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Q&A with Mei Suruga and Baliyan Akki, on tag-team wrestling and touring America

1 year ago

Q&A with Mei Suruga and Baliyan Akki, on tag-team wrestling and touring America

By: Jeff Brown

Whether at Ichigaya Chocolate Square, a U.S. indie promotion, or even on AEW programming, the duo of Mei Suruga and Baliyan Akki – known as the Best Bros – have been amassing a strong following over the last few years.

With day one of ChocoPro 300 in the books and day two of the celebration on the horizon, the team was gracious enough to sit down with Monthly Puroresu to discuss their time as a team, visiting the United States, and what they hope to achieve in the future.

Monthly Puroresu: So, your influences as a tag team – are there any teams throughout history that maybe influenced you guys?

Baliyan Akki: I mean, I don’t think we are, because from my side, I think Mei will have a very different answer from me because the way we started this team was very different. We didn’t really start as a team. That is, I think the reason we are the way we are. We started as two singles wrestlers who were kind of very competitive with each other. Even when we started tagging, the idea for our team was not, “oh, now we are a team, let’s be the best team.” No, even when we were tagging, it was more  “Oh, I can do better than you.” I think that was legit, I’m not joking. That was like the general “why” of it. Our own wrestling.

Mei Suruga: I’m still thinking that way.

Baliyan Akki: Yeah. Even now, it’s because we fight a lot. But cuz our natural wrestling, the way I wrestle is the base of it, is similar, but it’s very different from what Mei naturally wrestles as. And when we started wrestling, because we were already competitive, we really, butted heads a lot on how should the team go? Because I couldn’t go my way and she couldn’t go her way. So I think instead of trying to be like a team, we never try to be like a team, if that makes any sense. And because of it, the way we wrestle as a team, it’s not mine or not hers at all. So I don’t wrestle like Baliyan Akki when I wrestle as Best Bros and she doesn’t wrestle like Mei Suruga. Similar, but not really. If there’s a team that I say that I look up to, it’s Hyakkin Thunders.

Mei Suruga: Ah, same. [laughs]

Baliyan Akki: I think that’s the only part where we’ll match. Because if there’s a team that I feel like in mixed teams, Hyakkin Thunders is a tag team between Emi Sakura and Masa Takanashi. They have been tagging and doing mix matches. Like it’s the most natural thing. Like the thing we are trying to make. They’ve been doing it like it’s the most obvious thing since like 13 years ago. Okay. Maybe more so, if you see their matches, it’s even now they are hard to catch up to. So if you people are here, just go to YouTube, search Hyakkin Thunders. Hyakkin Thunders is the hard way to say, but just search that and you’ll see magic in every sense. [points to Mei]

Mei Suruga: No, no, no. My thinking is you said it all.

Baliyan Akki: That’s where we match. We match at the place that we don’t match.

Mei Suruga: [laughs] I wanted to say that Hyakkin Thunders is amazing!

Baliyan Akki: Yes, they are amazing. I mean, if there’s a team that we look up to, that’s the only team we look up to.

Monthly Puroresu: Are your matches heavily planned out or are they more spontaneous? Do you call it in the ring, so-to-speak?

Baliyan Akki: I mean, there’s two things. First of all, it’s hard to answer that because we are a Japanese team. First and foremost. And the second thing is, let’s just talk about instead of being our matches, let’s talk about just our nature. I think that’s easier for us to answer.

[Speaks Japanese] For Mei, especially her own wrestling, how should I say? Like, to just be free in the ring. At least even if you have something that you wanted to do in your head. But it’s way more about the here and now. I think Best Bros are very that way as well.

Even between us, let’s just say we had something in our mind we wanted to do. And if the vibe is different without a care in the world, without caring at all about even how she would feel or how I would feel, if she does it, change right there, like no problem. Like no consultation, no eyesight, that you better understand because I’m changing. So like that. That also comes in what I talked about in the last question. That’s how we are as a team. It’s “I’m just better”. I think that’s where it comes to. Yeah. Free.

Mei Suruga: Free!

Monthly Puroresu: So, what was the biggest surprise visiting America for you guys? You’ve each visited America a few times and Akki, you did a post about the size of drinks.

Baliyan Akki: That was ridiculous. That was ridiculous!! I’m like, why? Why are you charging me more money for the same amount of cola? Also I said that because like wrestlers, especially in the US, we have too much free time.

Like for hours and hours just sitting in cars and we have time to talk and I tell them this story and every single one, I’ve told it like 10 times to different people and everybody goes, “What? Hold on sec. I never realized that.” Like, how can you not realize that?

Mei Suruga: There is not for kid’s size? Why!?

Baliyan Akki: Hold on a second. I think the biggest one is kid’s size.

Mei Suruga: No! It’s big. No kids. No fitting!

Baliyan Akki: [laughs] Mei. No, those are American kids. They don’t know limits. They’re the ones who rule the world. They’ll rule the world. They’re American kids. Godammit.

But yeah, there’s a hilarious thing, I didn’t post it, but I have a very hilarious picture of Mei buying her first drink when we went to the theater. And the drink is twice the size of her face. Like she has the drink here and it starts at her chest and ends above her head. Oh my God. It is just a normal large drink. That was ridiculous. But I can’t believe they have unlimited cola. From $2 up to $6. It’s the same thing.

Mei Suruga: Margarita?…Margarita? Alligator.

Baliyan Akki: Oh yeah.

Mei Suruga: Alligator was appeared in the lake next to our house.

Monthly Puroresu: It’s in Florida?

Baliyan Akki: Florida, we live in Orlando. It’s a very good community, it’s a gated community. It’s close to the airport and we travel a lot. So there’s a lake you know, in Florida there’s a pond or a lake every 50 meters it’s the swamps. It’s beautiful, by the way, it looks like a resort, like in every sense it looks beautiful.

But we walked out and I was going to the gym, like five days before I left the US. Then there was a warning printed on the gym door that somebody posted, because there’s a community thing, so you can post there and they said, “I saw an alligator in the lake. Everybody please make sure you keep your children close.” And I go, “Okay, I’ll keep Mei close”. I mean I’ll try.

Mei Suruga: Thank you!

Baliyan Akki: I can’t promise, but I’ll try.

Mei Suruga: Thank you though!

Baliyan Akki: Then the day after we were going to watch a movie or I think we were going to a market and we saw, which is more dangerous by the way, one of the babies of that alligator.

Mei Suruga: The baby was there.

Baliyan Akki: It was ridiculous because there was a can in the lake I think. Like they just found it and he was like cruising on the can and the can was, he looked adorable. But I’m like, oh. Oh. So not only is there an alligator in our lake, it’s a baby mama. There’s many alligators in our lake. Not just one. There’s like, actually I don’t know how many there are at this point because there’s babies there.

Mei Suruga: There are babies!

Baliyan Akki: It was ridiculous. Scary.

Monthly Puroresu: Did you imagine your team would last this long and be this popular? I would say in the West you guys are pretty popular with Western fans.

Baliyan Akki: I mean first of all, we are happy to hear that.

Monthly Puroresu: I think of this whole roster, you two are who people point to a lot.

Baliyan Akki: I mean, it makes sense. We are happy to hear that. [Speaks In Japanese]

Mei Suruga: No.

Baliyan Akki: No? Okay.

Mei Suruga: No. I don’t know, it’s far more than I imagined.

Baliyan Akki: Oh, so the popularity or lasting, like we lasted long is that surprising? Or became popular? Is that surprising?

Mei Suruga: In America.

Baliyan Akki: Oh yeah. Okay.

Mei Suruga: Yes.

Baliyan Akki: Basically what she’s trying to say is, to her, it’s very obvious the fact that we are still a team and we are still doing the team. I think we’re gonna do this team, this probably is for life. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be friends with her all my life. So, as we became popular in the US, that was a surprise.

That was a surprise to me too because I remember we were supposed to do like a big show, I think Deadlock Pro-Wrestling, I think we were supposed to do like a big show. And then because we were in Boston, we just decided to do Beyond’s Wrestling Open because we were like, we were right here. So I knew Drew (Cordeiro), and I’m like, “Oh we are here.” And he’s like, “oh yeah?! Come do a match!” And we did a five minute match I think. And we just did the most normal thing we can imagine as a team. Because it’s like an introduction. It’s like, “Oh hello, this is us.”

We wanted to do a match like that and we did a match like that. We did that Dolphin Press our finishing move and we’ve been doing that move for like two and a half years here. Every big match, and we did that and everybody I know in wrestling, in the US including the AEW people, everybody commented, retweeted and watched that thing, I couldn’t believe it. Like generally, because to us it’s the most normal thing to do. I mean we’ve been doing this for like two and a half years now, but to them because it was our debut and not a big show, like the smallest, it’s like a weekly show. It’s like the smallest show you can even for Beyond it’s like their smallest show. So the fact that it became like that was very surprising.

Mei Suruga: Yeah. I never realized the press is good move.

Baliyan Akki: Why didn’t you realize that by then? It was a very good move.

Mei Suruga:I never!

Baliyan Akki: I mean also this is just an extra thing, but Mei, until Dolphin Press became famous in the US, Mei never liked that move because Mei…

Mei Suruga: It’s scary!

Baliyan Akki: That’s why.

Mei Suruga: That’s dangerous for me!

Baliyan Akki: Because she’s scared of doing the Dolphin. Even the day we started doing it really, I really want to do a live stream of it.

We tried for three hours before she stopped screaming while we did it. It’s like two in the night here. And she hated that move forever because she was always scared when we did it. Like always scared.

We went to the US and it became famous. She goes, “Let’s change the name of the move so people can remember it easily.” I’m like, “Okay, okay. Now we like it.” [laughs] It’s just simple.

Monthly Puroresu: Is there a tag team you guys haven’t faced that you would love to face – a dream tag team match?

Baliyan Akki: I don’t know how to explain this, I really don’t. She just told me something and “I go hold on sec what?” She just told me there was a team she liked and they just fought and broke up at this point. And I go, “Hold on a sec. How, how, how do you like, want me to explain that there was a team like, and they broke up at this point?” Yeah. It’s hard. The hard nose tag team wrestling that people like and I like tag team wrestling. I just genuinely like it, it’s a very good format. It’s a format that only exists in wrestling. I think the reason I love it, if you are nice, you have the possibility of more emotion in a tag team match than you can ever have in a singles match. Because believe me or not, like think about it like this.

If it’s a singles match, you can care for me. That’s all. You can care for the audience and I can care for me. The most you can do, by the way, the most emotional matches is when I care for my opponent. Those are the most emotional matches forever. That’s the only two things. That’s the next. That there’s no next level to that audience can care about me. I can care about me and the most emotional matches I care about my opponent. That’s the level. There’s no above that.

But in tag team wrestling, the basic concept is at the highest level of the singles match in singles match, I care for my opponent in tag team wrestling. If done right, I already have somebody that not only can I care for him or her, I get to protect and fight for them. So just by setting alone, it’s like the highest level of a single match emotion is the norm should be in a good tag match the norm of like how much emotion can there be in a fight. And you, the audience, can care for me. They can care for her and they can care for the fact and they can care for me. Who cares for her. They can see that in me. And they can see the other side of doing that too. And on top of that, we are trying to protect what we like and love and care for and fight still. So I think tag team wrestling done right is the most emotional thing you’ll find in combat sports. I really do like it, but the hard nose wrestling, we are not that kind of team. At least I think that way.

Mei Suruga: I’d like to wrestle Desperado and Starlight Kid!

Baliyan Akki: I mean if it’s Japan, I think that’s the team. If there’s a mixed tag team, and they are in their prime. They’re young. They might be a team from now on. Yeah. I think El Desperado and Starlight Kid. Yes.

Mei Suruga: So a new team.

Baliyan Akki: Right. New team. Are we allowed to face them? Yeah. I mean that would be in Japan, that might be the biggest, biggest mix match I can think of for ourselves. Right. Especially for us. That’s probably the biggest Yeah. Good choice Mei. That’s up there.

Monthly Puroresu: This one’s a little more open-ended: 300 episodes. Any favorite memories of the 300 you’ve done?

Mei Suruga: Best Bros vs Hyakkin Thunders.

Baliyan Akki: That’s the memory.

Mei Suruga: Emi Sakura and Masa Takanashi.

Baliyan Akki: Yeah – We have only faced them once ever.

Mei Suruga: Yeah. Once ever that is our, the most favorite tag team. Yeah.

Finally the…

Baliyan Akki: It is way more hilarious if you say it.

Mei Suruga: The leak, it comes from the ceil…ceiling.

Baliyan Akki: [laughs] So every now and then when it really rains even though it’s the first floor in a four story building sometimes our ceiling leaks. Every now and then because it’s the Chocolate Square people. We really are the most DIY, the smallest and the biggest there is. So Emi Sakura decided to go to the US and there’s one match that we never did in ChocoPro, even though there were like only five people on the roster. It was Mei vs Emi Sakura. We did that match. And at the end of that match, even though there was that, it’s the season ender, it’s the last match, it’s announced as the last match. And while we were doing that match Emi Sakura just goes, “Oh, I’m gonna do one more”. And we go like, what? And then she announces, no, no, I think it’s the other way around. Yeah, it’s the other way around.

But we had the last match as her match as Hyakkin Thunders, their team versus Best Bros. To us that is the best team. That is the best team in the world. Like I don’t think even, we don’t come close yet. I mean we might and if we ever beat them but as of yet and we start a match. So to us it’s the dream match of whole dreams too, especially as a team that is the match for us. And we are wrestling and it’s the last match of Emi Sakura before she leaves for us for AEW And the match starts and then we circle around, we lock up and as soon as I lock up with Masa Takanashi, the ceiling starts leaking. Heavy. Like, a lot. The ceiling has never leaked that. It’s always like a drop you know, like ceiling is drop no freaking pouring, pouring enough that we had to run like Sayuri who is a fourth generation wrestler. She ran and got a bucket so she could get it, because the mat would be all wet that’s, yeah. I don’t think there’s anything that tops that.

If I say for myself, I mean, I can’t forget it. I will never forget it. I can’t possibly because,  I wrestled Minoru Fujita for ChocoPro 200. I wrestled him for the Super Asia championship, it’s the championship I have right now. And I jumped from the second floor of Ichigaya Chocolate Square. Because it was raining that day too, I couldn’t really jump. Like I had to like fall because it’s just too slippery. And I broke my left kneecap, which is to this day broken. I think I will never forget that because it’ll forever be broken. It’s just, it’s broken in half and stuck. I did nothing with it. So it should be like a cup. But my kneecap is like this. So it’s broken in half and stuck. I don’t know how this works because I just did nothing with it. But I have this, and this will probably be the same way that this is, I will never forget that match. And I can’t, even if this never happened, I will still forever remember that match, but because of this, yeah that’s a memory I will have till the day I die.

Monthly Puroresu: Yeah. That’s a story.

Baliyan Akki: Yeah. Yeah. I mean you do stupid things. Stupid things happen to you. [laughs] Mess around and find out basically.

Monthly Puroresu: Any memories, Mei?

Mei Suruga: Falls count anywhere match.

Baliyan Akki: Versus Ryo Mizunami from ChocoPro 50. I have a good memory.

Mei Suruga: Yeah. Mei versus Mizunami.

Baliyan Akki: Falls count anywhere.

Mei Suruga: Anywhere. Yeah, falls count anywhere.

Baliyan Akki: Probably, and I’m not, this might be controversial, but the best falls count match anywhere you’ll ever see. It’s really falls count anywhere. Really like, we mean when we say that. Anywhere if you have a wall and your back is stuck, it’s somewhere you wanna count it. So it was ridiculous. If you haven’t seen that match, go, it’s a one match only show. So there’s no other matches on the show. It’s just one match. Go watch it. Please. Bonkers, you will see the Ryo Mizunami if you are a AEW fan or you’re a joshi fan and you about Ryo Mizunami. You will see the best of her in that match, that was something.

Monthly Puroresu: Any big plans for the rest of 2023? Or are you guys not thinking ahead that far?

Baliyan Akki: Well, Mei’s goal is to go to India.

It’s hard to explain. The whole interview has almost seemed like you ask a question, Mei answers, and then I explain. I think that’s the format of this interview.

But if you don’t know, I’m from India. I grew up in India. I learned to wrestle in India by myself, because we didn’t have anything at that point. So this is just do whatever and I showed up here and all that.

Recently I’ve really wanted to bring everybody that I know here, they are incredible wrestlers. I know they’re some of the best wrestlers in the world, in all sense that I know of wrestling how good they are at what they do. And I always wanted to show that back home. But it’s a hard thing to do. It’s a very big thing too, it’s like a yeah. It’s as big as, you know, like GCW did like a show in Japan. I think you have to be at that level to be able to do that.

I always used to say that to Mei like just silently so it doesn’t become a thing. I would say Mei, “I really want to do that and probably next year”, like I started saying it last year I think, and I’m like, next year we, I wanna do that. And this year, because I’m going back to India after three years and two months now for the first time since the pandemic started. So this is my first time going back home, and I want to get prepared there to do a show this year if I can in all of my power do a show in India this year and bring all of my buddies and bros to do a show there, and show them like such a different thing because India only watches WWE. We have watched that for like 20 years now. And, we have always watched that.

India, we have the largest population in the world right now, we crossed China like a month ago. After cricket, pro-wrestling is the biggest, most popular sport in India after cricket. Cricket in India is as or more crazy as football in Argentina or Europe. It is a religion. You are a god if you are good at cricket, no joke. The biggest player is called Sachin Tendulkar. His nickname is the God. Like that’s how he’s persevered. That’s how much passion there is about that game. And next to it is pro-wrestling because of the WWE.

So I want to go and show them. India by the way, Indian wrestling fans are the rowdiest fans in the world. Every show we did, because I used to do a company in India when I was like, before I moved here some from 19 until I was like 20 something for like a two years, not really two years. I did a promotion in India the way I started with my partner and we used to have like five to six bouncers every show just so we can keep the show going because yeah I used to do heel and I was, I’m a mean heel in Hindi. Hindi is a very personal language. It’s hurtful when you are bad, so people used to jump guardrails. Yeah. I’ve had chairs thrown at me twice.

Monthly Puroresu: That’s some old school territory heat.

Baliyan Akki: I know, right? Legit chairs thrown in the ring, one time somebody threw like a steel chair, like those heavy ones and it hit the rope, bounced back and hit the cameraman. Oh terrible. Very bad. One time it literally hit me on the back cuz somebody threw it at like a right time, but I was turning, facing over somebody threw a chair and it literally hit me here. Then I broke the chair and threw it back at him. Ridiculous. Right. So I, I want them like, I want everybody here to experience that craziness. It’s crazy.

Monthly Puroresu: So do you have any plans?

Baliyan Akki: I mean it’s her plan basically, right?

Mei Suruga: Same.

Baliyan Akki: Like that’s what she said. India. Same thing for the biggest time for Best Bros is for two and a half years we used to talk “oh we are Best Bros I think it’d be nice to travel around and do US with it do Europe or something like that.” The biggest thing we can do together is India. We did the US last year and this year we actually started the year in the US actually. We are going back for Wrestlemania weekend now. We’re going to do I think Boston and Wrestlemania weekend and all that and probably this year more travel at the end of the year. If we could do India that thing would blow everything out of proportion.

Monthly Puroresu: Do you have anything else you want to say?

Baliyan Akki: If you are reading this or if you are asking “What is ChocoPro?” If you are reading this, you probably know ChocoPro, but if you don’t:

It’s something you can give a try to if you’re like “Oh, mat wrestling is not for me.” We have ring shows, just watch those, it’s fine. I mean there’s variety in the world because people like different things. That’s why there’s variety. That’s why there’s more, people have more things to do because people like different things.

You don’t have to feel good or bad about what you like. It is what you like. If you like the mat, if you like ChocoPro, watch ChocoPro. If you’re like,”I just wanna watch my wrestling in the ring” – people doing classic things: Go watch Gatoh Move. The quality of Gatoh Move is probably one of the best wrestling in the world. The consistency and quality of wrestling. So I hope you guys enjoy it and the next time we are in your town, come see us.

Aso if you are an adult, bring your kids. We love when families come and watch us. I think that’s our favorite thing. Mei is having a terrible time because her pollen allergy right now is ridiculous and she’s literally looking at me like, you better finish this early. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for coming.