My views on Pro Wrestling from the East and West

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

My look at the current state of puroresu

Was reading my buddy TenzanTeam2K's new online journal, and he made some interesting remarks about wanting to debate the current state of Japanese wrestling based on some stuff I said awhile back. Well, I ain't no master-debater, but I think I could argue a few of the points he made. You can read TT2K's original rant by clicking HERE.
I was actually saving some of this stuff for a big year end look at the business, but what the heck.

Yes, it's a shame ZERO-ONE died out. And they did pull a coup d'eta by kicking out Hashimoto because he appeared on a rival company's show. But hey, even they had to get fed-up by never having been put over by him and the company not making any money due to his bad business decisions (including paying more attention to the Hustle project), and this was the best excuse to get rid of him.
And the Fire Festivals which were a big yearly attraction were booked by Otani himself, and even he was more generous with his bookings by putting over others ahead of himself.
Zero-One might be dead, but I don't think I ever said I'd like for there to be a revival of sorts. It's also probably a good thing now since there isn't room for four big promotions to survive in Japan the way attendance numbers have dropped.
Everyone is singing praises about Hashimoto returning to New Japan now. But I'll be the first one laughing in their faces when it comes back to bite them in the ass.

All Japan Pro Wrestling
I'll admit Mutoh did a really crappy job when he was first put in charge about two years back, but this year has been a real eye-opener as things have really turned around for the better for the company. Mutoh was really smart in rekindling his ties with NJPW as it allowed him access to bring in some old friends like Nishimura who weren't being used much in NJPW anyway.
One thing I do have to argue with TT2K though is how he totally lacked to mention the next to ZERO Jr heavyweights they have in their division as compared to NOAH. Kazu Hayashi, Ryuji Hijikata & Taichi Ishikari are the ONLY locals they have in the Jr. division (Fuchi is a fulltime heavyweight now), with the rest all being outsiders or free agents. And Kohei Suwama is about the only hope they have as a future homegrown star of the company.

This is a failing experiment. But they have done somethings that caught my interest, like Kawada VS Mick Foley and Goldberg VS Naoya Ogawa. They'll be lucky if they EVER sell out the Yokohama Arena though. And I agree with TT2K about cosplaying wrestlers. It must be one of the worst ideas in the history of bad-wrestling ideas. At least they haven't had two old-timers go at it in a evening gown hardcore match yet XPXPXP

Pro Wrestling NOAH
Misawa's happy little group. TT2K, you've been a bit of a hypocrite here as you said you had no problems with Kawada being Triple Crown champion for a long time, but said the opposite for GHC Champion Kobashi. The reason Kawada hasn't dropped the title yet to Kojima or anyone yet is because he is the top draw of the company also, like Kobashi is for NOAH. Kojima's time as champion will come. But they can't rush into it or it will end up like Akiyama's GHC title reign.
I will admit Kobashi's act is getting a bit redundant though. Watching his classic AJPW matches on the satelite TV this past few days showed me a real difference in the man then and now. For one thing, he wasn't a half-nelson suplex machine, and was more of the underdog at times in big matches.
As for the rest of the heavyweight division, say what you will about Taue, but the man is putting on matches ten times better than anything involving guys his age like Chono or Choshu in NJPW. Taue is the man who can answer the call when required despite his age and he hardly dissapoints.
Tamon Honda lost his spark due to lack of follow up for the push he had awhile back. True that he is one of the guys that will never be champion, but pairing him up in tags to help get over younger guys would be a good way to use him. A second tag title run would be good.
The rest of the division is indeed in need of some help though. I won't argue that Masao Inoue & Akitoshi Saito need to be carried to have a good match, or at least matches that don't go over 10 minutes if they aren't tagging with descent partners, which is probably why Sugiura is in the Dark Agents faction.
Rikio & Morishima still need to develop more before they can make the jump to the top. They have yet to prove themselves as singles wrestlers (Rikio had arguably the worst GHC title match ever with Kobashi). The day one of them gets a three count on Misawa himself and put on a convincing performance for it is the day they will be deemed worthy to become champion.

New Japan Pro Wrestling
The self professed "King of Sports" have had themselves a crock of a year with alot of really bad business decisions that have cost the company both financially and integrity-wise. From the IWGP title being devalued by champions like Bob Sapp and Kazuyuki Fujita, to Inoki's medling with the booking, and of course the miss-use of talent, this has not been a good year for them.
Guys like Stuart and the rest of the Yes-Men at the Strong Style Message Board can rant and rave all they want about how good a show is, But it's not doing NJPW any good if non of the locals feel the same way and turn up for the shows, like the huge bomb that was the Osaka Dome last month. We can buy all the tapes we want, but it won't put a cent in NJPW's pocket since they are all bootlegged anyway. If New Japan is smart and really want to cut down expenses, they should just run one Tokyo Dome show a year (Wrestling World), while the rest of the big shows be relegated to smaller venues like the Nippon Budokan and the Sumo Hall. All Japan did that, and look how they turned out now?
As for the roster, True, they have some of the best workers in the world. False, I don't think I said most of them were shooter wannabes, but that they fall into one of three main categories of the types of workers they have. And this was even pointed out by NJPW President Kusama himself. And TT2K, how could you possibly not count Nakamura as a shooter when he’s been more successful at it than Shibata? Heck, about 70% of his arsenal comprises submission moves. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you probably “forgot” that the young supernova made his mark as a shooter.
And I’ll admit that I still don’t get “Strong Style”. The only thing I get about it is that it’s slow and lumbering. I haven’t seen any of the big chain sequences that guys like Akiyama, Kobashi, Kawada or even Masato Tanaka have pulled off. Proof being Akiyama in the 2003 G-1 Climax tournament. He just looked so limited there, like a fish out of water. The best match he had there was actually with Tanahashi, cause the youngster could keep up with his pace instead of the lumbering guys like Chono & Nakanishi. Tenzan also had two good matches with Akiyama by the way. More then enough reason he should be holding the IWGP title right now.
As for the rest of the rosters, it’s true that NJPW have a HUGE rosters of up and coming youngsters, but just how far are they gonna get now with the return of Hashimoto & Choshu? Or Chono again stealing the spotlight away for himself as the leader of the top heel faction? Instead of the generation wars, it’s back to the old good VS evil storylines.
The same could be said for the Jr Division when Liger once again jumped to the dark side and joined CTU, so he could be an unbeatable heel instead of the underdog face that has to battle them and take a few loses along the way. Personally, I also thought Liger joining CTU took the focus away from Takemura, who started the whole damn thing in the first place to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
And then there are the rookies; the guys in black tights who win all their matches early in their careers with either a Boston crab, or a German suplex. Sure, NJPW is churning them out like no other, and it was huge that they managed to get the son of Davey Boy Smith too. NOAH so far only has Go Shiozaki and AJPW only has Kohei Suwama. Both of them could really use some fresh meat, but NOAH could use it more than AJPW I think, since NOAH needs to expand their roster a bit instead of bringing in outsiders mostly for one shot tours.

Well, this turned out to be a bit of a rant, didn’t it? Think I'll end this here for now. But you know what they say, “It’s healthy to release some of your frustrations by putting it in writing.”



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