Bored with Velcro wall-jumping? Try on a pseudo-sumo
suit for size.
TIRED OF BEING A 9O-LB. WEAKLING? WANNA THROW
SOME WEIGHT around? Now you can be a really big
man (or woman) without special diets or boring
weight-gaining regi mens. Yes, thanks to the magic
of sumo suits, you too can look like a 400-lb.
behemoth. Squash your enemies. Flatten your friends.
Get a big crush on that special someone.
But hurry. "In a year or two, no one will
be doing this," says John Wilkinson, owner
of Total Rebound, a Napa, Calif., company that
throws corporate sumo parties at which revelers
don 43-pound, rubberized vinyl and nylon suits
and roll around on each other atop a padded mat.
In the meantime, though, Wilkinson-and a handful
of other fast-fad entrepreneurs-are here to indulge
any one who secretly dreams of emulating Japan's
blubbery grunt-and-groaners. Since they hit the
U.S. market in January, about 100 foam or inflatable
sumo suits have been sold, mainly to party promoters
and bars. A set-two suits, protective helmets covered
by wigs and a padded wrestling ring costs between
$4,000 and $6,000, depending on the manufacturer
involved, and can be rented for $200 to $1,500
per event. They have been showing up in bars, at
church outings, high school proms and even corporate
"The primary reason for people to get in
the suits is because it's funny," says Peter
Herzig, a British-born entrepreneur who staged
their commercial debut after see ing a sumo-suited
character in a TV beer commercial. "It's a
slapstick thing. It was never designed to be a
serious wrestling product."
For 14-year-old Mike Bowling, who sumoed with
his sister Jennifer, 13, at a Burlingame, Calif.,
exhibition sponsored by a local radio station,
it's a matter of all gain, no pain. "When
you bump, it doesn't hurt, so you go crazy," he
says. Echoes Jennifer: "It's a blast-bet ter
than miniature golf." Whether it proves as
durable, of course, is anybody's guess. But consider
this: One Hollywood bigwig has booked sumo suits
for his son's bar mitzvah-in 1994.