The Dragon Gate Animal Abuse Scandal Turned The Company On Its Head

Hamish Woodward

In 2009, Dragon Gate in Japan was rocked by the reveal of a horrendous animal abuse scandal in their dojo. Trainees from their training school had been abusing a monkey, which was owned by the legendary CIMA, and detailing the abuse in a blog run by HEY-YO.

All the people involved in the abuse were punished by the company, with the police and animal abuse charities being involved in the horrendous abuse of Kora, the monkey who was kept captive in the Dragon Gate Dojo.

Background of Dragon Gate

The promotion that the animal abuse took place is a Japanese wrestling company called Dragon Gate. Dragon Gate was founded in 2004, as offshoot of the Toryumon Japan promotion which was ran by Ultimo Dragon. After Ultimo Dragon abandoned the promotion, the crew kept it running under the new name of “Dragon Gate”.

The company focuses heavily on the Junior Heavyweight style of wrestling, which was heavily influenced by wrestlers like Dynamite Kid, as well as the history of Lucha Libra in Mexico. Wrestlers like Akira Tozawa, Shingo Tagaki and PAC have all come through and wrestled for the company, helping make it one of the biggest second-tier wrestling promotions in Japan.

The company did have an American wing of the promotion, called Dragon Gate USA, although this was shut down in 2015. Like in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Dragon Gate focuses heavily on factions and tournaments to book its events, showing how Japanese wrestling differs from American wrestling.

Not only that, but also the scandals differ from American wrestling. The Dragon Gate Animal Abuse Scandal is one of the most heinous in wrestling history, and happened right in the dojo where Dragon Gate trained the future of its roster.

The Dragon Gate Animal Abuse Scandal

In 2009, graduates from the Dragon Gate dojo were in hot water after details of their regular abuse of a monkey was revealed by wrestlers blogging on the Dragon Gate website.

Kora was a monkey that was the victim during the Dragon Gate animal abuse scandal. Kora was the pet of Dragon Gate legend CIMA, who attempted to leave the company to join the WWE at this time (wrestling in a dark match against Jamie Noble on Smackdown in 2009). He gifted the monkey to the Dragon Gate dojo, tasking the trainees to look after Kora, teaching them about responsibility (monkeys are a restricted pet in Japan, and owners need permission from the authorities to keep them as pets).

Dragon Gate trainee YO-HEY was given the monkey to look after, which is where the abuse of the creature is said to have begun. YO-HEY detailed the abuse of the animal in a now-defunct blog, which was written from the perspective of the animal.

In the blog, YO-HEY wrote all about the abuse that he inflicted on the monkey, detailing the horrific violence in detail from the first-person perspective of the monkey. The blog was taken down shortly after the abuse was noticed by the general public, but the details of what the monkey was put through has been chronicled since.

In the blog, YO-HEY documented the abuse the monkey suffered at the hands of him, and other members of the Dragon Gate Dojo. These include, but are not limited to;

  • Choking it by the neck until it passed out.
  • Burning it with hot charcoal.
  • Dragging it around by a chain on its neck, causing great pain and discomfort to the monkey.
  • Throwing the monkey into a tub of boiling hot water.
  • Blowing air into the monkey’s mouth, causing it to defecate immediately.
  • Feeding it sake regularly until it would pass out.
  • Attacking fire crackers to it and lighting them.
  • Locking it in a box while the Dragon Gate trainees spray antiperspirant in the box, causing the monkey to panic with fear.

Matt Jackson wrote about his experiences with the monkey in The Young Buck’s autobiography, titled “Killing the Business”. He claimed that the monkey would “scream loudly and throw rocks” at him and “angrily perform continuous backflips”, a behavior which is often seen in abused animals. This showed the level of hurt the monkey felt from his treatment by the graduates of the Dragon Gate Dojo.

A Number of Wrestlers Were Punished For Their Part In The Scandal

Once details of the animal abuse came out, all the people involved in the abuse scandal were punished. Dragon Gate President Takashi Okamura took a large pay cut after the events came to light, despite not being directly a part of the abuse. In Japan, this is common practice, with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata taking a large pay cut after the failure of the Nintento Wii U.

YO-HEY, as the reported chief instigator of the abuse, was fired from Dragon Gate (other reports claim he was merely suspended and sent to counselling). Another trainee, whose name is not known as never made it as a professional wrestler, was also fired, while multiple other wrestlers were punished for their part in the scandal.

As the own of the monkey, CIMA was forced to pay a portion of his wages to an animal abuse charity. He was allegedly not a part of the abuse, but as the owner of the monkey was deemed as failing to look after it and not guaranteeing its safety. He also reportedly did not have the correct paperwork to own the monkey, given that it was a dangerous animal and did attack people during this time.

The bigger stars in the company, Akira Tozawa and Shingo Tagaki, were punished by being forced to shave their head. Shaving your head is used as a punishment in Japan often, as an act of humility by forgoing part of your identity to ask for forgiveness from others. Five other’s shaved their head too, including KAGETORA and Naoki Matsushita, HEY-YO, Commissioner Toru Kido, and President Okamura.

Since the animal abuse scandal, Dragon Gate have not kept any pets in their dojo, and the wrestling moved has forgiven then and moved on. Akira Tozawa now wrestles in the WWE, while Shingo Tagaki is one of the biggest stars in NJPW, even winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in 2021.

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