Fabulous family entertainment at Itabashi Pro Wrestling
With lovable characters, impressive athleticism, and an electric atmosphere, Itabashi Pro Wrestling has long been a favorite night out for Tokyo’s Itabashi City residents. That’s because the tournaments are a fun family activity as well as a way to support the local community.
In the Itapro* Heroes Saikyo Kettei Tournament (Pro Wrestling Tournament to Decide the Strongest Itabashi Pro Wrestler), each wrestler represents and is supported by an Itabashi business, from shopping streets to local chambers of commerce and real-estate agents.
“Itabashi Pro Wrestling was set up to make a community and put life into the businesses of Itabashi. We want to make people smile and feel revitalized so that they will live, work, and play locally,” said Mr. Hayate, who wrestles as Shinkansen Man.
* “Itapro” is a contraction of “Itabashi” and “Pro Wrestling”
Each year, the Itabashi Heroes Saikyo Kettei Tournament is held four times—in February, April, May, and June—bringing together businesses and families from across Itabashi as well as wrestling fans from other parts of Tokyo. On February 24, I went to the league’s first tournament of 2020 to see the action and find out why Itabashi Pro Wrestling is so popular.
Fun for All
Before launching into the matches, the organizers provided a quick—and humorous—demonstration of the dos and don’ts of wrestling.
A non-wrestling member of the organizing committee was invited to the ring, where he and a pro wrestler showed how wrestlers are counted out and what moves are not allowed. It was the perfect introduction, ensuring that everyone in the audience from the kindergartners to the senior citizens could follow and enjoy all the action.
From Hayate to Electric Man to Happy Road Man, the Itabashi Heroes really know how to entertain. Every one of them looked the part, dressed in the colors of the rainbow. All kinds of memorable characters took to the ring for a total of five matches—even Fudouppy the Real Estate Bunny and Grandpa.
Wearing vibrant costumes with masks, the characters warmed up the crowd in the packed Green Hall with signature moves, funny comments, and trash talk to their opponents before launching into the wrestling action. Kids in the audience chanted and called out encouragement while adults clapped and cheered.
Once the bell sounded, we were treated to a nonstop display of competition. The characters grappled and dodged, serving up body chops and presses. They climbed on the ropes for high-flying moves to throw, lock, and pin their opponents in impressive ways that made the audience gasp. Diving drops off the corner of the ring were a firm favorite with the cheering crowd, while lightning-fast rolls to dodge incoming drops had everyone holding their breath. More than once, a wrestler would pin an opponent to the mat only to lose hold before the required three seconds had passed.
As the underdog, the unsteady Grandpa may have received the most cheers and ended up surprising all when he discarded his walking stick. With newly found swift moves and acrobatic throws, he overcame his opponent, impressing the kids in the crowd.
In the doubles matches, the energy in the hall went up a notch as the goodies and baddies fought it out in tag-team play. The wrestling action even spilled over into the hall, with the characters teasing their opponents out of the ring, much to the delight of the spectators.
The climax of the evening was a four-on-four match. Shinkansen Man, Itabashi Man, Bellybutton Man, and Itabashi’s Pro Wrestling Girl, Maruko, were greeted with cheers as they came out to take on their opponents. Diving splashes from the top ropes were a signature move for the foursome, and their opponents engaged them in a variety of holds. In a tightly fought, nail-biting contest lasting more than 45 minutes, Shinkansen Man, Itabashi Man, Bellybutton Man, and Maruko were finally crowned the winners.
After the final bell, kids lined up to spend time with their favorite characters and get autographs on their wrestling memorabilia or have photos taken. Adults mingled and chatted, adding to the friendly sense of community in the hall.
Supporting the Community
Because Itabashi Pro Wrestling had been set up with the community in mind, the event had a cozy, local feel. Surrounding the ring and the seating area were numerous stalls staffed by local shops. Before the event and during the interval, they offered fresh, tasty food and drinks–baked goods, Japanese sweets, macha (green tea) lattes, soft drinks, gelato, and more.
There were also plenty of opportunities to pick up a souvenir of the evening. Kids chose from Fudouppy the Bunny coin cases and masks, while adults perused wrestling-themed T-shirts and key rings. A selection of towels, character figurines, and DVDs of wrestling tournaments also proved popular with fans.
Great Night Out
Thanks to its role of bringing together the community, Itabashi Pro Wrestling offers the cozy feeling of a special local festival as well as the electric atmosphere of high-action entertainment. It’s a unique and memorable night out, suitable for everyone.
To see the action for yourself, visit the website below to find out when the next event will be held.
Itabashi Pro Wrestling Website (Japanese only)
This article was written by Louise Lawson.Back