WARNING STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE AHEAD
This one is a bit special to me. AKIRA was a complete enigma to me until about two months ago, when he was announced for ICW No Holds Barred Volume 2. People had been hyping up him and his match with Reed Bentley to the ends of the Earth and guess what, it delivered. AKIRA blew up overnight and continued to do so as his next opponent was none other than Matt Tremont. Now he’s looking ahead to main event spots and more challenging opponents in the coming weeks, but before that, he took the time to talk to me. In part one of this interview, we talked about being the best-kept secret in the mid-west, and the origins of the AKIRA character. Enjoy!
So, you were a bit of an enigma to me until you were announced for No Holds Barred Volume 2 for your match with Reed Bentley, but people were highly touting you…
“I got that a lot. People were hyping me up as the best-kept secret and things like that, but they don’t tell me these things. I saw the Facebook posts and tweets through tagging, and they kept saying that the best-kept secret in the mid-west just broke out. I’m there like, “Oh, so that’s what you guys thought about me. I thought you didn’t give a shit about me for the longest time. You never spoke about me.” I remember seeing a tweet saying, who is this AKIRA dude? Now people know, man. I’m not saying everybody knows, but a lot more do and have these expectations of what I can do in the independent scene. I’m not one of those people that just accept the roles people give me. If someone tries to set a limitation for me, I’m always going to go out there and try and disprove them. Or if it’s a positive, prove them right. That’s just the personality type I am. I love taking up challenges.
Just the fact that people think I can be this huge bridge between pure wrestling and deathmatch wrestling, I just want to go out there and do it because I love both. I fell in love with pure wrestling long before I ever did a deathmatch. But the fact that people think I can do that, and the fact I want both sides to be as successful as possible. And if I can do what these people say I can do, then that’s not only going to be good for my career but the people around me. I’m one of those people that if I am successful, I want to help the people around me that deserve it, and I don’t just mean my friends, I mean people who legitimately work hard.”
It’s nice to see you take that selfless approach. Some people would probably take that exposure and say, fuck you. I’m off to the races…
“See, you have to be selfish to a point because, at the end of this, I want to be as successful as I can be. If I can be held in the regard that (Katsuyori) Shibata or (Minoru) Suzuki or (Jun) Kasai, (Atsushi) Onita, or (Masashi) Takeda, I’m gonna go, and I’m gonna do that, but that’s the thing you notice with Kasai and Takeda, they have their shows, and they help people. I want to be that guy. I want to be as successful as I can be and take what I can get, but I’m not going to take it in a way that buries someone or take advantage of someone. It’s all stuff that I’ve worked for or earned, that I’ve put myself in that position in an ethical way. A lot of guys don’t have a code of ethics, but I like to think that I have a medium or a way of working that is at least wholesome. I like to think that my entire brand despite being bloody and gruesome and gross, but it’s at least wholesome to a point. It’s what some people know me for. Hey, you’re pretty wholesome for being a bloody guy. I’m the anime protagonist dude, that’s what I am. I can’t help it; the anime protagonist has to get a little bloody sometimes.”
So, where did the AKIRA character come from exactly? You call yourself The Exotic Weapon, the Death Samurai. It sounds like something from an 80s action movie. I instantly thought of Bloodsport when I heard it…
“That was where I evolved too. When I was starting, I did this Shinsuke Nakamura mixed with Tetsuya Naito type of character. People noticed it, and people made jokes, but it wasn’t like I was wrestling like Naito. I did a couple of Nakamura moves, but it’s not like I stole. It’s not like I was a CM Punk rip-off like half the independent wrestling scene in the 2000s, sorry a KENTA rip-off, let’s get that right. I started off under the name The American Yakuza. This was a cool name because I got it from the Jared Leto movie. The one where the white guy gets indoctrinated into the Yakuza. It’s a great movie. The issue came as a Korean, Japanese white boy, that once you wrestle in Japan one day, being affiliated with the Yakuza in any way, even as a brand, no matter how cool it sounds, and yes there’s even a video game called Yakuza, yeah, you’ll get stabbed or who knows what could happen.
I got advised, “Hey, we like what you’re doing, change that.” So, I went from the American Yakuza to I don’t know what I am. Then someone noted how all my strikes, all my suplexes, and just how I act and said, “You’ve got a whole lot of weapons in your arsenal.” I was like okay, and I like linking stuff that I like, so videogames, music, and whatnot, and my style is like the exotic brand. It’s very rare. So, I’ll be the exotic weapon. I still go by that; I still roll with it. In essence, that hasn’t changed, just a bit of my presentation. So, I was doing that for the first year, because I’ve only been wrestling for two/two and a half years…”
“Yeah, in my first year, I had like 300, 400 matches because I do a lot of shows for free. I’d go out and get paid 20 bucks for that one match. Then they’d be like, “Hey, we need three or four more matches,” and I’d be the guy to be like, “Okay, I’ll do that.” Just so I could get the experience working with different guys. It was really brutal on my body that first year. I got a pinched nerve. I had a couple of muscle spasm issues because I was doing a lot of work with a lot of shitty travel with little to no pay, so I didn’t really get to take care of myself as I am doing now. I went from sleeping in my car between moving to the place I’m in now with a pool and a gym and a patio where I can just relax. I just started shifting things. When I started, I was wearing really nice suits, well a nice suit I got from goodwill that I took care of and a cheapo black and gold one from Amazon that really stood out. It was different. Then everyone started wearing jackets, and I was like right, time to move away from jackets.
I was growing my hair out; I had that real long Nakamura hair, and I was still being the Exotic Weapon. I got really sick and tired, though. It was around my stint in Southern Indiana at a place called Grindhouse, where I was essentially wrestling for free, but I got to train for free too, so it was an equivalent exchange deal. But I was also wrestling for IWA Midsouth, and I had a miserable time there. I got my first concussion there, and when I got concussed, I blew my sinuses. It was like that big fish, small pond metaphor. Well, I view that entire area as small fish in an even smaller pond that think they’re big fish. It was all those people politicking, talking shit, I got concussed, and I was still working while concussed. People were calling me lazy because I couldn’t work like I normally could. I was working a Zack Sabre Jr. catch as catch can style, doing octopus stretches on people, trying in a way where we could make this work because I didn’t want to be the guy who’s like, “Oh, got injured. Can’t work.” I had to keep going. But people were calling me lazy because I was working that style and not taking stupid bumps for 20 bucks because my body was completely fucked up.”
That sounds rough…
“I just got sick of it. I was at Grindhouse, two times the same guy took advantage of me. I was the top babyface. I beat their top heel and was their top babyface. People loved me, but I got buried within a month, and I was doing three-minute tag matches where I didn’t want to have to be carrying this green person, and yeah, I know I was in my first year, but I had 200/300 more matches under my belt than these guys did, and I was like it’s not the same. I wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t getting paid, so I at least wanted to have fun. I went to They Said it Couldn’t be Done by GCW, and I got a call to go to Mexico. That’s where I become El Arma Exotico as I was in Monterrey Mexico. Why not have it interpreted as it is? It just stuck. Whenever I went to Monterrey, it was either AKIRA or El Arma. Being called El Arma is so cool. It makes me sound like a video game boss or some shit. I was like that’s so unique; I’m going to keep using that. So that’s where I became the Exotic Weapon. That’s also where I had my first deathmatch. It spiralled from there because people were like, “Oh, AKIRA thinks he’s crazy because he’s done a couple of deathmatches.” But now, people just assume I’m fucking crazy because of the shit I did, have done, or am going to do. In both normal and deathmatches, I’m just fucking nuts.”
The origins of Death Samurai.
“I guess that’s my big chip on the shoulder because people thought I was pretending. I’m willing to do whatever I have to to get an opportunity or to get to that next level y’all. I’m probably the one Asian guy that says y’all all the time because I was born around rednecks. That’s when people started saying, “Dude, you’re like a samurai with this honour thing.” I’ve always had that, ever since I trained under Shibata-san when I was five matches in. I fell into love with Inoki-ism and just pro-wrestling being strong and having a sense of honour in what I do. People started to notice after seeing how I interact; I don’t do low blows in matches and shit like that. I do open fist. I do palm strikes, and I don’t even normally throw punches. I only throw them in deathmatches because if people are going to punch me in the face, why don’t I punch them in the face? I’m going to be like a deathmatch samurai.
I didn’t know about Isami Kodaka at the time. But I was also like I don’t just want to be a deathmatch samurai, that’s really limiting. I wanna be that guy where I do both, and I’m really successful in both. So, I’ll just be Death Samurai. People were like that’s fucking cool, you should go with that. That’s where I kept the old imagery, but with the pandemic, I was like, what does a modern-day samurai look like? So, I took that old Yakuza look that I had with the nice suit jackets, which is where I got the white jacket idea from, and I didn’t have the long hair as it got ripped out in a dry-ice barbed wire match against Orin Veidt. That ripped it all out, so I shaved it off. There’s this match against Tony Deppen, where I look almost bald with the red hair looking awful. I had no choice. I had to keep the red hair. I ended up looking like this balding weirdo. I’ve had it cut again now, so I know instead of Nakamura references I’m going to get Takeda references and shit like that…”
— Kayden😷 (@KVR216) July 16, 2020
I mean there are worse people to be compared too…
“Oh, I know, like when I had that first match at ICW, people were like, “Oh my god, it’s deathmatch Shibata or Nick Mondo.” The deathmatch Shibata one I’ll acknowledge because Shibata and Suzuki are my heroes, but I don’t do anything like Mondo, so I didn’t acknowledge that one. I got my hair trimmed down. I’m still editing myself, me and my videogame lingo, I’m editing my character, you know? So the hairs changed, but the character is still the same. I’m now wearing the white jacket, the white pants, I’m adding more patches. I’m actually getting new gear that, once again, will get Takeda or Kasai references, but I’m going to rock the patch pants because they’re special. They were there when I broke out. I can keep editing and adding to them and wear them in a pro-wrestling style.
I’m done with trunks just because everyone’s wearing trunks now, so it’s like, “Okay, let’s change again.” I had that hairstyle that Atticus Cogar and all those other dudes rock, so when my hair did rip out, I was like okay, at least I know it’s time for a change cause everyone has that long hair with the shaved sides. I just want to keep evolving. That’s what I like about the exotic weapon. You’re never going to see me do the exact same thing. I always pick up new things from an opponent. I’ll incorporate something that I’ve lost too, and I keep moving forward and keep involving. I don’t want to be the guy where people go, “Oh, he’s doing the same old song and dance. He’s doing the greatest hits.” I’m still going to have those things that I do every match, but there’s also going to do something new or some crazy idea I’ve come up with.”
Stay tuned for part 2!
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Deathmatch? Strong Style? Technical? Don't care. Let me fight them all! pic.twitter.com/unm1oDiOC5
— AKIRA 明 (@theakiraway) July 18, 2020