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Triple J, Tojo Yamamoto in hardcore local wrestling action

Tyler Boyette is held defenseless by his opponent and gets slapped in the face by a woman. Staff Photo by Amanda Lowrance

The hardcore action that goes into creating and performing a wrestling show at Super Pro Wrestling requires the staff to be on their toes.

Unlike any other sport, wrestling has no off-season. While many may think it’s a big joke, the people behind the scenes take it very seriously.

Many professional wrestlers have died under 30 years of age, but the locals of McNairy County get together and put on an action-packed show in Ramer. 

James Edward Johnson or Triple J went up against Tojo Yamamoto Jr. this weekend for the main event.

“Triple J is going to win,” said Infinity Lynn, who walked out with Johnson before the match began. “He’s a good wrestler and knows what he is doing.”

Tony Murphy also accompanies Johnson to the ring. “I do anything it takes to get the crowd mad at me.

“We are going to come out victorious over and all. Triple J will win.”

Johnson is from Selmer with a late start to wrestling. He began at 34 years old, with the support of his wife of 12 years and his 20-year-old son.

“Ten years ago, I met Don at other shows, and I really wanted to do it, and my wife told me to go for it,” said Johnson. 

Johnson’s father, who was a big wrestling fan,  died when he was 12. Johnson honors his late father by getting into the ring.

“When I was like seven or eight years old, I saw Don Bass wrestling at the old fairgrounds in Mississippi. I never really met him, but that’s the first time I ever saw him.” 

Bass is now the director and owner of Super Pro Wrestling Association along with Johnson. “I make money, but I mainly do it for the fans,” Johnson said said.

He trains and practices his moves inside the ring. “You have to stay in shape. If you just lay around the house, you become a couch potato.”

His worst injury came while training. He took a hard blow to the shoulder that turned black and blue.

“Don told me to get up and hold my hands above my head. So far I have been lucky, but they will have to take me out on a wheelchair or pull me out with a stretcher.”

“Before a match you just pray to God that no one gets hurt,” said Johnson. “But, mostly, I pray that I don’t get hurt.”

The Pedigree is Triple J’s move, which is also the professional Triple H’s finishing move. The move consists of a toe kick to the stomach, a head-lock between the thighs, and then the opponent is slammed to the floor on his face.

Tojo Yamamoto Jr. performed this weekend and is a 37-year-old, second generation wrestler from Metropolis, Illinois.

His father Harold Watanabe, better known as Tojo Yamamoto, was a famous American professional wrestler from Hawaii.

“I have been around it all my life,” said Yamamoto. “My father was a huge star in the Memphis area.”

At age 18 he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. For the past 20 years, he focused on wrestling as a career.

“I make decent money, but I live out of a hotel. I’m in and out of airports and living out of a suitcase....

 “My first match was unexpected; they just threw me in,” said Yamamoto. “I was fourteen, so I had to go under a mask. I was ready. In my heart I was ready. It’s not like Dancing with the Stars. People say they can do it, but once you get in there, you got to learn how to fall, and do this and do that. It’s not easy.”

His favorite wrestler as a kid was Danny Hodge. “Many people probably don’t know who that is, but he is a world champion.”

“My father was my inspiration. But different guys have helped me out, including Don Bass, so I just look up to all those guys.” 

In Illinois, Yamamoto has a school of wrestling and in Los Angeles he promotes a show. “I’m in the ring at least three to four times a week.”

To prepare for a show, he blocks out all the negative things going on around him and focuses on what he needs to do. 

“I am there to perform for the people that probably work 40 hours a week and had to scrounge up the money just to buy a ticket. You got to give it 110 percent.”

Junior has picked on his dad’s old moves. “They say my chop to the chest is pretty rough. They say my chop is harder than my father’s chop, and that is what he is known for.”

This “fake” sport or show has severe injuries that come with it. “I have torn my right ACL five times and never had surgery.”

“If I didn’t enjoy it or didn’t have a passion for it, I wouldn’t want to get in the ring, because I wouldn’t want to hurt myself or somebody else.”

Yamamoto plans to wrestle until the day he dies, with support from his family, friends, and 12-year-old daughter.

“If you’re on this level, you have to be dedicated. I am pretty well-known, and people give me a lot of credit for what I do.”

Tojo Jr. will be performing in the ring as referee at the FedEx Forum in Memphis for the WWE Supershow on August 27. Tickets are available at www.ticketexecutive.com

Yamamoto will join SPWA again this weekend in Ramer.

SPWA wrestling is held every Saturday night at the old Action Apparel Building. The doors open up at 6 p.m. and the bell time is at 8 p.m. with a $5 charge at the door.

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