23/01/20

From Barbershop to Wrestling Ring

Words: Clara Mokri

Images: Clara Mokri

Michael Hayashi spent his childhood in the barbershop, watching his dad cut hair. Today, he and his father run the Eucalyptus Barber Shop in Lodi, a farming town 45 minutes south of Sacramento. At the end of the workday, Michael leaves the shop and heads for the ring, where he becomes Juice Lee. His wrestling alter-ego combines the fighting styles ofBruce Lee, Mortal Combat, Street Fighting, and Dragon Ball Z.

 

Michael first became introduced to wrestling in high school after he and his friends went to a professional wrestling show at the Historical Colonial Theater in Sacramento. He has since wrestled at that same venue. Today, Michael wrestles with Hoodslam, a group based out of Oakland that combines performance art and professional wrestling.

The events are 21+, allowing wrestlers to combine the athleticism of wrestling with profane costumes and explicit subject matter, both of which are not considered appropriate at mainstream WWE 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 barbershop 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, Michael gets his son from Saturday night to Wednesday afternoon every week. Having his son part-time is hard for Michael, but it allows him to more easily balance wrestling and parenthood.

 

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…”

 

 

“…I passed out twice after I got helped back into the ring, but managed to finish that sequence of the fight before they took me
to the hospital.”

“I’m drawn to the idea of trying to manufacture order out of chaos.

That’s what wrestling is all about.”