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About KinchStalker

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    Jumbo (S)hr(imp)
  • Birthday 08/04/1996

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  1. As for Akiyama's amateur pedigree, I was surprised to find that the JWF database has no records of him (and I checked both his legal and ring name). It could be a gap in their records, but if he'd been an Olympic alternate I am certain that he would have done well enough in collegiate tournaments to be on there. Edit: according to this he was a runner-up in the All Japan Student Amateur Wrestling Championship.
  2. That's my error, sorry. The author wrote in such a way that it seemed that he was referring to a match between the two teams, and I honestly blanked on it.
  3. I finished the transcription of chapters 18-21, whose 125 pages cover 1993 but make a lot of digressions. This continues to be a book that I cannot recap simply, but I think that what I’ve taken from it will be illuminating. This first post will set the table for the formation of the Holy Demon Army and cover the debut of Jun Akiyama. Ichise held off on covering a lot of this stuff to streamline the narrative in Part Two, so this goes over a lot of the same ground, albeit from different angles. ------ On March 4, 1992, Akira Taue celebrates the first top title of his career, while Jumbo Tsuruta celebrates his last. 1991-2 were difficult years for Akira Taue. He had grown immeasurably whilst working alongside Tsuruta, and his performances against Kawada in their 1/15/91 and 4/18/91 singles matches had been encouraging. However, Tsuruta and Taue had also lost three tag title matches in 1991, with Taue being booed at the June 1 match against Hansen & Spivey. At year’s end, they were unable to win the Real World Tag League. Taue was the first partner who had failed to notch Tsuruta a RWTL win after two attempts; with Baba and with Yatsu it took him one try (though that’s two for Baba if you count the 1977 Open League), and with Tenryu it took him two. Taue finally won the AJPW World Tag Team titles alongside Jumbo on March 4, 1992, against the Miracle Violence Connection. Jumbo got the pinfall, but Taue had pulled his weight, and for the first time since the summer of 1990, when he had held the All Asia tag titles with Shinichi Nakano before Nakano’s departure for SWS, he had gold around his waist. In the Champion Carnival, Taue would only notch eight points in his block before a neck contusion and ankle ligament injury, suffered during an untelevised Jumbo/Taue vs. Kawada/Kobashi tag, caused him to sit out the rest of the tour and the expanded two-night AJPW Fan Appreciation Day afterward.1 At the end of the following tour, though, Taue pinned Kobashi in Budokan to retain in his first tag title defense. Toshiaki Kawada had received his first shot at the Triple Crown in the wake of Misawa’s nose injury. Likewise, Taue would challenge for Hansen’s belts during the Summer Action Series, where Tsuruta was out with an “ankle injury”. Like the Kawada match, as well as Misawa’s first Triple Crown shot in July 1990, Taue’s first challenge for AJPW’s top prize was held at a medium-sized venue as per Baba policy. Anyway, a buildup tag on a July 5 Korakuen show had seen Taue and Hansen square off, respectively partnered with Rusher Kimura and Billy Black. During this match, about half of which aired joined-in-progress, Hansen fractured Taue’s left orbital bone, dislodging his eye. (To this day, Taue says that when his eyes are in motion, “it’s like he’s only seeing out of his right side”.) However, perhaps due to the pressure that Tsuruta’s absence had brought upon the tour, Taue would not miss a single date, even though Hansen took the July 20 show off due to back problems. At tour’s end, at the Athletic Park Gymnasium in Matsudo, Taue fell to the Western Lariat in 14:41. As covered in my previous batch of posts recapping this book, Taue lost a #1 contendership match to Kawada on September 9, but postmatch comments suggested that Kawada had reached a certain respect for his rival. Eight days later, AJPW booked Korakuen for a 20th Anniversary show in between tours. This five-match card saw Taue team with Mitsuo Momota to go over Motoshi Okuma & Haruka Eigen in the third match, due to Giant Baba taking what would have been his spot in the main-event Chosedaigun/Tsurutagun main event. Alas, the show would best be remembered for the match in between. SUPER ROOKIE Above: On February 3, 1992, Giant Baba held a press conference at Senshu University to announce his signing of Senshu wrestling team captain Jun Akiyama. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling Issue #479, dated February 18] Jun Akiyama1 was born in Izumi on October 9, 1969. Not much about his family is disclosed, but we learn that, like Kawada, Akiyama’s first exposure to pro wrestling was through his grandpa’s television. He didn’t loathe wrestling like Kawada originally did, having pleasant memories of watching all the primetime wrestling there was, and he as so many others was struck by Tiger Mask’s rivalry against the Dynamite Kid. Akiyama was a swimmer until he entered Takaishi High School, at which point he switched to judo. However, the school’s wrestling coach invited him to train with them. By his sophomore year, he was a member. The early stretch of Akiyama’s Wikipedia biography, which cites a 2016 magazine of wrestler biographies, contains a recollection that his advisor, Shunji Shiraishi, had been trying to lead him and his friends towards the wrestling team from the beginning, as when they asked him to talk about the judo club he changed the subject. The wrestling team practiced far more than the judo club, but Akiyama stuck with it. Akiyama competed in the junior division of the 41st National Sports Festival2 in 1986, wrestling freestyle at the 81kg class. According to a PDF of 1946-2010 festival results, he would place third in the division, which was won by future Pancrase fighter Kazuo Takahashi. Upon his graduation, Akiyama enrolled at Senshu University and joined its wrestling team. As a freshman he shared a dorm with senior year teammate Manabu Nakanishi, about whom Akiyama has nothing but good things to say. Unfortunately, Akiyama would not see the same amateur success as his four-time national champion and Olympian roommate. A knee injury would derail his junior year, and the Senshu team would be knocked down a division. The early 1990s saw NJPW recruit several successful collegiate wrestlers. The aforementioned Nakanishi was joined by Hiroshi Nagata of Nittatsu University and Waseda’s Tsunemitsu Ishizawa. Riki Choshu’s increased backstage importance appears to have been the impetus, and Akiyama recalls that, while he wasn’t aware when it happened, the promotion had dispatched Hiroshi Hase as a talent scout. Akiyama was not as successful as any of those three. Although he would become team captain as a senior, his attention was divided by the shukatsu system of job-hunting. He was considering a job offer from an unnamed Osaka company, which planned to start its own wrestling team. However, another option arose one night in July 1991, when head coach Kenshiro Matsunami invited Akiyama to a dinner at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel. This was the first time Akiyama met Giant Baba. “He talked to me about wrestling, money, and all sorts of things, but the thing I remember most was, ‘Don't worry about anything, just come.’” Baba would meet with Akiyama’s parents and give a talk at his high school, in a rare amount of effort to gain a new recruit. Jun was not immediately swayed, and would continue to consider his job offer. His old high school advisor had suggested he look into pro wrestling, having held the dream himself in his youth, but Akiyama had never truly considered it. But after an interview with a top executive, the two happened to take the same bus back home, and Akiyama saw how much the salaryman lifestyle had worn this man down. He thought that he didn’t want to be like that when he was forty, and the experience compelled him to give pro wrestling a chance. On February 3, 1992, Akiyama’s signing was announced in a press conference at his alma mater. Not since Hiroshi Wajima had AJPW gone to such trouble to display a new member, and it made Baba’s high expectations clear. Akiyama’s training was apparently a smooth process. The grounding in ukemi4 that Baba considered paramount in the All Japan training pipeline usually took a trainee three to four months to master, but Akiyama had it down in less than one. About four months in, Baba would assign him to supplemental pre-show practice sessions with foreign wrestlers such as Johnny Smith. Such sessions did take place between fellow native wrestlers, but it was rare that a foreign talent would participate in the process; Akiyama suspected then that this was special treatment. Ichise points out that, up to this point, AJPW debut matches had followed one of three templates. The most common was a preliminary singles match; most start from the bottom, and Akiyama had figured that he would as well. For the select few who had been groomed to immediately become major players, All Japan had taken two paths. The first was a match against a foreign wrestler, usually a midcarder. Jumbo Tsuruta had debuted in Amarillo by going over El Gran Tapia, and his first AJPW match repeated this pattern against Moose Morowski. The second and much more common approach was a tag match alongside Baba against two gaikokujin. This had first been done with Anton Geesink in 1973, against the team of Bruno Sammartino and Caripus Hurricane (AKA Ciclon Negro). Although Tenryu had debuted in an Amarillo singles match the previous winter, his first AJPW match was a 1977 tag with Baba against Mario Milano and Mexico Grande. Hiroshi Wajima’s first matches were tags abroad alongside Baba, which were contemporaneously broadcast in Japan, although his debut match in AJPW itself was against Tiger Jeet Singh. Finally, Akira Taue debuted in a tag match with Baba against Buddy Landel and Paul Harris, on the first show of 1988. If the plan was to debut Akiyama at the 20th Anniversary Korakuen show on September 17, 1992, and they weren’t going to relegate him to a curtainjerker bout, they would have no foreign talent to book him against due to the show’s placement in between tours. The pressure was on to book a memorable match to mark the occasion, and though Ichise could only go by Ryu Nakata’s word that Akiyama would be a good wrestler, he pitched a semi-main singles match between Akiyama and Kobashi during one of the secret creative meetings. Ichise admits that he was inspired by NJPW’s Yume Kachimasu, a special show first held in 1989 that gave Young Lions the chance to wrestle veteran talent. Baba was quite reluctant, but despite the certainty that Akiyama would start his career with a loss, Ichise would not be deterred, and the match was approved. Akiyama was told that he was debuting at the 20th Anniversary show two weeks in advance, and informed of his opponent two days in advance, but the outside world would not know about it until the show itself. I attached this photograph to the mention of Akiyama’s debut in my last recap post, but I need to discuss the moment it captured directly. Akiyama was highly praised for his performance at the time, and the match continues to be quite respected in the Western fan community as one of the best debut matches in wrestling history. However, it was not a genuine expression of Akiyama’s self. Akiyama strongly implies that the moment in the photograph, in which he “barks” at Kobashi on one knee after having taken a string of chops and kicks, was a Kobashiism that the two had come up with beforehand to “bring out Akiyama’s expression”. From the comments excerpted here, Akiyama will be the first person to tell you that the match was a Kobashi carryjob, and though they crafted a satisfying match, Akiyama knew that that hadn’t been the real him out there. In keeping with his superrookie status, Akiyama would work every date of the ensuing October Giant Series tour. Due to the odd-numbered roster of the time, Akiyama was being booked more consistently in his first tour than Satoru Asako and Masao Inoue, both of whom had debuted in the spring of 1991, or even twenty-year veteran Mitsuo Momota. Booked exclusively in regular and six-man tags, Akiyama would share the ring with most of the significant talent to work that tour. From the top native stars of Chosedaigun and Tsurutagun (Akiyama mainly worked as an unaffiliated teammate of the former, though he did work one six-man on the other side during the tour’s antepenultmiate show), to the foreign stars of today (Stan Hansen) and yesterday (Dory Funk Jr, Abdullah the Butcher), Akiyama worked with more big names in a single tour than most puro rookies do in their first two years. As the last-debuting AJPW wrestler to work against a relatively healthy Tsuruta, Akiyama took his backdrop for the pinfall on October 13; five days earlier, he had been “baptized” by the Western Lariat. All the while, Baba fed him high-calorie dishes, likely insisting that Akiyama be an ebisu as he had Kobashi. As covered in the previous post, Akiyama was thrust into Tsuruta’s spot in the 1992 RWTL after Tsuruta’s hepatitis struck. By his own recollection, Akiyama didn’t stop to think about it, and just did what he had to do. He felt he had no choice, which wasn’t helped by his feeling that he was, in a sense, Tsuruta’s understudy. (As mentioned in a much earlier post on this thread, Akiyama claims that he suspected that Tsuruta’s health would go south.) Akiyama & Taue would have a 6-3 record at the tournament before advancing to the finals. On a November 17 b-show, Akiyama won his first match by pinning the Eagle in a six-man. It was only his 22nd match, which by AJPW rookie standards was doing pretty well. He even got to win one of the tournament matches, as he pinned Kendall Windham with a bridging German suplex on November 21. However, hierarchy would rear its ugly head for all three of their tournament losses; Akiyama was felled by Hansen’s Western Lariat on November 20, by Steve Williams’ Oklahoma Stampede on November 27, and by Kobashi’s moonsault on November 30. On December 6, 1991, Akiyama was one of 15,900 Budokan spectators to witness the last RWTL show, in which Misawa & Kawada and Tsuruta & Taue competed. He could never have fathomed that, just one year later, he would take the place of one of those four at the same venue. On December 4, 1992, he had 16,300 eyes on him. Three months earlier, he had wrestled his first match, and twelve years later, he would headline the Tokyo Dome, but Akiyama states that this was the most nervous that he would ever be in his career. It was a match that was destined to be a deflating experience from the moment Akiyama took Tsuruta’s place, but he had a good showing in his 36th match. (Note that Misawa and Kawada were both putting over Yoshihiro Momota in the undercard on their 36th matches.) If Cagematch is to be believed, the 1993 New Year Giant Series tour was when Akiyama was first officially billed as a member of Tsurutagun. This tour would also give him his first title match, a shot alongside teammate Yoshinari Ogawa at Kobashi & Kikuchi’s All Asia tag titles. Finally, it would give him the platform to have some more singles matches, through the seven-match Trial Series. Like Kobashi at the start of 1990, Akiyama would go 2-5, with wins against Al Perez and Johnny Smith to punctuate losses to Misawa, Kawada, Hansen, Gordy, and Williams. The longest of these matches was against Kawada, at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on January 26. Five days earlier, after a Taue/Akiyama vs Kawada/Kikuchi tag, Kawada had criticized Akiyama as a mechanically sound but inexpressive wrestler, not cut out for the elite. After pinning Akiyama with a powerbomb in 14:37, Kawada maintained his position: “You’ve got all these moves; now it’s time to learn to wrestle.” Kawada’s criticisms clearly were not spiteful. Four years earlier, when Ashura Hara’s dismissal had forced him to step up to the main event, Tsuruta had subjected him to a similar trial by fire. But Akiyama was cursed by his superrookie status, and though he commented after the Kawada match that he now understood that the “feeling that you put into each and every move” was the most important part of wrestling, he would be slow to implement this. Much later, Akiyama would admit that he had also been affected by the persistent criticisms in Ichise’s Weekly Pro writeups, which stated, again and again, that Akiyama had shown “no color”. On March 11, one week after the end of the 1993 Excite Series, Ichise interviewed Akiyama for the first time. This would be published in the Weekly Pro issue dated March 30, under the title “A Letter from the Spring Breeze”. Akiyama expressed his self-consciousness about his position. It appeared that the 1993 Champion Carnival would give Akiyama a chance to further grow as a wrestler. However, in the second match of the tour’s first date on March 25, Akiyama injured his right arm. He would not wrestle for two months, and would return to a much different landscape. A PARTNERSHIP OF RIVALS “I always hated pro wrestling. Really, I hated it. I wonder to myself why I fell in love with it so much. [...] I don't have any feelings of love or hate right now. But the fans still come back, so it must be attractive.” (Toshiaki Kawada, June 1992) The book continues to frame Toshiaki Kawada’s departure from the Super Generation Army as his own decision. Whether or not this is kayfabing the matter, Ichise’s narrative lays out Kawada’s anxieties convincingly. In his February 28, 1993 postmatch interview with Ichise, during which he stated that there was a “50/50 chance” that he would leave Chosedaigun, Kawada admitted that he felt pigeonholed by the success of the Super Generation Army in the media and among the fans. He expressed no resentment towards his teammates themselves, but he clearly felt he had gone as far as he could alongside them. Kawada also brought up his belief that wrestling had a three-year cycle. Ichise points out that the Super Generation Army had formed in 1990, and Revolution three years before that. (You could take this back even further. Japan Pro Wrestling was formed in 1984. 1981 had seen three of the biggest foreign names in puroresu—Abdullah the Butcher, Stan Hansen, and Tiger Jeet Singh—change allegiances, on top of the IWE’s demise and its fallout. As for 1978...uh, I mean, that’s the year that Fujinami became a star, as well as when the IWE burned their bridge with Baba and got into what would be an even more asymmetrical partnership with NJPW. Not as great an example, but you get the idea.) While he brought up his three-year cycle theory, Kawada had openly worried about the potential staleness of the AJPW product as early as 1991. In an interview with the author after that year’s August 11 Korakuen show, after he and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi defeated the Blackhearts, Kawada said that a few shows that tour had not sold out, which made him nervous. As he would say in the February ‘93 postmatch interview, Kawada did not want to go back to the days when he would wrestle for fifty people. AJPW’s momentum insofar as box office was concerned had not yet stalled, but Kawada’s fears were not unfounded. Ichise compares the first tours of 1992 and 1993 to demonstrate this, going by official statements. In 1992, All Japan held 19 shows; only two of these shows were “unmarked”, and 14 of the remaining 17 were not just full, but sold out. Meanwhile, the 1993 tour held 23 shows. 12 of them were sold out, and four were full, but this time almost a third of the tour’s events were “unmarked”. The greatest indictment was a comparison of the respective tours’ shows at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. On January 21, 1992, a card headed by four Chosedaigun vs. Tsurutagun singles matches drew 6,150. On January 26, 1993, with a Kobashi/Taue main event, a Miracle Violence Connection tag title defense against Hansen & Spivey, and the Akiyama/Kawada trial match, AJPW only drew 4,100. Once again, Baba entrusted Ichise with booking the 1993 Champion Carnival; this time, though, Baba lifted the two-block compromise that he had imposed upon the tournament’s revival two years earlier. Ichise thought that he had done a good job, but complaints came early. On the first show of the tour, a March 25 Korakuen date, a Kawada-Williams match was the last of the three tournament matches. It went to a thirty-minute time-limit draw, despite a Williams backdrop hurting Kawada’s neck halfway through. After a Chosedaigun/Tsurutagun six-man tag on the following night’s untelevised Korakuen show, Kawada spoke to reporters while nursing his neck with an ice pack. He recalled how, in the 1992 Carnival, he had been forced to wrestle Williams just one day after Hansen in consecutive block matches, which had been difficult for him. He stated that he didn’t blame the powers that be for booking him against Williams to start the tournament, because they clearly needed to elevate someone. Ichise took this comment as a reporter—none of the talent save for Baba knew of his creative influence—but he and the other reporters in the room were shocked by it. Ichise compares it to Riki Choshu’s famous (if allegedly apocryphal) comment in 1982 that he “wasn’t Fujinami’s bait dog”. After Misawa won his tournament match that night against the Patriot, he responded to Kawada’s remarks: “There's a part of you, Kawada, that's not quite brave enough. If you're leaving, why don't you just say so? He can't make that final decision. He can do it if someone else does it for him, but he can't do it himself. It's always been that way.” The following night, Misawa and Kawada faced each other in a Kyoto tournament match, which Misawa won with an elbow in 22:00. At the April 12 show in Osaka, Kawada and Taue wrestled as members of opposing factions for the last time. It was on this show that Kawada announced he would leave the Super Generation Army, although he expressed gratitude for their support. Two days later, during a press conference held at a Nagoya show, Baba confirmed that he would be joining Taue’s team, and stated that he wanted the two to challenge for the tag titles. Kawada had requested one last six-man tag alongside Kobashi and Kikuchi, and in the semi-main of the tour’s final show (April 21, Yokohama), they wrestled Tsurutagun in a match that saw Fuchi sit down on a Kikuchi sunset flip attempt for the pinfall. By Kawada’s own admission, the match was uninspired. Afterwards, he asked Wada if he had counted a bit fast, to which the referee responded: “I think it’s good that your last match was so dull.”
  4. KinchStalker

    Comments that don't warrant a thread - Part 4

    Fujinami didn't adopt the ring name with different kanji until he came back from the hernia, so I think it's him; sure, he's now wrestled longer under it than not, but he wrestled under his real name for the entirety of the Showa period phase of his career (that is, the stretch of his career when wrestling had the most cultural relevance). Kobashi also did his kanji change later on.
  5. I've finished transcribing the next four chapters of the Pillars bio, and am currently sifting through the material to figure out the best way to distill and arrange it. In the meantime though, Igapro just posted a historical post with a couple new pieces of info on the earliest days of the IWE. I put my IWE history project on indefinite hold when I managed to get a copy of the Pillars book—and after Herr Sitemeister tweeted this, I fear that it may become my brand—but this shit is too good to keep to myself. I plan to eventually incorporate it into a rewrite of the first IWE history post It looks like Hiro Matsuda had ulterior motives during his short tenure for the IWE. He had been made director of the promotion upon its formation, and on top of making the merger with the flailing Tokyo Pro Wrestling happen due to his connection to Antonio Inoki, Matsuda''s link to Eddie Graham (who wasn't running Championship Wrestling From Florida yet, but was already involved in its booking according to the Hornbaker NWA book) made him an effective booker. (Note that I am using "booker" in the classical puro industry sense; a booker scouts and secures foreign talent to work a tour, while a matchmaker puts the shows together. It's possible that Matsuda was also the matchmaker, but the word "booker" is always used in the former context in these stories.) Graham himself worked on the IWE's first tour, and it was he who allowed the Danny Hodge NWA junior title defense against Matsuda to take place. As it turns out, Graham had Sam Muchnick's approval for all of this. Like Al Karasick, the Hawaiian promoter who sought to wrest control of the JWA from Rikidozan, Graham's ambition was to take over the IWE. Apparently, Matsuda was in his corner because he was disappointed in how his original plan to break from the sumo-inherited hierarchy of JWA puroresu in favor of an American-style freelance system had been abandoned. Graham applied on Kokusai's behalf for NWA membership, the plan being to become a stockholder and eventually oust Isao Yoshihara. However, the combination of Inoki's departure, TBS's cold feet in going ahead with a broadcast deal, and Kokusai's already large debts due to talent salaries led to Matsuda and Yoshihara's fallout over the handling of said debt, though it is unknown whether Yoshihara was aware that Matsuda had sought to betray him. The JWA would maneuver to acquire NWA membership that year, and whatever Muchnick's reasons for approving them instead, Graham would order Matsuda to withdraw and return to the States when his plans failed.
  6. One subject that I considered too tangentially related to cover in this thread, but wanted to give proper treatment on the blog, was an extended biography of Ichiro Hatta. His name comes up a few times in puro history trivia, but his legacy looms large over Japanese grappling in general, and I finally wrote something about it. If you're interested in the early history of amateur wrestling in Japan, sambo's first exhibitions outside the Eastern bloc, or a television executive's account of when Hatta suggested that Antonio Inoki fight Muhammad Ali, then by all means, check it out. But to make this more than just a plug, here's the Ali part. "In either March or April 1975 (it varies by the source), Muhammad Ali approached Hatta and asked in typical Ali manner if he knew of any worthy Asian competitors. A fascinating two-part article originally published after Ali's death lays out a credible narrative from one of the primary television executives responsible for the event which sprung from this exchange, who identifies Hatta as the one who initially suggested Inoki as a challenger. According to this article, Hatta told this story not only to the Sankei Sports reporter who printed the column on Ali's challenge, but also to Kohei Nagasato. Nagasato was then the head of NET TV's (later TV Asahi) sports department, as well as the producer of New Japan Pro Wrestling's World Pro Wrestling program; he had also been a two-time national freestyle champion in the early 1950s. Nagasato recalled that NET TV had earned the exclusive rights to broadcast Ali's fights, starting with the Rumble in the Jungle the previous year. This meant that Nagasato had a direct line to Bob Arum. However, he initially had a Japanese boxer in mind; despite the fact that there was no ranked Japanese boxer at that time, Nagasato was also the producer of NET program Excite Boxing. Hatta suggested that Ali fight Antonio Inoki, though Nagasato was resistant to the idea. Nagasato would eventually concur that a conventional boxing match "had already been done" in Japan, but instead attempted to arrange a fight between Ali and Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler Takamiyama Daigorō, who had been at the reception for Ali's 1972 Tokyo fight against Max Foster and had jokingly punched Ali. However, while the sumo association didn't veto the network's proposal, the result of their meeting was not encouraging. After this, Nagasato came to work one day to find Inoki waiting at his desk; it is implied that Nagasato's boss and Inoki's drinking buddy, Koshiji Miura, had told him. If Hatta really was responsible for proposing Inoki as a suggestion, then one could very well credit him as the impetus for Inoki and NJPW's entire different styles fights promotional campaign, which began with his February 1976 match against Willem Ruska, and would continue for years after the Ali fight (partially for financial reasons5)."
  7. He got very publicly kicked out of the company the night before the RWTL began. As I wrote in my Hara biography on my puro history thread:
  8. I can't find any direct answer on who made the call. It's clear that the superteam was necessary for hierarchical purposes; if Jumbo vs Tenryu is your main program, you need Tenryu to have a good chance of beating him in tag title matches as well as singles, and they just were not going to book Kawada that strong. That being said, the original card for the 1988 Budokan show that became the Bruiser Brody Memorial Night came to the fan-voted dream tag of Jumbo/Brody vs. Hansen/Tenryu, and I see the decision partially as a way to make at least half of that a reality.
  9. Bix said I should start a blog to make this stuff easier to organize, and I agree. I was going to put this off until I had some more content in the pipeline, but fuck it. From Milo To Misawa will start with an expanded and rewritten Jumbo biography, and the first part is already live. Eventually I would like to transfer all the content here onto the blog, but the Jumbo redux will honestly be the main attraction for a while. I probably need a break from the transcription game because, while pushing myself to complete the remaining 400 pages before the New Year is a bad idea, it's a seductive bad idea, and forcing myself to revisit what I now consider to be my worst work on this thread will be ample distraction. However, I will post other new content to this thread when I have some, at least for the foreseeable future.
  10. This will be the final post covering the second half of part two of the Pillars book. --------- Tarzan Yamamoto’s suggestions to make Korakuen Hall a priority of the company had paid off. By early 1992, these events were selling out so quickly that AJPW began to cater to those who weren’t fast enough, through a postcard lottery system for a certain number of seats. “I CAN’T REST ANYMORE” Above: after Mitsuharu Misawa was legitimately injured in a Korakuen six-man tag on July 21, Toshiaki Kawada was substituted in his place. Three nights later, a local promoter threatened to lower his payment for the AJPW show he had purchased if Misawa took the night off, and Misawa was pressured to work the rest of the tour in a sling. On the March 4 Budokan show, which reportedly set an attendance record of 16,300, Misawa lost his third shot at the Triple Crown to Stan Hansen. Six weeks later, in the final match of the Champion Carnival, he lost to Hansen again. The August 22, 1992 Budokan main event would be Misawa’s fourth Triple Crown shot, his fifth singles match against Hansen. Yet, it would also be Hansen’s fourth defense of his titles. In his comments before the match, Misawa vowed that he would not challenge for the titles for a full year if he lost again. One month earlier - on the July 21 Bruiser Brody memorial show in Korakuen, to be exact - Misawa had led Chosedaigun in another six-man tag against Tsurutagun. Jumbo Tsuruta was absent from the tour, for what was then reported as a reaggravation of an old leg injury, so they had the advantage going in. However, this was derailed when Taue legitimately injured Misawa’s shoulder (specifically, Misawa suffered a dislocated acromioclavicular joint). Kawada was substituted in to restart the match. Misawa would take the following night off, a show in Tsushima; however, when the local promoter for the July 24 Izumo event threatened to dock his fee for the show due to Misawa’s absence, Baba asked him to return. At that point, Misawa would later recall his feeling that “he couldn’t rest anymore”. Misawa would work the last seven dates of the tour in a sling. At the very least, he would get a little rest before his title shot, as the Summer Action Series II tour would start nearly three weeks after the Summer Action Series I tour had ended on July 31. However, his title match would only be his third of the tour. Above: Misawa hits Hansen with the hardest elbow he has to win the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling Issue #511, dated 9/8/1992] Ichise recalls arriving at the Budokan on August 22. What struck him was that the long, long line that he had seen upon his entrance was not for the ticket office, but for advance ticket sales for the next AJPW Budokan event: the promotion’s 20th anniversary show on October 21. Ichise was genuinely moved by how far the promotion had come since the bleak aftermath of the SWS departures. As you likely know if you’re reading this, this was when Baba finally put the belts on Misawa. Ichise’s remarks on the match aren’t particularly revealing, though he was as surprised as anyone by the elbow strike finish. Misawa's postmatch comments frame the match as being as much his battle against his own body as that against Hansen. ROAD TO THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY Above: On September 9, 1992, Kawada and Taue face off in a #1 contendership match to be Misawa’s first challenger. In an August 28 interview with the author during an Osaka show, Misawa admitted that he had not yet proven to himself that he deserved to be the champion, a statement which was in keeping with remarks he made after his victory over Hansen. Misawa’s first defense was scheduled for the October 21 Budokan show, but a #1 contendership match in Chiba on September 9 would determine whether his challenger was Kawada or Taue. In his postmatch comments on August 22, when asked which of those he would rather face, he responded “...you're waiting for me to say Kawada, aren't you? Then write that down. I think Kawada is the one worth wrestling at this point.” There was, however, hesitation baked into his remarks. Meanwhile, Kawada stated at the 8/22 show that, if he won the contendership match, he wished to use a separate locker room before their title match, because he believed that he would need to isolate himself from his partner to have a match that would satisfy their audience. Misawa disagreed, as at the August 28 show he responded that the two could save their feelings until the day of the match. It was a difference in ideologies; Misawa believed that they did not need to take this measure because they had a smooth relationship, while Kawada believed that it was because they had a smooth relationship that he had to do this. Ichise recalls how Revolution had gotten their own tour bus to reinforce their separation from the main unit of the roster, and how in the faction’s earliest days as just a tag team, Genichiro Tenryu and Ashura Hara traveled separately to smooth their transition from rivals to partners. Ichise also notes that Kawada’s belief that distance was necessary was sympathetic to Baba’s own sensibilities. After all, the “ippon hanamichi”, the single entrance stage and ramp, was a development in the presentation of professional wrestling that Baba despised and kept out of his product for as long as he lived; whether post-Baba All Japan was to continue the tradition of having wrestlers enter through the first and third doors of the venue would be one of the irreconcilable differences between Misawa and Motoko which brought about the NOAH exodus. Ichise became anxious that Kawada might not give a comment if he were to win the Chiba match, so he decided to interview him at the b-show in Nagano on September 8. It was here when Kawada gave further insight into his anxieties. In their interview, which would be published in the Weekly Pro Wrestling issue dated September 29, 1992, Kawada admitted that he was worried that, if he won the #1 contendership and then challenged Misawa, then that would be the end of it. He would still be a member of the Super Generation Army. He didn’t see where the story could go from there. In short, he was afraid that, ultimately, “nothing would happen”. The following night, Kawada wrestled Taue as planned. This match appears to have been (Ichise doesn’t mention it) the debut of Kawada’s signature entrance theme, the original composition “Holy War”; this was after two years of using “The Last Battle”, a minute-long piece of music from the anime adaptation of motorbike racing manga Bari Bari Densetsu. As for the match itself, Kawada won in 18:46 with a stretch plum. In his postmatch comments, Kawada declined to comment on his thoughts about wrestling Misawa, proving Ichise’s hunch correct; instead, Kawada was interested in expressing his gratitude that he and Taue got to wrestle the main event of the last show of the tour. Both of them had worked hard, and he hoped that they could both make it to the top. Above: Jun Akiyama debuts at the 20th Anniversary show in Korakuen. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling Issue #515, dated October 6, 1992] After a September 17 Korakuen show to celebrate the actual 20th anniversary of the company, which saw the debut of Jun Akiyama as well as a unique Chosedaigun/Tsurutagun six-man with Giant Baba tagging alongside Tsuruta and Fuchi, the 20th Anniversary Giant Series tour began with another Korakuen show on October 2. 11/21/92 As has already been established, the seventeen-date tour ended at Budokan. While not contemporaneously broadcast in full, it was a relatively early example of an AJPW show that we know was professionally taped in full, as it would be broadcast many years later. Besides the main event, the most interesting match was the semi-main event. While it was a six-man tag with mostly old and/or limited performers, the Baba/Hansen/Dory vs. Andre/Jumbo/Gordy match was positively received when announced due to the twist of trading Hansen and Tsuruta. Ichise claims credit for the idea. In his recollection of the match itself, Ichise points out a “mischievous” detail: Baba’s use of the Mongolian chop against Andre, which recalled Andre’s NJPW/WWF feud(s) with Killer Khan.[1] Kagehiro Osano’s 2020 Jumbo biography features claims from Masanobu Fuchi that one of the plans for this match’s finish was to have Jumbo finally pin Baba. However, they settled on having Tsuruta finally go over his teacher Dory. Kawada’s request for a separate waiting room had not been granted until this last show. From the start of the event, he had declined all interviews, though Akira Fukuzawa predicted that he would be very talkative in the ring. Before his Mexican excursion, Mitsuharu Misawa had wrestled Toshiaki Kawada four times in a singles context. He had won all four matches: the first three by pinfall, the last via submission (single-leg crab). That had been on October 18, 1983, almost exactly nine years before this match. Above: various photographs from Misawa and Kawada's first singles match in nine years. Thirteen minutes into this match, a spin kick gave Misawa a concussion. This match too would see Misawa battle himself, and he would admit that he could not remember the second half of it, or even the precise point at which his memory faltered. Misawa would also admit in postmatch comments to NTV interviewer Shigeru Kaneko that he didn’t feel like he had won the match. The copy for Weekly Pro’s feature on the match, in what may have been the first AJPW special issue printed by the publication, read “The Door of Dreams”. Their coverage read that this match, or perhaps more accurately, the fact that Misawa and Kawada could have had that match without the heat of rivalry to draw upon, had opened such a door for a new era of professional wrestling. And yet, the match would not be chosen for Tokyo Sports’ Match of the Year, which instead went to Kawada’s June 5 title shot against Hansen. Whether or not this was influenced by Misawa’s attitude towards the ceremony, Ichise cannot confirm. POSTSCRIPT Above: Misawa & Kawada win the Real World Tag League on their third attempt together. This photograph may have been a candidate to be the cover photo for the Weekly Pro Wrestling issue covering the tournament final; however, in an indictment of the disappointing year-end show, Tarzan Yamamoto instead decided to give the cover to new UWF International signing Naoki Sano. This photo would instead be featured on the cover of a calendar feature (or included calendar, I don't know) in the last issue of the year, dated for the first two weeks of 1993. This section of the book ends with light coverage of the next four or so months, and the picture of stagnation they painted. With Tsuruta’s post-tour hospitalization, Taue was partnerless as the 1992 RWTL approached. While Fuchi, Mighty Inoue, and Rusher Kimura were seen as options, Ichise and Yamamoto recommended that rookie Jun Akiyama be called up instead, to establish him as a valuable future asset. Baba hesitated but eventually agreed. Taue & Akiyama reached the finals, where they were defeated by Misawa & Kawada. The match itself was decent, and Ichise’s Weekly Pro recap was favorable on those terms, but Yamamoto’s commentary in an editorial forty pages earlier was harsh, writing that “[the year-end Budokan show] scored zero as an entertainment event”. As Tsuruta’s absence continued into the new year, the product remained stale, and by late February, Kawada’s dissatisfaction was visibly bleeding into his performances. After the Excite Seres' Budokan event on February 28, in which he had wrestled Hansen, Kawada was frank with Ichise: “It's boring. It's boring for me, it's boring for you. For them, it's like watching the sequel of the same movie over and over again. They can see what's coming, and it's not interesting. If I were a customer, I wouldn't want to see it again.”
  11. “WHEN HE FIGHTS LIKE THAT, HE’S BETTER THAN MISAWA” Ichise cites a handful of 1991 matches in the context of Toshiaki Kawada’s efforts to develop his own style. The earliest of these is his Champion Carnival match on April 6 against Jumbo Tsuruta, a match whose finishing stretch hinged on Kawada’s persistent kicks to Tsuruta’s face. After winning in decisive fashion, Tsuruta was nevertheless encouraging of Kawada. “When he fights like that, he’s better than Misawa.” On July 6, during a Misawa/Kawada vs Tsuruta/Ogawa tag match in Yokosuka, Kawada was injured by Ogawa’s step kicks (Ichise reports it as a broken left orbital bone, though in the broadcast one sees a bloodied mouth). Two weeks later, Kawada faced Taue in their first singles match in three months, which broadcast as a joined-in-progress clip of approximately the last ten minutes. Much of this match saw Kawada fight with “primitive striking”, before finishing the match with a choke sleeper hold after a powerbomb kickout. After this match, Kawada made a comment that Ichise considers reflective of the wrestler he was becoming: “I wonder if wrestling is not about techniques. Sometimes, you get better results when you can’t execute your moves.” When Kawada was called up to challenge for the Triple Crown in Misawa’s place, though, he tried a different approach. Ichise’s match report noted that Kawada moved away from the kick-heavy approach he had been developing, in favor of repeated use of strangulation techniques. In a November 9 interview with Ichise, Kawada stated that he mixed up his approach because he wanted to minimize his mistakes, feeling that Tsuruta would be able to read his moves and neutralize him if he went to the kick well. But to paraphrase Kawada, he only ended up strangling himself. Eight months later, Kawada received his second shot at the Triple Crown. On June 5, 1992, Kawada challenged Stan Hansen at Budokan. Almost exactly two years before, Kawada had wrestled Hansen in a Sapporo squash match. That match had also seen Kawada adopt a kick-based approach early on, though everything had gone wrong for him when he tried to counter an apron suplex with an O’Connor roll. In 5:03, was pinned after a Western Lariat. The Budokan match would see him last four times as long. In contrast with 10/24/91, Ichise writes that Kawada succeeded in expressing his style and philosophy in this match. Kawada’s wrestling throughout the match was most certainly not about techniques, taking it to Hansen with a strike-heavy approach. Hansen responded in kind, as Hansen is wont to do. While Kawada stated after the match that “Hansen was not the man he wanted to fight”, as “he didn’t like to fight foreigners”, Hansen’s meat-and-potatoes approach satisfied Kawada. “It meant that he had been accepted, or rather, forced to accept himself. As Hansen left the ring, Kawada went after him while selling the damage he had sustained. When he finally caught up to Hansen, he offered a handshake, which Hansen took. Just then, Kawada collapsed, and Hansen responded with a respectful gesture, lightly placing one of his Triple Crown belts—the NWA United National title, the secondary singles title which had chiefly been held by Jumbo Tsuruta and then Genichiro Tenryu in the thirteen years before the Triple Crown unification—upon Kawada’s shoulder. "When I fought Hansen in Sapporo, I felt that I wasn't worthy. To be able to fight Hansen at the Budokan was unthinkable in the past, so I guess I wanted to go toe-to-toe with him. No other foreign wrestler had ever responded to me in that way, and that's why, after the fight, I wanted to go see Hansen. I hadn't thought much of Hansen before that. I hadn't had a good image of him since I was a new apprentice, because he knocked me down by a lariat when I came in to stop a brawl, but when he fought me head-on at the Budokan, I was grateful.” When he recovered, Kawada called an ambulance to further sell the effects of the match. His comments in a June 10 interview with Ichise make it clear that, by this point, the expression of accumulated damage had become a focal point of Kawada’s performances, comparing his efforts to “convey the pain of a wrestler” to a television audience to how a cooking show may attempt to convey the smells and tastes of the dishes. During his third Triple Crown reign, Hansen would successfully defend his belts against three of the future Shitenno: first against Misawa in March, then the Kawada match, and finally against Taue in July. This led some to say that “the four pillars were raised by Hansen”, but in The Sun Rises Again, a 2003 book published for the Japanese market, Hansen claimed that he wasn’t trying to do so consciously. He was trying to protect his spot and hold them down, but they kept getting back up.[1] -------------- And now for something a little different. This doesn’t directly pertain to this narrative, but I think it’s a valuable piece of context for this era of AJPW. PRO WRESTLING NEWS Above: AJPW commentator Akira Fukuzawa interviews the Dynamite Kid in a comedic segment from an unconfirmed episode of AJPW TV. Fukuzawa’s pet segment Pro Wrestling News was a controversial staple of early-90s AJPW television. On April 18, 1989, Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Stan Hansen to unify the NWA International Heavyweight, PWF Heavyweight & NWA United National titles to create the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Upon his victory, Tsuruta was interviewed in the ring by a Nippon TV presenter making his debut for AJPW television: Akira Fukuzawa. Fukuzawa would continue to make appearances in this capacity until April 1990. When longtime commentator Takao Kuramochi stepped down to work behind the scenes at Nippon TV, Fukuzawa would take his place...just as AJPW was moved to the 12:30am Sunday timeslot. Fukuzawa was an inexperienced commentator, and his early performances definitely showed it, but where Fukuzawa would shine was a segment developed after the timeslot change: “Pro Wrestling News”. The stated purpose was to communicate extratextual information such as match results, wrestler comments, and brief introductions to new foreign talent. The earliest appearance of the segment that I could find was on the July 23, 1990 episode. It’s played mostly straight, appearing to cover Yatsu’s mid-tour departure, establish the also soon-to-depart Great Kabuki as Tsuruta’s new tag partner, and briefly touch on Misawa. Even in this first go-around, though, Fukuzawa was reading their quotes in what seemed to be vocal impressions. In the next episode’s segment, though, Fukuzawa went even further. In a segment addressing Danny Spivey’s mid-tour departure, Fukuzawa went off-script and added his own comment (something along the lines of “I caused a lot of trouble for all of you. I'm fine now, I just want to get out of here!”) in an approximation of a foreign accent. In the coming months, “Pro Wrestling News” would stretch further into comedic interview segments with foreign wrestlers. On the October 14, 1990 episode, Fukuzawa asked Abdullah the Butcher for his thoughts on the company’s new tour bus. In an episode I could not find on YouTube but from which I found the header screenshots on a Japanese blog, Fukuzawa interviewed the Dynamite Kid about his attempts to learn Japanese, to which Dynamite responded with phrases in a manner that the blogger compared to actor Yusaku Matsuda. Fukuzawa’s irreverent approach was controversial. There were some fans who found it disrespectful of pro wrestling, and that disdain could be seen among both Fukuzawa’s colleagues (when once forced to host the segment in Fukuzawa’s absence, co-commentator Kenji Wakabayashi openly stated his contempt for it) and the wrestling industry itself (NJPW’s Hiroshi Hase threatened violence upon Fukuzawa[2]). However, Ichise notes that “Pro Wrestling News” was popular with the younger audience that AJPW was catering to in the early 90s. On the first episode of 1991, in the wrestling equivalent of “if you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog”, Fukuzawa vowed that he would take a moonsault from Kobashi if the program did not draw a 10% viewership rating by the end of the year. He would eventually walk back on this due to the program having gotten a 10% rating for a segment, but they did show growth. The average rating was in the 3-4% range, but the February 10, December 8, and December 22 shows drew 6.7%, 7.0%, and 8.2% respectively. Around this time, “Pro Wrestling News” even had its own set built, although this would eventually be scrapped for a travelling approach. When the timeslot cut to thirty minutes took effect in March 1994, the segment ended with a skit in which Fukuzawa was stabbed by a wrestling fan, after which Fukuzawa said “I knew this day would come” as he fell to his death...before someone offscreen yelled the Japanese equivalent of "Cut!", upon which Fukuzawa broke character, got back up, and walked out of the room with the rest of the crew.
  12. CHANGED PLANS Above: A Tsuruta elbow shot during a six-man tag on October 14,1991 fractured Misawa’s nasal bone. While forced to work the following night’s match, he was written off the rest of the tour in kayfabe when Taue reaggrevated the injury. Toshiaki Kawada was substituted for Misawa in the scheduled October 12 Triple Crown title match, which Tsuruta won decisively. After the submission loss of September 4, 1991, Tsuruta seemed to be on a downswing heading into his scheduled October 24 Triple Crown defense against Misawa. (Ichise recalls writing in his 9/4 match report that it seemed to be a point of inexorable decline for Tsuruta, which he would later consider negligent of him after the following tour proved him very wrong). Meanwhile, during the Giant Series tour, Misawa seemed to have recovered from the subluxated shoulder he had suffered during the July 26 AJPW World Tag Title match against the Miracle Violence Connection. However, these plans would be derailed in Osaka on October 14, during a Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi vs. Tsuruta/Taue/Ogawa six-man. Chosedaigun won this match in 27:30 with a Kobashi moonsault to Ogawa, but about seven minutes earlier, Tsuruta fractured Misawa’s nasal bone with an elbow shot. Although Misawa was forced to work the following night’s Korakuen show with a bandaged nose against doctor’s orders, he would be written off the rest of the tour with an end-of-match angle. This match, a Misawa/Kawada/Kikuchi vs Tsuruta/Taue/Fuchi six-man, saw Taue rush in and pinch Misawa’s nose after he broke up a Tsuruta powerbomb pin to Kikuchi. Kawada was substituted for Misawa in the Triple Crown match. SOMEDAY HE IS GOING TO HIT BACK Above: An injury to Misawa’s right eye caused him to miss a couple dates of the 1991 RWTL tournament. While AJPW stated that it was inflicted during his November 21 tournament match against the team of Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Misawa actually acquired it later that night during a real-life altercation with his own partner. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling, Issue #467 (dated December 10, 1991)] Misawa & Kawada entered the 1991 Real World Tag League as one of two teams representing the Super Generation Army, alongside Kobashi & Kikuchi. The teams would cross paths in a televised match on the November 21 Osaka show, the fourth tournament match for both teams. With a Tiger Driver pinfall on Kikuchi in 18:51, Misawa & Kawada left the show continuing their four-match win streak, and Kobashi & Kikuchi left continuing their four-match loss streak. Misawa & Kawada were scheduled to wrestle Rusher Kimura & Mighty Inoue the following night in Takamatsu, a slam-dunk win if there ever was one. However, Misawa arrived at the venue with his right eye blackened and swollen shut, while Kawada was nursing his right knee. The party line was that an elbow attack during the Kobashi/Kikuchi match had reaggrevated an old wound on Misawa’s right eyelid, and while this was incongruous with the match as it had occurred, the people who would know the truth were tight-lipped, and so reporters had no choice but to report the announcement at face value. But eventually, this kind of stuff comes out. After the Osaka show, Misawa and Kawada hit up a bar in the city, accompanied by a crop of younger wrestlers and ring crew. Kawada happened to notice that Keiichi Yamada—that is, Jushin Thunder Liger—was a fellow patron. Yamada, who had lost the national high school wrestling championship to Kawada ten years before, had remained cordial with him. He had even attended the September 4 Budokan show with his wife. Misawa was hostile to the notion of commiserating in this way with a wrestler from a rival promotion, at least at this point (he would later become drinking buddies with Hayabusa), and things escalated when Kawada said that he’d go home in that case. To which Misawa responded with a punch. It is true that Kawada considered Misawa “a small oasis in hell” during their days at Ashikaga. Misawa was light on him in the sense that he was the only senior classmate who did not hand any of his personal chores off to Kawada. However, as Ichise’s digression here makes clear, this did not mean that Misawa’s overall treatment of Kawada was all roses. Misawa himself admitted in his autobiography that he had beaten Kawada in high school for “slandering” him, and when Kawada joined All Japan, Misawa responded to a similar incident by kicking Kawada’s knee on the stairs as he cowered, which horrified a witnessing Fuyuki. Kawada had never struck back, but tonight, he wanted to set an example for the younger wrestlers in the room. As you can see, he got him good. Kawada left and returned to Tokyo, while Misawa went to an Osaka hospital. The following day or thereabouts, Kawada went to Misawa to apologize, and Misawa’s response was apparently gracious. It would be dishonest to peg this as the point when the relationship between the two began its inexorable shift; they tagged together for another fifteen months, and they continued to duet on karaoke into the following year. But it’s a story that reveals a lot. The previous year, when Misawa had been sidelined with a knee injury, the team lost their scheduled match against Giant Baba & Andre the Giant by forfeit. This time, though, special measures were taken, and the Kimura/Inoue match was rescheduled to take place on November 26. This kept Misawa & Kawada in the running, at the cost of having to pull double duty; after winning their originally scheduled tournament match against the Dynamite Kid & Johnny Smith, M & K only had a Kobashi/Kikuchi vs. Hansen/Spivey match’s worth of time to rest before going back out to wrestle the ex-IWE job team. “THE ACE OF GLASS” The rate of injury which had impeded Misawa’s growth during his days as Tiger Mask had not gone away when he unmasked, and the back half of 1991 laid that out plainly. It was likely during this period when Misawa garnered a derisive nickname in certain corners: the ace of glass. On January 4, 1992, Tokyo Sports held their annual awards ceremony. Misawa and Kawada were both absent. In fact, Misawa would snub the ceremony for four consecutive years. Ichise dismisses a theory that Misawa boycotted the ceremony in retaliation for having lost the 1990 MVP award to Atsushi Onita; no, it was the “ace of glass” narrative. Ichise scoured Tokyo Sports All Japan coverage from the second half of 1991 in search of this term, and while it was never used, a reporter in the December 27 issue wrote that he didn’t understand why the Misawa/Kawada vs. Kimura/Inoue RWTL match had been rescheduled. Misawa wasn’t the kind of man who would turn on Tokyo Sports because they had given him an honorable mention instead of the top award in 1991, but this was something that could have set him off. Soichi Shibata, the head of Tokyo Sports’ AJPW team, recalled that while he himself didn’t feel this way, there were colleagues who felt that Misawa was unsuitable for the MVP award after this. Misawa would eventually play ball with them again, but he would not win the award until 2007. However, Weekly Pro Wrestling held an annual, fan-voted set of awards known as the Pro Wrestling Grand Prix. Concurrent with his Tokyo Sports boycott, Misawa won the Grand Prix’s MVP award in three consecutive years. His first win in 1991 quite surprised the publication’s staff, as their NJPW coverage was clearly what sold more units (as determined by the sales of both issues with NJPW cover stories and NJPW special issues). But for the core fans who bothered to submit the Grand Prix voting postcards, All Japan was clearly a subject of attention. In February 1992, when Ichise asked Misawa for his response to winning the award, Misawa made an overt statement of defiance towards Tokyo Sports, stating that it was a greater honor to be chosen by the fans than by the papers.
  13. Finally, KinchStalker has come back...to his history thread. I was fairly satisfied with how the last batch of posts came out, for which I held off until I transcribed roughly a hundred pages. The wait on your end was longer, but the posts were more cohesive for it. I’ve decided to stick to that approach: recapping this book in eighths, essentially. The only drawback, besides time, is that this method leaves me with a ton of material to process. More posts covering this range of the book will come very soon, but I need a little more time. Part Three of this book spans roughly 250 pages across seven chapters. If the photographs throughout are any indication, the range of time it covers starts in 1993 and ends in the spring of 1995, with the 1995 Champion Carnival and the Weekly Pro Wrestling Tokyo Dome show – the culmination of the publication’s influence upon the puroresu landscape. WADA Above: Short-tenured referee Nobuo Kawasaki [L], whose illness would change the life of a ring crew employee [R]. Kyohei Wada entered the workforce after graduating junior high, hopping across various odd jobs until finding employment with transportation company Towa. This brought him to a part-time job as a member of AJPW’s ring crew, starting in the winter of 1972. It wouldn’t be until 1974 when an opportunity for something more arose. Nobuo Kawasaki, a Chuo University law graduate who appears to have been the son of the head of Towa (I was suspicious of this, but this is a very obscure story and I combed through what little text his Showa Puroresu minibio had with RomajiDesu as well as DeepL to check that this term was being correctly translated), had debuted as a referee in August 1973. However, he was struck by illness a little over a year later and never returned.. It must have been after this that Baba noticed Wada, who displayed his agility and grace of movement as he danced to the radio while performing his duties. Wada accepted Baba’s offer, and was trained by AJPW head referee Joe Higuchi and wrestler Masio Koma. Trainee Kazuharu Sonoda, who had joined the company in July and would debut in January, filled in as undercard referee until Wada’s debut for the year-end NWA World Champion Series tour. Early AJPW continued the JWA’s practice of hiring foreign referees alongside natives. This began with Japanese-American referee Wally Tsutsumi of 50th State Big Time Wrestling, who had received the opportunity to visit the country of his parents’ birth after having refereed Giant Baba’s September 1972 Honolulu match against the Sheik. Ken Farber, George McCreary, Richard Moody, Danny Pleches, and Jimmy Tanaka all worked for All Japan in this capacity before the promotion acquired the services of ex-JWA referee Gerry Murdock. Starting with the 1973 Black Power Series, the first AJPW tour after the JWA’s closure, Murdock worked for them full-time. For the first 18 months of his career, Wada was below both Higuchi and Murdock. However, after the first date of the 1976 Summer Action Series, a stomach ulcer ended Murdock’s career, at least in Japan. The Great Kojika and Akihisa Takachiho filled in for a few matches, but Kazuharu Sonoda eventually filled in as a third referee for the rest of the year. I do not know whether Sonoda or Wada was above the other in this hierarchy; Sonoda had technically been hired first by AJPW proper, but Wada was two years older and had worked with the company longer. In any case, All Japan would finally settle on the two-referee system of Higuchi and Wada as 1977 began. The 1980 hire of Kisimasa Sakurai would put somebody underneath Wada at last, but he only lasted one year in the business, and with the in-ring retirement and subsequent shift of Mr. Hayashi in 1982, Wada would once again languish in a #3 spot. Wada considers Higuchi to have been his greatest teacher, although in an excerpt from his autobiography, Wada admits that he was slow to appreciate Higuchi’s approach. He thought it strange that Higuchi was “almost motionless” when the wrestlers he was working with were both standing. However, Wada eventually realized that this was deliberate; when wrestlers were engaged in matwork, Higuchi moved to and fro as he engaged the audience with big gestures. Still, Wada’s work embodied a generational reaction to Higuchi. The most memorable incident of Wada’s career before his promotion to co-lead referee is a great display of how. At some point in the early 80s, Wada was refereeing a match with Rocky Hata. Hata lost his temper and attempted to throw Wada out of the ring, as foreign talent had done to Higuchi so many, many, many times…only for Wada to recover by performing a tiger feint (better known to Western readers as a 619). With Hayashi’s transfer to AJW in 1986, and Tiger Hattori’s return to NJPW alongside most of JPW, AJPW had three referees by the start of the Jumbo/Tenryu feud: Higuchi, Wada, and Akihiko Fukuda, who had debuted on March 31. That summer, Baba decided to promote Wada to a co-head referee position for native vs native matches; Ichise doesn’t frame it this way, but I wonder if he was influenced by Tiger Hattori’s work in the AJPW vs JPW matches of the previous two years, which his refereeing had served better than Higuchi’s ever could have. Wada notes that he and Tenryu hit it off over their similar philosophies on wrestling. However, in keeping with Tenryu’s attempts to not harm AJPW’s business in his departure to SWS, he did not attempt to invite Wada to join him, instead taking 1988 debutant Hiroyuki Unno. When the Chosedaigun/Tsurutagun feud took shape, Wada claims that Higuchi himself handed that off to Kyohei because he himself couldn’t work those matches. With this setup, the book goes into an interesting digression about the six-man tags of the time, and Wada’s role in helping them. With the addition of Yoshinari Ogawa to Tsurutagun in February 1991, the factions now each had four members. However, the possible configurations were limited by the need for Misawa and Tsuruta to work every one of these tags for customer satisfaction. On top of this, Wada had to pay attention to the crowds of provincial shows, as big fans from the Tokyo and Osaka markets would often travel to b-shows. He recalls times when he would recognize fifty faces from the previous show, and advise the main-eventers to mix things up for that night’s tag, often by doing the opposite of what they’d done the night before. Mind you, all of this had to be done without breaking from the foundation of the house style. There were unwritten rules to these matches that followed Baba’s ideals, and these were a clear manifestation of what we would come to know as oudou/King’s Road, even if that marketing term still hadn’t come about yet. These ranged from the general pacing of these matches – hot start, cooloff in the middle, hot finish – to Baba’s strong preference for variation and escalation rather than repetition in the layout of high spots. If a move only got a 2-count earlier in the match, Baba did not believe that it should be used for the finish, or even really a false finish. Ichise credits this feedback, relayed to the wrestlers by Wada, with inspiring them to develop broader movesets, specifically citing Misawa’s myriad elbow strike variants as an examples. Finally, as you might expect, by this point the preference for pinfalls was well-established in company philosophy, with the “2.9 count” emerging as a staple of these matches. Wada was essentially the conductor of these moments, which demanded that he count “as if he were dancing”. The nearfall would become such a staple of the “slippery-slope matches” in years to come that Shitenno puroresu eventually garnered the nickname “2.9 puroresu”. But even in 1991, Wada recalls being concerned that the finish of the September 4, 1991 AJPW World Tag Team title match, in which Misawa made Tsuruta submit with the facelock he had debuted against Fuchi in May, would disappoint the crowd. FAN ENGAGEMENT Above: Multiple screenshots of a camcorder recording of a “symposium” with Misawa on November 8, 1991. These talk events were one way in which AJPW catered to their new breed of fan. As covered in the previous major post, 1991 was the year when AJPW began to cater to a peripheral demographic who engaged with their product through the prism of idol culture, most notably reviving the Champion Carnival tournament to give their new favorite wrestlers opportunities to work in a singles context. Chapter 14 partially covers side events tied into this marketing approach. These ranged from photo-ops and meet-and-greets (such as one held on Hinamatsuri) to talk events called “symposiums”. Photo-ops became a perk of joining All Japan’s fan club; members who arrived at shows early had a brief window of time where they could be escorted into the locker room by Ryu Nakata, who would snap a photo of them with whoever they requested. In mid-June, AJPW embarked on the costliest bit of fan engagement yet: a six-day, four-night tour of Hawaii with Misawa. Twenty-six lucky gals got to go on this trip, on which Ichise tagged along as a reporter and photographer. He recalls the sobbing in the lobby of Honolulu International Airport as these fans said goodbye to Misawa, at which Misawa “seemed confused”. A TRIP TO AMERICA Above: photographs taken by the author during a September 1991 scouting trip of the United States with Misawa and Fuchi. From September 12-24, 1991, Misawa and Fuchi were in the United States for a scouting trip. Ichise accompanied them as a reporter-photographer. After starting in Dallas, the group would visit Tampa, Memphis, Philadelphia, and New York City. They happened to have left on the same day of Chris von Erich’s suicide, and when they received the news from Japan they rushed to the memorial event, held about 100km from Dallas. The above left photo, with Misawa and Fuchi alongside Fritz and Kevin von Erich, Doris Adkisson, and Richard Slinger, might be the first photographed interaction between the von Erichs and AJPW talent since WCCW’s transfer to NJPW in 1985. During their time in Memphis, Fuchi insisted that they stop at Graceland, which Misawa indulged dutifully. Ichise goes into a digression about how, while he tagged along with Misawa on many a karaoke night during his time reporting for AJPW,[1] they never sang Western music.[2]
  14. KinchStalker

    [1988-05-27-NJPW] Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu

    Type II. It was discovered when Inoki was 39; he felt the change when he was in Dubai in the spring of 1982, and after catching a fever in Korea he went to his family doctor. They did bloodwork and his glucose level was 590, over five times normal. Inoki recalls his binge eating habits of old in a 2010 article; by his own account he always felt that no food should be left uneaten, so eating ten bowls of ramen in one sitting or downing a whole bottle of sake was normal for him. The doctor advised retirement, but Inoki went on a diet and underwent a natural healing regimen to lower his glucose to 180, and returned to the ring just 44 days after his previous match with a 1:37 squash against Scott McGhee in June. Insulin injections were against Inoki's ideals, so after he was discharged from the hospital he opted for an ice water bath to make his muscles twitch and consume his blood sugar. The doctor was aghast, as you might imagine.
  15. KinchStalker

    [1988-05-27-NJPW] Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu

    Kayfabe reason was a leg injury, yes, but the real health concern was diabetes.