Hi there! For those who don’t know, I am “The Snowflake” C.J. Pricefield. A few weeks ago, I had the distinct honor of being able to attend a 5 day training camp at the newly opened New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo in Los Angeles, California. Join me over the next few days as I recount the soreness, expensive food, rental car strats, and of course 5 days of training with the great Katsuyori Shibata.
March 26: Day 1: It was 2:30 in the morning when I woke up this day thus completing 15 hours of sleep over the course of 3 days. Between two Rocky Mountain Pro shows, and the excitement about the events of the upcoming week, I was totally fine with missing a little bit of sleep. After getting ready and running one last check of my bags, I headed to D.I.A, more ready to take on the day than I had been in a long while. I had little issue with TSA at 4 in the morning. As I waited to board, I was running through every possible scenario I could think of about how the next week at the New Japan Pro Wrestling L.A. Dojo would go. Questions of what we would be doing, ways I could stand out, and if I was physically prepared enough for it were all running through my thoughts as I boarded my flight. The mental preparation ceased as I was able to fully calm myself once I sat in my seat and took a deep breath. I felt ready to take on anything. The flight itself went great as the amount of leg room combined with the complimentary breakfast made it clear that the $60 upgrade to business class was absolutely worth it. The one issue with the flight was when attempting to land at LAX, the plane couldn’t land because another plane hadn’t taken off in time, meaning the pilot had to make a fairly long u-turn to get back to runway.
But, we landed safely. L.A. gets a lot of hate for some reason, but stepping outside on the clear California morning only reinforced my love of that city. After walking a short distance to a less crowded area, I ubered to a shopping center near the dojo to change and get ready for camp. After some final introspection, I walked literally down the street because the dojo lies in a land where sidewalks are few and far between. When I got to the dojo, there was a crowd of other participants gathered, introducing themselves to one another. I went around and did the same. This was a diverse group of people not just from all over the country, but from all over the world as well. People came from as close as Hollywood, and as far away as Finland and Australia for this camp. There were people who had been doing this for 10+ years, people who had been doing this for 6 months, people who had been on NXT multiple times, and people who maybe, sort of implied that Vince Russo might be showing patterned of racist behavior on TV. After introductions, I began mentally preparing for training. One thing that immediately stood out was the mystique of the dojo. Not just the fact that it is the official U.S. training center for the second biggest wrestling company in the world, but the way it was treated by the people who worked there. Before being allowed in the dojo, you are required to wipe down the bottoms of your training shoes with a rubbing alcohol solution. You are then required to remove your outside shoes at the door and put them in cubbies just inside. There is a level of respect for the facility itself that I haven’t seen anywhere I’ve been yet. Once we were all ready in the training area, the coaches introduced themselves.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of Scorpio Sky until I got the email revealing the coaches, but he seemed like a good dude right away. But all of the attention was on the other coach. It was surreal standing feet away from Katsuyori Shibata. For a while he has been one of my favorite wrestlers on the planet for his memorable battles with another favorite, Tomohiro Ishii, but his legendary match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis 2017 cemented him as an all time favorite. Being star struck quickly faded away as it was time to get down to business. After some stretching, Shibata-San tasked all the students with 300 synchronous squats. Right off the bat, the infamous workouts of the New Japan Dojo took their toll, as near the middle of the set of squats, one of the trainees collapsed and later had to taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of a leg injury (there is a happy ending to this as they were okay and even returned on days 4&5). The intense 2 hour workout, consisting of many body weight exercises, gave even the most fit trainee the challenge of their lives. I prepared for this camp by working my way up to a total of 500 squats/push-ups/sit-ups, at altitude, over the course of a day. I was still wildly underprepared for what Shibata-San had in store for us on this first day. We had a quick lunch break and went back inside where we found Rocky Romero and Tiger Hattori familiarizing themselves with the dojo. We were all brought together to start the second half of our day, when Rocky introduced us to our super secret guest trainer. Immediately my mind jumped around from various New Japan stars, as their big show “Strong Style Evolved” was the night before. Would it be Kenny Omega? Could it be The Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi? I laughed to myself when my mind got to Kazuchika Okada, because that didn’t seem like that would be realistic.
Yet, almost as if it were a dream, Rocky Romero announced the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, my favorite wrestler, and someone I consider to not only be the best in the world right now but a possible best of all time performer when he finally hangs up those weird pants for good. As the Rainmaker himself stepped out from the coaches area, a stunned silence came over the trainees. As surreal as it was training with Shibata-San, that feeling was quintupled for the next 3 hours of training with the best wrestler on the planet. The rest of the training session was spent going over the basics with Okada and his manager Gedo. After the 5 hours of intense training, I was ready for some heavy relaxation until I could go pick up my rental car. With everything I brought with me to the City of Angels, I walked back down the road to 24 hour fitness in search of a hot tub. What I found was maybe the only 24 hour fitness I’ve ever seen that didn’t have one. In place of a hot tub, I took a long shower and headed to a nearby Target for some much needed food. I waited for my food, completely oblivious to the world around me. When I got up to go pick up my order, I walked near a familiar looking 6’4” Japanese man with blonde hair. It was Okada! But instead of stopping and having a conversation with the best wrestler in the world, my extreme social awkwardness took over as I said hello and kept walking as he excitedly responded.
It wasn’t until I got my food that I had worried, “Did I just accidentally big-time Okada”. By the time I could head back to my table, Gedo and another man were headed out, and Okada rushed to catch up with them. I cursed myself for the next hour or so for being a socially awkward idiot until it was time to go pick up my rental car/bed for the week. This trip was extremely expensive so one of my cost cutting measures was to sleep in the car and shower at the aforementioned 24 hour fitness so I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room. I took a lyft to a park by the Korean friendship bell in the San Pedro area of L.A. Once I got to the park I was blown away by both the high winds and the drop dead gorgeous view. After I got the car, I was so drawn in by the view that I went on a drive west down Palos Verdes Dr, a road that weaves through high end housing areas sandwiched between the steep hills and the ocean. I drove until I found a grocery store, where I bought some food for the night. While there, I was bored and decided to go on a drive. I eventually plotted a course to a Walmart in Burbank where I was going to pick up a few things that I couldn’t get at the grocery store. If you’ve never driven in L.A, it really isn’t that difficult until it becomes extremely difficult. As I neared my destination, I missed one turn because I was fighting off Mr. Sandman, who was trying to force sleep on me the way Minoru Suzuki forces his foot into the chests of the New Japan young boys. I somehow kept missing that same turn for 35 minutes until I finally ended up where I wanted to go. I got what I needed at Walmart and decided this was to be the end of my first night. I drove the 45 minutes back to the 24 hour fitness by the dojo, desperately trying not to fall asleep the whole way. I made it back safe, sound, sore, and sleepy. I pulled into a dark part of the parking lot and went to sleep.
Part 2 Coming Soon