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About KinchStalker

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

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  1. That's what I get for not looking up the list of NPB teams. Thanks!
  2. I finished Chapters 4-5 yesterday, but a case of Swiss cheese brain induced by a sleepless night had me dragging my feet to write this. Then three-fourths of it were lost when Word got screwy, so I switched to a Google Doc to rewrite it. I likely won't get an update out during the first week of August. My folks are taking me to the beach for a few days for my 25th, and as I haven’t been there in many years I plan to enjoy myself. --- Above: Kenta Kobashi, circa 1977. Chapter Four follows Kenta Kobashi’s path to pro wrestling. He was born and raised in Fukuchiyama. Like Kawada, the then fifth-grader’s interest in wrestling started with the August 25, 1977 Jumbo Tsuruta/Mil Mascaras match, which he watched on television with his older brother. Both brothers dreamed of becoming wrestlers, as they would playfight over a makeshift NWA title they had constructed out of cans. The following year, when his parents divorced, he and his brother moved with their mother to a different school district. While he was considering basketball (as well as volleyball) because Tsuruta had claimed in an interview that playing it had made him taller, Kobashi wound up joining the junior high judo club instead at the suggestion of a classmate who was looking for recruits, under the logic that direct martial arts experience would probably serve him better when looking for employment in wrestling. At some point during his junior high tenure, Kobashi attended an NJPW show, and he claims that he was struck by Stan Hansen’s bullrope for what wouldn’t be the last time. By this time AJPW had explicitly stated that they would only consider applicants with a high school education, so Kobashi had no qualms about entering. However, despite the offers of some private schools after he placed third in a judo competition, Kobashi entered the public school so as not to put financial strain on his mother, as his third-place performance would have only waived one-third of the tuition fee for the private institutions. To get into Fukuchiyama High School, though, he would have to place in the top 200 of the entrance exam, and on his first attempt he ranked a measly 658th. He took the advice of his homeroom teacher that “if you do not accumulate efforts day by day, you will not blossom”, and passed the bar on a subsequent attempt, though his eyesight deteriorated as a result. Kobashi thought he might switch to basketball or volleyball, but the judo club advisor gave an enthusiastic invitation, which he accepted. Unlike Misawa and Kawada with amateur wrestling, his achievements in judo at the high school level were relatively unremarkable. In his senior year, he placed third in the qualifying round at nationals, having been outweighed by his opponent in the semifinals by fifty kilograms. Upon graduation, Kobashi chose financial independence over wrestling because, once again, he did not wish to burden his mother. He took a factory job at a Yokaichi plant of Kyoto-based manufacturing company Kyocera. He had wanted to work in the General Affairs department, which he imagined was the “heart and soul” of the factory; unfortunately, he was given the tough work of cleaning the machines used to make copier parts. He recalls the dust being what made the job most difficult. Half a year into his new life, Kobashi found hope when he came across a newspaper article about Mike Tyson. Inspired by the young boxer’s success, Kobashi “wondered what his life’s purpose was”, and then realized it was wrestling. Kobashi would continue to work for Kyocera through the end of 1986, transferring to a plant in Kagoshima. This was to pay off the debts he owed for earning his driver’s license and vehicle. Then, he told his mother about his plan to quit and apply to become a wrestler. She did not like the decision, but she knew that he couldn’t change his mind once it was made, so she relented. It would fall to Kobashi’s brother to give him the encouragement he’d probably been seeking. The elder Kobashi had laid his own dream to rest, but he told Kenta that he was rooting for him from the bottom of his heart. Kobashi turned in his notice to Kyocera in 1987, and sent his resume to All Japan. Sadly, he was rejected. When Kobashi called the office, the person who picked up told him that he had no accomplishments. “Did you quit your job? Get a new job and work hard." He called again and again, but the answer never changed. And yet, still there was hope. Kobashi happened to be a customer of a gym owned by bodybuilder Mitsuo Endo, who had contacts in the wrestling business due to, among other things, his tenure as a referee for the International Wrestling Enterprise. He told Endo that, although he had already been rejected once, he really wanted to see if Endo could get his foot in the door of All Japan specifically. Kobashi would be willing to apply to New Japan if it didn’t work out, but he liked All Japan better. As he put it, while he admired Inoki’s strength, he “liked” Baba for his dignity and composure. In retrospect, Kobashi wonders aloud if he’d always looked to Baba as a father figure in a parasocial sense, before the two had ever met. Endo got his foot in the door. On May 26, 1987, All Japan held a show at the Shiga Prefectural Gymnasium in Otsu, and Kobashi was informed that an interview would be conducted there. When he arrived, the interviewer was revealed to be Baba himself. Kobashi expected the interview to go ahead, but before he could even talk to Baba, he was told by Shohei that he would be called when the tour was finished, but that he should say hello to everyone in the meantime, and move to Tokyo. Just like that, Kobashi was admitted. And yet, it seemed that Baba didn’t really care whether Kobashi was there or not. After the tour’s end, Kobashi was not in fact given a call, so he got fed up and called the office. Whoever picked up said “oh yeah, Baba-san told me about you. So why don’t you come?” In June, Kobashi moved to Tokyo, and then went to the AJPW office in Roppongi. As he entered, he was approached by reporters from Weekly Gong and Daily Sports (including future Jumbo biography author Kagehiro Osano), who requested that he take off his shirt and pose for photographs taken by a fellow reporter in the office. Kobashi was initially amazed that even a trainee would be given such attention by the press, but alas, this was a case of mistaken identity. Osano had mistaken Kobashi for Tamakirin: that is, Akira Taue. (In a 2020 interview translated by NOAH superfan Hisame, Kobashi recalls that he later asked if he could at least get one of the photographs that had been taken due to the misunderstanding, but they had long since been disposed of.) This incident and Baba’s apparent antipathy towards Kobashi are reflective of the regard, or lack thereof, in which he was held early on. Ichise’s first memories of Kobashi date from the second half of the year where, as was customary for trainees, he would accompany wrestlers to the ring and then remain at ringside to spectate. He was just another new trainee as far as the reporter was concerned, but still the author recalls being struck by the intensity with which he observed the ring. However, near the end of the year, Kobashi would disappear from Ichise’s view. On November 28, 1987, South African Airways Flight 295 was en route from Taipei to Johannesburg when it broke apart over the Indian Ocean, killing all 159 people on board. Two of these people were newlyweds Kazuharu & Mayumi Sonoda. Alongside Masanobu Fuchi and Atsushi Onita, Kazuharu was one of the “three crows” which had been the AJPW dojo’s first full products (as in, they didn’t go to Amarillo) in the seventies. He is perhaps best known to readers for his 1981-1985 stint as Magic Dragon, a sister gimmick to the Great Kabuki which spread to All Japan, but which was stripped from Sonoda in a mask vs hair match, as a sacrificial lamb to put over the “Mask Hunter”, Kuniaki Kobayashi, in his feud against Tiger Mask II. Sonoda had remained as an upper midcarder with occasional appearances on television (usually eating tag pinfalls), and was the head trainer of the dojo behind the scenes. He and Mayumi were on the plane at Baba’s suggestion, set to spend a honeymoon in South Africa as Sonoda did some work on shows promoted by Tiger Jeet Singh. As the Japanese press pursued Baba for comment, the Great Kabuki (who would later recall that he had declined the invitation to work in South Africa, which led to Sonoda taking the flight) decided that his valet Isao Takagi needed to be replaced for poor performance. Without consulting Baba, he asked Kobashi if he was already serving this function for another, then assigned him to Baba. When Baba returned to the hotel, Kobashi told him he was to be his new valet. The uninformed and grief-stricken Baba angrily rejected Kobashi, telling him to “go back to Fukuchiyama”, under the impression that Takagi had used the trainee so he could skimp on his duties; Kobashi felt that he could not reveal Kabuki’s involvement, because it would sound like he was telling on him. The two would not speak for the next two months, but Kobashi continued to perform as Baba’s valet in silence. He was also saddled with the laundry of senior wrestlers, and since coin-operated laundries were not as common back then, Kenta often had to wash their clothes by hand. Kobashi and Ichise both believe that Baba’s treatment was a test of the young man’s fortitude; the man himself compares it to that stock scene in Japanese period drama wherein a samurai patiently sits before a gate, waiting to be allowed inside. Kobashi would make his unofficial debut in the meantime, though. On December 16, five days after the Real World Tag League final, a memorial ceremony for Sonoda was held at Korakuen Hall. [1] During this event, three matches were booked, ending with a ten-man battle royal. Here, Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi made their first public appearances between the ropes. On February 26 in Ritto, Kobashi made his proper debut. In the second match on the card, he wrestled Motoshi Okuma, who had dominated the All Asia tag title division in the late Seventies alongside the Great Kojika, but after television appearances as a jobber to the stars in the mid-80s had wound down into an undercard role. Kobashi was pinned in 4:48 after a diving headbutt, but as he went backstage, Baba told him that a surprise was waiting for him at the hotel, and finally invited him to dinner, from which he had been snubbed as a trainee. As Kobashi recalls, all of the hardship and distress he had weathered was washed away in an instant. From this day forward, Baba would demand that Kobashi always be an ebisco, a term for “glutton” used in sumo. Kobashi would not get to work the first Budokan show after his debut, which was the second card of the Champion Carnival tour. AJPW had an odd-numbered roster at that point, and he and Kikuchi alternated opening matches against Mitsuo Momota in the first five dates of the tour. Not long after this, however, Kobashi would become an “indispensible part” of the company. One of Weekly Pro’s recurring features at the time was a page titled Chūmoku! Kono ichiban (“Attention! This first”), in which ringside reporters spotlighted young talent in undercard matches. Ichise had been assigned to the All Japan beat since the ban of 1986, but Chūmoku! Kono ichiban had remained “a remote page” to the journalist, who recalled being frustrated by how the promotion’s bland undercards made him feel that he was being denied the right to do his job. Not since the era of 1982-3, which had seen the likes of Mitsuharu Misawa, Shiro Koshinaka, and Tarzan Goto blossom under the guidance of Akio Sato, had All Japan displayed any of the underneath vitality which made NJPW and the UWF so stimulating. When Ichise had been covering the company, even the “new” guys weren’t really new, but ex-sumo guys; John Tenta was almost 24 when he debuted, and Takagi and Taue were both born in 1961. But then, on April 9, Ichise was in attendance for the thirteenth show of the Carnival tour in Kumamoto. In the third match on the card, for the first of many times (not counting the Sonoda memorial battle royal, in which both had worked), Kobashi would wrestle Toshiaki Kawada, who at that time was exactly one month deep into his first All Asia tag title reign as one-half of Footloose. Kobashi would lose to a lariat in 7:46, but his performance finally put Ichise on the page which had long eluded him. On the April 26 issue of Weekly Pro, the entire Chūmoku! page was devoted to this match. Ichise’s recollection of how Kobashi was so refreshing for the company, whether or not he was earmarked to reach the top, does much to contextualize his 1989 Newcomer of the Year award from Tokyo Sports; yes, these are mark awards, but this still feels reflective of how wrestling journalists were endeared to him. One year later, Kobashi received his first title shot. At Korakuen Hall on March 27, 1989, he challenged Footloose for their All Asia tag titles with none other than Baba as his partner. Footage has sadly not surfaced, as this show did not receive a television taping, but the result I found was that Kawada pinned Kobashi with a dragon suplex in 18:07. Ichise calls this match, alongside Baba & Rusher Kimura’s February 25 shot at the Olympians’ AJPW World Tag Team titles, the birth of the “New Baba”. We transition into Chapter Five, which gives us some insights into the AJPW reform plan developed with the collaboration of Weekly Pro editor Tarzan Yamamoto. --- Above: The “dokusen poster”, released in January 1989, is emblematic of the image strategy which ushered in this new era of All Japan Pro Wrestling. In the top half, Baba smiles with a cigar in hand, with text on his right that roughly translates to: “Since everyone else is getting into martial arts, I’m going to monopolize pro wrestling.” Red text to Baba’s left reads “happy new year”. On the bottom half, the two-character word dokusen (“monopoly”) is written in giant boldface. Tarzan Yamamoto was assigned editor-in-chief of Weekly Pro Wrestling after Hideo Sugiyama’s transfer to sister publication Martial Arts News. The AJPW ban had been lifted for five months, and with the return of much of Japan Pro Wrestling to NJPW, Yamamoto felt a dangerous imbalance of power in the wrestling world. Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to get an interview with Choshu anyway, Yamamoto approached Baba for one, which was granted. In the April 27 issue of Weekly Pro, Baba spoke honestly about his feelings in the wake of Choshu and company’s U-turn back home. “Two years ago, when Choshu and his friends wanted to come to All-Japan, I accepted. When I accepted them, I cleared up all the problems and made sure that they would not complain. So I told them to do the same. I'm not trying to take their lives. There's nothing in the contract about taking lives.” All Japan was resuscitated by the start of the Tenryu Revolution that June, with former tag partners Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu now embroiled in a feud. But there were still deeper problems beneath. The first Jumbo/Tenryu singles match of the feud had drawn well, bringing 12,100 to the Nippon Budokan. However, despite the October rematch in the same venue having an announced attendance only 300 below, fans in the second floor could be seen lying down across multiple seats as if on a couch. When the first Triple Crown unification match was booked six months later, between Tenryu and Bruiser Brody, old tendencies won out and the match ended in a double countout at thirty minutes. Ichise was at ringside, and “was just frustrated”. It was now mid-1988. At what I am guessing was a press conference after the end of the Super Power Series tour, Baba displayed the major matches of the following tour for reporters, before offhandedly asking that they let him know if they had any good ideas. Most did not respond, but Tarzan, who recognized that the company still had major problems, could be heard saying “alright”. This wasn’t the first time that Baba had asked for ideas. Four years earlier, around the same time of year, he was drinking tea with Gong editor-in-chief Kosuke Takeuchi and NJPW president/future JPW head Naoki Otsuka at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel in Akasaka. When Baba spoke of his desire to somehow sign Satoru Sayama to get Tiger Mask, Takeuchi was the one who pointed out to him that his best bet was to get Ikki Kajiwara’s blessing to just make a new Tiger Mask. [2] Once again, Baba would have a meeting at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel. Yamamoto was accompanied by illustrator colleagues Shiro Sarashina and Haruo Matsumoto. Over six hours, the four men analyzed the current state of AJPW and brainstormed how to change the promotion’s image. Sarashina made an unflattering comparison of the company to the baseball team the Lotte Orions, whose spectators in Kawasaki Stadium often entertained themselves by playing catch and mahjong. Nobody was throwing balls in Budokan at least, but the sluggish attendance and atmosphere made it a fair comparison. The “dokusen poster” at the head of this section is representative of the fruit of this meeting. All Japan would not be seduced by martial arts, be that the shoot-style of the now-Newborn UWF or NJPW’s contemporaneous work with Soviet amateur wrestlers. However, the pro wrestling that Baba sought to monopolize was itself different. It was to be a “bright” wrestling whose fundamental sportsmanship did away with the opacity of so much of Showa puroresu. In July issues of Weekly Pro, Baba espoused his ideals of sportsmanship, and stated a belief that the “restoration of trust in professional wrestling” was the only way to earn the support of the modern fan. Ichise does not try to suggest that Yamamoto had any direct influence on what would later be called oudou/”King’s Road” (in fact, Ichise hasn’t used that term yet, so I hope that he will get to its origin later in the book). However, he also admits that any speculation on his part that Baba had always had reservations about being a star in an era of wrestling that was far from his idea of sport is just that. However, there was one point before 1988 where Baba had clearly expressed his sensibilities. On March 13, 1986, Jumbo Tsuruta wrestled Animal Hamaguchi as part of a one-night best-of-5 series between AJPW and JPW wrestlers. Baba was moved by the grace with which Hamaguchi accepted his defeat, and commented to the press that he wanted all of the others to learn from him. This would not stick, however, and even the third Jumbo/Tenryu match of October 1988 paid such ideals no mind with its DQ finish.
  3. That wasn't mentioned. I remember him covering a fight between them (Hansen also recalls it in his autobio) but I thought it was during their pro careers.
  4. Chapters 2-3 were 16 and 12 pages, respectively, so I decided to transcribe and cover them together. 4-5 are of similar length, so I will probably combine them as well. ---- Chapter Two starts by talking about the UWF. Initially I was annoyed at what seemed like a drawn-out digression (this is not to disparage the book’s craft – it was not meant to be consumed the way that I, an illiterate, am doing), but when I quickly realized where it was going this became fascinating. This chapter is a snapshot of puro journalism politics in the 1980s, specifically the tensions between Weekly Pro Wrestling and AJPW(+JPW) in the period before Tarzan Yamamoto became editor-in-chief, a position from which he would ingratiate himself to Baba and become an important creative consultant. From the photos in the book I can tell that it’s going to take 500+ pages to get to the actual Shitenno/Gotsuyo era of 1993-, but a digression like this at least promises some interesting context along the way. Monthly Pro Wrestling, a magazine published by BASEBALL MAGAZINE SHA Co., Ltd (henceforth abbreviated as BBM) whose history went back to the mid-1950s, rebranded as Weekly Pro Wrestling in 1983. I don’t know if his tenure extended before the rebrand, but Weekly Pro’s first editor-in-chief was Hideo Sugiyama, a position he also held for sister BBM magazine Martial Arts News. [2021.07.26 correction: this chapter implied he was pulling double duty, but he actually switched to running Martial Arts News after handing the Weekly Pro chair off to Tarzan Yamamoto in April 1987.] In his coverage of the circumstances behind Tarzan Yamamoto’s step down from editor-in-chief, Dave Meltzer wrote that Yamamoto was credited with “bringing mainstream coverage of pro wrestling in Japan from the Apter-mag level almost to Observer level” (Wrestling Observer Newsletter, July 8, 1996). (The term Tarzan would coin for the style of coverage that Weekly Pro provided was “print wrestling”. [1]) This should not be taken to mean just his EIC tenure, though, as this section establishes that even during Sugiyama’s tenure – during which Yamamoto was head of the editorial team – the magazine was much bolder than that Apter mag comparison would indicate. As author Hidetoshi Ichise notes, in some respects Weekly Pro was like the UWF itself, in that it “rejected traditional wrestling and created new values”. Sugiyama “did not listen to the logic of the old industry, but the voice of fans who had nowhere else to go, swirling around venues all over Japan. ‘Let me find out who’s the strongest! Let me see who’s the strongest!’” (The riot at the Kuramae Kokugikan in the aftermath of the Inoki/Hogan IWGP match and Choshu angle on 1984.06.14 is presented as a manifestation of the discontent of this shifting fanbase.) In his 2017 book 1984年のUWF (“UWF in 1984”) as cited by Japanese Wikipedia, Ken Yanagisawa accuses Sugiyama of deceiving his readership into thinking the UWF was legit to boost sales. This is how you shift the culture of wrestling fandom. This is how you get Korakuen pelting garbage into the ring when Jumbo vs. Hansen (1989.04.16) has a fuck finish. This is how you make King’s Road not only a feasible creative direction, but perhaps a necessary one. Weekly Pro’s first issue, for the week of August 9, 1983, sent a message from the jump. Despite Terry Funk’s retirement tour, he was only given a square of real estate on a cover which primarily featured Tiger Mask. Sugiyama’s reasoning was that Tiger Mask could change professional wrestling from a “world of fans” to “a universal world”. The age of B-I Cannon was over; the future was now. Things get really interesting in early 1986. In the wake of the NJPW/UWF angle, New Japan got the Weekly Pro cover for the first six issues. At or around the time the 2/25 issue (released the second week of the month) hit shelves, BBM president Tsuneo Ikeda received a letter signed by Giant Baba and Riki Choshu. This letter alleged unfair coverage, and declared a boycott of the publication. Ichise claims that this was unreasonable and that the coverage was not so disproportionate; in 1985, NJPW got 21 cover stories, AJPW got 18, and the UWF got 6. In response, Weekly Pro adopted guerilla tactics to report on them. Reporters and photographers bought tickets to provide ringside coverage (the author, who was in his early twenties at the time, started reporting on AJPW in this capacity). When necessary, photos of the ringside area and waiting room were provided by Weekly Fight magazine. Ichise notes that this strategy was met with “silent approval”, and that he believes that AJPW were thus not primarily responsible for the boycott. Choshu’s animosity towards the wrestling press was so pronounced that an entire subsection of his Japanese Wikipedia page is devoted to it, so I’m inclined to guess that this indeed was his doing. Ichise remarks that the battle between Choshu and Yamamoto, the only Weekly Pro reporter who had been banned before the magazine as a whole had been, would continue for many years. The boycott was lifted after seven months, but Weekly Pro were still not allowed to send ringside photographers to the 1986.11.01 event, where Hiroshi Wajima would be making his professional wrestling debut against Tiger Jeet Singh. Weekly Pro had to make this the cover story, though, so they settled for a shot taken from the second row. The last few pages of the chapter are about Kawada’s miserable excursion and return. By the time he came to San Antonio, Chavo wasn’t there. As you may know, the Kawada/Fuyuki team started here. However, when visa issues forced Fuyuki to return home, Kawada was fired as there was no use for him in a singles capacity. Kawada called Akio Sato, who told him to go to Calgary. There, he finally got experience as a singles worker, and wrestled under a mask for the first time as Black Mephisto, on a meager $200 a week. Stampede wanted Kawada to play a Shogun Wakamatsu-style heel, but Kawada couldn’t do expressions as a masked performer, so he just “barked viciously”. After being sacked there, Kawada went to Montreal on Sato’s direction. Here, he performed in a high-flying style which got him praise in some corners but also had a ceiling at that time. Kawada’s excursion ended abruptly when visa issues forced him to return home. When he arrived, it was as if he’d never left. Once again, he didn’t even get his own name stamp for the tour pamphlets. The makeshift one just read “Kawada”, likely a composite of the “川” on Takashi Ishikawa’s stamp and the “田” on Jumbo Tsuruta’s. The chapter ends recapping 1987 up to August 21, when Kawada finally made his move in an angle which saw him join Revolution. --------- Chapter Three is about Taue. Taue seems to have come from the poorest family of the Pillars. Like, “roast a snake in soy sauce for dinner" poor. He recalls carrying salt and miso paste in his pockets when playing outside after school, to season the cucumbers and turnips that neighbors would give to him. Taue was a mischievous kid. He recalls playing hide-and-seek in elementary school and climbing into the ceiling, only to fall through a panel into a classroom. Once, he accidentally set a shrine on fire playing with firecrackers. During his junior year in high school, he recalls knocking out the leader of a gang of delinquents with a headbutt, after which the guy got 12 of his friends to come beat him up. Taue didn’t back down, and broke the leader’s collarbone. Taue reached 1st dan in judo, but didn’t actually like fighting that much. Despite the suggestion of the advisor of his high school sumo club, he was very resistant to the idea of wearing a mawashi. However, when his dream of being a collegiate athlete was dashed by his lackluster academic performance and his poverty, Taue went into sumo. He did so to make his sumo-loving momma proud, after having been such a punk kid. He joined the Oshigawa stable, headed by Oshigawa Oyakata, whose training camps he had already attended during high school. Long story short, he was promising, and had a considerable amount of natural athletic ability. However, it appears that he retired as a response to the abusive culture. Taue claims that Oshigawa would strike him with his shinai (wooden sword), hurting him to the point that he could not perform well, and then complain when he lost. Taue was at a crossroads. He was already married, so he had to find work somewhere. He considered driving a truck until ragoku comedian Yasumichi Ai (now known by his stage name San'yūtei Enraku VI), a friend of Genichiro Tenryu’s from junior high, suggested that he enter professional wrestling. As I covered before in this thread, Taue was initially signed through JPW. It was essentially a paper organization at this point, but it cushioned the appearance of the signing in the eyes of the sumo association, which was already tense with AJPW after the signings of Isao Takagi, John Tenta, and especially Hiroshi Wajima. (As I have earlier noted, this kind of political game wasn’t even new to AJPW. In the late 70s, Takashi Ishikawa originally worked as a freelancer after All Japan had recruited Tenryu and Tonga.) Baba would later write that an old reporter was critical of Taue’s build and slowness, making an unflattering comparison to Umanosuke Ueda. However, Baba saw that he had better spring and flexibility than Ueda, and really believed in him as a potential late-blooming major talent. Of course, he was also attracted to Taue’s 190cm height. “What is the best part of pro wrestling? There are many wrestlers in the world who are as big as Choshu. The appeal of professional wrestling is that when big bodies collide and splash each other, the power of the collision attracts the audience. In short, professional wrestling is about doing things that ordinary people cannot do. In our case, it would be Tenta, Jumbo (Tsuruta), Tenryu and Yatsu. That kind of power has been the selling point of All Japan. New Japan probably doesn't have it.” [2] The chapter basically ends with the formation of Kekkigun – Taue, Tiger Mask, Shunji Takano, Isao Takagi, Shinichi Nakano – the (ultimately short-lived) proto-Super Generation Army faction of young guys who sought to overtake Revolution. --- From titles, it looks like Chapter 4 will be about Kobashi, and Chapter 5 will be about Tarzan Yamamoto’s reform proposal that saw him become a creative consultant to Baba in the wake of JPW’s return to NJPW.
  5. I’ve finished transcription of the first chapter of the Four Pillars bio, but I need to lay some stuff out here. This book is much denser than the last. The Jumbo bio’s longest chapter, the 97-page tenth chapter, came out to 52,748 total characters. The first chapter of this new book is only 35 pages, and yet it’s nearly half the density of that chapter, at 25,212. Purchasing a Kindle copy wasn’t really an option; even if I put in a Japanese address to make myself eligible to receive such, I already have a Kindle account on the Amazon US storefront, and I really don’t think that you can have accounts on different storefronts tied to the same device/s. However, I really wish that wasn’t the case. I’m going to take this one step at the time, but I have to be honest. This might be too much for me. But I’ll do as much of it as I can, because if I don’t, who will? --------- Chapter 1 starts with Kawada, before turning into a narrative of his and Misawa’s lives through 1985. The narrative is set up with a trip to Mengerous K, Kawada’s restaurant, in the present day. The author’s description makes clear that, even if he might have been the most “functional” of the Pillars in the ring at the twilight of his career, this is a broken-down man even by the standards of professional wrestling. What struck me most is that Kawada’s neck is so stiffened that he must look up to swallow the soup he is eating, in order to keep it out of his windpipe. The account of his early life is a bit more fleshed out than the one in the Jumbo bio (if you're new to the thread, see here for that). I had never noticed before that Kawada was born on the same day that Rikidōzan got stabbed. We also learn his father’s cause of death: while he was removing an AC unit from the roof of a building marked for demolition, he was struck by lightning and fell off the roof. Before being hooked by professional wrestling in middle school, Kawada thought he wanted to work as some sort of civil servant. When he made up his mind about wanting to wrestle – he makes it clear that, even though he was being supported by a single mother at this point, his family was not in a precarious financial position which would have influenced him to find work – he began a training regimen using things that he ordered from advertisements in wrestling magazines, funded by his job as a paperboy. By the time he performed the NJPW entrance exam, he had gained 10kg of muscle. Kawada does not specify which NJPW senior he beat in sparring, though he states that he won because he managed to strangle them with a headscissors. All he says, in an excerpt from his 1995 autobiography, is that the wrestler was still active at the time. Another person at the scene, who he refers to as “someone who is not thought of so often now, but became popular under a mask”, is obviously George Takano, so it wasn’t him. Therefore, there is a not-zero chance that Kawada pulled a Daniel Puder on a young Akira Maeda, and I hope so badly that this is the case. The identity of this NJPW wrestler is the puro equivalent of “Who was ‘You’re So Vain’ written about?” for me. Anyway, he passed the exam and was told he could join after graduating junior high, but Kawada was ultimately swayed by the advice of his school and mother to enter high school. At first, Kawada notes with small regret that had he not been persuaded, he would have been younger than Masakatsu Funaki, who joined NJPW straight out of junior high in 1985. But then, he admits that he does not believe that he would have lasted in the business had he taken that opportunity, because while he already had the physical conditioning to train to wrestle, he could not have endured the hardships of that vocation until he had the experience of living and training at the Ashikaga Institute of Technology high school. We then transition into an account of Misawa’s early life, and some updates to the Wikipedia page (which I took it upon myself to overhaul in 2019-20) may be in order. His father was laid off from the Yubari coal mine and the family moved before Misawa was even a year old. Misawa had two older brothers, not just one. After the divorce, his mother worked in the factory during the day and as a waitress by night to provide for her family; she would remarry a decade later, by which point Misawa would’ve already been in high school (where he lived as a wrestler-in-training). We learn that, by his own account, Misawa was a “spoiled, lonely crybaby” in his early years, albeit one who picked many a fight he couldn’t win in his upper elementary years. In contrast to Kawada, Misawa had already had a feeling that he didn’t want to be a salaryman (in his youth he wanted to be a boxer), but it was in eighth grade that he decided what he would become. However, while he would say that his favorite wrestler was Jumbo Tsuruta as a rookie, Jumbo’s accomplishments in 1976 were not a specific impetus. (As a side note, his supposed “first favorite wrestler”, Horst Hoffman, is not mentioned at all. I once read something somewhere that implied that the story of Hoffman inspiring the color of Misawa’s trunks - which Misawa stated here - was a kayfabe fabrication, and that Misawa instead adopted the emerald hue at a friend's suggestion. This makes me suspect that was the case.) High school was rough for Kawada. As part of this live-in wrestler-in-training program, Kawada was the junior errand boy for all the upper classmen in the program, and to make matters worse, no new students came in the year after him to knock him up the ladder. He recalls contemplating suicide in one instance. This account paints Misawa and Kawada’s early friendship as a bit more muted than the thick-as-thieves narrative which I think we often take it to be. Kawada was clearly fond of Misawa compared to the other upper classmen, considering him “a small oasis in hell”. However, Misawa valued his private time, and especially valued his ability to sneak out of the dorm, catch a nighttime train to Kasukabe, and climb into the second-floor bedroom window of his girlfriend for an hour or so. Upon graduation, Kawada went from the top of one hierarchy to the bottom of another. Not until Yoshinari Ogawa joined the company, just a couple months before Kawada’s excursion, did he have anyone below him. On the tour when Kawada debuted, they didn't have his name stamp ready in time, so they had to cut and splice together gaijin stamps to form his name. ("To put it crudely, that was the level of expectation people had for Kawada.") Akio Sato may have abolished the seniority system and allowed the young guys to do high spots, but even he made Kawada pump the brakes. He felt Kawada moved too much in a "self-indulgent" way, so while he still benefited from the reforms, he was forbidden from doing outright flippy moves because Sato said "he wasn't ready". In a 2012 interview, Kawada would express gratitude for this, as he learned a lot from the work he did as a curtainjerker with Mitsuo Momota. (“When I was young, I used to feel that I wanted to show everything I had, but then one day I came to think that I only needed to show one thing. Then, I no longer had the burden of trying to do this or that. I can decide on just one, and it doesn't have to be another. When I started to think like that, I started to understand professional wrestling more and more.”) There is mention of the quickly aborted plan to make Kawada a Tiger Mask #2 alongside Misawa. It was Chavo Guerrero who was impressed enough by Kawada to offer to get him booked for an American excursion. Chapter 1 ends with him booking a flight to the US and meeting with Fuyuki (who had been working in Mexico) before setting off for San Antonio.
  6. This came in several weeks sooner than I was expecting. I don't plan to abort the IWE history, but I might put it on an alternating release schedule with stuff from this book. It's going to be a longer transcription process because this has a good 250 pages on the Jumbo bio, but the structure looks more forgiving than that backloaded book was.
  7. A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING ENTERPRISE PART 5.1 (1976) [Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3.1 here, Part 3.2 here, Part 4.1 two posts above, and Part 4.2 directly above.] ANOTHER YEAR BEGINS Above: Len Shelley holds Mighty Inoue in place for a Sailor White diving foot stomp, in their 1976.01.23 shot at Inoue & the Great Kusatsu’s IWA World Tag Team titles. RUSHER VS JUMBO (AND SURROUNDING TOURS) Above: Publicity photos from an unknown source, displaying Rusher Kimura and Jumbo Tsuruta’s respective measurements. SPECKLED WOLF Above: A bloodied Umanosuke Ueda poses with his ill-gotten IWA World Heavyweight title. At right, he defends it against Rusher Kimura in the cage for a rematch on the following tour. LATE 1976 Above: Kimura hits a backdrop to G. Joe on the outside during a defense of his IWA World Heavyweight title, and Mighty Inoue gets a submission in the cage to retain his and Kusatsu’s IWA World Tag Team titles. So that was 1976, as best I could tell it from the information I have. ---------------
  8. I needed a break because I needed a break, but I also took one to try to give myself more time to search for sources. By no means was 1975 an unimportant year for the IWE, but it is the year that I have found the least extratextual information about thus far. If I ever transcribe the book that Koji Miyamoto wrote a couple years back on this era of the IWE, maybe I’ll find more. On an unrelated note, I finally got together the cash to order another book from Japan for transcription: the 2019 Four Pillars bio 夜の虹を架ける 四天王プロレス (roughly: The Rainbow over the Night: Shitenno Puroresu). It should arrive sometime in August, at which point I’ll survey it and figure out what I want to do. It’s about 150% the length of the Jumbo bio without accounting for pictures, so it’ll take longer, but I think the structure of the book will actually be lighter on me; dividing the book into sections for each of the Four means that this time, I’m not going to be blindsided by a 90-page and a 100-page chapter right after one another towards the end. I want to get this IWE stuff out of the way first because frankly, if I don’t nobody else will, but it’s a niche subject and I sympathize if it’s getting old. Anyway, on with the show. A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING ENTERPRISE PART 4.2 (1975) [Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3.1 here, Part 3.2 here, and Part 4.1 two posts above.] A PARTNERSHIP ENDS RUSHER RISING Above: After losing the first fall to a cobra clutch, Mighty Inoue drops the IWA World Heavyweight title to Mad Dog Vachon on 1975.04.10 when he’s lured out for a DCO. Nine days later, Rusher Kimura defeats Vachon on the tour’s final date to cement himself as Kokusai’s ace, a position he will hold for the rest of the company’s life. TOR’S WORLD, HE’S THE MAN Above: Rusher Kimura defended his title twice against a debuting Tor Kamata, first in a standard match on 1975.05.26, then in a wire mesh chain match on 06.06. BIG SUMMER Above: Rusher Kimura defends his IWA World Heavyweight title against Big John Quinn on 1975.07.28. G.(Y). JOE [I’ve written it out before, but look, I really don’t want to write out “Gypsy Joe” over and over again in this day and age, and he’s going to show up a lot from here on out. I’ll just refer to him as G. Joe or Joe.] Above: Kimura defends his title against G. Joe on 1975.10.06. WINTER COMBAT Above: Referee Osamu Abe attempts to restrain Pierre Martin from Rusher Kimura in their IWA World Heavyweight title match on 1975.12.04. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE Above: Mighty Inoue wrestles Jumbo Tsuruta in a match held towards the interpromotional Open Championship League on 1975.12.10. The following night, he receives a shot at Hiro Matsuda's NWA World Junior Heavyweight title as part of the Rikidozan Memorial Show. At far right, Kimura faces Abdullah the Butcher in a League match on 1975.12.16. Part 5.1 will cover 1976. One of the most famous interpromotional puro matches of the decade will take place, and Kimura will face one of the most influential native heels in puroresu history. -------------------
  9. I’m taking a break from writing IWE Pt. 4.2 for the time being; every once in a while I need some time to actually watch wrestling instead of research it. However, I am posting here to mention two things. 1. As you can see, I have reformatted these IWE posts by spoiler-tagging each section. This is solely to make the length of each thread page more palatable. 2. Igapro just posted an article about the IWE’s first wire mesh deathmatches. I just took a break from my break to rewrite some things. Usually, I denote later additions to these posts with brackets and bold text, but this is a case where I really needed to rewrite passages from scratch. The new information has substantially fleshed these parts out, and Rusher Kimura’s major physical limitations as IWE ace will make so much more sense if you know about the toll these early iterations of the wire mesh deathmatch took on him. If you’ve been following this series, you might want to reread the pertinent sections, but I've put a TL;DR version below.
  10. This didn't blow me away as much, but it's still the strongest match yet in the Fujinami/Choshu feud, even if their matchup is the least interesting part about it. I've seen basically the whole of AJPW-era Ishingun, but only now am I really realizing how much Saito's absence there (after the first AJPW tour of 1985 and the first JPW tour, of course) was felt.
  11. KinchStalker

    [1982-11-04-NJPW] Tatsumu Fujinami vs Riki Choshu

    This is a defense of Fujinami's WWF International Heavyweight title. Choshu just has to get a slap to the face in as the champ enters the ring, and Fujinami quickly returns the favor with a toss out of it. There's still a lot of matwork here, some of which feels like Choshu trying (and failing) to outdo Fujinami in his court, but this is an improvement over their 11/22 buildup match, and feels like the proper start of this feud. Choshu no-sells a diving knee drop to hit a lariat right afterward, which takes us into the finishing stretch. Fujinami blocks a second lariat with his hands but Choshu powers forward, sending both to the outside. Fujinami gets an abdominal stretch on the outside but Choshu tosses him over the barricade, which disqualifies him. Interesting spot afterwards where Choshu puts Fujinami in an apron variation of the tree of woe and hits him with kicks and hip strikes.
  12. Above: a photograph taken during this match. This isn't quite the first Fujinami/Choshu match, or even the first in circulation; there are audience recordings of earlier matches in 1980 and in 1982. This is, however, the first one of the feud proper. I'm watching this feud for the first time in sequence, so I can't comment on how this compares to the more famous later matches. However, this feels like a quintessential feeling-out match. While there's some heat before the bell rings, they keep things straight at first, grappling and work-holding each other for the first stretch. The bubble finally bursts around nine minutes in, as Choshu finally brings some of the intensity that I was expecting. He tears a bandage off of Fujinami's forehead - he was busted open in an Abdullah the Butcher singles match the previous week - and reopens the cut with a turnbuckle slam. About two-thirds through, the two roll towards the outside while in a Fujinami figure-four, but before they tumble over Fujinami lets go so he can come down and drag Choshu out by his leg for a scoop slam on the outside. Some more mat stuff until things finally boil over with some high spots and then an outside segment. The match ends in a no-contest, after Fujinami dropkicks Choshu while he's holding a chair that the ref is trying to take away from him, sending the ref over the ropes. That's not the end of it, though, as they're so absorbed in their heat that Inoki has to come in and break it up. There's probably a reason this match has been lost to time, but I thought it was effective as a buildup to a later encounter. This goes for twenty minutes, though, and at least at this stage I don't think that was a great idea for this pairing.
  13. [This is the beginning of a personal watchalong of the Fujinami/Choshu feud, which perhaps might widen in scope into Ishingun's original NJPW run. This is partially to fill a major gap, but I also feel like I should be able to comment on this feud in order to write about Jumbo/Tenryu, its AJPW equivalent that would manifest in a few years.] Above: a photograph taken during Fujinami and Choshu's postmatch spat. [Click on the image for its full size.] The copy of this match on NJPW World is quite clipped, but the contemporaneous World Pro Wrestling episode broadcast it in full, and that's the version I watched. The match itself isn't essential, though it's thoroughly competent, but the angle within it is important. This is Choshu's return match from his second excursion, and from the start you can see tensions brewing. At the start he's miffed that he should be the one to start the match (while I've read that he never actually said this, the legend is that Choshu made comments that he wasn't Fujinami's "bait dog"). Fujinami and Choshu start arguing until the exasperated Fujinami tags himself in. The first part of the match sees the two refusing each other's tags, with Inoki having to step in and be the connective tissue. This early part sees a 2+-minute stretch where the natives have Allen in a leg lock, as these tensions play out. Abby manages to break it up, but Choshu manages to catch the crawling Allen's leg and bring things back to square one. However, when he tags in Inoki, him and Fujinami get into it yet again, and the referee breaking it up buys the gaijin enough time to bail out their partner and take it to the face of the company on the outside. Inoki gets back in the ring in time, and when Fujinami's tagged in he quickly manages to get Allen back in the leg lock. He first reaches to tags in Inoki, but then brings in Choshu...only to SLAP him instead of give him the leg. Allen recovers and the gaijin maul Choshu until he can get Inoki back in. Abby gets Inoki in a chancery over the edge of the ring but Choshu breaks it up, and Inoki gets back to Fujinami. This shortly results in another spat between Choshu and Fujinami which sees another Fujinami slap. Fujinami ends up winning the match with a sunset flip to Jones as everyone else is brawling on the outside, but Choshu comes back in and snaps on him. The gaijin hold up their end as well as you could expect them to, and this match fascinated me because, unlike what I've come to expect from AJPW tags of this time, the gaijin were not the ones doing control segments. I don't know if this was just because of the nature of the angle, or if that speaks to a broader difference in sensibilities between the promotions, but I found it oddly refreshing. The natives try to keep the gaijin under their thumb, but dissension in the ranks keeps undoing them. I guess this angle might've been more effective had the natives lost, and Jones dropping so quick after hardly having been in the match feels justifiable more by hierarchy than by narrative, but it kept the match tight.
  14. A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING ENTERPRISE PART 4.1 (1974) [Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3.1 here, and Part 3.2 here.] ODE TO TOKYO JOE Above: Tetsunosuke Daigo, working abroad as Tokyo Joe. CHALLENGE SERIES Above: A decade before their first Real World Tag League team (and ensuing breakup angle), Giant Baba & Rusher Kimura join forces for a 1974.04.06 IWE match, against Jim Brunzell & The Brute (Bugsy McGraw). TOKYO 12 CHANNEL Above: Flanked here by Mayuki Nakashima and Terumi Sakura, Chiyo Obata was the first wrestling star made by Tokyo 12 Channel coverage, and would be the star of the womens’ division which the IWE would incorporate as a condition of T12C coverage. (Photograph from the October 1973 issue of Wrestling Revue.) MONDAY SPORTS SPECIAL Above: the Great Kusatsu lifts up Rusher Kimura for a piledriver in their 1974.05.26 #1 contendership match for the vacant IWA World Heavyweight title (1), Kimura applies a Boston crab on Billy Robinson in their 1974.06.03 title match (2), Robinson lifts Kimura in the butterfly suplex (3), and Kimura holds his head in his hand backstage after his loss (4). INTERNATIONAL PRO WRESTLING HOUR Above: Superstar Billy Graham poses with Baron von Raschke, during some leisure time in Graham’s first trip to Japan. WORLD CHAMPION SERIES Above: Verne Gagne defends his AWA World Heavyweight title against Billy Robinson on 1974.11.20.
  15. KinchStalker

    Comments that don't warrant a thread - Part 4

    Thanks a bunch. Now I can finish up the next post.