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leo

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  1. Well this has ruined my day. I'm going to go and binge watch my favourite matches of his tonight - 1972 World Series final vs Andre, first match vs Inoki, IWA title match vs Rusher (one of the first, if not the first world title match in Japan between two native wrestlers). The first Japanese wrestler to get into the business via bodybuilding, which he first learned from US army members stationed in Yokota near his home of Ōme on the outskirts of Tōkyō. The gym in central Tōkyō that he trained at afterwards happened to be frequented by Kintarō Ōki, who took a liking to him and introduced him to Rikidōzan. However despite wanting to be a pro wrestler since his teens, he felt he did not yet have the physique to compete (which I find amusing if you look at photos of him from this time). Later, he worked at Riki Sports Palace, tidying up gym equipment used by the wrestlers, where he was further pressed by Ōki to consider joining the JWA. He also spent time training at the fabled Kōrakuen Gym, brushing shoulders with the likes of Yukio Mishima. In October 1966, around the time Isao Yoshihara split from the JWA to form the IWE, they met following a bodybuilding competition in Hibiya, being introduced by the IWE's first ring announcer Yasuo Hasegawa who was present at the meet. This was Kobayashi's first time entering such a competition, and to the surprise of few, he won it. Yoshihara was so impressed that he requested Kobayashi to join the IWE with him as his number one rookie. It was this encounter that sufficiently convinced Kobayashi that he should give up his job working at Kokutetsu (Japan's national rail company, now Japan Railways) and finally fulfil his dream to become a wrestler. I could go on but unfortunately work calls. He had an interesting career path, peaking relatively early on (although this was mainly due to persistent back issues which limited his workrate after transferring to New Japan), but his impact in the early 70s is absolutely indelible and he deserves to be remembered for it. Rest in peace.
  2. Reported on Igapro, he was 64. Some of my favourite matches of his:
  3. leo

    2026 Nomination Thread

    I would like to suggest his match vs Jos Leduc - IWE (10/3/1979) too. Rusher had a whole lot of slow, plodding matches, particularly when up against more technical foreign wrestlers, but against brawlers like Leduc or Gypsy Joe he absolutely shined. This one is probably my favourite of the lot, and I highly recommend it.
  4. Cool, sounds good. It would be great to collaborate. I've just ordered 興行界の顔役 myself since you mentioned it, along with 昭和プロレス正史 by Fumi Saitō. Looking forward to getting into those once they arrive. The first one will take a little longer since I had to use a forwarding service, so you might already be well into it by the time I get my hands on the book. There are a couple of biographical texts on Banboku Ono as well which I'm thinking of picking up. They might be of use towards your research around the business side of the industry during the Rikidōzan era. Anyway, really enjoying the JWA series.
  5. I've not read the suggestion that Tōgō was simply using Thesz's name value before but it wouldn't surprise me at all. Just want to say that I think you are doing an incredible job with your blog. I've been researching Japanese pro wrestling in my own time for a few years now but never thought to transcribe my findings; it makes me super happy to know there are others out there with a similar interest. I've put most of my time into studying the history of the IWE - there are a couple of excellent books G-Spirits published in the last few years which I recommend if you haven't picked them up already. If you ever want to chop this stuff up, feel free to drop me a DM here.
  6. From what I know, Kintarō Ōki had a big part to play during this debacle too; he was complicit in the plan as he believed he could capitalise on whatever fallout ensued from the coup d'etat. After Baba was questioned by Yoshinosato and owned up to being in on the plan, he willingly resigned from the position of roster chairman. Ōki, owing to his relationship with Yoshinosato, was able to take over this coveted role which was was considered at the time to be analogous with company ace. After having had to share the joint number 2 spot with Inoki for years, behind Baba, Ōki was of the mind that it was his time to lead the company, and this was the perfect opportunity. He was not particularly close with either Inoki nor Baba therefore had little reason to side with either. While Baba was off on his initial excursions (1961/1964) they had Inoki vs Ōki work a series of marquee matches with each other at Riki Sports Palace, with Ōki winning 6, Inoki, winning none with 26 draws (the final 20 matches all being draws). Ōki had his star-making run in Korea shortly after and enjoyed multiple All-Asia tag title reigns with Michiaki Yoshimura, as well as a short-lived team with Inoki in early 1969, which failed miserably due to their backstage differences. One has to wonder how this along with Inoki being selected as the posterboy for the Kyōkai's live TV debut on NET instead of him did to cement Ōki's feelings towards the situation. Another interesting fact I came to learn regarding the TV deal in 1969 was that Great Tōgō and Lou Thesz started up a company at the beginning of the year, holding the intention of securing their own deal with none other than NET themselves. Despite Tōgō's reputation he was regarded by businessmen in that sphere to be a solid booker, and with the backing of Thesz who was of course held in extremely high regard, was able to reach serious talks with the station. Upon hearing about this the Kyōkai contacted NET and convinced them not to proceed with the deal and instead work with them.
  7. leo

    Greatest year ever by a wrestler

    My personal favourite year for any given wrestler is probably Atsushi Onita in 1990 as he skyrockets into nationwide cult superstar status. He introduces all sorts of new ideas throughout the year while also putting on some excellent matches (with Goto vs Dragon Master & Kurisu, vs Goto) Other picks would be Kaoru Ito in 2001, Rusher Kimura in 1979. Both were consistently having some of the best matches of their career in those years.
  8. Here we are, at the peak of Akira Maeda's tumultuous career, main eventing his group's biggest show, against 1984 Judo Olympian and World Championship silver medalist Willy Wilhelm. The UWF has seen heretofore unimaginable growth over the past 18 months, selling out (in order of capacity) Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Ariake Coliseum, Nippon Budokan, Yokohama Arena and Osaka Baseball Stadium over the period, all while putting on a mere 17 shows in total. Higher stakes are at play here as they attempt to capitalise upon this incendiary popularity, promoting their biggest venue yet by a hefty margin - the cavernous 60,000-seat Tokyo Dome dwarfing Osaka Stadium's 32,000 capacity. The premises are familiar; Maeda challenging a large Dutch fellow with celebrated grappling skills. Sure, Chris Dolman couldn't do the job, but Wilhelm has credentials to make even the most ardent Maeda fan doubt his hero's chances. As "Captured" rings out of the house speakers, the entire arena rallies behind our coiffed, wheel-kicking superstar, shaking the building with their chants. The question is, can he do it again - this time on the biggest stage of his career? Topped off with a shellacking of young Kiyoshi Tamura at the last show in Sapporo a month prior, and breaking the promising rookie's orbital bone in the process, Maeda has looked unbeatable, having not lost throughout the entire year of 1989 and, as if he really needed it, solidifying his spot as the clear #1 in the company ahead of this momentous bout. I don't know much around what led to bringing in Wilhelm apart from maybe the prior Dolman-UWF connection, but this is where the Dutch involvement in shoot style really takes off (3 of the 7 matches on this show feature a Netherlander). My immediate impression of Wilhelm is that he looks like a continental Stan Hansen if he was raised on Edam, farm work and the music of Doe Maar. As they square off, Wilhelm shows off his size advantage, responded in kind by trademark Akira Maeda apathy - aside from occasionally raging at perceived disrespect towards him, is there anything he actually cares about? I suppose that was a big part of the appeal. We are working with a 10 x 3 minute round format here. The first round starts off slowly with Maeda pulling Wilhelm to the ground from behind, eventually moving to half guard before Wilhelm hits the ropes and Mr Soranaka stands both gentlemen up. Maeda tries for a harai-goshi but Wilhelm has none of it, landing right on top in back control, before transitioning to north-south. They jostle a while, Wilhelm aimlessly caresses Maeda's leg for a bit, before transitioning into our first jūji-gatame attempt of the bout. Alas, the ropes thwart Willy, with Maeda soon attempting a single-leg takedown upon the restart. Wilhelm fights it off briefly but loses position, giving Maeda the chance at an armbar of his own, however the long leg of Wilhelm stretches far enough to reach the ropes, returning us to a standup battle in the final minute of the round. On securing a plum clinch of sorts, Maeda rattles off a couple of feeble knees, only to have the last one caught by Wilhelm who duly plants him on the mat and takes mount. Predictably, he tries another armbar, but doesn't have time to finish it as the bell rings. An entertaining round, both men looked strong and it'd be a hard one to judge if this were a legitimate contest. More importantly, the crowd are into it. Round 2 begins with Willy going straight for the clinch with Maeda who obliges, sensing fatigue in his dance partner. Wilhelm goes for a tomoe-nage but rather easily gives up his back, however Maeda fails to do much with it and ends up compromising himself into yet another armbar attempt, which he is able to slip out of due to Wilhelm waning stamina - after all, we are half a decade past the Dutchman's peak as a competitive judo player, and in the zen-senshu-nyuujou, he's sporting a formidable gut underneath his marl-grey U-Cosmos event t-shirt. Maeda evidently picks up on Willy's tiredness, landing a leg scissors takedown straight into a heel hook, conveniently just far away enough from any of the ropes to provide salvation. After yelping in rather convincing pain for a few seconds, Wilhelm has no choice but to tap, giving Maeda the biggest notch in his bedpost to date, and an even bigger trophy - seriously, this thing is almost as tall as Maeda himself. It would not surprise me to learn that such an ornament was ordered by show sponsor Megane Super's Hachiro Tanaka himself, knowing the soon-to-be-SWS boss's penchant for vacuous grandeur. Overall the match itself is very enjoyable for what it is, a showcase of the promotion's biggest star overcoming the formidable challenge of an established (foreign) martial artist and proving that UWF is quite clearly the most effective style for mixed fighting. This was the theme for the entire show as, save for the dark match, every bout pitted a member of the UWF roster against an overseas talent. If a second Dome show had ever come to fruition, I'd have liked to see a conventional format with perhaps another Maeda/Takada match on top, and for once, Kazuo Yamazaki not being jobbed out when it matters. Nonetheless, while far from the best match this group has put on so far, it is their most important, and so deserves a watch on that merit. Onwards to 1990!
  9. leo

    U-COSMOS

    I enjoyed reading so far, some of the guys you've incorporated make it really rather interesting. It had me thinking about how funny it'd be bringing back MacDuff Roesch for a UWF nostalgia appearance, just to take a kicking from one of the native up-and-comers. Not familiar with the format of these things; are they supposed to be entirely insulated from the real world goings-on at the time or is there some crossover allowed? Sakakibara cannot be happy about losing his golden boy!!
  10. George Takano was really hitting his stride at this point; had Megane Super not come calling a couple months later, one has to wonder how he'd have fit into the NJPW upper mid-main event scene in the early 90s, and how much of an anchor his brother would have been had he stayed also. Not much to add that hasn't been said already but it really is a wild, entertaining match with awesome heat despite being quite short. The fans had not forgotten about 1986, that's for sure. Also, I'll always pop for that bemused face Tenryu makes after someone clearly "beneath" him gets a good shot in.
  11. while I am at it, I compiled all the Victor Quiñones promos from the W*ING best-of boxsets, figured this might be a good place to share.
  12. just coming in here to chime in on the WDF praise, they put on solid shows (if a little bizarre at times, though keeping with the general 90s sleaze theme) and I will watch pretty much any Masashi Aoyagi footage on principle. Really enjoyed this one in particular, with the match being in front of no more than 50 people making it that much more fun to watch.
  13. leo

    Born in the 1990s

    Abe has some vague comedy appeal but I don't see him breaking past that sort of role in his career. Keeping within Japan, DDT has a slew of good-to-great young dudes who can all go to some extent and are only getting better. Kota Umeda and the aforementioned Takeshita stand out. Mexico has plenty of names in this category, Soberano Jr, NGD, Mistico, Dragon Lee, etc.
  14. I think we can at least partly attribute this phenomenon to Meltzer losing any semblance of structure in his match ratings, and his growing fanbase duly following suit (since giving a match 5+ stars nowadays seems to be the "cool" thing, and especially as NJPW continues to grow at the rate it is, I don't see this trend dying down)
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