I recently had the opportunity to chat with Adam Jennings. Adam is the singer of Disrotted, a doom metal /sludge band based out of Chicago, IL. Disrotted have been playing together for three years and have numerous releases that can be streamed or purchased on their Bandcamp. The band has been compared to Corrupted and Grief mixed with death metal along the lines of Morbid Angel.
Disrotted has toured Japan twice, which has also allowed Adam the opportunity to fulfill some other bucket list items, namely his puroresu and joshi fandom, which we will go over in great detail.
Disrotted have a new split LP being released in a few weeks with Toronto’s IRN, a split with Cloud Rat, and an upcoming U.S tour beginning in April. Check Disrotted’s Facebook to see if they’ll be in your area.
Having visited Japan numerous times, Adam has seen the country through multiple perspectives, as a musician, tourist, and wrestling fanatic. His insights represent an excellent means to maximize the potential of your journey to Japan without getting tunnel vision and solely focusing on the grappling arts.
When did you become a fan of professional wrestling and how long after were you exposed to Japanese wrestling?
I will always remember the day I was hooked. I had to be about 6 years old, and I saw Papa Shango make black ooze drip from The Ultimate Warrior’s head. I watched the TV in shock and awe and was hooked. From there, I started watching WWF and WCW on a weekly basis. Everything took a turn though when I discovered an ad for RF Video when I was about 13. My paychecks from my first job at a small grocery store were spent on wrestling VHS tapes. I was then discovering wrestlers like Hayabusa, Mr. Pogo and Atsushi Onita and I was obsessed with All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.
The videos would always take thirty days to reach me from the time of order and it was like Christmas every time. I still have stacks of VHS tapes from those days that I treasure.
The first Japanese wrestler, though, that I fell in love with was Bull Nakano. I recorded all her matches in WWF with Alundra Blayze and would rewatch them on a regular basis. She was and still is one of the most unique wrestlers I have ever seen. Everything about her was so intimidating and so much different than what was being presented by mainstream wrestling at the time. The spiked hair, blue vein makeup, badass attitude, facial expressions and, of course, the stiff kicks. It was all mesmerizing! She will always be the real “monster” of the WWF. Her work in WWF had me hooked. I started collecting the tapes from Japan and watching her other work in AJW. I knew I was a fan of hers and joshi for life. She is holding an event at the end of March so I look forward to seeing her in person again. As far as favorite matches, I will always love the feud with Alundra Blayze. In Japan, I absolutely love the cage match against Aja Kong from 1990 and the promo where she attacks Fukawa on the train is gold.
How does the Wrestle Kingdom fan experience compare to major WWE shows?
The only WrestleMania I’ve attended was 13 at The Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. Both WrestleKingdom and Wrestlemania 13 were very different, separated by a generation, but will both always hold a special place in my heart. The excitement in the crowd for the Kazuchika Okada / Kenny Omega match and the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin / Bret “Hitman” Hart matches were amazing. The final 5 minutes of the Okada / Omega match was the first time I ever teared up during a match. The entire crowd was on a rollercoaster of emotion for over forty minutes. I was 12 years old when I attended Mania and the excitement and awe that I felt during that cold night in Chicago as an adolescent was something I relived all over again entering The Tokyo Dome.
How are the sight lines in The Tokyo Dome? Are there any sections that looked like one may not have wanted to sit?
I was seated in the nose nose bleeds for this show, so thankfully the eye shaped Jumbotron helped me see what was happening.
While in Tokyo, you were also able to check out some of the smaller independent promotions.
Yeah, so this latest trip to Japan served two purposes. I there to watch wrestling but I was also touring with my doom metal band Disrotted. So in between tour dates, I was able to check out an FMW show and a STARDOM show. I regularly follow both promotions and FMW was some of the earliest Japanese wrestling I had seen in the 90’s so it was a dream to be there.
The FMW show was amazing since I was able to meet Masato Tanako and Riki Fuji before the show, two men I watched wrestle growing up. Atsushi Onita and Mr. Danger were there as well and I was in awe to be in the same room as them. Onita, Tanaka and Fuji were in the main event street fight. It was surreal. Onita’s post match ritual of bathing the audience in water as he spoke to us, holding back tears, was unforgettable.
STARDOM is putting on some of the best women’s wrestling in the last decade. I had to be there to see it in person. Hitting the FMW show was for more nostalgic reasons. It was wonderful since I was able to see Io Shirai wrestle in person. Even though it took two hours waiting uncomfortably in a long line, I was able to meet her and take a photo after the show.
Io Shirai is not only my favorite joshi wrestler, but also my favorite wrestler period. She evokes the mesmerizing feelings I got first watching Akira Hokuto, Bull Nakano and Megumi Kudo. If you are unfamilar with Stardom, I would also recommend the work of Akai Saki, Kris Wolf, Kairi Hojo and Maya Yukihi. All are at the top of their craft.
Tokyo is certainly very unique in comparison to the United States in that it is clearly the defined center of wrestling in Japan. Because of this concentration, do you feel Japanese independent wrestling is able to provide a greater variety than U.S independent wrestling?
I think Japan has a lot to offer in regards to wrestling. If you want death matches, you can catch FREEDOMS, Big Japan and FMW on a regular basis. If you want women’s wrestling there is STARDOM and Ice Ribbon. DDT PRO offers some of the weirdest and exciting wrestling I have ever seen, and of course there are the classics like NOAH, NJPW and AJPW. Of course, the British and American scenes have their own wide range of variety as well, however I feel the Japanese promotions remain as the constant source of inspiration and innovation.
How did those shows compare to smaller U.S. indies you’ve attended (specifically your experiences with Chikara, Evolve, & Ring of Honor)? In what ways does fan engagement and interaction differ amongst the three types of fans?
Here is the thing..In Japan, the wrestling experience is a vastly different social environment than in the United States. I never once felt overwhelmed with anger nor did I ever feel disgusted with the crowd. I’ve attended AAW shows in Chicago where I will hear people in the crowd say things like, “that’s a huge bitch” to Jessica Havok. At a recent Freelance Wrestling show there were two guys behind me hurling racist remarks at Kikutaro. I have had to endure crass immature comments, sexism, and xenophobia at WWE and ECW shows as well. I never felt threatened or upset at a Japanese show unlike many of my experiences at wrestling events in the United States. I don’t go to wrestling shows to get drunk and shout obscenities, I go because I love it with all my heart. In Japan, the art and athleticism of the matches are the focal point, not the participatory involvement of the crowd.
Were you able to see any shows outside of Korakuen Hall or Tokyo Dome? How did those experiences differ from Korakuen Hall?
The STARDOM show was held at Korakuen Hall. Both venues are in Tokyo Dome City, they are as different as night and day. The Tokyo Dome was hands down the most overwhelming monolith of a venue I have ever been to. On the other hand, Korakuen Hall felt cozy and familiar. Even though I had never been to Korakuen Hall before, having seen all the shows broadcasted from there made me felt like I had been going for many years. It felt like home and was not all overwhelming to be in. The FMW show was held at 1st Ring which is in the complete opposite direction of Tokyo Dome and in an industrial looking area [editors note: Southeast of Tokyo Dome City near Tokyo Disney World]. The capacity in the room is 300, and felt even more intimate than the Korakuen show. 1st Ring is probably the best venue I have ever seen for wrestling, every seat gives you a clear shot of the ring.
Unfortunately, I missed the New Year’s Dash show at Korakuen Hall because Disrotted had a show the same day.
Did you have any unique food experiences or anything that you’d highly recommended eating while in Tokyo?
I had some interesting food on this last trip – fried frog, century egg, fried cartilage, chicken guts with mayo and of course delicious ramen…my only advice is to eat everything and anything.
I couldn’t agree more with the eat everything sentiment. Eat everything and walk as much as your body can handle and you’ll have an amazing time in Japan.
What other wrestling attractions did you see outside of wrestling shows and was there a specific motivation behind them?
I was able to meet Minoru Suzuki at his shop in Tokyo which was awesome. He was incredibly nice to me until he saw my All Japan Pro Wrestling phone case, which led to some ball busting.
I am heading back to Tokyo in 3 weeks so I plan to finally hit up Ribera Steakhouse. I went to Bull Nakano’s bar in 2015 and I plan to visit it again in a few weeks. I heard Keiji Muto has his own steak house as well which I am curious to check out too. The wrestling shops in Tokyo are dangerously enticing and will make you contemplate maxing out your credit cards.
What were your favorite non-wrestling things to do while you were in Tokyo? What other cities have you visited?
Oh yeah, I like to visit places like Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama when possible. There is a great bar in Yokohama called “El Puente” that is a mecca for great shows if you listen to punk and metal. I like to visit the temples and do touristy things when possible, too. I really like the KPOP stores near Shin-Okubo station in Tokyo.
Did the language barrier present any obstacles during your trip? What advice would you give non-Japanese speaking tourists prior to their trip? (dining, public transportation, currency, etc., etc. – anything that stuck out to you as being remarkably simple, insanely confusing, or just generally unique-disturbing-absurd)
Everything about Tokyo can be very intimidating. I would recommend having your smart phone with Google Maps. Technology has removed a lot of the stress of navigating cities internationally. Try and learn some words of Japanese before arriving as well. I would love to work for a wrestling themed travel agency to help foreigners have a perfect wrestling themed trip without the stress that a Japanese trip can sometimes bring.
Before I even left Tokyo, I already knew I wanted to go back. What weren’t you able to do during your time that you wished you had?