TACHIBANASHI with Alicia Atout

In April, I attended the inaugural Bullet Club Block Party. On a whim, The Interview Queen herself, Alicia Atout, offered to do a quick interview between her busy schedule as Bullet Club Block Party emcee. What happens when the tables are turned and the Interview Queen is on the receiving end of the mic?


Episode 01 – TACHIBANASHI! With Then Interview Queen Alicia Atout

Reminder! You don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy Nomunication! All beverages are welcome, so pour anything you like and let me know how you’re nomunicating today!

TACHIBANASHI with Alicia Atout!

Production Disclaimer

I’ve gone back and forth about releasing this episode, largely because my voice was absolutely shot. Annually, I manage to wreck my voice during Mania Week due to the number of wrestling shows I attend and how loud I cheer. However, when Alicia graciously offered up some of her time for a one-on-one interview, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview the Interview Queen herself!

This was recorded at the Bullet Club Block Party, where Alicia emceed the event on April 7, 2019. My confidence held me back from posting this, but taking a page out of Alicia’s book, I’m just going to dig deep for my confidence and go with it!

Quick & Nerdy on the Interview

  • What’s her favorite place she’s visited?
  • Which country is at the top of her bucket list?
  • What is her travel essential?
  • Would she change anything about her life?
  • Alicia’s Must-see Sightseeing in Toronto and more!

Japanese Words & Phrases

  • Ayamaru – to apologize
  • Tachibanashi – Talking while standing around
  • Tachinomi – Drinking while standing
  • Tachigui – Eating while standing
    Joshi Anna – slang for “female announcer” (media hostess)
  • Tabibito – a traveler

Follow Alicia’s Travels!
Check out all the rad things Alicia is doing as she travels the world over on AMBY (A Music Blog, Yea?) as well as over on Twitter and IG! She’s out there living her best life and I cannot wait to see where her career takes her next!

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The Bittersweet Ballad of Akira Tozawa

Akira Tozawa is one of the unsung heroes of WWE’s Cruiser Weight-specific program, 205 Live. From the original Cruiser Weight Classic in 2016, Tozawa was one of my favorites because he helped introduce the modern American wrestling audience to another Japanese promotion, Dragon Gate. Aside from the newly minted champion earlier in the week, Tozawa still has the shortest CW title reign on 205 Live at six days.


What fans are missing out on is the storytelling happening over at WWE Japan. While Tozawa has been looped back into the championship picture, another missed opportunity was showcasing his internal struggle with chasing the championship and trying to reconcile his exceptionally short reign as champion. Tozawa unscripted, raw with emotion, paints an underdog story not nearly enough people are talking about.

Tozawa’s post-match comments about the dual pin for number one contender at WWE Stomping Ground.

Tozawa: “You saw that right? It was clear as day that I was the winner! Hey, Ref, could you try doing your job right and pay attention? At the PPV in two weeks, I’m going to take Tony Nese’s CW Championship. I’m going to achieve this goal again without fail! Thank you for your continued support!”

A frustrated Tozawa trying to remain optimistic after being pinned at Stomping Ground.

Tozawa: “UGH! I still didn’t manage to get [The Cruiser Weight Championship] back! Gahhhh DAMNIT!! This is so frustrating! However… I am not going to give up. I just need to clear my head a bit and take time to figure this out. I’m going to achieve this goal again without fail! Thank you for your continued support!”

Is Tozawa out of chances now that Tony Nese claims his rematch?

Tozawa: “It’s… no use. That was… possibly… my last chance. Pardon me. Seriously, I’m at a loss for words right now. Please forgive me. There’s nothing I can say (right now). I’m so sorry.”

Where does Tozawa go from here? Drew Gulak secured the Cruiser Weight Championship by pinning fellow challenger Tozawa over them champion, Nese. Days later, Nese secures his rematch at the next WWE PPV also at Tozawa’s expense. Is it back of the line? Does his journey take him elsewhere? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

My Perspective on The Kabuki Warriors

I am a chat moderator for a wrestling podcast called Steve & Larson’s Going in Raw. In the last two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a community member and they afford me a platform to provide my input on hot topics, especially those related to women’s wrestling and Japanese wrestling. Over the last month, Kairi Sane, left NXT and debuted on SmackDown Live as the tag team partner of fellow countrywoman, Asuka. Last night, their tag team name was revealed to be The Kabuki Warriors, and there was a fair bit of fan backlash, from myself included.

This morning, I was asked to submit my thoughts on the announcement as well as some cultural/historical perspective for their live broadcast.

My Comments are at 37:51

“Steve and Larson asked me to provide a little perspective as to the issues surrounding the big reveal of Kairi and Asuka as “The Kabuki Warriors.” I’ll be the first to admit, that I was rather upset upon hearing the news, but here is little perspective as to why:

Since Kairi’s call up, I have been frustrated that Asuka and Kairi have been assigned Paige as their manager, hype woman, advocate and mouthpiece. When both women were in NXT, they were given the opportunity to speak for themselves and worked hard to improve their English. Cutting a promo is difficult in one’s first language, and for all the grief people give the Full Sail Crowd, when they spoke, we quietly listened. Since their pairing with Paige, neither Kairi nor Asuka have really been given the opportunity to cut promos in the ring. They have someone speaking for them in English, but not someone who also speaks their language. It sends a message to the fans that Kairi and Asuka are incapable of communicating their goals and desires as a tag team because English is their second language.

The reveal of The Kabuki Warriors could have been better handled, largely in its execution. With all the vast resources available in the WWE, they elected to have a non-Japanese advocate announce the new team name at a pre-taped show abroad without an explanation behind the name selection. It made it seem like Paige was unveiling a new car, and not presenting the next dominant women’s tag team in WWE. It wasn’t Kairi and Asuka announcing to the world that they wanted honor their heritage by using the lesser known meaning of “Kabuki,” which lead to international outrage because outside of Japan its interpretation isn’t conveyed in popular media. Throw “Kabuki” into a search engine, you’re going to get the art form definition, one of which prohibited women from acting in part of for over 200 years. Also, while Asuka wears a mask, that is a tribute to NOH (No) Theater, a masked performance art while Kabuki actors wear extreme makeup. It is just confusing to those not familiar with Japanese culture, and it shouldn’t be upon the fans to explain it to one another. Honor the culture, but make sure you explain why.

Asuka shouldn’t have had to explain the lesser known meaning of “Kabuki-mono” which has a different meaning from “Kabuki” (theater) in a tweet, when they could have done all of this ahead of time with a single video package. The definition Asuka provides is “Edo-period (pronounced: “Eh-dough”) eccentric who attracted public attention with their eye-catching clothes, peculiar hairstyle, and weird behavior.” Without any explanation of this difference of interpretation, it is only natural that people can perceive it is lazy and racist. People had the same mixed response with SHO and YOH in ROH as “The Tempura Boyz” largely because there wasn’t explanation as to why they selected that naming.

With all the amazing work the WWE PC team is putting together compelling video, there isn’t a team who can do the same for the main roster Superstars? If you are going to take away their voices on live television, find an alternate way to present them by letting them use their own words and language. WWE Japan has been releasing backstage promos in Japanese between Kairi and Asuka ever since Kairi’s call up, but even with the vast resources of the WWE, no one is bothering to subtitle this for the western audience. They were genuinely excited to finally feel validated at The Kabuki Warriors because it made them feel like an official tag team, not just two Japanese women thrown together. Why wasn’t this or any of their other Japanese material subtitled in English, so the fans could understand their story? Considering the characters of Asuka (The Empress) and Kairi (The Pirate Princess)— this sudden name assignment without the proper clarification is wildly the issue, especially considering WWE’s track record with international talent.   

Why many jumped to the offensive, is largely in part to how fans at the shows behave, especially toward the international talent. I have been to NXT House Shows while both Asuka and Kairi were in NXT and had to listen to ‘fans’ say absolutely sexist & racist things to them during matches, including geisha jokes and mentions of Pearl Harbor. Calling outraged fans ignorant or “so called” fans because they came to the defense of Asuka and Kairi should not be an issue because racism in the US (and abroad) along with the sexual comments made about them, is the greater concern.  

Don’t make it about damage control or having their manager-advocate-mouthpiece do it for them.If Kairi and Asuka chose the name as an homage to Japanese culture and the kick ass Joshi Tag teams of the 80s-90s, right on… BUT LET THEM TELL THAT STORY TO THE UNIVERSE.

– Karen

The above is a compilation of my thoughts on the subject based on the following:

  1. My original reaction to the name announcement via UK taping spoilers.
  2. My reaction this morning to Paige’s curt response to an outraged fan.

Kairi Sane Joins Asuka on SmackDown Live

Kairi’s debuted on the main roster as part of SmackDown Live, and is now teaming with Asuka! It’s great, but a completely missed opportunity on WWE’s part are these fantastic promos for WWE Japan by the pair in Japanese. Western fans could learn a lot about their blossoming tag team dynamic though these videos and without subtitles, they’re really doing a disservice! These are so great!

Backstage comments after Kairi’s first match with Asuka on SmackDown Live

Kairi: “Wow. Thank you so much!”
Asuka: “Great job!”
Kairi: “Tonight was my debut match on SD Live…”
Kairi: “THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I never thought that I would be able to work with let alone team with someone who is not only another former NXT Women’s… Champion, but also someone I respect as a veteran and my senior, Asuka. I’m over the moon right now! Let’s get those tag titles!”
Asuka: “I feel the same way! While I do have the experience, I feel we can learn a lot and gain power from one another. So, let’s make those championships ours”
Kairi: “YES, PLEASE!!”

Asuka celebrates Kairi’s first singles match win over Peyton Royce

Asuka: “Congrats on your first victory!!”
Kairi: “Asuka, this was my first singles match on SmackDown! With the support of yourself and Paige, I was able to secure a win!”
Asuka: (clapping) “CONGRATULATIONS!!”
Kairi: “This is our first big step on the road to securing the women’s tag team championships!”
Asuka: “You and I, no one will be able to stop us from taking those championships.”
Kairi: “Let’s go get them!”
Asuka: “Plus, we have Paige on our side, cheering us on!”
Kairi: “She’s so strong!”
Asuka: “Without a doubt!”
Kairi: “Everyone, make sure you don’t take your eyes off us!”

Asuka: “Our first time tagging together and we won!”
Kairi: “We totally did it, Asuka! At this pace, I feel like we can’t lose.”
Asuka: “We really work. Our timing a great… we can really do this! We’re going to become champions at this rate…”
Kairi: “Totally!”
Asuka: “Honestly, I feel like we already are!”
Kairi: “I mean… with results like this, we should be able to get an opportunity against the IIconics quickly, right?”
Asuka: “Did you see them?! They’re totally scared! With those reactions, they’re so worried right now.”
Kairi: “Absolutely!”
Asuka: “Hey, IIconics, I hope you paid attention tonight because we’re coming to take those championships from you!”

Asuka & Kairi are officially in the Tag Team Division as “The Kabuki Warriors.”

Kairi: “It’s been officially announced, Asuka!”
Asuka: “It’s about time, right!? We’ve waited so long! Our tag team name has been finally decided, so we’re officially…”
BOTH: “The Kabuki Warriors!!”
Asuka: “It’s so cool!”
Kairi: “Seriously! I really like it!”
Asuka: “It’s a very, very strong team name.”
Kairi: “Tonight, we already demonstrated how strong we are!”
Asuka: “If the IIconics weren’t already scared, I am sure they’re terrified by now.
Kairi: “The Kabuki Warriors are coming for those championships, and we’re taking them with us.”

I was front row for Kairi’s final match in NXT.

From the Vault: The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Here are some of my personal experiences.

Karen Nerds Out

[The following was originally posted eight years ago, a couple of days after March 11, 2011. This is from my old running blog and from when I worked at a Japanese boarding school in New York. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the account associated with this blog, but not for a lack of trying. This is a very personal piece, as well as several related pieces.]

How fast things can change in an instant. Friday morning, as I prepared to walk to the office, I received a text from my high school friend sending her condolences and concern about the massive earthquake in Japan. Working nights and having to usher the kids out in the morning, I hadn’t had the chance to flick on the TV let alone yank up the internet to see what she was talking about.

Then I opened Google News.

I paled.

View original post 907 more words

The Holy Land of Wrestling with Hiroshi Tanahashi

[Disclaimer: The following is a fan translation of a video produced by New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Currently, an English subtitled version of the following video is not available on their YouTube channel (video published 03/07/19). It is also available on NJPW World (without English subtitles). I am not an employee of NJPW.]

In a partnership with Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling will host a sold-out dual-branded event called G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden on April 6th. The company’s top title, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship will be defended at this historic event. The challenger will be decided in the New Japan Cup, which started today! The NJC is a 32-man, single-elimination bracketed tournament, and the winner will face current champion, Jay White in the MSG main event!

Welcome to Bar MSG

Hosted by: Shigeki Kiyono (NJPW Announcer/Interviewer)
Guest: Hiroshi Tanahashi (The Ace; The Once in a Century Talent)
Narrator: Baron Yamazaki

Video Description Notes
★ New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s debut at the Holy Land of Wrestling, Madison Square Garden
★ The Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi’s intense confession1 about the MSG Show
★ Overthrowing, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White
★ The Secret to Winning the NEW JAPAN CUP 2019?!

Narrator: “Within Roppongi, the town that never sleeps, there is a peculiar bar. It’s the place to talk pro-wrestling, Bar MSG…”

Kiyono: “Oh, welcome to Bar MSG! Aren’t you really busy right now?”

Tanahashi: “I’m not busy at all.”

Kiyono: “Oh really?”

Narrator: “Tonight’s special guest is the once in century talent, Hiroshi Tanahashi.”

Kiyono: “What would you like to drink?”

Tanahashi: “Since I am on a diet, I’ll take an Oolong-hai (Oolong tea mixed with Shochu grain alcohol).”

Kiyono: “There really aren’t any opportunities for us to have a relaxed conversation.”

Tanahashi: “Yeah, I know.”

Kiyono: “Tanahashi-san, do you like drinking (alcohol)?”

Tanahashi: “I do!”

Kiyono: “Which do you like better, your protein drinks or alcohol?”

Tanahashi: “I should just make protein cocktails. Like instead of a
Kahlúa & Cream, substitute a protein powder base for the milk.”

Kiyono: “How about we put that on the menu here (at Bar MSG)? Hiroshi Tanahashi’s Secret Recipe Protein Cocktail.”

Tanahashi: “Call it the Kahlúa Protein! I think we could also make one using melon liqueur, too.”

Kiyono: “There are so many possibilities!”

Ryogoku Tournament of the Spring!

Narrator: “When you think of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the spring… Ryogoku Hall is renowned for the biggest matches! The Spring of NJPW gives birth to legends with countless fierce fights that jolt the soul! This time, it’ll happen when NJPW also lands in NYC, at the Holy Land of Pro-Wrestling, Madison Square Garden. Tickets are completely sold out! It’s at this bar, one can discuss their thoughts and memories openly!”

About MSG

{video timestamp 2:26}
Kiyono: “You’ve been to NYC plenty of times, but have you ever been to MSG?”

Tanahashi: “The hotel we stay at is right by MSG. You don’t have to walk far to go!”

Kiyono: “There’s a giant train station underneath it, too, right? The exterior of the building is so iconic, too.”

Tanahashi: “The crazy thing is that NYC has so many skyscraper buildings, and yet in that compact city, they managed to put a giant arena in the middle of it all!”

Kiyono: “It you were to compare it to Tokyo, it would be like putting an arena… in GINZA!”

Tanahashi: “Seriously! You walk for a few blocks and you can hit Times Square and there are plenty of places to shop. It’s just unbelievable that they put something so big there!”

Kiyono: “Even the naming of MSG sounds fantastic!”

Tanahashi: “Madison. Square. Garden.”

Kiyono: “For this event, they will also be a special tour group leaving from Japan, and you’re joining them?”

Tanahashi: “I’ll be joining them after they arrive in NYC. I’m looking forward to it. There’s bars, cafes, and so much to do!”

Kiyono: “That sounds like so much fun!”

Memories of MSG

{video timestamp 4:28}
Kiyono: “Are there any particular matches or moments from MSG have left a lasting impression on you?”

Tanahashi: “I discovered pro-wrestling when I was in high school, so I watched some older video clips. I remember hearing that Tatsumi Fujinami won a match at MSG with the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF)2. Of course, MSG also a famous for the first WrestleMania. In the USA, there are so many other larger venues, but for wrestling, including WWE, there is something special about MSG.”

Kiyono: “It is definitely a place steeped in sports history.”

Tanahashi: “I believe that is also where Fujinami debuted The Dragon Suplex, too.”

Kiyono: “I remember my (unnamed) source mentioned that in that match between Fujinami and Estrada. It was the first time he used the Dragon Suxplex. The first time he challenged for the title, and he won on the first attempt! Isn’t that incredible!”

Tanahashi: “It’s unbelievable!”

Kiyono: “Right?! For all of that to happen on such a grand stage…”

Tanahashi: “It’s like me when I debuted The Slingblade as a finishing move. It was in Hokkaido (July 2009 in Sapporo City) in a tag match, if I remember correctly. I didn’t know how the crowd would react. I didn’t know how much damage it would do to my opponent either. But… I just tried it out.”

Kiyono: “Tiger Mask had a similar situation, which resulted in a standing ovation from Vince McMahon3. At first, the crown was cold to Tiger, but likely because most of them didn’t know who he was.”

Tanahashi: “That often makes the best underdog story: the unknown wrestler starting at a disadvantage comes out on top with the win.”

Kiyono: “That match was against the Dynamite Kid (in August 1982).”

Tanahashi (breaking the 4th wall): “You really know a lot!”

Kiyono: “This would make Fujinami the first to be successful as a junior and heavyweight!”

Tanahashi: “Man, that’s really something. When you think about it, MSG really has a long-standing, deep connection with NJPW.”

The Road to MSG

{timestamp 7:47}
Tanahashi: “Like you know, in January, I became the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and if I successfully defended it in February, I would have main evented Madison Square Garden…”

Kiyono: “Right now, Jay White is the champion (having beaten Tanahashi in February), and now the winner of the New Japan Cup will be the challenger at Madison Square Garden.”

Tanahashi: “I had the chance to main event MSG, but thankfully, I now have another chance. If I win the New Japan Cup, then I can challenge Jay (at MSG).

Kiyono: “….so what you’re saying is that you’re aiming to reclaim the main event of MSG?”

Tanahashi: “Naturally. I mean there is always the future possibilities of another NJPW at MSG, but there is also the possibility that this is the one and only chance for this to happen! This could be my only chance in my entire career for this to happen.”

Kiyono: “That is a big dream to catch!”

Tanahashi: “Main eventing at MSG is the sort of thing I want to brag to my grandkids about, you know?”

Kiyono: “We mentioned this earlier, but Fujinami’s match… wasn’t the main event.”

Tanahashi: “Exactly. This MSG show… is a historical moment.”

Kiyono: “There aren’t too many Japanese whom have had the opportunity to perform at MSG.”

Tanahashi: “There are probably some famous musical performers.”

Kiyono: “Such as X-JAPAN and L’Arc en Ciel…”

Tanahashi: “It’s really hard to think of names right now… Man, now I feel like I have to work even harder on to make this happen!”

Kiyono: “Meaning, you’re going to have to focus on winning, but also make sure that you’re prepared and taking care of yourself, especially your knee.”

Tanahashi: “I think I may need to change up how I do somethings in the ring, including The High-fly Flow. I need to think beyond the fan comments and what my ceiling is as a performer and athlete. Part of my strategy will be like the Sengoku (warring states) Era, I don’t want my opponent to read me to easily. Although, if they fans demand that I do the High-fly Flow… I’ll fly for them. I don’t want my opponent to go into the match expecting that I will do it. I want to keep them guessing. However, if I don’t do the HFF, I really want them to get distracting trying to figure out what I’ll do instead. (looking into the camera) What should I do?”

Kiyono: “So with regard to MSG, your goal may also be exacting revenge on Jay White. We’ll have to see if the HFF will also makes it’s MSG debut…”

Tanahashi: “Going back to Fujinami’s match at MSG… what he did with the Dragon Suplex, that’s become a part of wrestling history. This could be a great chance to honor that moment with some ‘Dragonism.’ Of course, that would take some proper preparation to avoid anything going wrong.”

Kiyono: “So everyone needs to be on the lookout to see if Tanahashi will use the High-fly Flow or bring in something else! Something new? Something old!? Have you thought about using a Dragon Suplex? You like them, don’t you?”

Tanahashi: “That’s a great idea. That saves me a little time thinking of what to do!”

Kiyono: “What better place and time to do it?! I would love to see it!”

Tanahashi: “Could you imagine the impact and reaction of performing the Dragon Suplex inside Madison Square Garden? It’s would be crazy (good).”

Kiyono: “Absolutely! You would definitely make some pro-wrestling fans cry with that.”

Tanahashi: “Honestly, this dual-branded New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor show at MSG is a giant step for wrestling history.”

Kiyono: “I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you to Hiroshi Tanahashi for joining us at Bar MSG”to discuss this momentous occasion.

Tanahashi: “Thank you so much!”

The NJPW x ROH G1 Supercard will be broadcast live on NJPW World on Sunday, April 7th (8:30AM Japan Local Time) and will be available on-demand afterward. Commentary will be available in Japanese and English.

Full Match Card

I will be attending all three of the associated NJPW events during Mania week in NYC! If you see me at the shows, please say hello! Also, which event are you most excited for?

4/4 New Japan Matsuri at Japan Village in Brooklyn, NY
4/5 NJPW x ROH Festival of Honor in NYC
4/6 NJPW x ROH G1 Supercard at MSG

Translator’s Notes

  1. 激白 (gekihaku; intense confession) – (reference note) Google Translate gave it a literal translation of “Violent White,” which if it were talking about Tanahashi’s determination to destroy current champion, Jay White, this could also be applicable.
  2. Fujinami’s match at MSG with the WWWF at MSG was in 1978 against Jose Estrada. Tanahashi was two-years-old at the time.
  3. August 1982 Tiger Mask versus Dynamite Kid; Unsure if they are discussing Vincent Kennedy McMahon, or his father Vince Sr. Likely Sr.

Video is property of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Translation (c) 2019 by Karen Peterson.