Land of the returning son
As Yoshi Tatsu has discovered, Japan is ready to embrace a rising son of a different kind.
Three years after departing his native country on a quest for WWE Superstardom, the fighter from the Far East returned to the Land of the Rising Sun for an exclusive tour of Yuke's studio (THQ's partnering WWE SmackDown vs. Raw video game developer) and found the open arms of a proud nation. (PHOTOS | VIDEOS)
"I am very, very excited to be home," explained an energetic Tatsu, readjusting his well tailored suit while on the way to yet another scheduled meeting with local Japanese media. "Everybody cheers me, businessmen walking by notice me, everybody wants to shake my hand, everybody wants an autograph -- like a real Superstar."
"Like" a real Superstar. Though Yoshi's faced some of the best that squared circle has to offer on so many varying stages -- including the grandest of them all, WrestleMania -- the remarkably modest performer refuses to yet recognize the celebrity he's attained. Tatsu is quite simply not yet quenched of his thirst for success in what's relatively a freshly hatched WWE career.
In a world of braggarts like The Miz and Alberto Del Rio, Yoshi's humility is a heartening breath of fresh air. The truth is that, in a very short time, Tatsu has already conquered his share of challenges and realized a number of dreams that he's chased for a lifetime.
Among those dreams: Seeing his likeness in a WWE video game.
"Seeing myself in [WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011] encourages and motivates me," Tatsu told WWE.com. "Now, I want to see myself in the next game and the next after that."
Unquestionably fueling his motivation was the extent to which the entire Yuke's staff so reverently received the Superstar as he left his shoes at the entrance of their office and stepped socked foot into their headquarters. Once more immersed in his Japanese culture, Tatsu found the kind of support he admittedly struggled to obtain when he first left for WWE in 2007.
"Friends, other Japanese wrestlers and my parents, too, thought I wouldn't make it to WWE," he divulged. "Everybody thought I would stop at [WWE's training facility] FCW, but I wanted to change everything about myself -- wrestling, attitude, my life. I wanted to change in America and [WWE] gave me a chance."
"Now, everybody has changed their attitude," Tatsu intimated. "But I won't be happy until I'm at the top. It's not just that I want to be on top. I need to be on top."
Graciously introduced to his first-ever video game model by its skilled developers, Yoshi was overcome by the telltale sign that he's "made it." He scanned his polygon-perfected replica and accounted for every detail -- his attire, his facial movements and most notably for him, his mane's signature blond streak.
The studio tour continued beyond the endless rows of multi-monitored computer stations, as Tatsu, the so-called "Cardiac Kid," explored the heart of WWE video game production. Yoshi presided over a steel cage enclosed creative meeting, traced WWE's lineage in Superstar reference photo books, then even officiated an impromptu bout between a Yuke's producer and one of the studio's motion capture test dummies.
As if these moments weren't overwhelmingly fulfilling enough, further embellishing the experience, one Yuke's staffer approached while flailing a copy of "Weekly Pro Wrestling" magazine featuring none other than Tatsu on the cover.
According to Yoshi, who'd grown up collecting the same publication and accumulating hundreds of issues in his parents' home, it is among the greatest honors to find his likeness on the magazine's full-color cover like his biggest squared circle idols including The Great Muta, Masahiro Chono and the only other WWE Superstar to share such a distinction, Triple H.
"Japanese culture really likes wrestling and people have a lot of respect for wrestling," said WWE's only Superstar from the Land of the Rising Sun. "When I started to watch at 10 years old, I wanted to wrestle and compete. By 14, I was training hard in karate, wrestling, kick boxing and mixed martial arts."
Flash forward years ahead and Yoshi has become his dream. He's been the lead story of a Japanese magazine, broken out into video games and action figures, and most notably, won a 26-Man Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXVI. His countrymen aren't the only ones who've noticed and now excitedly cheered him from the collected islands that comprise Japan. Today, Tatsu is recognized around the world, including the farthest corners of the WWE Universe.
"I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be at the top of the world and the top wrestler so I knew I had to be in WWE," Tatsu revealed. "It's my dream come true. I'm a hero now. This is the top of the world."
Join Yoshi Tatsu for a behind-the-scenes tour of Yuke's studio in Japan and the making of THQ's WWE SmackDown vs. Raw, exclusively here on WWE.com. See the evolution of WWE's video game franchise, the evolution of The Undertaker, plus Tatsu's Tokyo toy store trip and more.