by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Cindy Sanders is a wrestler from Belarus who had the chance to tour with Japan’s World Woman Pro Wrestling Diana (Diana) for the first time this year. In her home country she is more commonly known as Cindy B. Sanders was trained by the man most responsible for bringing modern wrestling to Belarus, Billy Hazzard. Sanders earned her initial spot in Diana through her work for ZERO 1 Union, which is a trio of promotions individually based in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. ZERO 1 Belarus is based out of Sanders’ town, Gomel, which is the second biggest city in Belarus. In Diana, Sanders had the opportunity to work with a variety of Japanese veterans including Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito and Keiko Aono. This interview was completed on December 13, 2014. In this interview Sanders and I focus on the topic of touring with Diana.
Daniel Johnson: To begin in a few words how would you describe yourself as a wrestler?
Cindy Sanders: Well, my wrestling name is Cindy Sanders as used in Japan. In my country I’m better known as Cindy B. My style is classic professional wrestling, which means I’m a female representative of the “forgotten” style of wrestling art of such persons as Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch.
Daniel Johnson: What was the town you grew up in and how popular was wrestling during that time? Also, what first got you into it just as a fan?
Cindy Sanders: If you’re just a little bit familiar with the stereotypes spread among the world about the ex-Soviet Union/USSR, you might understand that almost all kinds of show business is a nonsense here. Although I was born after the Soviet Union had already collapsed, in the countries which were the part of it everything still remains almost the same way. So that Belarus, my country, doesn’t have developed show business. Thus, while I was growing up, I had no idea about wrestling. Only by the end of 2011 I was invited by a friend to go to a live wrestling show. It was held by our local wrestling promotion, which is the only pro wrestling promotion in my country and it has its base in my town, Gomel. During that show I realized that I’ve never seen anything like that before. And after the show I started to search for more info about professional wrestling on the Internet. So I decided to try myself and joined that promotion as a student. First what I was told to do is to do 500 squats and 250 pushups. And I’d never done any sports before. That’s how I got into pro wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: What is the name of the promotion in Belarus and how often do they run shows today? Also, when you trained there who was your head trainer?
Cindy Sanders: Since 2013 it started to work with Pro Wrestling ZERO 1 Japan, the name of the promotion is ZERO 1 Belarus. Now this promotion is the head promotion at the ex-USSR territory and besides the main base in Gomel, Belarus they also have one division in Moscow, Russia and one in Ukraine. All three of them are called ZERO 1 Union. They do shows in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine almost every month, but it’s not always regular because of the government style here. Thus, we do about 20 to 35 shows per year. My head trainer is the same person who literally created pro wrestling in Belarus. His name is Billy Hazzard and he is the head of ZERO 1 Union in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
Daniel Johnson: What are your memories of your first match in front of a crowd? Also, what are wrestling fans like in Belarus? Are they quiet and respectful like a Japanese crowd or more loud and excitable like a western crowd?
Cindy Sanders: After 30,000 squats and 15,000 pushups and after learning 300 holds, bumps, etc. I did my debut against another girl who trained there at that time. So after my first match in front of a crowd was over, I was overwhelmed with emotions thinking that I want to get into that ring again and again. About the fans. People in ex-USSR countries always did martial arts trainings and have knowledge about different science aspects. They are quiet like a Japanese crowd, but not respectful, they are disrespectful. It happens because they try to find out what’s fake what’s not and blame pro wrestlers in being phony. So, here, first of all a pro wrestler must think about how he can make his performance believable and exciting. Probably Belarusian fans are the most critical fans around the world. So, if you have experience of performing in front of a Belarusian crowd and making it react, you will not have problems in making the rest of the world’s fans react.
Daniel Johnson: Jumping ahead, how did you first come to work for World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana?
Cindy Sanders: In 2013 I got an invitation from them to come work for them for three months in 2014. When a foreign wrestler comes to a Japanese promotion, he is tested there. It’s very important in Japan for a wrestler to be either famous or something special.
Daniel Johnson: Were you a fan of Diana before working for the company? If so what were some matches that got you interested in the promotion?
Cindy Sanders: I got interested in Diana because of the fact that they have old time professional lady wrestlers there. And it’s the only reason to have a will to work for such kind of companies. The matches against Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito and Keiko Aono are the most prominent and valuable for me.
Daniel Johnson: How, if at all, is the style different in Diana than from the work you were most familiar with in Belarus? If it was considerably different how do you feel you adapted to it?
Cindy Sanders: Wrestling is wrestling and no matter what style you’re used to working, the basics are the same. And what you need to learn to do is to adapt and improvise.
Daniel Johnson: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you started your tour off wrestling Keiko Aono. What are your thoughts on that match and of wrestling someone so experienced for your first match of the tour?
Cindy Sanders: I’m lucky enough to have pieces of advice from six different coaches, which helped me to learn to adapt to work with different wrestlers. Of course before my first match against a Japanese pro I was terribly nervous as I had no idea what to expect. The hardest but necessary thing for me was to emotionally relax. It’s freaking hard to relax when you work in the ring for the first time with a person who is much, much more experienced than you are. I learned to relax after having shoot sparring, submission fighting/catch wrestling, in the Diana dojo. I started to relax as nobody could win over myself, none of the Japanese, USA or New Zealand girls.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, you mentioned New Zealand wrestlers. I was curious how many New Zealand wrestlers were over there when you were and does any one memory stick out to you about working or training with any of them?
Cindy Sanders: As I know Evie is the only girl from New Zealand to come over to Japan so far. She is a really good in the ring worker and a very nice and kind girl to know in person.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of Evie you also wrestled on the Diana Keiko Aono 20th Anniversary in a tag team match that went over 15 minutes. You teamed with Evie against Kaho Kobayashi and Sareee. What are your thoughts on that match and on that event in general.
Cindy Sanders: As you may know tag team work is much easier work than a singles match. Me and Evie won that match, but as fans want to see the Japanese wrestlers win, they were not happy. But let it be as it is. I’m more excited about the main event of that show. As Keiko Aono celebrated her 20th Anniversary, she had to stay in a tremendously, I’d say cruel match. I was really sorry for her that night haha. She’s tough.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, cool. The shows we have talked about so far have been in Kanagwa at Diana’s Purazasoru Lazona. I was curious how would you describe the atmosphere of that venue and how, if at at all, is it unique from other venues you have worked?
Cindy Sanders: Almost every promoter in Tokyo, except for Diana’s, hates this venue. There’s nothing wrong with the venue itself, but the way from the parking place to the venue is just terribly, terribly long. So imagine how excited every wrestler is when he knows he has to work there. I mean, sometimes it was less than 10 girls killing themselves to bring that ring in and out of the venue.
Daniel Johnson: You also had the opportunity to wrestle Kyoko Inoue who has been wrestling since 1988. What are your thoughts on Inoue as a performer? Outside of the match you had with her do you have a favorite Inoue match?
Cindy Sanders: I may say that Kyoko Inoue is the most easy opponent to work with. She was the best of all the opponents I had in Japan if we speak about professionalism. I loved working with her. But if we speak about watching wrestling as a fan, I became a fan of wrestling not because of joshi or any style of women’s wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: You also had the chance to wrestle some American talent back in March in Crazy Mary Dobson and Lylah Lodge in a tag match where you partnered again with Evie. How do you think this match turned out and what are your reflections on working with Dobson and Lodge?
Cindy Sanders: Okay I can’t say it went well for me, but I’m the only responsible person for that. It was just emotionally not the best day, as during my staying in Japan I had some back injuries so experiencing pain during a long time just stressed me out. Speaking of Crazy Mary and Lylah, they have their own style too, which differs from the Japanese. Both girls know their job in the ring.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any other American wrestlers you think you will work with in the near future? Also, what American talents would you like to work with?
Cindy Sanders: This year I was contacted by a very famous American promotion. Yet, I don’t have in my plans going there in the near future. Speaking of talents, mostly I appreciate working with much more experienced wrestlers than myself.
Daniel Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you ended the tour with tag match where you team with Kagetsu against Kobayashi and Sareee. How was it teaming with Kagetsu and how was it different than your matches teaming with Evie?
Cindy Sanders: I feel good about that match in general. I may say I enjoyed working during that match. As it was the end of the tour and I had some amount of matches against Saree and Kaho before. I was already familiar with their style and also teaming up with a Japanese girl was an interesting experience.
Daniel Johnson: What promotions have you worked for outside of Diana and the ZERO 1 promotions you mentioned? Also, are there any promotions you hope to work for in the near future?
Cindy Sanders: I’m willing to work for any promotion where I can work with old timers.
Daniel Johnson: What stands out to you most about your wrestling experience in 2014?
Cindy Sanders: Meeting Yoshiaki Fujiwara in Tokyo is the most prominent experience not only in 2014, but in my entire life so far. He is a great “shooter” and a great performer.
Daniel Johnson: Have you talked to anyone more about going on another tour of Diana? How likely do you think it is you’ll be back and if you do go back how soon will it be?
Cindy Sanders: Pro wrestling is business, which needs different kinds of workers. It’s not just a wrestler in the ring. So now I’m involved in lots of different works for our local ZERO 1 Belarus promotion. And if Diana or anyone else need me, they will let me know.
Daniel Johnson: Moving ahead to the future what would you like to accomplish as a wrestler in 2015?
Cindy Sanders: What I learned while being in the wrestling business is that you don’t know what happens tomorrow, you don’t know where you will be tomorrow. As I had no idea what will happen in my life when I came to my first training, I had no idea that just in two years I would have my debut in Japan. So I don’t know what will be tomorrow, but I know that everything is possible in the wrestling business.
Daniel Johnson: To end interviews I like to ask five very brief non-wrestling questions and then some very brief wrestling questions. First, what is your favorite movie to come out in the last year?
Cindy Sanders: 2014?
Daniel Johnson: Yes, in 2014.
Cindy Sanders: Okay, I’d say X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, what do you enjoy watching on TV?
Cindy Sanders: Some sitcoms like American Dad.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Cindy Sanders: Well, the last one I read was Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore and yes I would definitely recommend it if someone didn’t read it so far.
Daniel Johnson: What has been your favorite song to come out in 2014?
Cindy Sanders: As my favorite singer is Johnny Cash I didn’t hear him releasing anything in 2014.
Daniel Johnson: Fair enough. Have you tried any new foods in 2014 and if so what has been your favorite of these?
Cindy Sanders: Well, almost all the national Japanese foods were new for me, but the raw octopus is not among my new favorites haha.
Daniel Johnson: Haha. Getting back to wrestling, ribs and road stories are always fun, do you have any you could share?
Cindy Sanders: I was trying to think about it, but the first thing I can remember now, happened this October when we had a joint show with Russian, Belarusian and Ukranian guys. So after the show our boss, Billy Hazzard made up a shoot tournament among the guys with no time limit. The only way to win is by submission or a KO. So one of the top guys wrestled another guy for 20 minutes, got mad and blown completely up, so he went to the locker room and some guy gave him a bottle like it was water, the top guy started to drink it, but it had chemicals in it. He threw up and felt completely sick. But some time later he said he’s going to continue to participate in the tournament. As the guys heard it, some of them decided to scare him. They said some guy was paid to break his arm. So when he started another fight, he was scared so he tapped out almost at once. It wasn’t really funny to him, but, you know, he stole that night.
Daniel Johnson: Cool. As a fan what do you think the best wrestling match is ever?
Cindy Sanders: Okay as for me it would be Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz vs. Antonio Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi.
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or younger you think readers should know about?
Cindy Sanders: I’d say it’s Sho Tanaka. A young guy from NJPW.
Daniel Johnson: Who is your dream opponent and why?
Cindy Sanders: Shinjiro Otani.
Daniel Johnson: I’m always curious about what people find weird about their own experiences. What, if anything, would you say was the weirdest part of your experience touring with Diana?
Cindy Sanders: Haha, I won’t name anything in particular, but what I can say the weirdest thing from my experience is when you’re told to do things that are lacking of logic.
Daniel Johnson: Lastly, is there anything you would like to add?
Cindy Sanders: Lastly, I’d like to share some words with young wrestler out there, which I was told by a very smart person. “When you’re young, strive for perfection. You can never be perfect, there’s always room for improvement. When you appreciate someone’s excellence, you make a profit for yourself.”
Check out Cindy Sanders in action! Sanders shows off an array of skills in this bout for Diana with Japanese wrestler Tieiri Sakura, which was uploaded for this interview:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews
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