by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Antonio Honda is a regular performer for Japan’s DDT promotion. He is known for his impersonations which include competitors ranging from Stan Hansen to Japanese singer-songwriter Eikichi Yazawa. He has had many accomplishments during his tenure in the promotion including holding the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, the UWA World Trios Championship and the KO-D Tag Team Championship. He has performed in two stables in DDT, The Italian Four Horsemen and The Hawaiian World Order. Outside of DDT he has appeared in a variety of other promotions including NJPW, Dragon Gate and FREEDOMS. In this interview Honda and I focus on the topic of comedy wrestling in Japan.
Daniel Johnson: For those who have never seen an Antonio Honda match how would you describe yourself as a performer?
Antonio Honda: I’m a performer who tries to expand emotions and expressions. I also try to make cultural references in my personal interests and I kick some damn ass.
Daniel Johnson: How did you first hear about DDT? How did you come to work for the company as a performer?
Antonio Honda: In the winter of 2004, I wrestled at my university as a retired student wrestler because I graduated years ago. Muscle Sakai, who owned small promotion under DDT called Muscle, came to watch that match and recruited me. I heard about DDT from him, I wrestled for him, then graduated and began to wrestle for DDT too.
Daniel Johnson: Growing up were you a fan of wrestling? If so who were your heroes in the industry?
Antonio Honda: Yes and Antonio Inoki definitely.
Daniel Johnson: Who was the first comedy wrestler that caught your eye?
Antonio Honda: Muscle Sakai.
Daniel Johnson: Outside of wrestling what forms of comedy have influenced you as a performer?
Antonio Honda: Steve Martin, Charlie Chaplin and Mick Jagger.
Daniel Johnson: What, if anything, was the toughest part of starting out as comedy wrestler?
Antonio Honda: If you can take a good bump, there are few problems. At least if you wrestle with a good person…
Daniel Johnson: Do you remember the first big laugh you got as a comedy wrestler? If so what was it?
Antonio Honda: Maybe my Antonio Inoki impersonation at Muscle 2.
Daniel Johnson: Have you ever gotten any unintentional laughs. If so how do you deal with them?
Antonio Honda: I treat them as God’s gift.
Daniel Johnson: One of the most notable parts of your career was working as a member of The Italian Four Horsemen along with TAKA Michinoku, Dick Togo and Daisuke Sasaki. How did this group first come about?
Antonio Honda: Daisuke at that time came back from Mexico, then me and Togo wanted to form a team with him. So we created The Italian Four Horsemen with TAKA.
Daniel Johnson: You won the UWA World Trios Championship along with Michinoku and Togo as part of this stable. Do you have any particular memories about the night you won this title?
Antonio Honda: I don’t remember, but working with them was a treasure every time and I was glad I was one of the champions with them.
Daniel Johnson: You went on to have a 335 day title run. If you had to single out one specific moment of that reign as the one that meant the most to you what would it be and why?
Antonio Honda: Fighting with Masa Takanashi as a French team was delightful. It had a good story and good characters.
Daniel Johnson: In early 2010 The Italian Four Horsemen disbanded. Do you talk with any of the former members often?
Antonio Honda: Yes.
Daniel Johnson: On a related note, what did you think about Michinoku’s run in the WWF, specifically what did you think of his transition from being a no-nonsense face to a comedic heel?
Antonio Honda: His comedic role was, I think, only funny for English speakers. I enjoyed it though.
Daniel Johnson: Do you think there could ever be an Italian Four Horsemen reunion? If so what factors would need to be in place?
Antonio Honda: There will be no reunion. Togo is retired now. It is sad.
Daniel Johnson: Since that group disbanded you have also led the Hawaiian World Order. For those who haven’t watched the group what do you think they should know about the group?
Antonio Honda: HWO had special physicality traits. There was a very tall Hawaiian God, KOO and a very fat Hawaiian king, King Ala Moana.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any matches from your tenure with the Hawaiian World Order that you would recommend?
Antonio Honda: It’s not actually a HWO match, but me versus KOO was a very tough, memorable match.
Daniel Johnson: I recently watched a match where you impersonated Shawn Michaels in a match against Kikutaro who portrayed Bret Hart. You had a lot of his mannerisms and just his general character down. Are you a big fan of Shawn Michaels and if so how has he influenced you?
Antonio Honda: Indeed! His fashionable style and precise maneuvers are just great. Also, he has great expressions.
Daniel Johnson: You have also impersonated other wrestlers. What have been some of your favorite impersonations?
Antonio Honda: Hulk Hogan and Eikichi Yazawa, a Japanese musician.
Daniel Johnson: Have you done any impersonations that have been particularly tricky to pull off?
Antonio Honda: Maybe Stan Hansen.
Daniel Johnson: Your comedy spots are often unique, having never been performed elsewhere in quite the same way. What comedy spots have you come up with that you’ve been most proud of?
Antonio Honda: Maybe my strange forearm drop after the Thesz press.
Daniel Johnson: Even comedy wrestling spots can go wrong. Have you ever had to do any dangerous spots in wrestling? If so what was the most dangerous spot you ever took and how did you get through it?
Antonio Honda: I don’t remember any dangerous spots. Maybe I’m lucky.
Daniel Johnson: Do you feel the comedy wrestling scene in Japan has grown or declined in recent years? Why do you feel it has either grown or declined?
Antonio Honda: I don’t know, but maybe grown. Because Japanese independent wrestling is more free and radical than that of the past. There is more space for comedic roles.
Daniel Johnson: How has Japanese comedy wrestling been different in 2012 than 2011, if at all?
Antonio Honda: Um… I cannot see a specific difference.
Daniel Johnson: How do you see DDT developing over the next five years?
Antonio Honda: We are getting older…so we should hurry! Maybe we’re developing a little but when it begins declining, I think it will go rapid.
Daniel Johnson: What was the standout moment of the year for you as a performer?
Antonio Honda: Facing Danshoku Dino for the KO-D Openweight Championship, I guess.
Daniel Johnson: If you had to single out one single match as the best comedy wrestling match of all time then what would it be?
Antonio Honda: Ebessan (Kikutaro) versus Kuishinbo Kamen.
Daniel Johnson: In a similar vein who would you say is the best comedy wrestler in the world today?
Antonio Honda: Branco Ogiso.
Daniel Johnson: Who are some newcomers to the Japanese comedy wrestling scene? Who should Japanese comedy wrestling fans looks out for?
Antonio Honda: Hiroshi Fukuda.
Daniel Johnson: What wrestler have you yet to work with that you think you could have the funniest match with?
Antonio Honda: Atsushi Onita.
Daniel Johnson: Outside of your comedic wrestling you have also had some straight wrestling matches with some top wrestlers. Have you ever thought of quitting comedy wrestling in favor of working as a straight no-laughs kind of wrestler?
Antonio Honda: I think there is no distinction between comedic and straight. Wrestling is life, so there should be every emotion.
Daniel Johnson: I always like to hear about ribs and road stories. Do you have any ribs or road stories that you would be willing to share?
Antonio Honda: DJ Nira pissed in a PET bottle on the bus, then he mistakenly drank it!
Daniel Johnson: As part of my last few questions I like to ask five non-wrestling related questions to make the interview a bit unique. If you don’t have an answer or don’t want to answer one of them just feel free to say, “skip.” Outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Antonio Honda: I saw The Singing Detective by BBC. It was good.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Antonio Honda: Not this year, but I saw Death Hunt starring Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin recently. Superb.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Antonio Honda: Roll cake.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Antonio Honda: Francesco De Gregori’s Sulla Strada is the best album of the year. He is Italian. If I had to choose one song on the album, “Guarda che non sono io.”
Daniel Johnson: Did you vote in your last local election? If so would you be willing to say for who?
Antonio Honda: I could not vote.
Daniel Johnson: What is the weirdest part of being a wrestler?
Antonio Honda: It is not weird at all. I think it’s far more normal than other lives. There is expression, fighting for love, for each other. There is making people laugh and getting them emotional.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Antonio Honda: Sorry for my poor English!
See Antonio Honda get vicious! Here he takes on former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan at NJPW’s NEVER.4 event: