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Found 23 results

  1. KinchStalker

    Tadaharu Tanaka

    Tadaharu Tanaka (田中忠治) Profession: Wrestler, Trainer Real name: Masakatsu Tanaka (田中政克) Professional names: Masakatsu Tanaka, Tadaharu Tanaka Life: 1/26/1942- (presumed alive) Born: Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan Career: 1958-1977 Height/Weight: 176cm/105kg (5’9”/231 lbs.) Signature moves: Sunset flip Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: IWA World Mid-Heavyweight [IWE] (1x) Summary: Tadaharu Tanaka was one of the JWA’s first proper trainees, most notable for his close association with Toyonobori and for establishing the IWE’s “middleweight” division at the end of the sixties. Masakatsu Tanaka joined the JWA after graduating from junior high in 1957. As the promotion had been staffed in its early years by experienced athletes in sumo and judo (or amateur wrestling, in one case) who transferred to pro wrestling, Tanaka was among its earliest trainees in the proper sense, alongside high school baseball star Yasuhiro Kojima (the future Hiro Matsuda). He would become Toyonobori’s valet and his closest confidant. At one point in the early 60s, Tanaka had been ordered to switch to boxing, as Rikidozan was intent on training a champion in the sport through his gym. The ring name Tadaharu Tanaka, which seems to have originated in 1964, was one of Toyonobori’s many inventions. An uncited passage on Tanaka’s Japanese Wikipedia page claims that Tadaharu was taken from Chuji Kunisada, a 19th century gambler who has long been romanticized as a chivalric figure. 忠治 can indeed be read as both Tadaharu and Chuji, and the reference would be in line with Toyonobori’s love for nicking names from the stock characters of Edo-period historical dramas. Tanaka was the leader of Toyonobori’s posse, the Hayabusa-tai (“Falcon Corps”). Presumably named after the 64th Squadron of the Imperial Japanese Army, which had been led by the well-propagandized aviator Tateo Kato, the Hayabusa-tai’s best-known incident revolved around a Ventures concert that they were intended to promote (for those unaware, the Ventures were *huge* in Japan)…until Kokichi Endo swiped the rights and got all the money, albeit with a beating. I bring it up because the Hayabusa-tai made up a good portion of the dream team that Toyonobori had in mind when he began to put Tokyo Pro Wrestling together. Sure enough, Tanaka was among those who jumped ship to join his senior. According to the Japanese zine Showa Puroresu, Tanaka did not temper Toyonobori’s penchant for spending money he wasn’t supposed to spend, but in fact inherited it. During Antonio Inoki’s legal disputes with Toyonobori and Hisashi Shinma in 1967, it was reportedly disclosed that Tanaka had personally misappropriated funds which had been allocated for Tokyo Pro’s training camps. (As trainee Haruka Eigen later recalled, the company had been unable to afford rice to feed them.) In December 1966, when Inoki created the Tokyo Pro Wrestling Ltd. company to split the rest of the roster from Toyonobori, Tanaka was the only other wrestler who was excluded. Due to this, Tanaka did not participate in the Tokyo Pro-IWE joint tour of January 1967, but he joined the IWE alongside Toyonobori in time for their second tour that summer. It was in his early years with Kokusai that Tanaka’s career peaked. In early 1969, he worked a program with British wrestler Mike Marino, winning Marino’s newly minted IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title that February. It is a pervasive belief among IWE fans that Toyonobori had lobbied for Tanaka’s push, although Tanaka’s then-valet Mighty Inoue stated that he didn’t think that was the case in a 2016 interview with Showa Puroresu. Whatever the case, this made Tanaka puroresu’s first junior heavyweight champion since IWE president Isao Yoshihara himself in the early 60s, and while footage of Tanaka does not survive, it is apparent that he presaged the IWE’s later talent in this vein, such as Inoue and Isamu Teranishi. He would remain with the company even as Toyonobori retired in 1970, only losing his title when he vacated it in March 1971 to embark on his excursion. Like other Kokusai wrestlers of the period, Tanaka’s overseas training saw him compete in France, Spain, Germany, and even South Africa, before his return the following June. For whatever fanfare his homecoming might have received, Tanaka did not break through upon return, but recede. It appears that he was overshadowed by wrestlers like the aforementioned Teranishi and Inoue, and he began to work more as a trainer. He reportedly began to experience liver problems in the mid-70s, and announced his departure in September 1977, without working a retirement match. In a 2009 blog post, Great Kojika claimed that he had met Tanaka during an All Japan show in Tanaka’s hometown. While it has been presumed that he is still alive, Tanaka did not come forth when the Rikidozan OB Kai alumni association was formed in 1996, and Kojika’s alleged encounter is the last anyone has heard from him.
  2. KinchStalker


    Azumafuji (東富士) Real name: Kinichi Inoue (井上謹一) Professional names: Azumafuji Life: 10/28/1921-7/31/1973 Born: Shimoya-ku (present-day Taito), Tokyo, Japan Career: 1955-1958 Height/Weight: 179cm/125kg (5’10”/275lbs.) Signature moves: Saba ori (sumo bearhug) Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA Titles: NWA Hawaii Tag Team [Mid-Pacific Promotions] (1x, w/Rikidozan) Summary: The first yokozuna to enter puroresu, Azumafuji spent about four years with the JWA. While ostensibly pushed as a top native talent, he ultimately realized that the company wasn’t big enough for two major ex-sumo stars. Kinichi Inoue was a big kid, weighing 6.8kg (15 lbs) at birth and over 75kg (165 lbs.) by the time he was twelve. He gained a local reputation for his strength through the judo he had been taught in elementary school and his help at the family ironworks. This eventually reached the ears of Fujigane IV, who got Kinichi to agree to join his new Takasago stable after graduating elementary. At that point, Kinichi’s 165cm height was below the required minimum, but Fujigane cut a deal with an examiner to let him in anyway. Sumo did not come naturally to Kinichi, and in an era where only two tournaments were held per year, it took him two years to pass the lowest division of maezumo. Fujigane held firm, vociferously defending Inoue to his stablemates and moving the young rikishi to work hard. Once he got through maezumo, Kinichi rose through the ranks, receiving the shikona Azumafuji upon reaching the sandanme division in 1939. Left: Azumafuji wins his final tournament by defeating Tochinisiki on October 29, 1953. Just before Azumafuji was promoted to juryo, he had a fateful encounter with Futabayama during a tour of Japan-occupied Korea. Breaking rank to challenge the yokozuna after Futabayama had plowed through all the sekitori in multiple exhibitions, Azumafuji was chided for his impudence and did not do any better than his superiors. However, he had endeared himself to Futabayama, who from that day forward invited Azumafuji to his training sessions. Azumafuji’s career would continue to be difficult, as a combination of injuries and temperament likely kept him from ever matching such a dominant yokozuna as Futabayama. Nevertheless, Azumafuji himself would reach the sport’s highest rank in 1949. In fact, Azumafuji was the final yokozuna to be promoted by the House of Yoshida Tsukasa. In 1950, the absence of all three yokozuna from the first tournament of the year, combined with the forced retirement of Maedayama (who had been photographed at a baseball game after dropping out of a tournament claiming illness), led the Japan Sumo Association to decide that the Yoshida family would relinquish the right to promote yokozuna, in favor of a special committee of sumo experts. Azumafuji continued to compete until he suddenly announced his retirement in 1954; he did not wish to hinder the promotion of Tochinisiki, who otherwise would have been the fifth active yokozuna. When a horrified Tochinisiki met him personally to beg him to reconsider, it actually did the opposite, convincing Azumafuji that he deserved to become a yokozuna immediately. After his retirement, Azumafuji was introduced to Rikidozan by Rikidozan’s patron, Shinzaku Nitta. (The 2019 Crowbar Press book Japan: The Rikidozan Years claims that Nitta had also been a patron of Azumafuji, but I want to see a Japanese source that corroborates this information before I parrot that.) Azumafuji and Rikidozan had been friends in the sumo days, and during his sumo career, Azumafuji had even borrowed a convertible from him for his Tokyo parade after winning his first championship. (Yusho winners have paraded in open-top cars ever since.) Convinced to transfer to professional wrestling, Azumafuji traveled to Hawaii with Rikidozan that spring to begin training under Oki Shikina. While he had competed at a peak weight of nearly 400 pounds during his sumo career, Azumafuji would wrestle at around 275. Azumafuji and Rikidozan won the territory’s tag titles from Bobby Bruns & Lucky Simunovich during their expedition, with Azumafuji still wearing his topknot. It would not be cut until July 7, eight days before Azumafuji was set to make his domestic debut. Right: this cartoon describes Azumafuji’s first JWA match better than any photograph likely could. [Source: Puroresu magazine, August 1955] In his 2000 book Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945-1970, Yoshikuni Igarashi wrote what is still one of the only pieces in the English language to seriously analyze Rikidozan (and by extension puroresu) as a cultural phenomenon. I’m going to turn over to him on that match: “Indeed, one of the most memorable moments for Rikidozan fans was a match between Azumafuji and the Mexican wrestler Jess Ortega in 1955. Azumafuji did not put up much resistance and was beaten unconscious. However, despite the fact that it was a singles match, Rikidozan jumped into the ring and applied his karate chops to Ortega, who then fell out of the ring. The scene was a bit too perfect, probably prearranged by Rikidozan and Ortega, but the crowd simply loved it. Azumafuji, moreover, damaged his own image in another match when he attempted to stop a fight between Rikidozan and Ortega. Azumafuji’s tagmate, Rikidozan had slammed Ortega’s head twice into a corner steel pole; Ortega’s head was covered with blood, and his wound later required some twenty stitches. Making a feeble attempt to stop the ringside fight, Azumafuji caught his thumb between Ortega’s head and the steel pole and broke it. The former sumo champion never matched Rikidozan in the presentation of this new form of entertainment, and the authority of sumo plummeted along with the formidable reputation of Azumafuji.” In October 1956, the JWA held an interpromotional tour with wrestlers from the regional promotions Yamaguchi Dojo, Asia Pro-Wrestling, and Toa Pro Wrestling, split between three tournaments in the light, junior, and heavyweight divisions. This tour was intended to delegitimize the JWA’s competitors and/or scout whatever talent was worth swiping from them, but it was also intended to build up Azumafuji. In the heavyweight division, Azumafuji reached the finals to face Toshio Yamaguchi, who in January 1955 had wrestled Rikidozan for puroresu’s first title. After their first match ended in a draw, a rematch saw Azumafuji win. This gave Azumafuji the right to challenge Rikidozan for that belt, but whether it was due to the tailspin that Nitta’s death, poor attendance, and the fallout with Sadao Nagata sent the JWA into, or solely down to Rikidozan’s ego, that match never happened. Azumafuji was reportedly generous during his JWA tenure, lending money to fellow wrestlers even though he wasn’t paid much better than them. In the second half of 1958, he led the locker room in their attempts to press Rikidozan for better wages. However, in what accomplice Surugaumi would later call betrayal, Azumafuji decided to retire after getting nothing but some money and smooth talk from Rikidozan. The papers printed the cover story that he had suffered a hairline fracture in his elbow after slipping in his bathroom. In 1959, Azumafuji took a sumo commentary job with Fuji Television, which he would hold until 1966. In addition to writing a sumo column for Nikkan Sports until 1971, he ran a successful consumer loan firm and managed a restaurant (albeit to less success). He died of colon cancer in 1973. [Credit goes to a two-part profile (part 1, part 2) in the defunct Sumo Fan Magazine, written by Joe Kuroda, for virtually all of the information here that doesn’t pertain to puroresu.]
  3. KinchStalker

    Joe Higuchi

    Joe Higuchi (ジョー樋口) Profession: Wrestler, Referee Real name: Kanji Higuchi (樋口寛治) Professional names: Kanji Higuchi, Joe Higuchi Life: 1/18/1929-11/8/2010 Born: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan Career: 1954-1997 Height/Weight: 178cm/100kg (5’10”/220 lbs.) Signature moves: unknown Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH (as authority figure) Titles: none Summary: Joe Higuchi was one of puroresu’s greatest referees and a beacon of hospitality for foreign talent. An athletic child, Kanji Higuchi claimed that he was encouraged to pick up judo by the leader of a kendo club, after Kanji lost his temper during a kendo match and tossed his shinai aside to grapple his opponent and take their mask. Higuchi stuck with judo through junior high, but after the war broke out, he was mobilized for factory work and could not concentrate on it. Higuchi also states that he very nearly died during a bombing raid as his factory was targeted; fortunately, Higuchi had skipped work that day to listen to a jazz record his friend owned. Higuchi entered university in April 1945, but with his country’s surrender that August, martial arts clubs would be banned in the early days of the occupation. This did not mean that judo itself was outlawed, though, and after Higuchi won a prefectural competition, a Japanese-American soldier named George Hamaguchi offered Kanji a job teaching judo to American servicemen. Higuchi initially refused, but Hamaguchi was insistent, and Kanji would be convinced when he saw the quality of the facility. It was during this time that Higuchi learned English, and his connection to the US military kept him well-fed despite scarce supplies. When his frequent visits to the military gymnasium resulted in his expulsion from university, Hamaguchi got him employed. It was while working with the military that Higuchi attended one of the Torii Oasis Shriners Club shows of 1951. Headed by William F. Marquat, the last of Douglas MacArthur’s Bataan Boys to remain stationed in Japan after Truman relieved MacArthur of his command, the club had arranged a deal with Hawaii wrestling promoter Al Karasick to run a series of professional wrestling shows to entertain the troops and raise funds for a charity drive to help children who had been crippled by the war. This tour is most famous for having featured Rikidozan's professional wrestling debut. My source states that Higuchi saw one of the shows which also featured exhibition fights with the soon-to-retire Joe Louis, which would make it one of five shows between October 18 and November 11; assuming he was stationed in Osaka, it would have been the November 25 show at the Osaka Stadium. Left: Higuchi and Yuichi Deguchi in an Osaka parade, during their time in the All Japan Pro Wrestling Association. [Photo credit: G Spirits Vol. 62] After the occupation officially ended in 1952, Higuchi remained employed by the US military. However, he decided to leave his job despite familial objections to apprentice under Toshio Yamaguchi, who formed the regional All Japan Pro Wrestling Association in Osaka. While no AJPWA records exist for this timeframe, Higuchi later stated that he debuted at a Matsuzaka show in May 1955. Due to his bilinguality, and the promotion’s reliance on hiring locally stationed or living American servicemen as opponents, Higuchi was working as a referee even this early. In 1956, the Association officially disbanded when local Yakuza boss (of the Sarae-gumi gang) Shotaro Matsuyama withdrew his support for health reasons. Higuchi was one of the core members who remained with Yamaguchi, relocating to Toshio’s hometown of Mishima to run shows in poverty as Yamaguchi Dojo. Higuchi later recalled that he had eaten three meals a day in Osaka, but during his Yamaguchi Dojo period, he was forced to subsist on udon noodles cooked with seawater broth in an aluminum basin. Higuchi was one of the participants in the Japan Championship League tournament, an October interpromotional tour organized by the JWA. This tour is generally considered to have been an effort for the JWA to delegitimize their regional competitors (and/or scout talent worth poaching from them), and there were multiple shoot incidents, particularly in the first show (which was closed off to the public and media). Higuchi managed to place third in the light heavyweight bracket. The following year, Higuchi was one of five regional wrestlers hired by the JWA; the others were fellow Yamaguchi Dojo men Michiaki Yoshimura, Yuichi Deguchi, and Hideyuki Nagasawa, and Asia Pro Wrestling’s Kiyotaba Otsubo. Unlike Yoshimura, who was briefly pushed as the top wrestler in the company on short-lived weekly television shows (these were an attempt to make up for the revenue lost by cutting ties with Sadao Nagata, the live entertainment don on whom they had wholly depended to book house shows), Higuchi was an undercarder and stayed there. However, when Rikidozan learned he was fluent in English, Higuchi began pulling double duty as a handler for foreign talent. He drew upon the culinary knowledge he had gathered during his work on military bases to provide American wrestlers with a taste of home when touring provincial markets, keeping them fed on steak, potatoes, soup, and salad. Higuchi’s cooking would gain enough of a reputation that he even cooked for Rikidozan. Despite his usefulness backstage, though, Higuchi decided to retire in 1960 due to his lack of progress between the ropes. He tried to run some sort of water business in Osaka, but it failed, and he returned to the JWA in a backstage capacity in 1963. Joe’s job was to look after foreign talent and keep them in condition to perform. Over the decades, some would not listen, and Joe was forced to earn their respect.1 Joe did not become a JWA referee until 1966. This happened because head ref Oki Shikina was arrested for illegal firearm possession, leaving Yusef Turk and Yonetaro Tanaka as the only ones in the position. Michiaki Yoshimura remembered that Higuchi had experience in the role from their time in the AJPWA, so he ordered him to take the position. In an era where foreign heels in puroresu frequently assaulted officials, Joe focused exclusively on training his bumping skills. He became so good that Giant Baba remarked that he was better at ukemi than when he was a wrestler, and word of his performances quickly spread. In 1967, Higuchi was invited by several American promoters to work with them. Joe took them up on these offers, honing his skills and building relationships. As the BI-gun era of the JWA progressed, factions began to form behind Baba and Inoki. This extended to the referees, as Turk officiated Inoki’s matches while Oki officiated Baba’s. As the JWA entered the post-coup malaise of 1972, Higuchi eventually decided to leave the company, and Michiaki Yoshimura did not try to stop him (he himself was planning to retire soon). Higuchi had settled on working in the States, but when he asked JWA liaison officer Ryozo Yonezawa to procure a work visa, another opportunity arose. Unbeknownst to most, Yonezawa had decided to follow Baba in forming a new organization, and when he relayed this to Baba, Higuchi received an offer to join what would become AJPW. Higuchi had started a family by this time, so he was grateful to have a domestic job offer, but he had already been told by American promoters to “come immediately”. Joe apologized and shaved his head as a display of contrition, but when he explained the situation, they laughed and said “If Baba has set up an office there, it will be easier for us to continue our relationship”. Despite the amiable reaction, Joe would keep the skinhead look for the rest of his life. Right: Higuchi officiates Jack Brisco's June 14, 1974 (the caption is incorrect) NWA title defense against Dory Funk Jr. in the Kiel Auditorium. In its early years, AJPW continued the JWA tradition of hiring American referees. Initially booked on a tour-by-tour basis, All Japan settled on JWA referee Jerry Murdock after the latter folded. Murdock would remain with the company until he was fired in summer 1976, but Higuchi was treated as a head referee from the start. In 1974, Joe received perhaps the greatest honor of his career when he accompanied Baba to the States. On June 14, Baba arrived in St. Louis to defend his PWF Heavyweight title against Dick Murdoch in the Kiel Auditorium. Unbeknownst to Higuchi, who had left his referee outfit in his hotel room, NWA president Sam Muchnick was intent on having Joe referee an NWA World Heavyweight title match between Jack Brisco & Dory Funk Jr. He rushed to his hotel and returned in the proper attire to officiate one of Brisco and Dory’s many 60-minute draws of the period. I believe some notes on Higuchi’s style are appropriate, considering trends I have seen in the evaluation of his work (such as a couple comments on his Cagematch profile). Kyohei Wada recalled in his 2004 autobiography that it took time for him to appreciate Joe’s style. While Joe was clearly the most fleet-footed referee in Japan during his peak, Wada noted that he “barely moved” much of the time. Eventually, though, Wada realized that that was the point. In an era so influenced by the classical NWA style, in which much of wrestling was on the mat and so much more importance was placed on transitions than spots, Higuchi knew that in order to keep the crowd engaged, he had to be not independent of the wrestlers, but contrapuntal *to* them. When both wrestlers were standing, sure, he barely moved, but whenever one of them got a headlock takeover or arm lock, Joe hopped around better than anyone. Journalist Kagehiro Osano has stated that Joe, like his successor, was the perfect referee for a ringside photographer, as he was careful never to examine a hold from the most obvious angle and obstruct the best shot. Finally, there is the matter of Joe’s count speed. It’s a reasonably legitimate three seconds, but such verisimilitude is dissonant with the rhythms of post-NWA wrestling. If one believes that it is fair to judge referees against each other across time like wrestlers, then I would at least suggest framing one's evaluation of Joe in the context of the product of AJPW’s first phase, and not solely judging him on his twilight work. Higuchi remained AJPW’s head referee for a decade. In the main event of the Tokyo Sports show of August 31, 1979, in which BI-gun mounted a one-night reunion to face Abdullah the Butcher & Tiger Jeet Singh, Higuchi’s assignment as referee was explicitly approved by Inoki. His position only started to shift in the Japan Pro era of the mid-1980s, whose AJPW vs JPW matches would be officiated by Tiger Hattori, at Riki Choshu’s request. In the late 80s, Wada would be promoted to a co-lead referee spot to fulfill Hattori’s function of officiating native vs native matches. As the Tsuruta vs Tenryu feud gave way to the Chosedaigun-Tsurutagun and Four Pillars eras, Higuchi handed off those duties to Wada. By Joe’s own admission, he was incapable of adopting the “dancing” count style that the clutch kickouts of those matches necessitated. Perhaps as a result, AJPW’s native vs foreigner matches were slow to adopt the modern nearfall. Besides, Joe’s hands were severely damaged from his long career, leaving him incapable of using chopsticks. Left: Higuchi in a press conference with Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji. In 1997, Higuchi decided to retire. He initially declined to receive a retirement ceremony, as he believed it was not a referee’s place to overshadow the wrestlers; in his late career, crowds had taken to chanting his name. Baba insisted, though, so Higuchi got a grand sendoff and officiated Mitsuharu Misawa’s March 1, 1997 Triple Crown defense against Steve Williams. Joe received a ceremony at the following Budokan show, on April 19. He remained with the company afterward as a foreign handler, leaving after the May 2, 1999 Tokyo Dome show. At Ryu Nakata’s insistence, though, Joe would join Pro Wrestling NOAH as an auditor. He would become the chairman of their GHC committee, and remained with the promotion for a decade. In 2003, he would return to the ring to referee a Rikidozan memorial match. Joe was hospitalized in September 2010 for lung cancer, and died on November 8.
  4. KinchStalker

    Great Kojika

    Great Kojika (グレート小鹿) Real name: Shinya Koshika (小鹿信也) Professional names: Shinja Koshika, Raizo Koshika, Great Kojika, Dory Boy, Kung Fu Lee,, Masked GK Life: 4/28/1942- Born: Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan Career: 1963-1986; 1995- Height/Weight: 185cm/115kg Signature moves: Knee drop, sleeper hold Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Big Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: NWA World Tag Team [CWA] (1x, w/Motoshi Okuma); NWA Beat the Champ Television Title [NWA Los Angeles] (2x); NWA Americas Heavyweight [NWA Los Angeles] (1x); NWA Americas Tag Team [2x, w/John Tolos]; All Asia Tag Team [JWA/AJPW] (4x; 1x w/Gantetsu Matsuoka, 4x w/Motoshi Okuma]; NWA Western States Heavyweight [Western States Sports] (1x); Sea of Japan Certified World 6-Man Tag Team [DDT] (1x, w/Riho & Mr. 6); UWA World 6-Man Tag Team Title [DDT] (1x, w/Riho & Mr. 6); Jiyūgaoka 6-Person Tag Team [DDT] (1x, w/Riho & Mr. 6); KING OF FREEDOM World Tag [Pro Wrestling FREEDOMS] (1x, w/The Winger); Yokohama Shopping Street 6-Man Tag Team [BJW] (1x, w/Kankuro Hoshino & Masato Inaba); Niigata Undisputed [Niigata Pro Wrestling] (1x); Niigata Tag Team [Niigata Pro Wrestling] (1x, w/Shima Shigeno) Summary: The Great Kojika’s six-decade career brought him from one of the most decorated tag wrestlers in 1970s puroresu to an unlikely elder statesman of the Japanese indie scene. Shinya Koshika was forced to peddle to support his family from an early age after his father went blind. After graduating from junior high, he got a job at a canning factory, but left at 17 after unsuccessfully striking for better wages. As he tells it in a 2019 article, he was on a ferry to visit his uncle in Saitama when he had a chance encounter with Chiyonoyama. Koshika joined Chiyonoyama’s Dewanoumi stable, which at this point had bloated to 120 members and three stablemasters, and debuted in September 1959. He originally intended to stay for just two years but was convinced to wrestle for three so that he would be eligible for a ¥20000 (¥100000 in 2022) retirement package. After this, Koshika worked at a store until he became interested in joining the JWA, which he eventually did around November. Early in Koshika’s training, on February 4, 1963, an accident in a sparring session fractured Tokio Kido’s seventh cervical vertebrae and left him paralyzed for life; however, Kido reportedly did not blame Koshika for the incident and cited his own carelessness. Koshika’s earliest recorded match was on October 13, 1963, in which he lost to Kakutaro Koma. In 1964, he was rechristened Raijo Koshika for a time by Toyonobori. In his early career, Koshika served as the valet of Michiaki Yoshimura. Left: Kojika during his time in Los Angeles. In 1967, shortly before he and Motoshi Okuma were sent on an American expedition, Koshika took a fan’s advice that “Kojika” was easier for a Japanese fan to chant than “Koshika” and changed his ring name. The two would work in the Tennessee and Georgia territories as the Rising Suns before Okuma left in 1968 due to homesickness. Kojika, meanwhile, would remain abroad. He wrestled as a heel in the Florida, Detroit, and Los Angeles territories, and won multiple titles in the latter; in December 1969, he defeated Mil Mascaras in a cage match to win the territory’s top title for a month. Kojika has frequently recounted a night in May 1970 when he and Antonio Inoki went drinking in Los Angeles, and Inoki told him about his ambition to reform the JWA, over a year before the attempted coup. Kojika returned home for the JWA’s first NWA Tag Team League tour that autumn, teaming with Michiaki Yoshimura in the eponymous tournament. He would remain with the company for the rest of its life. While sympathizing with Inoki’s intentions and supporting a managerial reform, Kojika did not approve of the attempted coup d’etat. Early in New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s life, Kojika stormed their office with a katana to threaten Inoki. While Giant Baba asked him to make sure that those who wished to follow to start All Japan Pro Wrestling were not harassed, Akio Sato has claimed that Kojika sabotaged the fledgling promotion by going to Fritz von Erich to ensure his loyalty to the JWA, which would have forced Baba to align with Dory Funk Sr. [As a personal note, Fumi Saito expressed suspicion of this claim when I brought it up to him once, asking how Sato would know such a thing. Also, while Terry Funk's autobiography suffers from some errors when it comes to the Japanese side of things, he does not mention this as a factor in Baba's decision. I thought it was worth citing here, but do treat it with a grain of salt until I can find more corroboration.] In the promotion’s last days, Kojika won the All Asia Tag Team titles with Gantetsu Matsuoka, for what wouldn’t be the last time. As one of the nine wrestlers who remained with the JWA until the very end, Kojika signed a three-year contract with Nippon Television. Baba had been forced by the network and AJPW board of directors to acquire them (so that the failed NJPW-JWA merger would not have another chance to succeed), and regarded them as an impediment to his plans for All Japan. Kojika endeared himself to Baba both by rallying the talent and by voluntarily becoming his chauffeur. He and Okuma reunited for a handful of tag matches. However, he was soon “shocked” by Baba’s order for him to go on another excursion. Kojika arrived in Amarillo as Kung Fu Lee in September, which I suspect was done to fill Tomomi Tsuruta’s spot. (We know that Tsuruta’s training had been sped up from what was originally planned, in order to sell him as a prodigy worth pushing above the ex-JWA talent.) This run included a Western States Heavyweight title victory against Terry Funk in October, as well as multiple shots with various partners at the Funks’ NWA International Tag Team titles. Kojika returned to AJPW in autumn 1974. Upon Okuma’s return in 1975, the two reformed their tag team, now the Gokudō Combi. In March 1976, after former JWA president Junzo Hasegawa announced that the All Asia singles and tag team titles would be revived with the NWA’s approval—an obvious attempt to delegitimize NJPW’s Asia League tournament—Gokudō accompanied Hasegawa on a trip to Korea. As Oki and Kojika had been the last champions of their respective titles, both were given the right to challenge for the vacant belts again. On March 25 in Seoul, Kojika called on his experience as a heel to give Oki a worthy challenge for the singles title. The following day, also in Seoul, Gokudō defeated the young Korean duo of Oh Tae-kyun and Hong Mu-ung for the first of four All Asia tag reigns together. As his Nippon TV contract ended with the fiscal year on March 31, Kojika signed an AJPW contract. Kojika & Okuma’s first reign ended in October against Jerry & Ted Oates, who served as transitional champions towards Akihisa Takachiho & Samson Kutsuwada. Gokudō won the belts directly from the native team in June 1977, but would be forced to defend them in interpromotional matches against the IWE that fall. They handily defeated the team of Animal Hamaguchi & Goro Tsurumi on November 3, but when they entered enemy territory on the 6th, they lost to Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue. The IWE held the titles until Gokudō won them back in the AJPW/IWE/Kim Il mini-tour of February 1978. This reign would end in vacation when the team failed to defend the belts, but in May 1979, they beat the Kiwis for their fourth, last, and longest reign. Kojika & Okuma held the titles for two years until a loss to Kevin & David von Erich. Kojika continued to wrestle for AJPW for five years. From what he says, it appears that the inciting incident behind his 1987 retirement came in July 1986. When the Summer Action Series I tour ended with an outdoor show in Kyoto, Kojika hurt his neck in a Gokudō tag against Mighty Inoue & Samson Fuyuki. While X-rays showed that Kojika had been nearly paralyzed by a piledriver, when Kojika told Baba the pain he was in, Baba allegedly responded coldly with “You can go home.” Kojika officially retired with a 1987 ceremony and began working in his hometown as an event promoter. Right: a 1997 trading card of Kojika during his "Cosplay President" phase. The second phase of Kojika’s career began outside the ring, when Genichiro Tenryu tapped him to become a sales representative for WAR. This made Kojika responsible for booking venues. While I do not know if Kojika left because of this, his departure lines up chronologically with the internal backlash to Tenryu’s appointment of brother-in-law Masatomo Takei as company president, which led Takashi Ishikawa to break away. In December 1994, Kojika convened with Kendo Nagasaki (that is, fellow JWA remnant Kazuo Sakurada) and Eiji Tosaka, the president of the recently collapsed NOW, to form Big Japan Pro-Wrestling (Dai Nippon Puroresu) in Yokohama. Building a roster with the cooperation of Ishikawa’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling and IWA Japan, the organization held its first show on March 26, 1995. According to Kojika, Michiaki Yoshimura stepped in to help his former valet by making sure that Big Japan would not run into any trouble booking shows. Kojika initially stayed out of the ring, but due to sluggish attendance he started to wrestle again, beginning with an angle against Tarzan Goto. Kojika would garner the nickname “Cosplay President” for his penchant for wrestling in costumes (Iron Chef and Golga 13 being a couple). He would even appear in NJPW’s annual January 4 Tokyo Dome show in 1997, donning a tuxedo and tactical vest to wrestle Masa Saito. Kojika would step away from the ring as BJW developed, focusing largely on side ventures such as a chanko restaurant in Sendai. However, BJW general manager Tosaka disliked these pursuits and obstructed them. As Kojika approached his seventies, he transferred BJW ownership to Tosaka and began to work dates across a variety of promotions, trading on the novelty of being Japan’s oldest wrestler. He has won a variety of indie titles in this period. Most of them are tag titles, naturally, but in August 2018 he won BJW’s own Niigata Openweight title to become the oldest Japanese wrestler to win a singles title.
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    Mr. Chin

    Mr. Chin (ミスター珍) Real name: Yuichi Deguchi Professional names: Yuichi Deguchi, Mr. Chin, Mr. Yoto, Mr. Kamikaze Life: 10/12/1932-6/25/1995 Born: Takarazuka, Hyogo, Japan Career: 1954-1995 Height/Weight: 168cm/83kg (5’6”/183 lbs.) Signature moves: weapon attack Promotions: AJPW Association, Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, International Wrestling Enterprise, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling Titles: NWA World Tag Team [CWF] (1x, w/Tojo Yamamoto) Summary: Mr. Chin had one of the most interesting careers in puroresu, a forty-year trajectory from puroresu’s first regional promotion to FMW. Yuichi Deguchi was a judoka working for the Hyogo prefecture’s riot police unit when he joined the International Judo Association in 1950. Often called “Pro Judo” for short, this was an entertainment organization formed by judoka Tatsukuma Ushijima [Wikipedia]. Ushijima had objected to Kodokan’s recent shift in strategy—promoting judo as an amateur sport, in an effort to have it approved for reintegration into the school curriculum—and wanted to build a new path for impoverished judoka to make a living as sports-entertainers. The Association was short-lived, but its provincial tours and promotional strategies have been cited as an influence on the puroresu industry that it preceded. A few years after the Association folded, Deguchi joined the All Japan Pro Wrestling Association. Headed by fellow Pro Judo alum Toshio Yamaguchi, the AJPWA was an Osaka-based regional promotion that had capitalized on the publicity surrounding the nascent Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, running shows before the latter officially began tours and even beating it to the punch with puroresu’s first television broadcast. The Association could only afford to hire local American servicemen as foreign wrestlers, with the exception of P.Y. Chang. Deguchi teamed up with the future Tojo Yamamoto. The AJPWA officially folded when local Yakuza boss Shotaru Matsuyama withdrew from his duties as president and chief sponsor for health reasons. Deguchi was among those who remained with Yamaguchi, holding events in poverty as Yamaguchi Dojo in Toshio’s hometown of Mishima. Deguchi participated in the JWA’s interpromotional Japan Championship Series in October 1956; the following year, Deguchi was one of four Dojo wrestlers hired by the JWA, alongside Michiaki Yoshimura, Kanji Higuchi, and Hideyuki Nagasawa. In keeping with his character when working with Chang, Deguchi worked the gimmick of a heel named Mr. Chin, donning Chinese clothes while sporting a headband with the Japanese flag, on which kamikaze (神風) was written. Chin wore geta which he used as a weapon, and also weaponized mouthwash in an early antecedent of the poison mist tradition. In 1961, Chin was seriously injured by an errant big boot from Giant Baba. He retired for two months, but was encouraged to return to wrestling by a nurse whom he would marry. Upon his return, Chin bit Baba’s chest in a revenge match, leaving a scar that remained for the rest of his life. He would leave the JWA in 1964 after a stomach ulcer, and found work as an actor and television personality, but he returned to the business when he joined the IWE in 1970. Chin would go on an expedition to North America, working in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and even Calgary. It was here that, as Mr. Kamikaze, he reunited with Tojo Yamamoto, and the two won tag gold in a couple territories. However, it was during this period that he developed diabetes. Returning to the IWE in 1976, Deguchi was booked as a foreign heel named Mr. Yoto, which I suspect was done to cut costs. He was inactive for a time, but when Goro Tsurumi and Katzuso Ooiyama formed the Independent Gurentai heel faction in 1980, Deguchi revived the Mr. Chin character to serve as their manager. He would also wrestle for the promotion in its last days. On the IWE’s final show, which took place in a school playground on August 9, 1981, Chin lost to Hiromichi Fuyuki by disqualification. After this, Chin worked abroad in the US, southeast Asia, and even the Middle East until the late 80s. However, this would not be the end of his story. In 1993, the 60-year old Chin debuted for FMW. Despite requiring frequent dialysis at this point, Chin would consistently wrestle in (frequently comedic) undercard matches for about a year. In his final match on July 31, 1994, Chin worked as the spoof gimmick Jinsei Chinzaki against frequent opponent Gosaku Goshogawara, working as Undertaker Gosaku. Chin died of chronic renal failure almost a year later, on June 26, 1995.
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    Mitsu Hirai

    Mitsu Hirai (ミツ・ヒライ) Real name: Mitsuaki Hirai (平井光明) Professional names: Mitsuaki Hirai, Shingo Hirai, Mitsu Hirai, Shintaro Fuji Life: 2/15/1943-10/28/2003 Born: Kobe, Hyogo, Japan Career: 1959-1978 Height/Weight: 179cm/104kg Signature moves: Sunset flip, dropkick Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: NWA Mid-America Southern Tag Team [NWA Mid-America] (2x, w/Tojo Yamamoto) Summary: Mitsu Hirai worked for two decades as a midcarder and coach. Mitsuaki Hirai joined the JWA immediately after graduating from junior high. Debuting in 1959, Hirai wrestled under his real name while working as Rikidozan’s valet. In August 1963, Hirai began working as Shingo Hirai, and by this time, it appears that Hirai had settled into a coaching role for young talent. The Great Kabuki has spoken very highly of him in this regard, claiming that Hirai watched and critiqued their matches, and did not use corporal punishment. In September 1964, Hirai left on an American expedition, where he would briefly hold tag gold with Tojo Yamamoto before returning twelve months later. In 1969, Hirai would leave on a Singaporean excursion, where he found popularity as Shintaro Fuji. After his return, the perennial midcarder would get the biggest opportunity of his life. When the JWA held the first NWA World Tag Team League, the first major annual tag team tournament in puroresu, it was decided that Antonio Inoki & Giant Baba would not work with each other due to Baba’s contractual exclusivity with Nippon Television. Hirai thus became Baba’s partner in the tournament. The Showa Puroresu fanzine recalls a claim that Hirai harbored a personal dislike towards Inoki and spearheaded the effort to have him expelled after the 1971 coup attempt. Hirai would remain with the JWA until its closure, signing a three-year contract with Nippon TV to work with AJPW. While he never took a head coaching position, comments made by Genichiro Tenryu in a G Spirits feature suggest that he may have still had some coaching input. As Akihisa Takachiho (that is, Kabuki) took over head coaching duties for a time after Masio Koma’s death, this would make sense. After his 1978 retirement, Hirai ran a coffee shop in Kobe, which had a corner dedicated to Rikidozan. He operated the store until the building was destroyed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, and died eight years later. Hirai’s eldest son is former SWS/WAR/AJPW wrestler Nobukazu Hirai.
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    Mammoth Suzuki

    Mammoth Suzuki (マンモス鈴木) Profession: Wrestler, Referee Real name: Yukio Suzuki (鈴木幸雄) Professional names: Mammoth Suzuki, Gorilla Suzuki Life: 2/10/1941-5/24/1991 Born: Sendai, Miyagi, Japan Career: 1959-1981 Height/Weight: 193cm/120kg (6’4”/260lbs.) Signature moves: Chop Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: none Summary: Mammoth Suzuki was one of early puroresu’s biggest busts, starkly disappointing high expectations from Rikidozan. Yukio Suzuki joined the JWA in 1959. Alongside Shohei Baba, Kanji Inoki, and Kintaro Oki, Suzuki was part of the first quartet in puroresu to be nicknamed the shitenno (Four Pillars). As Yoshinosato later recalled, Rikidozan thought that Suzuki was the likeliest among them to succeed. In July 1961, Suzuki embarked on an excursion alongside Baba and Yoshinosato. He would find work in both Los Angeles and New York, but returned home early without Rikidozan’s permission. (Profiles of Suzuki in various issues of the Showa Puroresu zine allude to “problems with women” during his time in New York.) In his first match back, he wrestled Inoki. Inoki’s autobiography as cited by Japanese Wikipedia claims that he “ruined” this match in some way, to Rikidozan’s anger. Due to his dislike of practice, Suzuki was apparently beaten by Rikidozan on several occasions, and his boss once broke a wooden sword on him. He continued to disappoint until, in a remarkably petty display, Rikidozan renamed him Gorilla Suzuki in the middle of the 1963 World League tour. Suzuki retired that year. Left: Suzuki during his time as an IWE referee. [Source: Deluxe Pro Wrestling, January 1980] Suzuki returned to wrestling at the invitation of Toyonobori when Tokyo Pro Wrestling started up. He stayed on board as it merged with the IWE, wrestling on the undercards (sometimes in a mask) until retiring in 1969. After that, Suzuki remained with the company as a referee until its closure, officiating its final match on August 9, 1981. He also found work as an actor from the late sixties onward. Suzuki died of internal disease in 1991.
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    Surugaumi (駿河海) Real name: Mitsuo Sugiyama (杉山光男) Professional names: Surugaumi Life: 1/1/1920-11/24/2010 Born: Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan Career: 1953-1959 Height/Weight: 186cm/105kg (6'1"/231lbs.) Signature moves: Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA Titles: Japanese Junior Heavyweight [JWA] (1x) Summary: The first junior heavyweight champion in puroresu history, Surugaumi was a charter member of the JWA whose disputes with Rikidozan shortened his career. Mitsuo Sugiyama entered sumo through the Kansai Kakuriki Association, an organization which was formed by Saburo Tenryu after he left the Japan Sumo Association. (This was rooted in the 1932 Chunjuen Incident, in which Tenryu led 32 rikishi in a strike against the Association.) Kansai Kakuriki folded in December 1937, and Sugiyama debuted for the Japan Sumo Association’s Dewanoumi stable in January 1938, but I do not know if this was actually his tournament debut, or if Kansai Kakuriki’s tournament results were simply lost. Adopting the shikona of Surugaumi in May 1939, he rose through the ranks in the following years, nicknamed the “blue devil” to the promising Shionoumi’s “red devil”. However, a knee injury derailed his career, and Surugaumi retired after the November 1945 tournament. After leaving sumo, Surugaumi managed a small restaurant for years until he was invited to join the nascent JWA by Rikidozan. According to The Face of the Box Office, a 2004 book on JWA supporter and live entertainment don Sadao Nagata, Surugaumi assisted in the construction of the Japan Pro Wrestling Center in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, which contained the JWA’s original dojo. As one of its charter members, Surugaumi would become the JWA’s first junior heavyweight champion in 1956, when the JWA organized three interpromotional brackets in the junior, light, and heavyweight classes. In the final match of the bracket, Surugaumi defeated Michiaki Yoshimura, star of the Yamaguchi Dojo promotion (which was basically what remained of the All Japan Pro Wrestling Association after their yakuza boss sponsor withdrew his support). However, Yoshimura himself would be hired by Rikidozan the following year for three million yen, and Surugaumi’s spot was soon taken. Surugaumi and Yoshimura were early fixtures of puroresu’s first weekly television program, Nippon Television’s Puroresu Fight Man Hour. On its very first episode, he lost the title to Yoshimura, who at that point was billed as a freelancer but was already hired. Yoshimura, not Rikidozan, would become the star of the program, in an arrangement which G Spirits writer Etsuji Koizumi compares to the role that Verne Gagne had played vis-à-vis Lou Thesz in the “Chicago model” of the early 1950s. Yoshimura was also pegged as the star of another weekly program planned to tape in Osaka (where the All Japan Association had been based). Both Puroresu Fight Man Hour and the Osaka Pro-Wrestling Hour (which debuted in December) were attempts to compensate for the massive financial hit that the JWA had taken by cutting ties with Sadao Nagata, on whom they had solely depended to book house shows. This is important to note because, according to the first part of Etsuji Koizumi's biographical serial about Yoshimura (G Spirits Vol. 62), it led to the end of Surugaumi’s career. Alongside Azumafuji, Surugaumi persistently nagged Rikidozan about payments, until Rikidozan ordered Yoshimura to shoot on Surugaumi’s bad knee during a match. Both Surugaumi and Azumafuji officially retired in 1959, and Surugaumi ended up never receiving some of his money. Sugiyama died of intestinal obstruction in 2010. At that point, he was the oldest surviving man in puroresu, but he has since been passed by Kokichi Endo. who as of writing is presumed still alive at 96.
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    Toyonobori (豊登) Real name: Michiharu Sadano (定野道春) 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.
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    Motoshi Okuma

    Motoshi Okuma (大熊元司) 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 Baba's girlfriend, Motoko Ito, 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. Left: Okuma in 1974, during his Canadian excursion. [Source: Monthly Pro Wrestling, August 1974] 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. The duo 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.
  11. KinchStalker

    Rocky Hata

    Rocky Hata (ロッキー羽田) Real name: Mitsuo Hata (羽田光男) 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. Left: Hata and Genichiro Tenryu combine their strength to whip Giant Baba during a match in the 1977 Real World Tag League (December 5, 1977). 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.
  12. KinchStalker

    Takashi Yamada

    Takashi Yamada (山田隆) 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.
  13. KinchStalker

    Kokichi Endo

    Kokichi Endo (遠藤幸吉) 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 the JWA'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. Left: Endo and Rikidozan with singer Hibari Misora. 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 the JWA's charter members. 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. According to a 2018 Weekly Fight article, he spoke the best English of all the senior executives. As for his politicking, though, he 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.* Right: Endo (right) and Yoshinosato pose with Sam Muchnick in August 1967. 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. He also 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, including as a commentator, a judge for the Ali fight, and the recipient of an attack by former valet Umanosuke Ueda in a memorable backstage segment. *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.
  14. 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
  15. KinchStalker

    Masio Koma

    Masio Koma (マシオ駒) Real name: Hideo Koma (駒秀雄) 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. 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 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.
  16. 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. ****
  17. 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
  18. 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,
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.