Tokyo Japan, home of the UTA's International Affair. The fans are polite, respectful and rabid for the happenings of Sunday night. An early morning autograph signing at a local comic book and toy store. An mid morning workout at the dojo and now a quick lunch at one of the many noodle shops in town before an afternoon conference call with the office back in the States.
Ordering lunch was the usual painful ordeal. I don't speak a word of Japanese but I can read it and picture signs well enough. Point and click works well on a computer but not when you're trying to get lunch. Gotta be careful what I order, this stuff can tear you up if you don't watch.
We enter into a Tokyo noodle shop. The signs are in a language most foreigners can't read. That still hasn't stopped Ron Hall from dropping in for lunch, a few quick pictures with fans and autographs for the staff is a small price for two things that been lacking since the plane landed in Tokyo earlier this week, privacy and a chance to think.
Eating with chop sticks is still comical to watch, but better that than to be disrespectful and ask for a fork. The cold noodles meet the warm and somewhat salty broth. No house sauces or flavoring so in this dish please. Like all foreign travelers, there are a few stories of less than pleasant dinning, but that's not what's on the Hall of Famer's
The look on his face is the usual look of blank disinterest and non concern. His hair is gathered under a ball cap, and his eyes hidden behind his glasses. He has on a long sleeve grey swear shirt and jeans. There are no stains on his clothing from his lunch... At least not yet. His mind on the other hand is running fast as always, his mouth unable to keep up or even open.
"Marie needs to pay more attention to detail than what she does. Keji was a friend of mine and a trainer at the dojo not a reporter. Sleeping around? That girl has an imagination, I'll give her that. I thought she was married... I don't need another title. That's cute Marie, I want... No need that title. It's a springboard to bigger and better things."
The bowl comes to his mouth and a few sips of chicken, beef and salty broth break his thought, not for too long though.
"So you're going to put on your big girl pants and step up Marie? Good. Let's see what you've got. Let's see what this championship really means to you.
The chop sticks wrap noodles around them and trap a piece of chicken in them. The contents slowly find their way to Ron's mouth, a quick dab of a napkin cleans up any mess and Ron's thoughts return to the match at hand.
"Lew, you gave it your all in that tag match, that I'm not questioning. What I am questioning is what I saw in your eyes that night and have seen since. You're still hung up on getting screwed out of the UTA World title. It's happened to a lot of people me included. Yes I see the promise in you, I see the potential to be a Hall of Famer, but I don't see the focus or the commitment. You're still thinking about what can't be instead of what could be. Get your mind right by Sunday night if it matters to you, or be another forgotten footnote of history."
A few sips of his soda break his though. It's 1:30 pm local time in Tokyo. There are still things to do and business that yes even being half way across the world doesn't change. A quick stir of the broth and the remnants of the meat and it all comes to his mouth as he drinks the last of the broth and thinks of the last participant in the ladder match.
"Amy, Amy Amy... You poor thing, need I remind you that without the assistance of one Matthew Wingate Jr., this has been, this old man or whatever you think of me today, would have given you the beating your daddy apparently never did when you were a spoiled little child?"
The last of the broth disappears and Ron puts the bowl down. He quietly cracks open a fortune cookie, after eating the cookie, he reads a fortune "A great event will change your life." He quickly gathers his bag from around his seat and the left over trash from his food. He takes and throws his trash away while some final thoughts run through his mind for Sunday.
"The ladder match, 3 people looking to make a name, one who is trying to regain his name. I see it not as my road to redemption, but my road back to validation. It's not just about the Prodigy championship and how bad the three of you want that first elusive championship, it's about me and proving that I can still do it on my own without help or someone in my pocket."
Ron heads for the door and his thought is broken by a manager who shouts in broken English "Everything good?" Ron smiles and gives the ok sign and heads out the door. He pulls out his phone and starts to look through some text messages as he walks down the street, seemingly oblivious to the three local men following him.
The walk takes a few minutes but Ron finally realizes he's being followed. He turns around and the three men stop and smile, one seems to speak very clear English.
"How very rude of you Mr. Hall. You were made a very nice offer by our Sensei to withdraw from the ladder match and you never gave him the courtesy of an answer."
Ron takes a deep breath, he knows where this is going... "My silence should have been his answer and he doesn't have enough to change my mind."
Crack!! knuckles are cracked. The three of them start to close in. "Who said we were going to convince you with money?"
Hall drops his bag and slowly feels himself tighten up. Here we go again... His eyes narrow and his voice stern.
"You really don't want to do this."