitment to working out. I think that’s what impressed me the most. That’s what I was trying to convey to people. To get your body that jacked is not an easy thing… [and] he can do that with wrestling. So that’s what I’m looking for moving forward. You know, blue collar. Guys that can outwork anybody… We need to fill up our junior weight class here in our club, in our clubhouse.
The conversation turns to Taiji Ishimori and Yujiro Takahashi as a tag team, and then just to the Tokyo Pimp.
Is Yujiro going to get girls from around here for tomorrow? Because when he was in the UK he got British girls.
We’re working on a little project, putting it out there… and once we figure out the scheduling here, we’ll put out flyers, whoever wants to come try out… Already in Japan, how he picks his girls – I can’t say how often I get approached to be one of the girls with him. And I’m like, you’re asking the wrong person, you’ve got to ask Yujiro. But I was like, okay, we’re going to do a trial run out here and see how it works out. You think it would do alright?
Yeah, I think like at the UK show it looked good [to have local dancers.]
We could get creative with it too.
Like give them weird gimmicks?
Okay, I have a question about the Guerrillas of Destiny. When people see you, they find out, “Oh, they’re brothers. No, they’re actually cousins,” and you’re adopted. When were you adopted?
Eight years old. I was adopted in 1991. I was living in Tonga, and when I was adopted I was brought to live with them in Florida. No English, no nothing. I always tell it to people like this – you ever seen Jungle Book? You know that kid, how he has long hair, he’s skinny, brown, dirty-looking? That was me. Look at him, that’s exactly – because I had the same haircut, bowl haircut. That was me. I was adopted, and we’re actually cousins. Our mothers are sisters… They took me in as legal guardians and I just stayed.
Do you guys get along from the beginning?
No. Hell no. Oh my god, we hated each other. He hated me more. I mean, he was the only boy; I came in, and he had to share his toys, share his room and everything, so I don’t blame him. I was annoying, hyper. We still don’t get along! No, we’re better now. Just a little.
And then what’s your relationship with Hikuleo?
He’s my real younger brother. He was in Tonga at the time when I came over. He was only a baby, and then he came four years later.
And then is Fale, like, your actual birth cousin?
He’s my cousin. Yeah, weird. Before I went to Japan, [Tiger] Hattori was in Florida and he was like, “Hey, we got another Tongan, man.” And I was like, “Really? Alright, cool.” So when I got to Japan, Fale was already a dojo young boy. And he went to university over there and played rugby in Japan… and when I met him, we were, “Hey, you’re Tongan? Oh cool, we’re Tongan.” And it wasn’t until like a year later we were on Facebook and I put a picture up and all our family was like, “Hey, you guys are cousins,” and I was like, “What?” All this time. Small world. And we actually come from the same village in Tonga. We might have played when we were kids, but I was so young, you know, and we both left at the same time. He left a year before me and went to New Zealand in 1990, and I left Tonga in 1991… Small, small world.
It looks like he’s working on being a promoter in New Zealand.
Yeah, he’s got the smarts to be a businessman. He’s not just looking at wrestling to be a wrestler. Beyond that, after that… He’s always thinking of that. What’s after wrestling? He’s smart.
What’s after wrestling for you?
Man, I don’t even know what’s tomorrow. Well, there’s the show tomorrow. After wrestling, I really like what I’m doing, and I think I still want to be a part of it, some way, somehow. Teacher, coach, I don’t know. I really enjoy what I do. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not no ordinary job either, so I like that. I like anything not ordinary.
Was that part of the appeal of wrestling, like you don’t have a regular nine to five?
No, the appeal to me was money. I thought, you know, when I started… because I was so broke… and I hated my nine to five job, and I came out of the military, and I remember while being in the military, I was like, “I don’t want to do this. I want to be out. I want to be free.” Then when I came out it was just kind of, this is it? You know? So wrestling gave me a goal to chase, to get money, and at the time I thought being on TV, fame, was going to bring all that money, and of course I think I’ve grown a little bit, and things change and it’s more than that to me now. It’s traveling, it’s getting to know people, learning about the art of wrestling… that’s the thing that I find very alluring right now. Of course, I didn’t know any of this before, so.
What’s your favorite thing now about the art of wrestling?
My favorite thing about wrestling right now…When I’m in the ring and I can control the people with my actions. I think that’s very addictive, in a way, to do something and get that reaction, knowing how to do it and getting them very involved, so involved that you control certain things, call things on the fly, and get that is very satisfying.
It looked like you had a lot of fun at the [CEO x NJPW] show in Florida.
Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I go to have fun. I go wrestle to have fun. Everything is fun for me, so when I’m in that ring I look out and I see what else I can do to create that fun, not just for myself, but for them, to have them really enjoy it, that you have to be there, you can’t just watch it on TV. Just be there and feel it to be part of the whole thing. That’s what I like… that’s that thing I’m looking for.
Did people know how to react to, like, beating up [David] Finlay in the crowd? That happens all the time in Japan, but not as much in the U.S.
We just called that on the fly. “I’m going to throw you over the fence into this guy.” He was like, “Okay!” and I threw him, you know? Because the guy was talking trash, and I was having fun with it… Those are the kind of things that I enjoy.
Wait, the guy in the audience was?
And you threw him at that guy?
What does a person say for you to throw a person at them?
Uh, I don’t know. He was just – he was a fan and he was having fun. And I thought, how can we escalate this fun? So it’s – he can say whatever, but it’s calling it in the moment. That’s it. You can just say hello and I’ll throw somebody at you!
Okay, you said you don’t have dream matches, but let’s thought experiment, if you could main event a show, who would be your dream opponent?
Okay, if you had to do like a gimmick stipulation match with Roman Reigns, would it be hair vs. hair or vest vs. vest?
That’s high stakes.
I think he’s awesome… I don’t see what fans [don’t like about him], I see something different. He’s good. Maybe, from what I’m understanding, is fans don’t like when the company shoves somebody down their throat. I don’t look at that. The guy works. He puts in work. He looks phenomenal. He doesn’t need that vest, you know? But he wears it. But he don’t need it. I got a lot of respect for that guy. And he’s at the top, so I’ll take a shot at the top.
We talk briefly about how it feels to be wrestling more in America, Minoru Suzuki sends beer to the table from the bar, and I ask Tonga if there’s any question he wants to be asked. After thinking about it, he answers, “What is Bullet Club?”
What is Bullet Club, Tama Tonga?
That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. Bullet Club, in my eyes, is the brotherhood. But not just any brotherhood. Good brothers. Some good brothers. You watch my back, I watch your back. You always want that group of friends that you know you can always rely on them. They carry you and put in that work for you, just as much as you put that work in for them. But we’re good at our jobs. We’re really good. We have fun… That’s a small definition of what Bullet Club means to me. It’s a brand… but like a positive brand. Positive brotherhood, eff the drama. Save that for the birds… You know what Bullet Club is?
Bullet Club is this thing of ours. That’s what it is. This thing of ours. That’s what Bullet Club is.
That’s very vague, but also there’s a lot of room for people to read into that definition.
Let me ask you a question.
Okay. You got very, like, poetic about Bullet Club, and I didn’t know how to follow that up.
I get that a lot from a lot of people… I love it. I think it’s fun. To me, it’s fun. What else can we do with it, you know?… Why don’t factions ever last long? Let me ask you that. Why is there so many factions, so many groups, but then it dies. Why? Why is there so many, and why does it die out?
I’d say probably it gets stale. They run out of things to do, or they, like with the NWO thing, they get stale and also they get too big, and it doesn’t seem important anymore, like it’s just going on because they don’t know how to do anything else… But then, you know, like, Suzukigun’s been around seven years and they kind of move around; they can go to different promotions; they get different members… They just, like, took over RevPro, and people were like, “Heck yeah, Suzukigun is great,” and they’ve been around for a long time.
Right. And Chaos has been around a long time.
And Chaos is so different from when it started too.
I think over time we evolve. Look at us, we’ve only been alive for barely five years, and we’re struggling already. So yeah, we’re struggling with it. Why?
Some people might say this is the most successful period in terms of money and Hot Topic shirts…
But also struggling in other ways.
Yeah, struggling in other ways. You know, if the structure isn’t strong, it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles. We’re only five years, but this is the first foreign group in a Japanese company. What does that say about us to them? And Suzukigun is, though they have foreigners, they’re a Japanese group. So is Chaos. So is, uh, that New Japan team. Here we are, Bullet Club. Struggling. We got two leaders fighting for who should be the leader.
Yeah, all the Dontaku preview videos were like, “Faction vs. faction, faction vs. faction. Oh, it’s Bullet Club and they’re fighting themselves.”
Infighting, infighting, infighting.
Do you think, like, creatively, that Bullet Club needs to move on from infighting?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it’s fun watching this. Layers, you know. Perspective… I think everybody sees something different. What I see, I’m sure Cody sees something different; Kenny sees something different. Who’s right? You don’t know. You just have to wait and see…
So it’s kind of split, where Bullet Club is half in ROH most of the time, and then the rest of you guys are in New Japan all the time. Does that kind of change the dynamic?
It does… with ROH, those guys are always working together, you know, so that’s a bond. And us guys are always working over here together and that’s a bond. So we don’t have that – Bullet Club was started off with guys with one bond. But now we’re separate… It’s like you have that side and this side, and it can be difficult sometimes for ideas to flow back and forth with that big gap between us…
And you guys are not All In, most of the New Japan guys.
Nope. I’m all out. (laughs)
Did you want to be All In?
No. I just had a son… he’s three months, and I’ve turned down almost every booking that I’ve got. I’ll just do a few. But I want to hang out with my son… Once the G1 starts, I’ll be gone for a month. I’m going to miss his fourth month, fourth-fifth month, and it’s – shit, big respect to the guys who have kids who are wrestlers. I can finally understand what my dad went through. I want to be home. When I’m not working in Japan, I just want to be home. I don’t care about the money. I don’t care about making extra. I think I just want to spend time with my son. So All In, all out, it’s whatever. I don’t pay no mind to it. But I wish them successfulness, for sure. That’s a huge deal.
Has having a kid made you change your perspective on being a wrestler?
Yeah…. having a kid kind of slowed me down. I was so focused on where I need to go, how I need to get there, and having a son kind of was like, “Alright, back up a little bit, take it slow. Wrestling is not life…” So I’ve stepped it back, and I’m trying to, like, enjoy it more. Smell the roses. Slow down and smell the roses. I think my son did a number on me…
Do you plan your promos out beforehand, or do you just go for it?
I go for it. That’s why I bomb a lot of it… I love to talk shit…. I’ve played sports my whole life, and I’ve done it. When I’m in a game, practice, whatever, I talk so much shit. And I just figured, I can do the same here, just talk shit, but they’re telling me to hey, easy with the curse words. So I just say it in the ring then. Just talk shit in the ring. Me and my brother just talk shit in the ring.
How do you feel about being, like, infamous for swearing a lot? Or I guess more your brother now, after that one Wrestle Kingdom.
That potty mouth, man. Everyone was asking me, “Did you know he was going to do that?” Hell no, I did not know he was going to do that. And our mother was at that show. She just shook her head…
Yeah, the American TV version of that match is, like, silent the whole time because of you guys and Makabe.
I’ve caught myself a few times… The first time we came to LA, after our match when we were walking out, and a fan was talking shit to my brother… and I turned around, and I said, “Something something something something something” back, and I gave him two birds… And I saw that on social media and I was like, “Ah, shoot”…. Yeah, I don’t think before I talk. Obviously… So I just shoot promos off the top of my head. It’s not very good, but hey.
You do sound like you’re legitimately going to fight someone though… Because, I mean, when people are going to fight somebody they don’t have pre-prepared lines. They’re just yelling.
Okay, to be honest, I like… when I get in the ring, everything is that moment, and… I’m in it… When I’m through that curtain, cameras on, I’m just like – everything’s real to me. Everything. You couldn’t tell me anything else, because everything to me is real. And that’s how I get myself in that zone to wrestle, is that I believe everything, you know? I believe in unicorns. I believe in everything. That’s my world right there. Then I go to the locker room, and okay, back to reality.
I want to feel that. I want to feel real, authentic, my own. I don’t want it to be, like, textbook… to me, the Rock is not textbook. To me, Stone Cold is now textbook. Like everyone’s trying to be that. But who were they trying to be? Themselves. So I don’t want to be like them. They were authentic. My inspiration from them is that they were they. They were they… I’m trying to do that. How I feel. In the ring. When I talk. I want you to… feel my emotion. If I want to fight, you’re going to feel that I want to fight. If I’m going to make you laugh, you’re going to laugh. I want you to feel everything. That’s what I love about wrestling. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that you get put on and I’m like this. (He does a driving gesture.) We’re getting deep here, huh?
You do sound like an actor. Like, you sound like pretty much what acting theory is… That’s like method acting.
Is that good?
Yeah! I think it’s good. I don’t know. I used to work in, like, theater world, and a lot of actors try to get to that point.
You want to go a little deeper?
Alright. I think we’re all acting right now. Right?
In like our everyday lives?
Yeah! We’re all pretending.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely acting right now.
(Laughs) Pretending to be you, huh?
Yeah, pretending to be, like, a reporter.
Alright, let’s go back to the real world. Alright, we’re back. We’re back.
We made it, wow… Oh, okay, so you haven’t wrestled a lot of the junior heavyweights. Are there any of the junior heavyweights you’d like to work with more?
Yes. Right now, he’s hot… Hiromu Takahashi. We came up together. We trained together at the dojo, so I watched him grow and evolve… I want a piece of that. I want to see what we could do together. Because I already know how to work with him, how to play with him. You know, like, wrestle with him… I really understand the way he moves, the way he is, so that’s somebody right now I want to go against… just to see what we can do.
Who was in your dojo class?
It was me, Fale, Desperado, Hiromu Takahashi, and Evil. That was our class…
I start to ask Tonga about his excursion in CMLL when Yujiro Takahashi approaches the table. Tonga introduces me to the Tokyo Pimp and encourages me to talk to him. We’ll have that part of the conversation up for you in a separate article soon!