Recently we were able to conduct an interview with David Marquez, the Director of Business Development for New Japan USA. In this interview he talks about the goals of New Japan USA, their relationship to other SoCal promotions, how he got in to wrestling, and more.
.#1 – What is your history with professional wrestling and what function do you serve in New Japan?
As long as I can remember, I have been a fan of the sport. I grew up in the LA area and some form of wrestling programming was on television. I watched everything that LA stations would carry and sometimes it would be hard because the shows would from channel to channel or just disappear all together. In the early 1980s, cable was pretty new and my neighborhood did was not cable ready, so I did not get to see much of the WTBS Georgia Championship Wrestling show. Instead out of convienace I became a WWF fan.
The WWF Championship Wrestling with Vince McMahon, Jesse Ventura and Bruno Sammartino use to run Saturdays at noon on KHJ-TV (now KCAL) and close to 1983 a cousin of mine got cable and I totally became a Gordon Solie fan because I could watch WTBS.
Around the same time, KDOC-TV stated to run California Championship Wrestling. They use to run TV out of the San Bernardino Arena and my friends and I would go to watch the matches. Once I was there, I was ah struck by all of the television gear and I forgot about the wrestling all together. Karl Lauer promoted those shows. At those tapings I learned an awful lot about television production and I knew that is where I wanted to be…producing televised pro wrestling.
In 1989 I promoted my first show and taped it for Sports Channel America. The show was a complete bust and I got hosed. I picked up my losses and figured that the wrestling business was not for me.
After that mess, I felt that I was a pretty good television guy and I went to look for jobs in that field. I took a production job at a Missouri television station and I moved out on my own. It did not take long before the wrestling itch popped back up and I started to look into the Midwest area for workers.
My first big break came along in the mid 1990s and I created World Legion Wrestling. My business partners were California Championship Wrestling promoter Karl Lauer (Lauer retired to Missouri and is currently the EVP of the Cauliflower Alley Club and the State Athletic Director for the State of Missouri), 8 times NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Harley Race and Gordon Solie. We ran on television station up and down the Mississippi River, our area was Race’s old Central States circuit. We had a great run together, until an executive (non of the people listed) got a bit greedy and the wrestling business became a lot less fun. Besides, Solie was suffering from Lung Cancer (in 2000, Solie lost his battle and passed away) and I was home sick. I transferred all of my interests in the company to Race and his family and I am proud to say that he is still running the WLW today. After that I did some production work for WCW, but that didn’t last long.
To make this short, I came home to a “real job” with The Walt Disney Co. in the TV dept. and wrestling seeked me out again. A meeting with Rick Bassman was set up and I came in to do their video projects (which I still do on occasion) then I went on the XPW then back to Rick to some Lucha which lead to good ‘ol EPIC. After the Gary Yap gimmick, I thought that I was totally done but So-Cal insider Joe Schmo called me and told me that I should run a promotion myself. I didn’t want to do that, but Schmo convinced me that I could. That was the plan until NJPW and the Inoki’s came into my life.
My title with the company is Vice President of Operations for NJPW-USA. I have a lot of tasks, but my main job is to create new opportunities for NJPW in North America. When they first brought me in I already had a television agreement with KVMD-TV in place and I offered it to Simon Inoki and we are gearing for the June 26th TV tapings.
#2 – What is unique about New Japan? What are the similarities between the USA division and the Japanese promotion, what are the differences? How does
New Japan differs from other promotions in So Cal?
I think what makes NJPW unique is that they still respect the business and try to protect it at all costs. I think this is an important quality to have, especially when you are the new kid on the block. The NJPW-USA brand will me a hybrid of a traditional American style wrestling program with all of the honor and style that our sister has been producing for the last 33 years. There will not be to many differences other than the addition of storylines.
Our product is very different than the other So-Cal feds. We push the contest and athletic competition first and gimmicks and angles second. I’m not trying to take anything away from the other groups. They all have their place and hell Lucha Va Voom and UPW both draw people. We have not achieved their type of numbers yet, but I am confident that we will once the television show premiers on KVMD channel 23.
#3 – Who can we expect to see working shows for New Japan? Will there be international superstars and are there currently plans for any titles within the promotion?
Kevin Quinn is our Director of Talent Relations and Bookings. He is actively seeking new fresh faces that have not been seen. He has been scouting in the East a lot and has reported to us that he has found several new guys that he wants to book. As for the So Cal regulars we’ll have The Pit bulls, American Dragon, Puma, Bobby Quance. These men have all been training night and day at the Inoki Dojo and are the core of our roster. New additions to NJPW-USA will be Brad Bradley, Adam Pearce and Vampiro and I am very happy that Quinn and my self have created a working relationship with Ring of Honor. We will be recognizing Samoa Joe as the World Champion and they are lending us CM Punk.
We work directly with NJPW head booker Mr. Uwai and he will be sending 2-4 Japanese workers a month and in return, Quinn will be sending the same to them for tours of Japan, so yes you will be seeing a lot of international talent.
The only title that we are moving forward on is a Heavyweight championship. J-Mar (current WWE belt maker) is making the strap as we speak and we hope to crown our champion sometime in the Winter. I’m sure that a Jr. heavy and a Tag Team title will show up soon after that.
#4 – Do you feel like your presence thus far in So Cal has threatened any of the other promotions? Have you had any issues with other companies thus far (great place to mention heat with UPW)?
Yes and no. I have talked one on one with a few of the promoters and they have voiced their issues or asked questions. NJPW-USA is not looking to put anyone “out of business.”
Once news was being released I talked at length with Bassman about how I intended on running the television and the promotion and we have agreed to several terms, things are all good between UPW and me. Like I said earlier, everyone has their place. To be frank we want to do the opposite and help everyone in the area grow. I believe friendly competition is a good thing; competition brings the best out of people. At least I hope it will.
#5 – One of the scheduled matches for the show on the 26th may have been compromised because Curry Man and AD are no longer the IGPW champs. Also, with Curry Man injured, how does this affect the show? What are your
current plans for this scenario?
Quinn is working with Simon and Mr. Uwai on a solution to this ugly hurdle. I don’t want to know as the company that doesn’t deliver on advertised matches. Curry Man’s injury was very unfortunate, but once he is healed I know he will make it to the US to perform for you all. Our office is coming up with another contest with equal marquee value. I don’t think that the fans that show up on the 26th will leave disappointed.
#6 – How has the So Cal environment treated you thus far? Do you feel like NJPW’s is making decent enough waves? Are you worried about attendance for the show on the 26th? What is at stake with this show?
This is a big question. Thus far, the wrestling community has been warm and welcoming. The workers have been very enterprising and looking into work, I only wish we could book everyone who has contacted us.
Are we making waves? Well, the boards are pretty quiet and that is a bit scary. You know that any new venture has its share of growing pains. So far we have only seen injury and the loss of Aaron and Chad to Cornette. I hope that we will meet our gate projections.
Everything is on the line! I know that our other shows have been critically successful, but the gate has been short every time. Now, we are NJPW and those spot shows certainly not break the bank. We can’t rest on our laurels and we have to strive to put on the best show possible. I don’t want a California Adventure on my hands. I have been a part of so many promotions and I believe that this one has a true chance to be successful. Again, television will help with that. I hope I am right.
#7 – Why should fans go to the show on the 26th?
We are making history! This is not cheap promoter hype, it really is history. It has been a long, long time since a promotion has an agreement with a television station like we do. KVMD channel 23 is our business partner on this and we are obligated to deliver. This is real television in the LA market. We will be reaching a mass audience and if people don’t support it, I know we will be off the air under our current agreement. The other reason is that we are going to put on a great pro wrestling program. The workers are world class and for some reason, So Cal regulars seem to perform at a higher level when they are on one of our shows. You know a wristlock when done right is pretty dam interesting, just watch the American Dragon.
#8 – Does NJPW share a special type of relationship with WWE? We have recently seen 2 of your students get signed to OVW, so is NJPW the place to be right now?
Yes we do, its pretty unique. I’m not sure if today’s fans know that Mr. Inoki is a former WWE World Champion and had a talent trade agreement throughout the 1970s and the early part of the 80s. Our current relationship with WWE is as a content provider. I have created an excellent relationship with producers at WWE-TV and our first two deals (Chris Beniot DVD and the Eddie UPN special) have been positive for both companies. As for Aaron and Chad, they had a lot of help getting to New York (UPW and Chaotic Wrestling) I think that their dedication to the Inoki Dojo did help them, but NJPW was not totally responsible. I will say that if you want to be a pro wrestler I can’t think of any better coaches than American Dragon, Kevin Quinn and the rest of the Dojo boys. Future workers have a lot of choices in the area and our door is always open to anyone who wants to stop in and see a work out.
#9 – What is your opinion of the other promotions in So Cal?
It’s mixed. I’m an old school type guy and I butt head with bookers a lot with the exception of Kevin Quinn, we think an awful lot a like and he understands television. I don’t know, again everyone has their place. I don’t mean to sound like some old guy, but I’m not really into a worker sitting with fans after their match. I know kayfabe is dead, but come on, be professional and respect this art form and allow the fans that do still believe value our type of magic believe. Remember not everyone reads the sheets and 7 and 8 year olds aren’t really smart to what is going on. Remember when you were 7 or 8?
#10 – Given your extensive experience in independent professional wrestling, how does So Cal compare to other places you have been?
California is a weird place to be in wrestling. It’s not like any other area of the country. The impression that stands out the most is the locker room. California locker rooms are pretty crazy with no order. In the Midwest and the East (at least in my experience) locker rooms are ran by salty old workers who don’t put up with any mess. If you screw up they you are done. If you want a workers perspective ask Adam Pearce. He will tell you how Eddie Sharky ran a locker room. Quinn, Pearce and I come from the same school of thought.
#11 – If you had the capability to book a sort of dream card for a NJPW show, what would that look like?
Boy that’s a tough one. There are so many talented people around. I guess the honest answer is I already have. The whole idea behind doing TV is to build on the guys you push, so in 6 months to a year I hope other promotions will have “our guys” on their dream card.
#12 – what roles will Mr. Inoki play in the promotion – if at all?
Mr. Inoki is a key figure in the operation. He knows everything that is going on and I hear all his suggestions. The NJPW-USA brand is pretty much in our hands. I’m sure that Mr. Inoki will be on the TV once it is rolling.
#13 – Will New Japan feature shoot fighting or will it be strictly pro-wrestling?
NJPW-USA is a pro wrestling company, but the current “in ring” trend is MMA type fighting and we will cater to those fans as well.
#14 – Any final thought?
Yes, I just hope the readers of this site understand the chance that KVMD-TV is giving our area. Most people complain about the state of pro wrestling and do nothing about it. Well, we are trying to do something about it and present wrestling again. We will have fun and surprises on the show and gimmicks will have their spot too, but nothing beats a good contest. I encourage fans to write or email KVMD-TV and thank them for believing in the entertainment we like, most media operations don’t cater to our segment and they are. Thank you for the forum and I hope to see you all at the Inoki Dojo on the 26th, come on out and be on TV!