The Tokyo Steakhouse that is a Rite-of-Passage for Pro Wrestlers
It's amazing all of the hidden treasures Japan--and Tokyo in particular--has to offer. A few years back, my wife and I were strolling through Meguro just window shopping and enjoying the cool evening walk when we happened upon an unusual restaurant. The place had a campy eighties feel to it with its neon colors and its portraits of celebrities on the outside. Interestingly, all of the portraits were of famous American Pro Wrestlers.
Wait, what? American Pro Wrestlers and a hole-in-the-wall Steakhouse in Meguro? You know, Meguro is not a place that one would call a tourist trap, so I thought to myself, "Okay, there's definitely a cool story behind this place..."
What was the place, you ask? None other than the famous...
It's been a while since I followed Pro Wrestling, but once upon a time I was a rapt viewer. It's hard not to be when you're a teenage boy in Japan, since this country has a special affinity for Pro Wrestling tied to the postwar era. Don't believe me? Check out this picture of a pro wrestling match being televised in a Tokyo square before TVs became fixtures in every home:
In a time when Japan was rebuilding and trying to find its new identity after the destruction of World War II, Japanese pro wrestlers became symbols for the Japanese population. Often fighting against westerners of greater size and stature, the sheer will the Japanese wrestlers displayed in the ring (however dramatized) on their way to victory served as an inspiration for millions of Japanese. So, pro wrestling was woven into the fabric of Japanese pop culture.
Well, with the rise of pro wrestling's popularity in Japan, more and more foreign wrestlers were making the trip either to join Japanese wrestling circuits or to make special appearances at big events.
So how does Ribera Steakhouse play into all of this?
The story goes that in the 70s and 80s, when American Pro Wrestlers would come to Tokyo, they searched for a place that served big steaks, and there was only one place to find a piece of beef substantial enough to satiate a wrestler's appetite: Ribera. From there, news of the restaurant spread from word-of-mouth, and veterans would take younger wrestlers during trips to Japan. But perhaps one of the most significant reasons Ribera became part of American pro wrestling culture is the coveted Ribera Jacket.
Here's what Pro Wrestler Chris Jericho had to say the about Ribera jacket: "When I first started, you weren’t an official wrestler unless you had a Ribera jacket, which is basically this cheesy, rayon, faux-satin jacket with an ironed-on Ribera Steakhouse logo on it. But if you had one of those, it proved you were a wrestler who’d been to Japan. You’d see all guys wearing them, whether they were the biggest stars or had been to Japan once. It was like a badge of honor."
Here's some evidence supporting Jericho's assertions: check out John Cena sporting the jacket at one of his wrestling events:
Okay, so if you're a Pro Wrestling fan, that's probably enough to sell you on going to Ribera, but what about the food--is it worth it?
Ribera Steakhouse basically offers patrons one thing: MEAT (and lots of it). Folks joke that there's only two menu options, "Big" or "Small." In reality, it's more like three--big, small, or MEDIUM. See for yourself on the menu below:
I know it's in Japanese, so to clarify, the menu consists of steak (options 1-7 from top to bottom), veggies, corn-on-the-cob, and corn soup. Basically, you pick your cut of meat (size and preparation style) and your sides at Ribera. It's simple, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
And you may be asking, is it really worth the price? The short answer is absolutely (and I'm in pretty decent company saying so, since since it's good enough for the best pro wrestling has to offer)!
So there you have it...
...whether you're a pro wrestling fan or in the mood for a big, juicy steak, I say zehi, head on down to Ribera!
(Cover photo courtesy of Flickr user Motoyoshi421)
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