In Weekly Pro-Wrestling #2063 (6/5/20) Meiko Satomura was interviewed about the steps that Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling is taking due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
ShuPro: First I’d like to ask you about the state of Sendai Girls’ shows.
Meiko Satomura: The show scheduled for May 17th at the Niigata City Gymnasium has been postponed, and all of the April shows have been cancelled. And the weekly Senjo Circle (dojo training that normal people can participate it), events in Sendai, and school outreach have all been cancelled.
SP: What are the wrestlers doing now that there are no matches?
Meiko: Since there’s an emergency declaration in force now they are staying at home, but a bit earlier when it was decided that we couldn’t hold shows I thought that we would have to change something, so we did a shift in direction. Thanks to our two year relationship with Igarashi Shōkai (the company that Sendai Girls’ partnered with to make Knowhime rice) we were able to find places to go to do agricultural work. [Sendai Girls’ is working with farms in Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture that they were introduced to by their sponsor Igarashi Shōkai]
SP: How many times a week do you do that?
Meiko: The current contract is for the two months of April and May and at first we had a schedule of going three times a week, but now that we have to be at home we can’t go that frequently, but it will restart.
SP: What do you specifically do?
Meiko: We do things like the preparation for the famers to plant rice seedlings in the fields, sowing seeds, weeding, and plowing fields.
SP: That sounds like hard work!
Meiko: That’s right. We’re going back and forth 200 times holding five kilograms of seeds!
SP: That sounds like it’s basically the same as training.
Meiko: It definitely is (haha).
SP: Your profession is being a wrestler, so it must be tough doing agricultural work that you’re not used to.
Meiko: But since we’ve been doing rice farming for the last two years we’ve become quite skilful at it. Our wrestlers have strength and stamina, so they often get praised by the agricultural workers. And besides, (Mika) Iwata studied agriculture in high school, so she has plenty of confidence.
SP: That must be a big help. And working in the fields under the clear blue sky must be good for health.
Meiko: It is. And honestly in a place where there’s nothing but fields, the risk of infection is low.
SP: Even though you can’t hold matches you are still helping your home region.
Meiko: Yes. And besides, at at time when we don’t have any money coming in from shows it stops the wrestlers getting into their own heads about not being able to wrestle. Of course, they’re also paid for their farm work.
SP: In the wrestling world is it something that only Sendai Girls’ could do?
Meiko: I think so. Because we’re based in Miyagi Prefecture, and even though right now we have to stay at home I think that we can’t have the idea that if there are no matches then wrestlers can’t work. Essentially, I think that’s the result of being very prideful. It’s natural to have pride and think “I just live on pro wrestling”, but in this time of an emergency declaration we have to be willing to change and we made the change quickly. On March 14th there was an emergency declaration in the USA and on that day I was on the phone to the agriculture company to talk about money.
SP: I thought that you have a lot of pride as a wrestler, but you were able to make this change quickly?
Meiko: Normally I have a lot of jobs to do for the company, so I have to be flexible. If wrestlers just know how to train and wrestle that’s no good is it? Of course, our wrestlers aren’t allowed to have part-time jobs and when they join they have to fully commit to wrestling, but in this emergency time when the world is like this, it’s not the time to be prideful. As it drags on there are lots of people who are either secure because they get paid a wage, or people who are freelancers that get paid per match, and there’s a big difference in degrees of security for those people. So I think that it’s a lot better to make the change to feeling secure because you’re getting paid a fixed wage.
SP: When you start matches again it’s going to change isn’t it?
Meiko: Honestly I think changes are coming.
SP: Can you expecting the wrestlers to grow and develop during this time period?
Meiko: I think they can develop, and maybe they will start to feel the hunger of freelance wrestlers’ determination to survive.
SP: How did you personally feel about the fact that the Niigata show, where you were going to celebrate your twenty fifth anniversary as a wrestler, was postponed?
Meiko: My feelings were changed quite quickly. Going through the Tohoku Earthquake [in 2011] had a big influence on this. This time the crisis isn’t limited to Miyagi Prefecture, it’s affecting the whole world, but I’m used to having to deal with difficult situations.
SP: Because you overcame that you’re able to deal with emergency situations without panicking.
Meiko: Yes. Actually because of that experience I totally committed myself to wrestling. Suddenly we had to do everything ourselves. We lost our dojo and our offices, about half of our wrestlers quit, we had zero staff, so at that time I was one person doing at least five jobs. I did jobs that took three people, from office work to booking to match making to getting a license so I could drive the truck that transported the ring – I did everything. I was doing business and travelling around the country.
SP: I know that the current situation is different, but now that you have wrestlers around you that you can rely on do you feel a sense of confidence?
Meiko: I do. All the wrestlers help, so I feel very confident.
SP: Now you have a lot of young wrestlers. It’s a shame that the “Jaja Uma Tournament” was postponed after the first round.
Meiko: I was worried if the wrestlers who were in the tournament would understand, but the Olympics was also postponed for a year. Compared to the Olympic athletes I’m sure it’s not as disappointing. Of course, when it’s possible to have matches again we want to hold the tournament somewhere.
SP: I know that it’s difficult to make a prediction right now, but when do you anticipate being able to hold shows again?
Meiko: I think it’s better not to try and guess right now. After things return to normal it’s still going to be a very tough situation. The food and drink industry and the tourist industry are struggling, and there’s certainly going to be a worldwide recession. In that case ticket sales may also be bad, so we have to anticipate that.
SP: We can’t just think about dealing with the current situation we also have to think about what will happen next.
Meiko: That’s right. I don’t really have a lot of hope about being able to restart, honestly this could go on for a year or two. If I think back two or three months I can vaguely remember thinking that having so many shows that we were almost in a war wasn’t a good thing, and now all at once every promotion can’t hold shows.
SP: Shows with fans are without exception postponed or cancelled.
Meiko: From here on I honestly think they’re going to be limited. There will be promotions that can do it, and promotions that can’t do it. Because of this squeeze I think that the best will survive, and it’s possible that a good period might come out of this. Right now there’s too much confusion, and I think that we need to re-examine things.
SP: This is probably a time when the pro wrestling world will change. As an individual who leads a promotion it must be difficult.
Meiko: It is tough, but in the future I think there are going to be a lot of people who come forward to take on responsibility. But honestly, if that happens they are going to die. If they take on too many burdens. Because management makes you first collapse mentally, then physically, then you are driven to the point of death. So we have to work to stop that happening, we have to look after ourselves, but of course we have to protect the things that need protecting. While regulating that side of things, we need to consider how we will go forward.
SP: Right now, what are you saying to the wrestlers?
Meiko: Don’t be lazy at home!!! Hehehe.
SP: Of course, you can’t keep an eye on exactly what they’re doing at home can you.
Meiko: Not at all, but even if I don’t say anything I think the wrestlers are mostly doing training, and then playing on their smart phones the rest of the time. There’s a sense that we should be using this time productively, and also that the fans are watching what we do. So as soon as the period of staying at home ends, on top of being thorough in our virus prevention I can’t let the wrestlers rest.
SP: What do you mean by that?
Meiko: Doing farm work and training single-mindedly – working hard to improve our skills so that when we’re able to start having matches again then we can explode back into action.