From LPWA to FMW to JWP to AJW to ECW to ARSION, Reggie Bennett did it all as a female professional wrestler. The top foreigner during the very best years of AJW, Bennett cemented herself in the history books as one of the best during the absolute peak of women’s wrestling. We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to talk with this legend, especially now as a new age of women’s wrestling dawns in the US, due in no small part to the foundation Bennett and her colleagues laid out in AJW and ARSION. We hope all of our readers enjoy this special interview as much as we do.
Photos courtesy LPWA.
Why did you decide to become a wrestler and how did you get started?
I was never a big fan of wrestling when I first started. As a matter of fact, the first match I saw I was in . It all started in Venice, California when I met Mondo Guerrero. He was training my now ex-husband for a wrestling movie. He asked me if I wanted to make some money with my body. At the time I was a Bodybuilder I thought he was propositioning me, haha. The next thing I knew I was getting my face and body rubbed all over the mat.
There was a big show going to Hawaii and then down the coast of California and they needed a girl to be in a 10 women Battle Royal because they were one short. Mondo taught me how to go over the top rope and that’s all I really knew. What a trip! We didn’t have much money as a matter of fact I lived for a week off a bag of change because they didn’t pay us like they said they would.
Welcome to the world of wrestling! I was bit. You have to understand, I’m one of 9 kids and I thought, “Wow! I can fight, get paid for it and not get in trouble? Whoo hooo!”
You wrestled in the Ladies Professional Wrestling Association (LPWA) in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Please share any thoughts on your time there.
In the late 80’s women’s wrestling was at an all time high here in the states with the LPWA. By this time I had gotten some training in with Mondo and went off to Las Vegas and met up with Brad Reinghans of Minnesota where they sent me and Terry Powers to train (god almighty damn it was freezing up there). We also met up with Dangerous Denise Storm, she is from there. We trained every day and it was great met a lot of the Boys up there.
Shortly afterwards, you went to Japan for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling. How did that opportunity come about?
Back in LA I went out for a commercial that was being shot in Japan . I landed it. It was for a vitamin sports drink named DaDan[1. See Reggie’s famous commercial here.] when I went there I remembered that Despina Montagas was up there and she and I went shopping, and she took me to meet her husband Tarzan Tiger Goto with FMW Oh my god, that was some crazy shit. I had never seen more blood in a ring in my life, I worked with them for 2 weeks. On my first tour we traveled to Hokkaido . I couldn’t speak the language and the American guys on the tour didn’t talk to me.
Well, my commercial hit about the same time and it was a huge hit. I did every talk show, game show, newspaper; you name it and we did it . I became the Hottest thing in Japan (Rock Star status), and I kept being asked to go back. My commercial became the #1 commercial for 1990-91.
When you went to Japan, what was it like? Where did you stay? How did the wrestlers and promotion initially respond to you?
Needless to say everyone responded to me very well. I stayed in some really nice Hotels and everyone was so nice to me I really enjoyed Japan. I still miss my life over there. Everyone started a bidding war to get me to go to their company. Eventually I chose to start working for JWP so I could work on the same card with Terry Powers since we became fast friends at LPWA . After she left that promotion I went to work with AJW because they were a bigger company.
With so many all time greats, what was the AJW locker room like? Who were the leaders that you learned the most from?
AJW was great! Bigger shows and a lot of legends. Bull Nakano was impressive as well as Aja Kong , Akira Hokuto, Yumiko Hotta, Mima Shimoda and Etsuko Mita. But there was a language barrier so I didn’t get to know them as well as I would have liked, but we all ate together and partied when we went out with promoters. We did that a lot. Though when you don’t know the language, [it can] get a little boring when you don’t know what everyone is talking about.
You were part of some of the greatest Joshi Puroresu cards in history. What was in like being on those huge shows with tens of thousands of fans?
It was great, and a lot of hurry up and wait. Get dressed, take photos, meet and greet the fans, do interviews. Fumi Saito helped me through most of it. He became a great friend. It was nice having a friend that could speak English and translate everything to me and teach me the language. When I thought I would go crazy on the road I would call and talk with him. We would do 200 matches a year. Not a lot of down time.
Those supershows often had inter–promotional matches. In general, how did you and the other AJW wrestlers feel about the competing Joshi companies?
It was cool. They all knew each other, so it was like a family reunion, We watched each others matches to see their style . We felt that we had the best company because AJW has been around the longest.
You wrestled Chigusa Nagayo at the Big Egg Universe show. The two of you went toe-to-toe in a pretty violent battle. What were your feelings going into this match, knowing that you were facing arguably the most popular Joshi pro wrestler ever? How do you think she viewed you?
Chigusa Nagayo came out of retirement for that match and wanted to make a major comeback. That was a huge arena to do a show and the entire card lasted 12 hours . Just getting to the ring took no less the 6
minutes. Waiting for her to come out seemed to take forever. When she did, she started to put me and all American wrestlers down. I was not going to put up with that crap and neither were the fans and the press tore her up about that. After that match she got a lot of bad press because of her attitude. Did she like me? No, I don’t think so, and I wasn’t that impressed with her either! Manami Toyota, Aja Kong , Kyoko Inoue and most of our girls were 10 times better than she was.
Akira Hokuto was one of the bigger stars at the time and you two wrestled a bit. What were your thoughts on her?
I have a lot of respect for Akira Hokuto that woman was impressive we had a lot of matches against each other and as Tag Team partners. We even traveled to Korea and did some matches there. She had a lot of power for such a small woman. It was a blast working with her.
On May 15, 1995, you won the IWA Women’s championship from Manami Toyota. At that time, she was also the WWWA Champion. What do you remember about that win?? How did it feel that the promotion had faith in you to match you up with the top wrestler in the company at the time?
Manami Toyota was one of my favorites. She had style and grace in and out of the ring. To be put in for a title match against her was such a trip, I was ecstatic about it. I had been in Japan for 5 years and had paid my dues, so to speak. And when they offered, I took it! Turned out I won! Whoo Hoo!
Whom do you feel that you had your best matches with in AJW? Did you have a favorite tag partner?
I had great matches with all of them! Stand out matches though would have to be with Yumiko Hotta and Aja Kong. We were the big girls. As far as favorite Tag Team partner, Mariko Yoshida hands down.
1996 and 1997 saw many top wrestlers leave AJW. Toshiyo Yamada left for GAEA, Aja Kong left, and eventually Kyoko Inoue left. At the time, what were the thoughts of the locker room? Were there any meetings held by the promotion, or by the wrestlers themselves, to address the situation?
When all that went down I took a break from Japan. I wanted to come home to the States to try to get something started here . See, I really wanted to become famous here in America that didn’t pan out. Everyone knew that I had worked in Japan and they didn’t want to wrestle me. ECW gave me a bit of a try and I guess I could have worked with the boys, but I wanted to fight against women. So when Rossy Ogawa and Mariko came out to California and told me what happened they offered me a spot with ARSION.
So how exactly did you become involved with the first ECW pay-per-view “Barely Legal?”
I had met Raven in Japan like I did most of the Boys when they came out to do matches in Japan. He was nice enough to invite me to the show where I could see my buddy Terry Funk, whom I did Over the Top with, and used see whenever he was in Japan. They just worked me into that show. It was fun! How often do you get a chance to power bomb a legend?
Why did you ultimately choose to go to ARSION Hyper Visual Fighting?
It was fresh. The idea of pushing submission and ‘ultimate’ style fighting appealed to me. I had already done an ultimate tournament and placed 3rd, and that was done one month after dislocating my collar bone from my sternum.
You worked with Mariko Yoshida in both her AJW and ARSION days. Tell us about her and your matches together [2. See a great match between Mariko and Reggie here.].
She was my best bud. We spent a lot of time on the road together and whenever we were on the road everyone would be crashed out. When we stopped at rest areas and there was a beach I would wake her up and we would take off and check it out. We were roommates on the road too.
Do you watch any current joshi wrestling? Have you seen any of the modern American women’s promotions such as SHIMMER or WSU?
No, I haven’t since I retired. I have lost touch with my wrestler-self. I’m sad to say this interview has brought out a lot of feelings that I thought I have lost. Wow. I didn’t even know that they had any all women companies in the states.
Thanks to the internet, recent years have seen an explosion in interest in Joshi Puroresu amongst American fans. In December, there will even be a “Joshimania” with women like Aja Kong and Manami Toyota coming.
Oh my god, that will be great! I would love to see that let me know when it will be and where! I want to come this, normal life is just boring!
After a lengthy drought of foreign talent, several American women have been brought to Japan recently. Based on your extensive experience, do you have any advice for these women?
Yes, I do.#1 Never give up your dream for anyone. If you want something bad enough go for it. #2 It will only hurt for a minute, sell the hell out of it. No pussy shots, make it snug!
Please tell us what you have you been up to since leaving wrestling?
Before and after I retired I bartended and was a bouncer in some of the best clubs in Tokyo. After that I started teaching English to Japanese pre-schoolers. I divorced my Japanese husband and moved back to New Orleans. I needed work so I managed a furniture warehouse. Needed insurance ,so I started working for The Home depot as a supervisor. Moved to Mississippi and bought a house. And I have now come to find out, I don’t like normal. I have done a lot of fun things in my life and you can too if you follow your dreams.
Do you still keep in touch with any of the people you worked with in Japan?
I just got back on-line and I’ve gotten in touch with a few friends and it has been great .
Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans, and is there any way that they can contact you, or write to you?
All my fans are the best! Thank you for all your support and you can reach me through Facebook or e-mail me ([email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]). God bless all of you!
Thank you very much for the interview!
Thank you for this chance to do this. I didn’t know how much I needed to say this and how good it feels that people know who I am here. Please let me know more about the other companies here!
Check out this new upload of Reggie Bennett’s infamous match with Chigusa Nagayo below! Also, be sure to visit the LPWA’s AllWomenWrestling.com as they’ve uploaded a ton of their classic matches for digital download.