Sonny Onoo on Russo: “when he got rid of the Japanese, he lost a million dollars a year”
Filed to GERWECK.NET:
Recap of Sonny Onoo on In Your Head Wrestling Radio, 04/07/2020
by Vic Schiavone
Hosts Jack E. Jones and One Inch Biceps welcomed World Championship Wrestling (WCW) personality Sonny Onoo to IYH Wrestling Radio for a discussion of his career.
Highlights included the following:
A lot of people don’t realize that your first job in WCW was in an off-camera role. How did that all come about?
“Eric Bischoff called me one day because we go back a long way in the martial arts world and asked me how fluent my Japanese was…He said if we get an opportunity let’s talk to some New Japan (Pro Wrestling) guys about this kickboxing opportunity; why don’t you go to Japan with me. So that’s how I went. But when I got there, unbeknownst to me Eric puts me in a spot because I’ve got four to five of the meanest-looking Japanese guys you could probably pick out in a line-up, and they’re looking at us like they want to kill us. I’m looking at Eric like what the hell did you do to these people? I thought for sure I was going to end up in Tokyo Bay floating face down. As I translate what Eric was saying to the Japanese officers of New Japan, I’m translating and hearing this at the same time, and what happened is the prior management of WCW was taking between $400,000 and $500,000 in pay so that New Japan could use our talent, but they never sent any talent. So, they were pretty pissed, thinking WCW was ripping them off for half a million dollars. Eric apologized, and said ‘Hey, give us another chance, the prior management is gone, I’m in charge, here’s our talent that you guys can use, let me make it up to you, and we want to have a friendly relationship with New Japan.’ That’s basically how the thing went. Masa Saito at that point says to me, ‘Well, who’s going to be our contact person, because communication is a real issue here and we can never get your talent?’ Eric, without skipping a beat, said ‘Well, that will be Sonny. You call Sonny, I always take Sonny’s call, so you’ll have a direct line to me and he can translate whatever your request is and I’ll try to accommodate everything that’s possible.’ I said to Eric, ‘I don’t work for you’, and he said ‘You do now.’ And basically, that’s what I was, I was kind of like a liaison, translator, officer for WCW.”
How did you transition to an on-air role?
“I was a fan, but I had no idea what the pro wrestling business was. None. I’m just a casual television fan. So, I jumped in with both my feet. Next thing I knew, New Japan wanted to introduce their talent into WCW, so at that point they needed a mouthpiece. So, Masa Saito, Jimmy Hart, Kevin Sullivan, Eric Bischoff, those guys said, OK, you’re going to be a manager, and this is what you need to do and develop that character that was Sonny Onoo…I actually had done some martial arts movies…I had been in front of the camera before with a script, but nothing like professional wrestling where a lot of the stuff is on the spot.”
There was a lot of controversy when you were let go by WCW. What is the story behind that?
“Eric was gone when Vince Russo came in, and I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but he made a public statement when he came in on one of the WCW platforms saying that (I’m paraphrasing now) ‘I’m from America; I don’t want any Japanese and I don’t want any Mexicans on my television’, and proceeded to fire all the Japanese and Mexicans, almost all of us…He actually pointed out a race of people, Japanese and Mexicans. I don’t know how delicately he could have said it, but there was no gray area. He proceeded to take us off TV. But what Vince Russo failed to realize was that because I was tied in to New Japan, New Japan at this point was paying us (WCW) over a million dollars a year. So, when he got rid of the Japanese, he lost a million dollars a year. Honestly, he wasn’t too bright…Actually, I should be thanking him, because of what he said and it was so cut and dried. I had just signed a two-year deal prior to that, so they had to pay me…I went out and got a real good lawyer, and everything worked out fine for me…If Vince had half a brain and knew the business side of it, he would have never said it…He was just that arrogant and stupid.”
Other topics discussed included:
A funny story involving Kaz Hayashi that occurred after a show in West Virginia.
His involvement in the Collision in Korea pay-per-view in North Korea.
A memorable moment involving Jimmy Snuka.
Did he have any offers from other wrestling companies after WCW?
This interview is available for listening at