Lewis Black once said of restarting the US economy; “What you need to do is build a Big f***in’ Thing. I don’t care where you build it, so long as its big, and it’s a f***in’ thing. Then you build a Big f***in’ Thing hotel and a Big F***in’ thing Restaurant. ‘Cause everyone wants to see the Big F***in’ Thing.”. New Japan, faced with three months off thanks to COVID-19 restrictions not only build a Big F***in’ Thing in EVIL in the space of a fortnight. They also begged the question of a lot of younger western fans, “Exactly who is Dick Togo?”.
Come with me, my friends, to a car park in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan All Hallows Eve 1993. The event is Blazing Night, the promotion is W*ING and a poor unfortunate then known as the eponymous W*ING Kanemura is about to be put through a flaming table by The World Class tag team Jado and Gedo. Yes that Jado and Gedo, Bullet Club’s Jado and Gedo, the lead bookers of New Japan. Gedo and Jado’s Rolodex©, (Do we still have those?) is both long and complex, and while their association with Dick Togo goes back further, the linchpin of the whole affair is hiding in plain sight on that night. Wally Yamaguchi.
Wally Yamaguchi is the most influential person in modern-day Japanese Puroresu that you’ve probably never heard of. Made even more remarkable by the fact he passed away last year and is still having a direct influence on the business over twelve months after his death. In the nineties, it seemed like nothing in Japanese independent wrestling went by without his approval. Unsure of how to blade properly, it was he who split Akira Hokuto’s head in her epic match with Shinobu Kandori at Dream Slam I. It was Yamaguchi who helped, book manage and train personnel at the highly influential Michinoku Pro promotion and develop the whole concept of Japanese Lucha. He brought that breathtaking work rate to ECW on their PPV debut, he wrote for magazines, published magazines, took pictures for magazines, helped FMW get started and stocked their roster with Luchadores to add extra flavour to the deathmatch kings. He refereed and most pertinent to this story, he helped book W*ING when its roster broke from FMW. So there we are, back at that flaming table in Odawara. It doesn’t stop there. He would bring the group Kaientai to the WWF. He would be the one to attempt to slice and dice Val Venis’ appendage, and a key member of that group; Dick Togo.
Dick Togo himself started his life as Mr. Sato. A babyface in the Michinoku Pro group who turned heel and joined the original version of Kai En Tai. He would be part of many other factions, but his complete wrestling ability was never in doubt. A brawler in a land of Luchadores, his signature ability to adapt to his surroundings made him a must-see wrestler. Trained by Gran Hamada he is a complete wrestler. When he announced his retirement tour in 2011 he went everywhere in the world. Europe, North America, South America, and back again. He has been part of some of the biggest angles and factions in Japanese wrestling over the last three decades most notably the Far East Connection with Gedo, Jado, Masao Orihara, and Ikuto Hidaka. Yes that Gedo, that Jado and the Ikuto Hidaka who was trained by Animal Haguchi. Animal Haguchi who trained Tetsuya Naito and . . . EVIL.
So there we go. Dick Togo as a permanent fixture in New Japan. EVIL turns his back on Dojo brotherhood, and Bullet Club down on its key players have both the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Titles. Which begs the question, when Jay White and KENTA get back, who is actually in charge? Will Naito recover? Hiromu Takahashi has already moved on to the acceptance phase and challenged for the belts. So when you’re really in trouble. Go on. Build a Big F***ing Thing.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE and NJPW