In June 2013, Keiji Mutoh — the Great Muta — resigned from All Japan Pro Wrestling and a month later, he started his own promotion, Wrestle-1. One of those who made the leap of faith with Mutoh was René Dupre, known to North American audiences for his WWE run in La Resistance.
What went into his decision to jump?
“I’m just loyal. When I went to All Japan, Muta was the president, or the head guy. I had the same mentality as all the other original All Japan guys, just leave with Muta,” said Dupre a couple of weeks ago, while home in New Brunswick. “I had offers to stay with All-Japan, but Muta offered me more security for my family, so I took that.”
The bleached-blonde Dupre doesn’t pretend to know all the politics behind the scenes. “It was a change in management from All Japan. A new owner came in, and there was a disagreement, I guess, on ways to do business,” he said. “They just decided to leave.”
The Wrestle-1 roster is made up of veterans like Mutoh, Kaz Hayashi, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Tanaka, complimented by up-and-comers like Seiya Sanada and KAI (Atsushi Sakai).
Dupre fits somewhere in the middle; he’s about to turn 30 years of age, but has been wrestling since his teens, following the footsteps of his father, wrestler Emile Dupre.
As such, he can be friendly with each end of the roster extremes. “I know them really well now. I’ve been over in Japan for seven years. It’s like anything else, once you build up a relationship,” he said.
There’s mentoring as well as friendship. This past summer, when the Dupres ran wrestling shows in the Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, René brought in Sanada, who he has high hopes for.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to see Sanada over in TNA. I feel like he’s my protege, almost, because I brought him over here and we worked every night together,” said Dupre (real name René Goguen). “Since then, his stock has risen in the eyes of Japanese fans, because he came over to North America.”
The TNA reference is a natural one. Mutoh travelled to Nashville to meet with the TNA brass, in particular Jeff Jarrett. An alliance was formed, and Jarrett worked on a Wrestle-1 show in October. AJ Styles just wrestled on the current Wrestle-1 tour, as did Rob Terry and Jay Bradley.
Dupre thinks that Wrestle-1 has big things in mind.
“I think they’re going to do things different. I know they want to expand into different Asian countries, that’s the plan,” he said.
While not an expert by any means, Dupre can get along in Japanese now. “I get by. I can put sentences together. I have no problem getting around, if I get lost in Tokyo — because it’s pretty easy to get lost in Tokyo. I can get around great. I was over there for six weeks, and most people would be pulling their hair out, but I was loving it. Yeah, I missed my wife and stuff, but it’s easy. It’s good.”
As well, Dupre recently travelled to Qatar for some shows, opting to stay in Japan and travel to the Middle East rather than jet back and forth to the Maritimes. Other notable names on the Qatar tour were Bobby Lashley, Chris Masters, Carlito, Big Daddy V, and Matt Cross.
One of the richest countries in the world, Qatar was an interesting experience for Dupre.
“Every time I go to a different country, I like to learn about their culture, how much tax they pay, all that stuff. Over there, they don’t pay tax, they get free health care, for every child they get an unreal — I’m not sure exactly what the sum is, but basically somebody out here [in the Maritimes] could live off it for a year. And they pay $10 for a tank of gas — that’s where all their money comes from.”
As for the wrestling, there was a lot of talk about future projects in Qatar.
“These guys, they seem to be pretty serious. I don’t know to what extent they intend on doing it. There’s a lot of talk — it’s the wrestling business,” he said. “To me, it’s almost like a new territory. That’s where all the money is.”