I got a call a couple of months back from Greg Oliver. He told me that a long-lost friend was very sick. I was sorry to hear that. I told him to keep me posted. I know it sounds strange but I didn’t feel right about calling my old road mate, Little Tokyo, because I hadn’t talked to him in years and that is really too bad.
As a youngster I remember watching Little Tokyo (Shigeri Akabane). I was amazed first of all by his stature, getting in the ring with guys that were much bigger than him and secondly how much he entertained me. Who was this strange fellow?
Time went on and I eventually found myself in the crazy world of pro wrestling. I had worked with all kinds. I remember being very nervous the night I met Ric Flair but I also remember being just as excited the first night that I met Tokyo.
I was in awe. From the time he entered the dressing room until the time he went to the ring I just sat and watched.
I sat and watched because that is what you really needed to do to be around the small man of gigantic stature. He was truly one of a kind; a real maestro of his craft.
Working with Tony Condello, Tokyo and I roomed together. It was a real pleasure. I loved the guy. He had one of the craziest senses of humors I had ever come across.
We were sitting in the dressing room at the Keystone Center, the hockey arena in Brandon, Manitoba. Seems that the entire dressing room had worked with Maritime legend Killer Karl Krupp who used to work as a crazy German complete with a monocle in his eye and the knee-high boots.
Tokyo, in his underwear, starts telling a story about Krupp in Puerto Rico. It seems that Krupp was warned before he went to the ring to run. It seems the fine fans of the stadium used love to throw things. They told Krupp to run until he gets to the first base line.
At this point Tokyo has got a towel around his neck to mimic Krupp’s cape and a beer-bottle cap in his for the monocle. And, he was goose stepping. We were in tears.
Then Tokyo, still describing Krupp, whips his cape around and proudly puts his chin in the air and says “Killer Karl Krupp runs from no man.”
As Tokyo described it, Krupp walked out about 10 feet in front of the fans at the packed baseball stadium and made that announcement. Apparently the first spark plug caught him right between the eyes and drew blood. The monocle was no help. Tokyo threw the bottle cap across the room to demonstrate. He then threw his towel/cape over his head and immitated Krupp running to the ring.
The entire room was crying. Tokyo had us all in the palm of his hand.
Over the years I sat many a night backstage with him just killing time as we all did. He loved to read. He would sit reading Japanese books. It was amusing watching the guys on the first few matches of the card try to get his stamp of approval. One by one they would come up to him after their match and ask if he had watched and what he thought? His reply was always the same, “You shit.” They would get deflated and walk away and he would look at me and wink and we would both laugh like crazy men.
The one thing I never forgot being around Tokyo was how much respect I had for him. We would room together and I would always keep an eye on him. People loved him. He was mobbed when we would go out. Many a night I remember being in bars with him yelling out “everybody back off. Everybody back away from Tokyo.” Sometimes out on the town with a few bubblies in both of us, I would notice he was missing. I would stop the show and yell out, “Holy shit, I’ve lost Tokyo. Nobody move!” I would look around me and sure enough I would see him looking at me and smiling. Again, we would both laugh. The whole scene was something out of Bizarro.
It has been many years and many lives since we last saw each other. The memories burn bright though. I will never forget him.
Tokyo was a true gentleman. As a young man still learning the business he was another who I learned many lessons from. Like many from that generation, one of the biggest things he passed on to me was how to be a professional. How to carry yourself and act in public around people.
He was a true friend. I bet there are a lot of guys working today who would be thrilled to have have Tokyo tell them “You shit.”
Hopefully one day we will share that laugh again. Maybe this time I will be the one to pay him back and put the monocle in my eye.
To anybody upstairs and listening, “back away from Tokyo!”