Monday, June 15, 2009

R.I.P. Ted Tanabe

I was deeply saddened to hear that Japanese pro wrestling referee, Ted Tanabe, died suddenly yesterday from a heart attack suffered during a show for Osaka Pro Wrestling. Tanabe was just 46 years old.

Tanabe may be best known to American fans as the referee for Michinoku Pro Wrestling who officiated the great 6 man tag match at ECW's first pay per view, Barely Legal in April 1997. I was closely involved in Michinoku appearing at that pay per view and had the chance to get to know Tanabe a little bit during that period of time.

My first time meeting Ted Tanabe was in February 1997, when Michinoku Pro Wrestling owner and star, The Great Sasuke, brought a group of wrestlers to Boston to appear on an ECW TV Taping and a Century Wrestling Alliance show (the late Tony Rumble's company and the pre-cursor of NWA New England) headlined by then WCW booker, Kevin Sullivan. A deal was going to be made on this trip for the Michinoku stars to appear on the Barley Legal PPV for ECW with myself playing middle man.

Tanabe was more than just a referee for Michinoku at that time. He was clearly the guy who kept track of the boys, most of whom were young stars equivalent to the upper end of their American counterparts on the independent scene.

Ted Tanabe looked something like a Japanese version of Lou Costello - jovial, and obviously a huge wrestling fan. When I met him, I was told he had promoted independent shows in Japan and was also a referee for FMW and Battlearts, as well as Michinoku.

When they were in Boston before, Tanabe expressed an interest in American wrestling magazines, buying up whatever he could find on the newsstands. I brought him a number of magazines I had, as well as some old programs.

When I saw him again in Phildadelphia just prior to the Barely Legal PPV, he produced a whole pile of things for me, including old Japanese magazines, posters, trading cards and other assorted goodies. I reciprocated with bag full of things I’d brought to give to him.

My favorite memory of Ted Tanabe would be at Boston's Logan Airport when the Michinoku crew were going back to Japan after the February trip. It was time to say goodbye and the young boys did not know whether to bow, shake hands or what. Ted looked at them, looked back at me and then threw his arms around mem gave me a hug and thanked me. All the others lined up and follwed suit, including the great veteran Gran Hamada.

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Ted Tanabe was a good man and a person who made an impact on the business he truly loved.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Post IRON 8 Notes, Dr. Death Steve Williams, RIP Mitsuhara Misawa

So we are now just a little more than two weeks removed from NECW's 6th Annual IRON 8 Championship. I am still waiting for my feet to once again touch the ground.

The biggest and most important reason that I promote professional wrestling is that I am a fan. I flat out love this.

As a wrestling promotion, we believe that we know what it good and have a vision for how to present professional wrestling that suits our particular circumstance. To say that we have an old school mentality would be an apt description, although we have brought numerous innovations to our business that are absolutely "new school."

Whatever NECW (or any other company for that matter) does, it can never turn back the clock and make wrestling "like it was." The best we can do is to stand on tradition and build smartly on that foundation.

It was only fitting that we had Harley Race as our special guest this past Saturday night. No one epitomizes the values of "old school" like Harley Race, one of the greatest world champions ever and a true iron man in the annals of wrestling history.

The IRON 8 event was, in my not-so-humble opinion, the greatest NECW event ever presented. It struck the perfect balance of action, storytelling, comedy and drama. All the talent on the event did phenomenal work in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience - an audience that included Harley Race.

If you watch the current episode of NECW TV (click here to watch it), you will hear Harley Race himself praise the IRON 8 and its participants. He told us after the show that we were the best independent promotion he's ever seen. And folks, praise doesn't come higher than that.

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This week's Mouthpiece Wrestling Show had "Dr. Death" Steve Williams as our special guest. The story of what Steve Willams has accomplished and the battle with throat cancer he endured and eventually won, is compelling radio to be sure.

I'm still waiting for the mp3 file, but when it is online it will be in our Mouthpiece Wrestling Show archive, that you can access by clicking here. All the past shows are online, and we've had some great ones.

Wrestlers Rescue is currently holding a raffle to raisde money for a hands-free voice box for "Dr. Death." Go to and buy some raffle tickets. You could win an autographed cowboy hat from WWE Hall of Famer, Jim Ross. I believe they also have a number of items for sale on eBay that you collectors may find interesting.

Wrestlers Rescue had a table at our IRON 8 event, and they have been invited to have a continued presence with NECW at our live events. I hope to be able to do more with this very worthy organization in the future.

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Mitsuhara Misawa died tragically in the ring yesterday in Hiroshima, Japan. He was just shy of his 47th birthday.

Misawa was truly one of the greatest stars in the history of pro wrestling, and it's a shame that American fans did not get to see more of this gifted athlete.

Misawa, who made his fame in All Japan Pro Wrestling after becoming a national amateur champion in high school, was President of Pro Wrestling NOAH, the company that continued the traditions of classic All Japan after the death of All Japan founder Shohei "Giant" Baba.

I never had the opportunity to meet Misawa, but former NECW star "Die Hard" Eddie Edwards, who toured for NOAH, always spoke of him with great reverence. If you followed his matches, particularly in the 90's, his talent spoke for itself.

The fact that the death was so public makes this tragedy even more monumental. My condolences to the family and friends of Mitsuhara Misawa, the staff and talent roster of Pro Wrestling NOAH and the legion of fans who loved this incomparable talent.