By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Now that Konishiki has a new CD and has ventured out for some gigs, his enthusiasm is almost a drawback. “I really get into it,” he says. “But I’m big. I’d be giving all my everything, dancing my head off at the first song. Then I’d be all, like, tired. I’ve slowly learned how to control myself.”
The messages Konishiki wants to communicate include personal pride, determination, and encouragement to island-bound Hawaiian musicians — but especially the value of family. The last reads a little strange, considering the way he describes his upbringing: poverty and rigidity, with parents who’d thrash him and his brothers with a belt when the boys would get caught up watching football and arrive late for church. “They used to beat the shit out of us,” he says. But he’s grateful for the discipline. When he goes home, he still attends church with his dad.
Does he want kids of his own? On behalf of himself and his wife, former fashion model Sumika Shioda, he says, yeah, “at least three,” but not yet. “In this business, it’s gonna kill me, man.”
Konishiki may find that the music business is an even more cutthroat game than sumo. But he’s prepared, because he feels he was in the sport when it was at its toughest.
“The sumotori now try to find a way to win easy. I don’t see that full contact, boom-boom, y’know? The killer instinct is just slowly getting away from the younger guys. In my time, everybody was out there to kill you.”
Konishiki denies that the covert give-and-take practice of fixing individual bouts, which a former wrestler has recently claimed to be pandemic in recent years, prevailed in his time.
“That wasn’t even part of sumo,” he says flatly. “Everything was intense.”
With foreign-born wrestlers Akebono and Musashimaru having attained the rank of yokozuna in the ’90s, it seems that the xenophobic battles of Konishiki’s day are over. But the taunts, insults and hazings he endured have hardened his resolve for the Lost Highway ahead.
He’s tough, but even tough guys take a break now and then. The few days he’s in L.A., between interviews and filming TV clips for CNN and National Enquirer TV, Konishiki gets to kick back occasionally, hanging out or singing karaoke at a local nightspot. When I ask if he plans to hit the sand at all, I discover there’s one specter capable of flooding this warrior-poet’s heart with dread.
“I’m afraid,” says the 600-pound slammer, “of California beaches.”
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