Wrestling's favorite restaurant: The oral history of Ribera Steakhouse

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August 07, 2013

Glance through any photo album from wrestling’s older days, and chances are you’ll spot the most legendary competitors in the history of the squared circle wearing a satin jacket with a small bull logo on the breast. No, grapplers like Terry Funk and Bruiser Brody weren’t shopping at the same clothing stores — they were eating at the same restaurant.

The culinary landscape may boast top names like Anthony Bourdain, Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, but the wrestling world has Japan’s Ribera Steakhouse. For more than 30 years, wrestlers have made the traditional pilgrimage to a tiny eatery in a busy Tokyo neighborhood. And for a chosen few, the restaurant’s owners have bestowed upon them the mythical and highly-desirable Ribera Steakhouse jacket.

But how did a hole in the wall across the Pacific serving simple steak dinners become a sports-entertainment institution? WWEClassics.com chewed the fat with the men who’ve been there, eaten the steak and worn the jackets, including current Superstars, revered legends and independent wrestlers to get the skinny on The Land of the Rising Sun’s most famous steakhouse.

The Players:

  • JOHN CENA – The WWE Champion once wore a Ribera jacket to the ring during a Live Event in Japan.
  • CHRIS JERICHO – The first-ever Undisputed Champion went to Ribera Steakhouse long before arriving in WWE while perfecting his craft overseas.
  • CM PUNK – The longest-reigning WWE Champion of the last 25 years grew up idolizing the Superstars he saw wearing Ribera jackets.
  • ANTONIO CESARO – A grappler with a cult following, Cesaro visited Ribera while plying his trade before coming to WWE.
  • WADE BARRETT – The former Intercontinental Champion recently boasted on Twitter about receiving his first Ribera jacket.
  • JUSTIN ROBERTS – WWE’s longtime ring announcer recently received his first Ribera jacket after growing up a huge wrestling fan in Chicago.
  • WILLIAM REGAL – One of wrestling’s most respected veterans, Regal first ate at Ribera more than 20 years ago.
  • COLT CABANA – Known briefly in WWE as Scotty Goldman, CM Punk’s best friend still visits Ribera during his stints with Japanese wrestling organizations.
  • TOMMY DREAMER – The ECW icon first visited Ribera in the ’90s with a crew of other ECW Originals.
  • ROAD WARRIOR ANIMAL – One half of The Road Warriors, Animal is often credited with creating the famed Ribera jacket and Zubaz outfit pairing.
  • STAN HANSEN – Feared across continents, the former AWA Champion broke Bruno Sammartino’s neck before becoming a wrestling legend in Japan.

View photos of the legendary steakhouse and competitors wearing the jackets

JOHN CENA: It’s tradition that when you go to Japan, you go to Ribera.  I don’t even know where the folklore starts, but the family that owns the place has always been traditionally hospitable to wrestlers. The food’s great. They treat us with the greatest hospitality.

WILLIAM REGAL: I don’t know where the tradition comes from. Probably because it was one of the few places you could get a steak in Japan.

STAN HANSEN: In Japan back in the late ’70s, early ’80s, steak was still foreign. It was very expensive. Just to get a normal steak was $20 or $30. Wrestlers had a hard time finding a place to eat fairly cheap and everybody loved steak, coming from America. Bruiser Brody happened to find this place. He took me soon after he found it. Probably ’78 or ’79. The [owner] was a wrestling fan and became a bigger fan as more and more guys came to eat. He treated everybody really good. He gave us a few little discounts and would pile the food on for everybody. [The owner] became known as Ribera, but I don’t know what his real name was.

ROAD WARRIOR ANIMAL: They take care of the wrestlers. If it’s your first time there, steak’s on the house and they help you out all the other times.

HANSEN: It became very popular. People would come to Japan and say, “I want to go to Ribera.” And I’d go, “God, why?” [laughs] I mean, the steak was okay, but I think it was more for atmosphere and so everybody could enjoy themselves there and be a little wild and crazy.

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