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23/01/20
From Barbershop to Wrestling Ring

Words: Clara Mokri

Images: Clara Mokri

Michael Hayashi grew up watching his dad cut hair. Today, the father-son duo runs the Eucalyptus Barber Shop in Lodi, a farming town 45 minutes south of Sacramento. Once he closes up at the barbershop, Michael becomes Juice Lee. His alter ego, a play on Bruce Lee, his style mimicking a combination of Mortal Combat, Street Fighting, and Dragon Ball Z.

Michael first found wrestling in high school, when he and a few friends went to a professional wrestling show at the Historical Colonial Theater in Sacramento. He has since wrestled at that same venue. Michael wrestles with Hoodslam, a group based out of Oakland that combines performance art and professional wrestling. Because the events are 21+, wrestlers combine athleticism of wrestling with profane and explicit characters and subject matter, which are not considered appropriate at mainstream professional wrestling events.
The ethos of Hoodslam is rooted in being able to make fun of the tropes of professional wrestling. Fans were drawn to the athletes’ ability to poke fun of themselves and not take things so seriously.

I like to tell myself that our shop got its name because our last name in Japanese is made up of two tree symbols. But my dad insists that’s not the case. Eucalyptus, say it slow. Eu-calypt-us. It sounds like U Clipped Us. Dad is just big on bad puns.

Michael’s 5-year-old son Kaido spends Mondays and Tuesdays with his dad at Eucalyptus, and strikes up a conversation with anyone waiting in line. Separated from Kaido’s mom, he gets his son from Saturday night to Wednesday afternoon every week. Having his son part-time allows him to more easily balance wrestling and parenthood, but it comes at the same cost.

 

In wrestling and cutting hair, you often have to narrowly focus on a small target. Other times, you need a broader view. When you’re working on someone’s hairline, you’ve got to be precise. But when you’re looking at the shape of someone’s head and what type of hair they have, you’ve got to take a step back… Knowing when to switch from precision to big-picture is something you need to be aware of in wrestling all the time.

In 2017, Juice Lee was fighting a tag team match when he decided to climb up the catwalk at the Oakland Metro Opera House
and backflip onto one of his opponents. The stunt was successful, but shortly after landing, another one of his opponents tripped and fell onto his leg.

I broke my right leg. Tibial plate fracture. Sidelined me for a whole calendar year.

The show must go on, though…”

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