This is the 23rd edition of the ‘Wrestling with Sin‘ series. It is a series of pieces that delves into the backstage antics of pro wrestling. Many of these stories are of a darker…sometimes seedier nature. As with all the Sin pieces…I do not condone nor do I condemn the alleged participants in these stories.
It’s Time…It’s Time…..It’s Time For Vader to Get out of Japan!
It’s no secret the Japanese mob aka The Yakuza has had a hand in Japanese pro wrestling in one form or another for many years. It is also no secret that Vader who was a huge star in that region…was at times difficult to work with. Put them together and you have this story…
In 2000, Vader signed a deal with Mitsuharu Misawa’s Pro Wrestling Noah promotion. After a somewhat successful run…..Vader had a falling out with Noah’s owner…the late Misawa. As the story goes, Vader was met by a group of men believed to be with a certain faction of the Yakuza and cut Vader several times as a warning. It is believed he was cut in the arms…legs and stomach and was then told to leave the country for an undisclosed amount of time. Vader did indeed leave Japan and wrestled in the indies for about 2 years…until Vader returned to Japan in 2003.
To add further credence to this story, in 2012…two high ranking officials from NOAH were named as apparently having strong ties to the Yakuza. General Manager Ryu Nakata and Counselor Haruka Eigen allegedly went into business with members of the Yakuza to assist in ticket sales and live events. Both Nakata and Eigen were demoted from their high ranking positions (Not fired) and made into regular employees. All of the major Japanese media outlets covered the story and to save face and keep NOAH afloat…announced the demotions and changed company protocols. They gave lectures and educated staff and wrestlers on how to avoid run ins with the Yakuza. Ryu Nakata was a tremendously respected figure in Japanese wrestling and died in 2014 at the age of 51.
Ashes to Ashley
In 2008, a Rolling Stone article came out claiming that former WWE Diva Ashley Massaro was a high priced “escort” for a company called ‘Bella Models.’ The article claims that Massaro was an escort for the company in the years prior to joining the WWE. When this article came out….Massaro was already employed by the WWE and the company requested that Massaro stay silent as to not bring any attention to herself or the WWE.
The actual Bella Models website was down…but archived….and on it…it states Massaro’s name…location as New York City (Massaro is from Long Island) and asking price of $25,000 per night for her services. According to FBI reports…Bella Models recruited…swimsuit models…Playboy playmates and former and current porn stars as its escorts. Massaro did pose for Playboy and was a swimsuit model before her time as a WWE Diva. The author of the Rolling Stone article…Michelle Grigoriadis…stands by her story that the Ashley Massaro in question…is the same Ashley Massaro formerly of the WWE. Ashley Massaro has denied any wrong doing.
Coincidentally, Massaro wasn’t the only female wrestler named as a former escort for the Bella Model Agency….porn star and wrestler Trina Michaels was also implicated. Michaels has also denied that she was an escort and says that the article actually helped her wrestling career.
The Hottest Ticket In Town
In the winter of 2014, independent pro wrestler “The Marquee” Bruce Santee was arrested in Florida after a post on Facebook. Santee was the passenger in a car with a female driver and was pulled over and ticketed for failing to yield to traffic. Santee was allegedly so upset about the ticket…he posted on Facebook that he would offer anyone $100 to kill the traffic officer in question. An off duty cop read the post and alerted authorities. Santee turned himself in and charged with written threats and/or do bodily harm.
According to reports…Santee did make the threatening post, but did so under the influence of alcohol. In June of 2014, Santee was cleared as the State Attorney refused to take the case any further citing that the facts and circumstances did not warrant prosecution.
Before WWE Hall Of Famer Sherri Martel got her start in pro wrestling…she posed nude for an unidentified magazine.
Ed Leslie (Brutus Beefcake) claims that Sherri had a “loose” reputation to help her get her start and big breaks in pro wrestling. Former AWA announcer Larry Nelson added that Sherri and Larry Zbyszko had a torrid affair in the AWA days. While most of the wrestlers were at the bar drinking and partying…Sherri and Larry Zbyszko would retreat to Larry’s hotel room. During interview segments during tapings….Sherri would flash Zbyszko trying to throw off Larry Z or Larry Nelson. Zbyszko was married to his first wife at the time. Word got back to his wife about Sherri and the two would eventually divorce. Larry would end up marrying Verne Gagne’s daughter.