Innovator. This very word is thrown around frequently in the world of professional wrestling. For every new talent, fresh new move or style that word is used to describe it. However, one man in Professional wrestling is an innovator and it is something we do or see every day.
Sonny Oono is known in the professional wrestling world for his work with WCW during the historic Monday Night Wars. He managed wrestlers such as Ultimo Dragon, Masahiro Chono (Who turned on him to join the NWO) Yuji Nagata, women’s superstar Bull Nakano, among others. During this time he began a tradition of taking a picture of himself with his wrestlers on the way to the ring with a disposable camera. This act has earned him the tittle the Innovator of the Selfie.
“At that time we did not call it a selfie.” Oono recollects. “Technology has caught up with us but I simply wanted to capture the moment of us entering the ring, I felt it fit the character because tourist would always do the same thing.” Oono also added that he embraces the title and is honored with being the innovator of the selfie.
The journey to being an innovator began while he was a world class kick boxer traveling to shows across the United States. It was then he met another competitor by the name of Eric Bischoff. They would often make trips together to save on money and as the legend has it became business partners. The endeavor was a game called Ninja Star Wars. To sell the game Bischoff got on TV through Verne Gagne and the AWA and his sports entertainment career took off.
Bischoff would not forget about his friend. When he took over WCW Bischoff wanted to renew a relationship with NJPW. Before, there was a $400,000 agreement that was made between the two organizations. Unfortunately, the agreement went sour and Bischoff decided to reignite the relationship.
This is when Oono entered the fray. He became a liaison between WCW and NJPW when Bischoff needed a translator. This relationship helped WCW begin an 80 plus week streak of beating WWE in the ratings.
“WCW was different, the NWO helped tremendously but there were the cruiserweights, overseas stars such as Ultimo Dragon, women’s wrestling, there was a lot of variety.” Oono stated. “There was not a lot of storyline (and) we didn’t need storyline. It was more reality based.” Oono concluded.
Despite not being seen on WWE. Oono has stayed in the world of professional wrestling. Currently, Oono is preparing to be a color commentator for All Japan Pro Wrestling on the FITE TV app. All Japan is the largest pro wrestling organization and features stars such as Ultimo Dragon, Tajiri, Kaz Hayashi and others. The plan is to host PPV streaming and on demand through the app. The app itself is very accessible and easy to use. It can be downloaded through any app store and features pro wrestling and MMA from around the world, not just stateside.
In regards to pro wrestling today Oono stated his thoughts, “Competition is good for everybody. When WCW/WWE went head to head fans benefited because everyone was trying to outdo each other.” Oono also added that he felt there is great talent all over the world and that people should pay attention to independent wrestling in their area and over the world due to the talent out there. “You can have the best steak in the world, but you don’t want to eat it every day.” Oono concluded.
Oono has led an accomplished life and much more is on the horizon. However, Oono is most proud of his family. His beautiful wife of over twenty years, his four successful children and his grandchild Liam. Anyone that is friends with Oono on Facebook or seen him in Mason City, IA knows of his love of his family.
Suffice to say the innovator of the selfie is not done innovating yet. Please look for Oono during the AJPW broadcasts on the FITE TV app.
Interview & story by PWHaven Contributor Erich Pilcher.