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JDW Gordy lists

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I know that John Williams was part of Pro Wrestling Torch staff during the 90s, and he was also a user of this forum and of Wrestlingclassics.

I found these two Gordy lists of Kenta Kobashi and Shawn Michaels.

I think that these two Gordy lists are the most complete ever made by someone. He talked in depth about every single aspect.

 

 

This is Kobashi's Gordy list:

 

 

There was a thread asking about Kenta Kobashi. Since he's going to be voted into the WON HOF this year, this is the one chance I have to do this in a sense that it will be relevant. So here goes.

Gordy List: Kenta Kobashi
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1. Was he ever regarded as the best draw in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best draw in his country or his promotion?

Kobashi was never the best draw in the world or in his country. He also never had a sustained period within either All Japan or NOAH of being the best draw. He had pockets, such as when Mitsuharu Misawa was injured in All Japan from May 1998 to September 1998 or his ill fated comeback match in 2002, where he might have been considered the promotion's top draw of the moment. But over the course of his prime years as a draw, Misawa was always a bigger draw in All Japan while either Toshiaki Kawada and/or Jumbo Tsuruta were ahead of him as a draw for the entire first half of the 90s.

2. Was he an international draw, national draw and/or regional draw?

Kobashi was a national draw. He main evented a slew of Budokan shows from 1992 through 2000 that sold out the building. While much of the credit needs to go to his opponents, teammates and the All Japan name for selling out those cards, Kobashi has a share in that credit. All Japan's success throughout the rest of the country was first up and then down through the decade, and Kobashi's drawing power was tied to it. Again, Kobashi gets a share of the credit for All Japan product drawing strongly in periods. However, he never was the draw that Misawa was, nor as big as the stars of prior generations such as Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba, Riki Choshu or Akira Maeda. Even among peers, he wasn't the draw that Nobuhiko Takada was, or Shinya Hashimoto even when separating out the credit to the New Japan promotion on Hashimoto's numbers. There is one caveat to all this, which will be discussed in question number 24.

3. How many years did he have as a top draw?

It's hard to say if Kobashi was ever one of the top ten draws in the world. Probably not. Within his own promotions, he was one of the top two or four draws from 1991-2000. He had more to do with All Japan drawing well in the 90s than any of the gaijin who worked for the promotion. Gaijins were complimentary wrestlers in the 90s, while the native talent was what had the hearts and minds of All Japan's followers.

4. Was he ever regarded as the best worker in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best worker in his country or in his promotion?

Kobashi was generally regarded as the best worker in the world from 1991 through 1993. Some may argue Liger in 1991, though his opportunity to show his stuff on television was way down that year. Some may argue for Kawada in either 1991 or 1992. But a general consensus was that Kobashi was the best male worker in the world in 1991-93. His 1993 year ranks with Ric Flair's 1989 year as arguably the best working year by a wrestler in the post-territory era, staggering in it's breadth and depth of matches of good, excellent, great and match of the year quality.

Kawada passed him in 1994, with either Kawada and/or Misawa rating ahead of him for most of the rest of the decade. In 1999 Kawada spent most of the year on the shelf due to injuries and Misawa was slowing a good deal. Kobashi was the best worker in his promotion that year, and it's possible that he was again the best worker in the world. But the All Japan style was well into decline by at that point, and if one made the argument that someone else was the best worker in the world it wouldn't be unreasonable.

Within his own promotion and country, 1991-93 and 1999 would again be the years where he could be argued to be the best worker. There would be a consensus among hardcore fans for 1991-93.

5. Was he ever the best worker in his class (sex or weight)? Was he ever one of the top workers in his class?

Kobashi was a large heavyweight, larger than his peers Kawada and Misawa. He wasn't a super heavyweight like Vader or Bigelow. His weightclass peers would be the likes of Jumbo Tsuruta, Williams, Gordy, Hansen, Hashimoto, Taue, and later Triple H. Kobashi was probably the best working large heavyweight from some point in 1991 when he passed Tsuruta (largely based on night-in and night-out work) right up until some point in 1999 to 2000 when the injuries trashed him. Some of the names listed above had periods of being strong top ten workers and having exceptional matches. Kobashi's advantage would be coming to perform every night. When you got to the end of a year and tried to figure out who was the best of the year, Kobashi's volume would swamp anyone else, even if some of them may have reached a few higher points in a given year. But it's not even clear many large heavyweights in that era reached many higher points than Kobashi in any given year.

6. How many years did he have as a top worker?

Kobashi was a top worker at least from from 1991-99. 2000 is debatable. His work was down as the injuries left him a shell of what he once was. However, work in general around the world was way down. In 1990 he was #14 in the WON Poll, and probably the only thing that kept him out of the Top 10 was the general caution back in the old poll for quickly ranking newcomers too highly. Caution is a good thing. One could argue he was a top worker in 1990, as at #14 he obviously was a strong candidate for the Top 10. Regardless, nine straight years at the high end of workers is a very long stretch. In fact the "nine straight years" doesn't do him justice as he spent most of it in the Top Five either being at #1 or being a challenger for the top spot.

7. Was he a good worker before his prime? Was he a good worker after his prime?

Kobashi's prime was probably 1991-93. He debuted in 1988, and when first showing up on TV semi-regularly in 1989, he was already very good given his lack of experiance. By 1990 he was an excellent worker regardless of experiance. He remained a great worker on his post prime from 1994 through the end of the decade. In reality, his post-prime years of 1994-96 was less Kobashi slipping than Kawada and Misawa cranking up their work to higher levels. It was a bit like Hank Aaron being the #2 or #3 player in the league behind Willie Mays.

8. Did he have a large body of excellent matches? Did he have a excellent matches against a variety of opponents?

Among male wrestlers in the 90s, only his peers Kawada and Misawa have as large of a body of excellent matches. The gap between those three and the rest of the male wrestlers is staggering. One can argue that any number of his matches are overrated, but for each of those he has a host of other underrated matches. He also has large number of classics that have been forgotten over time, but if looked at now side-by-side with other great workers high-water marks would put them to shame. Within Kobashi's massive body of work, many matches like that were simply thrown on the "Yet Another Great Kobashi Match" woodpile.

While the argument can be made that Kobashi wrestled the same people over and over again, the list of opponents that he had excellent matches against is large. He had what were considered Match of the Year Candidates against the likes of Tsuruta, Stan Hansen, Misawa, Kawada, Steve Williams, Akira Taue and Jun Akiyama in *singles* matches, while also have what were considered excellent singles matches against the likes of Dan Kroffat, Johnny Ace, Terry Gordy and Takao Ohmori. Factoring in tag team matches, the list of various opponents is even longer as people like Doug Furnas, Masa Fuchi, Yoshinari Ogawa, Giant Baba and the Big Bossman get added on. About the only person who passed through All Japan for any length of time that Kobashi was unable to work an excellent singles or tag match against was Gary Albright.

9. Did he ever anchor his promotion(s)?

For the large part of his career, Tsuruta and/or Misawa anchored the promotion. When Jumbo was The Man, Genichiro Tenryu and Misawa were anchoring the Top Native Rival spot, which is the equivalent of being the Top Heel or Top Face anchor of a US promotion depending upon which of those roles the #1 wrestler occupied. When Misawa became The Man in 1993, Kawada slid over into anchoring the Top Native Rival spot and held it through 1996. One could reasonably argue that Kobashi was sharing and/or had passed Kawada by for the Top Native Rival spot in 1997 through the time Misawa and Company left All Japan. One could also argue that Misawa was setting up Kobashi as the anchor of All Japan in 2000, and in NOAH as well when the promotion opened shop later that year. Kobashi's injuries cut off the later attempt. In all, one could say Kobashi anchored and/or co-anchored the Top Native Rival spot from 1997-99, and the attempt was made to push him into The Man role in 2000 but it was undercut by his injuries.

10. Was he effective when pushed at the top of cards?

A mixed bag. Kobashi was exceptional at the top of the cards in tags, six man tags and the occassion singles match from 1990-93. After that he drew well when the promotion drew well, and generally put on excellent to great matches. But he also never quite showed effective grrowth beyond being able to play "rising star" to playing "top star" or "The Man". More on that below. One does need to point out that 1997-2000, the period of his hardest push at the top, was a period of great decline for All Japan, not only in terms of business, but over time also in terms of the All Japan working style. Kobashi does not deserve a lot of blame on the business side as it was largely front office and booking decisions that led to the decline. But the decline in the working style can largely be laid at the feet of Kobashi and Misawa.

11. Was he valuable to his promotion before his prime? Was he still valuable to his promotion after his prime?

He was valuable to him promotion before his prime as a draw. He wasn't valuable to his promotion after his prime as a draw as he was out injured. As a worker, he was extremly valuable both before and after his prime as a draw as a guy who could go out and put on an entertaining and often great match night-in and night-out.

12. Did he have an impact on a number of strong promotional runs?

All Japan had strong promotional runs for both the Tsuruta & Co. vs. Misawa & Co. and Misawa & Kobashi & Co. vs. Kawada & Taue & Co. rivalries over 1990-94. Kobashi was a central figure in both, through not one of the two central men in either. All Japan's business was a slow fade after that.

13. Was he involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?

The Tsuruta & Co. vs. Misawa & Co. and Misawa & Kobashi & Co. vs. Kawada & Taue & Co. rivalries are two of the more memorable puroresu feuds of the 90s, especially in terms of the quality and quantity of their great matches. The Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue was arguably the best tag team series of the 90s. After moving opposite Misawa, the Misawa vs. Kobashi rivalry was the top singles rivalry in All Japan over 1997-99, winning a host of awards and generally being thought of as the top singles rivalry of that period and one of the top ones of the 90s. He had a number of lesser but memorbale rivalries opposite of Hansen, Williams, the Can-Ams and with Akiyama opposite Misawa & Ogawa.

14. Was he effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?

During his career, All Japan rarely used the mic as a key to storylines. Kobashi did work some effective angles, such as eating Williams' backdrop driver in a tag match and selling the hell out of it outside the ring for eight minutes to get the move over. Kobashi was as likely to undercut such effective angles by coming back to win said six-man tag with a moonsault, and then getting up after two backdrop drivers in the following singles matches with Williams. Kobashi was very good at working "heat spots" in six man tags to put heat on upcoming big matches, be they singles matches or tag title matches. He was weaker in comparission to his peer Kawada in working storylines and/or angles. It's a push between Kobashi and Misawa. Misawa was a mixed bag of indifferent approaches to storylines in some matches while in other worked some that were very well thought out. His storyline highpoints were better than Kobashi's highpoints, but Kobashi was more consistent.

15. Did he play his role(s) effectively during his career?

Kobashi was exceptional as a "young boy" and a "rising star", and probably as good at those roles as anyone in the two decades. It was moving beyond those roles where Kobashi had problems. Begining in 1995 when he should have been taking on a "top star" role, Kobashi continued to play "rising star". This became jarring during his 1996-97 and 1998 Triple Crown runs, and even at points in between. There were times, such as a 1997 Carnival match against the much lower ranked Jun Akiyama, where Kobashi would still be rolling out his by then infamous Crying Spot after Jun kicked out of the moonsault. This was a former TC champion crying because the new rising star kicked out of his moonsault, after having his moonsault kicked out of several hundred times over the past seven years. It was telling that Taue in his brief Triple Crown run in 1996 was able to convey more of a Triple Crown holder arua than Kobashi would have his first two reigns. Kobashi was in the end more effective, like Shinjiro Ohtani and Manami Toyota, as the underdog "rising star" than as the "Top Star" or as The Champ. This made their runs with the major singles belts less satisfying than one anticipated when watching them during their years of chasing top spots. This is in contrast to peers or predecessors like Keiichi Yamada, Misawa, Kawada, Takada, Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, and Shinya Hashimoto who did grow and thrive as they switched roles through their career, passing from Young Boy to Rising Star to Top Star and/or The Man. Kobashi, at heart, was always more comfortable being the underdog rising star.

The exception to this would be in his role of Big Brother when teaming with Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, where he played the role to a T while letting Kikuchi play the 90s ultimate babyface.

16. What titles and tournaments did he win? What was the importance of the reigns?

Kobashi held the All Asia Tag Title four times between 1990-93 teaming with Misawa, Ace (twice) and Kikuchi. The 1988-94 era was the high watermark in the post-JWA history of the All Asia Tag Title, producing great mid-card matches, rivalries and storylines. While having a lesser role in that run than the Can-Ams and the Footloose, Kobashi was in the middle of it and produced quite a few memorable matches. The period of decline for the title began when Kobashi & Kikuchi lost the title in mid-1993, and would accelerate once the Can-Ams moved out of the division at the end of 1994. All Japan's once interesting midcards were never the same after that. This would be comperable to the Midnight Express' periods with or chasing the US Tag Title. Again, Kobashi wasn't the anchor of this period, but rather a solid compnent of it.

Kobashi held World Tag Titles six times, twice each with Misawa, Ace and Akiyama. The tag titles were a key ingredient to All Japan up and including the period Misawa & Kobashi held them. Their importance faded badly by the time Kobashi & Ace reformed their old team to hold them. The booking of the promotion by that point had gotten very Triple Crown-centric, and while not an afterthaught, the World Tag Titles over the reigns of Kobashi & Ace and Kobashi & Akiyama didn't have the same cache at the earlier title reigns had.

Kobashi held the Triple Crown three times. The first in 1996-97 was a short bridge of the title from Taue back to Misawa. The title win wasn't as memorable as one would have hoped for after years of anticipating it. The second defense over Kawada was flat largely due to booking it to be a draw. The first defense over Hansen was Stan's last challenge for the belt, and at the time felt like a miracle match. The title loss to Misawa was one of the best matches of the 90s. The reign was a mixed bag as with the exception of the the title loss, the matches weren't the blow-away ones fans expectws when longing over the years for a Kobashi TC reign. There also was the problem of Kobashi projecting himself less like The TC Champ during the reign, but instead like just one of the guys holding the belt until it went back to the rightful holder, Misawa. His second reign was more of the same, but in slightly different way. He had an exceptional title win, but that was largely due to the performance of Kawada being the glue holding together the match while Kobashi toughed it through on two freshly blown out knees. His defenses over Akiyama and Taue were overrated and underrated respectively, but as well reflected a banged up Kobashi largely being carried through the matches by his opponents. The reign ended with another loss of the title back to Misawa in an award winning match. The match has in stood out over time among some All Japan hardcore more as being another slide down for the All Japan style rather than a match that was close to the level of their 1/97 and 10/97 matches. Kobashi's third reign with the TC came in 2000, going over Vader. It was an unmemorable reign that cut short due to the split with All Japan.

The Triple Crown was one of the two major singles titles in Japan while Kobashi held them. Holding it three times looks good in the record books. But the three reigns never really reflected greatly on Kobashi beyond how they look on paper. They certainly do not reflect upon him to the level that Jumbo's three reigns or Misawa's five did on them. The reigns weren't even quite as impressive as Tenryu's first reign, where at least Tenryu got to beat Jumbo in an all-time classic. Kobashi in contrast never was able to lift the belts from Misawa.

Kobashi won the Real World Tag League five times, a record three consecutive with Misawa from 1993-95 and then two straight with Akiyama in 1998-99. The first trio were significant due to the record, but over those three years the RWTL was in decline due to a lack of depth in top teams. The first one with Akiyama saw interest up due to Vader joining All Japan, but the tourny itself wasn't one of the more memorable RWTLs. Interest was down even more in 1999. A very mixed bag. While they are great additions "on paper", each additional one seemed less important than the scintillating 1993 win.

In 2000, Kobashi beat Ohmori to win his sole Carnival Championship. The tournament was, up to that point, the least interesting Carny since the tourny was reinstituted in 1991. Kobashi was joint-runner up in 1997, and runner-up in 1999. In 1997 he was in the two good matches of the mini-round robin to determine the champion, but the Final will always be remebered for the other match which undercut and weakly climaxed the promotion's top storyline for previous four years. The 1999 one is more remembered for making Vader "one of the guys" in the promotion, thereby undercutting the value of his recent arrival in All Japan. Again, on paper looking at the list of winners and runner-ups of the Carny, it looks strong. To All Japan fans with memories that go back a few years, all three were disappointing.

Kobashi is a bit like Shawn Michaels when it comes to silverware - quite a bit of it, and much of it important looking titles and/or tournies. But scratching below the surface finds it to be less impressive in reality than "on paper". Kobashi's aren't as consistently marred as Michaels by walking out of them. But Kobashi did walk out on that last Triple Crown reign.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

In major awards, Kobashi was the WON Wrestler of the Year in 1996, and runner-up in 1993. He won the WON Tag Team of the Year award with Misawa in 1995 and with Akiyama in 1999, while being a runner-up in 1994 with Misawa. He took the WON Match of the Year award in 1992 with the 05/25/92 Kobashi & Kikuchi vs. Can-Ams match, 1998 with the 10/31/98 Misawa vs. Kobashi match and 1999 with the 06/11/99 Misawa vs. Kobashi. He was runner-up in 1993 and 1997 with the his 08/31/93 and 01/20/97 singles matches against Williams and Misawa respectively. He had a share in the Jumbo & Co. vs. Misawa & Co. rivalries that won the 1991 WON Feud of the Year and was runner-up in 1992, while the Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue feud was runner-up in 1993.

For an awards contrast to a 1990s peer who some call The Performer of the 90s, Kobashi vs. Shawn Michaels in the WON Awards was:

WON WOTY - Kobashi 1-1 (1st-2nd) to Michaels 0-2
WON TTOTY - Kobashi 2-1 to Michaels 1-0
WON MOTY - Kobashi 3-2 to Michaels 1-1
WON FOTY - Kobashi 1-2* to Michaels 0-0

* noting that the central keys to all three Feud awards were either Tsuruta vs. Misawa and Misawa vs. Kawada, though Kobashi did play an important role to the depth of the feuds

In major newstand awards, Kobashi was the Tokyo Sports Wrestler of the Year in 1996 and 1998. Misawa & Kobashi were the Tokyo Sports Tag Team of the Year in 1993 and 1994, while Kobashi & Akiyama were TTOTY in 1999. Kobashi was the Tokyo Sports Rookie of the Year in 1989. He was in the Tokyo Sports Match of the Year for 1995 (the 06/09/95 Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue), 1997 (the 10/21/95 Misawa vs. Kobashi) and 1998 (the 10/31/98 Misawa vs. Kobashi), while the 01/20/97 Misawa vs. Kobashi match was runner-up in 1997. Runner-up data for 1996 and earlier isn't easily available.

For an awards contrast to Michaels again, here's how they did in the comperable newsatand Tokyo Sports vs. PWI Awards:

WOTY - Kobashi 2-0 (1st-2nd) to Michaels 0-2
TTOTY - Kobashi 3-0 to Michaels 0-0
MOTY - Kobashi 3-1 to Michaels 4-3
ROTY - Kobashi 1-0 to Michaels 0-0

Michaels one advantage in the two awards groups is the newstand MOTY awards, 4-3 to 3-1. Since the Tokyo Sports runner-up data for 1991-96 wasn't available when putting this together, and that period overlaps Kobashi's prime as a worker inwhich he was involved in many great matches, it's probable that Kobashi would closed that gap a bit (to perhaps 4-3 vs. 3-3) if the data were available. In *all* of the other categories, the advantage is clearly Kobashi's - i.e. how they were viewed by both the hardcore WON readers and how they were treated by their respective political newstand awards.

However, it should also be said that Kobashi's WOTY awards results in both the WON and Tokyo Sports WOTY awards arguably overstate his value in those years. His 1993 runner-up in the the WON WOTY award is entirely due to work. While mentioning earlier his year ranks with Flair's 1989 as probably the best working years in the post territory era, he was only the #6 slotted wrestler in All Japan behind Misawa, Kawada, Hansen, Taue and Williams (setting aside Gordy due to the summer OD). Kawada as a worker was only a slight notch behind Kobashi in 1993, and spent the year strongly establishing himself as the top native rival opposite Misawa in a feud that did *strong* business for All Japan. Misawa wasn't the worker in 1993 that either Kawada or Kobashi were, but he did end up a consensus top ten worker for the year. He also spent the year establishing himself as The Man in the promotion as it was clear Tsuruta wouldn't be coming back to a competitive role. Hansen had the best working year of his HOF career, ending up a consensus top ten worker. He spent the year helping not only to establish Misawa as The Man with a key job, but also to elevate Kawada and Kobashi with key Budokan matches. He capped the year by forming a miracle team with Baba to "save" the Tag League. In terms of worthiness, Kobashi was at best the #4 candidate out of All Japan, even while putting on a working year for the ages. His worthiness runs up against three other Top Ten Workers who were having years vastly more imortant to All Japan. And that's setting aside the rest of the wrestling world and all other worthy candidates.

1996 is similar. Kobashi spent most of the entire first eight months of the voting year adrift in the desert with no storylines and few standout matches. At the end of July he won the Triple Crown and held it through the rest of the year. The quality of the reign is discussed in question #16, but to repeat it wasn't very strong before the loss to Misawa which happened in January of the following year. In contrast, the storyline of All Japan for the first eight months of the voting period revolved around Taue, Misawa, Kawada and Akiyama: Taue's run to the Triple Crown following his shocking job to Jun in the opening series of the year, building from the Carnival, and then being the one to put over Kenta. Add in the ability to make a past-his-prime Steve Williams look like he was still a player in the Carny Final, which allowed Williams to have value to the promotion for the rest of the year. Misawa finding a new partner, doing the big things such as putting over Taue and the small things such as holding Akiyama's hand through key tag matches that got him over at a high level. Kawada's despair as one bad turn is followed by another bad turn while his partner Taue and rival Kobashi get what was expected to be "his push" with the Triple Crown. But even then, there he is doing the key jobs to elevate Akiyama and also to stamp Taue as worthy of the Triple Crown. And of course Jun's growth from the surprise six-man pin over Taue in January to the upset holding of the tag titles with Misawa. Kobashi essentially won the award for winning the TC at the end of July, defending it twice in the voting period, and one challenge of the World Tag Titles with Patriot as his partner that was below the level of the great tag matches of the year. Misawa was a better worker in 1996 and had key roles in two central storylines of the year - elevating Taue to the TC and Jun to the main events in big tags. Taue's year was also more central to All Japan for the majority of the year. But this was in the era where the holder of the Triple Crown at the voting period was the leading candidate for the WON WOTY award. Kawada, Misawa and Kobashi combined to bag four straight from 1994 to 1997, while it took the amazing business year of Austin in 1998 to knock Misawa off the top spot. In 1996 you also had Hogan anchoring WCW as they started their run as the top promotion in the US, you had Takada's interpromotional run, and Hashimoto reconfirming himself as the anchor in New Japan. And of course you had Michael's career year. Kobashi's 7/24/96 to 11/30/96 run with the TC in that voting period at the time appeared to pale compared to other people not just in his own promotion but also in other promotions. In hindsight, his run looks historically insignificant and the 1996 WON WOTY looks to be one of the poorer selections in the award's history.

The case against the 1996 Tokyo Sports WOTY is the same as the one for the WON award, though even stronger as Kobashi failed to make it to the 1996 RWTL Final. In contrast, the storylines mentioned above of Misawa, Kawada, Taue and Akiyama became even more focused as the Final boiled down twelve months of storyline into thirty minutes of epic resolution. The 1998 win came in a generally weak year, especially for All Japan. Business in the promotion was so weak that Baba overruled the wishes of his booker Misawa by taking the Triple Crown off of Kobashi and putting it back on Misawa in October. It was Misawa who, against Kawada, headlined the promotion's first Dome show in eight years. It was Misawa who headlined the anniversary show at Budokan in October against Kobashi. And it was Misawa who the promoter chose to put over. Do the math.

18. Did he get mainstream exposure due to his wrestling fame? Did he get a heavily featured by the wrestling media?

Kobashi didn't get anywhere near the mainstream press that wrestlers from the prior generations such as Rikidozan, Baba, Inoki, Choshu or Maeda. That generally was par for the course for his generation, but he also didn't seem to get the same amount of mainstream coverage that Misawa, Hashimoto, Takada or Mutoh received.

Kobashi was heavily covered by the wrestling media, both the newsstand magazine in Japan and in the WON by Dave Meltzer. Even in the Torch he was heavily covered for most of the decade by Japanese Columnist Chris Zavisa. Through 1996, Kobashi got about as much positive ink in hardcore circles as any Japanese wrestler.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Kobashi was a top tag team wrestler and a key ingredient to many of the top tag and six-man tag matches of the 90s. His team with Kikuchi was one of the best of the decade, while his pairing with Misawa was arguable the best working team among male wrestlers in the 90s. Both of his teamings with Ace were largely one man shows as Ace wasn't as good of a worker in either stretch as he was while teaming with Williams in 1994-95 and again in 1996. Kobashi's short term teaming with The Patriot kicked out several good matches, again largely due to Kobashi. His pairing with Akiyama was more of a one man team that it should have been, as the point was to move Jun out from under Misawa and elevate him. Instead, Jun seemed more than happy to take a backseat to Kobashi and let him carry the team. Despite their awards, they were a weaker tag team than Kobashi's pairing with Kikuchi and Misawa.

For the decade Kobashi ranks with Kawada as the best male tag team workers in Japan. Their rival Hiroshi Hase eased into semi-retirement in mid-1995. Misawa has as many honors as Kobashi and Kawada, but throughout the decade was often nursing injuries and simply taking nights off where he let his partners carry the load. That wasn't just limited to house shows, or even TV tapings, but on occasions big matches. Among the partners who had to carry that load were Kawada and Kobashi for the first six years of the decade.

20. Was he innovative?

Kobashi was one of the most innovative heavyweights of his era. Kobashi invented and/or helped get over moves such as the crotch bomb, the orange bomb, the powerbomb with jackknife, the half nelson suplex and others. But more than that, Kobashi along with his peers Kawada and Kobashi innovated in style. Their pacing, stamina, and use of spots pushed the boundries of heavyweight working into new areas. A considerable amount of it was positive, as could be seen comparing the 05/21/94, 06/09/95 and 10/15/95 Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue with any non-All Japan heavyweight tag matches, or comparing the 01/20/97 singles match with Misawa with what was then the state of the art in heavyweight wrestling in other promotions. That's not to argue for or against the style being "the best ever". It just stating that it was an extremely innovative style that pushed heavyweight wrestling into areas where it hadn't been before. UWF-style wrestling as seen in UWF, UWFi and RINGS was doing the same thing, but into a different direction. That's what is meant by "innovative" in this comment.

Many of the innovations of the All Japan style of the 90s turned negative, largely revolving around the increased emphasis over time of head dropping, dangerous spots and bumps, and extreme stiffness at the expense of other ways to engage the crowd into the match. In its own way, the All Japan style in the late 90s played the same "top this" game that ECW did, investing effort in the dangerous element while losing sight of other elements that make great matches and engage fans. By the end of the decade, especially in the award winning 06/11/99 Misawa vs. Kobashi match, the All Japan style had become about as far removed from the greatness of the early to mid-90s All Japan style as your typical Nova match in ECW was removed from the Malenko-Guerrero series of the mid-90s in ECW. At the time Misawa and Kobashi were treated like Flair long has been, where hardcore fans are never quite willing to cut the matches down for their flaws. Their is some saddness in this as much of what hardcore fans initially pushed as the greatness of All Japan style was its psychology, selling and storylines, with the overplayed phrase of "every move has meaning". By the decade's end, many of the moves had the same meaning as a typical Nova spot-foo moves - a momentary pop of the crowd because the worker fails to see other ways to draw them into the match.

21. Was he influential?

Yes. He influenced his peers Misawa, Kawada, Taue and Williams much as they influences. Kobashi perhaps moreso that the rest as his go-go, spot-spot style slowly over time came to dominate the style rather than Kawada's more methodical and psychological style. The All Japan style has been lifted by countless indy wrestlers from the mid-90s to the present, and along elements of the New Japan juniors style, has made its way into the big leagues in various ways. It's been a bit bastardized over time, though.

22. Did he make the people and workers around him better?

For the most part yes. Kobashi could carry almost any match and any opponent to a watchable match, the exception of course being Gary Albright. He always would take whatever his opponents wanted to throw at his, even crazy bumps and super stiffness. Within his style he was the Mick Foley of being willing to do whatever it took. With teammates, he would carry not only his share, but as much as his mate felt like sluffing off on him. And when it came time to put someone over, he was always willing to completely lay out for his opponent in the end.

But Kobashi also had the problem of overwhelming opponents and partners by putting on The Kobashi Show. There were matches where he was suppose to take a backseat to someone else's storyline, and Kobashi never really got a good handle on how to do it. There were other times when he was suppose to make his opponent look stronger, but performed at such a high level that it was obvious to everyone what the score really was. On some level it's a positive to go into every match wanting to perform at his highest. Especially when some of his partners and opponents were in the mood to take the night off. But there were times when he didn't know his role, and know how to tone himself down to match the role.

Perhaps the best example would be contrasting his performance while teaming with Akiyama at the 03/02/96 Budokan opposite Kawada & Taue with the performance of Misawa while teaming with Akiyama on the 05/23/96 Sapporo card opposite the same team. In both matches, the key storyline was the growth of Jun. Misawa picked his spots to perfection. The spots that were more low key that his usual performance in a high end tag, but they had purpose in supporting, accenting and highlighting the central storyline. Kobashi's performance, on the other hand, had an effect of jarring and disjointing the match out of it's intended storyline.

It wasn't a consistent problem with Kobashi, nor was it one where he was intentionally trying to show up anyone or trying to "get his spots". He just didn't seem to know any better, and had long been encouraged to go-go-go nearly all the time.

23. Did he do what was best for the promotion? Did he show a commitment to wrestling?

With the exception of leaving All Japan with the Triple Crown, Kobashi went beyond the call of doing what was the best for the promotion, even if it was at his own expense. Kobashi should have gone out for knee surgery any number of times in the 90s, and spent a good long time rehabbing the knee. He ended up being pretty pathological in *not* going out to get them tended, to the point that his career was essentially over at the age of 34. Perhaps the best (or worst depending upon how you want to look at it) example would be his blowing out of his knees in June 1998. The doctors advised major surgurey and time off for proper rehab, especially given the years of abuse and injury the knees had taken. Since it was on the boards within the week for Kobashi not only to headline Budokan in a Triple Crown challenge against Kawada, but also for him to take then belts for the second time in the match, naturally he declined the advise. Some of that may have come from already having Misawa on the shelf with much needed surgery (which Baba had to force Misawa to have). But most of it was Kobashi's mentality to wrestling regardless of being hurt. More recent examples would be his (i) rushed comeback in 2000 from surgery to be ready for early NOAH shows, wrestling when he should have been, and (ii) working far too much of the match, and also trying to do too much, in his comeback match earlier this year only to trash his knee once again.

The departure without the Triple Crown wasn't really his his fault, but more one of Misawa and Mrs. Baba.

Kobashi's commitment to wrestling, and strong desire to do what he can to help his promotion and opponents, will lead him to being wrestling's Jim Otto.

24. Is there any reason to believe that he was better or worse than he appeared?

Kobashi's drawing power looks worse that it possibly could be due to a number of reasons. The first is that by the time he reached his prime drawing pushes, the promotion was already in decline. The reason for the decline were largely due to (i) staleness of the product and booking, (ii) lack of a group of next generation wrestlers coming up the system to "challenge" the Big Four, and (iii) All Japan's isolationist policy not just in co-promoting, but also in looking for available talent to grab. Misawa and Kawada benefited from the "hot" period of the promotion from 1990-94 through the feud with Jumbo and also their first two years of their own rivalry. By the time Kobashi was in position for regular big singles main events, the talent felt generally played out with little new and exciting either coming in or bubbling up from the midcard like they had.

The second reason is an element mentioned above - All Japan not co-promoting. A cursory look at history shows Tenryu as a big draw, with his main eventing in All Japan opposite Jumbo, his big matches feuding with New Japan from 1992-94, his big matches with Onita in 1994, his stadium show with Takada in 1996, and his return to All Japan in 2000 for a few more big shows. What's lost in that quick view is that Tenryu draw as an *opponent*, rather than as an anchor of his own promotion. When anchoring his own promotions, SWS and WAR, Tenryu just didn't have any legs. Part of that was due to the talent he had to work with, but since he was the boss, at who's feet does the blame for that lie?

Kobashi, like the rest of the Big Four, never really got to partake in the big interpromotional era like their New Japan peers did. Whether it would have been good for All Japan in the long run to do interpromotional matches is debatable. But could they have done big business like New Japan did had they chosen to work with Takada and UWFi? Almost certainly. They just didn't get the chance.

The third reason would be that All Japan never got around to establishing their own Annual Dome Show at a time when the promotion was hot. In 1992 All Japan had both the reason (their 20th Anniversary) and the red hot match (the first Misawa vs. Kawada Triple Crown match) to try to esablish a beachhead in the Dome. Whether it could have draw 60,000 to the Dome isn't really the point. The point is that headlining three or four 40,000+ shows looks a lot better on the resume than ten Budokan shows drawing 16,300. Baba had the idea that running Dome shows would take away impact of the Budokan shows and the other regular shows the promotion ran. This became somewhat ironic, and there's a lot more that could be written on it.

Kobashi as a worker probably is even better than he's reflected above. Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi pushed the All Japan style so far by 1994-95 that it was very hard for anyone to pick it up. Within the natives of the promotion, only Akiyama came up after them and truly was able to hang with them at the top. To be honest, that's about all Akiyama could do - hang with them, much like Taue did. In fact, Akiyama's resume of top matches pales compared to Taue's, even when setting aside the matches when Taue was mediocre and "carried". For example, has Akiyama ever had a singles matches against a non-Big Four opponent as good as the 1996 Carny Final between Taue and Williams? No, not even when in with current working flavor of the month Yuji Nagata. But at least Akiyama could hang. That can't be said for the rest of the talent to come up the system from 1992 until the split. Mix in that after Williams' great improvement of August 1993 to March 1995, not heavyweight gaijin in the promotion was able to truly work at the level of the Big Four. While Ace could hang in tag team matches, his All Japan career ended with a grand total of zero singles match of the year candidates.

Kobashi, along with Misawa and Kawada, missed that element that Jumbo Tsuruta had - that next generation of natives and gaijin coming along to work against. In part that's the blame of the trio of workers for pushing the style so far that people couldn't come up or come in to work it. It's a bit like a band that's got so intracate and far out there that if the guitarist drops dead, they really couldn't find a replacement. The wrestlers could have (and should have) pulled back and looked for a style that would allow more of the talent available to them to be able to find places where they could work *** to **** matches that engaged and entertained the fan base. But in large part it's the fault of promotion. The Babas in the 90s were horrible at developing talent, not just in signing and training it, but in using it early in careers in a fashion where it could grow and develop.

Kobashi as much as anyone in All Japan could work with most anyone thrown in there with him and kick out an entertaining match. His 1997-99 years we void of much that was fresh other than matches with Akiyama and Vader that quickly got played out. The rest was the same old opponents seen in the prior three years, usually to deminishing returns. There really isn't any reason to think Kobashi couldn't have had good matches with fresh opponenet. In fact, matches against Team No Fear showed that Kobashi could put on a show even with limited opponents.

Those are two big "what ifs" - lost opportunities for drawing and opponents that that some of his New Japan peers had, and even his promotion mate Kawada had in 2000-2001 after the split.

Some summary points.

Kenta Kobashi's weaknesses as a Hall of Fame candidate start with not truly anchoring All Japan, even in a clearly defined "Top Native Rival" to Misawa as he often split that role with Kawada. His big push to being The Man and having young gun Jun Akiyama chase him was ended by his body falling apart. His drawing power is muted by the fact that it was often his opponent or teammate or the promotion itself that was drawing. The realistic span of his career is relatively short - 1989-2000. His title, tourny and award wins aren't quite as impressive as they look on paper.

Kobashi's strengths start largely comprised of great work defined by great and memorable matches. In those areas, only his peers Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa can match him among male wrestlers in the 90s. Workers like Jushin Liger and Chris Benoit were on a level below, and wrestlers like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were well below. Kobashi supports the work with playing a key, though not the central role, in two rivalries/feuds that made All Japan a hot promotion for the first half of the 90s. He supports good number of title, tourny and award wins. He headlined a large number of sellout Budokan shows, the All Japan equivalent of a pay-per-view show. He won titles, tournys and awards in large quantities from both newstand magazines and newsletters that were consistent with both his high placement on cards and also how people judged the quality of his work.

As a "star", he was no less a star in his own country that say a Shawn Michaels was in the US. Shawn had a little over a year in two stretches to "anchor" his promotion. Kobashi's Triple Crown reigns add up to a bit more than that. Shawn was seen as such a poor anchor than Vince McMahon broke the bank to resign Bret, and in his third reign was little more than a caddy to get the belt to Steve Austin. Kobashi's first reign was little more than a bridge to get the title back to Misawa. Business was so down in Kobashi's second reign that Giant Baba overruled his booker and got the title back on his franchise, who happened to be the booker he overruled. Both bagged a ton of newstand awards, though Kobashi bagged more. Both were loved by hardcore fans, though Kobashi was more loved. Before their times anchoring their promotions, Kobashi and Michaels were in roles of hot young stars working great matches. Of course Kobashi didn't take time off like Michaels walking out with the IC Title in 1993, or getting beat up in 1995. Between their periods of anchoring their promotions, Kobashi churned out a host of high end matches, while Michaels lost his smile, walked out twice, caused trouble, and had one memorable match. After their final runs anchoring promotions, both ended up on the injuries that threatened to end their careers. Both in 2002 are on the comeback trail.

Kobashi was one of the three wrestlers who defined the state of the art heavyweight pro-style in 90s, and who's influence in defining that style was no less than equal to his two WON HOF peers. He put the good of his opponents and his promotion far ahead of his own, much to the detriment of his own career. In 1995 at the age of 28 with five years already under his belt as one of the three best workers in the world, there were people who though by the time he was 40 he would knock Flair down into the #2 spots as the best worker/performer of all-time. At 33 his knees were shot and projections of catching Flair were gone. But at his best, was he a better worker than Flair at his best? There are some people who would argue that. They don't argue it to insult to Flair, but rather to compliment Kobashi for just how high of a level he reached.

John D. Williams

 

Notes:

This is the fairly typical way I do Gordy Lists, as also seen in the ones for Hase and Michaels. They tend to be conversational, and I try to avoid "data dumps" which can range from the dreaded "Great Matches Spot Of Doom" to "All The Big Shows Wrestler X Ever Main Evented". Drawing power, such as in Michaels case with ratings, house shows and buyrates, are referred to, but data dumps on them are avoid though some specific items may be tossed out.

I do look at those areas while spend a day or three writing these up, but these are conversational, to collect not just my own thoughts but also to hopefully help other think about the wrestler and start collecting their own thoughts. If conversation springs from them and one questions a data point, I've looked at it, it's fresh in my mind and I'm more than willing to follow up with the data to support the point. But my objective in the running a Gordy List and sharing it with people *isn't* to get bogged down initially in the data, but rather to get people to beging thinking about _all_ the areas of the List.

So in another thread either here or on another board, someone thought I was giving Shawn credit for some drawing power that he didn't deserve. I came back that I could pull the data from the WON to show the upswing in WWF house show business in early to mid-1996, and also the slide thereafter.

The same would go with the Gordy List on Kobashi. I point to Kobashi in the mains of a host of Budokans that sold out, and to being in a staggering number of highly rated matches. Making a data dump to support that initially is for the most part distracting from getting people to think about it. I think most people who've followed Kobashi's career don't really need data dumps on either. If someone hasn't, and asks, the data isn't really too hard to follow-up with... though probably boring to read, much like a list of highly rated Flair matches.

The one area where I tend to data dump is in Titles, Tournys and Awards. To discuss them, I feel I need to list them. I tend not to list details such as starting points, ending points, who they were won from and who they were lost to, or what city they were win in... unless it's part of the conversation of talking about them. Title histories are widely available, and anyone can go look them up. But in trying to "what was the importance of them", I feel I generally need to mention and/or describe them just a bit.

Seems to work.

Anyway, Kobashi isn't as easy of a Gordy List for me to write as many would think. I've been one of the more critical writers of Kobashi that there has been among US puroresu fans. In fact, I don't recall *anyone* writing any substantive criticism of Kobashi prior to me starting the ball rolling in 1996. Since then, and largely in my wake, there's sprung up a fairly large Anti-Kobashi segment among US puroresu hardcores... often so vehement and dismissive of Kobashi that I've spent as much time in the last three years trying to reel them back in as getting Kobashi Fan out there to admit that he doesn't quite walk on water.

The point of doing a good Gordy List is to be objective in touching on positives and negatives, trying to give an overview rather than get initially bogged down in the minutiae that sends people running for the hills. I'm sure someone is going to wonder how 8300+ words can fail to be choke full of minutiae. Trust me, when you've written several hundred thousand words on a wrestler, and worked in threads just on the topic of Kobashi's work in *one match* (or even selling *one* move) that make this Gordy List look light reading, then you can safely say your avoiding the minutiae here. smile.gif

But in avoiding it, I slice off a good deal of my own personal viewpoints on things such as Kobashi's work, and instead try to stick with the "consensus" while only slightly touching upon differences of opinion. I suspect that at this point I stand roughly at a mid-point between Flair Fan and my spawn Kobashi Hater. smile.gif

Flair Fan is probably best typified by Dave Meltzer, who if he has anything negative to say about Kobashi it tends to run along the lines of the risks he takes and the injuries they would (and have) lead to. Deeper analysis by him of Kobashi's work from 1995 on is... well... it's just not going to ever happen. Having had more conversations with him from 1995-99 on the subject than I care to remember, I think I can say that with more confidence than anyone on this board, Dave included. smile.gif

I don't know who best typifies Kobashi Hater, but it's probably someone out there's who taken a host of negative things I've said/written over the years (or worse, a host of things people have lifted from me over the years and re-written worse than I initially said), and go to the extreme of thinking that's the Gospel, and there isn't any positves out there. I have to admit these people annoy the holy heck out of me. smile.gif

As I say, I'm somewhere in between the two extremes. I've been a puroresu fan during Kobashi's entire career as a TV performer. On some level, Kenta and I grew into puroresu at the same time as I first started watching it weekly the year he debuted. I've seen the postives. I know them, almost like the back of my hand. The are huge and overwhelming, which would be *impossible* to miss for any hardcore All Japan fan like myself. He is one of the central reasons I think 1989-95 All Japan is a period of wrestling that I am unlikely to ever see again, and then 1993 All Japan is my own personal nirvana of wrestling. He was a great, great, great worker, the likes of which it's be my joy to watch. If you ask me if he's a HOF, I say:

"D'oh!"

That said, there have been negatives/flaws/problems/goofiness to the work of this true King of Work. No one is perfect, and most fall far short of it. Over time, Kobashi's flaws just started getting ignored. No, not the negatives people who don't regularly watch puroresu toss out in trying to make the looney argument that Michaels was a better worker than Kenta. But instead flaws that I took as being naked and open to one who's serious about forming an serious opinion on the work done by All Japan wrestlers, or by other wrestlers in other promotions. And that annoyed me as a massive fan of All Japan, and also a critical thinker and writer about All Japan.

Hopefully over time we'll find some balance between the two extremes and come to a better understanding of his work, and that of his peers. The good, the bad, and the inbetween.

John

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This is Shawn Michaels Gordy List

 

 

 

1. Was he ever regarded as the best draw in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best draw in his country or his promotion?
Michaels was never the best draw in the world, nor the best in his country. He did have a very good house show run initially after winning the WWF Title, but it should also be noted that ratings and buyrates of the WWF fell behind WCW and Hogan at this time. In addition, WCW passed the WWF in house show attendence as well.

He was the best draw in the WWF from Mania '96 through the rest of 1996. After that his drawing position becomes debatable. He was the attendence "draw" for Rumble '97 in Texas, but the buyrate for for his re-match with Sid on that show was far off of the prior year's. After that, Austin rose in the promotion and Hart was back, while the promotion was doing poorly overall. By the time the promotion was righted, Austin was the top draw.

Michaels has a seven month run as the top draw in his company, with house show business doing very well before sliding, the buyrates doing very poor, and ratings doing poor. There was a reason why Vince was desperate to resign Bret in the summer and fall of 1996, and it was because business was sliding in the War.

Michaels' drawing power in 1997 wasn't strong when facing Austin, Undertaker, Hart and Shamrock. He did a massive buyrate main eventing Mania '98, but Austin and Tyson were at the time given more credit for that, and history seems to have confirmed that was correct.

2. Was he an international draw, national draw and/or regional draw?

Michaels wasn't a international or regional draw.

His national drawing power wasn't strong, nor was it broad across the WWF's business model, nor was it sustained for a long run.

3. How many years did he have as a top draw?

Michaels had pockets of top drawing power - seven or so months as a house show draw, a good buyrate here and there. Ratings were generally mediocre to bad on his watch. The "comeback" of the WWF starting during his last run with the title, but centering on Austin, Tyson, and McMahon then blooming with Austin and McMahon after Michaels was out of the picture.

4. Was he ever regarded as the best worker in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best worker in his country or in his promotion?

There never was any consensus while he was active that Michaels was the best worker in the world. His prime years (1991-96) ran up against the like of Liger, Kobashi, Kawada and Misawa. You may find some people who thought he was the best, but the consensus overwhelmingly pointed at one of those four, and usually most of them being rated above Michaels in any given year.

He was generally thought of as one of the best workers in the US, but it's harder to pinpoint going to the next level and a consensus existing of him being the best. He came up during the Flair Era, and Flair was generally thought of as the consensus best through 1992. In 1992 and 1993 Vader rode a strong tide of being throught of as the great american worker. By 1993 Eddie Guerrero was working in the US, by 1994 Benoit was working in the US, and by 1995 Rey Jr. and Psicosis were turning up on ECW TV after having worked in the US for some time prior to that. By 1996 and Michaels' run of strong PPV mains, Rey, Eddie, Benoit and Dragon were all working in WCW regularly. In 1997 Michaels was losing his smile and then having problems with Hart, spending a large amount of time out of the ring.

Looking back at the WON and Torch worker polls, Michaels was ranked among the top US workers, but not really #1. Flair, Vader, Benoit and even Sabu (in 1994) finished above him. The consensus opinion seemed to hold back on putting him #1.

As far as being the best in his promotion, he probably was the best worker in a very poor AWA. Hennig took the next step to being a excellent worker when he turned heel, at which point the Rockers were heading out of town for the first time. By the time they came back to the AWA, either Michaels or Hennig was the best worker in the company until they jumped. Once in the WWF, Shawn and Hennig probably worked harder night-in, night-out that any of the top workers in the WWF, at least until Flair showed up. Many workers, such as Bret, dogged it on house shows but cranked it up on PPVs. In contrast, Michaels tended to put on very good house show matches in addition to cranking it up on PPVs. Since Hennig was working singles matches to Michaels' tags, and often against very tough opponents like Hogan and Kerry Von Erich, one probably would rate Hennig above Michaels up to the injury in mid 1991. The old WON annual worker polls in those years seems to confirm this, as it had Hennig 24-12-5 in 1988-90, with Michaels 56-9-17. Overall Hennig was ahead in those years. Michaels #9 rating in 1989 appeared to tie into the Rockers' rivalry with the Brainbusters, which also was the year Arn rose to his peak position on the list. Flair came into the WWF soon after Hennig went out with the injury. Flair was rated one slot ahead of Shawn when the Poll moved over to the Torch in 1992. Flair was gone at the begining of 1993, and this seems finally to be Shawn's spot as the #1 worker in the promotion. Bret was the only other contender for the spot from 1993-95, and as indicated above, Bret as a rule dogged it on house shows while Michaels didn't. Mitigating this is (i) Shawn did take a decent amount of time off in those three years with the walk out and the beat-down, and (ii) Bret could get inspired on house shows when his position was challenged with the prime example being his good house show series with Yoko. But from 1993-95 it would be safe to say Shawn was the best worker in the WWF.

1996 is a tricky year for Shawn as he had the strong PPV matches, but now thought it was okay to dog the house shows once he got on top. His 6-7 minute matches with Vader on the house show circut were embarassments, as Vader truly wanted to work in them. That hardly was the only series that Shawn went through in a daze, saving his talents for the PPV match. But looking around the promotion there aren't any strong candidates to knock him off the throne. Foley did work quite a bit hard on the house shows, pulled a decent series of PPV matches out of Taker, and had the excellent PPV match with Shawn. Still, Shawn would be the safe pick here.

In 1997 Michaels spent too much time on the shelf. In addition, he had subpar PPV performances against Sid and Austin that were entirely the fault of *his* commitment to the matches.

One could argue that Shawn was the best worker in the AWA in 1986 and the WWF from 1993-96. Before or after those points is a bit more problematic.

5. Was he ever the best worker in his class (sex or weight)? Was he ever one of the top workers in his class?

Michaels was never the best worker in his weight class. Someone like Flair, Hennig, Misawa or Kawada was always rated ahead of his. Michaels was one of the top workers in his class for a long run, probably 1986-96 with pockets of time off

6. How many years did he have as a top worker?

"Top" means a top ten in the world worker for a year, or a candidate for a top ten slot in a year. There aren't 30-40 people who are candidates at the end of the year, but rather 6-7 people who were so good that year that they tend to be obvious choiced, then another 10 or so people who had top flight years was are candiadates for the other 3-4 slots.

Michaels was an excellent worker by not later than 1986. What's odd is that he wasn't rated rated was a top worker until 1989. He wasn't rated at all in the WON Poll for 1986, which is very strange. He was #61 and #56 in 1987 and 1988 respectively, which in hindsight seems a bit low. The Rockers were lost in the woods for much of those years, though. Michaels hit the top 10 for the first time in 1989 and remained a top worker though 1996.

7. Was he a good worker before his prime? Was he a good worker after his prime?

Michaels prime was probably 1993-95, and possibly 1996 if one focuses just on PPVs. He was a top worker for four years before his prime going, and a very good worker for three years prior to that. He was a very good to excellent worker when he felt like it after his prime, but post-prime didn't last long.

8. Did he have a large body of excellent matches? Did he have a excellent matches against a variety of opponents?

For his era and environment (WWF from 1989-97), Michaels had a large body of excellent matches. The WWF wasn't regularly kicking out excellent-to-great matches, but when they did Michaels and/or Bret Hart tended to be invloved.

He had a variety of opponents in those excellent singles matches, ranging from Undertaker, Jannetty, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy, Jeff Jarrett, Foley, Vader, Hall and Nash.

9. Did he ever anchor his promotion(s)?

He was the anchor to the WWF from 4/96 to 2/97. He then picked up the pieces after Montreal later in 1997, but he was caddying the title to Austin - It was already known that Austin was the new anchor to the WWF.

10. Was he effective when pushed at the top of cards?

The buyrates were, for the most part, mediocre. Ratings bad. House show good for a while before falling off . All of which has been said earlier. He failed at two of three critical areas for a franchise draw, with the positive in the third area tempered by it being a short term bump. This was all of course contrasted by the performances at the top - high quality on PPV, all be it with very disappointing on house shows. It's a very mixed bag, with more negatives than positives.

11. Was he valuable to his promotion before his prime? Was he still valuable to his promotion after his prime?

Michaels was a valuable tag worker before his prime. When he was pushed into the IC Title, he moved into his prime. His value after his prime was also mixed - losing his smile, the temoil with Bret, the lower quality of performance, the general feeling that he was a locker room problem. He was a star on some level, but the period after his prime was only about fifteen months, much of it spent on the shelf or in the middle of one problem after another.

12. Did he have an impact on a number of strong promotional runs?

The WWF already was in their peak 80s run when he joined, and he had little impact on it. The promotion was in decline by the time his push increased.

He did have an impact on a strong house show run in the spring of 1996 through the fall of 1996. He did have some role in the begining of the WWF post Montreal "comeback" and the massive buyrate of Mania '98. But overall, for spending a decade with what was the #1 promotion in the US when he entered it, the answer is a surprising "not very much".

13. Was he involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?

The Midnight Rockers had a memorable feud with Rose & Summers, something at the time akin to a hot feud in ECW in 1997. The Rockers had a memorable rivalry with the Brainbusters, but it seemed to lacked being "memorable" in a way that the MX vs. R'n'R or MX vs. Fans feuds had. Michaels turned heel on Marty in a very strong angle, but then Marty vanished before the feud took off. Marty did comeback for the title turn in 1993, along with the famous match. He had the two ladder matches with Ramon, and a excellent house show ladder series with Ramon leading to the first PPV one. But the rivalry is more known for the two PPV matches than being a strong feud or storyline. His feud with Bret was mostly out of the ring, and lacked a strong storyline. The three PPV matches were not linked, and tended to be islands. He had a good feud with Undertaker, with the HitC being memorable.

For the most part it's the Michaels matches that remain memorable, while the feuds or storylines fade.

14. Was he effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?

Michaels was very inconsistant on the mic. If he had a period of being consistantly good, it was prior to 1995. He got praised at times in 1996 and 1997 for mic work, but regularly got out classed in terms of quality by Austin and Hart. Michaels also didn't really show his ass on the mic after getting the WWF Title for the first time, instead making his opponent look poor. He also had far too many mic spots where he just didn't seem to be in any condition to be on the mic, like the "serious" interview prior to Rumble '97.

He really wasn't strong at working a long storyline. He could work very good angles, like the Jannetty one, but ones like the split with Diesel he wasn't very good in.

Overall, he tended to be overrated in micwork, working storylines and doing angles, as if people weren't really paying attention to what he was doing.

15. Did he play his role(s) effectively during his career?

He was terrific as a tag team worker, playing babyface very well. He was even better after the heel turn playing cocky punk writing checks his ass couldn't pay. He was very poor in the build to the Mania '96 match with Bret acting as the annointed one. Vince going goo-goo over him to build him up didn't help, but Shawn also cut some of the poorest promos of his career during that stretch. As the franchise face, his work in the ring when the cameras were rolling showed him performing well, but in promos he was subpar. He was poor in trying to redefine himself after the loss to Sid in 11/96, and after that he didn't seem to be in any condition to play his role in a consistant fashion. He was fair at best at the creation of DX, but was jerking off or or looped most of the time.

16. What titles and tournaments did he win? What was the importance of the reigns?

He bagged the 1995 and 1996 Rumbles. The Rumbles in those years were the highpoint of the WWF calendar along with Mania. The second was too predictable, and it seems to have begun the period where everyone knew who was going to win. They did have importance, as the Rumble is the top "tourny equivalent" in the US.

As for titles:

* AWA. World Tag Title (2)

Shawn had two short reigns in 1987-88 teaming with Marty Jannetty. Both ended with the (Midnight) Rockers jumping to the WWF, the first one seeing them almost instantly getting tossed out of the WWF.

* WWF Tag Title (3)

Shawn's one tag title reign with Jannetty was wiped off the books. They lifted the belts from the Hart Foundation, then the promotion ignored when they decided to keep Niedhart. His second reign was with Diesel going over the Headshrinkers, and this one ending two months later with Michaels throwing away the title belt. He had a cup of coffee with the belt again, teaming with Austin to end Owen & Davey Boy's long reign with the belts. Shawn and Bret had problems, leading to Shawn wandered off of TV in a couple of weeks without dropping the belts. He had a fourth touch with the belts in 1995, as he and Diesel won/not-won the belts in a screwy PPV, and they had to give the belts back the next night.

* Intercontinental Title (3)

He lifted the IC Title from Davey Boy late 1992 and dominated it over two reigns for the next eleven months before walking out on the WWF without dropping the belt. He got the belt back in 1995 from Jeff Jarrett, then forfeit the title three months later due to injuries.

* European Title

Michaels took the belt from Davey Boy and then "laid down" three months later to Hunter without wrestling.

* WWF World Title (3)

Michaels beat Bret for the title at Wrestlemania '96 and dominated the title for ten months across two reigns. Sid broke up the first reign with a turn-around title change from Survivors to Rumble. Shawn then lost his smile when asked to drop the title again to Sid in February '97. Shawn regained the title in November '97 from Bret at the famous Montreal match, and dropped it to Austin at Mania '98. His last reign effectively was ended at the '98 Rumble with a back injury.

Looking at the importance of the titles:

For the Rockers, the AWA Tag Team Title was little more than a stepping stone to getting into the WWF. The AWA was well into its decline at this point, with the Rockers facing mediocre opponents.

Michaels brushes with the WWF Tag Title are an odd mix. Four times "winning" the title, and all of them ending screwy ways. The "win" that would have had the greatest meaning was the one of the Hart Foundation in 1990, as the title had a more status back then, and the Harts were had aura of at the time of being the top team in the WWF. In addition, the Rockers lost their only chance to have a run with the WWF tag title. The other win that would have had some meaning was the win over Davey and Owen. Smith & Hart had re-established some stability in the title at the time, and there also was some potential for a storyline relating to his uneasy partnership Austin. Instead Michaels walked. All in all, the tag title reign add up to very little other than the ability to say he held the belt a number of times.

The Euro title is more of the same - it's a reign to show he won it, and nothing more.

The first IC run of two reigns was key in elevating Michaels as a singles wrestler. The belt was the top "secondary" title in the country at that point, even though the WWF was sliding into its down period. The third reign was there to set up the ladder match re-match with Ramon. It ended before anything of additional interest could be done. Overall the three reigns are a postive, with one stretch of dominance, and then a second run that started with a well received match and was supported mid-reign with the second classic ladder match.

Michaels' stretch of WWF World title dominance from 4/96 to 2/97 was highlighted with a series of critically acclaimed matches. It also was the first point at which the WWF Title became less important than the WCW Title. As discussed elsewhere, there were positives and negatives with that run from both business and work standpoints. The third reign is often cited as the turning point in the "war" with WCW, but that tends to be overrated. WCW was imploding, while Austin vs. McMahon was what pushed the WWF back to dominance.

Overall, Michaels has an impressive list of hardware. If one actually looks at them, most of them were meaningless at the time either in the sense that the title was meaningless like the AWA Tag Title or rendered meaningless by the way inwhich the reign unfolded. In addition, far too many had screwy elements to them, in in the winning of the title or in the way the reign ended. The strongest pluses are (i) a good run dominating the IC belt for nearly a year over two reigns, and (ii) a nearly year run as the WWF's franchise champ over two reigns. The biggest overall negative of Michaels title reigns are even seen in those two pluses - both strong runs ended with Michaels walking out on the title and promotion.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

He never bagged the WON Wrestler of the Year, finishing runner-up to Misawa and Kobashi in 1995 and 1996. The Rockers did win the 1989 WON Tag Team of the Year award, not only topping Arn & Tully but also ending the three year run of the Midnight Express. The ladder matches finished #1 and #2 for WON MOTY in 1994 and 1995 respectively.

He better in the PWI Awards, though was again runner-up in 1995 and 1996, here to Diesel and The Giant. The Rockers never won the PWI Tag Team award, but their 5/17/93 match bagged Michaels the first of four straight PWI MOTY awards. The ladder match won in 1994, he went #1 and #2 in 1995 with the matches vs. Diesel and Jarrett, and then went #1 and #2 again in 1996 with the matches against Hart and Mankind. This four year period is easily a the best run in the history of the PWI MOTY award.

Michaels bagged a decent amount of silverware, and most of it was match related.

18. Did he get mainstream exposure due to his wrestling fame? Did he get a heavily featured by the wrestling media?

Michaels didn't get massive mainstream exposure at the level of Hogan, Piper, Savage, Austin, Rock, Foley or even Chyna.

He did get strong media pushes from both the Apter mags and the newsletters.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

From 1986-91 he was one of the top tag team wrestlers around. It was with one long term partner, and almost all of it was spent as a face. From the start he was seen as the better half of the team. Michaels than moved into the singles division and was successful to the point that he never worked regularly as a tag team wrestlers again.

20. Was he innovative?

People point to his use of sleaze in DX as innovative. For the most part that was borrowed from ECW, and even the crotch chop was lifted from Hall & Nash. He was innovative in ladder match spots.

21. Was he influential?

There are a number of younger workers who point to him as an influence. Isolating specific examples of influence, and how those differ from what other peers of Michaels were doing, is a bit mroe difficult. He did have an influence in getting over the ladder match, perhaps akin to Sabu getting over tables. Along with Bret Hart he did had an impact on Vince being willing to push at the top wrestlers who weren't large heavyweights. This impact has been limited as we have yet to see a wave of wrestlers the size of Bret and Shawn taking over the top of the cards.

22. Did he make the people and workers around him better?

For much of his career Michaels madw opponents and his partner Marty look better than they really were. Once he got to the top at Mania '96, he was very selective in who he chose to make look better in the ring or on the mic. In fact he had a habit of going out of his way to make other people look poor in mic spots, even when he was suppose to be playing heel.

Outside of the ring from 1995 on, he tended to make people around him worse. The Clique was roundly cited as a major negative in the locker room and on the road, causing Vince to be seen as losing control of the locker room.

23. Did he do what was best for the promotion? Did he show a commitment to wrestling?

Michaels didn't care about the AWA, as he and Jannetty used it as a stepping stone twice. Given the AWA at the time, this was generally accepted behavior. Once in the WWF the second time, he did tend to do what was best for the promotion through 1992. At some point in 1993 that went out the window as Michaels tended to do what was best for Michaels the rest of his career. He had a string of screwing up plans, disrupting the promotion, and progressivly getting worse as time went by. What's odd is that through the end of 1995, Shawn had a very strong commitment to wrestling. Despite becoming increasingly goofy and difficult to deal with, he did go out and perform every night. From 1996, the commitment hasn't been there, except when the camera is on and the match is booked for Shawn to look good. Even then, he has at time allowed personal problems to impact performances, usually for mic spots but also the Rumble '97.

24. Is there any reason to believe that he was better or worse than he appeared?

His injury came at a relatively young wrestling age, at a time when he was still a very good worker. On the other hand he worked a style that ran the risk of injury, was already showing a decline in commitment to wrestling, and was faced with clear evidence that Austin was "The Man" in the WWF. It's likely that the future wasn't rosey for Shawn even if he didn't get injured.

By and large, Shawn didn't have the greatest of workers to go out there and work with, nor did he wrestle in a "work based" federation. Given a better grade of worker, it's possible he would have found his Steamboat or Windham out there to work a classic series with as Flair was able to. That said, Shawn's biggest strength in working a match was being able to put on the "Shawn Show". It's not clear how Michaels would have worked with a true peer, and it he would have been willing to fully co-operate with such a person to put on a Flair-Steamboat or Flair-Windham type of match.

Looking at the list as a whole, Michaels strengths are work. He was a top worker for a very long time, and for most of that time a very hard working wrestler. He also had a high number of excellent and/or memorable matches with a wide variety of opponent, especially given his era and environment.

His negatives are a lack of true and lasting drawing power, his very short run as a anchor for his promotion, his problems anchoring his promotion, and his unwillingness to do what was best for his promotion for more than half a decade. Some of these continued even after injury forced him out in 1998, and are being flashed now that he's about to comeback.

As a top worker, he falls well short of the Flair level of being the best in the world and even "best in his country" is a problematic claim. He falls closer to the Steamboat level of worker, at least as far as where people rated him - one of the best in the world and in his country for a period of time, but never quite able to crack the "best" spot. Both were hard workers for a long time, even in a promotion where hard work wasn't a requiremen.

Rickey of course bourght other positives to the table, while Shawn brought a bag ful of negatives.

The case for Shawn is not the slam dunk pick people like to say he is.

John Williams

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What is interesting about what JDW wrote is also the fact that he ranked the best worker during the 90s, do you agree with him?

 

1)Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada (same tier)

2)Jushin Liger, Chris Benoit (same tier)

3)Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels (third tier)

 

 

PS: In this Gordy lists he didn't give his own opinion, but the common opinion of various experts and fans of the periods. For example he said that in the period 1991-1993 the general thought was that Kobashi was the best worker in the world. Then Misawa and Kawada took his place.

 

While wrestlers like Benoit and Liger were a tier below, and wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were also below Liger and Benoit.

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just to say by the look of them bret and HBK were jrs at best in weight they were never there billed weight at all maybe Hart was over the wegit of jr ie over 215 buy hbk never was so no HBK was never top on his weight class

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One could argue that Shawn was the best worker in the AWA in 1986 and the WWF from 1993-96. Before or after those points is a bit more problematic.

 

I'm now much more interested in figuring out who the best in-ring wrestler in the WWF in 1993 was than any direct comparisons. (I doubt Michaels would be in my top 5, from either an input or output perspective. I'd probably have Borne, Bret, Yoko, Kid over him easily. Maybe Hennig too).

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One could argue that Shawn was the best worker in the AWA in 1986 and the WWF from 1993-96. Before or after those points is a bit more problematic.

 

I'm now much more interested in figuring out who the best in-ring wrestler in the WWF in 1993 was than any direct comparisons. (I doubt Michaels would be in my top 5, from either an input or output perspective. I'd probably have Borne, Bret, Yoko, Kid over him easily. Maybe Hennig too).

From going off the PPVs and RAW that year I legitimately thought Borne as Doink was the best guy that year. He didn't have a lot of opportunities at big matches on the PPVs but his television work blows away almost everyone elses. Bret would be his biggest competition in theory, but I thought Jannetty, Kid, Yoko, Perfect and even Luger were better, especially on RAW.

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Both of these lists read like they were written in 2001-2002. Kobashi's sounds like it was written before his epic GHC title run in which he sold out the Dome twice as the A side. Michaels sounds like it was written before his comeback. Post comeback from injury HBK was a far bigger draw in his role as part time legend than he was as champ.

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Very cool posting. Would love to see updated versions of these, as they could both look a great deal different now.

John Williams was the person who wrote the Gordy lists. I know that he was a user of this forum (JDW).

 

However, next years, I will try to write them.

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