Zama SlamFest delivers pro wrestling on demand

By BRYCE S. DUBEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 5, 2007

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Twenty-four angry, shirtless men wielding chairs, chains and hammers stormed into Zama’s Yano Fitness Center on Saturday night as the base hosted its first SlamFest professional wrestling exhibition.

Stars from the New Japan Pro-Wrestling roster — including “Giant Bernard,” “Travis Tomko,” “Tiger Mask” and tag-team villains Jado and Gedo — punched, kicked and slammed their opponents in front of a crowd of roughly 1,600 spectators.

“We’re looking for new unique things to offer the Camp Zama community, beyond your tradition MWR events,” said Jeffrey Wertz, Zama’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation director.

Planning for the event began six months ago, after someone came into the office suggesting that MWR try and bring pro wrestling to the base, he said. During the following months, MWR and New Japan promoters worked to make the event a reality.

Wertz said one of the biggest challenges was working with New Japan to secure an event date, as many wrestlers are constantly performing on the road.

Once the date was chosen, coordination with base legal, safety, engineering and security officials made sure that everything could take place without trouble, he said.

One thing that made the event unique was that admission was free.

Tickets to regular pro wrestling events in Japan start around $40 and can cost as much as $100 per seat, Wertz said.

“For a family of four, they could easily be spending more than $200 if they went to see wrestling off base,” he said.

During intermission, local karate students gave a demonstration of their skills and children from the base got a chance to learn a few moves from Giant Bernard and Tiger Mask.

“It was kinda scary,” said Trey Von Fowler, 13. “Giant Bernard is really big.”

“It was a nice event, very entertaining and fun for the family,” said Jen Wallis, who attended the event with her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Tom Wallis, and their son, Cody.

Her husband agreed, saying, “The more variety of events they can bring here, the better it is for everyone in the community.”

Wertz said that if the show proves to be a success, he’d like to see SlamFest become an annual event.

Teammates “Akira” and “Thunder Giger” battle “Jado” and “Gedo” in a tag-team wrestling match during Slam Fest.