Tama Tonga. If you don’t know that name, well, now’s your chance to recognize. Travelling across the globe, from Mexico to Japan, and a charter member of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s BULLET CLUB, Tama has been wrestling pro since 2008. This former 2-time CMLL World Tag Team Champion and former WWC World Tag Team Champion also comes from a rich wrestling lineage. He is the son of the WWF’s original Tongan bad-ass: Haku (also known as Meng in WCW). Much like his father before him, Tama Tonga is the type of wrestler who lets actions in the ring do the talking for him. That being said, we were able to convince the “Bad Boy” to participate in an email Question & Answer interview. Enjoy!
What was it like growing up in a household where your dad could actually beat up somebody else’s dad? What was it like growing up in a wrestling family in general?
I never really thought about it like that… I was more concerned about him beating my ass lol. I dunno, my mother limited us to watching wrestling… she tried to keep our home as normal as possible, whatever normal may be.
Were you ever surprised to see a wrestler in the ring only to realize they were drastically different personality wise backstage/in life growing up?
No not really. My pops looked like a monster on TV but when he was at home he was the most gentle man.
Who were your favorite wrestlers growing up?
Haku, Macho Man, Ultimate warrior, Razor Ramon.
Why did you choose to become a professional wrestler? Did you ever consider another career?
Because this is something I’ve always wanted to do. I was in the Air Force for 6 years.
Did you get any advice from your Father when you decided to enter the business?
Yes and still to this day I am still getting advice.
What made you settle on your current ring name: Tama Tonga?
Me and my Pops decided on it. Was my pops wrestling name when he was wrestling in Hawaii for Peter Maivia.
Do you think being in the Air Force gave you any unique advantages when you got into wrestling?
For sure. #1. Descipline
Were there any surprising differences comparing growing up as the son of a pro wrestler to entering the business yourself? Was there any struggle to present yourself as your own wrestler in light of your lineage?
I don’t look at myself as a son of a pro wrestler, just as someone trying to make it like everyone else.
Has anybody tried to test you in the locker room or in the ring given your father’s reputation as a legit bad-ass?
No not yet and hopefully never.
What was it like to have The Dudley Boys as your teachers in the ring? Did you learn anything with the way they interact with the crowd?
I think they’re a great place to start, great to learn the basics and they have a great conditioning program.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
What are your thoughts on the New Japan locker room? Who do you spend time with the most? Is there a separation between the locals and Gaijin?
I think it’s a great Locker room. Bullet club. Not that I know of.
Does the language barrier present any difficulties when putting on a match?
No, most of them know English or enough.
Which venue is your favourite to wrestle in Japan?
Tokyo Dome or in Osaka.
What’s your favorite activities to do in Japan when not wrestling?
Why do you think NJPW is so successful? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
Great booker. Change nothing.
What did you think of your time wrestling in Mexico? Did you enjoy it? Would ever consider working there full-time?
Mexico was a learning experience. I enjoyed my time very much. Not sure.
What is the one biggest difference between wrestling in Japan and wrestling in Mexico?
Mexico seems a little chaotic in the ring.
Do you watch wrestling in your leisure time? If not, what do you like to do?
Here and there. I like being in the gym so my day is scheduled around gym time.
Do you prefer working tag matches or wrestling singles matches? Do you prefer being a babyface or a heel where you get booed? Is it sometimes a struggle if you have to transition between the two?
I like both singles and tags . I am eager to do both sides… always trying to learn.
What do you consider as your best match?
We’ll have to keep waiting…
Who is your favorite opponent to wrestle and why?
Tanahashi. The man is the best wrestler in the world.
Did you ever have a match that had to be altered during the match due to the crowd reaction?
Yup, in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Were there any injuries you suffered in a match that you knew instantly something was wrong?
Broken hand. Tweaked knee. Separated shoulder. Dislocated shoulder. Fractured ankle.
With the news of NJPW working with ROH are you interested in appearing in ROH or any of the other larger US independent companies?
Not sure, we’ll see…
Who would you like to wrestle in the future that you haven’t gotten a chance to wrestle yet?
No one comes to mind.
What do you think of your brother Tevita’s role in NXT/WWE as Camacho? Regardless of where, do you ever see yourselves working for the same promotion in the future?
He’s doing his thing. Hopefully they’ll soon see that he’s a very talented individual. Definitely see us together again.
How is your father doing and would you ever like to tag with him if it’s possible?
My pops is still walking strong… Tag? No, but maybe manage me and brother.
What’s your goal in wrestling? Going all the way in New Japan? Wrestling full-time in the States? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
All the way with New Japan. That’s my home.
Special Thanks: We would like to thank the great wrestling fans at therealtsm.com and puroresufan.com for submitting the questions for this interview. All photo credits go to New Japan Pro Wrestling, CMLL, Gonzalo Lopez Peralta as well as Tama Tonga himself. A second and final thanks, again to the man himself, Tama Tonga for taking the time to participate in this interview!
Please keep your eyes on culturecrossfire.com for our next Q&A interview, with Bullet Club member “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson!