In recent years many professional wrestling schools have popped up across Canada and around the world. I more often than not have little good to say about most of them.
I wasn’t inclined to believe that the skills necessary to make the big time could be learned because many so-called teachers are limited in knowing the basics themselves and often take their fees based on teaching somebody a headlock or something simple like that.
I’ve always said that the Japanese pro wrestlers were always the best conditioned and well taught. I learned all the basics, not so much from my father, but from Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada, two Japanese wrestlers. I attribute a great deal of my success to both of them for all they did for me. The most important things they taught me were how to protect myself and how to protect my opponent.
I always took great pride in never injuring any of my opponents. How ironic that my career was cut short when Bill Goldberg inadvertently booted me in the head back in December, 1999. A transplanted nosetackle from the Atlanta Falcons, Goldberg learned his wrestling at WCW’s powerplant training camp, where I don’t think it was a priority to protect your opponent.
People often ask me where the best pro wrestling schools are. I’ve always felt that Calgary turned out the best of the lot, starting with my brother, Bruce, who helped launch Chris Benoit and Flyin’ Brian Pillman, along with very many others. My brother Keith also helped launch Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, while Leo Burke and I tutored Edge, Christian, Test, Ken Shamrock, and numerous others.
Lately I’ve been training at B.J.’s gym and what’s really caught my eye are the remarkable training sessions put on there by Tokyo Joe for a handful of dedicated young pro wrestlers, some of whom, not surprisingly, are Hart grandchildren.
Joe worked briefly in the Stampede territory back in the early 70’s where sadly his budding career was cut short when his car slid off the road during a terrible snowstorm. While he was pushing it out of the way of passing vehicles he was struck from behind by another car that slid off the road, costing him a leg, from the knee down.
Despite the loss of his leg Joe stayed involved in wrestling for years, crd booking wrestlers over to Japan, where notably both Owen and Benoit first became marquis names.
Seeing Joe put his recruits through his basic training is, for me, a thing of beauty. I know of no pro wrestling school anywhere in this hemisphere that takes the time and energy to teach with such meticulous science. His students are all stand out athletes that can break out into countless perfect moves timelessly, over and over, with such crispness that it makes many so-called wrestling schools hang their heads with embarrassment. In fact Joe goes to great lengths to teach everyone of them how to legitimately apply each and every submission hold with authenticity.
Joe’s best student has been T.J. Wilson, who is currently a rising star over in Japan. Another standout wrestler only just breaking the horizon is the highly talented Harry Smith, son of the British Bulldog. Some night soon Harry will have no problem filling his great father’s boots. Standing 6’5”, 240 lbs. he most certainly will be the best prospect to bank on making it to the big time in the near future! Harry is as dedicated and conscientious as his dad was strong and with Joe teaching him he cannot go wrong.
A rising star in the female grappler department is young Natalie Neidhart, daughter of Jim the Anvil Neidhart. She too has waded into the profession, showing great skill and determination, with the power and speed of a Bradley tank, much like her dad. Tokyo Joe is careful not to spread himself too thin, instead choosing only a mere handful that he personally feels will make the effort, put in the hours day after day, with respect and dedication worthy of his time.
It’s a pity that he can’t teach everyone the art of pro wrestling. Take it from me, Tokyo Joe is, without a doubt, the best teacher of pro wrestling in the world - and that’s saying a lot.