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  1. KinchStalker

    [1986-07-31-AJPW] Riki Choshu vs Killer Khan

    Khan turned on Ishingun to join the Calgary Hurricanes, the heel team of Super Strong Machine, Hiro Saito, and Shunji Takano. They were part of the JPW fold, but didn't work any AJPW events proper until April '86. I did all my 1986 AJPW watching back around late Sep.-early Oct. and I'm a bit fuzzy since I've powered through another three years since, but I think the turn happened around the end of the previous tour, in early June.
  2. This might not have been the end of NJPW's partnership with the IWE, but with how damaging the result was it might as well have been. As such, I think this is the most appropriate place for me to info dump some historical context that I think should be out there somewhere on the English-language Internet. Strap in, boys, because this story takes a while. In 1975, the IWE needed help. After TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) had cancelled their coverage of the promotion, Tokyo 12 Channel picked them up. However, this was not as good or as widely carried a network. Most immediately, the reduced broadcasting rights fee was not enough for the promotion to afford to continue their deal with the AWA. (One thing I recently heard, when my comment on an upload from a YouTube channel of IWE tapes was replied to, was that this came down to a choice between the AWA deal or the booking services of Tetsunosuke Daigo, and they chose the latter.) The IWE had been friendlier with AJPW than NJPW from the beginning; this was rooted in payment issues during Inoki's work with the IWE as the ace of Tokyo Pro Wrestling in 1967. But here is where the AJPW/IWE alliance really kicked into gear. They needed exposure and credibility, and they got it. Hence the IWE appearances for All Japan in this era: the three IWE participants in the 1975 Open League, that Jumbo/Rusher Kimura match from March 1976, Mighty Inoue and Animal Hamaguchi's run as All Asia tag champs, Kimura and Kusatsu's entry in the 1977 Open Tag League. But things took a turn in 1978. The big blow to the IWE's kayfabe credibility was in February, in which Kimura lost a singles match against Baba by countout. (It's one of those finishes that was clearly intended as some measure of protection but just makes one guy look like a dumbass. Rusher tries to roll out of the ring whilst in a Baba figure-four, but while he can't get them both out of the ring on his momentum, he's apparently just too far out to reach up for the rope break. Thus Higuchi counts him out.) It was that autumn, though, when the relationship between the companies came into question for business reasons. As this was going on, IWE president and founder Isao Yoshihara was meeting with Hisashi Shinma, NJPW business head (and kayfabe WWF figurehead pre-Tunney). Yoshihara had petitioned the Tokyo District Court to block NJPW from booking Ryuma Go, yet another talent they had poached from them. This was unsuccessful, but as Yoshihara started meeting up with Shinma, either his plans shifted or his real intention presented itself. Back when Tokyo Pro Wrestling subsumed into the IWE, he could have gotten Shinma for himself had he acquiesed to his demands to book Toyonobori as the ace. That might not have been a good idea anyway, but either way, Yoshihara had lost big time in the long run by pushing Shinma away from him, and he clearly regretted it deeply. I'm not quite sure on the order of when these two things happened, so let's just tie up the AJPW end now. During their November 25, 1978 show at the Kuramae Kokugikan, at which several AJPW wrestlers were booked, the Kobayashis Strong and Kuniaki each worked the card. As this NJPW involvement had occurred without Baba's knowledge or consent, he was furious, and after the tour ended he terminated AJPW's arrangement. And the thing is, all this might have been worth it had Yoshihara's plan worked. For during one of his meetings with Shinma, Yoshihara offered his seat as president of IWE. This wouldn't necessarily be a merger, but if Shinma took the reins of the company while keeping his rapport with Inoki, surely they could do a lot of big business with an interpromotional rivalry? Well, Inoki shot it down immediately, as he was disinterested in an interpromotional angle and didn't want to lose Shinma. This, of course, was compounded by his personal dislike of Yoshihara over their business dealings a decade prior. In short, Kokusai had given up their alliance with Zen Nihon for a mere partnership with Shin Nihon. Inoki never stepped foot in an IWE ring, nor did Sakaguchi or even Fujinami. Essentially, for 1979, Yoshihara gave up Baba and Jumbo to get Masa Saito for one tour – and this is 1979 Masa Saito that we are talking about – and a returning Umanosuke Ueda for three. As for this match, it's the most famous product of the IWE/NJPW partnership for a reason, being the only time when an IWE talent - the future of the company, at that! - got to challenge anyone so high on the totem pole. And to get this out of the way, I think it's a really good match! But it's also emblematic of how 1980 was the year when everything fell apart for the IWE, and that is its greatest legacy. Alas, things only worsened afterward. At some point in the year, the television program's director who had been there since the beginning of their Tokyo 12 Channel run left amidst personnel changes. The Great Kusatsu fractured his right ankle in front of a hometown crowd in Kumamoto on July 9, and would never wrestle again. Then, on July 26, after misfortune upon misfortune, the promotion was struck by outright catastrophe when a taxi crashed into their dojo and burned it to the ground in the ensuing gas explosion. Kintaro Oki, a signing made by the network behind Yoshihara's back to increase ratings, would fail at this and thus not have his contract renewed. The special seasonal budgets which had allowed the IWE to book Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel would be withheld, and then cancelled, by a network suspicious of Yoshihara and his unwillingness to provide them a budgetary breakdown. So plans to bring over Baron von Raschke failed, and in March 1981, just as they began to rebuild their dojo, Tokyo 12 Channel announced they were discontinuing regular coverage of the IWE. Thus, their death rattle began. Sixteen months after wrestling Fujinami, Hara found himself on the grounds of an elementary school in Rausu, for a hastily arranged show which would be the ignoble end of the IWE. For their final tour, they hadn't even managed to book Korakuen; the best they could do so far as Tokyo was concerned was a parking lot in Machida. (I get a little annoyed when the IWE is referred to as an indie fed, as it simply wasn't true...but by this point, sure.) The company's funds were so depleted that the entourage couldn't even pay their own way all the way back to Tokyo, relying on the generosity of a bus driver on the Tōhoku Expressway. Hara had no interest in joining Kimura, Hamaguchi, and Teranishi in NJPW, despite Yoshihara's recommendation. He was still genuinely bitter about this match, and had intended to simply retire and take over his family farm. But then, Giant Baba would contact IWE commentator Tadao Monma to express interest in him, and the rest is history.
  3. This is a defense of Jumbo's NWA United National and of Oki's All Asia Heavyweight titles. It's also the ninth match of Tsuruta's ten-match Trial Series, which began with his March 1976 match against Verne Gagne and would end in the first week of 1979 with a victory over Fritz von Erich. I thought that this, alongside the fifth match in September 1976 against Bobo Brazil, would never see circulation again; however, this match finally entered my radar through a Japanese YouTube upload at literally the very end of 2020 (in my timezone, anyway). One should at least watch the pair of 1976 tag matches between Baba/Jumbo and Oki/Kim Duk before seeing this, as there's necessary context there. Oki stalls on the outside at the beginning, clearly sending a message about his regard for Tsuruta. When we go to the working holds they're well done, with Oki's performance and Tsuruta's selling getting over his strength. He gets some stiff shots in, including his signature headbutt, after which he hits a scoop slam for a kickout. Jumbo recovers before him and hits the jumping knee, before getting the butterfly suplex for the first fall. We then clip to five minutes into the second fall, where both men appear to be selling their thighs a bit. Jumbo grabs Oki's leg and even gets one spinning toe hold spin in before being pushed off. A few headbutts stun Jumbo, and Oki gets a headbutt to the solar plexus to set up a vertical suplex for a kickout. He stays the course though, and a second-rope jumping headbutt and one more standing gets him the second fall. The final fall is presented uncut. Neither man can get the big moves they go for so it's back to working holds at first, but then the tension finally spills over, and we end in a predicted but effective double countout after a nice back-and-forth finishing stretch. Baba at the commentary table finally gets into things after the match ends. This isn't as essential as the aforementioned 1976 tag matches, but even with the five-minute trim it's a 70s Jumbo match that's worth seeing. After we only got the last few minutes of their 1976 Champion Carnival draw I'm grateful we have a much fuller chunk of this match, and I think it's also the only 2/3-falls singles title match from Oki's All Japan run on tape.. And it makes me even sadder that footage of Oki and Kim's tag title victory over Baba and Jumbo four months later, in South Korea, has not surfaced. ***1/4
  4. This was actually held as part of an AJPW event; IWE were just the ones who got the broadcast rights.
  5. KinchStalker

    Greatest Rookie Year Ever

    A bit late to this, I realize, but as much as I love the guy I'm hesitant about counting the NWA shot as being purely based on Tsuruta's merit. It's clear from Japanese resources I've managed to gleam that there was a heavy political element to him getting that shot as early as he did. In April, the JWA finally folded, and while Sakaguchi would go to New Japan (being the necessary bargaining chip for TV Asahi - then still NET TV - to swoop in and save that company), this meant that AJPW would be saddled with talent that had stayed with them. (Apparently Baba was reluctant to take them, but the Momotas insisted.) As a result, there were now two people with enough seniority and kayfabe clout to threaten the spot which Tsuruta was being groomed for: Umanosuke Ueda and Kintaro Oki. (Both left the company when Jumbo got the spot they assumed one of them would have had. Ueda turned in his notice the very same day as the Baba/Tsuruta vs Funks match, and went to America for three years to wait out his domestic no-compete clause which Nippon TV's contract had enforced, but Oki somehow worked something out and got to work for New Japan for one match in 1974 and some more the following year. He would return to AJPW much sooner than Ueda, but by that time he was no longer a threat to the hierarchy which Baba had snubbed him in order to establish.) The NWA title shot was suggested by Terry and then requested by Baba, so as to advance the narrative that the man who would be Jumbo was a phenom worthy of the level he would be booked at upon his return. It happened when it did because Dory, having separated his shoulder in March, was going to drop the belt to Harley Race after a six-week recovery period (and some matches building up to their Kansas City, KA match).
  6. This is the final match of the 1977 Champion Carnival, whose existence on tape I was unaware of until discovering it on YouTube last night. What you have to know going into this is that, in the semifinal immediately prior, Baba got a DQ win against 1976 Carnival winner Abdullah the Butcher, but weathered one of his postmatch assaults. This of course recalls the circumstance Baba found himself in during the previous Carnival, when he had to wrestle Abby in the final immediately after finishing his semifinal match, and got ambushed by the Butcher. Not only is this Jumbo's first Carnival final, it's also likely the best chance he's ever going to get to defeat his mentor. Jumbo works the headlock early on, but Baba gets out of it with a big backdrop and a neckbreaker for a 2-count. Jumbo recovers first and hits a pair of bulldogs before getting a vertical suplex for a 2. He goes for the butterfly suplex, but ultimately compromises with a piledriver and takes it to his mentor with stomps. When Baba recovers, Jumbo tosses him out of the ring and slams his head against the announce table. I have to note the bit afterward where Baba stands and exhales, in an expression that just screams "oh, my boy". It's definitely playing to that paternal vibe that his relationship with Tsuruta sometimes had. When he returns to the ring, he gets some big moves, but Jumbo hits a jumping knee. He pulls Baba by his leg away from the bottom rope he's clutching, and gives Higuchi a shove or two as he tries to stop him. He gets a Boston crab, but Baba pushes himself up by his arms and gets a pin which is broken up by the ropes. Jumbo then whips him, gets a dropkick, and locks in the spinning toe hold. However, Baba makes a nifty escape. Jumbo makes his last stand with an abdominal stretch, but Baba hobbles to the rope and throws him off of him through them. Jumbo recovers and gets an over-the-rope sunset flip for a two, but as he recovers to whip Baba once more, the Giant shoves him instead, and Baba hits the falling neckbreaker drop on the rebound to end it. This works best if you watch it in sequence with the Baba/Abby match beforehand. If you want the best Baba/Jumbo match, though, I would direct you to their encounter during the previous year's Carnival. Still, I appreciate this as a snapshot of Wakadaisho-era Jumbo. He didn't have a shot at winning this, of course, but this is still early enough in his career that his failures haven't yet come to define him as they would in the early 1980s (in other words, the Zensenman era). And I have to wonder whether Baba was drawing on how the 76-7 Carnivals had been booked when it came time for Kawada to get his first Carnival victory (and first singles pin on Misawa) in 1997.
  7. KinchStalker

    [1973-10-09-AJPW] Terry & Dory Funk Jr vs Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta

    Anton Geesink, probably the most important gaijin in postwar judo history. His victory at the 1961 World Championships, the first by a gaijin, was what finally drove Kodokan to approve the implementation of weight classes, which had been the only thing keeping the sport from the approval of the International Olympic Committee, in the attempt to avenge the loss. He went on to win the openweight division at the Tokyo Olympics anyway, and won the World Championships a second time the next year, against none other than Seiji Sakaguchi. Despite pushing 40 at this point, Geesink was recruited for AJPW - specifically by Nippon TV - as part of their early efforts to secure exclusive gaijin performers to compensate for the slim native talent. It was at this same event that his signing was announced, hence his presence.
  8. Although televised as part of an episode of All Japan TV, this was an IWE match held towards their World League tournament. While there were AJPW wrestlers who participated in the round-robin tournament itself, Jumbo was given a free pass to enter the quarterfinal without fighting his way through a block, and that quarterfinal is what we see here. If you've seen Inoue's singles work then you know what to expect from him, and this definitely feels like he's the one leading the way here. With all that said, this is definitely a good match, and one I wish I'd seen when I was doing my big 70s Jumbo viewing a little while back. This is mostly mat-based, but Inoue is good and aggressive on the mat, so it's compelling. As far as Jumbo vs IWE singles matches go, I'd say that the famous Rusher Kimura match from 1976 is the most essential if you're only going to watch one. That match showed how much the young Wakadaisho could get out of someone who was frankly always a somewhat limited worker. But this is a satisfying encounter that lets us see Jumbo work a singles match against somebody that I've grown to really like the more I've seen of him: someone who wouldn't get a singles match against Jumbo when IWE went under and he joined All Japan. After Inoue gets a nearfall on an O'Connor roll, he tries it again, but Jumbo holds on to the ropes, runs back, and hits the sunset flip for the pinfall. ***1/2 [Note: Jumbo would be disqualified three days later in the semifinal match against Professor Toru Tanaka, who would go on to lose the final against Rusher Kimura. Also, the 11/25 show ultimately spelled the end of the IWE's cooperation with AJPW; when two NJPW wrestlers - namely Kobayashis Strong and Kuniaki - were booked on the card without Baba's prior knowledge or consent.]
  9. This is the first of the ten-match trial series that Jumbo would have from 1976 through 1979. (All but the fifth, against Bobo Brazil, and the ninth, against Kintaro Oki, survive in some form, though with the fifth against Billy Robinson that form is heavily clipped.) It's also one of only five Verne matches in AJPW, according to Cagematch. First, I'd like to note that if the copy I saw was from a contemporaneous broadcast, then it very well might be the earliest VHS (or maybe Betamax?) All Japan footage in circulation, and it looks a hell of a lot better than a lot of others in the coming years. Whatever, I thought that was cool. Verne has become a poster child of his era for staying in the ring past his prime, but even at 50 I thought he was really good here: definitely better than he was in the 1981 Baba match. After introductions, we cut to the ten-minute mark of the first fall, and a lengthy Jumbo arm control segment is underway. This lasts until near the very end of the first fall as, when Jumbo lets it go to run for (presumably) a jumping knee, Gagne counters with a hip toss, two (nice) dropkicks, and a sleeper for the first fall. Nice second fall, where Jumbo switches his focus to legwork, and pulls out a Muta lock in 1976! He eventually evens the score by countering a sleeper attempt into a bridging German. At the end of a quite good third fall, we end in double knockout after a Verne backdrop. I wouldn't put this in the top tier of Wakadaisho-era Jumbo matches, but it's definitely worth seeing for fans of the period. ***3/4
  10. Nankaizan will soon be replaced by Kim Duk, with whom Oki will have a pair of strong tag matches against Baba and Jumbo later in the year. However, I would have quite liked to see more of him, because what he brings to the table is good stuff. Solid armwork on Jumbo throughout, which the native team counters with leg-based work against their opponents before they target Baba's neck. When this spills over into an outside brawl, both teams are counted out to end the first fall, but Jumbo gets the win in a fairly short second fall with a butterfly suplex to Nankaizan. Oki already has so much hate against the native team (and that extends to Jumbo - after all, he walked out of AJPW after 1973 because Jumbo was immediately put above him in the pecking order), and while this match doesn't measure up to the first two Duk/Oki ones, this is a good match and it's worth seeing as a lead-in to those later bouts. ***1/2
  11. KinchStalker

    [1975-07-25-AJPW] The Destroyer vs The Spirit

    This is for the Destroyer's PWF US Heavyweight title. It's fascinating to watch the Destroyer try to reckon with an opponent who performs in the same heel manner as him here. The matwork at the beginning is slow but fun, watching these bodies contort in weird angles while trying to overpower one another and make them bend to their will. Kox wins the first fall at 9:38 with a loaded headbutt, which also busts open the Destroyer. For the second fall, we enter the weapon-hiding section. What a delight this is. Kox's punches are fantastic too. Kox hurts his knee when he tries to hit the Destroyer's face with it, and Beyer dodges to make his unprotected knee hit the mat. Destroyer's got a vulnerable body part to work with, and work with it he does, until he locks in the figure-four to even the score at 12:50. The Destroyer wins, but only with the assistance of Jumbo, who's had enough of this shit and grabs Kox's leg, allowing Beyer to win the match with a cradle. This finish might not be to one's liking, but I was fine with how it somewhat protected Kox, and since I like Jumbo's dynamic with the Destroyer I appreciated that. (Side note: as the first gaijin to ever receive a full-time contract in Japan - parallel to this, he was also performing in a popular Nippon TV television show - Beyer was kind of the devil on Jumbo's shoulder to Baba's angel in this period. ) Upon a rewatch, I think this is yet another 1970s AJPW match that I underrated the first time around, but this is an especially major case. If you want to get to know the Destroyer, this should be one of your first stops, and this is a top contender for the best gaijin vs gaijin singles match that All Japan held in the decade. Very likely the AJPW MOTY as well. ****1/4
  12. These two had a pair of singles matches in 1985 which were IMO the best matches to come out of AJPW in 1985 (well, the first one was *technically* for a JPW event, but whatever). This, however, outdoes them both, from the great struggle in the early holds to the escalation into the second half, with intensity and hate throughout. There are some great, great callbacks to their previous matches, both single and tag (I popped for the back suplex on the apron that Choshu used to win their first singles match by countout), and honestly, I think this deserves reevaluation as an early iteration of the King's Road match. The DQ finish is a repeat of their 6/21/85 match, sure, but while this might hurt one's opinion of the match (and I admit that the DQ finish is very un-King's Road, as much as the match layout anticipates it), I thought it was well done. It built from the June 1985 match, where the ref called for the DQ after Choshu pushed him away. This time, he doesn't call for the bell after getting pushed again, only for Choshu to punch him out. In context, this was also was a very effective way to establish that, after having become a babyface during his AJPW work, Choshu has snapped back into a heel in the wake of the blood feud with Ishingun defect Killer Khan. AJPW MOTYC, and as far as singles matches the company had held up to this point this is a top 10 candidate. And, as I've mentioned, a glimpse into things to come in its display of learned psychology. ****1/2
  13. This is a defense of the AJPW All Asia tag titles, which the IWE's Hamaguchi and Inoue won from Motoshi Okuma and the Great Kojika three weeks earlier. I would go so far as to say that this, and not Jumbo/Kimura from 1976, is the best of the AJPW/IWE interpromotional matches that occurred throughout the decade, and it's not close. Now, I expected good things from the IWE contingent, as I really like what I've seen of both men in this era, but what I wasn't expecting was how much the AJPW guys brought it. The only other Kutsuwada match that appears to be in circulation (he failed a coup and was completely blacklisted from the industry by the next year*) is a July 1975 match against Killer Karl Kox, working under the gimmick of The Spirit, and while that's not a bad match at all it was merely a leadin to Spirit/Destroyer. And I've seen a decent amount of the future Great Kabuki during this phase of his career, but while I've never found it bad I never thought too much of it either. But this unlikely duo brought it here, and the result is a great, great match that earns all of its thirty-three minutes. Lots and lots of matwork and holds, but it's all done and sold excellently. Animal and Mighty are as good as I expected, and more, but Takachiho was a revelation here, particularly in his comeback during the second fall; from what I've seen this has to be a career highlight for him. I expected this to be good, but I didn't expect to be so thoroughly entertained throughout this entire match, and I certainly didn't expect this to become one of my favorite tag matches of the decade. But alas, that's what happened. This also has to be one of the best All Asia tag title matches on tape, at least until the likes of Kobashi/Kikuchi vs the Can-Am Express; they gave this midcard title match a main-event slot due to the interpromotional angle, and they got more than a main-event quality match for it. Highly recommended for fans of the period; this would definitely make my top 25 All Japan matches of the decade. ****1/4 *His plan was to start a new promotion, with funding from the guy who bankrolled the formation of the IWE, which would have run both AJPW and NJPW out of business by recruiting both Jumbo and Fujinami. Yes, the dude really thought he could pull this off, and Jumbo's implication in it is the reason why he consciously avoided company politics afterward (which almost drove him to retire in 1981).
  14. KinchStalker

    [1985-06-21-AJPW] Genichiro Tenryu vs Riki Choshu

    New user here. This is a great match, and I concur with the ****1/4 (although I think that their September 1986 match is superior), but I'm posting here because, as a longtime lurker who has some info, I would like to give some context regarding the postmatch angle. Hara attacking Tenryu as well as Choshu makes more sense if you have some background. So, on April 3, Hara made his first appearance in six months to attack Choshu during a singles match against Takashi Ishikawa. Hara's prior absence had been under some quite sketchy circumstances, which may give more context to Baba's decision to ultimately cut him loose in 1988, but I'll relegate those to a footnote so as not to derail the story.* Anyway, this was to lead up to a tag match at the end of the tour, with Hara teaming up with Tenryu to face Choshu and Animal Hamaguchi. However, if I've understood it correctly this match fell apart due to Tenryu's frustration that Hara had not discussed this with him beforehand, and when the match itself happened, Hara lost his temper, attacked Tenryu with a chair, and abandoned him. Motoshi Okuma took his place, and thus the match became a 90-second squash. (Editing this one day after the fact to link an interview segment with both Tenryu and Hara pertaining to this angle.) See, parallel to the AJPW/Ishingun feud was another, way less interesting interpromotional faction conflict: AJPW vs Kokusai Ketsumeigun. In other words, the ghost of the IWE propped up Weekend at Bernie's-style. They didn't have Hara join his fellow ex-company men right away, but they were definitely teasing it here, and sure enough, he would join them later that year. *As I understand the story, Hara had been given the responsibility of promoting an October 1984 show in Nagasaki. This show was to feature a Tenryu NWA United National title defense against Michael Hayes, and a defense of Hara and Ishikawa's All Asia tag titles. Hara had entrusted "a friend" to handle the promotional duties, and had given him the money forwarded to him by All Japan to do so. However, this "friend" disappeared, and Hara did in turn. The result was disastrous; no tickets were sold, and there hadn't even been any posters put up.
  15. KinchStalker

    Introduction to the Board as a wrestling fan

    Hello all. I've been lurking for a while, but have just had an account created. In lieu of a lengthier introduction, I'll just say that I'm a 24-year old Oregonian who, after almost 15 years of being borderline-obsessively fascinated by professional wrestling whilst having almost no interest in consuming professional wrestling, finally got hooked in 2019 courtesy of 1990s All Japan. I'm sure that's a cliché by this point, though, and I promise to try not to beat that heap of equus carrion too much further. Currently though, I'm undergoing a comprehensive watchalong of as much 1972-1992 AJPW footage as I can. This is towards a project I've been kicking around in my head for around a year now: a major Jumbo retrospective. Without going into too much detail, I'm extremely fascinated by his life, and I consider it the best vantage point from which to tell the story of the entire company during the Baba era. However, I also think that the shifts in his reputation in the West (exemplified by episodes such as the Meltzer-Williams "lazy Jumbo" Wrestling Classics board dispute of 2003) could be an interesting case study of historiography in a niche fan community. (And other more meta-wrestling concepts, such as: whether the Meltzerian ideal of the consistent Flair performance was simply irreconcilable with the Japanese touring schedule - hence lazy Jumbo/Misawa/whomever - and whether or not that dissonance arose from the American tradition of using television matches as advertisements for the touring circuit.) The ideal form this will take is a longform YouTube video essay series, though of course that's a precarious route to go on. Anyway, I hope I can learn from and contribute to this forum whichever way I can, and I look forward to participating.