Q&A: WWE Japan Broadcast Team Play-By-Play Announcer Shun Yamaguchi

WWE Japan Broadcast Team Play-by-Play Announcer Shun Yamaguchi’s first-ever live professional wrestling experience was when the acclaimed and gifted Japanese WWE announcer officially witnessed the memorable Nippon Pro Wrestling in Japan to marvel the iconic likes of incomparable Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki.

On that very night spectating Nippon Pro Wrestling live in-person in Japan, the ever-flamboyant, colourfully mysterious and charismatic Mexican professional wrestling immortal and WWE Hall of Famer Mil Mascaras debuted in Japan.

Shun Yamaguchi’s older brother Wally Yamaguchi – affectionately known as Yamaguchi San – managed WWE’s infamous all-Japanese group Kai En Tai during the unforgettable and very influential WWE Attitude Era; Kai En Tai was comprised of Japanese professional wrestlers Taka Michinoku, Sho Funaki, Shiryu and Dick Togo, whereas Shun Yamaguchi’s very own passion and drive to enter the professional wrestling industry followed with great persistence, skill and dedication.

The lifelong professional wrestling adoring Shun Yamaguchi would often witness live high-profile Japanese professional wrestling action at the legendary Korakuen Hall, the Mecca of professional wrestling in Japan; Shun Yamaguchi and his brother Wally would go to see the live professional wrestling matches in Tokyo, Japan with great frequency and the Yamaguchi brothers had a goal to both enter the professional wrestling industry.

Thereafter, Shun Yamaguchi’s older brother Wally landed a translating job for Tokyo Sports Newspaper in Japan, whilst Shun Yamaguchi subsequently become a professional photographer for Gong Magazine.

From the early to mid 1980s, Shun Yamaguchi relocated to the United States where he was educated in Boston. From there onwards, Shun Yamaguchi received a golden opportunity where he got a life-changing phone call from his older brother Wally.

“Do you have your camera? Can you go to Madison Square Garden? I think Bob Backlund is going to drop the strap?!” to which the very eager and enthusiastic Shun Yamaguchi replied, “Sure! Tell me what to do and how to get access.”

This golden life-changing opportunity would be Shun Yamaguchi’s first-ever professional wrestling show where he would be paid handsomely; Shun Yamaguchi never took any pictures from ringside ever before although this was his moment. Shun Yamaguchi also never missed a Madison Square Garden professional wrestling live show and also never missed a WWE WrestleMania event; Yamaguchi also attended nearly all WWE Pay-Per-Views during this timeframe.

Thereafter Yamaguchi’s break, he then covered many major NWA and WCW live shows, coupled alongside early UFC events which were headlined by the likes of Royce Gracie, Dan “The Beast” Severn, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock and Don Frye.

Throughout his career, Shun Yamaguchi has had the distinct honor and priveledge of conducting exclusive interviews with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, professional wrestling legend Gene Kiniski, Stampede Wrestling founder/Professional Wrestling icon and Hart Dungeon pioneer Stu Hart, Professional Boxing immortal “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali, The Sheik, Dory Funk as well as many more noteworthy figures in the world of professional wrestling and professional sports.

In addition, Shun Yamaguchi has also served as a referee for prominent independent professional wrestling shows in Boston as well as several big tours in Japan and Korea; Shun Yamaguchi has also served as bookings agent for the well-respected WAR when representing Japanese professional wrestling icon Genichiro Tenryu in Japan.

Shun Yamaguchi met current WWE Japan Broadcast Team Color Analyst Sho Funaki when Funaki arrived in Boston for WWE WrestleMania 14 in 1998 on a night when the Texas Rattlesnake and the toughest S.O.B ever to lace up boots up in the history of WWE “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ushered in the Austin Era when he defeated “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels with a Stone Cold Stunner for the WWE Championship courtesy of boxing icon “Iron” Mike Tyson making the pivotal three count as special guest ring enforcer.

Incidentally, WWE Japan Broadcast Color Announcer Sho Funaki recommended Shun Yamaguchi to WWE to become the voice of WWE Japan; Shun Yamaguchi then received a WWE audition to become the voice of WWE Japan and was later approved of by WWE executives due to his impressive performance, passion and knowledge.

FOX Sports 96.9 FM/130 AM’s Dean Perretta caught up with WWE Japan Broadcast Team Play-By-Play Announcer Shun Yamaguchi to discuss about life as a WWE Broadcast Announcer, WWE’s popularity in Japan, the influx of Japanese talent in WWE, Yamaguchi’s favorite moments in his WWE career thus far and much more.

Q: First and foremost Shun, what have been some of your favorite moments thus far in your successful career with WWE?

Everytime (Sho) Funaki and I do the 10-15 second stop during the live events is our favorite moments. I have just started at WWE and to say successful is so too early, maybe after in 20 years I would like to say successful. I am still at a learning stage and getting to know new things and I thank all the production teammates for preparing me and making me look good. If not for them, there’s no success. I was super excited and I guess that showed during the audition. I bring that same excitement and enthusiasm to the (WWE Japan) broadcasting booth. It’s been super fun. Most of the time we call the matches, but sometimes we just talk wrestling history as it helps a lot since he (Sho Funaki) was a wrestler and I ask questions to Funaki as a wrestlers point of view.

Q: Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, Hideo Itami, Kairi Sane and Akira Tozawa are among some of the very talented and popular Japanese WWE Superstars. With such a positive influx of Japanese talent in WWE in recent memory, how would you describe WWE’s popularity in Japan since the arrival of the aforementioned WWE superstars?

WWE popularity in Japan has always been there, I believe. I don’t have numbers and since I live here in the US, my honest answer is, “I’m not sure” but this I can say, for instance I’m meeting more people more now who had nothing to do with (professional) wrestling before are posting photos of them taking their kids to WWE live shows in Japan. I met a person at my Japanese chess club, who’s not a wrestling fan but a WWE fan! We talked that we’ve been in the same show in Yokohama a long time ago. WWE fans in Japan I think have big fan base as just WWE fans! Asuka, Shinsuke (Nakamura), Hideo (Itami), (Akira) Tozawa and Kairi (Sane) now is YES. A huge plus to Japanese market. No doubt!

Q: What are your all-time most memorable matches that you have called live as a Broadcast Announcer for the WWE Japanese Broadcast Team?

Not to be corny, but the last show is always my favorite show. WWE Survivor Series 2017 was AWESOME! Shinsuke (Nakamura) vs Jinder (Mahal) was fun to call, especially when (Sho) Funaki started pushing and shoving with the Hindi announcers during the match. I thought that was pretty funny. When Goldberg beat Brock (Lesnar) in like 10 seconds that was like” Whoa”. WWE WrestleMania watching Undertaker leave was also something. But honestly, it’s always the last show I have done was the most memorable to call.

Q: The WWE Universe in Japan is among the most educated and most passionate of all of the nations around the globe. When WWE visits Japan, how would you describe the experience?

I have only been able to see WWE live in Japan several times and seems long time ago. The Japanese fans love to do the WWE experience. The WWE experience is possible in Japan when we visit. The fan want to call out “Yes! Yes!” or “What? What?”. I have seen many matches, but one match from the Japan tour, Triple H vs (Yoshiro) Tajiri is still one of my favorite matches ever. I’ve told Tajiri that before. Even though it was a match especially for Japan tour, I really got appreciation vibe from the sold-out crowd behind my back while shooting ringside and was very proud of everything.

Q: Before we leave Shun, in your opinion which WWE/NXT superstar do you believe will have a breakthrough year in WWE in 2018?

I honestly don’t know. I want Hideo (Itami) to have good year. I have known him since he was working on indie shows in the states 10 years ago. I want Asuka to remain a power in RAW, Shinsuke (Nakamura) to keep up the great work. Climb up is fun, but keeping and sustaining is super important and also fun.

Dean Perretta
Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.