A few weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled, “John Tenta – Canada’s Best Sumo Wrestler.” I received a lot of positive feedback, and sumo fans from all around the world really loved learning about John Anthony Tenta Jr. After writing the article, I continued doing so internet sleuthing to discover more information about Tenta’s time in sumo. Surprisingly, I was able to find scanned images of Sumo World’s articles on Tenta from a French sports website (Source Here). I assume that these are all the articles that appeared in Sumo World regarding Tenta, but please email me at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com if you are aware of other articles (or if you know how to access old issues of Sumo World). I would love to have a full collection!
Below, I present each of the scanned images. Then, I discuss the implications of this discovery and whether it alters any of my prior discussions regarding Tenta’s time in sumo. As you’ll see, these articles present some new interesting insights.
Sumo World – January 1986
Sumo World – March 1986
Sumo World – May 1986
Sumo World – July 1986
Sumo World – September 1986
Sumo World – Unknown
So, do these articles change my prior discussion of Tenta? No and Yes.
Most of my prior sentiments stay the same regarding John Tenta. He seemed to give sumo a fair shot. He had initial cultural shocks, but nothing immediately overwhelming. Tenta also had a solid wrestling background to transition into sumo, and he was quickly considered the top prospect at the time. He was immediately compared to ozeki and yokozunas, even before he had double-digit wins. The article even stated that he began to enjoy his time as a professional sumo wrestler. Lastly, the authors were extremely surprised when John Tenta quit sumo, devoting several pages to discussing the issue, and they immediately speculated that he would transition to professional wrestling. In Tenta’s interview, he was gracious and grateful for the experience – even when discussing false statements attributed to him in the Japanese media.
Some of my prior sentiments do change, however. First, I was surprised to read that Tenta was scouted by professional wrestling promoters before joining sumo. I thought his entry into professional wrestling entirely occurred after this rise to glory in sumo. It was also interesting to read that some early seeds were already planted about his motivations to stay or leave sumo. As the article states, “he is still in two minds as to whether sumo is better than pro wrestling, not from the financial point of view but from that of health and long life. He feels that it is pointless being rich and famous if you are not going to be around to enjoy either your money or your life.” I wonder if he was getting whispers from the professional wrestling world while a member of his sumo stable?
Second, article-after-article calls John Tenta the “first ever white sumo wrestler.” Personally, I think this is problematic because there are often questionable connotations regarding who is considered “white”; however, I thought it was interesting that this prior issue of Sumo World directly stated that, “Cal Martin was the first Caucasian to enter sumo”, and, “Kototenta [John Tenta] – the third Caucasian to enter sumo”.
Third, many prior articles also claimed that Tenta was an outcast of his stable and his fellow stable-mates hated him. I found it interesting that Tenta outright said this was not true, and he emphasized he friendships that he built in Japan. Overall, it seemed that he was well liked by most everyone until he decided to leave sumo.
Fourth, I was also surprised to read that Tenta was offered $1,000 a day to return to sumo. That is a huge about of money today, let alone in 1986! I guess Tenta really was worried about his long-term health and happiness more than money or fame. He really stuck to his personal values beyond anything else, especially considering how concerned he was regarding the lack of a security net for injured rikishi.
Fifth, the discussion of Clyde Macavoy, the head of Continental Airlines, was also really interesting. Who knew he was so concerned about the success of Tenta? And did Tenta know about this? If not, he might have stayed in sumo if someone told him…but we will never know!