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When we heard that Adelaide pro-wrestler "Jag" Hartley Jackson
was headed over to Japan to do bloody battle with the world's best, we had to catch up and make sure he remembered his phrase book!
What will you be doing in Japan?
Basically they’re putting on a pro wrestling expo, which will be featuring wrestlers from all over the world, from such countries as south Africa, Nepal, Canada, USA, Mexico, Japan, and – for the first time ever – they’re actually including Australia in this line up. Which is a big honour that I was chosen to head over there, because Australia has kind of been shoved to the back for the past 30 years in wrestling, not taken seriously ever since it went off television. So it’s a great opportunity to go and represent Australia in Japan for this expo and show that Australia does have talent to the rest of the world.
And you’re the only Australian going over?
I was supposed to head over there with Mikey Nicholls, who’s currently in the USA at the moment, but the were was some scheduling conflicts, so he was unable to make it over, so I’ll be the sole representative there, but there’s a possible chance of another tour in the future, where we’ll go over as a tag-team and represent Australia in the tag tournament.
What are the biggest different between wrestling in Australia and wrestling in Japan?
Everything! From the language to the country to the people – in Japan it’s more of a sport; it’s very highly respected. So obviously you have to be an athlete when you’re going over there, it’s a whole different ball game compared to what it is in Australia. The way I wrestle in Japan wouldn’t be the same to how I wrestle here.
And the training regime is a bit more brutal.
Yeah, very brutal. What I’ve done – which is lucky – is I spent a lot of time overseas training with a company called New Japan, and they put me through the paces every day for 4, 5 hours a day of brutal training.
And what does that involve?
When I first got there, obviously I was an accomplished wrestler from Australia, and I really didn’t know what to expect but I thought I was on top of my game. But then I found out the hard way that I wasn’t! We had training the first day, and it consisted of hundreds of squats, push ups, running – you name it, we did it. And it was just non-stop high-intensity cardio-vascular exercise for hours on end. It was just a total shock to the system. But after a month, your body starts to get used to it, and take it in, and me and Mike (who went over together) really started to excel in out classes, and we were lucky enough to come back to Australia and I was able to start my gym with what I’d learnt, to kind of tweak and change the way people get trained here in Australia.
How tough do Japanese get?
Very tough. I’d say they are the toughest country for wrestling out there, they’re very brutal, they take it seriously – to them, it is a fight, and when you go over there you have to be on your game, you have to be athletic, they’re not going to able to – they’re so strict with everything they do, they’ve got so much respect for their sport and business that if you don’t go over there and show that respect you’re just going to be chewed up and spat out.
I’ve heard some rumours of there being some Yakuza ownership of these wrestling federations over there. Have you heard that?
I have, but again I don’t know much about that. I don’t understand the language, when they’re talking I just stand there and nod my head, and hopefully I’m nodding to the right things. I have heard those rumours, but I haven’t seen anything to back those claims up, so…
What’s the best thing about wrestling in Japan?
The best thing about wrestling in Japan is actually going over and representing Australia. And I feel that I’ve been wrestling for nearly 12 years now, that I have grown up over the last couple of years and that I will be going over and representing Australia as the best possible person to do so. And I just can’t wait to get over there again, it’s been 2 ½ years since I was there with New Japan – it’s now a new promotion I’m there wrestling for – but just to see some old friends who are over there and just to mix it up with talent all over the world has just been a dream of mine.
And the worst thing?
I can’t say a worst thing at the moment… the experience I had there last time was absolutely fantastic. I guess the worst thing in a way – it’s a Catch 22 – in a way, the worst thing is having to come back to Australia! But I love wrestling in Australia and I love training the guys here, but also I’d love to travel to Japan more often to wrestle.
How do you get around the language barrier?
A lot of them do speak broken English. It’s funny at time, because you’re talking to them and you go “how are you?” and they stare at you blankly for a while and you just kind of nod your head, they nod their head back and you smile, and you kind of just know – yeah, everyone’s just friendly over there. Even though they have no idea what you’re saying, everyone’s really friendly and respectful and they make sure that they do take care of you, which is great.
What Japanese do you know?
Absolutely nothing. I’ve had this little Japanese pocket book for about 3 years, because I knew that I was heading over to Japan a couple of years back, and I thought “Well! I’ll get this little pocket book and start reading and learning it – but I’ve only looked up some dirty words and some funny sayings, but I can’t remember those off hand.
Are you keen to do it the other way round, and get some Japanese guys wrestling over here?
I’d love to do that. That’s one of the things I’d love to go over there for, is to network – not only with the people in Japan, but there’s also wrestlers from all over the world who are owners of their own companies, in places like the Netherlands, and Europe and Mexico – everywhere. So it’s going to be exciting, and hopefully get some contacts and start having our guys travelling more often.
Are there many Aussies wrestling in Japan at the moment?
There’s only one in Japan, who’s been contracted to Osaka Pro, which is a small promotion – that’s the only Aussie I know of. Other than himself, I’m the only one who’s a contracted wrestler to Japan at the moment, just for the small tour. That’s why it’s a big honour to go over there as one of the few who are recognised by the Japanese. It’s feels good that they recognise that there is talent in Australia, and to be one of them is fantastic.
What’s your name going to be over there?
I’ll still be Hartley Jackson, but they’ve dubbed me The Australian Fighting Dog. So I might play that a bit for them, and see how they take it. Maybe some chains and start scaring the shit out the audience. They like that sort of stuff – they want to see physical toughness, and I think The Australian Fighting Dog has that physical toughness behind it – so I want to try and represent that as best as possible!