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Marti Funk and Japanese booking


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You know she picked a fight with Dan Severn. I always thought it was an angle for the magazines but it was real. I could not even get Severn to talk about it it bothered him so much.

Howard Brody says it was an elaborate work in his book, and he hates her so I don't see why he would lie about it. But why would Dan keep kayfabe about it long afterwards... hmm.
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You know she picked a fight with Dan Severn. I always thought it was an angle for the magazines but it was real. I could not even get Severn to talk about it it bothered him so much.

Howard Brody says it was an elaborate work in his book, and he hates her so I don't see why he would lie about it. But why would Dan keep kayfabe about it long afterwards... hmm.

 

That is the only thing Severn absolutely refused to discuss. Honestly I'll take Severn's word over anybody in wrestling.

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Marti Funk (Dory's wife) always struck me as a bit of a head case, but... wow:

http://www.dory-funk.com/alljapan.html

That was...different. I have always found it interesting how people write, what they capitalize, etc.

 

The subject context is contradictory to everything I have ever read from many American wrestlers who worked for Baba. He seemed to take care of his talent, paid them outrageous amounts of money for tours, and made them superstars in a foreign country. He did, however, suffer from the same mentality that all booker/wrestlers do, they job too infrequently.

 

That brings up an interesting question, has a booker/wrestler ever not put himself over at the expense of his talent?

 

Ones that fit the mold:

 

Booker/Wrestlers

Dusty Rhodes

Eddie Gilbert

Triple H

Kevin Nash

Hulk Hogan

Ric Flair

Antonio Inoki

 

Promoters & Non-wrestlers

Vince McMahon

Vince Russo

Eric Bischoff

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That brings up an interesting question, has a booker/wrestler ever not put himself over at the expense of his talent?

Relatively speaking, Choshu did extremely well of not putting himself over at the expense of other talent. People might scratch their head over that as all three IWGP reigns came while he had the book. But they were warranted by his level of overness, and came at a time when he was already putting over the younger generation. Then look at his reigns:

 

0 successful defenses

1 successful defense (payback win over Hash)

4 successful defenses (again, mostly payback for jobs in the prior year)

 

In turn, his three title losses:

 

* established Vader as the clear top gaijin ready for a year long run with the belt

* re-established Fujinami back at the top level after coming back from a major injury

* put over the first of the Three Musketeers to hold the IWGP

 

They all fit.

 

He probably could have put himself over Hash at the 1/97 Dome show: fans were that into one last run of his. Instead he returned the favor of Hash putting him over in the 1996 G1, with that being Choshu's last run. Instead gave his long time rival (including who eventually ran the company) Fujinami one last run with the IWGP Title by beat Choshu's protege.

 

There's a lot more. I'm sure I've run this point into the ground over the years, but it's worth pointing out again. In the 80s Dave wrote several times that Choshu was one of the least liked people in wrestling because he was considered one of the most selfish. Choshu's reign as booker through mid-1998 is about a 180 degree change from that.

 

In addition, his booking assistants like Hase and Liger acted in the same way. As I went into in one of the Yearbook posts, Yamada could have pushed himself a lot harder. The push and his spot in the Jr division was entirely warranted, and there were times when was thought to have lost too much in the Choshu-style "My Turn, Your Turn" booking.

 

I'd toss out Misawa. Vastly underrated in his attempts to get himself out of the Ace spot, and pretty much screwed from 1998 until his death from getting it done. Almost Misawa's great white whale of a quest, and it's always annoyed the shit out of me when I've read people ripping Misawa for putting himself over.

 

John

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Jado & Gedo have apparently been booking New Japan for a while. You literally could not determine where they took over based on results; their win/loss/push patterns are essentially identical. And they lose CONSTANTLY. But they are maybe an exception since they're small and wouldn't be allowed/tempted to push themselves as headliners.

 

JDW, I've seen lots of things saying that Misawa was not the main booker in NOAH for the last several years (or possibly ever). I'm sure he had a lot of input but supposedly Kobashi and Akiyama were the idea guys. Regardless, I don't think NOAH did a good job of pushing new talent. Tons of mistakes and lost opportunities, and in the current Japanese climate there's no margin of error.

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JDW, I've seen lots of things saying that Misawa was not the main booker in NOAH for the last several years (or possibly ever). I'm sure he had a lot of input but supposedly Kobashi and Akiyama were the idea guys. Regardless, I don't think NOAH did a good job of pushing new talent. Tons of mistakes and lost opportunities, and in the current Japanese climate there's no margin of error.

Misawa, like Baba, made the decision on who held the Big Belt.

 

One can debate the success of NOAH pushing guys younger than Misawa to the top, but one can't debate two things:

 

* Misawa constantly tried to find a younger Ace rather than be Inoki with the belt

 

* those attempts failed for a variety of reasons

 

The closest he came to success was Kobashi, but that was also the fourth time he tried to push Kobashi to the Ace role.

 

In the first, Baba decided to put the belt back on Misawa well before Misawa wanted it back.

 

In the second, Misawa & Co. left All Japan.

 

In the third, Kobashi got hurt... not terribly surprising.

 

Fourth time... Kobashi had the run which is really the one time someone other than Misawa was successful as the Ace.

 

That's 1-3 on just Kobashi, and really none of that was Misawa's fault... well, other than leaving All Japan (shared the fault there with Mrs. Baba).

 

One could go through the rest of the folks he tried to push up there who failed, and it turned that 1-3 to a far worse number.

 

In the end, the reason they failed on one level or another can be summed up as: They weren't Misawa.

 

By that I mean they were missing one or more elements of what made Misawa someone who could Ace for more than a decade. Either connecting with the fans, or the drive, or carrying themselves like an Ace, or the ability to stay healthy enough to sustain the role. That last one is a bitterly ironic thing to say given what a mess Misawa was even back in the mid-90s and how his life ended. :/ But there is truth to it in contrast to Kobashi: Misawa was forced back into the Ace role twice while Kobashi was on the DL.

 

John

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I've done a lot of analysis of where NOAH's booking fell short, and summarized/collected it here:

http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2010/01/1...ntable-decline/

 

That's not to say Akiyama, Rikio or Morishima were ever going to be close to Misawa and Kobashi in terms of the ability to lead the company and draw fans, but Baba did a far better job of giving Misawa and Kobashi good opponents and the trappings of champions. But again, a lot of these details were probably not from Misawa, and they certainly did try to put the title on a number of people over the last six years.

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I've done a lot of analysis of where NOAH's booking fell short, and summarized/collected it here:

http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2010/01/1...ntable-decline/

 

That's not to say Akiyama, Rikio or Morishima were ever going to be close to Misawa and Kobashi in terms of the ability to lead the company and draw fans, but Baba did a far better job of giving Misawa and Kobashi good opponents and the trappings of champions. But again, a lot of these details were probably not from Misawa, and they certainly did try to put the title on a number of people over the last six years.

That reminds me great work the FSM article very tight and well structured piece of writing, Ditch.

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I've done a lot of analysis of where NOAH's booking fell short, and summarized/collected it here:

http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2010/01/1...ntable-decline/

 

That's not to say Akiyama, Rikio or Morishima were ever going to be close to Misawa and Kobashi in terms of the ability to lead the company and draw fans, but Baba did a far better job of giving Misawa and Kobashi good opponents and the trappings of champions. But again, a lot of these details were probably not from Misawa, and they certainly did try to put the title on a number of people over the last six years.

I don't really see in it what Misawa could have done differently that would have worked. None of us really have been able to identify who could have been the next generation's Misawa, who could have been his Kawada, who could have been his Kobashi, his Taue, his Doc, his Hansen, his Jun, etc.

 

Baba didn't really do a better job: he had better talent to work with. His booking was pretty basic, much of it pretty obvious in terms of next moves, and most of his "adjustments" due to talent issues were pretty obvious. At times it might be a 50/50 call (2/93 Budokan for example), but there's not anything special about a 50/50 call when neither is clearly ahead of the other.

 

When Kawada, Taue and Kobashi won the TC for the first time, they had a deep bench of talent to draw from as opponents: Hansen, Kawada, Kobashi, Hansen, Kawada and Misawa. That's the five challengers in their first reigns. Who did know have active that could match that for any of the people they were trying to elevate to Ace?

 

We could speculate that NOAH could have done something with Kawada when he went Free. I tend to agree that it could have given them a year of matches using him like NJPW used Tenryu. But in the end, that's just good booking use of filler: Kawada isn't the future of NOAH. Someone younger is. Kawada just allows you to give the fans some matches they might like, and buys time to developed another Ace.

 

The same would go for feuds/matches with New Japan. I tend to respect that NOAH avoided getting guzzled in their feuds/matches with New Japan. I also respect that they seemed aware of the risk of overplaying the feud on their shows. The problem with a interpromotional angle is: What do we do next? They can be so hot, and deliver such Big Matches, that going back to Normal can be a major speed bump. If the NJPW feud/matches are again just filler while buying time to develop the next set of Aces, you still need to develop aces.

 

Which is circular: there really wasn't a next Misawa, or Kobashi, or Kawada.

 

All promotions have that issue. The WWF had issues when Hogan was done. They got lucky with Stone Cold... it was almost an accident. They've had issues post-Austin/Rock, but have continued to be successful on a different level.

 

NOAH didn't have a Cena, and pretty much were left with a Trip and Taker and Shawn getting older, more broken down, and feeling more recycled. The Fans still popped for Kobashi and Misawa, and their reigns did better business than other guys holding the belt. But there was no Cena... not even sure if there was a Rey, or some of the other guys.

 

 

John

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I wonder if New Japan's attitude has changed in regards to how much it demands of other promotions now. For instance, they steamrolled almost everyone in WAR other than Tenryu aside from a small handful of token wins, or they'd let a WAR heavyweight beat an undercarder/junior. The UWFi feud is notorious for this. But they were quite a bit more generous with AJ, and NOAH has generally gotten 'peer' treatment. Perhaps NJ knows they won't be better off if the rest of the promotions die? Of course there's also the Yukes angle in recent years; Yukes with their games has incentive to keep other companies attractive.

 

I maintain that NOAH could have done far more with, for instance, the first 6 months of Rikio's reign, giving the young champs proper stables, having more focused booking overall to give pushes rhyme and reason, not waiting so long to give Morishima the title, etc. Baba booked Jumbo Army vs Misawa Army, then Misawa Army vs Kawada Army. Early NOAH had Burning vs Sternness, and sometimes either of those vs WAVE. We didn't get Rikio Army vs X, Morishima Army vs X, and by the time Akiyama won the title in '06 Sternness was an afterthought. By the time Rikio was given Disobey, with the lazy Yone as his partner, it was too little too late. The booking has been abysmal since Misawa's death, and you can't blame haphazard cards on budget woes when there's still lots of consistency tour-to-tour.

 

No, NOAH was never going to replace Misawa, but it still could have done a lot more.

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I maintain that NOAH could have done far more with, for instance, the first 6 months of Rikio's reign, giving the young champs proper stables, having more focused booking overall to give pushes rhyme and reason, not waiting so long to give Morishima the title, etc. Baba booked Jumbo Army vs Misawa Army, then Misawa Army vs Kawada Army. Early NOAH had Burning vs Sternness, and sometimes either of those vs WAVE. We didn't get Rikio Army vs X, Morishima Army vs X, and by the time Akiyama won the title in '06 Sternness was an afterthought. By the time Rikio was given Disobey, with the lazy Yone as his partner, it was too little too late. The booking has been abysmal since Misawa's death, and you can't blame haphazard cards on budget woes when there's still lots of consistency tour-to-tour.

Groups are somewhat useful, and I don't mind them. But when you look at Aces in NJPW and AJPW, being a member of a group doesn't seem to be all that important when the promotions are strong.

 

Jumbo was Jumbo. Taue, Fuchi and Ogawa got rubs by being with him.

 

Misawa was the guy opposite Jumbo, which got him over instantly. Kawada, Kobashi and Kikuchi got elevated by being partners with him. He didn't need them to become Ace.

 

I'm trying to think of a group that was critical to a true NJPW Ace. Choshu got over huge as part of a group, though he didn't quite get to being an ace at that point. By the time he reached the top in 1990, he really wasn't as group centric as he had been. Looking at Mutoh and Hash, there really isn't a group there. Chono never really got to be the Ace... his chance got hammered by Takada coming in (Mutoh-Chono at the 1/96 Dome if there hadn't been a NJPW-UWFI feud). Chono was part of a group, and they did get over... but much of the overness was Chono as the heel. Even then, did he ever look like having a shot at being the ace that Hash was seen as from 1994-97? Tough one.

 

I think groups/teams are useful for depth of storylines. I like regular partners/teammates rather than people just being throw together. But in the end, the wrestler needs to get over. An Ace is above his team and teammates.

 

What I'm more wondering about is what more NOAH/Misawa could have done to get Rikio ready for carrying the company, and being over at the Ace? Morishima?

 

Those seemed to be the two he thought of after Kobashi ran his course, and Jun wasn't up to it back in 2001-2002. Jun in 2006 seemed more along the lines of the WWF when it use to go back to Bret Hart:

 

"Plan 3 failed. Let's go back to Bret until we come up with Plan 4."

 

 

No, NOAH was never going to replace Misawa, but it still could have done a lot more.

I think they tried, and after Rikio / Marufuji / Morishima they were realizing that it was nearly impossible. Shiozaki was next, but who knows how much hope they held out.

 

One gets the sense of FMW after Onita. It's hard to replace Onita. I suspect that if we got ahold of Bahu, he'd point out how many good matches and storylines FMW put on in the 1996-99 time period. It wasn't as if they were a dead company. But they had issues replacing Onita.

 

Rikidozan --> Baba --> Jumbo --> Misawa

 

Rikidozan was an ace from from the early 50s through 1963. Baba was an ace from 1966-83. Jumbo was an ace from 1984 through 1992. Misawa was an ace from 1993 through 2008, give or take some years. For wrestlers, one dynasty across three promotions, nearly 60 years. That is a rather amazing run in a line. At some point it was going to end. :/ Misawa did try to push several wrestlers into the role of successor, hoping one would work. Didn't.

 

John

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New Japan had something in Nagata in 2001 but CroCop ended that although Nagata has done well for himself over the years but he was ready for the moon in 01.

One wonders who decided to follow that up with having him go against the already-established Fedor. That one didn't do any damage that wasn't already done with the CroCop fight, but it didn't help either.

Inoki, of course. Both were really dumb.

 

John

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New Japan's model was as much about 'opposition' groups as anything. Going against the heel stable or outside fighter group or enemy promotion. Chono was doing okay in the early '90s but he really took off as a stable leader. Hashimoto was also doing well but I think he went to the next level fighting WAR, and Chono's stable, and UWFi. Plus, NJ 'gave away' more singles bouts, so a guy could blossom on his own. I don't see the current NOAH haphazard style of booking being helpful in KEEPING Misawa over had it been the way Baba booked. Baba had Misawa constantly fighting Jumbo & Co, giving him direction. In NOAH, the Rikio vs Kobashi or Rikio vs Misawa or Rikio vs Akiyama tags on TV were few and far between after he won the title. That's the sort of thing I'm talking about. It adds something to the matches and for fans who follow the product. To say nothing of the fact that Rikio started off defending against no-momentum midcarder Saito, and pre-relevance Tanahashi. Or they have Morishima start off against pre-relevance Sugiura and a no-momentum Rikio. Misawa had so many things going right for him in the booking; the NOAH guys have had next to nothing. It's the worst possible Baba-ism booking.

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New Japan's model was as much about 'opposition' groups as anything. Going against the heel stable or outside fighter group or enemy promotion. Chono was doing okay in the early '90s but he really took off as a stable leader. Hashimoto was also doing well but I think he went to the next level fighting WAR, and Chono's stable, and UWFi.

I wouldn't say that was the key. He was over before Tenryu came in, and in hindsight was probably Choshu's choice to be the future ace before that point. He lost twice to Tenryu, but they weren't as high profile as the Tenry-Choshu, Tenryu-Fujinami and Tenryu-Inoki matches. In a way, Tenryu-Inoki was the climax, and Tenryu-Hash was the resolution with Hash getting the win with Tenryu heading out the door. He was the IWGP champ, the right person to get the win. Choshu positioned him for that, then transitioned him into getting put over by Choshu and Fuinami personally

 

I think what really got Hash over was the 9/93 - 5/95 run as the Champ. He ran the table on his peers and his elders. His reign buried Mutoh's, while Chono stagnated before going heel. He didn't need heel Chono to look good: he already was the ace, and treated as one by the fans. It more along the lines that Hash made Chono's group look good.

 

He was seen as the top guy before the UWFi feud started. It was Mutoh who'd just taken the spot and was made to look even more acey by his first match against Takada. Watch him come out after the second Takada-Mutoh match. Does that look like someone who needs Takada to look like The Man? They both look like mega stars already. :)

 

We talk a lot over the years about New Japan working Outsider Storylines. There's no doubt that they did. But they don't have a ton to do guys getting to the next level of being the ace.

 

Inoki was the ace from the start, long before Kobayashi came in, and long before Rusher did.

 

Fujinami's runs as the ace weren't group driven.

 

Choshu was initially made by a fake outside group, but Inoki wasn't letting him get near being the ace. When Choshu's group came back, Inoki prevented it again. Choshu didn't really solidfy his role as co-ace (with Fujinami) until 1990, and groups weren't much of it: long past his Ishingundun days. Muta rarely felt like an ace. Hash was largely internal beating of rivals. Mutoh first felt like an ace after beating Hash at G1, though the win over Takada did make him seem even larger... while the loss shrunk him back down. Hash was as big of a star as Takada when they faced each other, akin to Choshu-Tenryu when Tenryu came into NJPW. His last reign was largely him beating his peers when the belt was on the line, rather than groups.

 

After that, the company went into decline, and also had issues ever again getting an ace over to the degree that Hash was. I would argue that "outsiders" had a lot to do with that: Ogawa, Inoki's insanity, the shoot shit.

 

So while I agree that outsiders and groups often played a major role in succesful NJPW programs, I think there were other things that were key in their making of aces.

 

It might be more along the lines of having the over ace first, then being able to run groups opposite him or around him. You need an Inoki for Kobayashi or Rusher to mean anything. You need Inoki and Fujinami for Ishin Gundan to mean a thing. You need Choshu and Jumbo for Tenryu to mean something, in turn you need Jumbo for Misawa and Kawada and Kobashi to grow up against.

 

 

Plus, NJ 'gave away' more singles bouts, so a guy could blossom on his own.

They ran a lot of singles, and Choshu's booking style was "even steven" as others have described. Choshu could put over Hash three times in 1989, 1990 and 1991... and get his wins back in each of those years. In turn, Hash could put over Choshu in 1996 then open 1997 by giving it back. We see in the G1 matches in the 1996 set that Tenzan and Kojima are given their "biggest singles wins ever", which help move them forward a bit.

 

Different style of booking. Worked for them, but it takes some effort to avoid having all of those matches end up being meaningless at some point. Choshu somehow avoided that to a large degree. Loss was talking about the Mutoh-Chono at G1 1996 and referencing back to their 1991 G1 match. They also had G1 matches in 1992, 1994 and 1995 along with the IWGP-NWA title match in 1993. Kinda of Misawa-Kawada in that way, but different in because they had finishes and advanced the story a little more directly. By 1996 if was the sixth straight year of having a match that meant a little something, in effectly the semifinal of the G1 (winner advances out of the block) between the guys who had won 4 out of the first 5.

 

New Japan heavies tended to get downplayed by all of us back then, including an All Japan fan like me. But there was a fair amount of stuff going on in the division. Choshu & Co. were giving a good amount of thought to what they were doing. Not epic levels of depth, but solid stuff.

 

 

I don't see the current NOAH haphazard style of booking being helpful in KEEPING Misawa over had it been the way Baba booked. Baba had Misawa constantly fighting Jumbo & Co, giving him direction.

I wouldn't argue for that either. Part of the problem, though, is that none of those guys in NOAH were young Misawa. And at that point Misawa and Kobashi weren't Jumbo.

 

In NOAH, the Rikio vs Kobashi or Rikio vs Misawa or Rikio vs Akiyama tags on TV were few and far between after he won the title. That's the sort of thing I'm talking about. It adds something to the matches and for fans who follow the product. To say nothing of the fact that Rikio started off defending against no-momentum midcarder Saito, and pre-relevance Tanahashi. Or they have Morishima start off against pre-relevance Sugiura and a no-momentum Rikio. Misawa had so many things going right for him in the booking; the NOAH guys have had next to nothing. It's the worst possible Baba-ism booking.

What I keep going back to is: who was Rikio suppose to face?

 

He beat Kobashi. Can't go back to that soon, and Kobashi fell apart anyway.

 

Misawa? He was saving that for later in the year, after building himself up a bit to give Rikio the rub. Which he tried to do.

 

I grasp the concept of Rikio-Tanahashi at the Dome... I think we all do: give two of the younger stars a spotlight on the big card. It's not terribly different from what New Japan did with Chono-Mutoh on the 1/93 Dome show. Tenryu-Choshu was the big match. It's a bit tough because Chono is running around with the NWA Title while Muta is running around with the IWGP, and those two old farts are bogarting the main event on the Dome show. So Choshu put them together in a unificaiton match. In this case, Rikio-Tanahashi is beneath Kobashi-Sasaki and Misawa-Kawada. I'm willing to cop that this was an error, and probably Rikio-Akiyama would have been a better match. Slight worry that Akiyama was in the main the prior Dome show losing a title match to Kobashi, so it's a bit of wash-rinse-repeat. But probably a better match up.

 

Saito was a throw away. Who there? Tanahashi there, and Akiyama at the Dome. We'd agree that Misawa was the right third defense, and Misawa tried to elevate him by jobbing. Then they go with Taue, and he drops the title.

 

We could argue that Sasaki, Tenryu and Kawada were all drifting around NOAH at the time, and rather than having them job to Kobashi, Misawa and Misawa respectively, it would have been more productive to have one or more job to Rikio. Do you think it would have worked? Kobashi jobbing the title, and Misawa doing the personal job, didn't turn Rikio into the ace in the eyes of anyone. Sasaki and Tenryu were as over as Kobashi, and Kawada wasn't as over as Misawa.

 

Morishima is more of the same. Who was around in 2008 to run against him after he lifted the belt from Misawa? That was one of the things that jumped out at Misawa in his last reign: he was defending against mostly a lesser rank of opponents.

 

Go back to Misawa's first run with the Triple Crown:

 

Kawada

Taue

Hansen

Kawada

Gordy --> Williams

Hansen

Kawada

Williams

 

It's hard to blame Misawa for the quality of opponents he books his guys with relative to what he was booked against by Baba.... when he didn't have remotely close to that level of talent to work with.

 

What he did each time was try to make sure that he had a "rub" guy drop the title to the person he was trying to make the new ace:

 

Misawa --> Jun

Misawa --> Kobashi

Kobashi --> Rikio

Misawa --> Morishima

 

He had a tougher time sustaining it as he had only those guys plus arguably Jun and Taue for defenses within those runs of new potential aces. Add in that Kobashi was on the DL for long stretches, and that Taue in 2005 wasn't exactly the major star that he was in 1995-96, and it wasn't easy. Misawa tried to use some care in handing out title matches to himself, keeping each one of those meaningful.

 

You can give these guys storylines, but in the end they still need opponents. Your comments about Saito and Tanahashi doesn't give any indication that giving a those two stronger "storylines" against Rikio would have made them stronger opponents. :/

 

Could they have gotten 10% more, 25% more, 33% more out of those guys? Maybe. But my point originally was that I bang my head against the wall when I see people claim that Misawa was the New Inoki pushing himself to the moon. From mid-1998 through his death, he was constantly trying to get someone younger then himself over as the new ace of his promotions. He wasn't able to for various reasons, and the belt(s) often came back to him for various reasons, mostly because he was the most over guy in the promotion at the time. But when he had full power under those circumstances, he focused again on getting the belt(s) to a new ace.

 

There's something King Lear about the whole thing.

 

John

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One gets the sense of FMW after Onita. It's hard to replace Onita. I suspect that if we got ahold of Bahu, he'd point out how many good matches and storylines FMW put on in the 1996-99 time period. It wasn't as if they were a dead company. But they had issues replacing Onita.

The big difference being, Onita never cared about what would happen with FMW after he would leave. He made money, made himself a star, and was ready to leave FMW in the dirt, which is basically what he did by putting himself over Hayabusa in his retirement match. It still gave Hayabusa a high profile, but there was no ace in FMW after this, and there was an effective restart in the Summer of 1995. And yeah, the product from this time to the end of 98 when Fuyuki took over was probably the best FMW delivered. Hayabusa eventually became the star of the promotion, but I'm not sure at what point exactly. Some would argue what kept FMW alive at first was Megumi Kudo, who became the female Onita, suddenly having bloody deathmatches with Shark and her minions. The 96 Kawasaki Dome Show had Funk & Pogo vs the two young future stars Hayabusa & Tanaka in the Main, but I would be willing to say that Kudo vs Combat in the first ever women exploding deathmatch was the main draw for this show. Then of course Onita came back right for Kudo's retirement show, and even wanted to go last if I recall. Not only Onita didn't help at all, but he effectively did damage to the perception that Hayabusa was the new ace by coming-back, drawing less than before and still not putting the new ace over. Hayabusa really got to the ace status from 98 and on.

Misawa was one of the most selfless booker out there.

And reading this stuff about Choshu's booking in the 90's reminds me how cool NJ was at this point with all the outsiders coming in.

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I do agree that Misawa/NOAH repeatedly tried to get the next generation over. But the steady decline of the product from 2004 on, even granted that Kobashi went out, was stark despite having almost entirely the same wrestlers. In an environment where the booking became increasingly lazy/unfocused, the wrestling headed in the same direction. The hardcore fans that supported the company from the beginning largely gave up, and I really believe it's because they weren't getting the show quality they were used to. I could go through Budokan-by-Budokan with where I think they could have improved main events, but much more important would be re-doing whole tours and giving direction. There was very little sense of rivalries and continuity. I couldn't put a % on it because it's impossible to measure how important booking is.

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