A lucha journey: DOUKI & Desperado in Conversation (1/2)

NJPW audiences first saw DOUKI during Best of the Super Juniors in 2019, where he was a last minute entrant filling the vacancy left when El Desperado broke his jaw days before the tournament began. DOUKI’s past, being taken under the wing of Taichi after travelling to Mexico as a teen has been documented, but ‘Japones del mal’ also has a long history with ‘Despe’. When the two get together, the result is some wild stories being told…

I met DOUKI in Mexico City, he didn’t know right from left

–So actually we were planning to just interview DOUKI. Then you, Desperado jumped in on Twitter with some cheeky comments and that brought us to this. 

El Desperado (ED): Heh, I didn’t think that you would actually call me in from that.

DOUKI: (laughs)

ED: But if we can make something off the back of a dumb joke, that’s all good. 

–So first of all, when exactly did you two first meet? 

ED: I was in Mexico in the countryside really, and I came up to Mexico City, met him there. He really didn’t know right from left at that point. Were you DOUKI by then? Or were you Kansuke then?

DOUKI: I think I was in between the two.

–You used to wrestle as ‘Kansuke’?

DOUKI: You know, I think you came to my first match as DOUKI, actually. Garza was there…

ED: Ohhh! With Jalapeno! 

DOUKI: No, no, Jalapeno wasn’t there. I think it was a fan fest deal…

–Sorry, I think this conversation has gotten quite inside baseball quite quickly…

ED: My bad, my bad. Garza is Hector Garza. 

–The heavyweight luchador; he had quite a few matches in NJPW. 

ED: You wouldn’t think so to look at him but he used to be a fantastic high flier. He was a huge guy though.

DOUKI: Oh, yeah, massive. 

ED: He passed away from cancer in ’13. That match would have been toward the end of his career, right? 

DOUKI: Yeah, it would have been. 

ED: His son is in the WWE system now. They look quite a bit alike, right?

DOUKI: Angel Garza. Yeah, they’re very similar facially. About the same height as well. 

ED: Yeah, yeah… Wait, what were we talking about again? (laughs)

I met Taichi the moment I arrived in Mexico

–Your first meeting..?

ED: Ah yeah! Right, I think it was that Perros Del Mal show that Garza was at. Perros Del Mal used to be a unit in CMLL, a bit like CHAOS or Suzuki-Gun, and they started getting really over, but then all sorts of things happened and they were out of CMLL. 

–So it was as if all of Suzuki-Gun went independent?

ED: Yeah. Like Rusher Kimura with IWE back in the day. 

DOUKI: Deep cut, heh. Del Mal was featuring Perro Aguayo Junior pretty heavily, and then there was Garza, Halloween, Damian, quite a few big lucha names. 

ED: It was a super indie, kinda thing. That was where you changed from Kansuke to DOUKI? 

DOUKI: Yeah.

ED: So I’ve been with you since you started as DOUKI, and Taichi was with you when you started, period.

–Milano Collection A.T. connected you to Taichi when you first traveled to Mexico at age 18.

DOUKI: That’s right. I met him day one, the moment I arrived in Mexico.

ED: Well it wasn’t as if Taichi knew everything there was to know. That was his first time in Mexico, too!

DOUKI: Yeah, you’re right! He’d been in Mexico for all of about a month when I met him. 

Everything around Arena Coliseo is messed up. It’s in the middle of the toughest part of town you can think of.

–So what led you to becoming DOUKI?

DOUKI: Well I trained in Mexico for a year before I debuted, and then I was Kansuke for another year or so.

ED: Did you have the same gear as Kansuke?

DOUKI: No, the DOUKI gear is the DOUKI gear.

ED: Ah, OK. I never saw you wrestle as Kansuke. You haven’t really changed your look since you became DOUKI.

–What did you think of DOUKI the first time you saw him wrestle?

ED: Ah, man it was ages ago, I can’t remember.

DOUKI: There were too many people in that match anyway.

ED: It’s hard to stand out in something like that. What was it, a ten man?

DOUKI: Yeah. But oddly enough, Garza said nice things about it.

ED: He really watched every single match. Anyway, afterward DOUKI taught me a lot about Mexico City. Where did you debut?

DOUKI: In Plan Sexenal. Near Arena Naucalplan.

–Naucalplan is quite famous, isn’t it?

ED: It’s where the Toryumon Dojo used to be. If you think of Arena Mexico of being where the Tokyo Dome is in Suidobashi, if you went to Kawagoe in the suburbs, Naucalplan would be there.

–That’s quite a distance.

ED: I know the NJPW guys that were sent to the Toryumon Gym hated it, going back and forth to Arena Mexico. Don’t blame them one bit, I wouldn’t have liked it either. 

–A lot of the Japanese wrestlers stayed in a place called San Fernando, I hear.

ED: Yeah, apparently Yujiro Takahashi discovered that place when he was on excursion. It’s only about 15 minutes walk from Arena Mexico; not that you want to be walking anywhere around there. 

DOUKI: Oh, no way. Rough area.

–It’s rough around Arena Mexico?

ED: I’d imagine there’s massive warnings in all the travel books. It’s a really poor area, is the thing. That’s the thing about lucha in Mexico. It isn’t rich man’s entertainment. It’s much broader, much more working class. 

DOUKI: Yeah. Arena Mexico is one thing, but Coliseo…

ED: Oh, it’s messed up around Coliseo. Right in the middle of the toughest part of town you can think of. 

The walls people put up between promotions are weird. We don’t care about any of that.

–So what were your initial impressions of one another?

ED: I know I was pretty much still a kid at the time. I must have been pretty annoying. 

DOUKI: Nah, when we first met we got on pretty well. We’d go out to eat or watch movies together.

ED: Training would only amount to three or four hours every day. After that we’d hit WalMart together, cook and hang out watching (streaming service) NicoNico all day. 

DOUKI: We’d be up watching stuff until 2,3 in the morning…

–So you really hit it off?

ED: We have a similar sense of humour. We both like watching similar anime as well. 

–It’s interesting that years before we saw DOUKI in NJPW, you were getting that kind of support and connections in place. 

DOUKI: We did spend a lot of time together.

ED: The thing is, I think the walls people put up between promotions are weird. We don’t care about any of that. 

–DOUKI, you’ve said in the past that Desperado taught you what was great about lucha libre.

DOUKI: Right. I really didn’t know about anything other than Mexico, so that meant I didn’t know what really made the style special and distinct.

ED: The thing about DOUKI is that from his very foundations he’s a luchador. So he really struggled with the rhythm of pro-wrestling. He found it very difficult to swing between the two.

–Wait, you think lucha libre and pro-wrestling are different things entirely?

ED: Hmmm, if we’re going to deep dive into that, I always bring up Dragon (Ryu) Lee vs Kamaitachi (Hiromu Takahashi). They made their rivalry in Mexico, but what they created got over all over the world, and the reason they were able to do that was because it wasn’t lucha. It was pro-wrestling. 

–You wouldn’t class that rivalry as lucha libre.

ED: I’d say what was amazing about that rivalry wasn’t that it got over in America, Japan, all those places, but that those two went out into Arena Mexico and blew Mexican people away with pro-wrestling. 

 –It wasn’t something the lucha fans were used to seeing at all.

DOUKI: See me, I only ever knew lucha.

ED: DOUKI loved lucha, so he trained to be a luchador. Then he was so completely absorbed into it that he didn’t really understand -even though he loved it- he didn’t really understand what was great about lucha libre. Wheras I came from loving pro-wrestling and got into lucha from there. So I had the reference points, I had the vocabulary you need to say ‘oh this stuff’s amazing, and this is why’.

–So you really thought DOUKI was the model luchador.

ED: Right. He’s a luchador through and through. So to an extent I’d like to see him focus on lucha; he doesn’t really need to try and approach a match like a pro-wrestler. But then again, when you’re put in matches with all these wrestlers, well, that becomes a challenge. It’s a tricky thing.

–But that creates its own possibilities.

ED: Oh, absolutely. If he gets in there and does that lucha style chain wrestling, nobody can keep up with him.

DOUKI: Heheh.

ED: He’s like the ‘llave maestro’

–The llave maestro?

ED: The maestro, Negro Navarro. He had Kazuchika Okada’s debut when he was in Toryumon, you know.

DOUKI: He had Okada’s debut?

ED: That guy pretty much built Arena Naucalpan.

–And you’d put DOUKI on a level with him?

ED: You learned a lot from the best, right?

DOUKI: Oh yeah, Villano, Black Terry, a lot of guys. I don’t know about being compared to the maestro though. Thing is, you know the old cliche of the man with 1000 holds? There’s countless little tricks and techniques with llave. More than there are kanji.

ED: Heheh. If you get deep into kanji there’s all sorts of things even a Japanese person can’t read, right? It’s the same with llave; you look at stuff and you just can’t get your head around just how that joint bends in that direction.

–So you would say DOUKI knows a lot of tricks you don’t?

 ED: Oh, what I know about llave is the tip of the iceberg compared to him. I’d say I have about five percent of the knowledge he does, if I’m lucky.

Hipster luchas? They’re the guys that think doing a dive and wearing a mask is all it takes.

–So, there are quite a few wrestlers, DOUKI, that you call ‘hipster luchas’

DOUKI: Yeah, there are, heheh.

ED: There are a lot of hacks that think if they fly about a bit that makes them a lucha guy. If the fans think that, that’s one thing, but as a professional there’s some self respect involved in that. To learn a couple of dives and then call yourself a luchador is an insult. 

DOUKI: I can do a dive here and there, I wear a mask, look at me, I’m a luchador!

ED: Well, hang on, I think you’re being a bit too obvious with your criticism here…I won’t say his name, but he did have a mask versus mask match in Naucalpan…

DOUKI: Against Official 911! (laughs)

–I think we’re going to get deep in the lucha weeds again here…

ED: Oh, sure. Let me tell you a story about Pantera one and Pantera 2, and the real evil Pantera…

DOUKI: Hahaha!

–This is getting pretty tricky to keep up with.

ED: I’ll get us back on track. I agree with DOUKI. I can’t stand the guys who call themselves luchadors but are really faking. He’s the real deal.

–You have a lot of respect for one another.

ED: Well, I think the thing about me as well, people call me a lucha brawler, but I’m not. I do pro-wrestling out there. I can do lucha, but I’m a pro-wrestler here.

A ring in the middle of the street is an everyday thing in Mexico.


–So to get us back to the point here, a lot of wrestlers who have been on excursion come back with some crazy tales. Hiromu Takahashi said he wrestled in a ring that was right in the middle of the street.

DOUKI: Oh, a ring in the middle of the street is an everyday thing in Mexico. 

ED: Ever try wrestling in a ring in the middle of an uphill street?

–No way! Steep?

ED: I mean, if you dropped a ball, it would pick up a good bit of speed.

DOUKI: (laughs)

ED: So you’d get more speed going off the ropes so you were running downhill (laughs).

DOUKI: There was definitely an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ on that ring.


ED: So you’d shoot someone to the ‘upper’ ropes and they’d come back at like, double the speed (laughs)

–That seems crazy.

ED: Well, I mean, there just wasn’t anywhere else, really, right? In Mexico they have a Children’s Day, so they have these, I guess they’re like neighbourhood associations?

DOUKI: You could call it that, yeah.

ED: And on Children’s Day these associations scrape up some cash and then they book guys from CMLL, AAA, the indies.

–Regardless of contracts?

ED: Well, if there are any issues with politics or heat, the promotions will tell these associations what matches they need to make. You put two guys from different companies in there that have heat with one another and it becomes something you probably don’t want to show the little kids.

DOUKI: That’s for sure.

ED: So it becomes ‘kiddy lucha’ I guess. It’s a lot of fun, to wrestle and to watch.

–Outdoor matches are quite common in Mexico.

ED: Well whenever there’s a festival or an event, it’s just a matter of course. You book the band and you book the luchadors. It’s like that Pixar movie, Coco. Just not as clean (laughs)

DOUKI: You got that right (laughs). But yeah, exactly. They always have that little band stand in the middle of town.

ED: I love that about those Mexican towns.

The ring’s fit to collapse by match number three

–So rings in the middle of the street is quite commonplace.

ED: Oh yeah. It’s not viewed as minor league or anything. The lower end of these shows, you’d be in a place they call an arena, but it’s literally just dirt floors. 

DOUKI: There’s dirt floors and then there’s just mud. Or sand. I wrestled on the beach for DTU once.

ED: DTU! Eita from Dragon Gate used to be the champion there.

–So the ring was right there on the beach?

DOUKI: Yep, right by the sea. They just threw a ring up on the beach.

ED: Man, those rings are fit to collapse by the third match on the beach like that. I’ve never wrestled on sand. 

DOUKI: I did once.

–What kind of event was that?

DOUKI: I don’t even know whether you could call it an event. People showed up to see it, but with DTU…

ED: It’s a different kind of place.

DOUKI: They have a very strange kind of approach. Like ‘we’re not to be messed with’. They’re wrestling these matches on the beach, but they’re flying all over the place and beating the hell out of each other.

ED: It isn’t a Children’s Day event, but they’re wrestling on a beach and thinking they’re in Korakuen Hall. It’s wild.


More stories to come in part two!