Zenk Proves To Be Pro-Wrestling's
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER Part 2
by Ray Whebbe Jr (from Pro Wrestling Torch, 1988)
part 1 | part 2
Snuka and Brody vs Zenk and Terminator , November 1987
'Snuka should have been bigger than the Hulk but was held down'
Whebbe - How many times have you been to Japan?
Zenk - I've worked for All-Japan three times now, each being a three week tour.
Whebbe - How did you get involved with All-Japan?
Zenk - Two things. I always tried hard and they liked that, but Rick Martel really got me to go with him to Japan the first time around.
Whebbe - The Can-Ams first appeared for All-Japan in the 1986 Real World Tag Tournament, correct?
Zenk - That's right. Rick and I teamed some before in Montreal and really talked about it for a long time. In Japan we realized how truly good we could work together as a team. The Japanese bookers and fans realized that and appreciated it right away. Usually, we had a good look and the Japanese like that too, but they also liked our work. Baba made us a helluva offer then to tour with All-Japan regularly and I've regretted not doing it from that day on. Fortunately though, I've kept good relations with All-Japan and will still go there three times a year. But Rick and I did well together and we could have done even better. I regret not keeping the team together for Japan and the independents.
Whebbe - Many baseball players and even some wrestlers find athletics in Japan to be too stressful, yet you seem to love it.
Zenk - I do! Wrestling in Japan is fabulous. I wish I could be there all the time. Some guys go through culture shock but I find it compelling and challenging. For one, the fans make it enjoyable. They respect you for your hard work in the ring and respect the hard work going into building a good body. The country is beautiful and easy to appreciate. The difference in styles, cars, buildings, architecture and appearances is stimulating. I truly love Japan and the Japanese culture. Their culture respects hard work, the people all work hard, and they love good, competitive wrestling.
'I hit the weights like I'm possessed. I also hit the buffets'
Whebbe - What do you do to gear up for these tours?
Zenk - As much as they are fun, they can be hard. Competing seven days a week at the hardest level of your life for three weeks can really be hard on your body. So can the long plane trips. About three months before each trip I pick up on the cardiovascular exercises. The All-Japan work rate is superior to that in the US and to compete I have to be in top shape. About two months before, I hit the weights like I'm possessed. I also hit the buffets harder and eat a lot. Well proportioned size impresses the Japanese. They're also very honorable people. A handshake there is better than a contract from most US promoters. The All-Japan people ae just great businessmen.
Whebbe - The press, too, is favorable to wrestling. Even the daily papers cover the sport ....
Zenk - That's right, Ray. And they cover it intelligently. They push people to be competitive and never talk about bogus stuff like Russians training in dungeons. The press covers wrestling like our papers cover baseball or football. And they even pay you to do interviews. (Wade Keller - Thank goodness The Torch isn't based out of Japan :)
Whebbe - Unlike the situation in the US where wrestlers practically have to beg for publicity ....
Zenk - Everything that's successful about Japanese wrestling points to the fact that they are great businessmen. They treat wrestlers like athletes and a re rewarded with great matches.
Whebbe - I understand that many Japanese fans look at wrestlers in awe. Is this true?
Zenk - Sure is. The people are impressed by size and just like to look and sometimes touch. But they always do it in a respectful way.
Whebbe - Yet they also like to be scared?
Zenk - True. They like to be scared to a point. Like with Brody or Abdullah. They like to be chased out of their seats.
Whebbe - In your three tours to Japan, Tom, you've had the privilege of touring with four legend grapplers Jimmy Snuka - Abdullah the Butcher- Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen. Did you enjoy that?
Zenk - You bet. I learned a lot from these men and they were all very generous and helpful. I teamed some with Snuka on my last tour and was very impressed. He's a phenomenal athlete. You know Ray, he could have been bigger than the Hulk but was held down. But he's a decent guy and a proud father. He loves his kid.
'you could feel Brody's spirit'Whebbe - Tell us about the Brody Memorial card.
Zenk - It was great and eerie at the same time. I mean, it was weird with an arena packed paying homage to a wrestler's casket. The crowd was so into it you could feel Brody's spirit. It truly touched me. It was also beautiful to see all the fans bring him roses and gifts. And a lot of money was raised for his family. Brody was a true hero and the Japanese loved him. It's a shame all the American promoters would say is he was trouble. Yea, trouble cause he wanted to get paid? The American promoters don't understand fair play and treating people right. Yet All-Japan would have it no other way. Everything from the hotel room to the travel arrangements are first
Whebbe - Do you ever feel stranded over there. I mean it's not like John Paul and Ricky Rice who halfway to Wisconsin quit the AWA and return to Edina.
Zenk - That's right. There's no going home. And some wrestlers don't like it. Let's face it, Ray, some guys don't like to work hard and All-Japan demands hard work. But they are fair and decent. It's like working for a great corporation. They want you to be happy, play fair, offer the best conditions, and pay the best money. They also offer top competition. In return I give All-Japan my best every time out and train like a maniac before going there. And I have to. The wrestlers there are real athletes.
Whebbe - And you like the competition?
Zenk - Definitely. It's like the World Series or Superbowl. I get pumped and stay pumped up. It's challenging. They make a move and you have to counter or vice versa. The competition is great and I'm adapting well. On my last tour, I wasn't pinned once. The Japanese style is my personal favorite.
Whebbe - Does that eliminate you from working with a major US group?
Zenk - No. Not really. It's a matter of timing and money. I'm a businessman first and foremost, but I hope I'm always able to return to Japan.
Whebbe - Judging from your tapes, I don't think you'll have to worry.
Zenk - Thanks Ray. I sure hope you're right.
report of 1987 tour
report of 1988 tour
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