PART 2 of my two-part series on the East-West Playaz focuses on the younger but still equally mysterious half of the team, Soto Miyagi. Miyagi, along with the Midnite Rider are in the midst of a huge run as a tag team and recently both picked up significant wins in singles competition against IZW Tag Team Champions “What Wrestling Should Be” Jermaine Johnson and “Lights Out” Jordan Jacobs.
Miyagi is unlike anyone in IZW and for that matter North America when you consider Miyagi’s upbringing in the sport and the dues he paid in his native Japan. Miyagi was trained by the world-famous Kenta Kobashi who many regard as the greatest professional wrestler ever. Kobashi made a name for himself in All-Japan Pro Wrestling where he was a multi-time world champion, and then built on that legacy during his time with Pro Wrestling NOAH where he shattered the blueprint for what was possible in a wrestling ring while also picking up another world title. Miyagi’s time with Kobashi was instrumental in honing his body and fortifying his spirit to be able to take the punishment that is dished out in IZW for somebody the size of Miyagi who stands well south of six feet and tips the scales at around 165 lb.
“Kobashi is everything to me. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be in Japan living on the streets,” Miyagi remembered.
A chance meeting with Kobashi at a Pro Wrestling NOAH show in 2003 in Nagoya changed the course of Miyagi’s life forever. “I hit the lottery. I went to the show as a punk kid and left the building with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I stayed in the arena after the event was over, soaking up the atmosphere. Kobashi was in the beginning of his title run that lasted for two years. As I was sitting there alone in my seat, he [Kobashi] comes walking back out to the arena. He was just standing there looking at the ring where he had just defended his championship against [Jun] Akiyama. It was a 60-minute match and they tore the house down. The next thing I know, I’m walking up to him and introducing myself. I told him how I had always been a huge pro wrestling fan for as long as I could remember and that I was living in the streets off and on at the time. Anyway, he encouraged me to chase my dream of being a pro wrestler and even let me stay in his training dojo for one full year where he trained me free of charge,” Miyagi continued.
After the teenage Miyagi took the bumps and bruises as an apprentice in the Japanese style of professional wrestling training, he was quickly booked on a few NOAH undercards because of Kobashi. But after a year with NOAH and some smaller independent wrestling organizations in Japan, Miyagi set out on his own path to make his mark in the sport. “Kobashi gave me his blessing, which was monumental. He knew I always had my eyes on wrestling in America.”
Miyagi traveled to Hawaii first where he lived for nearly two years. “Hawaii was a great learning experience. It’s in America, but there is a heavy Asian influence and a lot of Japanese people living there. I got some great in ring experience and got to learn English which has been a life saver over the last seven plus years working here in the States.”
From there Miyagi migrated to California for another year as he rode up and down the coast working shows from San Francisco to San Diego and everywhere in between. He also did some stunt work for a couple of Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. “It was great working with those guys, but I’m no actor. I’m a professional wrestler.”
At the end of 2008, Miyagi continued his trek eastward as he showed up in the Lone Star State. “Texas was an experience, let me tell you,” Miyagi joked. “What you have to understand about Texas is they love their independence. Sometimes I wondered if they were going to try and break away from the rest of America. You can always tell a Texan, you just can’t tell him much.”
It was during his time in Texas, in early 2009, where Miyagi learned about IZW. “I was living in Dallas at the time and one of the local Saturday afternoon shows I worked on was dead. There was maybe fifteen people there. After the show I was walking to my car and heard some fans talking about IZW. They were headed up to Lawton, Oklahoma that night to see an IZW show. I didn’t have anything booked for Saturday night so I made the three and a half hour trip north and it changed my life forever.”
What Miyagi saw at that IZW event took him back to his days in Japan. “Aaron Neil was in the main event as he was the IZW Champion at the time. Everything he did was done with such force. He was solid as a rock, just like he is now.”
Miyagi would finish out his bookings in Texas and then move to Lawton, Oklahoma in mid-2009. “I had to get on an IZW show. It was the opportunity I had been chasing ever since I stepped foot on American soil back in Hawaii in 2005.”
After a show I went up to IZW owner Johnny Z and told him a bit about myself and what I had done in the past and asked for a tryout match. He wasn’t too confident in my skills beforehand, but I impressed him enough in that initial match to earn a spot with IZW.
Since 2009, Miyagi has been in and out of IZW as he’s done a few long tours back in his home country of Japan, but for the last couple years he has fully committed to IZW and breaking out of the pack as his stock on the international scene has grown tremendously.
Miyagi added, “Since IZW is broadcast worldwide on GFL.tv every Saturday, all my family, friends and fans I’ve picked up throughout my career in Japan, Hawaii, California and Texas can stay connected to me and my progression as a professional athlete. I know for a fact that Kobashi and some of the big guns in Japan have their eyes on IZW and are watching what’s going on in Lawton on a weekly basis. IZW is very popular in Japan because of its true-to-life wrestling that mirrors that top organizations in Japan.”
Over the last six months, Miyagi has been on a roll scoring multiple victories that most onlookers would consider upsets. Miyagi defeated the 2013 Impact Player of the Year and current IZW Tag Team Champion Jordan Jacobs about a month ago which shocked Jacobs and many at the Impact Arena. Miyagi’s current run has coincided with him and the Midnite Rider forming IZW’s newest tag team. “Rider is an encyclopedia of professional wrestling. He has taught me so much about not only the sport’s history, but also all the nuances it takes to succeed in the ring. I received a great foundation from Kobashi and picked up things from every place I’ve ever wrestled, but Rider is the exclamation point on my education in the sport. He has an answer for every question and he has opened up my eyes to a whole new way of approaching the sport.”
Still in his mid-20s, and with a decade of experience in his chosen profession, Miyagi only sees a bright future ahead. “I’ve got my sights set on the IZW Tag Team Championship. I want to win those titles not only for myself but more importantly, to say thank you to my tag team partner the Midnite Rider and to everybody who has ever stood by me in my life. I owe you all a debt of gratitude that I will probably never be able to repay. Statistically I’m not even supposed to be here right now. I lived on the streets in Japan, I saw the worst of what people were capable of. But I have also seen the best. Whether that was Kobashi getting me started in the business when he was on top of the world and he didn’t have to, or whether it’s been the Midnite Rider taking me under his wing, the fans for cheering me on or even Johnny Z for giving me my initial break in IZW. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and I’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities that have been given to me in my career. My next challenge is winning the IZW Tag Team Championship with the Midnite Rider and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Miyagi promised.