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  1. Quarterly puroresu magazine G Spirits (a spiritual successor to Gong, involving ex-Gong editors Kagehiro Osano and Tsutomu Shimizu) serialized an interview with Naoki Otsuka. I only have the third part of it in issue 58, which mostly covers the span from after the Ali-Inoki match through early 1978 (stopping right as Fujinami returns). I transcribed this because it was on hand and I wanted material on the company's financial situation for a planned blog series on the 1983 coup and what led to it. If I really want to do that series right, I’ll need to put it on hold until I can transcribe later parts of the interview. I have already transcribed a 1984 Weekly Pro article by Otsuka which convinces me that he will be able to discuss Anton Hi-Cel and sister business Anton Trading in more detail.1 It was still going as of the latest issue, for a total of at least eight parts. I have placed an order for the issues with parts 4-7, as they were in stock at Toudoukan, although I do not know whether I will give those this same treatment or save them for the coup series. But even just these ten pages contain the most detailed insight I’ve ever read on what it was like to run a puroresu promotion at the ground level. First, I should give some background. Naoki Otsuka was originally NJPW’s ring announcer, but he transferred into sales as Inoki’s brother-in-law, Tetsuo Baisho, took that job. The interview indicates that Otsuka had been the deputy manager of the sales department, and that he had been charge of sales in Osaka, Okinawa, and Sapporo, but this part of the interview begins as he was transferred to the general manager (or simply “sales manager”). In 1983, Otsuka was the one who discovered that Inoki had misappropriated company funds to cover his losses in Anton Hi-Cel. He would later become famous as the president of Japan Pro Wrestling. (See the JPW posts elsewhere on this subforum for a rundown on what happened there, although keep in mind that I intend to expand that substantially with the coup series…whenever I can make that happen.) --- POST-ALI RESTRUCTURING The Ali-Inoki match worsened a deficit NJPW already had. On top of Ali’s steep fee, it had been expected that NJPW would receive $1 million in revenue from closed-circuit broadcasts, but the real payoff was much lower. Inoki was demoted from president to chairman for a time, while Hisashi Shinma was demoted from general manager of the sales department to a regular employee. New Japan would demand compensation from Ali, claiming that the revenue had been damaged by the rule change his camp had enforced, and Ali would sue for breach of contract. Inoki promoted Otsuka to sales manager, choosing him over fellow employee Takeji Fukunaga because of his stronger backbone. Shinma was still considered an informal boss by the sales department, who continued to refer to him by his old title. Network executives, referred to by a begrudging Inoki as “occupying forces”, took positions in NJPW. The interview identifies one of them as Kohei Nagasato, who had been the head of NET TV’s sports department. This interview does not specify when the network executives were no longer assigned to the company, implying that it lasted past the range of time this part covers. Just know that Nagasato would return to an executive position in NJPW after the network takeover of 1983. It was around this time that Inoki discreetly registered a company. New Japan Pro-Wrestling Kogyo Co. was registered in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward with a capital of three million yen. The locale was because he could not register the company in Shibuya, and his in-laws lived in Nerima. Inoki had the idea that, if he could register this company in a different ward, he could transfer all the wrestlers to this side company in the event of a full network takeover or other major dispute. Interestingly, this was not the same New Japan Pro-Wrestling Entertainment company that Otsuka was put in charge of in 1983. That company’s capital was insufficient, so a new company of the same name was formed. Otsuka states that he did not know about the original Entertainment company until “well after the fact”. SALES SHOW WOES When Otsuka was promoted, he discovered the extent to which “uncollected money” had been weighing their ledgers down. Inoki told him that he would be able to collect “about 30 million yen a year”, but then Otsuka got into the books and found that New Japan had been losing 100 million per year. The puroresu touring model was mostly based on two kinds of shows: the company-run “independent shows”, and locally purchased “sales shows”. One always wanted to get as many sales shows as possible, because independent shows required you to cover the operating costs, as well as send company people to facilitate them. Sales shows were the majority of the problem. The contract for a sales show stated that half of the fee was to be paid at the time the contract was signed, but this advance pay had rarely been honored unless it was a first-time client. Some promoters did not even pay this fee on the day of the show, or they would do so with dishonored bills. Furthermore, Otsuka states that some promoters pocketed the second half when they made a loss. One of Otsuka’s measures to combat this was to make a small change on the contract. Originally it had read “Representative Director Kanji Inoki”, and it would have named Otsuka as a representative director as well, but Otsuka changed the title to his position of NJPW sales manager. This allowed him to be strict in collecting money, as he was now the direct contractor. If, for example, Inoki had to miss a show, this meant that Otsuka could stand firm and insist to the terms of the contract, instead of being given the runaround to ask Inoki for a discount. Otsuka never cancelled a show, but he had to threaten to do so. He even recalls one incident where a sales employee had to be assigned to the ticket booth to make sure New Japan got their cut. Over time, though, these issues decreased. Otsuka also encouraged promoters to have good relations with the company by beginning a “national promoters conference”. He would select “around ten” promoters from across the country to take an all-expenses-paid trip to Tokyo and attend Nooj’s year-end Kuramae Kokugikan show, and then receive a commemorative gift from Inoki at a Keio Plaza Hotel conference the following day. There were some problems with independent shows as well. These came down to ticket sellers who would receive two-to-three hundred tickets, sell them, and never give New Japan their cut. Otsuka says it was very difficult to get that money back. DAFUYA This actually comes later in the interview, but I think it fits better around here. Shimizu brings up the topic of scalpers, and Otsuka takes the chance to clarify the “taboo” relationship between dafuya and promoters, while getting into the nitty-gritty of selling tickets. Otsuka claims that he didn’t get involved with dafuya when he was working sales in Osaka. However, the person who asked them for advance tickets had an understanding with scalpers. The scalpers would buy advance tickets, which normally cost ¥7000, at ¥3500, and then sell the tickets at fixed prices. As sales manager, Otsuka would become more directly involved with them when overseeing shows in the Kanto/Tokyo area. When ticket sales were sluggish, Otsuka would sell one to two hundred tickets for the most expensive seats (¥7000) to dafuya at half price. The scalpers were good enough at their trade to sell those tickets at full price, but the company didn’t concern itself about losing those sales. In those cases, there were many more customers who would buy cheap tickets directly from the ticket booth. Another way that the box office would do business with scalpers hinged around standing-room-only tickets, which were regularly priced at ¥1500. There were days when the standing room was sold out but there were still empty seats, and this was not a profitable arrangement for the box office. So, they would only print around 500 SRO tickets to start with and get those sold, so that that people would be forced to buy seats despite there still being standing room. The dafuya were smart enough to ask how sales were going on a given show, and waited like hyenas for when the SRO tickets were really about to run out. Then, the scalpers would buy 50 or 100 SRO tickets. Now that the standing room tickets were sold out, the ticket booth would not offer any discount, and a seat would cost ¥3000. Meanwhile, the scalpers could mark up all those SROs to ¥2000. If a dafuya couldn’t get tickets directly, they plied their trade using “invitation tickets”, which they bought for cheap from people who couldn’t come to shows. Then, they would actually go to the venue to check where the invitation tickets would go. These always depended on what seats were available, meaning it could range from a premium ringside seat to a row on the second floor. Naturally, they would price the tickets accordingly. Both Otsuka and Shimizu recall a particular scalper, Kuro-chan. He was a tekiya (itinerant merchant) who traveled around the country. He could be seen at New Japan and All Japan shows, and Shimizu remembers that Kuro would always shoot the shit with him before shows, likely to try to get information from the press. Kuro would later become a frequent fixture at AJW shows (Otsuka did some sales work for them later on), which sold discount tickets (I’m guessing these were age-based). Kuro would buy ringside tickets, and scalp them to the girls standing in the long ticket booth line. In recent years, nuisance prevention ordinances ended the traditional dafuya – who, to be clear, could be found scalping tickets to all sorts of entertainment and sporting events – and Otsuka has heard that they now deliver tickets through the mail. BOOKING TOURS It was the sales manager’s responsibility to arrange tours. Otsuka would not begin doing so until 1977 because the company had to plan their tours by the year, due to the requirements of major venues. Otsuka gives the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium as an example; it required New Japan to submit their requested dates by the end of February. Requests for big-market shows were generally on Thursdays, which I will explain later on. “In those days, Osaka was scheduled five times a year, Sapporo two or three times, Kagoshima twice, Takamatsu twice, and so on.” The basic pattern of a NJPW tour was already in place; it would last either four or six weeks, and it would travel the Japanese archipelago in a figure-eight centered on Tokyo. Tours would begin in Korakuen Hall, and end at the Kuramae Kokugikan or Nippon Budokan. For Kuramae, sumo was the greatest priority, but venue director Akio Nakane was very friendly with the sumo association person in charge, and he would tell Otsuka the sumo schedule. Otsuka would then submit the ideal choice and one backup, and depending on the decision, the entire tour would sometimes be shifted back one week. Once the big venues were secured, it was Otsuka’s job to apply for the small and medium venues that made up each tour’s connective tissue. As gaikokujin were paid flat weekly fees, one wanted to stretch those dollars as much as one could.2 The goal was to have at least six shows booked per week, and ideally seven. The record was 1975’s 210 shows, and they aimed to reach 200 per year, although the two “martial arts shows” per year made that hard to achieve. The department would determine where they wanted to book shows, and at what price. The department would call local promoters to ask them if they wanted to do business with them at x venue on y date, or if they wanted to do a show in a market which New Japan would be passing through: for example, “Can you do Fukuyama on the day between Okayama and Hiroshima?” In order to encourage promoters to accept a show contract, a column featured which foreign wrestlers were to participate on that tour. (Osaka-based taboid Weekly Fight Magazine, which started the katsuji puroresu style of coverage that Weekly Pro would bring into the mainstream in the 1980s, appealed to hardcore fans for its willingness to leak foreign bookings multiple tours in advance. This was one way that such information would have reached them.) Otsuka states that this was a decisive factor in whether promoters would accept a contract, and that NJPW’s dearth of top gaikokujin in 1977 really bit them here. “If it was [Tiger Jeet] Singh or Andre the Giant, you could be sure that [the promoter would buy the event],” but if you didn’t have those marquee names for that tour, things could get dicey. Sometimes, the best you could get was the third type of show, the “branch show”. These represented a middle ground between the independent and sales show. The company partnered with promoters, so no one from New Japan had to go to the site. However, NJPW would take on the venue booking fee, printing costs, and other expenses, and split the rest with the promoters. Otsuka claims that, later on, he was the one who asked Masa Saito to track down Stan Hansen as a potential new foreign “ace in the hole”. Saito eventually found him “in North Carolina or Georgia”, and Hansen returned in 1979 for the second MSG Series. Promoters eventually said “if not Singh or Andre, then Hansen is fine”. (Otsuka also cites Sean Regan as a specific gaikokujin who he had wished to see return, but he had become a schoolteacher by then. Regan eventually called him in 1979 and worked a single tour.) TELEVISION Otsuka was also required to be present at all television tapings. The presence of a television crew required some seats to be stripped from a venue for the cameras, and this sometimes caused problems with the promoter. The network could not deal with on-site disputes like that, so they needed Otsuka there to set things straight. Otsuka’s central role in putting tours together and dealing with television tapings even extended to some booking influence. When Seiji Sakaguchi became vice president, he was able to “talk with him more familiarly” concerning the matches that Inoki and Kotetsu Yamamoto were booking. Otsuka would give input to them while submitting show cards to the network, suggesting that this was how TV taping dates were decided on. I mentioned earlier that big-market shows were generally booked on Thursdays, and this was why. World Pro Wrestling was broadcast live at the start of each tour and on subsequent b-show tapings, but major events were taped. Inoki was concerned about the “flow” of World Pro Wrestling, so as Tatsumi Fujinami corroborated in a recent Weekly Pro interview, he supervised the production of these ‘major’ episodes, directing camera cuts. (This was years before Vince McMahon took a similarly hands-on approach.) Despite competing with the “monster program” Taiyo no Hoero!, a police procedural which had taken Nippon Television’s Friday 8:00PM timeslot since they had dropped the JWA (AJPW aired on Saturday), Otsuka states that World Pro Wrestling was consistently getting ratings above 10%, sometimes close to 20%. ---- For me, all that is the meat of the article. Here are noteworthy bits from the rest. On March 31 and April 1, 1977, NJPW became the first promotion in twenty years to book Kuramae on back-to-back nights. On the first day, Seiji Sakaguchi defeated the Masked Superstar in the 4th World League, while Inoki successfully defended the NWF Heavyweight title against Johnny Powers. On the second day, which coincided with NET TV’s name change to TV Asahi, Inoki and Sakaguchi reformed their Golden Tag Team to challenge Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda for the NWA North American Tag Team titles, which Singh & Ueda had won from Sakaguchi & Kobayashi through dishonorable means two months before. Otsuka seems to regret his ambition. The interest in the World League tournament had waned due to Inoki’s decision to stop entering it the previous year, which hurt the first show’s business. Also, that show was on a Thursday, so those who went to see the second show missed the first day’s episode of World Pro Wrestling. Inoki gave him a slight scolding, but Otsuka thinks he paved the way for the G1 Climax’s multi-night stints at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. In May, Shinma and Nagasato traveled to the United States. Shinma’s lawyer had recommended they go to trial against Ali, since the yen had appreciated from 310 to 200 to the dollar, but they decided to settle. They also secured a contract with “Monster Man” Everett Eddy to bring the different styles fights back into full swing. This was when these special “fights” began to be broadcast on the Wednesday Special sports timeslot instead of as part of World Pro Wrestling. The return of the DSF would go a long way towards rehabilitating Inoki’s reputation after the Ali debacle, and the television situation functionally gave NJPW an extra episode’s worth of TV money whenever they booked a DSF. They would take advantage of that in the coming years, and at one point, they even considered expanding into a full “martial arts” wing. Inoki’s valet Satoru Sayama, who was his sparring partner and had even conceived of open-finger gloves for Inoki’s DSF against Chuck Wepner, would have been a major part of the division. The nail death match between Inoki and Ueda on February 8, 1978 could have been even wilder. While brainstorming a gimmick match that would prevent Ueda from escaping the ring, Otsuka pitched scattering the ring mats with broken beer bottles or surrounding the ring with a water tank, but the Budokan never would’ve approved. The nail idea then came up, and after Otsuka explained the idea to commentator Ichiro Furutachi, who would promote it during the Sapporo shows the previous week, the tickets sold at an unprecedented, “explosive” rate. Two days after that show, Otsuka also got NJPW a variety show-esque gig to broadcast on the aforementioned Wednesday Special timeslot. Among other things, Kengo Kimura sang a Pink Lady cover with Chieko Matsumoto, Yoshiaki Fujiwara cooked, and Inoki & Sakaguchi wrestled the Hollywood Blonds. This part ends with some words on the Dragon Boom, the popularity spike after Tatsumi Fujinami returned from his three-year expedition. Otsuka states that, prior to this, he had planted young women in the front row at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium shows for about two years (“It was an image strategy to improve the TV ratings”), but Fujinami made any such deliberate effort unnecessary. Otsuka recalls that he used to hold autograph sessions at supermarkets by promoters’ request, and that these had been inconvenient to coordinate because they had happened on the day of the show, and the clients had always requested that Inoki be there. By about the third tour of Fujinami’s return, though, New Japan began receiving requests for Fujinami autograph sessions, and Fujinami was “easy to ask”. Fujinami even motivated younger fans to go out of their way to see him wrestle. Otsuka gives the example of people from Okayama who would come to shows in Himeji or Osaka, or even plan an overnight trip to Tokyo.
  2. [Credit to this Igapro article for most of this information and the screenshot.] Flagship NJPW program World Pro Wrestling entered a turbulent period in 1983. As Tiger Mask unmasked and departed in August, the ratings began to fall under 20%. The UWF and Japan Pro Wrestling departures followed in 1984; the latter chunk was so devastating that TV Asahi had to hold a press conference to make it clear that World Pro Wrestling would continue. The popularity of the Machine Army and the acquisitions of Bruiser Brody, Shiro Koshinaka, and Kevin & Kerry von Erich had brought some hope, but AJPW’s return to prime time and the end of New Japan’s WWF partnership were a devastating pair of blows. While the NJPW/UWF feud is now regarded by puroresu fans as a creative high point of Showa period New Japan, and partnerships with Calgary booker Tetsunosuke Daigo and Bill Watts’ Mid-South brought new foreign blood into the company, by the autumn of 1986 there had been talk of dropping the program outright. This was tempered by NJPW chairman Hiroshi Tsujii and managing director Takahira Nagasato. Both men were TV Asahi executives who had received those seats in the network takeover of 1983, and both mens’ careers were deeply linked to World Pro Wrestling in particular. In 1969, when the JWA sought a second network deal to sabotage the chances of the Great Togo’s tentatively named National Wrestling Enterprise, Tsujii was the executive they approached. Nagasato, meanwhile, had overseen the program as the head of the network’s sports department. It was agreed, though, that change was necessary. World Pro Wrestling was shifted to the same time on Mondays, a timeslot it had previously held for much of its original run as a Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA program. The change began on October 13, 1986, but would only last six months. The program was preempted by other programming on several occasions, which had not been an issue on the Friday timeslot. Masa Saito’s first match in NJPW since 1984, a singles bout against Inoki, was thrown out due to the interference of a hockey-masked pirate. This angle had been set up when Keiji Mutoh was attacked by a man in this costume in Tampa, but according to the kayfabe-breaking book by referee Mr. Takahashi, Victor Manuel had misunderstood his assignment and handcuffed the wrong man to the rope. It was a disaster. By this point, the network agreed that “major surgery” was necessary to save the program. World Pro Wrestling received a grand, 90-minute sendoff on April 6 before the new era began, as the rebranded and retooled I Can’t Wait Until The Give Up!! World Pro Wrestling began airing at 8pm the following night. This had previously been the timeslot of the popular variety show Beat Takeshi’s Sports Taisho, and this matter warrants a digression. Beat Takeshi’s Sports Taisho saw the titular entertainer and his two groups of tarento apprentices, the Takeshi Corps and Takeshi Corps Sepia, compete in sports against teams that could consist of audience members, fellow entertainers, or professional athletes. The program had suffered a mortal wound after a December 1986 incident. When a reporter for weekly tabloid FRIDAY approached Takeshi and a much younger vocational student that he was suspected to be dating on the streets of Shinjuku, he sprained her neck and back as he shoved his tape recorder in her face and yanked her by the hand. Around 3am that night, Takeshi and various Corps/Corp Sepia members stormed FRIDAY’s headquarters, brandishing umbrellas and a fire extinguisher and assaulting five employees. As Takeshi awaited his trial, he and his accomplices withdrew from their entertainment activities, and the renamed Sports Taisho was left to make do with the few Takeshi Corps members who hadn’t been involved. With both World Pro Wrestling and Sports Taisho in decline, TV Asahi decided to retool the former into a wrestling-variety hybrid program in the timeslot of the latter, hoping they could broaden NJPW’s appeal. This new program would be produced by the network’s variety department instead of its sports wing. Response within NJPW was mixed, as Inoki was surprisingly supportive, but Seiji Sakaguchi opposed it. Meanwhile, Weekly Pro Wrestling reporter Fumihiko “Fumi” Saito was brought on as a writer and filter for the variety department’s ideas. I Can’t Wait Until The Give Up!! didn’t try to ease old fans into the new format. Kuniko Yamada and Kenichi Nagira were hosts, and other entertainers include idols LaSalle Ishii, Togumi Otoko and Kaoru Shimura, as well as actor and wrestling fan Reo Morimoto. The show was set up so that such celebrities could play to a studio audience and provide guest commentary on the wrestling. Segments in the premiere promoted Bam Bam Bigelow with a promo video and a segment comparing his weight to that of audience members, while Masa Saito entered the studio to challenge Inoki. All the while, though, the camera crew favored the celebrities in their close-ups. The backlash was immediate, as a dismal 5.7% debut fell to a 5.0% the next week. The studio and idol elements were soon dropped in favor of studio interview segments. It was after this change, though, that the most famous incident of the I Can’t Wait Until The Give Up!! experiment took place. Yamada interviewed Hiroshi Hase, a Japan Pro Wrestling recruit who had completed his debut excursion but had not yet debuted for NJPW. Kuniko asked a dumb question about whether a bleeding wrestler ceased to bleed when they returned to the waiting room (if I’m parsing it correctly, it seems to imply that she thought they used fake blood), and an agitated Hase snapped at her. While the likes of Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami understood the difficulty of Yamada’s position, and they sympathized as her awareness of viewer backlash took a toll on her well-being, many others must have felt that Hase had spoken for them in that moment. In July, the studio element would be dropped and other planned variety show segments would be shelved. However, this experiment would reverberate in the company for years. When Beat Takeshi returned to TV Asahi, he would get involved with NJPW as the head of a faction which played off of the Corps, Takeshi Puroresu Gundan. And while one member of that group, Leon White, had been scouted by New Japan before the I Can’t Wait Until The Give Up!! experiment, the Vader gimmick and helmet prop were vestiges of an idea from that period to create a gimmick that would appeal to shonen fans.
  3. CONTEXT ON THE 1975 OPEN LEAGUE AND INOKI VS ROBINSON I found a pair of Igapro posts (1, 2) on the circumstances around the Inoki/Robinson match, and they provide some info that I wish I had incorporated into the Jumbo bio posts. I may edit some of it in later but I think it’s worth its own post. I may have misrepresented the situation around the 1975 Open League being titled such. It was indeed meant as an implicit challenge to Inoki, but when it was announced on September 29 of that year they did invite NJPW to participate. Inoki had been trying to get the singles match against Baba that he’d wanted since the late JWA days, but he sensed that this was a trap, and refused because New Japan had not received a formal offer, and they had already decided their schedule for the rest of the year. Now, on the surface this was business as usual. Inoki had done this same thing before, challenging Baba without making an actual offer to All Japan and then claiming that Baba had chickened out. What made this case a little different, however, was that the Open League was going to be tied to a memorial show for the twelfth anniversary of Rikidōzan’s death. After his match against Lou Thesz on October 9, Inoki met with Masao Yamamoto, the guardian of Rikidōzan’s estate, to negotiate his participation. However, Inoki refused despite Yamamoto’s insistence, as he had already booked the Kuramae Kokugikan for the Robinson match, and the broadcast schedule was in place. The memorial show was announced in a press conference on October 21, held by Yamamoto and widow Keiko Momota. Yamamoto requested that, as a disciple of Rikidōzan, Inoki would cancel his match against Robinson to work the event. It must be noted that both events were running head-to-head in Tokyo: the Rikidōzan memorial at Budokan, and the NJPW show at Kuramae. Of course, while the Rikidōzan memorial event was to be ostensibly hosted by his surviving family, it was in practicality an All Japan event. And according to this source, Baba was the one who convinced the Rikidōzan family to book it on the same date as the NJPW Kuramae show. As you might imagine, Inoki didn’t budge, so one week later, Yamamoto accused him and NJPW of reneging on their “promise” to participate in the show, essentially calling Inoki a bastard who had forgotten his debt to Rikidōzan. Inoki was hurt by this, but he didn’t budge. In a public statement, Inoki asked for them to consider that what would make Rikidōzan most happy was the flourishing of puroresu, and expressed that his teacher would be proud of the match he was going to have against Robinson. He even went so far as to say that it would be up to the fans to decide whether his match or the Rikidōzan memorial main event was the real Rikidōzan memorial match. (And, I mean, considering that Inoki/Robinson is one of the most famous puro matches of its era, and that the Abdullah the Butcher vs Kintaro Oki antepenultimate match is the only thing from the Rikidōzan memorial show that has been rebroadcast – despite the fact that the Open League might be the most relatively well-preserved puro singles tournament of the 70s – I think Shin Nihon won that battle.) In response, Momota and Yamamoto issued a notice of excommunication in their names, so that Inoki would no longer be able to call himself a disciple of (St.) Rikidōzan (the Great). Before the fateful day, there’s one more incident worth covering. Both events were being supported by Tokyo Sports, who were concerned about Inoki’s refusal to participate in the memorial show and his excommunication. The paper arranged a meeting between Inoki and Momota & Yamamoto on December 6, in which they served as intermediary. Inoki held firm that he would not participate in the memorial show, but nevertheless apologized to the family, which they accepted. That might sound weird, but it makes more sense when you realize that this was, in fact, another trap. When Tokyo Sports published an article on the meeting, New Japan was furious because, in apologizing, Inoki was essentially kowtowing to Baba. As trustworthy a boss as he might have been for gaijin, make no mistake: Shohei Baba was a shrewd politician. Besides a match recap that’s basically everything from these posts. However, it drops a few more tidbits: Robinson had been interested in Inoki ever since the two had shared a flight in 1971. Both Lou Thesz and Karl Gotch expressed interest in refereeing the Inoki/Robinson match, but Red Shoes Duggan eventually got the job, as Thesz and Gotch participated as ringside witnesses. This source confirms that the pay cut which led Robinson to jump ship to AJPW was due to New Japan saving money for the Inoki/Ali fight.
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