London loves Japan
by Michael Dworkis
The SmackDown! crew recently traveled to Tokyo, Japan, for two nights of international action. This is not unusual for at least one SmackDown! Superstar, as the young Paul London is actually a veteran of traveling to the orient. Prior to WWE, London toured there with independent promotions. He enjoys bringing an American twist to the Japanese ring.
“Over there it’s more of the ‘keep fighting’ attitude. Here, people enjoy more of the mic skills, but in Japan, all they want is action and your ring skills. Also, when the fans come, they come dressed in suits and ties, very classy. They clap for moves and when something big happens you just get them and they react highly to it.”
London explained the difference between our traditions of sports entertainment with what the Japanese fans view as wrestling competition.
“In Japan you can get classified more as a ‘junior,’ depending how fans take to you. If you’re a cruiserweight, then you’re probably in their junior class. Over here, Mysterio is a cruiserweight, but he has had some good matches against guys like JBL. Others have done the same thing in WWE. In Japan, they probably wouldn’t exercise the thought. If you are classified as a ‘junior’ then you are in the juniors and that’s where you stay.”
After his most recent tour in Japan with SmackDown!, London discussed how his influence in Japan isn’t what excites him, but rather the influence of the Japanese culture.
“I can’t get over how polite everyone was. It makes you look in a mirror and maybe think about watching your own manners. I heard they were polite people, but when I got to Japan, it showed even more so. They were really, really nice to us. So respectful and kind, and they look at you differently than fans in the states. Fans in the U.S. can be more critical of your work. In Japan, they are critical in a very respectful way. They’re just so polite. You can learn so much from other cultures.”
One of the things London always notices in Japan is how exciting their technology is.
“Their technology is so advanced. You go to a public restroom, you think you’re in a spaceship. They act like they have it for years. My cell phone doesn’t have a camera. Just a regular color screen. Most people here still don’t have cameras on their phones, while in Japan, everyone has that, plus a video camera too. It makes us look prehistoric. Their cameras are like credit cards. We ask them if it’s new, they say ‘no no, we’ve had them for YEARS.
’ I’ll bet soon they’ll have phones that charge their cars or something. The subway is fun to take if you can figure it out. In soda machines, you can get an espresso shot. You can get both cold and hot drinks out of a can there. Japan is so much more advanced in so many areas, that they have so much stuff that we won’t have for a while.”
While touring Tokyo, London sees that American language and influence plays a role in Japan as well. Some signs, ads and products were spotted with English translations.
“A good thing is that they have an understanding of English too. Not everything is written in Kanji (the Japanese language). Some signs and boards have English on them, which makes it a little easier when traveling, although there aren’t too many of those signs around. You’d be surprised as to how many people in Japan know English and speak it. It shows how everything becomes so universal.”
London has found a liking to the music and even gets a kick out of going to the toy stores because of the wide variety of toys one can find. Popular cult favorite heroes Ultraman, Power Rangers and the classic Godzilla are some of the items that are mainstream in Japan.
“I like the toy stores. They are awesome,” admits London. “They have the Ultraman figures there, and all these monsters and superheroes that are treated like B-rate movies here. You can find some crazy stuff and music too. There’s a show there called Pokiki, and it’s like the tradition of Barney. This great big dinosaur that entertains kids. I’m not sure I’m going to unleash it on the states just yet, I might want to keep it to myself before it goes mainstream. It’s an old TV show, and believe me, it will soon be mainstream in the U.S., courtesy of me leaving copies of it in people’s lockers.”
Overall, London loves each trip to Japan. London remembered when he first went, not having a clue of what it would be like. When he got there and competed, he got thrill that would lead him to make return trips with independent promotions and WWE.
“Going there, I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew of Japan are cartoons, stuff like that. I’m into the superhero type stuff that they do there. I expected something like that. I got over there, and I saw it was so much more. The people were so polite. I decided to study all about Japan, because I’ve always wanted to go and wrestle there. Once I went over to Japan and had some matches, I loved it so much that I kept going back. The crowd was into it, they loved our work. I knew I had to come back again.”