Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Thunder Summers - From Red Hook to the Land of the Rising Sun

Thunder Summers' journey in the wrestling world began in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, and today he can often be found in Japan, wrestling in Michinoku Pro. However, this isn't the common story of an American wrestler going to Japan- Summers has trained extensively in both countries.

A part of the pro-wrestling industry for around 13 years, Thunder Summers received his first taste of the business setting up the rings when he was 15 years old. "My cousin had a good relationship with East Coast Pro Wrestling." Summers explained. "We went to a lot of their local shows in Brooklyn, NY and did it about 2 times a year just because I was still in school. 2013 when I got my first job is when I finally made the jump into training."

Although Thunder Summers' path to training wasn't straightforward, it was while doing his duty of setting up rings that he met the wrestler that gave Summers the connection he needed. "So while we were setting up rings for ECPW we met a wrestler named Talon." Summers explained. "Talon hooked us up with the S.A.T (Joel, Jose, and Will Maximo) at the time who had a school called the Ludus. So from 2013 to 2015 ish I was training under guys like Joel & Will Maximo, Angel Ortiz, Mike Santana, Manny & Benny Martinez, Talon just a plethora of talent came in and out of that place. Anybody who is anybody on the NY indie scene came in through there. Of course Joel had major connections as well. My first day Homicide, Colt Cabana was there."

Many wrestlers held seminars at Ludus, including former WWE Superstar Matt Striker, revered journeyman Chris Hero, and one of Thunder Summers' favorite wrestlers, Japanese wrestling legend and former holder of the J-Crown, Ultimo Dragon. "I went to as many as I could afford." Summers said. "I was making like $80 every two weeks at my first job, so it was just enough for me to pay for training."

Thunder Summers' wrestling style reflects his diverse training. "I use a lot of what I have learned in my 10 year journey and wrestle a hybrid style." Summers said. "I learned from some of the best in the business from Joe Malenko, to Yuko Miyato-san to my current trainers at the Fallout Shelter in NY, to the Michinoku Dojo. I am also the only wrestler who has been to 2 of the 3 New Japan Dojo systems New Zealand and LA and competed for both. I really like delving into 70’s wrestling and taking a lot from that time. Especially stuff from Japan.

Although Thunder Summers currently wrestles for Michinoku Pro when he's in Japan, it's an opportunity that did not come easy. "So I had reached out to Michinoku Pro for years." he explained. "I finally got a response sometime in September 2023. I was coming to Japan from the Fale Dojo and I took the offer to do their Dojo matches in November 2023. I wrestled Taro Nohashi-san and Ayumu Gunji.

Former Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Champion Taro Nohashi seemed to be pleased with Thunder Summers' performance. "I think Nohashi-san was impressed enough with me that he took me under his wing and it was a great experience to not only fight him, but win and then for him to ask me to teach him after." Summers said. "Word I got back to The Great Sasuke and since then he has been nothing short of his namesake. I met with Sasuke-san in February while I was working as staff for the JCW Jersey J-Cup. From there I knew I was going back to Japan so I reached out again to the international relations boss. I got the Okay to do the entire Golden Week tour plus the amazing Arabaki Rock Fest and a plethora of Dojo matches. I love those Dojo matches because it's the experience I needed from the get-go and really helped me find direction. Plus it was just a fun intimate setting for the locals where Iwate doesn’t get much wrestling and getting that time with those fans was great. The Michinoku fans are amazing.

Wrestlers who often go to Japan tend to have a home promotion- the one they usually wrestle in the most while in Japan. "I consider Michinoku Pro my current home." Thunder Summers stated. "I still have a lot to learn in my journey. And I would like to continue that with Michinoku Pro. Plus Tohoku is a beautiful region and the fans there are fantastic. Plus they gave me 2 jackets."

As for how Thunder Summers compares the American and Japanese pro-wrestling styles, he said that he loves working in Japan and working both styles. "But I grew up watching tapes from Japan." Summers added. "And experiencing the Japanese style first-hand there is nothing like it."

While it's clear that Thunder Summers is skilled in the ring, little else is known about him. "That's why I guess a lot of people call me The International Mystery Man." Summers said. "Back then mysterious guys wore masks and they were all one offs. But the mystery of me is I give people just enough to want more for next time. I kick ass and leave without saying a word. People don’t know what to expect from me. I keep them curious, I keep them wanting more. You can say I am unpredictable. I am hoping to put an end to the mystery soon enough. I will be getting ready for my 2nd tour of Japan soon. I am trying to prove to people that Big Thunder isn’t a one hit wonder."

Thunder Summers' attitude in the ring depends on who his opponent is. "I’m mean to the people that deserve it." Summers explained. "And kind to the people that deserve it. My job is to beat guys up so I can rise up through the ranks in this business. If the fans just so happen to like the other guy more oh well who wants to win more. The Japanese fans respect that. You see it often. So I give praise to them. Good and bad guys are for the people to decide and I don’t consider myself anything other than a man trying to make a name for myself."

Before becoming a pro-wrestler, Thunder Summers had a big interest in wrestling. "Like everybody these days I was a fan of it." he said. "I grew up watching WCW and I always remember the cruiserweights and the international talent WCW had was amazing. I thought I could replicate the same success for myself. I was a martial artist. I did a little acting as a kid. I thought it would be a great way to use my skills to make a living."

But what Thunder Summers likes the most about being in the wrestling business is traveling, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people. At the time of this interview, he was in Korea, a place where Summers said he never imagined being. "Plus I have tons of friends that I wouldn’t have met today without wrestling." Summers added.

Thunder Summers names his best matches as one that took place in the Tokyo-based IMPACT Fighting Federation, which focuses on MMA. "Definitely holding my own against Takahiro Tababa for MMA IMPACT." he said. "We fought 2 or 3 times in the same night. He’s a tough SOB I’ll say but a lot of people tell me that is their favorite match. I pulled out a lot to try and win that one most definitely. Tababa is known for being a quick finish guy and I wrestled him plus 3 guys for almost an hour."

As for his favorite match, Thunder Summers picks the May 5th Michinoku Pro match in which he teamed with legends The Great Sasuke and Jinsei Shinzaki against Rui Hyugaji, OSO11, and Australian Wolf. Summers added that close second would be the May 2nd Michinoku Pro match in which he teamed with former Chiba Six Man Tag Team Champions Brahman Shu and Brahman Kei against Sasuke and Tohoku Tag Team Champions Ringo Yamaya and Rasse because, "I got to hit one half of the [Tohoku] Tag Team Champions with a bowling ball."

Looking ahead, there are many people Thunder Summers would like to wrestle but has not yet done so. "There is a laundry list of people." he said. "I am only about 45 matches into my career and have a few wins over former champions. But I really want to wrestle in some more UWF-style contests. I want to fight a lot of my mentors on the indies back home but I want to wrestle them in Japan. My old coach Mel Ramos has been calling me out. He fought in MSG for the ISKA cruiserweight title so there is a lot to prove there. I also wanna do him solid by giving him a match in Japan."

In regards to wrestling dream matches, Thunder Summers said he wanted to wrestle another one of his favorites, legend Keiji Muto, adding, "but seeing as he is retired now Ultimo Dragon since he is still going strong and Tetsuya Naito or Kaito Kiyomiya because they are the ones who are carrying Muto-san’s legacy now. Simply put I got a long way to go and a lot of people on the list will only help me climb that ladder."

Beyond the ring, Thunder Summers is a self-proclaimed nerd, boxing enthusiast, and vegan. "I play video games all day when I have nothing better to do. At the moment I am in Korea so I try to explore as much as I can. Always try to find new things to keep me busy. My buddies have some really great YouTube channels for gaming and I’ll tune into them every now and then. Game Complainers check em out my buddy Perry who is one of the big reasons I am even overseas right now huge wrestling fan and has a game store as well. Currently picking up boxing again. Fun fact I am a 8 year vegan so I have become like the biggest vegan food critic ever, always bouncing around between restaurants all day back home with my uncle or just powering up the Saturn to get in a little X-Men vs. Street Fighter. And of course watching wrestling."

As for his long-term goals in the wrestling business, Thunder Summers says, "Ultimately I want to wrestle for every company in Japan. New Japan is still on my radar but I’ve made 2 attempts to get there. I’m 28 years old. Yes I am young but when I first came to Japan I had the goal of signing with Wrestle-1. When Wrestle-1 went out I realized I spent all my time focusing on trying to get one promotion. I didn’t think about them going out. If I put my time in somewhere I want to know it's worthwhile and where I am from you can’t put all your eggs in one plastic bag. I would like to find my place in All Japan in the near future. But I want to wrestle for every promotion. At the end of the day I have fun doing this. I love making people happy and I love inspiring people through what we do as wrestlers. I got a long list of names to check off my list ultimately and I wanna live comfortably from wrestling. When I eventually retire from in-ring competition I’d love to become a referee and a trainer.

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