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Grimmas

Giant Baba

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I like Baba a lot. Knows what his strengths are and that has a lot of footing with me. Odd pro wrestler to judge overall. He was a owner/booker/wrestler. He did know his role within his company and played it well. Maybe better then anyone? He will be on my list. Late edition though.

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Another possible criticism of Baba as a booker was that he wasn't great at finishing angles he started,

 

Baba typically finished the Angles he started, because frankly he ran very few angles.

 

What Baba didn't do was finish "storylines" that he started. He really didn't think in those terms.

 

But for angles, he did tend to finish them. Misawa elbowed Jumbo. Jumbo got pissed. It set up a singles match. They had a singles match, and everyone was happy with how it turned out. Tenryu knocking out Hansen was an angle. The payoff was a singles match.

 

That he didn't have a finish to the Misawa-Jumbo storyline, or the Hansen-Tenryu storyline... that's just kind of his mentality. He tended to be open ended on storylines. Part of that sprung, as I said, from coming out of the 60s and 70s when your "angles" tended to be contained to one series, then the next batch of gaijin would come in. Dealing with a closed crew, and native vs native within that crew (as opposed to the external IWE in the 70s) caused a change in narrative.

 

We tend to add that Misawa & Kawada failed in the 1990 & 1991 Tag Leagues before winning in 1992, and that Kawada & Taue failed in 1993-95 (all to Misawa & Kobashi) before finally winning in 1996 as great narratives. The reality is that Baba didn't sit down in 1990 and block out when Misawa & Kawada were going to win, or in 1993 when Kawada & Taue were going to go over. We see narrative from how it *happened* over the years, not necessarily how it was planned or scripted.

 

On the other hand...

 

One benefit from avoiding hot shot booking is that sometimes stories like Kawada & Taue can kind of evolve. You look up as a booker and go, "Hey... we haven't done this. That might work here and have some payoff."

 

Or it just happening without much thought being given to it by those doing it. ;)

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Baba's key strengths as a booker were patience and sticking to something he'd already set his mind on.

 

Again, we don't have any great insight into him sticking with something he set his mind on. We don't really know how far into the future he plotted stuff out. It's clear that he had elements of 1993 blocked out in Carny '93 and coming out of it. But everything through the rest of the year? Not terribly clear.

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Baba's key strengths as a booker were patience and sticking to something he'd already set his mind on.

Again, we don't have any great insight into him sticking with something he set his mind on. We don't really know how far into the future he plotted stuff out. It's clear that he had elements of 1993 blocked out in Carny '93 and coming out of it. But everything through the rest of the year? Not terribly clear.

 

I am talking on a more macro level, such as when to pull the trigger on a certain guy going over against the ace. See Jumbo, Tenryu, Kawada, Kobashi, etc. There is reason to believe Misawa was rushed because of Tenryu's exit.

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Baba's key strengths as a booker were patience and sticking to something he'd already set his mind on. This was very good for CREATING STARS, making wins and losses count for something, and producing long-term rivalries.

 

If I was to do a best booker / promoter list right now it would be something like:

 

1. Vince Jr.

2. Giant Baba

3. Vince Sr.

4. Bill Watts

5. Paul Heyman

 

Baba and Vince Sr are comparible in a lot of ways in that both had a system and really stuck to it and were both 100% men of their word. Watts is the best pure storyteller, and also the best for putting heat on his heels to make payoffs really mean something. Vince Sr. probably the best at executing angles when he did do them (every single one we've seen on Titans has been PERFECT). Heyman the best for getting the most out of limited talent. Vince Jr. the best at crafting recognisable and marketable identities which sell tickets and "postcard moments" you remember forever.

 

I don't really see any others coming into the conversation, unless someone lived to watch all of Eddie Graham's Florida or Shire's SF territory and can tell us about it.

 

I'd put Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, Dusty Rhodes and Kevin Sullivan ahead of Paul Heyman.

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Re: my comment, there's no actual quote as such, I've always thought it was people getting a bit carried away with the "Baba was actually very good" argument given how he's liable to strike someone at first glance (especially in the '90s, say)... it's literally just something I've seen written enough times to where perhaps it's a 'thing' for some people.

 

People get carried away with wrestlers they like. Not just guys at Baba's level, but we can include stuff on every GoaT candidate. Their most vocal supporters will wax poetically, other vocal supporters will run in to join in, while others just kind of roll their eyes at the over the top nature of it. No doubt people or matches that I've waxed on have had the same reaction.

 

Baba was ripped for ages in hardcore circles, going back to the early days of the WON. It kind of was a meme that he wasn't any good, got over because of his size and look, and that Inoki was the good worker.

 

There were cracks in that in the 90s, but it's not like a lot of good Baba stuff was in circulation... at least in the sense of widely watch. Something like Baba-Destroyer wasn't flying out of the tape sellers shelves like Dream Slam.

 

Overtime, more Baba became available via Classics, as did more Inoki. More examples of Baba younger, and more examples of Baba in the 70s where he started slowing down by still had good/smart matches.

 

Then more stuff was not only was available, but dvd's and the interwebs made it easier to access cheaper and quicker, while also increasing the circle of people talking about it.

 

So Baba got rethought. A chunk of it was by people who weren't tied to the old hardcore meme, and part of it was people who were familar with the meme but checking out that 60s and 70s stuff that hadn't been out there before.

 

"Baba was good" became a valid point to make.

 

Did the biggest Baba lovers go overboard on it?

 

I don't think that was the case when people first started to make the point. We might have praised the shit out of something like Baba vs Billy as a great match, but I don't recall any of us saying Baba was a Top 10 Worker All-Time. It seemed more than we were trying to get across that there was a decent amount of evidence that Baba could work, or in the case o that match that Billy wasn't the bland vanilla worker that the old hardcore memes also like to claim. But it was far from over the top in putting over the workers as GoaT's.

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Baba's key strengths as a booker were patience and sticking to something he'd already set his mind on.

Again, we don't have any great insight into him sticking with something he set his mind on. We don't really know how far into the future he plotted stuff out. It's clear that he had elements of 1993 blocked out in Carny '93 and coming out of it. But everything through the rest of the year? Not terribly clear.

 

I am talking on a more macro level, such as when to pull the trigger on a certain guy going over against the ace. See Jumbo, Tenryu, Kawada, Kobashi, etc. There is reason to believe Misawa was rushed because of Tenryu's exit.

 

 

There isn't a lot of evidence that Baba had a long term plan of when Kawada or Kobashi were going over Misawa. Or that he plotted out a grand storyline for it. Shit just kind of happened over time.

 

Trigger on Tenryu going over the Ace Jumbo? It's hard to see that there was a key long term plan there. Tenryu "won" their first singles matches after they split up. Jumbo won the third a year later, but not in a really dominating acey way. Jumbo got the pin in the 4th won. It really had nothing to do with long term planning: Jumbo just unified the Triple Crown, and based on that Baba was going to finally let him pin his rival to confirm that Jumbo the Unifier was the Ace.

 

Now, did Baba at that time know he'd be putting Tenryu over for the belt two months later? We could say probably. That he would go back to Jumbo later in the year. We could say probably.

 

But 1989 almost certainly wasn't plotted out by Baba back in 1987. Was it generally plotted out in 1988 at the time of their singles match that year? I'm not sold that it was.

 

We see booking and storyline in All Japan from how it happened, not how it probably was planned out in the long term.

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Another possible criticism of Baba as a booker was that he wasn't great at finishing angles he started,

 

Baba typically finished the Angles he started, because frankly he ran very few angles.

 

What Baba didn't do was finish "storylines" that he started. He really didn't think in those terms.

 

 

Yeah, that was more what I was getting at. But again, it's not like the majority of bookers are any better.

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Really interesting turn this thread has taken.

 

The problem I see with that is that New Japan were bigger and made more money than All Japan.

 

 

How much of that is down to Inoki's personal legend?

 

I'm not sure. It's not something that's been properly explored.

 

 

This is sort of a catch 22 because how much of All Japan being what it was came down to Baba's personal legend? Those two were the writers/producers/directs/leading men of NJ and AJ respectively. NJ created in the image of Inoki and AJ created in the image of Baba.

 

Baba was a bigger star than Inoki in JWA. Baba was a bigger star worldwide than Inoki. That Inoki went from being secondary to Baba when they were both employees to running the biggest company in the country for all but what 5 years, suggests that the promoting and storytelling in New Japan was more effective than Baba's. That New Japan created more stars than All Japan during Baba's life also suggests the NJ booking/promotional philosophy was more effective than Baba. It carried beyond Inoki and Baba.

 

In this case, slow and steady came in second, but still beat a bunch of other people :)

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It would take a ton of research to come up with a theory as to why New Japan was more popular than All Japan. I do know that Inoki got some huge television ratings for his worked shoots in the 70s and then New Japan had that hot run on Friday nights with Tiger Mask and Choshu vs. Fujinami in a far better time slot than All Japan ever had. New Japan seemed to have a better deal with Asahi than All Japan had with NTV, which may have been crucial. but whether that was because Inoki was better in the boardroom than Baba is something we don't know a lot about. Given Inoki's rap sheet, you'd have to assume he was better at bullshitting his way through boardroom meetings than Baba, but Baba may have been a shrewd customer himself.

 

No prizes for guessing who blew through their money and who had a reputation for being stingy.

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It would take a ton of research to come up with a theory as to why New Japan was more popular than All Japan. I do know that Inoki got some huge television ratings for his worked shoots in the 70s and then New Japan had that hot run on Friday nights with Tiger Mask and Choshu vs. Fujinami in a far better time slot than All Japan ever had. New Japan seemed to have a better deal with Asahi than All Japan had with NTV, which may have been crucial. but whether that was because Inoki was better in the boardroom than Baba is something we don't know a lot about. Given Inoki's rap sheet, you'd have to assume he was better at bullshitting his way through boardroom meetings than Baba, but Baba may have been a shrewd customer himself.

 

No prizes for guessing who blew through their money and who had a reputation for being stingy.

 

If I use the 80s WONs as a source, it paints the picture of New Japan as a pretty volatile company. Lots of politics and far more masters to serve than in All Japan. More extreme ups and downs in business than All Japan. I don't know how accurate that is, but it's one reason I've always ranked Choshu highly as a booker. He seemed to navigate the landmines really well.

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Karl Gotch wrote that Dick Beyer brought AJPW to it's knees, which is a bit bizarre to read. But of course I can see him hating Abby and Farhat, as he said as well that Gene Labell knew just a little judo and no wrestling. So it's clear that certain wrestling types won't get over with him. The Funks and other Americans trying to get their wrestler's booked in Japan didn't endear them to him either as he was trying to get "better" Europeans booked.

So if you consider the success of UWF Vol 2 you can see the argument how the Detroit influence made All Japan inferior to the mixed martial arts hilarity done by Inoki. Inoki, who had featured Tiger Jeet Singh extensively. Wrestling is a stupid business.

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Missed this discussion during its peak but Baba was still involved in 4 star matches at the age of 57 against people like Kobashi, Misawa and Hansen during the 90's RWTL's. Even being broken down he was still good. He was a simple, safe and great worker.

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