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Found 15 results

  1. KinchStalker


    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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. KinchStalker

    Kokichi Endo

    Kokichi Endo Real name: Kokichi Endo Professional names: not applicable Life: 3/4/1926- (presumed alive) Born: Kanai (now Yamagata City), Yamagata, Japan Career: 1951-1966 Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA Height/Weight: 180cm/125kg (5’11”/275 lbs.) Signature Moves: Dropkick Titles: NWA World Tag Team Championship (1x, w/Rikidozan), Pacific Coast Tag Team title (1x, w/Rikidozan) Summary: Kokichi Endo was one of Japan Pro Wrestling’s most prominent early figures, most notably working as Rikidozan’s tag partner in the mid-fifties. Besides this, Endo is best known for his later executive role. Kokichi Endo was a founding member of the International Judo Association, a short-lived professional judo promotion that is regarded in some ways as an antecedent of Japan Pro Wrestling. About a year after the Association’s final show, Endo and fellow judoka Yasuyuki Sakabe entered pro wrestling, as one of the Japanese athletes given a crash course by Bobby Bruns for the 1951 Torii Oasis Shriners Club tour. He toured overseas with the Great Togo in 1952, before returning home to become one of JPW's original roster. He was Rikidōzan's opponent for an exhibition match at the completion ceremony for the Rikidōzan Dojo on July 30, 1953. In August 1954, Endo tagged alongside Rikidōzan to win Hans Schnabel & Lou Newman's fictitious Pacific Coast tag team titles; two years later, they had a program with the Sharpe brothers which earned them a fifteen-day reign with the NWA World Tag Team titles. Alongside Toyonobori, Yoshinosato, and Michiaki Yoshimura, Endo was one part of the executive council promoted after Rikidōzan's death. By that point, he was the last remaining wrestler to have worked the promotion's first show. While retiring from the ring in 1966, Endo remained a top executive as the accounting manager until the 1971 coup. His politicking had mixed results. On one hand, his efforts to block Isao Yoshihara from purchasing the Riki Sports Palace for the company led Yoshihara to form the competing International Wrestling Enterprise. On the other hand, Endo was the one who made the JWA's second network deal with NET (the future TV Asahi) possible, as he used disinformation which exaggerated the threat of the Great Togo's would-be third promotion in order to convince Nippon Television to let them shop for a second deal.* NET's World Pro Wrestling saw Endo debut as a commentator. This kept him involved in the business after his dismissal in the 1971 coup attempt. He would continue in this capacity through the early years of the NJPW era of the program. By all accounts, he wasn’t very good at it. However, Endo's history with Mike LeBell made him a net positive for New Japan, connecting them to the Los Angeles territory. After ending as a commentator, he served as a referee for Inoki’s February 6, 1976 match against Willem Ruska. After the match, though, he blocked Ruska’s angry attempt at a judo throw, which exposed Ruska and brought an end to Endo’s duties in this capacity. He continued to appear onscreen as late as the following year, which saw a memorable vignette where he was attacked by Umanosuke Ueda. *The parent company of this would-be promotion was called Togo & Thesz. While Thesz would later reveal that he had been led along and "used" by Togo, Endo planted news stories that Thesz was coming to Japan.
  6. Microstatistics

    [1969-03-05-JWA] Giant Baba vs The Destroyer

    Far and away the best display of old style matwork I have ever seen. Innovative, intense and fluid, just amazing stuff. Destroyer is simply brilliant as the vicious, cheating heel using every dirty trick in the book to gain the advantage while Baba is great as the top guy relying on skill and toughness. Along with the French Catch stuff, the highlight of the 60s. **** 1/2
  7. KinchStalker

    Masio Koma

    Real name: Hideo Koma Professional names: Hideo Koma, Atsuhide Koma, Kakutaro Koma, Mr. Koma, Masio Koma Life: 5/18/1940-3/10/1976 Born: Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan Career: 1961-1976 Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Height/Weight: 172cm/100kg (5’8”/220 lbs.) Signature Moves: Dropkick Titles: NWA World Middleweight [EMLL] (1x), NWA United States Tag Team [Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling] (2x, with the Great Ota/Gantetsu Matsuoka), NWA Western States Tag Team [Western States Sports] (2x, with Mr. Okuma/Motoshi Okuma) Summary: As a wrestler, Masio Koma has a humble legacy marked by some territorial success. However, he was an important figure in AJPW's early years, and his unexpected death is regarded by colleagues and journalists as a turning point in company history. CAREER Koma's athletic background was in baseball, which he played through high school as a teammate of Sadaharu Oh. Upon his graduation, Koma joined Japan Pro Wrestling (JWA) in June 1961. Debuting on October 11 with a loss to Mitsu Hirai, Koma would become Giant Baba's first valet. Like his successor Motoshi Okuma, Koma would remain loyal to Baba for the rest of his life. Hideo's early years would see him booked under his real name, and then as Atsuhide and Kakutaro Koma. In January 1970, Koma embarked on a pioneering excursion to EMLL. On August 28, he became the first Japanese wrestler to win Mexican gold, defeating El Solitario for the NWA World Middleweight title. Koma even won it as a technico! In a 2008 web column, journalist and lucha expert Tsutomu “Tomas” Shimizu (AKA Dr. Lucha) claimed that Mexican fans of a certain generation were as likely to name Koma as the greatest Japanese foreigner to wrestle in Mexico as they were Sayama. Two years later, Shimizu would rank Koma as the fourth greatest “Japanese luchador” (based on their Mexican runs, not necessarily as "lucharesu" wrestlers), behind Ultimo, Sayama, and Hamada at #1. After this, Koma traveled north to begin work as a US territorial heel, teaming with his peers Gantetsu Matsuoka and Motoshi Okuma to tag success in the Florida and Amarillo territories. It was during his run in the latter that he and Okuma were recruited by Baba for All Japan Pro Wrestling. Koma has been cited in multiple narratives as the crucial man in getting Dory Funk Sr. to agree to a partnership with Baba. Koma became the first head coach of the AJPW dojo. Deeply respected by Baba, enough so that he could comfortably raise objections to him, Koma was also assigned as the handler of Jumbo Tsuruta. Alongside Sato, Koma gave Tsuruta about four months of part-time instruction as Tsuruta completed his baccalaureate. Koma would also teach Tsuruta locker room etiquette and acted as a buffer between Tsuruta and the resentment of his peers. Before his death of liver failure in 1976, Koma would successfully produce three wrestlers: Atsushi Onita, Masanobu Fuchi, and Kazuharu Sonoda. He was also involved in training Kyohei Wada. Koma's training methods were reformed by Akio Sato in the early 1980s, as Nippon Television ordered the company to begin producing more native talent. The story of Naoki Takano, a pre-Sato graduate (and cousin of George and Shunji) whose career ended in a horrific training injury just months after his debut, suggests that such reforms were warranted. Not everyone agrees, though. The Great Kabuki has claimed that Koma's death "ruined" All Japan. Koma had incorporated "gachinko" (Japanese term for shoot) fundamentals into the curriculum. Not only did AJPW fail to produce a homegrown wrestler from Sonoda's 1975 debut until Shiro Koshinaka's graduation in 1979, but the gachinko tradition was lost in favor of an Americanized, "passive" house style influenced more by the Funks than by puroresu. Kabuki remarks that "they all became weak". NJPW head trainer Kotetsu Yamamoto had been a good friend of Koma's, and he would later reveal that they consulted each other about their methods. Would Koma have developed his method further had he lived? Would the stylistic gap between AJPW and NJPW have become narrower? Whatever the case, Koma was one of AJPW's most important early figures, and although the Great Kojika claims that the company culture became "lighter" after his death. It has also been cited as a destabilizing incident behind the scenes. It may have led Tsuruta to become closer to Samson Kutsuwada, which complicated Jumbo’s relationship with Baba after the 1977 incident.
  8. Microstatistics

    [1971-08-05-JWA] Antonio Inoki vs Jack Brisco

    Inoki was ok here but Brisco pretty much drags him to a great match when his selling, intensity and attention to detail. One of the finest individual performances I've seen in a match. The matwork in the initial few minutes was mindblowing and felt like the precursor to shoot-style in some ways. ****
  9. Decided to rewatch this and was startled at how tight and great everything before the finish was. While Kimura has the judo prowess, Rikidozan simply uses his strength to counter his attempted throws and submissions, easily shoving him away most of the time. Kimura's fear of pins is so refreshing-he immediately gets his shoulder up, kicks away and/or rolls to his stomach, no sign of even allowing a pin, let alone any counts. Kimura seemed to have a strong graps of selling-loved how he desperately fought off the headscissors and just recklessly threw himself out of them first chance he got. Rikidozan's offence may have been quite basic but there's nothing quite like hearing a gigantic thud made by someone bouncing off the mat, and I struggle to think of seeing anyone with better bodyslams than the ones Rikidozan executed here. There was some fun finisher teasing which the crowd bit on, especially when Rikidozan would go for his big Neck Chop, I totally bought into him making Kimura flinch. The finish somehow looked even more violent on another watch, it's basically a combination of Bas Rutten vs Funaki and Fujita vs Bob Sapp, you get the world's nastiest palm strikes combined with brutal soccer kicks, but even PRIDE didn't allow fighters to basically stomp someone on the back of the head. Of course the match is an amazing piece of historic footage, but the work rules too. ****1/4
  10. 12/2/69 Antonio Inoki vs. Dory Funk Jr. Inoki makes his 1st challenge for the NWA World Title. Harley Race riles the crowd up to the point where they're throwing stuff at the ring,
  11. Ah, that old 60s/70s style of matwork. I remember years ago when I was obsessed with this stuff and downloading everything from Ditch I could find. If you've seen lucha title matches, british matwork or really anything modern this stuff will seem rather prehistoric to you, but there's lots of good stuff here. The star of the bout was Gene Kiniski as he has such a simple, yet cool style. He did a number of nifty holds and all of his offense was extremely painful looking. It was almost like incubatory ground and pound, as he would get Baba on the mat and then just stomp and knee drop him into oblivion. He does have really great stomps and knee drops and he was constantly attacking Baba's throat. His selling for Baba was also off the charts. Baba - well, I am not the biggest fan of this guy. He is a good wrestler - much better than you expect a weird giant with matchsticks arms to be, but watching him against these legendary guys I always wonder what they could do against someone a little more gifted. Also, no matter what they do on the mat, his matches always turn into Baba throwing a guy around with his signature offense and chops. To his credit, I liked his use of his freaky long legs to reverse Kiniski's holds, busting out the flying headscissor which is a pretty crazy spot for him. The famous "Smart Baba" was also present as this 2/3 falls match had 3 very good, genuinely surprising finishes and some dramatic selling in the last 3rd. Very fun contest if you can stomach watching something slow.
  12. The announcer says the match went 10:46, and we get a little more than three minutes of action, but the match *feels* complete, so props to whomever cut it or mother nature for preserving the parts of the tape they could make something off. We see some opening armwork after which they move onto the legwork and thing get heated-Oki just obliterates Andrews, relentlessly going for Figure Fours. Andrews does a good job of using ring positioning to escape, but eventually Oki gets back on the onslaught, and thing continue to look grim. Andrews literally takes a full on Flair/Michaels corner bump to the outside as a stark reminder there is nothing new under the sun, and Oki finishes him off with a nice strike combination, including a neat back elbow/headbutt in the corner. Very, very good.
  13. We only get about a minute and a half of action, but man oh man does it look incredible. There's an awesome bit where Oki runs away from Killer X, even almost hiding behind the ref, only to suck in Killer X into a Headbutt, and Oki's Headbutt is the be-all and end-all of all strikes. It's almost unreal seeing Killer X bump the way he did in a match from 1961-really gigantic pinball selling with him jumping in the air, taking a huge bump off an irish whip and swinging once he was caught up in the ropes. Killer X got back into the match by throwing some mean strikes and finishing the match off with a brutal diving knee. Hard to judge without it full thing, but what we have makes it look great.
  14. Nowhere near as cool as it sounds. A two minute clip shows Antonio doing a feat of strength in which he pulls a full buss, a lot of crowd shots and a JIP with some fun brawling before a count-out finish. Worth a watch for the novelty of it at least.
  15. This was apparently Gotch's first match in Japan, seeing rare footage of prime Gotch is such a treat, we get lots of nifty matwork as you'd expect. Gotch's German Suplex here is as picture perfect as it gets and I believe was used as a sample when the move was animated for Fire Pro and some other games. Though it is nice to see how much of Gotch's knowledge was preserved in the traditional New Japan style this still had some things that were lost to time, like Gotch's brilliant counter to Yoshimura's attempt of countering Gotch's indian deathlock with a sleeper (2:30), countering a counter attempt to a Hammerlock I'm not even going to try to explain etc.