Where Are They Now? Kaientai

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January 16, 2013

“I wasn’t nervous at all [about moving to America],” Michinoku said. “It was a great opportunity. I was very excited for the American lifestyle and to learn about a different culture.”

Taka quickly became the centerpiece of WWE’s new Light Heavyweight division, winning the tournament to crown the very first champion. His overseas success made him a star in his homeland, but the competition began to run a little thin in WWE. Wanting to prolong his stay in America, he asked WWE officials about bringing in a few of his old running buddies.

“Taka asked them if they were interested in any more Japanese wrestlers,” Funaki said. “They said a few more would be good, so he called me and asked me if I wanted to come to WWE.”

The answer was simple for Funaki.

“My dream, since I was a kid, was to wrestle in America,” he said. “It was easier than I thought it would be. I got a phone call from Taka and my dream came true.”

Funaki was joined by Togo and Teioh, and the three invaded WWE the night after WrestleMania XIV, when they attacked Taka. (WATCH) Led by the devious Yamaguchi-San, the latest incarnation of Kaientai made life hell for Michinoku. Eventually, Taka couldn’t beat them by himself, so he joined them.

The group caused havoc on Raw during a racy rivalry with the controversial Val Venis (WATCH), but by the end of 1998, Togo and Teioh headed back to Japan. Taka and Funaki may have lost their allies, but they had no intention of leaving the U.S. so quickly.

“We were always thinking about how we could stay in WWE for a long time,” Funaki said. “We were so small in WWE [size-wise], we needed to think about how to make ourselves valuable. We thought about what looks good, how to speak better English, all sorts of things.”

It turned out that their mastery of English wouldn’t need to be a big concern. In fact, they’d have all their talking done for them. Shane McMahon had an idea for Kaientai’s interviews to be shoddily dubbed over by voice actors, an homage to the cheesy English versions of Japanese monster movies. Taka and Funaki weren’t sure what to make of the goofy voiceovers, where “Taka” would declare that they were “EEEEVILLLL” before letting out an over-the-top cackle. “Funaki” would then seem to be in the midst of a lengthy diatribe, only for his voiceover to bellow one word: “INDEED.” Kaientai rolled with the punches and found it was working. (WATCH)

“We were confused, but every night we did it, the crowd loved it,” Funaki said.

Michinoku quickly agreed before adding: “Then, we got Kaientai T-shirts!”