By Dory Funk Jr.
Big John Tenta - 6' 6" 400 pounds.
Aka Kototenzan - Japanese Sumo Name (Heavenly Mountain)
Terry and I were in Japan working the Real World Tag Team Tour in December of 1987. The show in Korakuen Hall was over and we were sitting in the dressing room cooling down. Sitting across from us was Big John Tenta. He seemed in a state of deep thought. Terry looked up at Big John and said, "What are you thinking John?" Big John replied, "I am just trying to figure out what Mr. Baba would like next."
I knew John Tenta's background. I had read a story in the paper back home about Big John an amateur wrestler/football player from LSU who was recruited to become a Sumo Wrestler in Japan. He was undefeated in Sumo however there were some problems because his hair was thinning at the top and it was difficult to fix in the Sumo hair style. To this day, Big John is the only non Samoan or Hawaiian ever to do so well in Sumo.
Even though Tenta was highly successful in Sumo competition, the highly restrictive life of a beginning Sumo wrestler was more than John could stick with so with an undefeated record in Sumo, John asked Giant Baba if he could become a professional wrestler.
As Terry and I were entering the showers, I saw Big John Tenta on his knees unlacing Giant Baba's wrestling shoes. (Living in Japan for a Japanese young boy this practice is not only accepted, but required) I thought it strange to see an LSU graduate, highly credible amateur wrestler and American football player doing this, but John was living in Japan, working in Japan and participating in the Japanese system of respect for his boss.
That evening at dinner, I asked Big John what he wanted to accomplish in professional wrestling. He said, "I want to work for the WWF." I told John, It is a long way from the "Young Boy System" in Japan to working for WWF but it is your dream, I believe you can do it.
Three years later back in America, not only had John Tenta made it to the WWF but in August '90 he wrestled Hulk Hogan in the main event at Summer Slam. At Wrestlemania 10 Big John Tenta beat Atom Bomb, Brian Clark in less than a minute. I am proud to say at the Funking Dojo I had the privilege of working with Big John Tenta in preparation for his role with WWF as a member of the Oddities. Big John Tenta lived his dream.
In May of 2004, Big John Tenta went public with the following release:
"I have been diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer. I have a large tumor on my bladder blocking my left kidney from functioning properly, This, of course will now be the biggest battle EVER in my life, but I am not afraid."
Marti and I are blessed to have known John Tenta. During his training time with me as his Coach at the WWF Funking Dojo in 1999, Big John would sit in meditation after practice. I asked him what he was up to that evening and he said he was just trying to think of what Mr. McMahon would like next? John was a good man and one of the most thoughtful people I have known.
Our condolences to his family.
Dory Funk Jr.