Interview: Satoru Sayama & Mil Mascaras

Mil Mascaras used to be a big star in the United States, but more than that, he is a true legend in both Mexico and Japan. He is one of foreign talents who changed a traditional puroresu concept that gaijin (foreigners) are always heels against Japanese babyfaces. He was also one of the first wrestlers to introduce the flying moves of lucha libre, such as tope and plancha, to Japanese fans. Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask, is also a legend in both Japan and Mexico. On this interview, Sayama talks about the importance of Mascaras to his Tiger Mask gimmick. Also in this interview, they use a puroresu term "cement." It means very much like "shoot," but since many Japanese fans believe results of puroresu matches were not predetermined back then, "cement" is used more often as "attacking the opponent while ignoring the duty to entertain the audience."

Weekly Gong, August 3rd, 1995
Translated by Hisaharu Tanabe

Weekly Gong: Today, we asked two of the legends, each of whom had his own era, to get together...

Sayama: Well, it's been a long time. How have you been doing?

Mascaras: Just as well as I look. How about you?

Sayama: Just fine.

Mascaras: You remember Spanish well, too.

Sayama: No, I have no opportunity to use it and forgot almost everything.

Mascaras: When were you in Mexico?

Sayama: Two years from 1978 to 80. I used to speak well back then, though.

Weekly Gong: Whenever we visited you in the hotel room back then, you were always studying Spanish with vocab cards.

Sayama: I wasn't that good. In my case, I knew it would be a long stay in Mexico, so I only studied some. Can't survive without learning the language, you know.

Mascaras: I remember that you were one of better Spanish speakers comparing to other Japanese people there back then... *laugh*

Weekly Gong: Have you two ever teamed in tag matches?

Sayama: 2-3 times. I was with the Empresa (EMLL) during a big promotional war against UWA. I don't remember where, though.

Mascaras: Once in Acapulco. I believe we were also in a 6man tag match at Arena Mexico (in Mexico City).

Sayama: That's right. In case of Mr. Mascaras, he was really a superstar who was allowed to work for both EMLL and UWA, and to me, he was someone above the sky. Besides, since he kept coming and going between Mexico and America, I didn't have much chance to see him. Back then, the only wrestlers who could work for both EMLL and UWA were El Santo and Mr. Mascaras.

Mascaras: It's true that I worked more in America than in Mexico, especially in Florida and Texas. However, whenever I was requested by those organizations, I tried to work for them as much as possible.

Weekly Gong: What was your impression when you first teamed with Mascaras, Sayama-san?

Sayama: Totally nervous. I was like, "I can team with THAT Mascaras..." I felt like I was dreaming... I had been a big fan of his since childhood.

Mascaras: hahahaha... It's a pleasure to hear that.

Sayama: Seriously, I was a big fan and feeling so high teaming with you. When I first went to Mexico, I had no achievement there, and all I could do was looking at you quietly in the dressing room. When I was allowed to team with you, it was after I won the NWA World (Middleweight) Title in '79 and started wrestling in main events. It had been more than a year since I started wrestling there.

Mascaras: I remember you as a young man with good manners.

Sayama: Don't praise me too much. *laugh*

Weekly Gong: Do you remember what kind of match you had?

Sayama: I was so nervous, my mind was empty, and I don't remember anything that happened on the ring. All I remember is a scene in the dressing room.

Mascaras: He was already speedy back then and was having scientific matches. I believe he already had enough elements to be Tigre Enmascarado (Tiger Mask) in the future.

Weekly Gong: Two years ago, Super Libres magazine picked the Top 100 luchadores of all time. Satoru Sayama was ranked 34th and was the only Japanese in 100 (translator's note: I hope this guy only missed Gran Hamada. Can't believe Hamada wasn't in 100). Just by that, we can tell Sayama-san had an great achievement in Mexico.

Mascaras: That's probably a good judge. Even today, many people in Mexico talk about Satoru Sayama.

Weekly Gong: Right, there are many Mexican wrestlers who say "the foreign wrestler I respect is Sayama." It's like he's a Japanese legend there.

Sayama: I'm embarassed. Stop that. *laugh* By the way, I remember that I was really impressed when I first saw Mr. Mascaras' real face in dressing room.

Mascaras: Really. *laugh*

Sayama: You don't usually take your mask off even in the dressing room, do you? Not many wrestlers have seen your real face, but in my case, I was lucky to see it little.

Weekly Gong: Certainly, you constantly wear your mask everywhere.

Mascaras: Masked wrestlers should always keep something mysterious. Even with your friends. Santo and I could keep our status by doing so. So, what did you think of my face, Satoru? *laugh*

Sayama: I was surprised because you were really handsome. I wondered why a good-looking person like this was wearing a mask.

Mascaras: hahahaha...

Weekly Gong: Sayama-san, since when have you been a Mascaras fan?

Sayama: Since junior high. I used to watch his matches on TV. I had always thought he was cool since then. When I was in 8th grade, I wore a mask that I designed for an event during a school festival. *laugh* I designed it after Mascaras. The reason I started wrestling was Inoki-san, but Mil Mascaras was always on my mind.

Mascaras: That kind of story makes realize my own long history. *laugh*

Weekly Gong: Mr. Mascaras used to say, "Tiger Mask is just my copy." *laugh*

Mascaras: Maybe so. I might have said that. *laugh*

Sayama: Well, seriously, I copied a lot from Mr. Mascaras for Tiger Mask.

Weekly Gong: What do you mean!?

Sayama: For example, the way Tiger Mask walks on the ring. When I was told to do Tiger Mask gimmick after coming back from Mexico and Britain, I was in trouble thinking how I could do it. Since I always liked masked wrestlers, I had no problem wearing a mask, though...

Weekly Gong: That reminds me you used to design your own mask back in Mexico, saying "I wanna be a maskman someday."

Sayama: Yeah...but Tiger Mask is a different problem.

Mascaras: "Tiger Mask" was originally a cartoon character, right!?

Sayama: Yes, it was a created hero already. So I had hard time figuring out what I could do to be Tiger Mask. Just being Satoru Sayama after coming back from Mexico and Britain wasn't enough.

Mascaras: So you thought about me. *laugh*

Sayama: That's right. *laugh* Mil Mascaras' moves on the ring, even the way you walk or the move of each finger, looks like they are calculated. Each move on the ring looks so cool. That's the first thing I thought about copying.

Mascaras: I never calculated my moves. However, it's really hard to copy them because they are just naturally coming from me. I think you're really a genius copying them. *laugh*

Sayama: Wow, I was praised again...*laugh*...although I copied you without your permission.

Weekly Gong: So, the original Tiger Mask copied a lot from Mascaras.

Sayama: That's right. Not everything, though. For example, "diving body attack" and "flying cross chop" are obviously copied from Mr. Mascaras. My apology. *laugh*

Mascaras: Those plancha(diving body attack) and tope(flying cross chop) were copied from someone else by me. *laugh*

Sayama: What? Is that true?

Mascaras: Yeah. There used to be a wrestler named Gorilita Flores, who did plancha from the scond rope. I made it better jumping off the top rope.

Sayama: Jumping from higher position with spreading your arms makes it look cool. *laugh*

Mascaras: I studied how to jump. Spreading my arms and make my body like a bow. Even as a compliment, I could never say Gorilita Flores' plancha was beautiful. *laugh*

Weekly Gong: I often hear about the roots of tope, but not many people have talked about the roots of plancha. So, Mil Mascaras accomplished the form of plancha.

Mascaras: I think it's okay to say I accomplished it in 1965, my first year as a wrestler. Plancha suicida, jumping off the ring, is also my original.

Sayama: I see...

Mascaras: It's same for tope, too. The man who started using tope in Mexico is said to be Black Shadow, but I copied it with my own idea.

Sayama: By crossing arms, you can give more impact. That's a flying cross attack. Other wrestlers in Mexico used tope that was more like flying headbutt. Mine was a cross attack.

Mascaras: In my case, I arranged the tirabsons (Mexican submissions) and other moves in my own way.

Sayama: That's true.

Mascaras: I said "Tiger Mask was my copy," but it's not wrong to copy someone. Every move has something to be based on. It's necessary to arrange it in your own way instead of copying it 100%. Tiger Mask was doing so with a lot of variations.

Weekly Gong: Were you conscious of Tiger Mask back then?

Mascaras: Yes, I had opportunity to watch his matches on video because Japanese press constantly compared me and him. I thought he was a great wrestler. Animal-like jumps, stiff moves, and a lot of idea. His filomena(spinnig kick) and suplexes were very original. I couldn't even copy many of them. *laugh* He was in middleweight, and I was in heavyweight. It's natural that we had different fight styles. I was conscious of him, but I already had my established style and didn't even think about changing it.

Sayama: By the way, you are past-50, and I think it's great that you are still a top wrestler with a triangle-shaped body and flying moves.

Mascaras: My body has natural muscles. I never take any drugs. I have kept this shape only with good meals and training for 30 years. Those wrestlers who use steroid can temporarily keep good shape, but it's bad for health. Also, their bodies can shrink soon. I made my body only with training, so my muscle is really soft, and I can keep it with a daily adjustment.

Sayama: That's why you can still move like that...for 30 years...

Mascaras: That's right. This is my 30th year of my career. *laugh* By the way, how long has it been since you retired, Satoru?

Sayama: 12 years.

Mascaras: I heard you own a gym.

Sayama: I started a martial art called "shooting" and operate Super Tiger Gym. Besides that, I also train students of Brazilian juujutsu and promote cards for vale tudo.

Mascaras: Wow, juujutsu, too? I learned juujutsu, too.

Sayama: Really?

Mascaras: In Mexico, I learned kendo, aikido, karate, judo, and other martial arts. I'm as good as black belt in everything. I learned juujutsu from a student of Konde Koma (Mitsuyo Maeda, the man who introduced juujutsu to Brazil) and also from Professor Tanaka. I was interested in juujutsu as "judo with striking." Sitting on the opponent, pinning him, choking, and punching...

Sayama: Yes, it's called a mount position. You have experienced a lot...

Weekly Gong: Why were you interested in juujutsu and other things?

Mascaras: I was already interested in the Oriental martial arts, but I learned them more for anti-cement.

Sayama: Counterplan for cement?

Mascaras: Yeah, I'm the only wrestler who toured not only Mexico, America, and Japan but also Central & South America, Australia, Europe, and Africa...all over the world. So, I had opportunity to wrestle unknown opponents in unknown countries. In my case, I was always a limpio (an old lucha term for "babyface". We still use "limpio" instead of "technico" in Japan) anywhere I go, and there were many wrestlers who were jealous. So, in 30 years, I have experienced so many cement attempts. It was necessary to know martial arts in those cases. I remember the matches against Jose Assali in Guatemara and Corazon Grande de Africa in Nigelia were cement from the beginning. I had such experiences in America and Europe as well.

Sayama: When we talk about "Mil Mascaras," it's always a shiny flying wrestler, but if you kept such a style for 30 years everywhere in the world, many things must have happened to you...

Mascaras: Fans always look at my flying moves only, but I don't want them to miss the moves of other disciplines that I use in mat wrestling and suplexes.

Sayama: Next time you are in Japan, please visit the Super Tiger Gym.

Mascaras: Yeah, I want to practice there.

Sayama: We have ring, amateur wrestling mat, and newest training equipments.

Mascaras: Looking foward to it. I want to see the technique of "shooting" and juujutsu that you're teaching. I want to learn them too. *laugh*

Sayama: You can teach me, too. I'm really looking forward to it.

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