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KinchStalker

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About KinchStalker

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

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  1. KinchStalker

    Toyonobori

    Toyonobori’s colorful personality made him one of the more interesting characters in early Showa puroresu. Here are some elements of the “Toyonobori legend”, which may be expanded with time. Synonymous with Toyonobori is the arm-flapping “pacon-pacon” gesture, named onomatopoeically. (Here is Godzilla doing it, in what must have been an intentional cultural reference.) He primarily gambled in horse racing. A 1983 article as cited by Toyonobori’s Japanese Wikipedia page claims that he professed to understand horse language and would only place bets after extensively examining a horse’s paddock, features, and manure. He was a firm believer in the Yamashita treasure, a legendary stash of Imperial Japanese war loot supposedly hidden somewhere in the Philippines. He approached multiple wrestlers to try to find it; one, Takeshi Oiso, would eventually bite.
  2. KinchStalker

    Toyonobori

    Toyonobori Real name: Michiharu Sadano Professional names: Toyonobori Life: 3/21/1931-7/1/1998 Born: Kanada (now Fukuchi), Fukuoka, Japan Career: 1954-1973 Height/Weight: 174cm/114kg (5’9”/251 lbs.) Signature moves: Bearhug, boston crab, Argentine and Canadian backbreakers Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro-Wrestling Titles: All Asia Tag Team [JWA] (7x; 4x w/Rikidozan, 1x w/Michiaki Yoshimura, 2x w/Giant Baba), WWA World Heavyweight [WWA (Los Angeles)] (1x), IWA World Tag Team [IWE] (2x, 1x w/Thunder Sugiyama, 1x w/Strong Kobayashi) Tournament victories: World League [JWA] (2x: 1964, 1965) Summary: Toyonobori was one of the most prominent members of the first generation of puroresu. For a time after Rikidozan’s death, he was even the top wrestler in the country. However, Toyonobori’s considerable legacy is haunted by the specter of his irrepressible vices. Michiharu Sadano was recruited by a patron of the Tatsunami sumo stable during a provincial tour; supposedly, it was a decision made by his stomach. Debuting in June 1947, Sadano adopted the name Kanedayama in January 1949, before switching to Toyonobori that autumn. He won his first tournament in autumn 1953, and was promoted to the makuuchi division in 1954. Near the end of that same year, he would leave sumo to transfer to pro wrestling. Toyonobori got his first big break in 1956, reaching the semifinals of an interpromotional heavyweight tournament meant to delegitimize the JWA’s regional competitors and build up Azumafuji for a title match that never happened. It wasn’t until 1960, though, that he really got pushed After Azumafuji’s retirement made Toyonobori the most prominent ex-sumo besides Rikidozan, Rikidozan began to groom Toyonobori as his successor. The two won the All Asia Tag Team titles from Dan Miller & Frank Valois in June. It would be the first of four reigns with Rikidozan, and seven total. Toyonobori was one of a few wrestlers besides Rikidozan to eke out some status in the company, alongside earlier Rikidozan tag partner Kokichi Endo, and the light and junior heavyweights Junzo Yoshinosato and Michiaki Yoshimura. Toyonobori’s gambling addiction and debt kept Rikidozan from ever fully pushing the gas pedal, but Toyonobori remained loyal to him. Many of Toyonobori’s juniors were fond of him due to his gentle nature. His mentorship of the young Kanji Inoki is well-known, and will be relevant later. Less immediately obvious, at least to Western fans, are the many ring names which Toyonobori bestowed upon his underlings. Some stuck, like Antonio Inoki, Kotetsu Yamamoto, Kantaro Hoshino, and Umanosuke Ueda. (The latter three were inspired by late Edo period samurai Aizu no Kotetsu, the 1943 film Ina no Kotetsu, and Edo period samurai Umanosuke Ueda, respectively.) Others did not, like Genji Okuma (Motoshi Okuma), Sarukichi Takasakiyama (Motoyuki Kitazawa), and Akihisa Takachiho…although in fairness, it was a long time before the latter became the Great Kabuki. After Rikidozan’s death, Toyonobori was selected by the JWA’s shareholders and sponsors to take his spot as the ace, as well as help run the promotion in an executive council. In April 1964, he challenged the Destroyer for the WWA Heavyweight title in a match which drew a 51.4 television rating. While this did not match the 64.0 of the previous year’s Rikidozan-Destroyer match (5/19/63), it still made it one of the most widely-viewed wrestling matches of all time. (Like that match, it does not survive.) Eight months later, Toyonobori won the title, but this reign would begin to undo him. Toyonobori’s resistance to defending the belt in its native territory made for tense relations with the JWA’s only Stateside ally. Meanwhile, Toyonobori became company president in early 1965, as Rikidozan widow Keiko Momota stepped down from her post and the troika of underworld bigwigs atop their shareholders’ association acquiesced to pressure to do the same. Toyonobori was incompetent, passing his duties onto Yoshinosato as he used the company vault as his own betting fund. While he was hardly the only corrupt official in the company, his antics made him an easy target for his peers to rally against. After Toyonobori finally dropped the WWA title to Luke Graham, the other executives chose to build Giant Baba into the JWA’s new ace, and had him win the newly minted International Heavyweight title from Dick the Bruiser in November 1965. That winter, Toyonobori resigned under the cover story of ureteral stones, and quickly set about forming his own promotion. With the assistance of Hisashi Shinma, an old workout buddy and experienced salesman, Toyonobori formed Tokyo Pro Wrestling, the first competitor to the JWA since the earliest years of puroresu. While he could not secure his entire dream roster, he did lure a crop of sympathetic talent to jump ship and follow him, and in the Plunder on the Pacific Ocean, he even swiped Antonio Inoki just before his scheduled return for the 1966 World League. In a supposedly magnanimous gesture, Toyonobori made Inoki the president of the promotion, and transferred his own 50 million yen debt onto Inoki’s shoulders in the process. Despite Inoki’s best efforts to get the promotion off the ground, Toyonobori’s unfettered embezzlement devastated Tokyo Pro. In December 1966, the talent rallied behind Inoki as he formed a new company of the same name, which would fold into the nascent Kokusai Puroresu (International Wrestling Enterprise). Toyonobori found his way back into wrestling through the IWE. He was never pushed as the promotion’s ace, but he was used effectively, putting over foreign ace Billy Robinson and then building up Thunder Sugiyama and Strong Kobayashi through tag title reigns. He retired in early 1970. This would not be the end, though, as he returned to the business to help his old junior. Through the intermediary of Hisashi Shinma, Toyonobori reconciled with Inoki and worked for New Japan Pro-Wrestling in its first year. Without himself and Shinma, NJPW might not have survived its first year. He quietly retired as New Japan received network support in 1973, although he made a ringside appearance for Inoki and Kobayashi’s first match in March 1974, and refereed Inoki and Kintaro Oki’s match that October. Fifteen years later, he appeared again for Yusef Turk's retirement ceremony. Toyonobori died of heart failure in 1998.
  3. KinchStalker

    KinchStalker's Puroresu Profile Index

    Future JWA Other 1950s promotions (All Japan Pro Wrestling Association, Asia Pro Wrestling, etc.) Tokyo Pro Wrestling (1966-1967) IWE NJPW AJPW MISCELLANEOUS
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  5. I have recently begun to post puroresu profiles on the underused Wrestlers & Other Personalities section of the Pro Wrestling Only database. I believe that this section of the board has massive potential as a component of my research efforts, as it provides a perfect space to collect information on various personnel without the burden of any narrative expectations that a puroresu history post might have. This thread will contain an index of those I have made, as well as an extensive itinerary of possible future subjects. In addition to my general focus on mens’ puroresu in the Showa period, my emphasis for the foreseeable future will be lesser stars for whom information is scarce in English. All threads I create will be tagged with promotions in which each performer did major work, although obviously I can only do this in cases where I was the one who created the thread. [NOTE: I believe that in cases where a gimmick was a relatively small portion of one’s career, that stage name should not be given precedence. If/when I write a Satoru Sayama profile, for example, I will post a link in a Tiger Mask thread to a Sayama profile which encompasses his Tiger Mask run. However, if I were to write a profile on Tiger Mask IV, I would either place him in that thread after placing redirects to Sayama, Misawa, and Kanemoto threads for TMs I-III, or give “Tiger Mask (IV)” its own thread.] --- All profiled persons will be sorted by all promotions for which they worked, in one or more of five categories. Performers: Mostly wrestlers, but the verbiage is expanded to include managers as well. A wrestler will be sorted with a company if they were ever under contract to them, or if they did noted freelance work. (This is to accommodate cases like Goro Tsurumi, who stayed freelance in his near-decade of bookings for AJPW, or US-based Japanese wrestlers like Hiro Matsuda and post-JWA Umanosuke Ueda. Korean wrestlers will also be categorized in this way.) Referees: Self-explanatory. Announcers: The guy with the microphone. Broadcasters: The people at the commentary table Executives and Miscellaneous Personnel: The people behind the curtain. This category is deliberately flexible to accommodate important persons that did not perform themselves. Obvious candidates include Hisashi Shinma, Mitsuo Matsune, Motoko Baba, and Naoki Otsuka. I am conscious about the potential clutter that such a category could bring about, and am aware that it may not be totally justifiable under the Wrestlers & Other Personalities banner. It is true that this category could be expanded to include significant shareholders and benefactors such as: Shinzaku Nitta: former patron of Rikidōzan, who provided early financial support to begin the JWA Sadao Nagata: entertainment industry don who, decades after bringing the Yakuza into the industry through talent management, provided the JWA with crucial infrastructural support as a touring enterprise Yoshio Kodama, Kazuo Taoka, and Hizayuki Machii: underworld figures with executive positions in the JWA’s shareholders association, who steered the promotion in accordance to their own interests (see: the aborted plan to have Oki inherit Rikidōzan’s stage name to tie into a South Korean expansion) However, for everyone’s sake, I will stick to a conservative interpretation of the category, and I will exercise discretion in who I select to profile. Finally, if I can gather enough information to justify it, I will write profiles for wrestlers in early non-JWA promotions, such as Toshio Yamaguchi’s mid-1950s All Japan Pro Wrestling Association. ----------- Complete JWA (Japan Wrestling Association/Nippon Puroresu) Tokyo Pro Wrestling IWE (International Wrestling Enterprise/Kokusai Puroresu) NJPW (New Japan Pro-Wrestling/Shin Nihon Puroresuringu) AJPW (All Japan Pro Wrestling/Zen Nihon Puroresu) UWF "1.0" (Universal Wrestling Federation)
  6. KinchStalker

    Motoshi Okuma

    Motoshi Okuma Real name: Motoshi Okuma Professional names: Motoshi Okuma, Kumagoro Okuma, Great Kuma Life: 12/18/1941-12/27/1992 Born: Soka, Saitama, Japan Career: 1962-1992 Height/Weight: 179cm/130kg (at peak) (5’8”/286 lbs.) Signature moves: Body splash, headbutt Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: NWA World Tag Team [NWA Mid-America] (1x, w/Shinya Kojika), NWA Western States Tag Team [Western States Sports] (2x, w/Masio Koma), NWA North American Heavyweight [International Wrestling (Halifax)] (2x), ESA International Tag Team [see previous] (2x, w/Geeto Mongol), All Asia Tag Team [AJPW] (4x, w/The Great Kojika) Summary: One of the most loyal men in AJPW history, Motoshi Okuma had a long and distinguished career as a midcarder. His three-decade run peaked as one half of the Gokudō Combi team in the late 1970s. Upon graduation from junior high, Motoshi Okuma entered sumo in May 1957. He wrestled for the Isegahama stable until retiring in 1962, after which he entered the JWA. Assigned as Giant Baba's second valet, after Masio Koma, Okuma debuted that June against Motoyuki Kitazawa. He would become well remembered by his peers for his sturdy constitution; he claimed to have been drinking since he was 13, as his parents had run a liquor store. Okuma was one of many JWA wrestlers who received a ring name from Toyonobori: Kumagoro. He would be a rare case who actually reverted back to his real name, though this itself was encouraged by an outside factor: namely, Yomiuri Giants player Motoshi Fujita, who pitched his team to a Japan Series victory in 1963. (Okuma was a huge Giants fan.) The most infamous incident of Okuma’s early career came on November 28, 1965, when he was on tour in South Korea. During a singles match against Jang Yong-Cheol, Okuma went off-script and applied a half-crab at a legitimately painful angle, upon which ten of Jang’s disciples stormed the ring and beat him. The “Great Bear Lynching Incident” spurred a police investigation, and as Jang exposed the business in his complaints, it has been cited as a possible factor in the decline of Korean professional wrestling. Okuma left on his first expedition in 1967, where he would form a team with Shinya Kojika in Georgia and southern Tennessee. That October, the two won tag gold in the latter territory, but Okuma’s excursion would end early. According to Kojika, the homesickness weighed heavily on his partner. Whenever they saw a Toyota on the road, they would stare at it until it was out of sight, and Okuma asked Motoko Baba to send them records by Kazuko Matsuo and Frank Nagai. Okuma returned alone in 1968, as he had lost a significant amount of weight; Kojika would remain overseas until 1970. In 1971, Okuma got a second chance. He would work in the Florida and Amarillo territories from that spring through autumn 1972, most notably teaming with Koma to title success in the latter territory. It was there that they reunited with Baba, who asked them to join him in a new enterprise. Both men would accept, and they would be loyal to Baba for the rest of not just their careers, but their lives as well. Okuma returned home to support All Japan Pro Wrestling in its first two years. He and Koma reunited occasionally in its first year or so, but Koma retreated into the undercard and concentrated on his coaching role as the Destroyer and Jumbo Tsuruta joined their ranks. Okuma found himself somewhat lost in the shuffle due to the 1973 influx of ex-JWA talent, and volunteered to leave on a third expedition in 1974. In the Maritimes, he won the only singles gold of his career, defeating Leo Burke and the Beast for two short reigns with the NWA North American Heavyweight title. He also continued his tag success through two short runs alongside Geepo Mongol. Returning to AJPW in February 1975, Okuma revived his tag team with Kojika, now called the Gokudō Combi. In the following years, the team would refuse to wrestle against each other during the annual Champion Carnival, which was criticized as unprofessional by some in the media. They would get its big break the following year, when AJPW revived the All Asia tag titles. (This was in response to the announcement of NJPW’s own version of the title, which was won by Seiji Sakaguchi & Strong Kobayashi that August and was dropped fairly quickly.) Kojika had been one-half of the final All Asia champs in the JWA, alongside Gantetsu Matsuoka. On March 26, 1976, the two won the belts in Seoul against Hong Mu-Ung and Oh Dae-Gyun (Oh Tae Kyun). Two days later, they successfully defended them in a draw against the Great Kusatsu & Mighty Inoue, at the AJPW vs IWE show in the Kuramae Kokugikan. Although their first reign ended in October against Ted & Jerry Oates, and the belts were then won by Akihisa Takachiho & Samson Kutsuwada, Gokudō would return to the top of the division in a then-rare native-to-native title switch on June 16, 1977. This second reign saw them defend against native teams exclusively. On September 9, 1977, they gave Genichiro Tenryu his first title shot as one half of the Fresh Handsome Combi with Rocky Hata, and on November 3, they fought off Animal Hamaguchi & Goro Tsurumi. Three days later, though, Gokudō lost on IWE turf against Hamaguchi & Inoue, beginning a three-month chase that helped establish Animal & Mighty as one of Japan’s top tag teams. They won them back on February 1978, but this third reign would be Okuma & Kojika’s least interesting. They held no defenses, for which the belts were stripped from them after six months. On May 31, 1979, they defeated the Kiwis to begin their final title reign. This one would last nearly two years, and outside of one defense against Tenryu & Takachiho in November 1979, their challengers were exclusively gaikokujin. David & Kevin von Erich finally defeated them on May 23, 1981, to serve as transitional champions towards Akio Sato & Takashi Ishikawa. Gokudō continued to work together frequently until Kojika’s first retirement in 1986. Meanwhile, Okuma’s television appearances in the mid-80s saw him transition into a job guy in main-event tags. The late 80s often saw Motoshi work as an undercarder, most famously wrestling Kenta Kobashi in his official debut. As the decade drew to its close, though, Okuma found a new calling in the comedic six-man tags. A charter member of the “villainous” Akuyaku Shokai faction, Okuma consistently wrestled against his old senior Baba in his last years. Finally, on December 4, 1992, Okuma received what would be the morbid distinction of being the last opponent which Andre the Giant defeated. Andre pinned him in the six-man on the last show of the year, and it would be their last match. Okuma died of acute renal failure on December 27, exactly one month before Andre himself died in his sleep. Kyohei Wada on Okuma, 2020: He had been Baba's assistant since his days in Japan Pro Wrestling, and he was a mess. He was a heavy drinker, so he would go to Baba's house, drink all the expensive foreign whiskey, and shout, "Hey Motoko, do you have any more liquor in this house?” Motoko would laugh and say, "It can't be helped because he's a bear.” Baba took good care of him. When he went to the countryside, he got drunk and befriended the old man next to him and made him pay the bill, or suddenly pulled out a food cart and started running, or drank shochu on the beach in Hawaii and got in trouble with the police... More than 40 years ago, he got into a big fight at his wedding. I remember that when he was on a tour of the US, the promoter gave him a schedule, and on a day marked "OFF (holiday)," he was overjoyed and said, "Oh, a match has been scheduled.” He was so excited that he looked for "OFF" on the map. Only Mr. Okuma would do that. When my daughter was six or seven years old, he said, "I have an extra bicycle for you, so I'll take it with me," and he pulled the bicycle from his house in Gotanda to my house in Shirokanedai by himself. He was a person loved by everyone.
  7. KinchStalker

    Masao Ito

    Masao Ito Real name: Masao Ito Professional names: Masao Ito, Mr. Ito, The Great Ninja, Oriental Connection Life: 12/9/1948- Born: Kabado, Hokkaido, Japan Career: 1972-1986 Height/Weight: 178cm/120kg (5’10”/240 lbs.) Signature moves: Leg drop Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: AWA International Heavyweight [CWA] (1x) Summary: Masao Ito was one of the JWA’s very last alumni, and had a humble career as an under/midcarder thereafter. Masao Ito joined the Dewanoumi sumo stable in 1964, after graduating from junior high. He only lasted two years before returning home to help the family business, but he continued to keep himself in shape out of a desire to make a living in the martial arts world. Finally, in January 1972, he joined the JWA, debuting that October. In April 1973, Ito was one of the JWA’s nine remaining wrestlers when it collapsed, who were “taken into the custody” of Rikidozan widow and AJPW board member Keiko Momota. Like the rest, Ito signed a three-year contract with Nippon Television and began work for All Japan that summer. He remained a “front and middle” player throughout his tenure; the Japanese fanzine Showa Puroresu calls Ito a lesser version of Motoshi Okuma and “the most unremarkable wrestler in the history of Japan Pro Wrestling”. Nevertheless, his peers recall him for his strength. In 2015, Masanobu Fuchi recalled that Ito would put him or Atsushi Onita in a headlock, lift them into the air, and then toss them a couple meters forward, over a decade before Jumbo Tsuruta began doing that same spot with Tsuyoshi Kikuchi. Ito first traveled abroad for a tour of Southeast Asia in mid-1977 and followed this with a tour of Australia and New Zealand the following spring. In autumn 1981, he embarked on his first long-term expedition, leaving for West Germany. He never came back, as Ito’s journey brought him through work in Canada, Tennessee, and Mid-South. In 1984, he won his only title, defeating Austin Idol for the AWA International Heavyweight title as a transitional champion to Tommy Rich. He would also work the second match on the second Starrcade, losing to Brian Adidas in 3:11. In a 2015 G Spirits interview, the Great Kabuki claimed that Ito had called him in the mid-1980s. He had gotten a job as a chef in Montreal and was looking to get his green card. Ito reportedly married a woman he met through this line of work, and still lives there.
  8. The rivalry between Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu, a storyline which lasted on and off for nearly three years, is often hypercompressed into their iconic match on June 5, 1989. It’s easy to understand why this happens; people often watch 6/5/89 (and 12/16/88) as homework before the Misawa feud. But it’s a reductive treatment of one of the great All Japan feuds. PROLOGUE: Early matches There are a handful of Jumbo vs. Tenryu matches in the early years of the decade, before KakuRyu’s formation. Excluding a 1980 battle royal, the earliest one on tape is a 7/30/81 tag title match pitting Jumbo & Baba against Tenryu & Billy Robinson. Also of interest is an 11/30/81 RWTL match between B&J and Tenryu & Ashura Hara. As for singles matches, there were two. The first, a Champion Carnival match from 4/16/82, was a 30-minute draw, of which only 17 minutes aired. The second, another time-limit draw from 4/20/83, was untelevised. (This makes sense as, according to Kagehiro Osano’s 2020 Tsuruta biography, this match was a last-minute addition. Baba learned that television executives would attend the show to evaluate the program’s worthiness for primetime broadcast and punched up the card.) Your mileage may vary with these matches, roughly proportionate to your feelings about early-80s Tenryu. None are great, but I am fond of the 7/30/81 and 4/16/82 matches. 1987 The rivalry proper starts in mid-1987, when Tenryu breaks up KakuRyu to reunite with Hara. The first match between the two is a June 11 tag, in which Jumbo enlists Tiger Mask II to face the core of what will be known as Revolution. These teams will have another match (broadcast JIP) in August, and I think both are solid, but they are the best of a weak crop. The greatest flaw in the early part of this feud is the inconsistent quality of Tsuruta’s tag partners. One-off buildup tags with Takashi Ishikawa or Kabuki in Jumbo’s corner are one thing, but SIX of the Jumbo/Tenryu tags televised in the first sixteen months of the feud see him saddled with Hiroshi Wajima. Now, when I watched the television from this era in late 2020 I actually thought they worked around Wajima well enough for decent fare, but he prevented the material from soaring like it should have. (From my recollection, 7/26/88 was the best of this configuration.) It isn’t until Yoshiaki Yatsu joins forces with Jumbo to form the Olympians that this feud really gets cooking in tag situations. Meanwhile, the first two singles matches of the rivalry proper take place in August and October. The former is superior; while not on the level of the best matches to come, 8/31/87 is a very good start. These matches do a lot to establish this new darker shade of Jumbo’s character. On 12/4, the Olympians finally wrestle Tenryu & Hara in a RWTL match. It’s a solid tournament draw, promising a fruitful feud. 1988 They save the next singles match for October, and after an Olympians/Revolution rematch at the first show of the year, there aren’t even really any major tags for the first five months. However, a handheld recording of a 2/24/88 six-man suggests that, on the house show circuit, AJPW was using this feud to workshop the six-man tag formula that would pay such strong creative dividends for them in the early 1990s. More examples of this will make tape later in the rivalry, and it is the greatest contribution that new handheld footage could make to our assessment of it. (Also, while this match does not involve Tenryu, who skipped the last two dates of the tour after his double title match against Hansen, I do want to shout out the great Revolution vs. Jumbo/Kabuki/Ishikawa six-man from 3/11.) The next major match of the feud comes on 6/4/88, a defense of Tenryu & Hara’s PWF tag titles. The Olympians will win to unify the company’s two tag titles against the Road Warriors six days later, and it is another strong match, but it’s just a tablesetter for what’s to come. The murder of Bruiser Brody ruined the booking plans for AJPW’s 8/29/88 Budokan show, which was to feature a Jumbo/Brody vs. Tenryu/Hansen tag as the result of a fan poll. As the card was retooled into a memorial show, the main event changed to an Olympians/Revolution tag. Thing is, one had already been scheduled for the following night’s show, which was to end the tour. So, they would hold matches on consecutive nights, with Tenryu pinning Jumbo for the first time to win the first. The next night, Jumbo would return in kind, despite Ashura Hara’s attempt to cover his partner with his body (a bit which Kobashi would resurrect eight years later). In my opinion (and it is just that), these are the first two matches to fulfill the potential of the Jumbo/Tenryu feud. This pairing has two more very good tags in it, and the long-awaited third singles match on 10/28/88 taps into a chaos that this feud will never quite have again, due to the shift in fan tastes which will necessitate a move to clean finishes in 1989 and beyond. However, Ashura Hara’s dismissal will significantly alter the feud’s broader dynamic into early 1989, as Tenryu teams up with Toshiaki Kawada. Despite this, a great upset in the 1988 RWTL is a fine start to this phase. 1989 Kawada’s promotion to the #2 of Revolution shifts the first big Jumbo/Tenryu tags of the year into a hierarchical mode. The first is a 35-minute tag on 1/20/89, in which the Olympians attack Kawada with all the deliberation of schoolteachers teaching kanji (to borrow an analogy from Weekly Pro writer Hidetoshi Ichinose’s match report). The following month’s 2/23/89 tag keeps working in this mode, but it’s a highlight of the feud to this point. Other footage of note is a ten-minute JIP of a strong 1/28/89 six-man (which got five stars from the Observer), as well as a Tenryu/Road Warriors vs Olympians/Shunji Takano sixer which, for my money, is the best match the Warriors were ever part of in their original All Japan run. Things start moving in spring, though. Between the Jumbo/Tenryu/Hansen race to unify the Triple Crown and Tenryu’s alliance with Hansen, the rivalry gets a pair of notable matches: the first Olympians/“Ryukanhou” tag on 4/6/89 and the Jumbo Triple Crown defense on 4/20. The premature end of the latter makes the end result a regression in quality from 10/28/88, even if this will be more than made up for in its followup. Meanwhile, the Ryukanhou pairing relieves the tag end of this rivalry from constantly bearing the burden of seniority on Tenryu’s end, but the styles clash will become a source of creative frustration for Tenryu behind the scenes. 6/5/89 is the most famous match of the feud. It hardly needs me to pimp it. More interesting for me is the following tour. Yes, there’s another pair of Olympians/Ryukanhou tags, even if I consider 7/22 to be the most disappointing ‘major’ tag of the rivalry. But what this phase really adds is some “seniority matches” on Jumbo’s end. Kenta Kobashi’s starmaking performance in Korakuen Hall on 7/15 is most famous, but a 7/1 tag with Isao Takagi is a hidden gem. Another great Olympians vs. Tenryu/Kawada tag comes on 8/29, but it’s sadly the last of the configuration. There are also a couple good sixers on tape from the summer, even if one is clipped. As we move into the last months of the year, a couple tags see Jumbo saddled with Kabuki, who I find effective in an ensemble context but a little dampening in regular tags. The 10/11/89 singles match sees Tenryu drop back the Triple Crown, but as far as I’m concerned it’s an excellent match in its own right. And the last match of the year, the Olympians/Ryukanhou RWTL final, might be the best tag in this whole feud. 1990 [to be written]
  9. KinchStalker

    Rocky Hata

    Rocky Hata Real name: Mitsuo Hata Professional names: Mitsuo Hata, Rocky Hata Life: 9/12/1948-11/27/1991 Born: Akkeshi, Hokkaido, Japan Career: 1972-1986 Height/Weight: 192cm/108kg (6’4”/238lbs.) Signature moves: Side suplex (gutwrench), neckbreaker Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: NWA World Tag Team [Central States Wrestling] (2x, with Bob Brown) Summary: Rocky Hata was among the most prominent of AJPW’s early midcarders, peaking with his late-1970s run as a supporting wrestler and jobber-to-the-stars. Mitsuo Hata began his athletic career in sumo, joining the Hanakago stable after graduating from junior high. Debuting in January 1965, Hata advanced to the makushita division before retiring in January 1972. He joined the JWA during the post-Inoki malaise and was one of the last wrestlers it produced, debuting that summer alongside fellow ex-sumo Seiei Kimura. Hata was one of the nine wrestlers who remained with the company until its last breath, and who an unenthusiastic Giant Baba was forced by his network to take into All Japan Pro Wrestling afterwards. Hata remained an undercard talent until he received an opportunity for an expedition. In December 1974, when Ken Mantell came to Japan to defend his NWA World Junior Heavyweight title against Jumbo Tsuruta, Mantell took interest in his height, and Baba approved. Hata traveled America for two years, most notably working in the Kansas and Oklahoma territories. Towards the end of his expedition, he even received a pair of CSW tag title reigns alongside “Bulldog” Bob Brown, which saw the two go over Harley Race & Pat O’Connor. Hata reunited with his boss in early 1977, as Baba and a crop of top All Japan wrestlers worked a series of US dates for the apparent primary purpose of showcasing Genichiro Tenryu before his official AJPW debut. He then made his triumphant return for All Japan’s Super Power Series tour, teaming with Tsuruta to defeat Baron von Raschke & Mario Milano in his first match back home. Rechristened Rocky Hata in reference to the hit film of the time, Hata was called the “Japanese American Dream” for his comeback story. For a time, he was the #3 native in All Japan, behind Baba & Tsuruta. For a core fanbase that found Tsuruta difficult to relate to for his push and personality, Hata became a favorite. His popularity perhaps reflected on the company’s failure to build a top wrestler from the bottom up, something which they arguably did not do until Mitsuharu Misawa. Hata settled into an early supporting role as the partner of Genichiro Tenryu. Dubiously dubbed the “Fresh Handsome Combi”, they entered the 1977 Real World Tag League together, and Tenryu’s first title matches were All Asia shots alongside Hata. At that point, Hata was considered the superior wrestler of the two. At the 1977 Tokyo Sports Awards, Hata was AJPW’s winner of the Effort Award, alongside NJPW’s Riki Choshu and the IWE’s Goro Tsurumi. Hata remained relatively prominent as a supporting wrestler and jobber-to-the-gaikokujin-stars through the next couple years. In the 1979 Tokyo Sports show, Hata lost to Seiji Sakaguchi in the only true AJPW vs. NJPW singles match booked on the card. Even at his peak, though, Hata was always fighting for TV time with the likes of Kojika & Okuma’s All Asia champion duo, and Tiger Toguchi essentially took his spot in the second half of 1979. Outside of an untelevised All Asia title shot with Takashi Ishikawa in early 1983, Hata’s role receded in the early decade. It was around this time, though, that Hata began to develop a comedic streak. He and referee Kyohei Wada crafted a reliable routine (sadly not seen in circulating footage) that established the referee’s personality in contrast to his senior Joe Higuchi, famously culminating in a bit where Hata attempted to toss Wada out of the ring…only for Wada to do a tiger feint/619 to transfer the momentum and remain in the ring. While the NJPW undercard matches between Don Arakawa and Haruka Eigen likely beat Hata to the punch in terms of comedic focus (and elements of such had been in puroresu for decades), Hata still anticipated the comedic tradition that All Japan’s older talent would develop in later years. As far as the world knew at the time, Hata retired due to an internal disease after wrestling his last match in November 1986. Some thirty-five years later, though, Tenryu shed light on his old friend’s late career in a web column. According to him, the real cause of Hata’s decline was domestic troubles, as Mitsuo became unable to see his children and eventually began living in All Japan’s dojo. Spiraling into alcoholism, his work and condition deteriorated until Baba advised him to retire. After this, Hata worked for a time as a Nagano-based promoter, but “things happened, and he became a drunkard”. The Japanese fanzine Showa Puroresu recounts an instance where Hata appeared at an AJPW show, and shocked fans with his emaciated appearance. He died of acute renal failure in late 1991, which was chalked up to diabetic complications.
  10. KinchStalker

    Masami Soranaka

    Masami Soranaka Profession: Referee, Wrestler, Trainer, Booker Real Name: Masami Soranaka Professional names: Mr. Soranaka, Masami Soranaka, Shozo Soranaka Life: 5/15/1944-6/11/1992 Born: Kobe, Hyogo, Japan Career: 1978(?)-1992 Promotions: Universal Wrestling Federation (1984-5) Summary: Masami Soranaka was an easy-to-overlook but important early builder in shoot-style. Masami Soranaka was born in Kobe in 1944. His brother was Hawaii-based wrestler Hiro Sasaki, who briefly held tag gold with Kengo Kimura in Puerto Rico and Tor Kamata in New Zealand, and also booked Hawaiian wrestlers for New Japan. More interesting than anything in Sasaki’s in-ring career, though, was his double job as a DEA agent; in the mid-1980s he enacted an ultimately unsuccessful entrapment scheme against the Yamaguchi-gumi, which involved an arms deal with a fictional Hawaiian mob and the rights to a Michael Jackson tour. (Sasaki’s wife, television personality Cathy, is also notorious for having been a lover of singer Naomi Sagara, and torpedoing both their careers when she outed her in a 1980 talk show interview.) Soranaka, who had experience in judo, karate, and sumo, became the son-in-law of Karl Gotch when he married his only daughter, Jennie. He may have interpreted for Gotch during his coaching stints for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Soranaka debuted as a referee in spring 1978, during the 1st MSG Series tour. Among other matches, he refereed Antonio Inoki’s NWF title defense against El Canek in the UWA. I presume that these duties continued when Gotch was with NJPW. According to Fumi Saito, who got back to me after I originally posted this, Soranaka also wrestled alongside his brother in Puerto Rico prior to his UWF "debut". In 1984, Soranaka followed Gotch when he began associating with the UWF and continued to work as a referee. However, a talent shortage led the 40-year-old to become the UWF dojo’s first graduate and wrestle for the promotion. He was billed as Shozo, in reference to the more common but incorrect reading of his first name (正三). According to Dave Meltzer’s obituary, he would follow this up with some work as an Oriental heel for small Florida shows. In his later years, “Sammy” Soranaka worked to establish shoot grappling in the United States. He never worked for the UWF’s second incarnation, but he helped them in his own way when he offered his coaching services to the Malenko wrestling school. Soranaka helped develop foreign talent who could work as competent midcard talent in the shoot idiom, such as Norman Smiley and Bart Vale. Yuji Shimada also came from Japan to learn catch wrestling from him and was also taught refereeing. The most important person he trained, though, was Ken Shamrock. He and Vale formed the International Shootfighting Association, of which he was president until his death. After the UWF’s implosion, Soranaka continued to offer his booking services to Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. Soranaka died of a brain tumor in 1992. In Fumi Saito’s documentary Karl Gotch: Kamisama, which was shot in the summer of 1992, Fujiwara is seen visiting Soranaka’s grave.
  11. Quarterly puroresu magazine G Spirits (a spiritual successor to Gong, involving ex-Gong editors Kagehiro Osano and Tsutomu Shimizu) serialized an interview with Naoki Otsuka. I only have the third part of it in issue 58, which mostly covers the span from after the Ali-Inoki match through early 1978 (stopping right as Fujinami returns). I transcribed this because it was on hand and I wanted material on the company's financial situation for a planned blog series on the 1983 coup and what led to it. If I really want to do that series right, I’ll need to put it on hold until I can transcribe later parts of the interview. I have already transcribed a 1984 Weekly Pro article by Otsuka which convinces me that he will be able to discuss Anton Hi-Cel and sister business Anton Trading in more detail.1 It was still going as of the latest issue, for a total of at least eight parts. I have placed an order for the issues with parts 4-7, as they were in stock at Toudoukan, although I do not know whether I will give those this same treatment or save them for the coup series. But even just these ten pages contain the most detailed insight I’ve ever read on what it was like to run a puroresu promotion at the ground level. First, I should give some background. Naoki Otsuka was originally NJPW’s ring announcer, but he transferred into sales as Inoki’s brother-in-law, Tetsuo Baisho, took that job. The interview indicates that Otsuka had been the deputy manager of the sales department, and that he had been charge of sales in Osaka, Okinawa, and Sapporo, but this part of the interview begins as he was transferred to the general manager (or simply “sales manager”). In 1983, Otsuka was the one who discovered that Inoki had misappropriated company funds to cover his losses in Anton Hi-Cel. He would later become famous as the president of Japan Pro Wrestling. (See the JPW posts elsewhere on this subforum for a rundown on what happened there, although keep in mind that I intend to expand that substantially with the coup series…whenever I can make that happen.) --- POST-ALI RESTRUCTURING The Ali-Inoki match worsened a deficit NJPW already had. On top of Ali’s steep fee, it had been expected that NJPW would receive $1 million in revenue from closed-circuit broadcasts, but the real payoff was much lower. Inoki was demoted from president to chairman for a time, while Hisashi Shinma was demoted from general manager of the sales department to a regular employee. New Japan would demand compensation from Ali, claiming that the revenue had been damaged by the rule change his camp had enforced, and Ali would sue for breach of contract. Inoki promoted Otsuka to sales manager, choosing him over fellow employee Takeji Fukunaga because of his stronger backbone. Shinma was still considered an informal boss by the sales department, who continued to refer to him by his old title. Network executives, referred to by a begrudging Inoki as “occupying forces”, took positions in NJPW. The interview identifies one of them as Kohei Nagasato, who had been the head of NET TV’s sports department. This interview does not specify when the network executives were no longer assigned to the company, implying that it lasted past the range of time this part covers. Just know that Nagasato would return to an executive position in NJPW after the network takeover of 1983. It was around this time that Inoki discreetly registered a company. New Japan Pro-Wrestling Kogyo Co. was registered in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward with a capital of three million yen. The locale was because he could not register the company in Shibuya, and his in-laws lived in Nerima. Inoki had the idea that, if he could register this company in a different ward, he could transfer all the wrestlers to this side company in the event of a full network takeover or other major dispute. Interestingly, this was not the same New Japan Pro-Wrestling Entertainment company that Otsuka was put in charge of in 1983. That company’s capital was insufficient, so a new company of the same name was formed. Otsuka states that he did not know about the original Entertainment company until “well after the fact”. SALES SHOW WOES When Otsuka was promoted, he discovered the extent to which “uncollected money” had been weighing their ledgers down. Inoki told him that he would be able to collect “about 30 million yen a year”, but then Otsuka got into the books and found that New Japan had been losing 100 million per year. The puroresu touring model was mostly based on two kinds of shows: the company-run “independent shows”, and locally purchased “sales shows”. One always wanted to get as many sales shows as possible, because independent shows required you to cover the operating costs, as well as send company people to facilitate them. Sales shows were the majority of the problem. The contract for a sales show stated that half of the fee was to be paid at the time the contract was signed, but this advance pay had rarely been honored unless it was a first-time client. Some promoters did not even pay this fee on the day of the show, or they would do so with dishonored bills. Furthermore, Otsuka states that some promoters pocketed the second half when they made a loss. One of Otsuka’s measures to combat this was to make a small change on the contract. Originally it had read “Representative Director Kanji Inoki”, and it would have named Otsuka as a representative director as well, but Otsuka changed the title to his position of NJPW sales manager. This allowed him to be strict in collecting money, as he was now the direct contractor. If, for example, Inoki had to miss a show, this meant that Otsuka could stand firm and insist to the terms of the contract, instead of being given the runaround to ask Inoki for a discount. Otsuka never cancelled a show, but he had to threaten to do so. He even recalls one incident where a sales employee had to be assigned to the ticket booth to make sure New Japan got their cut. Over time, though, these issues decreased. Otsuka also encouraged promoters to have good relations with the company by beginning a “national promoters conference”. He would select “around ten” promoters from across the country to take an all-expenses-paid trip to Tokyo and attend Nooj’s year-end Kuramae Kokugikan show, and then receive a commemorative gift from Inoki at a Keio Plaza Hotel conference the following day. There were some problems with independent shows as well. These came down to ticket sellers who would receive two-to-three hundred tickets, sell them, and never give New Japan their cut. Otsuka says it was very difficult to get that money back. DAFUYA This actually comes later in the interview, but I think it fits better around here. Shimizu brings up the topic of scalpers, and Otsuka takes the chance to clarify the “taboo” relationship between dafuya and promoters, while getting into the nitty-gritty of selling tickets. Otsuka claims that he didn’t get involved with dafuya when he was working sales in Osaka. However, the person who asked them for advance tickets had an understanding with scalpers. The scalpers would buy advance tickets, which normally cost ¥7000, at ¥3500, and then sell the tickets at fixed prices. As sales manager, Otsuka would become more directly involved with them when overseeing shows in the Kanto/Tokyo area. When ticket sales were sluggish, Otsuka would sell one to two hundred tickets for the most expensive seats (¥7000) to dafuya at half price. The scalpers were good enough at their trade to sell those tickets at full price, but the company didn’t concern itself about losing those sales. In those cases, there were many more customers who would buy cheap tickets directly from the ticket booth. Another way that the box office would do business with scalpers hinged around standing-room-only tickets, which were regularly priced at ¥1500. There were days when the standing room was sold out but there were still empty seats, and this was not a profitable arrangement for the box office. So, they would only print around 500 SRO tickets to start with and get those sold, so that that people would be forced to buy seats despite there still being standing room. The dafuya were smart enough to ask how sales were going on a given show, and waited like hyenas for when the SRO tickets were really about to run out. Then, the scalpers would buy 50 or 100 SRO tickets. Now that the standing room tickets were sold out, the ticket booth would not offer any discount, and a seat would cost ¥3000. Meanwhile, the scalpers could mark up all those SROs to ¥2000. If a dafuya couldn’t get tickets directly, they plied their trade using “invitation tickets”, which they bought for cheap from people who couldn’t come to shows. Then, they would actually go to the venue to check where the invitation tickets would go. These always depended on what seats were available, meaning it could range from a premium ringside seat to a row on the second floor. Naturally, they would price the tickets accordingly. Both Otsuka and Shimizu recall a particular scalper, Kuro-chan. He was a tekiya (itinerant merchant) who traveled around the country. He could be seen at New Japan and All Japan shows, and Shimizu remembers that Kuro would always shoot the shit with him before shows, likely to try to get information from the press. Kuro would later become a frequent fixture at AJW shows (Otsuka did some sales work for them later on), which sold discount tickets (I’m guessing these were age-based). Kuro would buy ringside tickets, and scalp them to the girls standing in the long ticket booth line. In recent years, nuisance prevention ordinances ended the traditional dafuya – who, to be clear, could be found scalping tickets to all sorts of entertainment and sporting events – and Otsuka has heard that they now deliver tickets through the mail. BOOKING TOURS It was the sales manager’s responsibility to arrange tours. Otsuka would not begin doing so until 1977 because the company had to plan their tours by the year, due to the requirements of major venues. Otsuka gives the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium as an example; it required New Japan to submit their requested dates by the end of February. Requests for big-market shows were generally on Thursdays, which I will explain later on. “In those days, Osaka was scheduled five times a year, Sapporo two or three times, Kagoshima twice, Takamatsu twice, and so on.” The basic pattern of a NJPW tour was already in place; it would last either four or six weeks, and it would travel the Japanese archipelago in a figure-eight centered on Tokyo. Tours would begin in Korakuen Hall, and end at the Kuramae Kokugikan or Nippon Budokan. For Kuramae, sumo was the greatest priority, but venue director Akio Nakane was very friendly with the sumo association person in charge, and he would tell Otsuka the sumo schedule. Otsuka would then submit the ideal choice and one backup, and depending on the decision, the entire tour would sometimes be shifted back one week. Once the big venues were secured, it was Otsuka’s job to apply for the small and medium venues that made up each tour’s connective tissue. As gaikokujin were paid flat weekly fees, one wanted to stretch those dollars as much as one could.2 The goal was to have at least six shows booked per week, and ideally seven. The record was 1975’s 210 shows, and they aimed to reach 200 per year, although the two “martial arts shows” per year made that hard to achieve. The department would determine where they wanted to book shows, and at what price. The department would call local promoters to ask them if they wanted to do business with them at x venue on y date, or if they wanted to do a show in a market which New Japan would be passing through: for example, “Can you do Fukuyama on the day between Okayama and Hiroshima?” In order to encourage promoters to accept a show contract, a column featured which foreign wrestlers were to participate on that tour. (Osaka-based taboid Weekly Fight Magazine, which started the katsuji puroresu style of coverage that Weekly Pro would bring into the mainstream in the 1980s, appealed to hardcore fans for its willingness to leak foreign bookings multiple tours in advance. This was one way that such information would have reached them.) Otsuka states that this was a decisive factor in whether promoters would accept a contract, and that NJPW’s dearth of top gaikokujin in 1977 really bit them here. “If it was [Tiger Jeet] Singh or Andre the Giant, you could be sure that [the promoter would buy the event],” but if you didn’t have those marquee names for that tour, things could get dicey. Sometimes, the best you could get was the third type of show, the “branch show”. These represented a middle ground between the independent and sales show. The company partnered with promoters, so no one from New Japan had to go to the site. However, NJPW would take on the venue booking fee, printing costs, and other expenses, and split the rest with the promoters. Otsuka claims that, later on, he was the one who asked Masa Saito to track down Stan Hansen as a potential new foreign “ace in the hole”. Saito eventually found him “in North Carolina or Georgia”, and Hansen returned in 1979 for the second MSG Series. Promoters eventually said “if not Singh or Andre, then Hansen is fine”. (Otsuka also cites Sean Regan as a specific gaikokujin who he had wished to see return, but he had become a schoolteacher by then. Regan eventually called him in 1979 and worked a single tour.) TELEVISION Otsuka was also required to be present at all television tapings. The presence of a television crew required some seats to be stripped from a venue for the cameras, and this sometimes caused problems with the promoter. The network could not deal with on-site disputes like that, so they needed Otsuka there to set things straight. Otsuka’s central role in putting tours together and dealing with television tapings even extended to some booking influence. When Seiji Sakaguchi became vice president, he was able to “talk with him more familiarly” concerning the matches that Inoki and Kotetsu Yamamoto were booking. Otsuka would give input to them while submitting show cards to the network, suggesting that this was how TV taping dates were decided on. I mentioned earlier that big-market shows were generally booked on Thursdays, and this was why. World Pro Wrestling was broadcast live at the start of each tour and on subsequent b-show tapings, but major events were taped. Inoki was concerned about the “flow” of World Pro Wrestling, so as Tatsumi Fujinami corroborated in a recent Weekly Pro interview, he supervised the production of these ‘major’ episodes, directing camera cuts. (This was years before Vince McMahon took a similarly hands-on approach.) Despite competing with the “monster program” Taiyo no Hoero!, a police procedural which had taken Nippon Television’s Friday 8:00PM timeslot since they had dropped the JWA (AJPW aired on Saturday), Otsuka states that World Pro Wrestling was consistently getting ratings above 10%, sometimes close to 20%. ---- For me, all that is the meat of the article. Here are noteworthy bits from the rest. On March 31 and April 1, 1977, NJPW became the first promotion in twenty years to book Kuramae on back-to-back nights. On the first day, Seiji Sakaguchi defeated the Masked Superstar in the 4th World League, while Inoki successfully defended the NWF Heavyweight title against Johnny Powers. On the second day, which coincided with NET TV’s name change to TV Asahi, Inoki and Sakaguchi reformed their Golden Tag Team to challenge Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda for the NWA North American Tag Team titles, which Singh & Ueda had won from Sakaguchi & Kobayashi through dishonorable means two months before. Otsuka seems to regret his ambition. The interest in the World League tournament had waned due to Inoki’s decision to stop entering it the previous year, which hurt the first show’s business. Also, that show was on a Thursday, so those who went to see the second show missed the first day’s episode of World Pro Wrestling. Inoki gave him a slight scolding, but Otsuka thinks he paved the way for the G1 Climax’s multi-night stints at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. In May, Shinma and Nagasato traveled to the United States. Shinma’s lawyer had recommended they go to trial against Ali, since the yen had appreciated from 310 to 200 to the dollar, but they decided to settle. They also secured a contract with “Monster Man” Everett Eddy to bring the different styles fights back into full swing. This was when these special “fights” began to be broadcast on the Wednesday Special sports timeslot instead of as part of World Pro Wrestling. The return of the DSF would go a long way towards rehabilitating Inoki’s reputation after the Ali debacle, and the television situation functionally gave NJPW an extra episode’s worth of TV money whenever they booked a DSF. They would take advantage of that in the coming years, and at one point, they even considered expanding into a full “martial arts” wing. Inoki’s valet Satoru Sayama, who was his sparring partner and had even conceived of open-finger gloves for Inoki’s DSF against Chuck Wepner, would have been a major part of the division. The nail death match between Inoki and Ueda on February 8, 1978 could have been even wilder. While brainstorming a gimmick match that would prevent Ueda from escaping the ring, Otsuka pitched scattering the ring mats with broken beer bottles or surrounding the ring with a water tank, but the Budokan never would’ve approved. The nail idea then came up, and after Otsuka explained the idea to commentator Ichiro Furutachi, who would promote it during the Sapporo shows the previous week, the tickets sold at an unprecedented, “explosive” rate. Two days after that show, Otsuka also got NJPW a variety show-esque gig to broadcast on the aforementioned Wednesday Special timeslot. Among other things, Kengo Kimura sang a Pink Lady cover with Chieko Matsumoto, Yoshiaki Fujiwara cooked, and Inoki & Sakaguchi wrestled the Hollywood Blonds. This part ends with some words on the Dragon Boom, the popularity spike after Tatsumi Fujinami returned from his three-year expedition. Otsuka states that, prior to this, he had planted young women in the front row at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium shows for about two years (“It was an image strategy to improve the TV ratings”), but Fujinami made any such deliberate effort unnecessary. Otsuka recalls that he used to hold autograph sessions at supermarkets by promoters’ request, and that these had been inconvenient to coordinate because they had happened on the day of the show, and the clients had always requested that Inoki be there. By about the third tour of Fujinami’s return, though, New Japan began receiving requests for Fujinami autograph sessions, and Fujinami was “easy to ask”. Fujinami even motivated younger fans to go out of their way to see him wrestle. Otsuka gives the example of people from Okayama who would come to shows in Himeji or Osaka, or even plan an overnight trip to Tokyo.
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  13. KinchStalker

    Takao Kuramochi

    Takao Kuramochi Profession: Commentator (PBP) Real name: Takao Kuramochi Professional name: not applicable Life: 1/2/1941- Born: Mitaki, Tokyo, Japan Career: 1972-1990 Promotions: All Japan Pro Wrestling Summary: Takao Kuramochi called All Japan Pro Wrestling for almost twenty years and remains one of puroresu’s best remembered play-by-play men. A graduate of Waseda University’s law department, Takao Kuramochi joined Nippon Television as an announcer in 1964. When NTV began airing AJPW eight years later, he was recommended as an announcer by Kazuo Tokumitsu. Kuramochi gradually took over lead broadcast duties from Tokumitsu and Ichiro Shimizu. By 1978, which is the first year of AJPW television that mostly still circulates today, he had settled into the head position. Kuramochi and reporter-commentator Takashi Yamada were the core duo of All Japan broadcasts for many years. In a 2022 column, Tokyo Sports reporter-turned-commentator Soichi Shibata praised Kuramochi & Yamada’s “rhythmic parroting” as a memorable combination to this day. Unlike his TV Asahi counterpart Ichiro Furutachi, who was informed on angles in advance, Kuramochi states that his reactions were genuine. Even in the case of May 2, 1980, which saw him attacked by the Sheik during a prolonged postmatch brawl against Abdullah the Butcher, Takao claims that only Baba and producer Akira Hara would have known about the plan. (Nippon Television declined to air the match for many years, while Kuramochi received a ¥200,000 bonus from the Babas.) Kuramochi also differed from Furutachi in his approach. Ichiro’s ten-year tenure for World Pro Wrestling set the template for the “screaming announcer”, a wildly successful style which anticipated later play-by-play men such as Kuramochi successor Kenji Wakabayashi. In contrast, Kuramochi preferred to convey his excitement through accelerating his speech to match the tone of the moment, allowing himself to be passionate but not histrionic. Kuramochi’s style may not have transcended language barriers in the manner that Furutachi and his successors could at their best, but that is hardly a fair metric to hold him against. Even if he may not have had a personal passion for wrestling, belonging more to a generation of television announcers that saw wrestling as a steppingstone to a job that they really wanted, he is very fondly remembered by his native audience. As far as I can tell without being able to understand him myself, that is justified. Kuramochi retired from the program in 1990 to take a job at the network’s business division. He received a warm farewell at the March 6 Budokan show. While he took a job at parent company Yomiuri Shimbun a few years later, Kuramochi continued to work in the television industry until his 2001 retirement.
  14. KinchStalker

    Takashi Yamada

    These are some examples of how AJPW fans of the period would have encountered Yamada's writing. In the August 1974 issue of Monthly Puroresu, Yamada writes the second part of the "Fly, Jumbo" serial about Jumbo Tsuruta. This serial was implied in a 1977 retrospective feature (for the magazine's 300th issue) to have been published to cater to Tsuruta's female fanbase. In the pamphlet for the 1976 Champion Carnival tour, Yamada is credited for an obituary on Masio Koma. He also likely wrote an unattributed piece from the same pamphlet. It covers medical and physical tests that the rest of the roster undertook after Koma’s death, Tsuruta’s ascetic training before his match against Rusher Kimura, and the AJPW vs IWE show of March 28.
  15. KinchStalker

    Takashi Yamada

    Takashi Yamada Profession: Commentator (Color), Reporter Real name: Takashi Yamada Professional name: not applicable, save for various pen names Life: 5/24/1933-9/8/1998 Born: Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan Career:1967-1989? (as commentator) Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Summary: Takashi Yamada was one of puroresu’s most reliable commentators in a two-decade career for Nippon Television. Takashi Yamada was an eight-year veteran of Tokyo Sports when he debuted as a commentator in November 1967. Yamada would spend the next two decades working as an assigned reporter and color commentator. Yamada was not the first wrestling reporter to moonlight as a commentator, but his ability to provide background and overseas information on foreign talent codified the role of the reporter-commentator in puroresu broadcasting. His work for AJPW is his greatest legacy, as besides announcer Takao Kuramochi he was likely the most consistent broadcast presence across its first fifteen years. Takashi’s husky voice will be familiar to any connoisseur of Showa period All Japan, although from personal observation, his voice is sometimes mistaken for Giant Baba’s by Western viewers. While it is hard to find classic calls from Japanese announcers the same way that one might learn about famous soundbites from American ones, Yamada’s shocked reaction to Stan Hansen’s presence in the 1981 Real World Tag League final has been cited by online fans as particularly memorable. Yamada accompanied the promotion on tour, which leads us to another part of his function. His writing was constantly read by active fans of All Japan, whether they knew it or not. This ranged from articles printed in tour programs to contributions to puroresu magazines, which often saw him uncredited or under a pen name. (These can generally be identified by the presence of one of the characters in his family name, 山田.) Yamada was phased out around the end of the Showa period. A one-off return for AJPW’s 20th anniversary show would be the end of his broadcasting career. He died of cirrhosis in 1998.
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