We talked a little to Cima (Dragon Gates most popular wrestler and Japanese heart-throb) the night before our first match of the tour and he made it aware that we would be performing in a brand new American style ring the next night. We thought it would be neat to perform in a ring that came from home at a place that is very much different than home. We get to the hotel and grab a few hours of sleep in our mini rooms (I am not complaining Joey Ryan) which was nice because of the jet-lag. Morning comes too fast as always. We grab some coffee which size-wise could be compared to those little tiny plastic cups filled with grape juice that you sipped during communion at church, grabbed some McDonalds breakfast, rested a little and were soon off to the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The Korakuen Hall is also known as the "Wrestling Building." On our first tour we were told by Pac (best high-flyer in wrestling today) that the Korakuen Hall has a wrestling show held in it EVERY night. WOW. Nick and I also find it to be kind of cool that we could jump and land on top of the Tokyo Dome from the forth floor balcony in this building.
After a few hours of set-up which consists of loading the elevator, unloading the elevator, and building the ring, the shows start time was fast approaching. (By the way, it is Dragon Gate tradition that all of the wrestlers help with the set up and tear down.) The show starts on time at 6:30 p.m (Yes, wrestling shows start on time out here!) and the first match is underway! Nick and I grab a comfortable seat in the backstage locker room, down a "Real Gold" Japanese soft drink and begin watching the opening match. And then the ring broke. Yes, it happened THAT fast. We blinked and noticed that the rings ropes were extremely loose to the point where they were sagging. Immediately a few young boys jumped up to the apron and started trying to tighten the turnbuckles to repair the loose ropes. This made things worse. We looked deep into the monitor and then noticed that one of the poles was completely off base. The match gets wrapped up quickly. The ref then stands on to the apron and in an attempt to correct the off balanced pole, begins to push and kick the pole. Following a strong kick from the ref, the ring implodes! The Japanese crowd was shocked - almost as much as the wrestlers in the back.
We're thinking that the show is going to get canceled and that there is no way they can fix the ring. (We later found out that one of the vital parts of the ring was completely destroyed.) We looked back into the monitor and saw the young boys taking down the ropes. We were under the impression that maybe the show would go on but without the ropes? As we looked on along with the stunned Japanese crowd, the young boys continued to disassemble the ring. Off went the padding, the wooden planks, the metal pieces and finally the four poles. I then thought about unlacing my boots as the show was surely going to be canceled. What a disaster! As the entire locker room looked on to what was going on through the monitor along with the patiently seated 2-3 thousand fans, one of the Dragon Gate announcers grabbed a microphone and stood in an empty 20 x 20 space where a wrestling ring once stood. (This all took well over 20 minutes.) There was a hush silence in the building similar to the sound a crowd would make if Nick or I decided to take a shot at a singles career. The announcer quickly fixed that silence by saying something in Japanese. The crowd absolutely exploded. I am not kidding, this was a CENA pop. In unison, Nick and I turned to one of the workers in the back and tried to figure out what the announcer said to please the crowd so much? Don Fuji then turns to us and says "Show.. Go on.. no ring... ONLY PADDING on floor!" I thought out loud "Only in Japan."
Then in a frenzy all of the wrestlers in full gear came out to what was formally ringside. They grabbed the blue outside mats and placed those perfectly on the floor. On top of that went the wooden planks which were once used as the floor for the now broken ring. Atop the planks went the padding which was also originally used in the wrecked ring. The wrestlers, young boys and rest of the staff worked like a well oiled machine - so strategic. Surely something like this has happened before which is why everyone was so prepared right? I later asked CIMA that same question and he said NOTHING like this has EVER happened in Dragon Gate. Finally the Dragon Gate mat was taped over the padding and we had our selves a make shift ring in less than 35 minutes.
We went on to have a pretty good match that we both will never forget. Never would I ever dream of performing in Tokyo, Japan at the Korakuen Hall on the first day of the "Summer Adventure Tag League Tournament" in a make shift ring with no ropes. To the Japanese fans credit, they were hotter then ever from start to finish. It is such a joy to work in front of them. Nick and I both stood with the crowd after our match and watched the remainder of the show in complete awe. These guys are putting on better matches on the floor in a fake ring then most matches I see now days anywhere. I just wanted to note that none of this would have probably went down in the states. As soon as the ring broke, I strongly believe that the show would of been canceled had this show been anywhere else besides Japan. Or, if this type of thing did happen in the states and the promotion decided to go on with the show with a make shift ring, I believe that 50 percent (or more) of the audience would want a refund for their ticket. This is only one example of why the Japanese people are so disciplined. If I had to describe this wonderful place in one word.... it would be RESPECT.
In a terrible, terrible situation that could have been a disaster, Dragon Gate prevailed and put on a show that will never be forgotten. Any who.. I hope that helped clear up those questions that you didn't ask.