Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Tiki Bar with Tama Tonga, July 23

Fale talks to his Bullet Club brother on Tama Tonga's podcast
Screen Grab via YouTube 
If you’re new, here’s the rundown. We listen to a handful of wrestling podcasts each week. Too many, probably, though certainly not all of them. In the interest of saving you time — in case you have the restraint to skip certain episodes — the plan is to give the bare bones of a given show and let you decide if it’s worth investing the time to hear the whole thing. There are many wrestling podcasts out there, of course, but this feature largely hews to the regular rotation we feel best fit the category of hit or miss. If we can save other folks some time, we’re happy to do so.

Show: The Tiki Bar with Tama Tonga
Episode: July 23, 2016
Run Time: 39:53
Guest: Bad Luck Fale

Summary: New Japan Pro Wrestling star Tama Tonga hosts this show in which he gives listeners an audio glimpse of his life in Japan. He seems to regularly bring on his fellow Bullet Club member Bad Luck Fale, and in this episode, they're at a shabu-shabu bar, so they're eating meat and veggies from a hotpot and probably drinking a bunch. NJPW has begun their yearly tournament, the G1 Climax, and as both Tama and Fale confirm, it is the hardest tour of the year. Tonga and Fale briefly discuss the departures of NJPW's top stars at the beginning of the year, and how they think the company is bouncing back quite well. They then move to a quieter hotel room and talk about their upbringing in NJPW's dojo system, in particular their hellacious training by Jado.

Quote of the Week: Tonga - "The wrestling world is such a small world where who you meet on the way up, you will meet on the way down. It's such a small circle. These guys that I've seen here in Japan, most of them know my dad. To be honest, a lot of them take care of me now because my father took care of them when they were younger. The Japanese take that to heart. When you do something kind for them, they never forget. So I was truly blessed to have these guys look after me because of what my father did."

Why you should listen: Forty minutes is the perfect length for a podcast that more or less features two best friends chilling and talking about their times together. Tonga and Fale have a strong rapport and they share the same opinions on coming up in the wrestling business. Just hearing about the horribly difficult training they had to go through in their early days made my body cramp up. Man, 500 to 1,000 squats every morning? Good lord.

Why you should skip it: Being unfamiliar with these guys or with NJPW in general might cause this show to be of little interest for outsiders. They bring up Jado and Gedo, but they don't really explain who they are, so some inside knowledge is probably needed. Also, the audio quality for the first half at the shabu-shabu bar is a little iffy.

Final Thoughts: NJPW has become my favorite wrestling company, but I'm still a relative newcomer to it and I relish in any opportunity to learn more about what goes on with the wrestlers behind the scenes. I feel like I've learned most of what there is to know about life for WWE wrestlers, but not for NJPW wrestlers. Tama and Fale keep certain things close to the vest, but they do talk about seeing more foreign fans in the crowd, and how that encourages them to believe in NJPW's growth. Just knowing that they might have been unsure of their company's future was pretty telling of how even the second biggest company in the world can feel like it's on thin ice. But hey, even when you've got problems or you're on a grueling tour, you can always go to some kickass Japanese restaurant to eat and drink your troubles away.