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Grimmas

Jumbo Tsuruta

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One thing that felt very clear to me in watching all of their 87-89 encounters was that, while it varied in different venues, the fans were definitely behind Jumbo relative to Tenryu. There’s always a lot of Tenryu goading Jumbo (though sometimes that’s reversed) often to Yatsu’s frustration. 
 

While I like the match where Jumbo regains the title better (maybe more of a “me” match than one that belongs to them), the one where Tenryu wins really feels like their two philosophies of wrestling clashing.

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20 minutes ago, KinchStalker said:

Thank you for articulating the full implications of the Jumbo/Tenryu rivalry. It's something that ran through the relevant section of the Jumbo bio I transcribed, but you did a better job communicating it there than I ever did. I was also unaware of the IV drip story.

I can't be entirely sure that the story is true. I didn't want to spend time fact-checking it, so I thought I would relay it as a story. 

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I definitely do not believe fans were more into Choshu or Tenryu than Jumbo at any stage during Jumbo's active career. Maybe into the 90s when Jumbo's health made him fade away while the other two grew into legend status, but not while Jumbo was active and not in the same ring as them. 

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Would being calm and stoic really be an issue for Japanese fans? Misawa was stoic as well, and he had no issues being the man in 90s AJ. Jumbo could have been the hero of the salaried professionals the same way as Misawa was: by being the best in the ring at pro wrestling

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12 hours ago, Cien Caras said:

Sacrilege I know, but is there anyone else who doesn’t find Jumbo particularly interesting and won’t have him on the list? 

This is what Dylan Hales said about Jumbo on his countdown podcast in 2016:

"The way I would describe the way I view Jumbo is the way many fans view John Cena. There's like a begrudging respect for the fact that he has great matches, but there is a complete disconnect from him as an entity who exists in the wrestling business. I simply don't want to ever see him work.

Some people have critiqued my position as being "well you're just sick of him. You're a contrarian who doesn't like that he's well regarded." No. There's literally no other wrestler in the history of wrestling that I feel this way about. I would rather watch The Great Kojima wrestle than Jumbo Tsuruta. I would rather watch The Great Khali. There is no one in the history of professional wrestling who I'd like to watch less than him. I just have contemptuous view of the way he carries himself. Something about it just feels dismissive and antithetical to the ethos I like in wrestling. It's a very visceral and difficult to explain thing because it's such a unique emotion I don't feel about anyone else.

To me Jumbo is just a void of interest. I can't imagine a more intrinsically uninteresting wrestling personality. He exemplifies everything about the Ace role that I find boring and stale and stagnant and ill-defined and sort of irrelevant. Not only do I not want to root for him, I don't want to root against him, I just want to root for the match to end. Everyone raves about Grumpy Jumbo, and that's probably my favourite stage of his career, but he's not even a Top 50 guy in terms of projecting grumpiness. To me Jumbo is like a 0 in character work, or a -50 maybe even. To me, his character is "Guy I don't want to see wrestle. At all."

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11 minutes ago, Kadaveri said:

This is what Dylan Hales said about Jumbo on his countdown podcast in 2016:

"The way I would describe the way I view Jumbo is the way many fans view John Cena. There's like a begrudging respect for the fact that he has great matches, but there is a complete disconnect from him as an entity who exists in the wrestling business. I simply don't want to ever see him work.

Some people have critiqued my position as being "well you're just sick of him. You're a contrarian who doesn't like that he's well regarded." No. There's literally no other wrestler in the history of wrestling that I feel this way about. I would rather watch The Great Kojima wrestle than Jumbo Tsuruta. I would rather watch The Great Khali. There is no one in the history of professional wrestling who I'd like to watch less than him. I just have contemptuous view of the way he carries himself. Something about it just feels dismissive and antithetical to the ethos I like in wrestling. It's a very visceral and difficult to explain thing because it's such a unique emotion I don't feel about anyone else.

To me Jumbo is just a void of interest. I can't imagine a more intrinsically uninteresting wrestling personality. He exemplifies everything about the Ace role that I find boring and stale and stagnant and ill-defined and sort of irrelevant. Not only do I not want to root for him, I don't want to root against him, I just want to root for the match to end. Everyone raves about Grumpy Jumbo, and that's probably my favourite stage of his career, but he's not even a Top 50 guy in terms of projecting grumpiness. To me Jumbo is like a 0 in character work, or a -50 maybe even. To me, his character is "Guy I don't want to see wrestle. At all."

and then he ranked him at 51

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5 hours ago, MoS said:

Would being calm and stoic really be an issue for Japanese fans? Misawa was stoic as well, and he had no issues being the man in 90s AJ. Jumbo could have been the hero of the salaried professionals the same way as Misawa was: by being the best in the ring at pro wrestling

It was a popular opinion among hardcore fans, and among Jumbo's seniors, and some of his fellow wrestlers.

Kagehiro Osano explored the topic in his book. In an interview, Osano said:

"There is a persistent theory that Tsuruta is the strongest Japanese wrestler, that he is a genius, that he has inexhaustible stamina, etc. But why did he not become the number one wrestler in the Japanese mat world? No one has ever been able to figure out why he couldn't become the number one wrestler in the Japanese mat world."

Jumbo was a different cat. He tried starting a folk music career during the Japanese folk boom, preferred to train by playing tennis and other sports rather than spending time in the dojo, and wasn't interested in spending all night drinking in Ginza. He wasn't stoic. His seniors considered him soft. He had a rep for losing title matches and people called him Good Fight Man. Try comparing him in your mind to how the average fan viewed Antonio Inoki. We think of Inoki as a con artist, but to Japanese fans he was super human. Inoki was quite possibly one of the most charismatic men to ever walk the planet. I'm not exaggerating. Hardcore Japanese fans didn't have those feelings about Jumbo until he showed his true strength in the Tenryu feud. People started seeing him as a monster. All Japan became red hot, and people still talk about the reaction Jumbo received at the NJPW vs. AJPW show. 

I'm not saying people have to follow that viewpoint. It may not mesh with their experiences viewing the matches. I'm just explaining how people/hardcores view things in Japan, right or wrong. People draw their own impressions from Japanese wrestling -- Jumbo is grumpy, Tenryu is stoic, etc. -- but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. 

One thing that the book makes clear, is that Jumbo paved the way for a new generation of wrestler who take their earning potential as wrestlers and their lives after wrestling extremely seriously. The things that Jumbo was criticized for not doing -- living and breathing wrestling, spending all night drinking, paying for his juniors' meals, etc. -- are bygone relics of the Showa Era. Not just in wrestling, but in Japanese society in general. During his younger days, Jumbo repeatedly said that he didn't want to be a wrestling idiot. During his second career, he was determined to prove to younger wrestlers that they don't need to limit the potential for their life after wrestling. Sadly, his own life was cut short, but like his tombstone says: "Life is a challenge!" 

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Thank you, that's an excellent post and I get what you are saying. Also, the fact that he tried starting a folk music career might have bumped him up a couple of spots on my list

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I'm in a weird spot as Jumbo is "new" to me. I don't think he's going to crack my top 5 or anything but I don't have decades of baggage with him as someone like Dylan does. I wonder how much of that is the wrestling itself and how much is just the community. I don't think there's anyone here who's been here for more than a few years that wants to touch the idea of comparing Bret and Flair with a ten foot stick.

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I used to buy into some of the stoic/dull argument, but I don't really now. From what I can gather, most people who don't like 1980-85 Jumbo just don't really like the wrestling style of that era. I'm sure there are exceptions, but are there a lot of people who enjoy early 80s NWA-style wrestling that struggle with Jumbo?

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1 hour ago, Loss said:

I used to buy into some of the stoic/dull argument, but I don't really now. From what I can gather, most people who don't like 1980-85 Jumbo just don't really like the wrestling style of that era. I'm sure there are exceptions, but are there a lot of people who enjoy early 80s NWA-style wrestling that struggle with Jumbo?

It's always been a stylistic thing for me regardless of wrestler. 

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I wonder if Jumbo suffers somewhat from the same issue Hokuto faces with people starting off in the wrong places with footage. People usually first arrive at Jumbo for the first time through the Misawa feud or the Tenryu feud. I don't think anyone has ever been critical of the bully Jumbo phase and how even could you be? So going backwards and seeing a technically excellent match against Dick Murdoch or Rick Martel and seeing this different version of a more sporting Jumbo can be a little disappointing if you're experience is mostly grumpy Jumbo. You just want to see him be that 1990 version forever. Take someone like RIcky Steamboat. If you pick a match from any point in his career, he's gonna look really great but he's always gonna look like Ricky Steamboat. Jumbo from the 70s is awesome, but he doesn't really work anything like 1990 Jumbo. It could be hard to put that genie back in the bottle and get super into 70s-early 80s Jumbo, even while being able to recognize that it is technically great. 

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People seem to like his 1970s as the young, athletic standout on the rise and his late 80s/early 90s as the grouchy veteran. It's the in-between that some don't care for, but there's lots to love there. Classics against Flair, Kerry, Brody, Funk and others. To me, you can compare the Kerry and 6/83 Flair matches in particular to just about any match ever, but if people are over slow-building and long world title matches, it is what it is.

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1 minute ago, elliott said:

I wonder if Jumbo suffers somewhat from the same issue Hokuto faces with people starting off in the wrong places with footage. People usually first arrive at Jumbo for the first time through the Misawa feud or the Tenryu feud. I don't think anyone has ever been critical of the bully Jumbo phase and how even could you be? So going backwards and seeing a technically excellent match against Dick Murdoch or Rick Martel and seeing this different version of a more sporting Jumbo can be a little disappointing if you're experience is mostly grumpy Jumbo. You just want to see him be that 1990 version forever. Take someone like RIcky Steamboat. If you pick a match from any point in his career, he's gonna look really great but he's always gonna look like Ricky Steamboat. Jumbo from the 70s is awesome, but he doesn't really work anything like 1990 Jumbo. It could be hard to put that genie back in the bottle and get super into 70s-early 80s Jumbo, even while being able to recognize that it is technically great. 

I think that's always been my issue and I do want to give pre-86 Jumbo another shot. Because even though it's my thing stylistically, he was clearly a great athlete. Him being able to work that style and then reinvent himself is totally why I get folks putting him at number 1.

Interestingly enough, I don't have that same issue with Hokuto. I've largely enjoyed what I've seen of her pre-Dangerous Queen.

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9 minutes ago, elliott said:

It could be hard to put that genie back in the bottle and get super into 70s-early 80s Jumbo, even while being able to recognize that it is technically great. 

You see glimpses though. The 89 singles match with his pal Yatsu starts that way and it’s a big shocking moment (to Yatsu most of all) when Jumbo starts taking liberties out of nowhere because you can’t go home again and put that genie back.

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I feel like there being defined sections of his career where he's working very different styles at a very high level in various stages of his career should be a plus, not a negative. Not just for him, but for anyone, really.

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11 hours ago, ohtani's jacket said:

It was a popular opinion among hardcore fans, and among Jumbo's seniors, and some of his fellow wrestlers.

Kagehiro Osano explored the topic in his book. In an interview, Osano said:

"There is a persistent theory that Tsuruta is the strongest Japanese wrestler, that he is a genius, that he has inexhaustible stamina, etc. But why did he not become the number one wrestler in the Japanese mat world? No one has ever been able to figure out why he couldn't become the number one wrestler in the Japanese mat world."

Jumbo was a different cat. He tried starting a folk music career during the Japanese folk boom, preferred to train by playing tennis and other sports rather than spending time in the dojo, and wasn't interested in spending all night drinking in Ginza. He wasn't stoic. His seniors considered him soft. He had a rep for losing title matches and people called him Good Fight Man. Try comparing him in your mind to how the average fan viewed Antonio Inoki. We think of Inoki as a con artist, but to Japanese fans he was super human. Inoki was quite possibly one of the most charismatic men to ever walk the planet. I'm not exaggerating. Hardcore Japanese fans didn't have those feelings about Jumbo until he showed his true strength in the Tenryu feud. People started seeing him as a monster. All Japan became red hot, and people still talk about the reaction Jumbo received at the NJPW vs. AJPW show. 

I'm not saying people have to follow that viewpoint. It may not mesh with their experiences viewing the matches. I'm just explaining how people/hardcores view things in Japan, right or wrong. People draw their own impressions from Japanese wrestling -- Jumbo is grumpy, Tenryu is stoic, etc. -- but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. 

One thing that the book makes clear, is that Jumbo paved the way for a new generation of wrestler who take their earning potential as wrestlers and their lives after wrestling extremely seriously. The things that Jumbo was criticized for not doing -- living and breathing wrestling, spending all night drinking, paying for his juniors' meals, etc. -- are bygone relics of the Showa Era. Not just in wrestling, but in Japanese society in general. During his younger days, Jumbo repeatedly said that he didn't want to be a wrestling idiot. During his second career, he was determined to prove to younger wrestlers that they don't need to limit the potential for their life after wrestling. Sadly, his own life was cut short, but like his tombstone says: "Life is a challenge!" 

I would be interested in you or someone exploring the 1981-1984 period when New Japan was on fire and All Japan was seen as passe, at least according to common legend, and how much Jumbo was emblematic of that dated view. It's sometimes hard to tell how much of that is Dave projecting his own views into his coverage, or if the idea that All Japan was outdated was really prevalent in Japan during that time.

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That's the commonly held belief among hardcore fans, and the writers/editors that Dave was in contact with, but I'm not sure how many hardcore fans actually watched both promotions religiously. I've always been under the assumption that you were either a New Japan fan or an All Japan fan, a bit like WWF and WCW fans. The hot periods seem to be when the TV became popular among casual fans (many of them young fans and families.) I'll see what I can find. 

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Jumbo has his best matches with Flair, Harley, Bock, Hansen/Brody (singles and tags), as well as some classics with Kerry, Martel, and the Funks during the 1981-1984 period. Anyone thinking that was a stale or boring time for Jumbo or AJ is a stupid shit. He has more classics in that period than he does during the Choshu period.

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23 hours ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I can't be entirely sure that the story is true. I didn't want to spend time fact-checking it, so I thought I would relay it as a story. 

With a cursory search I was unable to find this anecdote anywhere, because my results were all either about when Tsuruta was hospitalized later on or, get this, a 2011-2015 manga called Town Doctor Jumbo!!, which got a 13-episode live-action TV adaptation in 2013. This shit is too wild not to share.

Apparently, a doctor named Masayoshi Tsuruta returns to work at the Baba Clinic after its founder Kohei Baba dies, and alongside another nurse named Chigusa Nagayo (I think this is an homage to a certain variety show appearance Nagayo and Jumbo did together in 1986) he helps Baba's nurse daughter Asuka, a childhood friend of his, undergo some character development. And there are also such characters as Ichiro Tenryu, Tsuruta's classmate turned professor with "mixed feelings" towards him.

Looking at the official episode synopses for the TV series, and the last episode is about getting a liver transplant for someone with hepatitis. It turns out his one surviving relative is his half-brother Tenryu, who refuses to donate his own when Tsuruta and Baba ask him to until he changes his mind...but then Tenryu gets stabbed by a vengeful medical journalist!?!? Okay, it looks like Jumbo was so good that he saved both their lives anyway, and the series ends with Jumbo and Chigusa leaving the clinic, with the new director being a side character I didn't mention earlier...named Mitsunari Misawa.

In conclusion, someone made a living for almost half a decade writing an AJPW hospital alternate-universe fanfic manga. Not much to do with GWE, but they earned my respect.

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Also, don't forget that from April 3rd, 1981 to October 18th, 1985, All Japan didn't air during prime time. They actually lost their prime time spot in April of '79, but there were a few special primetime broadcasts during '79-81. This led to a major upheaval in All Japan management  that KinchStalker covered in his translation of Jumbo's biography. The root cause was Baba's decline and Jumbo's failure to capture the public's imagination as an ace, as well as New japan trouncing All Japan in the ratings, but the deeper problem was that Baba never put Jumbo over. There was a suggestion that their relationship wasn't great around the time of the attempted coup. Over and over again in Osano's book, you get the sense that Jumbo was prevented from acquiring the skills he lacked to be a true ace. In a sense, it's unfair on Jumbo to say that business was in the toilet so Tenryu begged Baba to let him feud with Jumbo, which lit a fire under Jumbo and awakened the monster within. But it's not factually wrong. The thing hardcore fans love about "grumpy" Jumbo is how he uses his full strength. Jumbo was an intellectual and a classicist. He enjoyed wrestling the older mat style that he was reared on. But in the eyes of the fans, and some wrestlers, he was holding back. The book actually goes into detail about how good of an amateur he was and again there are claims that Choshu and Yatsu were stronger. 

Jumbo is remembered far more fondly these days, including among his contemporaries from the era. Choshu was hell bent on tearing down the establishment in the 80s, but now that he's an old man, he's a lot more open and always speaks of Jumbo highly. Tenryu as well, even though they had a complicated history. 

When Jumbo retired, he said the one guy he wished he'd fought was Akira Maeda. Now there's a match I could go for. 

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