Laughter – The International Language (The Story of Mitsunobu “Kikutaro” Kikuzawa)

Written By Roy Lucier

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. And when you think about the combination of laughter and pro wrestling, usually the first name that comes to mind is Japanese native Kikutaro. In writing this story, I learned so much about the man behind the mask. What you see in the ring is just a small part of who he is, as he is an absolute riot outside of the ring as well. So many people talk about the lengths he would go to, to make someone smile and laugh, not to mention go out of his way to be a friend. And luckily for those in So Cal, Kikutaro has a long history of wrestling here, and still does as he recently moved from Japan to Las Vegas back in December.  The list of who Kikutaro has been in the ring with, is a basic “who’s who” in the world of puroresu (Japanese wrestling). You name him, odds are he’s wrestled him (or her) or teamed with him also. From Mitsuharu Misawa, to Umanosuke Ueda, to Genichiro Tenryu, to Atsushi Onita, to Mr. Pogo, to Super Delfin, to Jushin Liger, to Cactus Jack, to Samoa Joe, to Asuka (formely KANA), to Robbie Brookside, and so many more, that it literally would take up dozens of pages here to list all the big names that he had shared the ring with. He has also participated in some of the biggest events in history, such as the New Japan “Best of the Super Jr.” tournament, he’s fought in exploding barbed wire matches, he wrestled on the card for Genichiro Tenryu’s retirement show, and he’s also been in basically every promotion that has existed in Japan, from New Japan, to All Japan, to Pro Wrestling NOAH, to Osaka Pro, and [many promotions] inbetween.

Kikutaro began his career as a pro wrestler in 1994, wrestling under his real name for many years, mostly for death match companies such as W*ING and FMW. He even got to participate in those barbed wire explosion matches we often see, both teaming with and fighting against hardcore legend Atsushi Onita. He even wrestled for awhile in comedy promotion DDT starting in 1998. But in October of 1999, he ended up wrestling for Osaka Pro (led by Michinoku Pro legend, Super Delfin.) In his debut match on October 2nd, he wrestled under his new gimmick, Ebessan (based on Ebisu, the God of good fortune).  He often was known for his ability to make the crowd laugh. Many times he would take on the role of a well known wrestler and imitate them and their moves in the ring. He would often take their name, and somehow add his name into it, parodying the wrestler in good fun. The list of wrestlers he has imitated to make the crowd laugh is enormous, from Liger to Stan Hansen, to Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, Dump Matsumoto, and many more. He even had the great fortune of teaming or being managed by some of these legends as he imitated them, such as Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher. In July of 2000, he made his debut in the United States, as a part of a tournament for Ron Rivera’s Rev Pro Wrestling, where Kiku (wrestling as Kikuzawa, a more serious wrestler but with hints of comedy to him) and Nosawa had a tournament (also featuring Disco Machine) with the best names from Rev Pro. On this show, Mr. Excitement (who we hear from later in great detail) defeated him in the first round (but ultimately lost to Nosawa).  He would come back multiple times to So Cal in 2001, working for both XPW and Rev Pro, working the XPW show at the Olympic on July 7th (teaming with Nosawa using the team name “Tokyo Gurentai” against Damian 666 and Halloween), fighting in a four way dance on January 13th against John Kronus, Homeless Jimmy, and Nosawa, teaming with Ultra Taro Jr (later TARO) against Super Dragon and Rising Sun on March 16th in Santa Fe Springs, and also fighting Johnny Webb on the XPW show in Van Nuys the very next night. He would return to So Cal in 2004, bringing with him one of his top rivals from Osaka Pro, Kuishinbo Kamen, who teamed with Top Gun Talwar (who we hear from later) against Ebessan and Human Tornado on the March 6th show at Frank and Sons and again on May 15th teaming with Phoenix Star against Talwar and Scott Lost. At this time, he also worked his first PWG show on March 7th, doing the Ebessan gimmick for the first time in a singles match against Kamen, which was the semi-final to the evening.In 2005, he represented Osaka Pro teaming with Billy Ken Kid for CHIKARA, actually beating the PWG team of Super Dragon and B Boy in the finals to win the Tag World Grand Prix on February 18th. He later debuted for AWS at the “Whippin Some Ass” on April 30th, teaming with Nosawa against “Double Dragon” (Super Dragon and American Dragon (Daniel Bryan). In preparing this story, I watched this match (available for download on SmartMark, along with the majority of previous AWS shows) and was highly impressed with the teamwork of Kiku and Nosawa. Later in the year he returned to PWG for Battle of Los Angeles on September 4th, working a tag match with Talwar against Samoa Joe and Nosawa.  In 2007, he came back again to PWG for All Star Weekend, beating Matt Classic on night 1 and then teaming with Disco Machine in Disco’s final match with the company against Colt Cabana and Top Gun Talwar (more on this match later from Disco himself) and again in 2008 against Necro Butcher at the Life During Wartime show on July 6th.  He returned to So Cal in 2010, first for Mach One Pro Wrestling in Anaheim on March 19th, teaming with Scorpio Sky against Scott Lost and KAZMA, and again later that year for AWS, teaming with Kazma against Anchors Away and the Suburban Commandos in a three way tag match. His last appearance in So. Cal was at PWG All Star Weekend 11, wrestling Chuck Taylor twice, losing the first time in 4 seconds before wrestling Chuck again and losing a much more competitive match.  Recently on February 25th, Kikutaro made his Northern California debut in San Francisco for Pro Wrestling Revolution, fighting Ultimo Panda and making the crowd laugh and smile the entire time, both before, during, and after the show. My wife and I personally drove three hours here for the show, specifically because I wanted to meet Kikutaro after seeing him so many times on video and hearing so many wonderful stories about him, not just as a wrestler, but as a jokester, a mentor, and a friend outside of the ring. Here’s my interview that I had with him

Roy – Did you grow up watching pro wrestling?

Kiku – Of course i am big fan of pro wrestling! I see every week I watch TV, New Japan, All Japan, and sekai no pro wrestle, thats is USA pro wrestling and sometimes lucha libre!

Roy – Who were some of your favorite wrestlers to watch as a child?

Kiku – Inoki, Choshu, Sakurada (Kendo Nagasaki), The Funks, and in Jr. high school, Atsushi Onita!

Roy – What made you want to become a pro wrestler?

Kiku – I don’t want routine, work life every day, same train every day. I think i hate work. I really enjoy watch pro wrestling do it wrestling more fun I think.

Roy – You went from wrestling Death matches in Japan to wrestling comedy matches. Was the transition easy to make?

Kiku – Yes because I love make laugh! Why i do comic style? I know my position in the show. Which position would you use for the show? And will many fans see me when I retire? I hope so

Roy – Who or what inspired your mask design?

Kiku – of course the base is Ebessan! Image is Ebessan is god (Ebisu, the God of laughter). I quit Osaka Pro, finish god, now
I back to human lol.

Roy – Who are some of your favorite opponents to wrestle against?

Kiku – Of couse Kuishinbo Kamen! I hope wrestle him in United States again. Many good memory in japan, every day wrestle Cactus Jack, wrestle Kuishinbo Kamen in Osaka Castle Hall is like a WWE PPV! Also Super Jr in New Japan pro wrestling, wrestling Mitsuharu Misawa in Pro Wrestling NOAH, battle royal, tour around Japan with All Japan pro wrestling, and work explosion match with Atsushi Onita

Roy – Is there anyone that you have not wrestled yet that you would like to have a match with?

Kiku – Honky Tonk Man! My idol! Ric Flair, my text book of pro wrestling, and Grado, we are good friend! But never wrestle!

Roy – How nervous were you the first time you wrestled Jushin “Thunder” Liger?

Kiku – Yes!! Most mental strain in my life!

Roy – You have been a favorite for years in Southern California. The crowd always seems so appreciate of your style in the ring.

Kiku – California is where my 1st time wrestle in United States and most visited town is Los Angeles. I’m happy if many fan enjoy my match! i need make more Kikutaro’s popularity in United States. I am not famous in United States. I know need more popularity!! At merchandise table so famous, my friend Colt Cabana and Joey Ryan! I will remake my career!

Roy – Will you be touring the U.K. this year?

Kiku – not now! No one contacted me, come but no coming reply. I hope back UK!

Roy – You have toured the United States dozens of times in the past 17 years. What do you like so much about wrestling in front of the American people?

Kiku – I love American audience style! Everybody welcome. I hope more meet many fan in arena. Wrestling changed my life because I’m living in Las Vegas! United States! Just a few days visit if no wrestle! Now I live! Wow! I can’t believe some time but I think its true… I drive in Las Vegas Blvd

Roy – Have you ever gone into a match and been amazed that you are in the ring with such legends like Liger, Keiji Muto and Abdullah the Butcher?

Kiku- Very honored in the ring with Superstar I was watching TV as a child!

Roy – You have wrestled all over Southern California and the United States , for PWG, Rev Pro, AWS, XPW, ROH, CHIKARA, and many others. What are some of your favorite moments wrestling in America?

Kiku – My 1st time ROH!! Reunion with Cactus Jack! So long time no see! And i get injury my neck from Samoa Joe’s muscle buster! LOL

Roy – Do you consider yourself famous in your own eyes?

Kiku – I’m not famous! Because bad sale merchandise in arena lol. I need make more famous!  Please buy merchandise in arena and prowrestlingtees! Save Kikutaro make laugh! haha!

Roy – Is there anywhere left in the world you would like to wrestle that you haven’t yet?

Kiku – I want back to ROH and Impact wrestling, and of course, WWE is my dreami have 3 wrestling dream in United States… 1) Live United States and around many wrestling shows!2) Around many wrestling with RV!3) Wrestle in WWE!  I’m coming United States for this dream!

Roy – Has the adjustment been difficult to move from Japan to the United States?

Kiku – Poverty life every day! LOL anything need deposit!!Because I’m no credit score! My dining table is vacuum cleaner’s box LOL. But I’m enjoy new life every day. Looking forward! Positive thinking will change life

Roy – What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not wrestling?

Kiku – Watch Netflix! Hulu! and Crunchy Roll! Sometime go to Korean spa, cooking and TV game!

Roy – What advice would you give anyone who wants to become a pro wrestler?

Kiku – You can keep very simple things. If it is your dream it will not give it up.

Roy – If someone who is reading this wishes to buy your merchandise, such as autographed picture, shirts, or masks, how can they get them?

Kiku – prowrestlingtees! In arena! I will make merchandise, email address if you want!

Roy – Any last words for your fans, both in Southern California and nationwide?

Kiku – Yes! For United States fan! Thank you for support!

I was also able to speak to many friends of Kikutaro’s, who I was able to converse with and speak to them about their friendship and history with him. Here are their statements about him I would like to share

Adam Pearce:  One time we both stayed at Colt Cabana’s house. Cabana’s internet wasn’t working well. Insert hilarious Kikutaro expletive-laced half English/half Japanese tirade. Those were fun times.(Adam currently works as a road agent for the WWE, is a former NWA World champion, and also wrestled on many of the same shows that Kikutaro did in So. Cal over the 2000’s)

Ed “Mr. Excitement” Brown – Just from off the top of my head, I think the year was 2000, Eww we’re still having shows at the original RevPro Dojo in Anaheim at that time. A few weeks prior, I had gone to a cable access station to promote our upcoming shows. AWC (American Wild Child/Ron Rivera) gave me a handwritten note with the show dates as well as some of the match bookings. One of the names on the list was Kikuzawa. When I arrived at the television station, offf in the distance, several people stood there talking amongst themselves. Afterward a few moment, one of them walked over to me and in a slow, loud voice asked, “HOW MUCH ENGLISH DO YOU SPEAK?” I stood there for a second before I answered, “I speak English just fine man, I’m from Brooklyn, New York.” Following a quick apology by the hosts as to their misunderstanding about my not being able to speak English due to my faked accent (apparently quite believable) I sat down to start the interview and show promotion. During the conversation, it was the interviewer who actually informed me who Kikuzawa’ was and some of the placers he had worked in Japan. I was and still am a very big fan of Japaneses wrestlling so I was very much looking forward to the upcoming show that had been billed as “Rev Pro vs Japan.”  It was a to be a one night single elimination tournament. As the day of the show approached I was pretty excited to get to work against actual wrestlers from Japan as I’m a huge fan of the style. After work, I headed to the gym to stretch and loosen up a bit. When I arrived at the dojo… no Japanese wrestlers to be found, however there was a little bit of a crowd gathering.  I remember AWC explaining that the show must go on and there may be a shuffling of the card. He was always excellent at putting matches together at the last minute. I think it was pretty close to bell time when AWC got the call from our friend and Japanese liaison Paul Tokunaga…I miss that guy…Paul T let us know that 2/3 wrestlers had made the flight to the US. Nosawa and Kikuzawa were with Paul T, Mr Moriya however did not. That left AWC without an opponent for the evening. I can’t remember if he took the night off or plugged himself into another match. Disco Machine and I would be facing the wrestlers from Japan in a single elimination tournament of sorts.I’m going to tell you that from the moment that I met him, Kikuzawa became one of my favorite people in the world. During our match, his facial expressions and selling nearly made me break character several times. But it was his broken “Ingrish” which he learned mostly from watching “Delirious”, the Eddie Murphy standup concert that brought us all to tears laughing. Literally he cursed like a sailor. At one point during the show after the matches when Nosawa and Kikuzawa jumped me and AWC came out to make the save, Kikuzawa got the crowd to chant “you homosexual” at AWC, referencing a bit from the standup concert. It was a high water mark in the days of the original dojo for sure! (Mr. Excitement, a So Cal mainstay throughout the 2000’s, wrestled for Rev Pro during it’s history. He won the Revolution J tournament for Rev Pro back in 2002, beating Super Dragon in the finals. With help from Kikutaro, he was able to tour Osaka Pro in Japan back in 2004)

Human Tornado – I remember tagging up with him once at Rev Pro. His english not so good back then but whose paying attention to it now a days haha. The match had Top Gun Talwar tagging up with one of Kikutaro homies. Dope match, everyone loved it, it was probably around my 5th or 6th match at the time and they hooked it up with Japanese wrestling legends. After the match, Kikutaro invited me to Japan. I told him I didn’t have a passport and too many car bombings at the time too in random places overseas, I didn’t want to leave the states, but it was pretty cool to still have gotten invited by him. Word (Human Tornado is a well known staple in So. Cal, who has wrestled for basically every single promotion that has existed here. Clips of Human Tornado wrestling and entertaining fans have been seen by millions on YouTube and social media)

Top Gun Talwar – I met Kiku as a fan in July of 2000 when he wrestled for the first time in the US at the Revolution Pro vs Japan show. I was a huge Japanese wrestling fan at the time so the experience of seeing him and Nozawa wrestle was a treat. Despite him not knowing much English at the time, he brought tears of laughter to the crowd with his promo and in-ring performance, which was well received. I ended up befriending him after the show and thanks to some translation help of Paul Tokunaga was able to tell Kiku about my passion for Japanese wrestling and my interest in obtaining a Survival Tobita t-shirt. Surely enough, a few months later he came back to wrestle in the US and brought me the shirt! I was ecstatic. For wrestling smarks at the time, this was the equivalent of a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Beyond the shirt, the fact that Kiku actually acknowledged and remembered my request left a lasting impression on me. As I started wrestling training and continued to stay in tune with Japanese wrestling, I saw Kiku start to get some traction and notoriety through his Ebessan character. The promos and matches he was putting on at the time truly paved the way for modern day comedy wrestling with out any shadow of a doubt. He was the largest influence on introducing aspects of comedy into my Top Gun character and matches. The idea of wrestling him was my dream match. I actually got to realize that dream in 2004 at a Revolution Pro when I teamed with Kuishinbo Kamen to take on Ebessan and the Human Tornado. Easily one of the most memorable matches in my career and something I will be forever grateful of Ron Rivera for promoting. I had the pleasure of being in the ring with Kiku three times thereafter at both Rev Pro and PWG in my short lived career. Any and every time I stepped in the ring with him, he always had some creative comedic elements to add to the match, which always got over.  Fast forward 17 years later from the first time I met him and I am still incredibly grateful to call him a close friend. He even flew from Japan just to attend my wedding last year. I was hoping he would give a speech where he would declare me as a ‘homosexual’ but he gave a serious and heartfelt speech which I will always remember. I am deeply humbled to have wrestled him and call him a friend. I have the utmost respect for him, not only as THE true innovator of modern day comedy wrestling, but as a friend and human being(Top Gun Talwar trained at Rudos Dojo under Ron Rivera, and was one of the original six founders of Pro Wrestling Guerrila back in 2003. A former RPW Mexican Lucha Libre Heavyweight champion, he has had amazing battles with some of the biggest names in So. Cal history over his 11 year career)

Rick Knox – I first met him when he was wrestling as Ebessan, the Japanese god of laughter… he came over to the United States with a group of guys from Osaka Pro, this must have been 2003 or 2004 I’m guessing. I’d never seen any type of wrestling like that before… that type of comedy wrestling you know… the slow motion spots, the clotheslines where you don’t really duck but just kind of tilt your head to the side… and it was incredibly over with the fans here in the United States. It was something they were not used to seeing either, so I think it was kind of special every time he came around. I always enjoy working with him because I know he’s going to involve me in a spot or two; and he’s always so kind and respectful about it… he’s almost apologetic that he wants to use me, like he thinks that’s the only way he can get his heat sometimes (by using the referee) of course the guy’s a master at what he does and doesn’t need my help at all, but I always look forward to working with him because of that I know whatever he wants to do with me will be easy and be way over with the fans it’s always a great experience working with him and now that he’s living here in the United States I can only hope that I get to work with him more (Rick Knox is one of the most well known referees in this business. He is most known for his work as a referee for both Pro Wrestling Guerrila and Lucha Underground, but has also reffed in almost every other promotion throughout So. Cal during his career. He also is a talented artist who has a passion for this business that is second to none)

Joey Ryan – As much as Kiku makes you smile in the ring, he’ll go out of his way to make sure you’re happy, taken care of and smiling outside of it. Any time I have been over in Japan at the same time as him, he’s constantly going out of his way to check in on me and make sure that I’m doing well. A true friend(The master of the “YouPorn Plex, Joey Ryan is one of the most well respected ring veterans currently in our business. One of the original six founders of PWG, Joey has wrestled all over the world (and still currently does), and the list of promotions he has wrestled for and the places he has been is endless. He even traded the DDT Iron Man title with Kikutaro in 2016.)

Scott Lost – The first night we were staying with Kiku in Japan for our Osaka Pro tour, we were up late due to the time change/jetlag. In the middle of the night while we were online and talking Kiku woke up and walked into the kitchen without saying a word to us. Me and Sky just stopped what we’re doing, looked at him, and looked at each other. He got a drink out of the fridge, drank it down, then went back into his room and back to bed… he was naked the whole time. We just started laughing in disbelief. He is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met and so kind (Trained in UPW under Tom Howard and Samoa Joe, Scott Lost wrestled for many years in So. Cal, wrestling for almost every single promotion that existed during the 2000’s. One of the original six founders of PWG, he currently works on comic book projects with Mr. Excitement and many others, such as “The Second Shift” and is currently working on “The Accident Aliens” as well. With the help of Kikutaro, Scott toured Osaka Pro in 2004, and often teamed with and wrestled against him during his career.)

Bart Kapitzke – He’s a awesome guy.  Fun wrestler. The fans love to see him do his thing. I have had him work AWS a few times and always a blast. Easy to work with, and a nice guy.(Bart is a lifelong fan, who would often be seen in the crowd at shows in the 80’s and 90’s through So. Cal. In 2002, he started the “Alternative Wrestling Show”, which 15 years later is still one of the most talked about and attended promotions in the area. Kikutaro worked for him many times throughout the 2000’s)

Disco Machine – When I started wrestling in 1999 it was unclear if we’d ever have a match outside our ‘training dojo’ in Anaheim. In that year, and the next, we started doing shows and getting some attention from it. By the summer of 2000 we were to have our first ‘Japanese Invasion’ show. On that show were NOSAWA and a pudgy little guy who literally made us all laugh within minutes of meeting us all.His name was Kikuzawa (now Kikutaro). And when he got in the ring, not only was he all business, he was crazy good. He’s the type of guy that you can’t ignore, and his sense of humor transcends any language barriers.We kept our friendship alive in the coming years, and whenever he would come to Los Angeles we would always get together for dinner. And as we both progressed through wrestling, we would keep track of each other.He then started working for Osaka Pro Wrestling and a few years later we started Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Wrestling was always our common bond and whenever we had our shows, and Kiku was in LA, we always knew he was going to be on them.If it wasn’t for him (and our late mutual friend Paul T) I would have never realized my dream to wrestle in Japan in 2004 & 2005. It’s an experience that means so much to me.Crazy enough, in my last PWG match, I teamed with him to face Top Gun Talwar & Colt Cabana. While we lost the match, I gained a life-long friend who I continue to root for today.Thank you Kiku. You wi
ll always be my ‘God of Laughter’.(Disco Machine, one of the original “PWG Six” who helped found the promotion, left Arizona in 1998 to join the Rudos Dojo and wrestle for Rev Pro. He has an amazing career, both teaming and fighting with some of the biggest names in this business. In 2004 and 2005, with the help of Kikutaro, he was able to tour Osaka Pro and bring his unique style to the fans in Japan, both teaming with Kikutaro (using the Ebessan gimmick) and also opposing him in the ring. He currently works on “Beer Baseball Blog” and is one of the biggest St. Louis Cardinals fans in the world.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kikutaro can be reached via his Twitter, Instagram, or merchandise at Pro Wrestling Tees.

Top Gun Talwar had started a GoFundMe that helps Kikutaro directly at https://www.gofundme.com/kikutarousatour

He can be seen live back here in California on June 2nd in Wilmington for Pacific Coast Wrestling and also on June 10th for Pro Wrestling Revolution in Gridley. A huge thank you to Joey Ryan, Gabriel Ramirez, Michael Mondragon, Rick Knox, Scott Lost, Matt “Sinister” Obbema, Bart Kapitzke, Fumiaki Mizutani, Human Tornado, Mikey Nolan, Danny Akagi, Top Gun Talwar, Mr. Excitement, Adam Pearce, and my beautiful wife Michelle for her assistance in this story

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