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I've got some Gordy Lists from over the years saved on my computer. I figured with WON HOF season around the corner it might be good to have a thread where we collect all the Gordy Lists we come across so they're all in one place. I've got old ones, new ones, lists for people already in the hall, peope on the ballot and people not on the ballot. If you feel like writing one up or are aware of any more, please post them here!

Shawn Michaels by jdw

Spoiler

[Gordy List] Shawn Michaels
Posted by jdw
12.72.150.143
Eighties Messages
April 18, 2001
03:37:33 U.S. CST

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 full of negatives.

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

John Williams


Kenta Kobashi by jdw

Spoiler


Gordy List: Kenta Kobashi
-------------------------------

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.

 

 

Hiroshi Hase by jdw

Spoiler

[Gordy List] Hiroshi Hase
Posted by jdw
12.72.152.232
Eighties Messages
April 28, 2001
20:35:24 U.S. CST

[Gordy List] Hiroshi Hase

This is a look at another of the leading candidates on the ballot this year for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.

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?

Hase was never regarded as the best draw in his promotion, country or the world.

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

Hase was not a international, national or regional draw. He was not positioned by New Japan to be a draw.

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

Hase never was a top draw in his career.

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 was a stretch in 1991where Dave Meltzer regarded him to be the best worker in the world along with Toshiaki Kawada and Kenta Kobashi. By year's end Meltzer had Kobashi in the top spot, and never again seemed to have Hase challenging for the #1 spot. The question "best" here doesn't go to one night, a few weeks, or a couple of months. It goes to at least a year or two where a wrestler established himself as the best. Hase didn't do that. He was a top five wrestler for a number of years, and as such was a contender for the top spot. But he never seemed to put it all together to edge himself past Kawada and Kobashi for a given year. As Kawada and Kobashi are from his country, Hase falls short there as well.

With respect to his promotion, that's a trickier question. While they were in Stampede, Owen Hart was thought to be better. Once Hase returned to New Japan at the end of 1987, Takada would have been the best worker in the promotion, if not the country and world. Takada left for the UWF shortly thereafter, but Hase in turn went on the shelf for a long stretch with an injury in 1988. For 1988 as a whole it's impossible to consider him the best in his promotion due to too much "down time". From 1989 on, he runs into a brick work wall named Keiichi Yamada, a/k/a Jushin Liger. Liger was thought of as ahead in 1989-90 by a wide margin. From 1991-94 they were seen as the two best workers in New Japan, with Chris Benoit joining them in 1992-94, with the three seeming to alternate the title. Sharing the title of top worker in a promotion with Keiichi Yamada and/or Chris Benoit is a compliment, not a shortcoming.

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

Hase ranged from a large junior heavyweight to a small-to-mid heavyweight. His junior career was very short, and gutted in the middle with an injury. One would be hard pressed to point to any twelve month period where he established himself as the best junior worker in the world. As a small-to-mid heavy, he was in the class with people like Takada, Flair, Misawa, Kawada, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels, among others depending on how fine one wants to split it. Hase was one of the top workers in his class from 1990 to his May 1995 semi-retirement. Calling him the best in his class for any extended period is a bit tougher.

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

Hase was becoming thought of as a top ten worker in 1988 before he suffered the injury. In 1989 he got lost in the mix for while as he transitioned from junior to heavy, and even before the transition, his title matches with Koshinaka and Liger didn't create a buzz. He ranked in the 30s in the 1989 WON worker poll, which while perhaps a bit low, does reflect that people weren't as high on him as they had been prior to the injury. In 1990 he ranked in the teens but could safely be called a candidate for the top ten. From 1991-94 he was a fixture in the top five, let alone the top ten. One could say that Hase blossomed into a top worker in 1988 before being stopped by the injury. He was again a top worker from 1990-94 and up to the point of his semi-retirement.

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

Hase's sustained prime as a worker was 11/90 - 5/95. He was a very good worker in Calgary prior to coming to New Japan at the end of 1987. He was exceptional in 1988 prior to the injury, and then a very good worker after coming back from it, working his way up towards being thought of as a top ten worker again. After his prime he simply hasn't worked regularly enough, nor been used in a fashion that would cultivate his work, to fairly rate him.

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

Hase had a large body of excellent matches, ranging from highly praised matches in Calgary, to flurry of of great matches as a junior in the first half of 1988, to tags and singles as a heavy from 1990 to 1995. Any list of the top New Japan heavyweight tag matches for the first half of the 90s is littered with his partnerships with Kensuke Sasaki and Keiji Mutoh opposite of teams like Mutoh & Chono, Koshinaka & Iizuka, the Steiners, Rick Steiner & Scott Norton, Vader & Bigelow, and Chono & Hashimoto. His praised singles matches were against such wrestlers as Nobuhiko Takada, Shiro Koshinaka, Keiichi Yamada, Owen Hart, Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono, Genichiro Tenryu, and Shinya Hashimoto.

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

Hase was never positioned to anchor his promotion.

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

He was very rarely pushed at the top of major NJ cards. He had just one IWGP Heavyweight Title challenge, which while a excellent match, was in a mid-level building rather than a Dome or a major arena. He main evented opposite of Tenryu for a sold out Yokohama Arena card, producing another excellent match, but the Tenryu vs. New Japan feud it was one of the second tier "big matches", even that week being less hyped than the first Tenryu vs. Tatsumi Fujinami match. Earlier in the same year, Hase and Fujinami main evented in the G-1 Final and had a solid match. But the Final wasn't even on the last show of the G-1 series, with the second Hashimoto vs. Tenryu main eventing the following night. In a sense, these three matches are typical of the rare times Hase was up at the top of big shows. They never were the key New Japan cards, and Hase wasn't really the draw. But he would deliver a solid to excellent match. Hase was effective on top, but only in very limited opportunities and uses. It remains a question open to debate whether he would have been effective in a more expanded role on top.

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

Hase was valuable before his prime in much the same way he was valuable during his prime - he was a workhorse worker who regularly provided quality matches that engaged the New Japan fans. It's a similar "value" as the Midnight Express or Arn Anderson would provide in the 80s.

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

New Japan had a very strong run from 9/92 to 2/94 for the Tenryu vs. New Japan feud, but Hase had more of a impact for this run in the front office of New Japan by acting as Choshu's right hand man than anything he did in the ring. He was semi-retired by the time New Japan went off on their next hot run beginning in 10/95.

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

As a singles worker, he's most known for a pair of matches against Great Muta. But they were two years apart and not really part of a continuing rivalry or feud. Perhaps the closest thing to a memorable rivalry would be his series of tag matches teaming with Sasaki, Chono and Mutoh against the Steiners. He had a pair of great rivalries set up in his junior days, opposite Koshinaka and Takada. But Takada jumped from New Japan three months into Hase's junior career, and then Hase's injury and elevation out of the division kept the rivalry with Koshinaka from taking off. He had several short tag rivalries such as Hase & Sasaski vs. Koshinaka & Iizuka and Super Strong Machine & Hiro Saitoh, and with Mutoh opposite Vader & Bigelow. But these never blazed in people's memories as memorable rivalries or storylines, though some of the great matches are remembered. In this way he is similar to Shawn Michaels in having a large body of excellent matches, but them often not connecting into a great Flair vs. Steamboat or Misawa vs. Kawada rivalry.

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

His spots on the mic appeared to get over with the fans, though he didn't really work in a mic-based fed. He didn't really work storylines or angles, outside of in-match storylines.

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

For positional roles, Hase was one of the best of his era in the role of mid-card to semi-final workhorse worker. He never evolved out of it into a bigger role. For his in-ring roles and personas, he was a natural babyface and played that role extremely well, especially in tags. He could on occasion play "aggressor" or borderline "rudo", and usually nailed that role as well. He also was very good in the role of "senior partner" to the younger Sasaki in their team of 1990-91, guiding Sasaki through the matches, looking out for him, and cheering him on.

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

He won the IWGP Jr. Title twice. The first was an excellent five month run that covered one of the long forgotten brief golden eras of the division and seemed to indicate more great days as a junior ahead for Hase. The injury along with the departure of Takada and Yamazaki put a crimp into those plans. His second run with it was a cup of coffee that's purpose was to put over the new king of the juniors, Jushin Liger. Hase had four runs with the IWGP Tag Title, twice each with Sasaki and Mutoh. Many of the most memorable IWGP Tag Title matches in the 90s come from these four reigns, or challenges these two teams made before or after holding the belts. Still, a large chunk of Hase prime as a worker was chewed up by New Japan's fascination with pushing gaijin tag teams or monster tag teams. From Hase & Sasaki dropping the titles to the Steiners at the 3/21/91 Dome show to Hase & Mutoh lifting the titles from the Hellraisers on 11/25/94, the only non-gaijin or monster team to hold the belts was a four month reign by Hase & Mutoh. Hase's only brush with a heavyweight singles title was a cup of coffee with the WCW International World Title, lifting and dropping the "Flair Belt" from Rick Rude. He added one tag title reign in Calgary to his trophy case.

Hase teamed with Mutoh to win two Super Grade Tag League tournaments. As a singles, he was runner-up in the 1988 junior tourney, and to Fujinami in the 1993 G-1 Climax.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

The 3/91 Hase & Sasaki was named WON MOTY, while the 11/90 Hase & Sasaki vs. Mutoh & Chono won the Weekly Pro tag match of the year polling.

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

Hase seemed to get standard mid-card coverage from the Japanese press. His press wasn't at the level of the top stars or legends, nor the young guns the mags were trying to push up.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

He was the best tag team worker in his promotion from 1990 to his semi-retirement, and ranked with Toshiaki Kawada as the best tag team worker in Japan in that stretch. Hase was a master of playing the Japanese equivalent of face-in-peril, and equally adept at playing man-on-the-apron cheering his partner on and taking the hot tag. Switching to the aggressor role, he was effective in "cutting off the ring" and "quick tags". From both sides of the table he was very good at keeping the crowd into the matches. And more than anyone, he was comfortable opposite his native peers, the gaijin suplex machines, and the gaijin monsters.

20. Was he innovative?

The Northern Lights Suplex appears to be his invention.

21. Was he influential?

He popularized the northern lights suplex and the uranage. "Hase-Muta Juice" is a term coined in the early 90s for the level of blood those two produced in their matches against one another. It really didn't lead to others trying to bleed that much, but instead was a hardcore fan term for "holly crap, that's a lot of blood".

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

Hase's chosen role in wrestling was to make others look good, even if at his own expense. With a role in the front office and the ear of the head booker, he could have pushed himself harder. Instead he earned the nick name World's Most Unselfish Booker. In the ring he didn't just do jobs to put people over, but also used his work to make them look better and pull them along to have good to excellent matches, enhancing the way in which fans would view them.

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

He did retire from full time wrestling young to go into politics, but that was under heavy pressure from his local political machine rather than a gimmicked run for office. Hase's career is about as close as one can get to being the picture boy of putting the promotion ahead of himself at all times. During his time in the front office, there also seemed to be the feeling that booking revolved around what was best for the promotion. The promotion took a long term look at things, and the era showed the elevation of many younger wrestlers right up to the very top of their divisions. After his departure from the inner workings of the front office, the "best interest of the promotion" concept has slowly cracked over time, as has much of the clearer thinking and skill in promoting younger talent.

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

Projecting Hase as a top of the card anchor is unreasonable, as would be projecting him to have many more top of the card singles matches. He could easily have been booked in a few more in his career, and played the same effective role that he did opposite Hashimoto in his one IWGP challenge. Where one can reasonably project is in that three and three-quarter year stretch where the Steiners, Hellraisers and Jurassic Powers dominated the IWGP Tag Title. In 1990 and 1991, the quality of the IWGP Tag Title matches was on par with that of the All Japan World Tag Titles. By 1993 and the Hellraisers era, the gap between the two promotions in top tag title matches became massive. A less selfish Hase could have worked in the tag title division in a Arn & Tully or Midnight Express role anchoring the division in that stretch. In that way he could have added more matches and honors to his resume, and done it in a focused manner that people could easily identify.

Hase retired from fulltime wrestling in May 1995, the month that he turned the age of 34. He was still a top worker at the time, and in very good ring health. Given his ring style, and his long history of commitment to wrestling, it's safe to say he would have remained a very good fulltime worker for several more years at the very least.

Hase strength is work - four straight years of being considered one of the five best workers in the world, a strong body of excellent matches against a variety of opponents. His weaknesses are absence of drawing power, lack of a consistent role or run on top, lack of longevity, and even lack of longevity with his tag and junior titles. Hase was a role player and a great one. But not for very long, and never long in a defined role other than "workhorse worker". His early retirement took away his ability to add another five or six years of good to excellent work to support those four years up near the top. His front office impact needs to be tempered with the fact that he never was the head booker. He was more of a top minister rather than the prime minister, president or king. In the end, booking credit and/or criticism for New Japan in that era has to in large part go to Riki Choshu.

 

Jim Breaks by Ohtani's Jacket

Spoiler

 

Since Breaks only got 16% of the vote in the WON HOF voting, I thought I'd put together a rough as guts Gordy List for him.

I didn't put a ton of research into this, but I thought we could use it as a starting point for the one or two Jim Breaks fans on this board.

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?

No, he was never regarded as the best draw in the world or in his country. As with most wrestling promotions, lightweight wrestlers were never put in a position to draw.

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

It's next to impossible to get attendance figures for British shows and television ratings are also difficult to come by. The figures that we do have are in scraps. What we do know about Breaks is that he was considered one of the greatest post-war lightweights and enjoyed around two decades of success as both a lightweight and welterweight champion. During that time he became a television fixture, appearing on television upwards of ten times a year between 1970 and 1984, which was a lot for any given wrestler and a testament to his enduring popularity. He was featured on Cup Final Day four times and worked on two of the Wembley Arena shows, which were some of the biggest drawing shows in British wrestling history. He also featured prominently on Royal Albert Hall cards, fixtures which were among the biggest shows that Joint Promotions ran each year.

 

Whether this translates into drawing power is debatable. The Joint Promotions business model meant that the wrestlers worked in crews, usually putting on three to four shows a day in different towns. This meant that the main events tended to differ depending on which workers were working which show. There was continuity between the shows in the same town and the wrestlers often did a circuit of the halls which mirrored what they were doing on TV, but for the most part the main events tended to be random match-ups similar to the majority of the TV tapings. Lightweights generally didn't feature in the main event unless it was a title match, which meant Breaks was rarely top of the bill. He enjoyed a tremendously long career and even in '84 there were no signs that his act had grown stale, but amongst wrestling fans from the 60s and 70s it's fair to say he wasn't regarded as the same level of draw as Mick McManus, Steve Logan, Jackie Pallo, Masambula and Les Kellett, who were the big five bill topping names of the pre-Daddy years, and was probably several notches below other household names as well. Therefore, realistically he probably belongs in the second tier of national draws, but again there's no evidence to prove that one way or another.

 

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

If we go by his television popularity, then he was a star from around 1970 until 1984. Television results from the 60s are slightly sketchier than from the 70s onward. He made his television debut around 1960 and was crowned British Lightweight champion for the first time at the end of 1963, so he would have been a known wrestler through the 60s, however the 70s was when the larger than life personalities really began to dominate television. In 1984 he jumped ship to Brian Dixon's All-Star Wrestling, but wasn't used as prominently as he had been for Joint Promotions.

 

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?

Jim Breaks wasn't a known entity among overseas wrestling fans until old episodes of World of Sport began airing on The Wrestling Channel in 2004. This was largely because he never worked in Japan or North America. Whether that was because he didn't have a name or wasn't the type of worker promoters were looking for is unknown. Wrestlers his size generally didn't leave Europe, though there were opportunities to work in Germany, South Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and India. Breaks traveled abroad, but not extensively. He may have been satisfied running his pub or there may have simply not been any interest in him. It's notable that neither of his contemporaries Steve Grey or Johnny Saint were big travelers either, at least not during the television years. The middleweight and heavy-middleweights were much more in demand internationally. Breaks was considered one of the greatest post-war lightweights along with the likes of George Kidd, Johnny Saint and Steve Grey, therefore it's likely that he was considered one of the best wrestlers in the Britain during his peak years, but probably not the best.

 

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

Johnny Saint was generally considered the best worker in the lightweight class after Kidd retired. This was partially down to booking. Faces were generally presented on television as superior workers to heels with the likes of Saint, Mike Marino, Bert Royal and others receiving superlative after superlative from Kent Walton. Heels like Breaks who could obvious wrestle were often lamented as being superb technicians if they could just stick to wrestling. Despite this, Breaks and Grey were considered along with Johnny Saint to be the top lightweights of their day.

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

We don't know when he became a top worker per se, but from the footage we have he looks like a top worker from '72 to '84 with the actual period probably being longer than that.

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

We only have footage of his post prime and he was decent enough.

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

The answer to both is yes. Along with Steve Grey, he has one of the best resumes of matches from the existing World of Sport footage. In part this is because lightweights were expected to put on excellent matches and were given the latitude to, but also because they were outstanding workers. He had excellent matches against a variety of opponents including catch weight matches against workers from heavier weight classes. He also excelled at carrying the young "boy apprentices" that Joint would try to push. 

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

Not his promotion. He anchored his weight class on numerous occasions and he was a regular television fixture, but he was never the anchor for the entire promotion.

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

Yes, he was extremely effective. He generated a tremendous amount of heat for his matches and was consistently one of the most over performers on the cards they ran, and he did this for more than a decade despite largely using the same schtick. Many workers and television gimmicks came and went during this period so his staying power is worth noting.

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

It's unlikely that he had any more worth to his promotion pre-prime than any number of amateurs turned pro. Early on it appears that he was a babyface and in the five years following his first British Lightweight title victory he earned draws with top welterweights like Jack Dempsey and Jackie Pallo and wins over the likes of George Kidd and Mick McManus, so he must have of been of some worth. He was still useful to Joint Promotions in 1984, but when he jumped to All-Star Promotions for whatever reason they didn't use him as much as they might have and he rarely featured on television in the final years of wrestling on ITV. He did feature a few times on satellite television, but the show had a different format to ITV wrestling and Mark Rocco was the lead heel.

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

Not directly. He was part and parcel of "the wrestling" It was the bigger stars that had an impact on promotional runs.

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

Yes, he had numerous memorable rivalries. Wrestlers he feuded with on tape include Jon Cortez, Vic Faulkner, Dynamite Kid, Bobby Ryan, Alan Dennison, Johnny Saint, Steve Grey, Danny Boy Collins and Young David (Davey Boy Smith), but this is only the tip of the iceberg from what is available.

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

Wrestlers didn't cut promos on television until right near the end. He was effective on the house mic and at taunting Kent Walton and the crowd. He was also effective at working storylines and angles. The storylines usually revolved around title shots, which generally involved a three match format of two non-title matches and a title shot, and working gimmick matches with stipulations such as a hundred pounds for every round a young worker could stay with him. Angles usually involved either injuries or disputed finishes. Breaks was effective at putting them over.

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

Yes, he was an excellent heel. His gimmick was that he was a crybaby who would throw a tantrum whenever things didn't go his way. The crowds loved to hate him and would chant things to irritate him or throw dummies (pacifiers) into the ring to rile him. He often jawed with ringsiders and occasionally the odd overzealous fan would threaten him at ringside. He drew a tremendous amount of heat, especially when wrestlers beat him, and of the heels that regularly appeared on TV only Mick McManus and Sid Cooper got the same reactions with the same longevity.

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

Breaks won the British and European Lightweight titles and the British Welterweight title. He never won the World Lightweight title, though he challenged for it numerous times. The importance of the reigns was the sheer number of times he won titles from 1963 through to 1988. He probably won a number of knockout tournaments as well as tournaments for vacant titles, but there wasn't any particularly important tournament for lightweights like there was for heavyweights.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

It's possible that he won awards from the wrestling magazines like The Wrestler, but I'm not aware of any.

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

As far as I'm aware, he was featured in wrestling media and wrestling's TV exposure most likely made him a household name. He didn't enjoy the same mainstream exposure as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks or Kendo Nagasaki, but among wrestling viewers he would have been extremely well known.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

No, he wrestled in tag matches occasionally but was predominantly a singles wrestler. 

20. Was he innovative?

Not as much as Grey or Saint. He basically used the same schtick for more than a decade and worked a style of match that many heels followed.

21. Was he influential?

Not really. He was off regular television for four years before wrestling went off the air and had no real influence on the indy wrestling that followed. He didn't have any influence on All-Star promotions and he didn't help to shape international junior heavyweight wrestling like Mark Rocco and Dynamite Kid did. He may have influenced some of the heels that followed him in the 70s but not in any obvious way. There may be wrestlers these days who quote him as an influence, but I haven't heard of any.

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

Absolutely. He carried young workers like Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and Danny Collins to important bouts early in their career and very rarely had bad matches with people. 

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

Yes, he did jobs on numerous occasions. His losses almost always meant something and benefitted his opponent. He showed enough commitment to wrestling that he wrestled for some thirty years, including a huge amount of travel which he didn't particularly enjoy.

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

We don't have any footage of him from the 60s and what we do have from the 70s and 80s is limited. With more footage, his standing as a worker would probably be enhanced. More research is required from wrestling magazines in the 60s and early 70s to get a better picture of how important Breaks was prior to appearing more frequently on television.

A few more details courtesy of Wrestling Heritage.

According to their research, Jim Breaks was most prominent on TV from the years 1973 to 1984. Here are his rankings among the top ten workers to appear on TV during those years. 1973-76, 4= 1977-80, 4 1981-84, 2= The second equal ranking from '81 to '84 probably reflects the amount of talent that Joint Promotions lost to All-Star Wrestling in that period, whereas his success from '73-80 is probably attributable to the phasing out of the older television stars particularly as ratings began to drop.

Wrestling Heritage also notes that Breaks defeating Mel Riss at the Royal Albert Hall to take the British lightweight title was one of the big surprises of 1963 and represented a changing of the guards of sorts as Breaks as "the slow, masterful technicians were being overtaken by the energetic, colourful newcomers who combined showmanship, acrobatics and wrestling skill," so perhaps early Breaks was more influential and innovative than I gave him credit for.

 

 

Big Daddy by Kenny McBride

Spoiler

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?

Not in the world, but by far the biggest in the country throughout his run.

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

National. Drew all over Britain, with massive TV ratings and at least a couple of very big houses.

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

About 10.

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?

No. He was probably the worst main event worker in the world throughout his run.

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

No.

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

None.

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

He was better before he put on all the excess weight, but he was pretty much a nobody then, so he can't have been that good.

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

No. He had horrible matches with nearly everyone.

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

Yes. He WAS Joint Promotions at that time. Pretty much everything revolved round him.

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

Yes. He drew big crowds, was a terrific draw for kids, and became a household name remembered to this day, even by non-fans. He had his own cartoon show, you know.

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

No. Before his prime he was a mediocre journeyman (super) heavyweight. After his prime, the business was all but dead.

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

He was a hot star for most of his run, but ultimately his style may (in part) have been responsible for the decline of the business in Britain.

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

Not really. Most of what he did was squash effective heels and kill off their drawing power. His feud with Giant Haystacks was memorable and successful as a draw, even if it did consist of some of the worst matches in living memory.

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

Yes and no. He was certainly charismatic, and his "Easy! Easy!" schtick went down well with the crowds, but he didn't really work storylines at all, since no-one ever got to beat him. The closest he came was a 5-year "feud" with manager Charlie McGee. JNLister tells me that it was very similar to the Lawler/Hart rivalry, but without the heels ever winning. It culminated in what has been described as one of the worst matches ever, a televised 6-man match in December '86. Outside of that, he was an Andre-type, used to pop houses with one-off appearances.

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

Yes. The Big Daddy character was as popular as any wrestler ever in Britain, and he filled his role as hero to kids and pensioners eminently well.

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

None. He was a gimmick star, and even in the climate Big Daddy created, promoters were still unwilling to put a title on a wrestler who couldn't go 12 rounds with anyone.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

No.

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

He had tremendous mainstream exposure. Bearing in mind that, at that time, wrestling was (to some extent) a mainstream sport in Britain and he was the number one star, he was bound to be well known. However, he regularly appeared on all manner of TV shows, he had his own cartoon show (much like the Hogan show of the same era), and he was the first (and only) wrestler to appear on the popular This Is Your Life show. There was little in the way of wrestling media in this country at that time.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Most of his matches were tag matches, so he could be described as such. His role though, was to stand on the apron waiting for the hot tag while a much smaller partner (usually a real top hand like Dynamite, Marty Jones, Steve Grey and the like) took the beatings from their (usually much larger) opponents.

20. Was he innovative?

His style was unlike anything Britain had ever seen before, and he drew in far more children than anyone before him. He was probably the first person ever to regularly headline British shows without being a legitimately talented worker, and as popular as he became, he significantly changed attitudes to and in the business.

21. Was he influential?

See above.

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

No. It could be argued that the likes of Dynamite learned a lot from being around him because they were forced to carry a load and get plenty of heat on the heels so that people would be glad to see Daddy come in and win the match, but that's not really Daddy's doing. Certainly working as Daddy's partner, while not a popular role for anyone (it was always little guys, and Daddy's opponents were usually the biggest and baddest heels), it was a chance for the little guys to improve their profile no end.

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

No. It is widely agreed that Daddy's extended run on top was one of the reasons wrestling was cancelled on ITV, thus leading to a near-terminal decline in business.

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

No. He may have able to do marginally more than it appeared, but probably not. It would be difficult to imagine him being any worse than he appeared.

 

Jerry Blackwell by Dylan Waco

Spoiler

 

I've spent the last several weeks doing research on the AWA in general and the last several months watching all the 80's AWA I can find. In the process of this Blackwell started to look like a pretty viable HoF contender to me. At very least someone who people should think about and someone who Dave should strongly consider putting on the ballot. I decided to condense everything I found into a "Gordy List" because it is an easier to consume format than the original data dump/with comments that I did at another board.


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?

Regarded is the tricky word here. He was certainly never the best draw in the World or the country. I do not think it is a big stretch to say he was one of the best draws in the country in 83 and 84. You could argue that he was the best draw in his promotion every year from 80-85, though I tend to think that is excessive. 80, 81 and 82 we just lack enough evidence to say one way or the other though at minimum he was one of the top two or three heels and one of the two freshest stars to emerge from the AWA during the period (the other being Hogan). The evidence does strongly suggest that he was the biggest heel draw in the promotion in 83 and the biggest draw in the promotion as both a face and a heel in 84. He was also clearly the most consistent and strongest drawing singles wrestler in the AWA in 85.


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

Not an international draw at all, unless one wants to argue for Winnipeg where Blackwell did great business over the years fits under this category (technically it does, but it seems wrong to consider a regular "loop" town in this equation). National is arguable though I would lean toward "no." Yes he did big numbers in the outlying towns of the AWA (Vegas, Salt Lake City and even popping the dead San Francisco town more than anyone else from that era), while being a main event level player in St. Louis at the same time. He also got at least some national exposure through the magazines, PWUSA, and eventually ESPN. Still there isn't much to indicate that he was a draw of any magnitude in his WWWF or Mid-Atlantic stints and you can't be a national draw if half the country is off the table. He was a strong regional star though and the company he was based out of covered a ******** of geographic territory, with Blackwell doing well across the board (in addition to the Western towns mentioned this would include Chicago, Green Bay, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Denver, et.).

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

We don't have enough figures to be sure but it is arguable that he was the biggest draw in the AWA from at least some of 1980 as his run v. Crusher was booked over title matches for a while and the Andre matches at the end of the year combined with the battle royals were probably the biggest (figuratively and literally) matches of the year that weren't for the AWA title.

In 81 he was consistently in mains or semi-mains again including an excellent number v. Verne in Chicago (we don't have a number for the rematch sadly), more stuff v. Crusher and Baron, and a run as Hogan's first real "around the loop" main event opponent.

82 is dominated by High Flyers v. Blackwell/Adnan which was really the go to match for the bulk of the year. At times it wasn't a home run, but it held steady all year, did very good numbers in some cases and the stuff Blackwell did around the feud did well also. We also lack numbers from the big buildings in 82 which is too bad but if you use Winnipeg and SLC as a litmus test the territory was fairly hot. We don't really have the numbers, but Blackwell was a semi-main event/main event guy in St. Louis for the entire year as well working with and against Patera, Andre, Dick The Bruiser and others.

In 83 Blackwell starts the year paired with Adnan v. both the High Flyers and Mad Dog/Baron in matches that do great business. This builds to the Verne/Mad Dog match v. Adnan/Blackwell that was the actual main event at Super Sunday which may have been the most financially successful show in AWA history (the popular mythology now is that this was "all" Bock v. Hogan - if you watch the tv leading into this, it's clear that's not true). Patera is brought in as his partner and the rest of the year the Sheiks are red hot working against a wide variety of top level opponents, setting up a feud with the High Flyers, and drawing huge numbers around the loop. Hogan was no doubt a factor and probably the biggest draw in the company, but at this point if you look at the figures it feels like the Sheiks are a strong number two on the depth chart of a company that is making serious cash. In fact, it's not absurd to consider them 1a to Hogan's 1 much like Slaughter arguably was with Hogan the next year in the WWF. Meanwhile in St. Louis he gets a huge push with a string of four straight main events, including a Missouri title win, an NWA title match against Flair and then dropping the Missouri title to Race. The next show he comes back and wins a Battle Royal along with working in a huge six-man semi-main keeping him strong. He then goes into a lengthy program with Hogan before finishing the year in semi-mains defending the AWA tag belts with Patera.

Despite Hogan leaving the AWA stays hot in 84 on the strength of Sheiks, selling out in places like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay that were FAR from guaranteed sellouts, drawing huge crowds in Salt Lake City and Winnipeg, culminating in another huge St. Paul show headlined by High Flyers v. Sheiks blowoff that is another one of the biggest shows in AWA history and the biggest drawing show of the year for the AWA. This was all done right after Hogan left and while Jumbo was champ - it's pretty clear who the draws were. Blackwell stays hot working in main events everywhere until his face turn at the sellout Battle Royal show. He takes a couple months off to sell the injury and business dies immediately around the loop. I mean a massive die off. When he returns he is the top face and business immediately spikes and is back up to excellent numbers by the end of the year with Blackwell in feature roles, if not main events, on every show. In St. Louis he is primarily utilized in tag teams though he does get some semi-main events and main events including a farmed out Brody match that does poorly on top. Still they appear to have faith in him down there for the most part and he was farmed out to Central States for a string of main events that year as well.

The first five months of 85 are a mixed bag. Blackwell misses some time and it is clear the shows are worse off when he's not there. When he is there the numbers are down in the bigger arenas but they are still "good" and there are more good numbers than bad overall, including some huge numbers by AWA standards in San Fran and a run v. Adnan in double cage main events that did quality business. Starrcage does 12k, a good but disappointing number. Verne's split crews and westward expansion, were combining with the loss of talent and Vince's hardcore expansion to hurt. When Blackwell and the Roadies take a huge chunk of time off after May business tanks and it never really recovers despite the SuperClash show doing reasonably well. Blackwell works on, or near the top of several St. Louis shows as well, feuding with Race, winning a second Missouri title and co-main eventing what I think was the last 10k plus match in St. Louis Wrestling Club history.

80-82 we have really incomplete figures but we have tv footage that tells us the territory was hot and that Blackwell was a heavily pushed star in the very upper tier. We have some strong numbers. In 83-84 we have plenty of figures. Lots of sellouts. Lots of "standing room only" mentions. Lots of 10k plus shows in a territory that didn't run very many 10k plus venues, including some record setting numbers. 85 is quite the mixed bag, but he was a part of some huge shows and like with 84 when he was gone the company really croaked at the gate.

Saying he was a top draw from mid-80 to mid-85 seems accurate.


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?

He was definitely never regarded as any of the above. Looking back now you could certainly make the case that he was the best in ring performer in the AWA in 83, 84 and perhaps even 85. Having said that even among those who would be willing to go back and watch the footage I don't think Blackwell would be regarded as the superior of Bockwinkel, Martel or Hennig. He would probably be viewed as a top five AWA guy from 80-85 cumulatively and perhaps every year individually as well.

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

I think anyone who paid attention to the AWA would have regarded him as the best in his weight class perhaps from the moment he debuted all the way through til 86. For his body type he was an athlete of a different order than anything that was seen at the time. Guys like Bundy and even Andre had some agility but Blackwell was on a different level. His big offense looked impressive, brutal and flashy all at once. He was an extremely good athlete, sort of a precursor to Bam Bam and Vader but with a body type that was more awkward then theirs which in a way makes his work even more impressive. He was also an excellent bumper that built well to his big bumps throughout the course of a match (or even a feud) and sold brilliantly as both a face and a heel. Pre-AWA is tough to say because of the lack of footage, but from 80-86 he was almost certainly the best worker in his weight class cumulatively. In terms of individual years some may put Andre ahead of him for the early years but by 83 I doubt many people would make that argument and no one else is in the discussion.

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

Based on the footage we have 80-85 are the years that we can be certain of. One could maybe quibble with the inclusion of 85 on account of Blackwell missing a fair amount of time and I'm not sure how much of his return later in the year is available. On the other hand some of the best matches and performances of his career were in the first part of 85. 80-84 strike me as pretty obvious and inarguable with a multitude of quality matches against a wide variety of opponents.

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

It is hard to peg when his prime really begins because of footage issues. The 78 match with Blackjack Mulligan is quite good and gives us a hint that Blackwell was already a very strong worker before he got to the AWA. I've had multiple people in the last week tell me they saw Blackwell in Mid-Atlantic in the mid-70's and he was a good worker there as well. Post-85 Blackwell still had some really good matches against a variety of opponents. He relied more on schtick and less on athleticism but was still good by any measure even against mediocre opponents.

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

This depends a lot on what one means by "excellent." If the standard is "MOTYC's" the answer is no. If the standard is matches that could be called great and part of the canon for the 80's and/or the promotion he worked for then I would say Blackwell has a solid body of "excellence," though not a "large body." He is hurt a bit by the fact that many AWA matches from early in his run were JIP and most of his pre-AWA work is unavailable/unseen on tape. He's not Bockwinkel and never was going to be but his best performances were excellent and he was almost always the best guy in the match he was in. The 83 Civic Center match teaming with Adnan v. Baron/Mad Dog is a serious contender for the best taped match in the history of the AWA. His performance in the Cage v. The High Flyers in 84 was incredible. He was also great in the Starrcage main event in 85 and had a hell of a singles match with Masked Superstar in 85 as well. That's scratching the surface really as Blackwell had a variety of quality matches with opponents running the gamut from Col. Debeers to Lawler (in Memphis) to Reed (in St. Louis) to Hansen to Brody to Verne and all points in between. It was more a case of consistent quality than dozens of blow-a-way great matches, but his best stuff is among the best stuff in the history of the promotion.

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

Though some might try and argue against it, I think Blackwell is one of a very small number of wrestlers from the 80's who anchored a promotion without holding the promotions top singles title (or secondary title for that matter) at any point. Looking back at the early 80's you could make the case there wasn't any one true anchor but a grouping of guys that were expected to do well in the top slots around the loop, with Blackwell among them. Still I would say that Bock and then Hogan were the closest things to true anchors until Hogan's departure in late 83. At that point Blackwell effectively became the anchor of the company and it could be argued he remained the anchor until business tanked when he was gone for the Summer of 85. At any rate he dominated the AWA in 84. Drew huge money as one half of the tag team champions with Patera in the front end of the year as a heel. Turned face in a sellout show at the Civic Center and took time off to sell an injury at which point business tanked. He comes back as the top face in the company and business immediately goes up and shoots through the roof with him on top of huge shows all over by years end. I would call being part of the top drawing heel act and the top drawing face act in the same year "anchoring a promotion" without hesitation.

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

Without question. In fact Blackwell was fairly unique in the sense that he was effective pushed at the top against a huge variety of opponents including his singles programs v. Mad Dog, Crusher, Verne, Andre, Hogan, Brody, Adnan, Race, Patera and Superstar as well as his tag programs v. The High Flyers, Mad Dog and friends, Dino and Martel and others. He consistently got over, drew money and got huge reactions regardless of opponent.

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

Before his prime he had varying degrees of success as a mid-carder in Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern and the WWWF. He did headline some in the WWWF during both of his stints there though those were primarily on the smaller spot shows (he had one Spectrum main event v. Backlund and some smaller headline matches v. Andre around the loop). He was a somewhat consistent semi-main event guy there and had programs with Ivan Putski, Monsoon, Strongbrow, Bobo Brazil among others. In Mid-Atlantic he had a moderate push teaming with Brute Bernard at one point and he did hold the SECW tag belts twice for the Fullers though neither reign meant much. He appears to have been a solid mid-card/upper mid-card act in Mid-Atlantic for parts of 77-78 as well.

Post-prime his health made him incapable of working anything resembling a full load. He did some stints in Central States working all over the card and did have some success in the AWA in 86 where he was still one of the most over acts on the roster, headlining two of the four biggest drawing shows of the year (and the other two were Wrestlerock which was a loaded show and a Salt Lake City show with three title matches including a Ric Flair NWA title match effectively making it a "supercard" of sorts) and being Hansen's best drawing challenger. He was a utility player from that point forward but still got good reactions on the shows.

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

Absolutely. In fact Blackwell had a strong impact on the entire run from 80-84, a very strong over all period for the company. It is arguable - if not likely - that he was the most important heel in the promotion for that entire stretch surpassing even Bockwinkel who was champion for much of that period. He also had great value after his face turn and was a main even level player in St. Louis during a solid run for that town.

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

Yes. Many of the details have already been run down above, but it is worth repeating the fact that Blackwell was involved in several feuds with a variety of wrestlers that did well at the box office. Perhaps more importantly this was almost immediate upon his arrival in the AWA as even his series with Dino Bravo was well placed on the cards and after that he was a consistent top level guy. His on again/off again feuds with Mad Dog and Crusher were solid "go to's" around the loop for almost his entire run. He was clearly the right opponent for both Andre and Hogan when they came in and was consistently paired with them at key points to the point where the term "rivalry" doesn't seem out of place. The High Flyers feud was a huge money maker that the company went to twice with Blackwell teaming with both Adnan and Patera producing memorable matches. His face turn and run against Adnan/Brody was very memorable and something the crowd was clearly ready (and excited) for. The biggest notch in his belt would be the value he had in getting over the need for Mad Dog and Verne to unite for the Super Sunday main event against Blackwell and Adnan - a show that may have been the most financially successful in the history of the promotion. I'm not privy to the details of his run in St. Louis, but he appears to have had lengthy programs v. Hogan, Patera and Race there that would indicate some success with the live crowds in the area.

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

No question about it. Blackwell was very good on the mic, perhaps one of the more underrated guys from his era. He was excellent at getting across key points of his character or storyline and putting over his opponent at the same time which is something that other talented mic workers weren't always so great at. His promos/skits putting over his girth/power are some of the most entertaining in the history of the AWA. He was also quite good at getting over a storyline during the course of a match and was involved in some key angles. A couple of high points would be the Civic Center tag with Adnan v. Baron/Mad Dog that led to a riot when Blackwell and Adnan attacked Verne post-match (kick starting an angle that would lead to the aforementioned arguable peak show in AWA history) and the great face turn angle in the 84 Battle Royal also in St. Paul. Both angles would rate among the most intense and dramatic in company history and while the wait on the Blackwell return while he sold the injury sustained in the Battle Royal was brutal for business, both were ultimately financially successful.

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

Definitely. In particular he was excellent at getting over his girth as a weapon but without coming across as a blubbering clown. His showmanship in the ring was really impressive as he was very good at milking the big bumps and big spots. He was very good at staying dangerous and vulnerable which is a fine line for big men. He was also excellent during the period he was paired with Adnan as the traitor to his country who sold out for money. His babyface turn was extremely effective and got over massive largely as a result of Blackwell's personality and his ability to sell a beating. Blackwell played multiple roles and played all of them quite well.

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

Blackwell held very few titles over the course of his career. By far the most important was his AWA tag title run with Ken Patera which was extremely important to the promotion, carrying it at the box office in the wake of the company losing their biggest singles star. He was a two time co-holder of the Southeastern Championship Wrestling tag belts though it seems as though the reigns meant little. He was also a two time winner of the Missouri Title in St. Louis. Neither of his reigns appear to have meant all that much, but it is worth noting that that title was reserved almost exclusively for top level stars (http://www.wrestling-titles.com/us/mo/mo-h.html).

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

No, though it could easily be argued that this was as a result of when and where he worked.

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

Like most of the AWA guys from the period he got some local mainstream exposure, though probably not to the degree of a guy like Verne or Hogan. On a national level he did not. I don't know how well covered he was by PWI or their affiliated mags, but from what I know of PWI, the AWA wasn't really their bread and butter.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Absolutely. Blackwell is one of the more unheralded tag workers of all time. His tag team with Adnan (who was by no measure a good worker) was quite good at building heat, working an angle, and taking big paybacks from the babyfaces. The Patera version of the Sheiks was just as good at this with more polished heat sections. Blackwell carried the load with both of those teams, usually with his impressive offensive spots and his dynamic bumping and selling which he seemed to really excel at in a tag environment. Even his makeshift units with guys like John Studd and King Kong Bundy produced quality matches regardless of opponent largely on the strength of Blackwell's efforts. Blackwell has multiple memorable and great tag matches to his credit, including some of the top matches in the history of the AWA. It also should be reiterated that Blackwell's teams were massive draws at the box office - something that cannot be said of many other quality teams from that era.

20. Was he innovative?

He was certainly one of the first really athletic big men and to my recollection is the only non-luchador big man who carried so much weight in such a small frame while still being able to hit visually impressive spots/bumps. Not sure "innovative" is the right word for that though, even if he was sort of a "first" in that regard.

21. Was he influential?

I would say "no." It may be notable that he was such a big bumping and athletic big man. Andre could do that sort of stuff before him but he packaged it differently. When you see someone like Vader, Bam Bam or even Yoko hitting big athletic spots or taking big bumps it certainly looks more Jerry Blackwell than it does Andre. Having said that I'm not sure any of them would cite Jerry as their influence.

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

Definitely yes. For much of his AWA run he was paired off against older and/or limited wrestlers and he made it work every time. Blackwell had the unique ability to make questionable looking offense look brutal or effective with his bumping and selling (while maintaining his credibility as a bruiser) which was of huge value when paired off against wrestlers like Crusher or Baron Von Raschke. It is easy to underestimate how hated Adnan was, but it is also clear the immense value Blackwell brought as a tag team partner and member of his stable. It is also worth noting that Ken Patera had his last run of significance teaming with Blackwell in an extremely effective, money drawing and solid in ring team. Even late in his career he was unusually good carrying weak wrestlers to watchable/quality matches given his increasingly obvious physical limitations and health problems.

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

I know of nothing to indicate that Blackwell was unprofessional. He did seem to miss a fair number of shows over the years, but that was likely health related and it is notable that his push was never effected in any way. Despite never getting a singles title during his AWA run he was consistently pushed at the top of the cards and seemed to understand that he had more value in that respect than he would as a major title holder. Perhaps he could be criticized for allowing his health to slip so quickly and at such a relatively young age, but his gimmick was predicated on being a big man.

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

I think it is almost indisputable that Blackwell is underrated in almost every respect and I think the evidence reflects that. I also think the evidence suggests that he was better than he may have appeared. Because of his health and weight he had a relatively short career by the standards of the time. Because of the fact that he never held a singles title, and was not an old guard AWA figure his contributions are easier to dismiss or even forget for those who were not fans of the AWA. Finally the AWA of Blackwell's era is a promotion/territory that is not as heavily explored as others.

 

 

Cien Caras by Matt Farmer

Spoiler

 

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?

Not in the World, but in his country yes. In fact he along with HOF'er Konnan currently hold the countries attendance record of around 50,000 fans for their famouse 1993 match. He also currently hold the attendance record for Arena Mexico were he and Rayo de Jalisco Jr drew over 23,000 to the 18,000 seat building. The overflow crowd was so large that is actually caused structural damage to the balconey causeing the building to close for repairs for a short time.

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

National and Regional draw. Besides being a top draw in Mexico, shortly into his career had a strong run in Los Angeles and Texas including holdind numerous singles and tag titles in both promotions. However both promotions were past their glory periods.

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

Well over 10 years. Even past his physical prime was still a big draw, and his drawing power transfered to his younger brothers who were strong draws as well.

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?

No, in either catergory. But work rate in Mexico should be classified differently. He worked a different style then most which help set him apart. And he was much taller than the average luchadore.

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

No.

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

None.

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

Early in his career he was an average worker. But as mentioned before he worked a different style which is what got him over.

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

Yes, in Mexico trios matches are the norm. And Caras has been involved in some legendary trios feuds that produced some great matches.

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

Yes, along with Perro Aguayo and Konnan. They were THE top draws and main focus of EMLL during it's huge comeback in the late 80's and early 90's. And along with the other two the big attraction for AAA's big 3 year run in the early 90's.

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

Extremely effective. He had that weird charisma that no one could figure out why people liked/hated him. But he had it in spades and regularly recieved the biggest ovations from the audience.

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

No, beore his prime (as a draw) he was a good mid card wrestler. But because of Mexico's huge depth in it's rosters there were hundreds of mid carders.

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

Yes, he was center stage for two (EMLL's late 80's early 90's run & AAA's early 90's run) of 5 of Mexico's hot runs over the last 30 years (along with UWA's late 70's & 80's run at El Toreo. EMLL's mid 80's comeback, and CMLL's mid 2000's run) and a featured part of wrestling in 80's.

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

Yes, matches with Rayo de Jalisco Jr, Konnan, Perro Aguayo, and numerous trios rivalries with his brothers as part of Los Hermanos Dinamitas.

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

Promo skills were never a major factor until recently in Lucha Libre. But some of his angles got over bigger than nearly any in the history of the country. He was involved in one of the most famous ever where he was nearly permenatly blinded when struck by a peso in the eye. His comeback drew some huge attention.

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

Extremely effective. Maybe one of the countries all time best rudos. Over time he became so respected as a heel that fans graduated into cheering him.

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

NWA Americas Tag Titles with Jose Lothario (LA)
NWA Texas Tag Titles with Jose Lothario (Dallas)
National Heavyweight Title (Twice)
National Tag Titles with Sangre Chicana and Mascara Ano 2000 (Twice)
NWA World Light Heavyweight Title
National Trios Titles with Mascara Ano 2000 & Universo 2000
CMLL World Title
IWC World Title (AAA Title)
WWA World Title

He won the first CMLL World Title by winner a tournament that featured the biggest names in Lucha Libre during it's time.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

Yes

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

No. Yes, he was featured often by the wrestling media which is much stronger and has more of a cross over appeal than here in the United States.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Yes. In Mexico most of their matches are some form of tag team matches.

20. Was he innovative?

No

21. Was he influential?

Yes. He influence a long lineage of family members to become wrestlers. All of whom have reached some form of respect. And his title of El Capo de Capos (the boss of bosses) has been copied often.

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

No, unless because he was a below average in ring performer is caused those around him to work harder.

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

Definetly. At times he was the cornerstone of the promotions he worked for. And was highly respected by most in the lockerooms.

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

At times he appeared lethargic, but once in awhile would show glimses of being very very good. So it appeared that he may have been better than he was.

 

 

Blue Panther Gordy List by Jose Fernandez 7/4/03

Spoiler

I do not have the resources that others have to rate drawing power. For the US and Japan we have tons of attendance records, TV ratings, PPV records. In Mexico nobody keeps track of those, except for the big shows and the such. As for TV ratings, nobody ever takes them into account. I tried to to get the most out of the stuff I have.

Due to that, some stuff is "perception" and "recollections" but I'm going to stay away as much as possible from the chiche "he was a main eventer forever" and "he was amazing" phrases, and when saying something like "he drew a lot", I'll try to give good explanations to try to make up for the lack of actual numbers.

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?

No to both.

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

He never was an international draw (even when AAA drew big in LA and he main evented, he was not the draw). On the national level, while he had some short periods where he was drawing really well in singles matches, he had the benefit of working in hot promotions with super draws (Cien Caras, Perro Aguayo, Konnan). He was a main event player during his whole AAA stay, but a lot of the time in a "supporting role" as a guy who you could stick in a team with Cien Caras and Fishman (a team we saw often during the early years of AAA) so he'd carry the workload of his team. But his program with Love Machine worked great in two different promotions, and his run in a trio with the Guerreras, or Fuerza and Psicosis, were very productive on the house show level. But that was the tale of AAA's "Konnan era" as almost anything you threw on top would draw great numbers for the "regular" shows, and you had Konnan, Aguayo, Cien, sometimes Jake Roberts, and sometimes huge mask matches, bringing in the big crowds for the special shows.

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

He never was a top draw.

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?

He was never really regarded as the best worker in the world. On the other hand, he's been consistently regarded as the best worker in his promotion and country from 1991 to perhaps year 2000, except for a couple of years in the mid 90s where many would position Eddy Guerrero, Rey Misterio Jr., Psicosis or Juventud Guerrera above him in terms of work. The only ones I'd consider better than him are Guerrero in 1994 and Misterio and Guerrera in 95-96 (Eddy was not working in Mexico). Also there's a strong case for Negro Casas and Dandy in 1991 and 1992, but it's still very close and opinion more than anything else. I'd not argue much with anybody defending either side.

Nowadays he doesn't have the benefit of a huge TV push at Arena Mexico, which hurts his visibility, so most people would place Shocker and Ultimo Guerrero over him, as well as Santo and Black Tiger, and probably Rey Bucanero.

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

In the 80s he was a middleweight and there was some better guys in Mexico alone, such as El Dandy and Emilio Charles. If we are counting as classes the "heavyweights" and the "junior heavyweights" only, several Japanese like Takada would rank above him, not to mention Mexicans like Negro Casas, Fuerza Guerrera or Hijo del Santo in lower weight classes. 1990 probably was the year when he started getting noticed by "the hardcores", but the usual suspects still were better. In 1991 he got noticed by the "mainstream" audience and I'd say he arguably was the best in Mexico for single matches, but Negro Casas (a middleweight by then) had better night-in and night-out output. In 1992 and 1993 he definitely was the best in Mexico (though some, like Steve Sims, would probably make a strong case for Fuerza in 1991-92). Whether he was or wasn't the best the rest of the years, as said, is more debatable. However, that he was one of the top 2-3 workers in his class is something almost universally agreed.

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

Blue Panther could be considered excellent from 1984 to 1990, and a top worker from 1991 to 2000. As said, the last couple of years he hasn't been on TV as much and that has hurt his visibility, but quality has not dropped, and does not look to be dropping.

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

Blue Panther's prime would be something like 1991-93, though some would say his 94-95 AAA work was better. Either way, he always was not only good, but a great worker. His first "real" exposure was 1984 in El Toreo in preliminary or welterweight/lightweight matches (he was a welterweight) usually teaming with people like Negro Casas, Black Terry, Jose Feliciano and facing people like El Hijo del Santo, Black Man, Matematico and Kendo. His work back then was already getting rave reviews in the magazines. Three years later he was having a really hot run in El Toreo and Tijuana carrying athletic guys with Kato Kung Lee/Super Kendo gimmicks that couldn't work a lick, to very good technical matches. In 1990, he was often the second worker of the team whenever he teamed with Negro Casas and Fuerza Guerrera (quite compliment, since Casas was an unbelievable worker then and Fuerza wasn't too bad either). After his prime, he's steadily been a top 5 worker in Mexico.

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

Definitely. Excellent singles matches with Solar I in three different
decades, Hijo del Santo, Super Astro, Angel Azteca and Atlantis among others. His only disappointing big profile singles matches that I can recall have been with Octagon (loaded) and Vulcano (pretty good rudo brawler, but couldn't work the technical style).

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

Not really. He was featured in the "main program" of the promotion once in his career, vs. Love Machine in CMLL. When they did it in AAA, they headlined, but there was other feuds drawing the big show money. He was never put in a real position to anchor his promotion.

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

I'd say so. He was always carried the work when he was thrown in as a support main event player, always got his opponent (and himself) over when he had to in singles matches, drew when he was in a position to and was effective working angles both as a rudo and as a tecnico. Problem is perception, and he isn't big enough (size) to be like an Universo 2000 or Rayo de Jalisco figure, so he sometimes was relegated to semi-final or third match of the card positions.

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

Yes in both cases. Somebody with his name value, charisma and work quality is always a valuable player. He's an eternal favorite of the hardcore fans anywhere in Mexico, who happen to be the louder ones, too. He's somebody who can be thrown in at any moment in a main event and deliver even if the opposition is not good.

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

The first stage of his feud with Love Machine was during the CMLL TV boom, and it the second stage caught AAA's even bigger success. Since so many people saw it and it was a brilliantly booked feud, it caught so much fire that within short time it was elevated to legendary status, and it's a wonderful nostalgia moment to any fan that watched Mexican wrestling in the 90s.

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

The already mentioned Love Machine feud is the most famous one, but he's also been involved in several other great feuds. His run with the Guerreras, or Fuerza and Psicosis, against Santo, Rey Misterio Jr. and Octagon provided so many excellent matches, several of them getting ****1/2 to ***** ratings in the Observer. Panther has also had an eternal feud with Solar I. Based on some great matches they had around 1987, they gained so much respect for each other's mat wrestling ability that they have been feuding on and off since then, but in the last 8 years the feud has been pretty much relegated to the independent level. His feud with Atlantis gave him his big break and they have had several great matches during the years. Also, the feud with Hijo del Santo started in El Toreo when Panther started to make a name for himself, and it has been carried in for almost 20 years now but I have never seen anybody complaining about being tired of seeing them against each other.

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

Mic work is pretty much non-existant. Working angles and storylines, he's ranged from effective to excellent. The double turn during the Machine hair vs. mask match was so beautifully done, and while Machine had the hardest task to perform in the turn, Panther played his role perfectly. I don't really think anybody will consider this one legendary or anything, but his on and off feud the last few years with Mr. Niebla has had him playing the "tricky veteran ******* role" really well. One of the coolest moments in CMLL TV of the last couple of years was Blue Panther (in a cast, playing an arm injury) put Mr. Niebla (who tried to attack him) in a quick, masterfully executed Fujiwara armbar that made everybody think he'd snapped Niebla's arm.

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

Yes. His most famous role is that of the "veteran rudo master" who is a better technician than the tecnicos themselves, and he has played that one perfectly during all of his career. He played that role even when he wasn't that much of a "veteran" (in his early 30s). He also made the perfect switch to tecnico and showed tons of charisma, which was natural because he always was a "cool rudo" that people like to cheer (like Fuerza Guerrera and currently Dr. Wagner Jr.).

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

Panther has got a pretty nice collection of titles, including singles and trios, but none are truly relevant to make them an argument for him to be a HOF'er. Then again, no title has been used well long term in Mexico in the last 20 years, not counting the UWA World Heavyweight and UWA World Light Heavyweight Titles. He's had really hot short term programs for the National Middleweight Title (w/ Octagon, but it eventually bombed because Octagon would show up loaded every time and Panther could do nothing with him) or WWA Welterweight (w/ Hijo del Santo). All in all, Panther's most important reigns were the two times he held the National Middleweight Title in AAA because of the great title defenses he had, but he had little impact as a champion. People would have problably showed up even if Panther had had a phony title, simply because they'd get to see his trademark "Panther title match" which means a hell of a technical match.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

Awards matter so much in Mexico that nobody keeps track of them. I can't recall him winning a WON year end award either.

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

He got some mainstream exposure in the early days of AAA, because Pena and Televisa did a hell of a job of promoting their wrestlers sending them to tons of shows, but nothing past that. He's always been featured by the media, but not as a cover superstar kind of guy like Aguayo, Vampiro, Santo or Octagon.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

He was a top trios wrestler. Teams with the Guerreras, Guerrera and Psicosis, Guerrera and Casas, Wagner and Black Warrior, Guerrera and Signo have had runs as regular partners where they'd have really great matches on a regular basis. He's never really been a tag team wrestler except for his early fame days in the mid 80s, but he didn't have a regular partner then, either.

20. Was he innovative?

Not really. Nudo Lagunero is his creation, but it's not stolen often. He's one of the last great old school rudos left, with an style as close as Tarzan Lopez (the pioneer technical master) as you will get in Mexico.

21. Was he influential?

His work is definitely influential in the way that tons of young wrestlers start wrestling wanting to be as good on the mat as him, but that's about it. That's probably more inspiring than influential.

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

That's his strongest point, making everybody around him look better. Some months ago, Dave Meltzer said (I'm paraphrasing) that he's so good that he makes everybody look so awesome that the average lucha fan doesn't notice him as much, and this business it's all about being noticed. He could carry loads to decent matches and spotty flashy tecnicos to great matches. You can definitely see how people like Mr. Niebla improved so much by working often with Panther.

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

He's always done what he's best for the promotion. Love Machine and him didn't like each other (there's a story of Machine sucker punching Panther in front of Pena at his office) but Panther respected Machine's ability and they could do business together so he put him over like a best friend. The only time he did the best for Panther and not for the promotion was when he left AAA in 1997 because he didn't want to put over Mascara Sagrada Jr., who Panther didn't respect because he couldn't wrestle (and he's right on that one). He's prided himself for years in his reputation to have excellent singles matches and it's pretty much his trademark, so he didn't want to ruin his reputation. I don't see what's so bad with that, though.

As for showing a commitment to wrestling, yes he showed a commitment. He's lazy when everybody else in the match is lazy and he's not expected to save the day, but otherwise, he works for six if needed. He's a total pro and I haven't heard anybody ever complaining about him.

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

Repeat the Meltzer quote here. Only the older fans, the ones that attend arenas weekly, the Mexican "hardcore" fans/newsstand magazine reader (the closest there is to the WON-fan, I guess) and the WON reader kind of fan appreciate him as one of the best wrestlers ever in Mexico. Nowadays the average fan sees him as a guy that is "a good wrestler", and is not pushed much on TV.

 

 

Atlantis by Jose Fernandez

Spoiler

 

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?

No and no. He had periods where he was considered one of the top draws in his promotion (more to this later), but in that period there was people like Canek, Konnan, Aguayo, Cien Caras, who were clearly ahead of him in terms of drawing.

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

He is a national draw, and a regional draw. In fact, perhaps one of his biggest strengths was his ability to draw in the most remote of places. During years, his gimmick and nickname was that he was "the idol of the kids", and this was actually true as his popularity was amazing. As I said, he had an ability to easily fill out small to medium sized arenas (2,000 to 5,000, more or less) that could not afford bringing the top tier guys that would rather work somewhere else where there was more money.

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

I'd say he was a top draw from 1988 to 1991. In 1992 AAA entered the game, and he didn't jump ship. Other than that, he did have good drawing periods building up to his mask vs. mask matches with Mano Negra (Oct 93) and Villano III (selling out Arena Mexico - in the last five years the only other times it has been sold out have been for Cien Caras vs. Aguayo, Aguayo retirement vs. Universo, Santo/Casas vs. Scorpio/Bestia Salvaje, Rayo de Jalisco vs. Steel, all of them hair or mask matches). After AAA, and not counting those times, he has not really been a draw, but there is periods where nobody in the promotion really has been.

Before that "drawing prime", he was many times on top of the cards and headlined some of them which were sellouts. He is a guy that during virtually all of his career, first based on work and charisma, and now on reputation, has been on top of the cards and he's always been counted on to headline "anniversary cards". His anniversary card record has all of the following cards selling out except for 1992 (11,500, weak card w/ a poor, thrown out, Dandy vs. Satanico hair vs. hair match in the semi that nobody wanted to see - this match is not to be confused with their previous classic bouts) and 1999 (15,000) but everybody knew neither Villano or Atlantis was going to lose.

84/09/21 - b. Talisman, mask vs. mask

89/09/15 - w/ Satanico b. MS-1/Tierra Viento y Fuego, hair/mask vs.

hair/mask

92/09/18 - w/ Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & King Haku, b. Pierroth, Fiera, Gran Kabuki

93/10/01 - b. Mano Negra, mask vs. mask

99/09/24 - w/ Villano III b. Shocker/Mr. Niebla, losers fought mask vs. mask and Shocker lost.

00/03/17 - b. Villano III, mask vs. mask

When he was not headlining, he could be found several times in the semi-main event of those cards (90, 97, 99). Other sellout drawing matches were his mask winning matches vs. Kung Fu, and Hombre Bala.

One good conclusion would be saying that when put on big matches expected to draw, he delivered, but in the Mexico City arenas, except for a relative short period, he was not a week-in-week-out huge draw like Aguayo, Konnan, Vampiro, Santo Jr., Misioneros, etc. who people paid to see no matter who they faced. But to make up for it, he had the regional arena draw level.

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?

No to both. The first one is out of the question. Atlantis' best year work wise was 1989, and even then there was several guys ahead of him: El Dandy, Pirata Morgan, Emilio Charles Jr., Javier Cruz, Fuerza Guerrera, Satanico and that's only counting EMLL natives. If we add UWA and the indy guys, we could come up with a few extra names.

The only period where I can really imagine a very strong argument for Atlantis being the best worker in his promotion is 84 to 86. Charles was not as good and Dandy had not grown as much (by 87 I'd put both over Atlantis). I'd put Satanico above him and maybe Lizmark, though during those years Atlantis was more inspired than Lizmark and I know some would put Atlantis over Satanico as well. Fuerza was not EMLL, but indy who worked for both UWA and EMLL, so I am not counting him, or I'd put him above Atlantis too. Ditto Casas and Santo who also worked some Arena Mexico cards.

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

He's been a middleweight during the first half of his career and and a borderline Light Heavyweight during the latter half. When he was very young, he was a welterweight, but soon became a middleweight.

That being said, except for perhaps the period mentioned above, there's always been better workers in his class like Emilio Charles Jr., El Dandy when he became a middleweight (late 86/early 87), Negro Casas (in reality he was a welterweight who also held several welterweight titles, but he regularly faced the middleweight guys). That is only counting Mexico.

By 1991, while he was still very good, his work was already passed by several other guys in the Middleweight ranks. When he was "officially" a Light Heavyweight (early 93), there also was several better guys such as Parka, Jerry Estrada or Lizmark who were having great matches in AAA.

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

His debut date is universally listed as 1983 (though I heard once, but never confirmed, that he had been under other name and mask at least two years earlier, 1981). In 1983, he already was very good. His work was clearly down by 1996, though he had that last hurrah vs. Villano III. Nowadays he can still have good matches, but only with top opposition.

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

As said before, his prime being 1989 would tell us the answer to both questions is yes. Nowadays he is not bad by any means, but he is really predictable and his matches are bland and by-the-numbers unless motivated by his opponent or by the situation (i.e. title match or a big tournament). A huge feud would do wonders for him. But reputation takes you a long way and he still has got the rep, and it helps that he is very easy to work with.

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

Yes. Excellent singles matches vs. Blue Panther (best lucha match of the 90s that nobody ever seems to talk about), Villano III, Emilio Charles Jr., Jerry Estrada, El Dandy, Satanico, just to name a few. Also, a wide variety of trios matches were his performance was an important part in making the match excellent.

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

He was, with Lizmark and Rayo Jr., the main tecnico star of the promotion during the last years in the 80s through 1990. By 1991 we had Octagon getting over from lowcard attraction to main event superstar fast, Aguayo wrestling more at Arena Mexico as a tecnico, Konnan, Anibal's return to lose his mask. By 1992, we also had Vampiro and Love Machine's push. In all fairness, Atlantis was still there, sometimes main eventing, but he was far from an anchor. He "took back" his spot when by May, everybody and their mothers had left to AAA. When AAA started the main tecnicos for La Empresa were Atlantis, Rayo, Lizmark and Vampiro. And not too much after, Lizmark and Rayo left.

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

Yes. He played his roles well (more later), made a good champion when given a belt AND booked to look like a fighting champion (you can not blame him for CMLL not caring about some of their titles), and when given the chance he rarely let anybody down by not being good or charismatic enough.

His hardest career test perhaps was starting it off with a nice push in the market with the toughest fans, but he didn't let anybody down even then.

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

Yes and yes. Before his prime he was an amazing young worker who could be used on top if needed and was a natural successor for Lizmark. He was given the chance to headline several big shows, and through work and charisma he was seen as a big star. Years later, Mogur, who was a similar prospect (though not as good in the ring) was given a similar push and he failed. And also Angel Azteca was given a push as an Atlantis/Lizmark kind of guy, and got over well enough, but was never seen on the level.

After his prime, he had several big and huge matches. Nowadays he's still useful to the company as a "young legend" that can still go. He is still used in main events, both trios and singles, and currently is 1/3 of the CMLL Trios champions with Mr. Niebla and Black Warrior.

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

During the 80s, UWA was the number one promotion, and EMLL had good business but not strong promotional runs.

In one of those funny things, I think by 1989 guys like Atlantis, Satanico, Dandy, Pirata Morgan with their work, and others like Cien Caras and [[Rayo de Jalisco Jr.]] with their mask match a year later, along with the decline of novelty value in the UWA cards after Francisco Flores' death, were key pieces in making la Empresa the #1 promotion in Mexico again. But by 1991-92 with the TV boom caused by TV personalities like Konnan, Octagon, Vampiro, Brazos, etc., and legends like Aguayo, caused the guys that had been pulling the wagon during the last few years (except for Cien Caras) to be pushed back. Not to say it was a bad thing to do business wise, but I always think Peña never really knew how to use either Atlantis or Satanico.

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

Yes. His rivalries with Mano Negra and Villano III, even if it was just because of the value of the fallen mask, would be talked about in 30 years. Especially the Villano III. But they made them actually very interesting feuds, with one of them ending in one of the few memorable matches of the last five years, and the other one actually had a disappointing mask vs. mask match but was a very good feud overall.

Him feuding with Kung Fu is considered memorable because of Kung Fu's nostalgia value to Toreo fans, but I hated it. I'm putting the blame 100% here on Kung Fu as Atlantis did what he could. No way their matches could be memorable.

The Azteca/Atlantis vs. Dandy/Satanico rivalry was not long lived because of Dandy turning, but it was a hardcore lucha libre fan dream and matches were memorable. The Atlantis vs. Charles feud was great, too, but not memorable even though some of their matches were.

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

Mic work is almost irrelevant in Mexico (but he is not good at it - during years he would endlessy stammer when in front of the mic, even though he didn't have a stammer). Working storylines, I think he always was very effective. Realistically, nobody with some vision of the business thought he'd ever lose against Kung Fu or Mano Negra as both were past their prime as workers (not that Kung Fu was ever great) and they were played out acts with no drawing power left outside of a big mask match. But he played the sympathetic babyface so well, that he made you doubt. Now, Villano III is another subject. We (as in the English language lucha community) had been hearing for months rumors about Villano wanting to drop the mask, but the feud was built so well that we were in the edge until the day of the match. I can honestly say that even though I had Atlantis as the winner I was not too confident of my choice because it was close to a 50/50 chance pick.

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

Yes. He was a good "hungry young tecnico who can hang around with the vets". He played this role successfully during his early years by outworking veterans with a good worker rep, and not getting smoked when he was put in the same team than a Lizmark or a Mascara Año 2000 level tecnico (don't laugh, this guy used to be pure awesomeness).

As a champion, I guess he's a bit like Kobashi or Toyota, who makes a better challenger than champion, but he had credibility during his most important title reign (his third NWA Middleweight title) as he made a good fighting champion that defeated top challengers like Fiera, Panther, Charles, Cruz, Dandy or then up-and-coming young rudo Bestia Salvaje.

His other major role, which has been played on-and-off since 1988, was of the "top star who is the partner of hot young tecnico prospects". By teaming with him, he helped get Angel Azteca enough credibility to look like a threat to top workers like Dandy and Satanico. Of course this also has got to be credited to Dandy and Satanico for making Azteca look strong, and to Azteca for being good to keep up, but Atlantis played his role well. He's also had a somewhat similar role with Mr. Niebla, and Octagon was put in matches with him, Santo and others when Octagon was started to get recognition as the "new hot prospect that is on the level of the stablished stars". Also to his credit, Atlantis many times put his young partners over in pre or post match interviews.

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

National Middleweight Title: His first title. Can't say much on it, but he had several very good matches.

NWA World Middleweight Title x 3. First two reigns was hot potato title exchanges with Emilio Charles Jr., so little meaning, but the wrestling was very good. He eventually took back the title in 1990 from Dandy in his last reign, which is the one I already talked about.

National Tag Team Titles w/ Angel Azteca: This did more for Azteca than for Atlantis. Very good tag matches vs. Dandy and Satanico.

National Trios Titles w/ Octagon and Mascara Sagrada: Again, Atlantis & hot prospects win titles to give credibility to the "new" guys.

CMLL World Light Heavyweight Title: First reign was more than a year and a half long, but was not much. No strong title defenses that I can recall. Second reign was a very good use of the title, as it was an extra to the Villano III vs. Atlantis feud. Villano III took it back, but strong title defenses all over (DF, Puebla, Cuernavaca) including V3 winning the title in a show with a very good 5,500 crowd in Tampico.

CMLL World Tag Team Titles x2 w/ Rayo de Jalisco Jr., w/ Lizmark: Few title defenses in each reign.

CMLL World Trios Titles x2 w/ Mr. Niebla & Lizmark, w/ Mr. Niebla & Black Warrior: Ditto for the first reign. Second one is still going, but has not amounted to much so far.

As for tournaments I can only recall the copa Victoria. Tournaments don't mean much in Mexico unless it's the Leyenda de Plata. Rayo de Jalisco Jr. loves to win lot of the small tournaments, so maybe Atlantis was in his team for some.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

WON Match Of The Year 2000 vs. Villano III.

Back in the early 90s, the English speaking lucha community was the subscriber list of Lucha Libre Weekly (Steve Sims' newsletter) and Viva la Lucha (Kurt Brown's fanzine). The latter gave year end awards/polls from 89-94, while the other one usually had Steve's opinions only (IIRC). The Mexican magazine awards are way more markish and political than the PWI awards of the era, and they are hard to track down anyway, so I'm not counting them.

VLL Babyface of the year: 1989, 90 and 93. VLL Wrestler of the year: 1989 VLL Tope/Move of the year: 1990 (for his Quebrada)

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

No and no.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Not really, but tag team wrestling has not been really big in Mexico in the last 16-17 years. Now we see a lot of it with the team of Guerrero and Bucanero, though, which is good, and El Toreo's golden years featured mostly tag team matches on top, but Atlantis was a Coliseo/Mexico guy.

20. Was he innovative?

The Atlantida backbreaker seems to be his creation. Up to 1991, while not innovative, his flying was state-of-the-art. In 1991 the new generation of Volador, Oro, Misterioso, etc. passed him in that aspect. And around that time, he was smart enough to start dropping some of his crazy moves while still young and healthy.

21. Was he influential?

He's not a Lizmark-like influential figure, though because of him being popular, I guess many kids wanted to be like him. But I don't think that makes you HOF worthy unless you are Santo and those kids were half a country. :)

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

Nowadays he just goes through the motions, but in the past he could look good himself with a limited opponent, and he could make that opponent look strong by selling and bumping well. During years, Pierroth Jr. and Atlantis were the favorite rudo and tecnico (respectively) for the touring foreigners because how easy was to work with them.

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

He's considered the ultimate pro by his peers and the promoters, and he's got dedication. He's a guy that rarely, if ever, no-shows without telling the promoter in advance, and he's one of those guys that arrives to the arena early. I have never heard any complaints about Atlantis' attitude.

Nowadays, he rarely loses cleanly, but he puts people over when needed and when he has got big mask vs. mask programs he puts his opponent over really strong. Of course he will end up taking the mask, but he does a good job of making it work. In fact, it's not too uncommon to see fans that are not all that knowledgeable about the worked side of the business, cite how Atlantis took the masks of Villano and Mano Negra "with fluke wins" and "being an inferior wrestler" (in Villano's case one can understand, but no way with Mano Negra).

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

He's always been really protected by Paco Alonso, probably due to loyalty. During his prime years, as good as he was, he was always facing the top rudo workers in the promotion so he looked even better. But to be fair, those rudos also looked better and stronger when facing Atlantis too, so it was more of a mutual help deal.

 

 

Rock and Roll Express by Bix
 

Spoiler

 

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?
Never the top draw in the world. In the U.S., probably not, as their big run began as Hogan’s did. In their promotion, yes.

Their run as a team began in Memphis, as Jerry Jarrett’s solution for having a “blowjob team” (his term for pretty boy babyfaces) to work the smaller shows in the territory while the Fabulous Ones worked the bigger shows. The R&Rs did well in their role.

In 1984, when Jarrett decided it was time to freshen up the territory, he worked out a talent trade with Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling. Watts would get the R&Rs, blossoming workhorse Bobby Eaton, talented but burnt out tag wrestler Dennis Condrey (who had previously done well in teams with David Schults, Phil Hickerson, Randy Rose, and Norvell Austin), young manager Jim Cornette, and Bill Dundee to book while working in the midcard to keep his influence fair. Watts put Eaton & Condrey together as a heel foil for the R&Rs managed by Cornette, and they dubbed themselves the Midnight Express, which the Condrey/Rose/Austin team called themselves in Alabama. The R&R-MX feud gave Watts’ business the kick it needed, and they started doing tremendous gates.

Eventually the R&Rs moved on to Jim Crockett Promotions, which was starting its national expansion with timeslots on Atlanta based superstation WTBS. They won the World Tag Titles in their debut, beating Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khrushchev, 2/3 of the evil Russians (w/ Nikita Koloff). They got over huge, and did quite well as supporting draws to the Flair/Horsemen vs Dusty et al programs. For a stretch in 1986 Morton was Ric Flair’s major World Title challenger around the horn, doing good business. The R&Rs continued to do well as supporting draws until leaving the company in 1988.

They started working in the AWA along with various southern indies (including SCW in Georgia and Jarrett’s CWA), with no notable money being drawn.

In 1990 they returned to what was at this point Turner Broadcasting’s World Championship Wrestling, which had been bought from Crockett in 1988. They stayed in the midcard during this run, which lasted until early 1992 and included Morton turning heel while Gibson was injured before they feuded.

They went back to the indies after that, most notably as the top faces in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling. Their feud with the Heavenly Bodies (Stan Lane/Tom Prichard, with Jimmy Del Ray later replacing Lane when he left for the WWF to work as a babyface announcer), Chris Candido/Brian Lee, and the Gangstas did strong indy business in SMW’s markets, especially in Johnson City and Knoxville. Morton left the company after a fight with Tracy Smothers that led to the THUGs (Smothers/Tony “Dirty White Boy” Anthony), during which business dropped. Gibson would turn heel under Cornette, but SMW would close within months, though Morton returned for the company’s Thanksgiving Thunder tour (which ended up being the company’s farewell) in 1995.

Since then, they’ve worked indy dates, often with one member and a substitute partner (usually Chris Hamrick or David “Kid” Cash), though usually for small promotions which didn’t draw well. They’ve also had brief lower-mid card WWF and WCW runs since then.

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

International, no, as they only had 1 All Japan tour that I know of where nothing of note happened. National possibly, as they were atop 2 major territories, but I’m unsure of how well some of Crockett’s expansions did, and Ric Flair usually main event those shows. Regional definitely, as outlined above.

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

3-4 years, probably their start in Mid-South to their last World Tag Title run for Crockett in mid 1987

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?
 

They were generally regarded as the best face tag team to in North America from ’83-’87 or so, but to a degree. While the British Bulldogs and Fantastics, had better moves, the R&Rs were considered the best at drawing heat. Morton considered a top worker on his own, and Gibson regarded as very good. JDW could probably fill in the WON worker poll data since it’s not readily available and he has his WON collection J

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

Was he ever one of the top workers in his class?
Morton was possibly the top lightweight in the US or Canada during much of the team’s big run. Chris Benoit was very good but not at Morton’s level yet. Owen Hart was as good or better from his TV debut in 1986-on. Gibson was considered a solid smaller wrestler. I’ll save the team comparisons for the more specific question below…

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

They were a very good to excellent team from ’83-’95, with their prime being ’84-87, but they were damn good before and after.

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

The team was quite good in their 1st year, even able to get good matches out of Porkchop Cash. The Heavenly Bodies feud was years after their prime and had some fantastic matches. They’re still fine (but dated) workers now and team on and off on indy shows.

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

Hell yeah. Great matches vs the Russians, both MXs, Guerreros, Andersons, Anderson/Blanchard, Wildside, both Heavenly Bodies, & more. During the team’s run, Morton had some great title matches vs Flair, including a 60 minute draw (they did several) that thankfully was shot on a camcorder, and a cage match aired on World Pro Wrestling that finished highly in the 1986 WON MOTY voting.

9. Did he ever anchor his promotion(s)?
They definitely anchored Mid-South and SMW. They were a vital part of JCP, drawing in much of the female crowd.

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

Definitely. Drew and had great matches.

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

Before their prime, they boosted business on Jarrett’s secondary house shows. After their prime, their anchored SMW and had awesome matches.

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

Definitely. Mid-South ’84, Crockett ’85-’86, SMW’s strong indy numbers ’93-’95.

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

Their feud with the MX is largely considered the best US tag feud ever. Morton’s feud with Flair included some memorable angles such as Morton pinning Flair, and Flair breaking Morton’s nose. The Bodies feud included WCW & WWF PPV matches and a memorable WCW TV impromptu match angle, plus some memorable matches including their 60 minute marathon matches and the losers leave SMW cage match at Bluegrass Brawl ’94. Their feud w/ the Freebirds in 1990 had some fun, memorable angles including the R&Rs destroying the Freebirds’ “gold record.”

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

Morton was strong on the mic, w/ good emotion and delivery. Gibson…not as much, but he showed good emotion at times and he was memorable for translating Ricky into sign language, stemming from his parents being deaf. They got angles over great, mostly due to Morton’s great selling, facials, and mic work.

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

Definitely. Lots of great matches, memorable angles, effective promos, etc.

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

1 AWA Southern (Memphis) Tag Title reign
3 Mid-South Tag Title reigns
4 Crockett NWA World Tag Title reigns
1 CWA (Memphis) Tag Title reign
10 SMW Tag Title reigns
4 NWA (post-revival) World Tag Title reigns
2 USWA World Tag Title reigns
 

They were the centerpiece of the Watts, Crockett, and SMW tag divisions during their reigns (as well as in between them). During their WCW ’90 run their 4 Crockett NWA reigns were mentioned constantly to build them up as title contenders.

NWA World Tag Title Tournament 4/11/95
Their only Tournament win I could find was to set them up as the top stars of Crockett’s “new” NWA based out of Dallas.

17. Did he win many honours and awards?
 

PWI 1986 Tag Team of the Year
WON 1986 Feud of the Year vs Midnight Express (Eaton/Condrey)
Jeff Bowdren Top 100 Matches of the ‘80s vs Midnight Express (Eaton/Condrey) 4/86 Charlotte, NC (aired on World Pro Wrestling)
DVDVR #11 US Indy Match of the ‘90s vs Heavenly Bodies (Prichard/Del Ray) 4/1/94

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

Not much mainstream that I know of. Tons of stuff in the wrestling media, featured heavily in the Apter mags like you’d expect of a top face tag team.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?
Ayup.

 

20. Was he innovative?
 

Morton perfected taking beatings in heat segments. They started the trend of tying bandanas to their tights. As far as moves, they were generally basic, but they could WORK dammit.

21. Was he influential?
 

They set the stage for the long haired pretty boy face type teams like the (Midnight) Rockers, Southern Rockers, RPMs (who were generally heels but had the same look), Hardy Boys, Al Perez/Wendell Cooley, Al Perez/Joe Savoldi, etc.

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

Definitely. They were able to get very good-great matches out of questionable workers such as Krusher Khrushchev, Porkchop Cash, Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, and Brian Lee, among others.

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

As far as I can tell, they jobbed when asked, and always gave their best in the ring.

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

They may have been better than they appeared. While their peers such as the Midnight Express, British Bulldogs, Hart Foundation, Fantastics, Midnight Rockers, Heavenly Bodies, New Breed, etc, may have used more innovative moves, the Rock & Roll Express had the best grasp of working a match, with tremendous selling, timing, and pacing. They did probably the best job of carrying inferior opponents among the group (the MX and Bulldogs came closest, through using their offense to the fullest in the case of weaker opponents like the Sheik/Volkoff, or the MX in squashes).

 

 

Aja Kong by James Phillips

Spoiler

 

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?

No, No and to an extent yes. Aja was the #1 in All Japan Women’s throughout its strong period in the early-mid 90s and along with Bull Nakano was responsible for some of their better attendances in 1990-2.

At times during 1994 it can be claimed that Hokuto at least in part drew some of the bigger crowds due to her retirement countdown. During those years the promotion as a whole was drawing well due to the regular interpromotional shows and to a fair extent it was the whole package that was the draw.

Aja did headline the three biggest crowds of 1994 though it can again be argued that it was “the package” that drew rather than specific workers. Into 1995 Kong was the best draw for much of the year with 5000+ attendances in main events against Toyota (26/03/95) and Kansai (30/08/95) though these shows were at large arenas and did not sell out. The promotion in general was not drawing as well in 1995 as it had done in 1993-4.

The ARSION attendances are less clear cut. The group didn’t draw well either before or after Aja left. GAEA drew very well through 1999, however this was due to Nagayo and her feud with Lioness Asuka. Kong played a part in this feud as Asuka’s #2 in the SSU group however attendances would likely have been similar had Kong not been there.

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

Kong was not an international draw. She only worked briefly for WWF in America and a couple of times in Mexico.

National is questionable, however she was certainly a strong regional draw for All Japan Women who concentrated their large events in the Tokyo and Kanagawa area with a number of 5000+ attendances in each city as well as in Osaka. Kong was in the main event of numerous major AJW shows between 11/90 and her final match for the group in 8/97. Whilst the company had some good and bad times over these years attendances in general were good. As an example, her first main event appearance at the Yokohama Bunka Gym vs. Nakano drew 6200 (14/11/90) and her final major appearance at the same building for AJW vs. Kyoko Inoue drew 5000 (23/03/97).

GAEA have always avoided large venues such as Budokan, Sumo Hall, Yokohama Arena etc. mainly running their major shows at Bunka Gym sized halls. During much of Kong’s time with the group these drew close to sell-out crowds, although it was Nagayo’s feud with Asuka drawing the house much of the time.

ARSION claimed 3600 at the Bunka Gym for the ARSION 1999 end of year show that had Kong vs. Yoshida as semi-main. This was the largest attendance ARSION had that year.

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

Kong was a top draw for her promotion for much of the early to mid-nineties. Her 1990-1992 feud with Bull Nakano generally drew strong attendances such as 6200 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym (14/11/90) and 5500 at the Kawasaki City Gym (26/11/92) when Aja won the title. The promotion drew strong crowds during 1993 & 1994 including 16500 for Dream Slam at the Yokohama Arena, 16500 for a Budokan interpromotional show with Aja & Bull vs. Hokuto & Kandori (27/03/94), 14500 against Kansai at another interpromotional show (25/08/93), 6000 at NK Hall (09/10/93) vs. Hokuto and drew 11500 at Sumo Hall (06/12/93).

It is worth noting that Kong often had a strong supporting cast for her big matches between 1993 and 1994 as most of the major shows largely featured interpromotional matches with the stars of other groups.

After losing the title to Kansai, an AJW show with Kyoko vs. Kong and Kansai vs. Toyota drew 10500 to Sumo Hall on December 4. This was the last 10000+ attendance that Kong can be given any sort of credit for during her AJW run.

ARSION didn't draw well during her time with the group and it should be noted that the GAEA attendances in 1999 and beyond were largely due to the Asuka -Nagayo feud and later reunion.

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?

At no point was Kong viewed as the best worker in the world or her country.

Kong’s working peak was in the mid-90s when the standard of work in Japan was at a level unlikely to be duplicated at any time in the foreseeable future with huge numbers of world class workers in their prime during the time span. For 1993 Hokuto may have was better, however this isn’t a big shortcoming as Hokuto was amongst the best in the world at the time.

Whilst Aja was the best worker in her promotion at various times, notably during much of 1995, Manami Toyota and Akira Hokuto were often regarded by many as being ahead of her with Kong slightly behind/in front of the two at various times.

Kong may have been the best worker in ARSION during 1998 but rarely showed much in the group beyond then, and was involved in some rubbish such as vs. Okutsu (04/05/99) although she did have some top class matches for GAEA at that time. She was generally the best worker in GAEA especially when given the right match, though this was mostly restricted to major shows as GAEA TV tended to be short, US-style matches.

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

Aja is a female super-heavy. From 1987-1990 or thereabouts she resembled a Dump Matsumoto type largely relying on hitting the opponent with dustbins suchlike. Later she built on what Matsumoto had been by adding high quality wrestling to the brawling style Matsumoto and her predecessors had used and became a worker massively better than Matsumoto or any of the other super-heavies had been.

Kong was far more willing to put over opponents and make them look strong in a way that her predecessors Matsumoto and Nakano never had done. Her selling of injuries in particular was great, an area that many female wrestlers are lacking in. The knee injury at the Dome vs. Hokuto (20/11/94) stands out as a great example of Kong’s selling.

Kong was the best female worker in her weight class from around 1992 when she surpassed Nakano in terms of work quality and has never been overtaken. Realistically unless there is either a serious decline in her work down to Big Daddy levels or a great super-heavy comes along she is unlikely to be surpassed for the remaining years of her career. Partly this is because there haven’t been any workers of her style in recent years. The closest workers to her weight class in recent years competing in Japan have been Ayako Seki, who disappeared as soon as she started, and Americans Nicole Bass and Amazing Kong, neither of who matched up. Kyoko Inoue bulked up to the super-heavy level in around 1996 but never reached the level Kong was at whilst at that weight level and safe bets can be made that she isn’t about to do so.

Aja was amongst the best female workers from around 1992 until around 2000 when (i) she began to slow down, (ii) her opportunities to have great matches were reduced and (iii) the quality of female wrestling in general dropped.

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

Aja was a top worker from 1992 onwards. She remains one, however the standards of female wrestling are not as high as they were. Kong has suffered, particularly over the last two years, due to (i) not working as often and (ii) working mostly American TV type short matches in GAEA which aren't given the necessary time to lead anywhere. Many of her longer matches such as vs. Satomura (17/09/99) in GAEA have been of high quality.

During 1993 Aja was AJW's most consistent main event performer behind only Hokuto and possibly Toyota at times, and through 1994 and much of 1995 was almost always a better worker than either.

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

Kong was certainly in her prime between 1993 and 1995. Beyond then is not as clear-cut. 1996 was a dry year with little opportunity to prove either way. Into 1997 more chances came along and she was performing at a very high level, so up to 1997 could be argued. She remained a top worker for many more years.

Her ascension to the main event began in around 1990, four years after debuting, and whilst limited footage of her early years is easily available, appeared to be a basic worker at this time. Many of her matches were either tags or Dump-style brawling matches, a method good at covering weaknesses in the eyes of the audience. From 1991 Aja was clearly a good worker. The first standout match in terms of work being the tag team hair match vs. Bull & Kyoko (11/01/91) and later a 30:00 draw with Toyota (26/05/92) which was the first time I’m aware of that she was asked to carry an opponent in a long match. During 1992 she became one of the better workers in the promotion and arguably reached her absolute peak level in 1994-1995.

Despite still being in her prime Kong was downgraded by AJW after losing the title to Kansai (30/08/95) in favour of Kyoko, Toyota and Hotta and didn’t get given the big matches she had had in the past. Kong’s big singles matches often did deliver however she was clearly on the same treadmill that other past champions found themselves on after losing the title.

When leaving AJW in 1997 Kong was still often an excellent worker. The brawling style was revived for a while with Kong proving very adept, leading Shimoda & Mita (08/08/97) to their best ever non-gimmick brawling match; also in regular AJW style matches such as against Toyota (20/08/97). Continued to work very well in ARSION until mid-1999 when there was a decline in her work *for ARSION*. This decline however was not nearly as evident in GAEA, where her past greatness continued to show in an excellent tag against Kato & Satomura (15/04/99) and vs. Satomura in singles (17/09/99). Little has changed since then.

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

Only a handful of female workers have as many great matches to their credit as Aja does. Generally the Japanese women used a lot of high spots with less selling. Kong however did not do this and was able to use a wider range of psychology and selling into her work making her one of the most complete female wrestlers of her or any other era. During her prime years there were only a small number of disappointing high-end Kong matches. Amazingly, one of the few opponents she did not have great singles matches against was Akira Hokuto.

Kong had excellent singles matches with a wide range of opponents. During 1992-1995 Bull Nakano (25/04/92), Bison Kimura (21/06/92), Manami Toyota (20/11/94, 27/03/95, 27/06/95), Kyoko Inoue (04/12/95) and Dynamite Kansai (25/08/93, 20/11/94, 31/08/95) amongst others had great matches against Kong and she was able to lift workers below her ability level such as Megumi Kudo (06/12/93). Many of these matches tend to feature in “best of joshi” type listings.

Bringing in tags, great matches were had against Shinobu Kandori (27/03/94), Yumiko Hotta (24/08/94), Toshiyo Yamada (24/01/93, 20/03/92), Akira Hokuto (15/08/92, 27/03/94) and Dynamite Kansai (24/08/94). Also to be mentioned is the 60:00 AJW vs. JWP Thunder Queen (31/07/93) match that Kong contributed a lot to, building her upcoming rivalry with Kansai and generally leading the AJW team.

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

Yes. After two years as #2 feuding with Bull Nakano Kong overtook her and anchored the promotion throughout the group’s ultra-hot period between 1992 and 1994. She remained as #1 until late 1995 at which point AJW downplayed her in favour of Toyota as they had done with Nakano in 1992 and other former champions in the past.

During her time in ARSION attempts were made to put Mariko Yoshida into the role, however this was soon given up on and Aja took on the role in 1999 and remained there until leaving the group.

Kong’s peak position in GAEA could be at best described as the #2 as Nagayo was always clearly #1 and Lioness Asuka took on the #2 role after joining the promotion in December 1998.

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

Yes, AJW’s upturn in business started in 1990-1 with the Kong vs. Nakano feud after some quiet time following the retirement of the Crush Gals in 1989. Business remained strong until late 1995 when Toyota & co largely replaced Kong at the top of the card. The drop cannot be regarded as being entirely due to Kong being moved down. AJW had stopped running major interpromotional shows and was beginning to run out of fresh, marketable AJW vs. AJW matches soon after Kong’s title loss to Toyota which is more of a reason for the downturn in attendances.

In terms of work, Kong’s match quality as WWWA champion was top notch aside from one or two disappointing matches such as against Akira Hokuto in 1993 and 1994. Her earlier work wasn’t as good, particularly in 1990-1 before she had really developed into the worker that she would later become. Two better known matches from the early part of her career, the 11/90 cage match vs. Nakano and the 1991 tag team cage match were not good. High end matches recently have been mixed. In GAEA she had very good or better matches with Satomura, but did nothing special against Nagayo, a fairly limited worker these days.

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

The Kong vs. Nakano feud and tag matches with Jungle Jack all occurred before Kong’s prime and both were of value in AJW’s move from entertainment for teenage girls into a product aimed at older fans with more money to spend. Monster vs. Monster was a new concept and one that the new fans seemed more able to agree with than the teen girl hero wrestlers of the 80s.

Kong was de-pushed in 1995 whilst still in her prime and the move away from the title picture in favour of Toyota & co meant less scope for great matches. AJW had Toyota in mind as the groups new #1 and Kong didn’t appear to be a big part of their future plans other than as someone to elevate Toyota, Kyoko and later Hotta. Kong’s value to AJW post-prime was as a top worker with a fan following. She gave Shimoda & Mita a boost when they reformed their team doing the brawler gimmick in 1997 by working an excellent tag match (09/08/97) against them. Clearly AJW were still in 80s mandatory retirement mode by giving up on her as a 25-year-old in order to push others.

Kong’s GAEA and ARSION careers came after her prime.

GAEA gained mileage from Kong in the late 1990s feuding with Nagayo and later becoming the #2 in Asuka’s SSU group feuding with the GAEA faces. This series, although largely due to Nagayo, helped GAEA surpass AJW as the #1 womens group.

Kong’s name helped launch the ARSION group with varying success levels. The group never drew wonderfully well, although business in general was down and Aja was their only name. Without her these levels could have been worse, particularly in the early days before ARSION was established.

Kong would sometimes help to lift the younger wrestlers, having very good matches with Ayako Hamada, Meiko Satomura and Michiko Ohmukai in singles and Satomura and Sonoko Kato in tag team. Note that there were other times when she did the opposite (see point 22).

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

Aja played a big role in AJW gaining acceptance from male fans through getting massively over in appearances for men’s Lucha group Universal in 1990. These fans had in the past been unwilling to attend women’s events viewing them as female only products similar to playing with Barbie dolls or attending Robbie Williams concerts. The audience growth caused by the male fans new interest in AJW was a big factor in enabling the upsurge in attendances the group experienced in the early-mid 1990s. (See point 21 for more)

All Japan Women had their strongest promotional run during 1993-1994 running interpromotional shows with JWP, LLPW, FMW etc. Whilst playing second fiddle to Hokuto at times, Kong was the promotions #1 during this period and was involved in numerous key matches in the interpromotional series. These included the Dream Slam II semi-main event which continued the Hokuto-Kandori rivalry, the Thunder Queen match vs. JWP (31/07/93), a WWWA title defence against Kansai (25/08/93), the Wrestlemarinpiad '93 main event vs. Hokuto and the Dome tournament (20/11/94).

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

Yes and with many different opponents. Her main rivalries were vs. Bull Nakano between 1990 and 1992; vs. Toyota in 1994-1995; vs. Kansai in 1993-1995 and group feuds such as AJW vs. JWP and AJW vs. LLPW in 1993-1994; and GAEA vs. SSU etc. from 1999 onwards.

A collection of mostly memorable feuds and Kong performed well in them all. The Toyota vs. Kong series was AJW’s main feud in for a while with several great matches well thought of by the fans.

The first big feud was vs. Nakano. Kong had begun chasing Nakano in mid-1990 with a JJ vs. Nakano & Iwamoto tag match (19/08/90), a singles cage match (01/09/90) which Kong won, a confrontation with Nakano following a KO on Hokuto in a tag match (07/10/90) and a second cage match (14/11/90) to set up the tag team hair match (11/01/91). The hair match was the first real quality match the two had. Their best match came when they met for the WWWA title for the first time (15/04/92). The series ended with Kong winning the title (26/11/92) after which Nakano joined the ex-champs treadmill.

In terms of match quality, the Toyota rivalry was the best as both were at their working peak during the time. They met several times between 1994-5 with their tournament match at the Tokyo Dome (24/11/94) and Kong winning the title (27/06/95) standing out as their best.

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

She has always appeared to get strong reactions although mic work has never been a main feature of any of the groups she has worked for.

The storyline with Nakano was worked very well from the beginning. Kong was not a big star in 8/90, just one year earlier at Wrestlemarinpiad she was a glorified jobber in the battle royal playing second fiddle to GLOW workers. In order for the Kong-Nakano storyline to get over, Kong had to make the audiences believe she actually had a chance against the established Nakano.

Quitting ARSION in mid-ring during a tag match would likely have had more effect years earlier before we had seen this type of thing overdone in the US. I am unsure of the thoughts of the Japanese, however many fans from abroad considered this to be a work.

GAEA, particularly in 1999 used the mic more than any other joshi group, and again Kong’s mic work seemed to generate reaction.

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

Throughout her career, Kong played several roles, and was for the most part effective in all of them.

Kong had started out under her real name as the standard young-big-girl in the mid-80s, without a big role in the group until they started to do something with her by coming up with the name change. Kong was very believable in the lead monster heel role in the early 1990s and made a good transition into the anchor role after the heel-face structure was abandoned and she was moved ahead of Nakano.

Beyond then her roles have been limited. In ARSION her success was mixed, many saw her as the real #1 in ARSION over the first year despite the bookers attempts to convince people otherwise. Currently in GAEA she is surrounded by her former AJW peers without anyone in the group having much of a role beyond Nagayo as the clear #1.

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

Kong held the WWWA title twice. The first win was from Bull Nakano on 26/11/92 and lost it to Manami Toyota on 27/03/95. Six defences of the title were made, against Kyoko, Kansai (twice), Kudo and Hotta (twice). This was an important title run as she took the #1 position from Nakano and the lengthy reign asserted her #1 position in the company. The title defence against Kansai (22/05/94) for JWP was as far as I can tell the first time the belt was defended at a show promoted by a rival group, at least in the modern era.

The belt was regained from Toyota (27/06/95) but lost to Kansai in her first defence (30/08/95) and Kong only had one more title challenge, more than a year later.

Won three WWWA Tag titles, first with Grizzly Iwamoto for three months in 1989-1990 and then with Bison Kimura in December 1990 and vacated them in 01/91 after losing to Kyoko & Bull in a tag team hair match. Kong and Kimura won them back, beating Hokuto & Hotta in a tournament in 04/91 and held them for one year until dropping them to Toyota & Yamada in 03/92. The initial two runs, particularly the latter were important in getting Aja over as a player in the promotion and the third asserted Jungle Jack as some of the bigger stars and lead heels at the time. After dropping the third tag title Jack were basically finished with Aja moving ahead in singles and her first challenge for the WWWA title in 04/92, losing to Nakano.

Had a brief run as All Pacific champion beating Noriyo Tateno (30/04/90) and losing it to Suzuka Minami (17/06/90). Whilst not a long run, as Tateno was one of the schoolgirl heroes of the 80s her losing the title to 'new generation' worker Kong helped usher in the new era and signalled the beginnings of Kong’s push.

Kong won the AAAW tag team belts with Ozaki in 1998, winning and losing them to Nagashima & Satomura after one year. No defences of the title were ever made and the belts had never been that important in the promotion mostly being contested amongst the younger workers.

Held the AAAW title twice winning it from Nagayo and Ozaki. Over the two runs the belt was defended three times, twice against Satomura and once against KAORU. As with the tag team titles, during Kong's run with the AAAW belt it was not the centrepiece of the promotion although there was some significance of the first win. Beating Nagayo for her first AAAW title was her first win over Nagayo and a key part of the SSU vs. GAEA faces feud in that Nagayo was “forced to leave the group”. The title however did not play a part in the series from that point onwards.

Won the AJW Tag titles (as Erika Shishedo) with Kimura in a tournament over Takahashi & Maeda on 02/04/88 and lost them on 10/10/88 to Maeda & Takahashi. A fairly standard mid-card title win for two second year wrestlers over two other second year wrestlers and has little long term significance other than the beginnings of Jungle Jack.

Kong held both the Queen of ARSION and Twin Star of ARSION titles. The only significance of the QofA win was that ARSION had realised throwing major titles to people like Yoshida without any kind of major credibility boost beforehand was not a good idea and so moved back to an established headliner for the time being.

Tournament wins:
1988 AJW Tag Team title tournament w/Nobuka Kimura (d. Takahashi & Maeda)
1992 AJW Grand Prix (d. Toyota in finals)
1992 Fuji TV Tag Tournament w/Nakano (d. Yamada/Hokuto), (Received a bye to the finals)
1992 AJW Tag League w/Kyoko Inoue (d. Toyota & Yamada)
1996 AJW Grand Prix
2000 ARSION ARS Tournament (d. Ohmukai)

Was also finalist in the singles tournament at the 11/94 Tokyo Dome show losing to Hokuto, and with Kimura was the 1991 tag league runner-up defeating Hokuto & Nakano in the semi-final before losing to Yamada & Kyoko.

The 1992 Grand Prix victory encompassed several important wins and further built her up for the forthcoming WWWA title win over Bull, an important credibility boost given her recent major loss to Bull at Wrestlemarinpiad in April. Kong's wins over Yamada and Toyota in the semi-finals and final respectively likewise helped to build her up after a tag title loss to them earlier in the year.

The 1996 Grand Prix win led to a title challenge against Toyota, Kong’s first since losing the title.

The 2000 ARSION tournament didn’t lead far as Kong left ARSION less than a year later and she already held the Queen of ARSION belt.
17. Did he win many honours and awards?

Weekly Pro Best Women’s Match:
1990 vs. Nakano (14/11)
1992 vs. Nakano (26/11)
1994 vs. Toyota (20/11)

Weekly Pro Best Women’s Tag Match:
1991 Kong & Kimura vs. Nakano & Monster Ripper (21/11)
1994 Kong & Hokuto vs. Hotta & Kansai (24/08)

Clearly Kong was well thought of by the magazine buyers in the early 1990s. Not a great worker in 1990 and the Nakano cage match was overrated, however the match did have importance in that Kong was being positioned as a WWWA title threat for the first time. Few would pick the tag match as MOTY in 1991, however the 1994 Toyota match was a logical choice for MOTY in the minds of the fans, being the best match at the biggest drawing AJW show. The 1994 tag team match was a surprise choice, the Nakano & Kong vs. Kandori & Hokuto match struck me as being something the fans would hold in higher regard although not necessarily a better match. Perhaps that it was the final match of Hokuto’s countdown worked in its favour. This pair of awards cements 1994 as a great year for Aja.

All Japan Women Wrestler of the Year (1990 and 1992)
All Japan Women Tag Team of the Year (1991 with Bison Kimura)

All Japan Women Match of the Year
1990 vs. Nakano (15/11)
1993 vs. Kansai (25/08)

The 1990 awards appear to have been a way to get her over as a main event calibre wrestler. The 1992 WOTY award is largely justified due to the Grand Prix win, WWWA title win and importantly a noticeable improvement in the quality of her own work, giving AJW the faith to go with her as the #1 and de-push Nakano. The 1993 win likely helped to keep the Kansai series in people’s minds for the future as it would be later revisited.

ARSION Best Record (1999)
ARSION Best Match 2000 vs. Hamada (03/12)

Forget about the Best Record as it only represents her having won the most matches. The MOTY win is not a surprise but has more significance for Hamada than Kong. Kong jobbed the Queen of ARSION here as the beginning of Hamada’s push at the top of the group.

Observer Best Card 1992 (Wrestlemarinpiad, 25/04)

Kong was in the main event here vs. Bull Nakano.

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

As far as I know, she did to a certain extent but not nearly as much as Nagayo and Asuka had done in the 1980s, or the top male wrestlers of the time.

When wrestling magazines in Europe/USA wrote about joshi wrestling Aja Kong and Manami Toyota were often the first names to be mentioned. The Japanese wrestling press often writes about Kong.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Pretty good, yes, although she had only two partners for any length of time: Bull Nakano and Bison Kimura. The team with Nakano was only formed for occasional big matches between 1992 and 1994 and was generally involved in very good or better matches.

Whilst coming before Kong was a great worker, Jungle Jack (Kong and Kimura only Miori Kamiya and Terri Power added nothing) were a decent brawling style team no worse than their 80s equivalents in terms of work quality. Jack did not generate the same type of heel heat that Matsumoto had been able to, although this was to be expected due to the different 90s fan base that didn’t get as emotional as the 80s schoolgirls had done. Jungle Jack are noteworthy for the influence they had in the way the product was changing (see point 21).

20. Was he innovative?

Aja took the style that had been used by many of the top heels of the past such as Miyamoto, Matsumoto, Nakano, etc. and built on it to become an outstanding female worker, likely the best ever in her weight class. Effectively Kong could do the Matsumoto brawling style but at the same time could wrestle at a high level.

Whilst Aja never performed moonsaults in the way that Nakano did, she was a better worker overall. Kong was a vastly better seller than Nakano, who was not unknown for no-selling even 3 on 1 attacks in tag matches against smaller women, and Matsumoto who was also pretty poor in that regard. Kong also sold the opponents moves far better than many of her peers such as Toyota and Kyoko who weren’t unknown for jumping almost straight up at times.

21. Was he influential?

Yes, very much so. The fan base prior to the retirement of Nagayo/Asuka etc. was the teenage audience. Following their retirement and the disappearance of much of the schoolgirl crowd the next major programme pushed successfully was Aja Kong vs. Bull Nakano. Aja vs. Bull was a huge change from what had come before them. The changing fan base was quite willing to accept this change in booking and the group drew several strong crowds for the Bull vs. Aja feud.

The actual changes to the fan base away from the teenage crowd were perhaps Aja’s biggest influence. Jungle Jack, particularly Kong became very popular with the hardcore male fans after making appearances at male shows for the Universal lucha group in 1990. Jack, along with Yoshida, Kyoko, Toyota, Honey Wings and some Mexican wrestlers worked each of these shows in June and November 1990 and whilst heels at the time Kong and Kimura were noted by both the Observer and the Japanese Wrestling Journal as having been cheered at many dates. For example the 07/06/90 match with Jack and Grizzly Iwamoto vs. Honey Wings and Madusa during which JWJ #78 notes the crowd as having been chanting for both Aja and Bison. The 18/06/90 Observer makes the point about the same match that the heels were more over as faces than the faces themselves as well as it likely being the first time that many of the fans had seen the AJW women perform.

During another tour for Universal, Kong, Kimura, Diabolica, Xochitl Hamada and Madusa worked an elimination tag going 25:37 that was the semi-main event against Toyota, Esther Moreno, Yoshida and the Honey Wings (17/11/90). The match was described by the JWJ (Issue #82) as being a MOTY candidate that the audience was hugely into and on their feet for. Aja was the winner here being left alone at the finish to beat the Honey Wings by herself.

It was beyond here that the changes in the audiences began to occur. A report in the 08/04/91 WON notes that business for AJW had increased since the Universal matches the previous year and that the audience which a few years ago had been almost exclusively teenage girls was now roughly a 50-50 mix of the aforementioned girls and male fans. The piece goes on to note that the previous stigma of AJW being a girls-only product was now gone. A later Observer write-up (01/09/92 issue) notes that by that point the crowd was closer to 90% male fans and few of the previous teenage crowd. The fact that hardcore fans had started to attend AJW shows in late 1990 onwards opened the gates for others to begin going as well leading to the big crowds AJW enjoyed over the coming years leading up to their massive Tokyo Dome show in 1994. Kong, it can be clearly seen was one of the main factors in the changes in audience and growth of the promotion that was to follow.

For the first twenty years, AJW’s programmes usually consisted of pretty girl vs. “big girl monster”/gaijin type matches. The Kong vs. Nakano feud was the first time that monster vs. monster matches had been run as a headline series. This lacks the long term impact that Jumbo Miyamoto & co had in the 70s in changing the structure from Japanese vs. American to Japanese vs. Japanese because monster vs. monster didn’t last as long, it still represents a big change in company policy and had success at the box office. I believe the Kong vs. Nakano match (14/11/90) drew the first 6000+ crowd since the Nagayo/Asuka retirements of 1989.

During the transition period between 80s style AJW and 90s style AJW Aja was the #1 rival to then champ Nakano and in the run-up to the hot interpromotional era surpassed Nakano as the #1 in the promotion. Kong maintained that position throughout the strongest days of the promotion until the group began to give up on her as a top draw in autumn 1995.

The only downside is that whilst teenage girls wanted to become AJW wrestlers themselves, young men obviously could not, leading to the group having recruitment problems that remain to this day.

Kong was the figurehead of the ARSION promotion, launched in February 1998 and attempts were made to separate ARSION from the other groups by working a more realistic style based around submissions and UWF style matches. This was a big departure from the workrate type matches that AJW had pushed for so long. Aja was a big part of this, winning her debut ARSION match with a choke sleeper rather than her traditional uraken punch. The style however did not last long, by May Rie Tamada had moved back to workrate wrestling and the other workers gradually followed her lead. By 1999 there was only really Kong, Yoshida and Mikiko Futagami still working “ARSION style,” and within a year or so even they had largely moved back to their previous style of work.

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

In general yes - Aja was able to have good or better matches with inexperienced/lower rated/inferior wrestlers including Eagle Sawai, Megumi Kudo, Meiko Satomura, Michiko Ohmukai and Ayako Hamada.

At the same time, AJW, ARSION and GAEA matches jump to mind where the opponent was either squashed (w/Kyoko vs. Tamada & Fukawa 18/06/97), nothing given at all, or given a win but the match made to look like a joke (vs. Okutsu 04/05/99).

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

In 1995 Kong was willing to put over Manami Toyota, who was not a proven headliner at the time, for the WWWA title (26/03). In early 1997 when Kong had been moved onto the ex-champs downward escalator she worked a 30:00 draw with Kaoru Ito at a big show, and later that year was very giving against Shimoda and Mita (08/08/97) in a match designed to get them over. At the first major ARSION show (ARS Tournament) Kong jobbed in 2:08 to Reggie Bennett who had never been a big star previously in Japan, and also dropped singles titles in GAEA and ARSION respectively to Meiko Satomura (15/12/01) and Ayako Hamada (03/12/00). Both wrestlers were lower ranked at the time and in both cases Kong did not go on to win the title back.

On the other hand, Aja walked out on two promotions. She left All Japan Women (along with many other workers) in 1997 due to the financial problems of the time and left ARSION in 2001 for unclear reasons.

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

In recent years there is reason to believe she was better than some of her matches have suggested. After leaving AJW in 1997 the general quality of Kong’s work fell, however when booked in a big match against a decent opponent the quality was often high, showing that she was still able to deliver when needed. Some of these performances came against inexperienced opponents such as Ayako Hamada (18/12/98) who had been a pro for only four months at the time.

It has to be remembered that Kong’s big push ended while she was still young, dropping the title to Kansai around a month before her 25th birthday. In the 80s this would have been normal. By this time however mandatory retirements were gone allowing Kong to remain as long as she wanted, and her work since then suggests that AJW could have gained much more from her in the following years. Also has been largely injury-free throughout her career  something that few of her peers were able to manage.

Drawing power is a difficult area. As mentioned earlier through much of her peak years, the AJW major shows she was working on often featured interpromotional matches involving wrestlers from other groups, giving even more star power to help boost the attendances. After the interpromotional series finished in 1994 Kong was still main eventing and a clear downturn in business occurred in 1995 with major shows often not doing as well as they might. It can be argued that AJW were overrating their drawing power for example booking the Yokohama Arena (26/03/95) for Aja vs. Toyota which drew 9000. A good attendance, but one that did not fill the arena.

Kong may have been able to show more diversity during her AJW days with the shoot style work briefly shown in ARSION, and at the same time could have used more of her brawling in ARSION after the group reverted back to AJW style work.

James Phillips.

 

 

Choshu's Army by Frank Jewett

Spoiler

 

Choshu's Army lasted as a group under different names from 1/83 to 2/87, just over four years. During that time they did massive business in two different promotions, shifting the balance of power when they jumped and leading to a period of incredible success for All Japan in 1985-1986 that transformed the business model and booking model of that promotion.

Riki Choshu was essential to that run, though others also played indispensible roles in the success of the group which in turn made Choshu a bigger singles star.

Massa Saito joining with Choshu at the start gave Choshu's group the credibility and heft it needed to be taken seriously as a rival faction to New Japan. It's no accident that Observer coverage from that era cited Saito as the leader of the group. He was their biggest star.

Killer Khan provided additional heft and helped shape the character of the group as an excellent six-man unit. Again one turns to the Observer to see that the New Wolves were named best working trio in the world in early 1983, at the height of the Freebirds' run in Dallas.

Kuniaki Kobayashi extended the feud into the juniors division, giving Choshu's Army a link to the wildly popular Tiger Mask. Kobayashi also met the group's high standard for excellent ringwork.

Hamaguchi and Yatsu joined later in 1983, but they became the signature partners of Choshu in tags and six-mans and worked in the group on a full time basis which helped the group maintain a strong presence without Saito and Khan.

I would cite all of the above as key members of Choshu's Army for the reasons listed. Others like Toguchi and the Calgary Hurricanes either provided depth or rode the group's coattails.

The argument against inducting Choshu's Army into the WON Hall of Fame is that Choshu is already in as a singles star. That view blindly overlooks the fact that Choshu was going nowhere in New Japan prior to the formation of New Wolves.

It was the faction that got Choshu over and propelled him to singles stardom. It was the faction that allowed Choshu to revolutionize All Japan's approach and make Japanese vs Japanese a staple. It was the faction that allowed Choshu, a selfish worker, to be protected from having to do jobs in singles matches.

Without the New Wolves of Massa Saito and Ishin Gundan, Choshu would probably not have become a major star. His work had not inspired the fans and he had no platform to pass Inoki and Fujinami as a singles worker, even if he was a heel. Like Ueda or Matsuda, or Hara prior to the Revolution, Choshu would have been an isolated novelty who occaisionally had a big match, not the leader of the opposition force within the promotion.

But Choshu's Army isn't on the ballot, nor do I expect they ever will be, so at this point they serve mainly as a comparison for the Fabulous Freebirds.

 

Before going through the traditional Gordy List questions I want to cover a couple of points.

First, the Gordy List has often been used by writers to "make a case" for a candidate who they feel should be in the HOF. Such efforts are typically skewed toward positive answers.

I don't know if I would vote for Choshu's Army. I certainly respect those who feel that no group candidacies should be allowed or that groups should have to meet the same high standards as individual candidates. I didn't compose this list to try to change or to discredit such views.

I do feel that Choshu's Army is comparable to the ongoing candidacies of the Freebirds and the Midnight Express where multiple lineups and shifting memberships are being allowed under a single group banner. I also feel that Choshu's Army presents a stronger case than either of those two groups, which is why I am presenting that case now.

One might validly set the bar for induction above Choshu's Army, but one would need a crooked bar to then put the Freebirds or the Midnight Express into the same HOF.

Secondly, before considering any group one must ask if any of the members are worthy of HOF consideration as individuals and how their individual value affects the case for the groups.

The Four Horsemen are not currently under consideration, but they present a good example. Ric Flair, the most prominent Horseman, was a huge star before the formation of the group and continued to be a huge star despite the dissolution of the group. This suggests that his personal achievements contributed more to the group than the group contributed to him.

Without Ric Flair in the Four Horsemen, the group would have been much less famous. Without the Four Horsemen, Ric Flair would likely have been just as famous. Because of that, the case for the Four Horsemen as a HOF group is not very strong.

The Freebirds provide an alternate model. Terry Gordy was a relative unknown prior to the formation of the group, he was a big success on his own at some points while separated from the group (the notion that the Freebirds were a continuous group for eight years is patently absurd), and he was famous after leaving the group with little help from the group legacy since his fame was in Japan where the group meant little.

Without Terry Gordy in the Freebirds, it is hard to imagine the Freebirds existing. Without the Freebirds, Terry Gordy might still have become a major star on his own as he did in Japan, but it was being in the Freebirds that established him as a major star in the US before he went to Japan.

The Midnight Express are the ideal group candidacy since none of the members who should be included were worthy of HOF consideration on their own. Clearly Jim Cornette achieved HOF status while he was with the Midnight Express rather than while he was with Yokozuna.

So before doing a Gordy List on Choshu's Army, I have to consider whether the fact that Riki Choshu was a HOF as an individual weakens the candidacy of the whole group.

In this case, Riki Choshu is most similar to Terry Gordy, having become a major star as a result of being part of the group.

The difference is that unlike Terry Gordy, Riki Choshu never became a singles star without benefiting from group involvement. Choshu rose to prominence in New Japan as part of Ishin Gundan. Choshu jumped to All Japan and was prominent as part of Ishin Gundan.

Riki Choshu did not become a star without Ishin Gundan until his return to New Japan in 1987, so it seems fair to credit the group with a large portion of Choshu's stardom during the period when he was a member.

Having answered that question, the group Ishin Gundan is worthy of a further look using the Gordy List, again respecting the right of voters to chose criteria above or below the information presented in the list.

Frank

==========

1. Were they ever regarded as the best draw in the world? Were they ever regarded as the best draw in their country or their promotion?

Ishin Gundan worked as rivals to the top faces in both New Japan and All Japan. Like the Freebirds opposite the Von Erichs, that makes it tougher to prove that they were the draw rather than the top faces who they opposed. The evidence that suggests Ishin Gundan had the drawing power is that the same faces did not draw as well either before or after their feud with Ishin Gundan.

As such, it appears that Ishin Gundan was the best draw in Japan. The balance of power shifted when they jumped from one promotion to another.

2. Were they an international draw, national draw and/or regional draw?

They were a national draw in Japan. They did not work outside of Japan as a group, so they cannot be called an international draw.

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

From 1983 to 1985, Ishin Gundan was clearly a top draw. In 1986 the group began to diffuse, so it is harder to categorize their drawing power. In 1987 the group broke up. Choshu remained a top draw, becoming an even bigger draw as a singles star. The other members were not draws on their own.

4. Were they ever regarded as the best workers in the world? Were they ever regarded as the best workers in their country or in their promotion?

Choshu, Saito, and Khan were praised by Dave Meltzer as the top working group in the world in early 1983.

Choshu, Yatsu, and Hamaguchi were regarded as the top working six-man unit in the world from mid-1983 through 1985.

Choshu and Yatsu were regarded as the top working tag team in All Japan from 1985 to 1987.

5. Were they ever the best workers in their class (sex or weight)? Were they ever among the top workers in their class?

As noted above, the trio of Choshu/Yatsu/Hamaguchi was the best working trio from mid-1983 to 1985. The tag team of Choshu/Yatsu was the top working team in Japan from late 1985 to early 1987, putting up MOTD caliber matches against Tsuruta and Tenryu.

Yatsu was regarded as one of the top heavyweights from 1984 to 1986, which coincides with his membership in Ishin Gundan. Kuniaki Kobayashi was one of the world's top junior heavyweights from 1983 to 1985.

6. How many years did they have as top workers?

As a group, Ishin Gundan were top workers in tags, six-mans, and juniors from 1983 to early 1987, so the total is about four years, with top status in different areas during various parts of those years.

7. Was they good workers before their prime? Were they good workers after their prime?

Choshu, Hamaguchi, Yatsu, and Kobayashi were good workers prior to the formation of Ishin Gundan. As workers within Ishin Gundan, they quickly rose to top status, so there is no "before their prime" period as a group.

Ishin Gundan dissolved in 1987 when Choshu jumped back to New Japan, Yatsu stayed in All Japan, and Hamaguchi retired. As such, the group did not exist after its prime either.

As for the individual workers, Yatsu declined rapidly, though he was acceptable and occasionally good for several years when teaming with Jumbo Tsuruta. Choshu remained a very good worker for several years after the breakup. Hamaguchi eventually came back and was still good. Kobayashi was still good also, but was generally lost in undercard matches.

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

Ishin Gundan had several great matches against the team of Tsuruta and Tenryu. They also had a few great matches opposite various members of Seikigun including Inoki, Fujinami, Kimura, and Maeda.

Beyond that, they had some very good tag matches against All Japan factions that included midcard workers like Ishikawa and Okuma. They also had a very good match against DiBiase and Hansen in the 1985 Tag League.

9. Did they ever anchor their promotion(s)?

As the heel rivals they served as the foils for almost all of the top babyfaces, much like the Freebirds in the UWF only to a greater extent, so this should be a qualified yes.

10. Were they effective when pushed at the top of cards?

Yes. They could main event in singles, tags, or six-mans, draw well, and put on a great match.

11. Were they valuable to their promotion before their prime? Were they still valuable to their promotion after their primes?

As mentioned earlier, the group did not exist as such after their prime. Choshu became more valuable. Yatsu was still valuable for a few years as Tsuruta's partner. The value of Hamaguchi and Kobayashi is harder to establish because of their use. Generally they were of far greater value as part of Ishin Gundan than at any other point in their careers, despite being good workers before and after Ishin Gundan.

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

Yes. The strong promotional runs followed them. The balance of power shifted from New Japan to All Japan when they jumped in late-1984 and it shifted back to New Japan when Ishin Gundan disbanded and Choshu returned to New Japan.

13. Were they involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?

Ishin Gundan versus Seiki Gundan was so memorable that it is often used to define Japanese vs Japanese feuds even though it wasn't the first such feud. Choshu and Yatsu versus Tsuruta and Tenryu is remembered as the top Japanese tag rivalry of the eighties. The storyline of Tenryu becoming a major star opposite Ishin Gundan and particularly Choshu is well remembered. The feud between Misawa as Tiger Mask and Kobayashi should be remembered as the high point of Misawa's run as Tiger Mask.

14. Were they effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?

Yes. Their most highly regarded match featured an angle where Choshu had injured his ribs. Choshu grabbed the house mic and challenged Tsuruta, saying "if you can't beat me tonight, you never will!"

Of course the entire history of Ishin Gundan was basically one long angle where "rebel" wrestlers formed their own promotion and challenged the traditional power structure. That they could pull this off twice and continue to gain support through their All Japan run shows how effective they were at playing their rebel roll to younger fans.

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

Kobayashi in particular was great at elevating less experienced high flyers like Cobra and Tiger Mask.

Choshu did a wonderful job opposite Tenryu as the charismatic, emotional foil that pulled Tenryu out of his shell and gave him a reason to get fired up.

The tag members were all great at getting heel heat by using creative double and triple team maneuvers.

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

Choshu and Yatsu won the tag titles in All Japan while Choshu and Kobayashi also won singles titles in both New Japan and All Japan, but their title reigns weren't critical to their success. They were the top heels in All Japan in 1985 even when they weren't holding top heavyweight or tag team titles.

Individually Choshu feuded with Fujinami over the WWF International title which raised the title to prominence during that brief period.

17. Did they win many honors and awards?

Ishin Gundan won several WON awards. Their feud with Seiki Gundan (New Japan) was runner up WON Feud of the Year in 1984 and Kobayashi's feud with Tiger Mask (Misawa) was runner up for FOTY in 1985. Kobayashi and Tiger Mask bagged WON Match of the Year in 1985 while Choshu and Yatsu teamed in the MOTY runner up 1986 against the team of Tsuruta and Tenryu. Choshu and Yatsu also got runner up for WON Tag Team of the Year in 1986, following Choshu's runner up for WON Wrestler of the Year in 1985. Choshu's lone singles match against Jumbo Tsuruta also won Tokyo Sports Match of the Year in 1985.

18. Did they get mainstream exposure due to heir wrestling fame? Did they get a heavily eatured by the wrestling media?

I don't know about mainstream exposure. The group was covered by the Japanese wrestling media, but I don't have a clear idea of how much coverage they received compared to Baba, Jumbo, or Inoki. I have seen covers for both Choshu and Yatsu, but the one Yatsu cover I saw was based on his attempt to stage an amateur comeback representing Japan.

19. Were they top tag team wrestlers?

Yes. The weren't just top tag wrestlers, they were defining the state of the art in tag team wrestling with their urgency and their innovative combination moves.

20. Were they innovative?

Yes. The back suplex/flying neckbreaker drop and various other double team moves were innovative.

21. Were they influential?

Ishin Gundan raised the bar on using double team moves in tag team matches and moved All Japan tags from the old NWA style of the Funks toward the nineties style of Misawa/Kobashi and Kawada/Taue. Their spots were still being used in the nineties by Japanese heel teams including Keientai Deluxe and Team No Fear.

Ishin Gundan also revolutionized the way Japanese promotions were booked. While not the first group to work "interpromotional" Japanese vs Japanese matches, Ishin Gundan established that such rivalries could be "home grown" within a single promotion and that they could be valuable at all levels of the card, even replacing Japanese vs Gaijin as the main event.

In this sense the success of Ishin Gundan led directly to such memorable programs as Now Generation vs New Generation in New Japan, and Jumbo's Army vs Tenryu's Revolution, Jumbo vs Misawa, and Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue in All Japan.

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

As a group they made opposing workers look better. Ishikawa and Okuma had their best matches opposite Ishin Gundan in 1985. Tenryu became a huge star directly as the result of his feud with Ishin Gundan in general and Choshu in particular. Misawa also looked better with Kobayashi than he did at most other points during almost six years as Tiger Mask.

One could also argue that Tatsumi Fujinami became a heavyweight star opposite Riki Choshu while they feuded over the International title, but much of the credit there would go to singles matches that were set up by the Ishin Gundan angle.

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

Jumping from New Japan to All Japan certainly wasn't the best thing to do for New Japan.

Choshu's refusal to job in All Japan was not what was best for the promotion, but it also was not so unusual during an era of frequent screwjobs. Yatsu and Hamaguchi were willing to do jobs, even clean jobs and the group was ultimately successful.

Their commitment is difficult to gauge. Hamaguchi retired after the group disbanded in 1987, when he still could have been effective. He later returned. Yatsu declined rapidly, in part due to injuries and in part due to his poor conditioning. During their prime as Ishin Gundan however, the entire group showed their commitment by coming out fired up and working hard on almost every TV show.

24. Is there any reason to believe that they were better or worse than they appeared?

The group never achieved their full potential due to political or personal reasons. New Japan never pushed Choshu as a legitimate threat to Inoki during Choshu's run with Ishin Gundun. Likewise the tag faction focused more on six man than on tag titles.

In All Japan, several factors came into play. The All Japan faction didn't have enough depth to match up against Hamaguchi with a quality performer. As a result, Hamaguchi got stuck with Ishikawa as his peer and rival. Saito, who jumped to All Japan with Ishin Gundan and was originally Choshu's top partner, was lost due to legal problems in the US before he had a chance to work as Tsuruta's rival.

And for whatever reason, be it obstinance, mistrust, or Choshu's refusal to job, Ishin Gundan did not get the key victories that would have taken them to the pinnacle of All Japan as legitimate equals with Jumbo and Tenryu.

Even with all that, Ishin Gundan was a top draw and the hottest faction in both Japanese promotions over a four year span. One can only wonder how the face of Japanese wrestling might have changed if either promotion had seen fit to push them all the way to the top with wins over the top Japanese stars.

==========

Finally, when considering a group, another question needs to be answered as part of the Gordy List.

25. Which members should be included in the group?

Major contributors to the success of the group should of course be included in the group, but the nature of a group candidacy rests in the overall strength and success of the group, so I suggest using three additional "rules" for inclusion or exclusion when evaluating a group.

I. Buddy Roberts Rule (inclusion)

If the member helped to establish the group identity or added significant value and helped to sustain the group while the group was achieving at a HOF level, that member should be included in the group.

Buddy Roberts helped carry the workload for the Freebirds in the ring during their rise to prominence and sustained the group along with Terry Gordy during periods when Michael Hayes was injured or elsewhere. As such, it is difficult to develop a strong HOF candidacy while excluding him.

II. Sunshine Rule (exclusion)

If the member did not help to establish the identity of the group and made no significant contribution to sustaining the group, that member should be excluded even if membership coincided with a period where the group achieved at a HOF level.

III. Jimmy Garvin Rule (exclusion)

If the majority of the time the member spent as part of the group occurred after the group was no longer achieving at a HOF level, that member should be excluded from the group.

Jimmy Garvin joined the Freebirds in the late eighties after the group ended up in WCW as part of the UWF buyout. Though the Hayes/Garvin Freebirds were the only lineup ever to capture a "world" tag team title, the Freebirds as a group were clearly in decline due primarily to the absence of Terry Gordy. This can be illustrated clearly by the level of excitement generated by frequent rumors of a "reunion" with Gordy and to a much lesser extent Roberts. Had the earlier Freebirds lineups not existed, Hayes and Garvin would not receive any HOF consideration for their work together under the Freebirds banner.

Note: The same criteria would apply to someone who was a member of the group before the group rose to prominence and who contributed little or nothing to the establishment of the group identity or the increased success of the group. Pete Best of the Beatles would be an example. Randy Rose of the Midnight Express could also be an example.

So for Ishin Gundan, I would include:

Riki Choshu - Founder and major star throughout the existence of Ishin Gundan

Yoshiaki Yatsu - Major contributor to the group from late-1983 to early-1987. Choshu/Yatsu/Hamaguchi became the quintessential working trio of the decade.

Animal Hamaguchi - Major contributor the group from late-1983 to early-1987. Was Choshu's top regular tag partner until the emergence of Yatsu in 1985.

Masa Saito - Original member from early-1983 to early 1985 when a US prison term interrupted his career. Provided credibility and also helped establish the style and quality of Ishin Gundan as shown by praise for the work of the Choshu/Saito/Khan trio.

Killer Khan - Original member from early-1983 to mid-1986 who also helped establish the style and quality of Ishin Gundan and helped to sustain the group at a HOF level in later years.

Kuniaki Kobayashi - Member from 1983 who represented the group in the Junior Heavyweight division giving the group more prominence within the promotion while maintaining a HOF level of achievement as an individual.

There is no clear analogy to Kobayashi in the Freebirds, but one could think of Kobayashi like Lex Luger while Luger was a member of the Four Horsemen: Strongly representing the group while performing primarily as an individual.


 

 

Kiyoshi Tamura Gordy list by Me
 

Spoiler

 

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?

He was never regarded as the best draw in the world or in his country.

He was never the biggest draw in UWFi.

He would likely be considered the biggest draw in RINGS in 1998 and 1999. However, of the 4 biggest shows in RINGS in 1998 and 1999, Akira Maeda was in the main event of 3 of them. The 4th was Tamura vs Mikhail Illioukhine only managing to sell 9,200 tickets to a Budokan Hall main event, a building that holds 16,000+.

Calling Tamura the “best draw in RINGS” is akin to calling Curt Hennig the best draw in 1987 AWA or Sting in early 90s WCW. RINGS wasn’t that bad as far as drawing, but the numbers were down from the glory days, and there were a lot of cards where they could only fill roughly half of mid-sized buildings. Plus, in the case of the Tamura/Sting comparison, the period immediately following their time period as ace saw the company’s attendance increase after a shift in direction (WCW went to Hogan, RINGS went to Shoots).

This isn’t a perfect comparison. RINGS tickets were much more expensive than late 80s AWA or early 90s WCW and was promoted as a more “High Brow” form of entertainment catering to a wealthier fan base. However, I use that comparison more to illustrate that Tamura’s time on top of RINGS came during the company’s low point.

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

No, no and no. Based on the evidence we have, I think it is fair to say that Tamura is not someone who moved noticeably moved the needle from a financial point of view.

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

No years as a top draw.

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?

Regarded is the key word here. Since the late 90s, Tamura has generally been pointed to as the best wrestler in the world during 1998 and 1999. It is possible 1997 would be included in this, but All Japan was still highly regarded in 1997 as were juniors like Liger, Ohtani, Guerrero, Rey Jr and Benoit. However, I think it is fair to say that Tamura has generally been considered the best wrestler in the world in 98 and 99 by folks who watched a lot of wrestling from all over the world.

1998 and 1999 were interesting years in the wrestling business as All Japan was falling apart, people stopped giving a shit about New Japan Juniors, M-Pro died, AJW died, UWFi died, WCW and WWE were at their lowpoint as far as in ring work, this is pre-indy boom, and lucha guys have never really been able to get any sort of traction as “best in the world” because it is less watched and the booking doesn’t always lend itself to creating best in the world candidates (at least not in the way most wrestling fans view wrestling). HOWEVER, with wrestling quality falling off a cliff in the late 90s, Kiyoshi Tamura was pointed to as the guy still capable of having all time classic matches.

I think it would be fair to say he was generally considered the best wrestler in Japan in 1998 and 1999 by people who watched more than just the big All Japan matches at the time.

Promotion is a little tricky. Hardcore fans at the time LOVED them some Takada and most people at the time would have regarded him as the best worker in UWFi from the beginning of the promotion to the end. In RINGS, either Tamura or Volk Han was considered the best wrestler in the promotion when Tamura jumped in 6/96 through 1997. Tamura worked more than twice as many matches as Han in 1998 so I feel it would be fair to say Tamura surpassed Han officially in 1998 if he hadn’t at some point from 6/96-12/97.

The most conservative point of view would likely be that Tamura was either the best or second best wrestler in his promotion from 6/96-12/99.

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

This is also kind of tricky. Tamura was a small guy with google telling me he’s 5’11 and 185lbs. So you’d think to classify him as a junior heavyweight. It’s weird to think of him as a junior heavyweight. If you classify him that way his peers would be Liger, Eddy, Benoit, Rey, etc. And you really wouldn’t call him the best worker in his class until that late 90s period. It would also be hard to place him as a “top worker” (defined as a top 10 worker) in his class if you consider him a “junior” and are comparing him to the Ligers and Reys of the world. Those wrestlers were way more visible and talked about than Tamura.

I’d feel more comfortable defining his class as “shoot style.” That makes more sense to me than saying he’s better than El Samurai or Hayabusa.

If we define his class as “shoot style” then he would have been considered at worst the 2nd best in the style as early as 6/96 when he jumped to RINGS and the best from 1/98-12/99.

In terms of being a “top worker” in the class, it gets a little trickier because of how these guys were “regarded.” Takada would have been “regarded” as better from the moment Tamura debuted until Tamura left for RINGS and Takada started doing Pride stuff. Volk Han would have been regarded as better from the moment Han debuted in 12/91 until at least 6/96 and probably further into 1997. Kazuo Yamazaki is tough because he’s among the most underappreciated wrestlers in history. My gut feeling is that people at the time would have considered him better than Tamura until at least 1994 or 95. Maybe jdw can shed some light on how Yamazaki was regarded at the time period vs Tamura.

From there it gets tricky. Fujiwara love is not only revisionist and niche. I don’t know what to do about the Pancrase guys like Suzuki or Funaki. Guys like Yoji Anjoh and Naoki Sano were great workers but even more under the radar than Yamazaki. I can’t imagine Kakihara getting a bunch of love if Tamura wasn’t getting it. Trying to be conservative, I think Tamura was probably considered a top 10 shoot stylist no later than 1994 and remained that way until the end of the decade.

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

Worldwide covering all styles, he is generally considered a top worker (as defined as top 10) from 1997-1999.

As a top worker in his class (shoot style) probably from 1994-1999.

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

I think most people would point to RINGS era Tamura as his “prime years.” Assuming that, Tamura was an excellent worker before his prime. He showed a lot of potential in his very first match in 1989 and was having legit great matches before he even had 15 matches to his name.

Post prime would have to be considered “U-Style” for reasons that are pretty silly to me, but anyway because of that I would say he was absolutely an excellent worker after his prime. When he stopped doing shoots and formed U-Style he looked every bit as good as he was in RINGS in the late 90s so I’d almost be tempted to call U-Style part of his prime. But I get why it would have to be considered post prime.

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

This is where it gets kind of batshit insane. Because of the nature of shoot style only working around a show a month, Tamura has barely over 100 matches in his career from 1989-1999 plus 2003-2004. But in spite of that he has a pretty staggering amount of excellent matches.

At a minimum he had excellent matches against:

Yoji Anjoh (multiple), Masahito Kakihara (multiple), Kazuo Yamazaki (multiple), Volk Han (multiple), Tsyuoshi Kohsaka (multiple), Yoshihisa Yamamoto (multiple), Naoki Sano (multiple), Nobuhiko Takada, Vader, Gary Albright, Nikolai Zouev, Bitsadze Tariel, Mikahil Ilioukhine, Wataru Sakata, Hiroyuki Ito, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, and Josh Barnett.

And that’s not even it! I’m leaving off more “controversial” great matches like multiples against Yuko Miyato, Dick Leon-Vrij, Willie Peeters, and Alexander Otsuka that others probably aren’t going to be as high on as I am. I’m also ignoring tags which would include dudes like Tom Burton, Mark Fleming, Mark Silver, Steve Nelson, and Yoshihiro Takayama.

So not only does Tamura have a shit ton of great matches in a very niche/narrow style, he managed to do it against a wide variety of opponents with varying degrees of skill over a 15 year time period.

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

He anchored post Maeda/pre shoots RINGS in 98 and 99 and he anchored U-Style. The first would be a slightly more impressive version of Sting anchoring mid 90s WCW and the 2nd would be a slightly more impressive version of Mike Quackenbush headlining Chikara if Chikara shut down after a year.

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

Yes and no. You look at something like his first main event at Budokan where he faced Takada at a sold out show in 1993 and you can say “that’s Tamura being effective.” But I’m not sure Tamura had much to do with that number. His ascension to the top of RINGS came at that company’s lowest point. Granted, company founder and biggest star Akira Maeda retired which is what made Tamura the ace so losing your #1 guy in history is always going to hurt, but Tamura’s drawing record at the top of the card in RINGS is not very good. When he had the opportunity to main event shows for UWFi in 1995 when the company was collapsing, there were a number of “this is the lowest attendance figure UWFi has ever had in this building.”

There are some sporadic instances in RINGS where Tamura was on a show that did better than they had done in the building in years. But they were few and far between .

U-Style he was pushed to the top because it was his vanity promotion. They mostly ran Korakuen Hall and other small buildings so its hard to say he was an effective draw at the top of the cards for such a small promotion. I’m not sure it matters as part of a HOF case.

Now, as a worker, yes. Tamura was effective when pushed to the top of the cards. He could always been counted on to bust his ass and put on the best performances that he could. From an artistic standpoint, he was a blow away success but from a financial standpoint, he wasn’t ever really effective.

I get that anyone voting for Tamura is probably going to take shootfighting into account for his career. Perhaps someone could talk about that as I’m not the guy for it. But I’ve never been under the impression that Tamura was a massive draw in MMA like Sakuraba or whoever else.

 

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

Tamura’s UWFi career is widely considered before he reached his prime. So, I would say, yes, he was valuable to his promotion before his prime as an up & coming super worker. He is a direct peer to Kenta Kobashi in terms of age, debut and role in the promotion. As a young worker, he was often the hardest worker in addition to being one of the top workers in the promotion able to go out and have good-great matches in any position on the card against any opponent. Tamura probably meant less to UWFi in terms of drawing than Kobashi did to All Japan, but on very few instances where Tamura was in featured matches as a young wrestler, he delivered in the ring.

His “post prime” would be U-Style and he was the top star and best worker in the company for its duration so he would definitely be considered valuable to U-Style after his prime. What that means as far as a HOF case is up to the voter.

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

No. Takada was the driving force behind UWFi and by the time Tamura progressed enough in his career to start getting regular-ish featured matches in UWFi, the bloom was off the rose. His time in RINGS coincided with RINGS’ lowest point in company history and in fact RINGS started to do a little better when they moved to all shoots and Tamura became a less featured player.

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

Because of the nature of the style and promotions he worked in, Tamura really never worked storylines and he worked so few matches that there aren’t many opportunities to establish memorable feuds and rivalries. However, Tamura vs Volk Han is regarded as the best rivalry in shoot style history by many people. His rivalries with Tsyuoshi Kohsaka and Yoshihisa Yamamoto are often considered to be right on or right below the level of the Han feud. His early career rivalry against Yoji Anjoh has been completely forgotten in time but was an excellent rivalry looking back.

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

This doesn’t apply to Tamura. His most memorable “angle” was the uncooperative match against Gary Albright leading to the infamous “Break, Gary, BREAK!” moment.

15. Did he play his role(s) effectively during his career?
He was a tremendous working young up and comer. He actually worked for about 2 years playing the role of a guy who didn’t wear kickpads and borderline refused to strike so he would focus entirely on grappling and submissions. I’m not sure if people would consider this a “role” but it was an interesting part of young Tamura’s career. As the Ace of U-Style he was excellent in the ring.

Really any role Tamura played you’re going to see artistic excellence paired with usually disappointing financial gains. So this is sort of a catch 22 category for Tamura. In terms of working in the ring, he was great at whatever roles he was playing.

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

Tamura won the 1997 RINGS World Mega Battle Tournament by beating Mikhail Ilioukhine in the tournament finals at Budokan Hall 1/21/98 in front of 9,200 fans in a tournament that included: Tamura, Ilioukhine, Maeda, Han, Andrei Kopilov, Dick Leon-Vrij, Bitsadze Tariel, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Hans Nyman, and Nikolai Zouev amongst others. Tamura defeated Hans Nyman, Joop Kasteel, Akira Maeda and Mikhail Ilioukhine to win the tournament.

This is RINGS’ big annual tournament. Previous winners include: Chris Dolman, Akira Maeda x2, and Volk Han x2. Tamura lost the 1996 tournament final to Volk Han.

The 1997 tournament also crowned not just the Mega Battle Tournament winner but crowned the first ever RINGs Openweight Title Championship. Tamura held the title until dropping it to Bitsadze Tariel on 5/29/98. Tariel would hold the title until dropping it back to Tamura a year later on 5/22/99. Tamura held the title through the transition to full shoots before losing the title to Gilbert Yvel on 4/20/00. Yvel vacated the title 5/00 when he went to Pride and it was subsequently won by Fedor Emelianenko who held the title until RINGS closed in 2/02.

So Tamura was the first ever RINGS champion, but that reign was the shortest in the title’s 4 year existence, but he then won it back and held it until the shift to full shoots.

Tamura’s initial win of the title was the company’s worst drawing show ever at Budokan Hall by more than 1,000 fans.

In U-Style, Tamura won the U-Style tournament over the course of 3 shows (2 at Korakuen Hall) from 8/7/04-8/18/04. The promotion ran 6 total shows over the course of 4 years after the tournament so it would be hard to say it had any meaning at all.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

Someone will have to help me out with any Japanese awards and honors. But looking through mookie’s WON Awards results:

1997 – Placed 7th overall Best Technical Wrestler

1998 – Honorable Mention Readers Favorite Wrestler (One point behind Kobashi, 3 points above Rey Jr)

1998 – 3rd Place Match of the Year vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 6/27

1998 – 6th Place Most Outstanding Wrestler

1998 – Honorable Mention Wrestler of the Year (Behind Tsuyoshi Kohsaka which I think is very interesting)

1999 – 9th Place Worked Match of the Year vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto 6/24

1999 – 3rd Place Best Technical Wrestler

2000 – 8th Place Shoot Match of the Year vs Antonio Nogueira 10/9

2003 – 6th Place Shoot Match of the Year vs Hidehiko Yoshida 8/10

2003 – Honorable Mention Best Technical Wrestler

2006 – Ranked 63rd Overall on the Smarkschoice GWE Poll placing on 23 of 49 Ballots with 2 Top 10 Votes

2016 – Ranked 62nd Overall on the PWO GWE Poll appearing on 55 of 152 Ballots with one 2nd place vote and an overall ranking of 31.1

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

I would need assistance on this. I couldn’t see him ranking in the top 20 in terms of mainstream exposure due to wrestling fame even from his own era.

 

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

Tag team wrestling isn’t an important part of shoot wrestling. He participated in tag team matches in UWFi and tended to have excellent performances in tag matches. But I wouldn’t call him a top tag team wrestler due to the nature of the style and promotions he worked.

20. Was he innovative?

Sort of. Tamura, along with Volk Han, really pushed the boundaries of what was capable not only just in shoot style but in a wrestling ring. Tamura seems innovative because of his speed, athleticism and technique and the fact that when you combined all of this nobody could do what he was capable of in the ring. However, I don’t really view him as innovative in the way that Volk Han was. If Fujiwara & Takada are Buddy Rogers & Ray Stevens, then Tamura was Ric Flair taking their ideas and pushing them as far as possible. I see Tamura as a worker in the tradition of the shoot style founding fathers. Volk Han to me, was the more innovative wrestler within the niche of shootstyle. Outside of quality of work, I don’t see much difference between Tamura, Takada, Yamazaki, Kohsaka and Yamamoto. Volk Han was certainly more unique character.

21. Was he influential?

Not really. He was one of many people in Japanese wrestling to help turn shoot style wrestling into shoots which in my mind wasn’t just a negative to Japanese pro wrestling in general, but was a negative to Tamura’s specific case as a pro wrestling Hall of Famer in my eyes.

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

Absolutely. Tamura was an incredible wrestler and he had the best matches in the career of Volk Han, Yamamoto, Kohsaka, and Mikhail Ilioukhine at a bare minimum with arguments for the best match in the career of Gary Albright, Yoji Anjoh, Nikolai Zouev and some dudes I’m probably forgetting because I’m getting worn out.

The bottom line though was that Tamura could always be counted on to make limited workers look good and good workers look great and great workers look transcendent.

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

Well, he always worked hard and tried to put on the best match he could against anybody. I don’t know much about him refusing to job or anything like that. I do know that he refused to take part in the UWFi vs New Japan feud because he didn’t want to be a fake pro wrestler like in New Japan which led to him leaving for RINGS. That’s not really doing the best thing for his promotion. UWFi was in dire straits financially at this time period and the New Jpaan feud was just life support for them anyway. However, it was a HUGELY successful feud at the time period that Tamura didn’t take part in.

He really didn’t show a commitment to “Pro Wrestling” because he was quick to make the jump to shoots when that became a thing. But its hard to fault a guy for doing what he wants to do career wise.

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

Yes. First of all, if you are a voter inclined to consider shoots, Tamura likely comes across as a better draw. I’m not sure how much better and I know he was never close to Sakuraba’s level as a star, but he probably gets some help. So there’s that.

Also, UWFi and especially RINGS tended to have very high priced tickets compared to traditional pro-wrestling shows so while the attendance numbers, especially for RINGS, aren’t very impressive, the gates tended to average higher numbers than you’d expect.

I also wanted to be as fair as I possibly could in regards work related questions in the Gordy list. I wanted to try and look at the perception and ignore my personal opinions and leave them for here. I would argue that Tamura was the best Japanese wrestler of all time and was actually the best wrestler in the world as early as 1994 until the rest of the decade. I think when he came back and opened U-Style, he instantly became the best wrestler on the planet again from 03-04 until U-Style Closed. Basically I think his case is better than it appears because his strengths are MUCH stronger than I actually presented them above. Ignoring the shooting and the year he was out from Maeda breaking his face, Tamura had a 12 year career as a pro-wrestler. In my opinion, he was the best wrestler on the planet for 8 of those years. EIGHT! That’s crazy. 75% of his career he was the best guy on earth and he had less than 15 bad matches EVER and probably less than 5 bad performances ever working probably the most difficult style to master in all of wrestling.

His case it worse than it appears because in addition to being basically a zero as a draw, he left wrestling in the middle of his prime to pursue other athletic interests. He left at the top of his game and had he worked a “normal” career of roughly 20 years, who knows how many classic matches he’d have?

His case is worse than it appears because his biggest positives as related to “influence” are outside of the pro-wrestling sphere. And even then, is Kiyoshi Tamura one of the 25 most influential people as it relates to the rise of MMA in Japan? He’d have to be behind Inoki, Sakuraba, Takada, Pancase Guys, Gracies, Bob Sapp, Maeda, Fujiwara, Takayama, etc etc etc.

His case is worse than it appears because he had roughly 100 total matches as a pro-wrestler. It is weird to think that a guy who performed less in 12 years than other guys have worked in 5 months to get in the Hall. That is a difficult idea to wrap your head around and it can be used against him (foolishly in my opinion) to downgrade his ranking as a worker/best in the world candidate.

 

 

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Mark Rocco by Kenny McBride

Spoiler

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?

Probably not. Given the structure of the territory, no-one (until Big Daddy) was considered THE top hand. The title-holders, regardless of weight class, seem to have been regarded as the draws though, and between Marty Jones, Dynamite Kid, Chic Cullen, Dave Finlay and touring guys like the Harts, Sammy Lee (Satoru Sayama) and Fuji Yamada (Jushin Liger), the mid-heavyweight division of the time seems to have been one of the more keenly contested divisions.

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

National at best. Had a run in Japan as Black Tiger, but couldn't realistically be considered the draw in that equation.

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

Won his first British heavy middleweight title in 1977, the won the world title in 1981 and held that three times (after 2 switches with Yamada in '86 and '87) before he vacated his last in 1991 when he retired after suffering a heart attack during a match. He was still considered a top hand at the end, although business was undoubtedly down at that point, after wrestling ended on TV in 1988 in England and around 5 years earlier in Scotland.

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?

Yes. In British locker rooms today, he is still regarded as one of the all-time greats. At the time, it is unlikely he would have been given long runs with such a prestigious belt if he weren't considered a true top hand.

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

See above.

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

It seems he had at least 10-15.

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

In his book, Dynamite Kid describes wrestling Rocco in the mid-1970s and says he was a fabulous worker at that time. Dynamite Kid doesn't praise many people who weren't really good. Rocco never had a post-prime career due to his heart condition.

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

Yes. He had a number of excellent televised matches with Dynamite, Marty Jones, Yamada and Cullen. There are probably many more, but records are pretty hazy.

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

No. With the exception of Big Daddy, nobody in Britain could claim to anchor the promotion, as there were as many as 15 shows per night. He was certainly a strong presence on TV though, regularly having very good matches, and thus did his part as much as any title-holder did.

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

His rapid elevation from British to World title staus suggests that he was. There were several workers who seemed to do well at British level but were never given the opportunity to step up to World title contention.

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

See above.

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

As with all British wrestlers, this is all but impossible to answer. One can only assume that since they kept putting the titles back on him, that he was considered an important piece of the puzzle.

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

His rivalry with Dynamite led to at least a couple of sensational TV matches. Ditto his work with Marty Jones and Fuji Yamada. Feuds and storylines are not exactly relevant to the British way of doing business.

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

Mic work was a tiny part of the British business. He got by.

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

Yes. His image was of a tremendous natural athlete with a bad attitude, and he played the role very well. Though babyfaces and heels (blue-eyes and villains in British parlance) were much subtler in Britain, Rocco knew how to rile a crowd with a well-timed closed fist, repeatedly picking his opponent up off the mat, attacking his downed opponent, arguing with the referee or continuing his assaults between rounds.

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

Two British Heavy Middleweight titles (beat Bert Royal 11/6/77, lost Marty Jones 13/9/78, Jones vacates, beat Chris Adams in tourney final 6/12/78), and three World Heavy Middleweight reigns (beats Sammy Lee by default 6/81, lost Chic Cullen 30/10/85, beat Cullen 4/11/85, lost Fuji Yamada 26/9/86, beats Yamada date unknown, lost Yamada 3/3/87, beat Yamada 28/4/87, vacates late 1991). "Importance" is tough to guage. The title is still considered prestigious today, with Rocco having been present for the recent revival involving American Dragon and Doug Williams.

17. Did he win many honors and awards?

I don't know.

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

In as much as any wrestler who featured on TV regularly was a mainstream star then yes.

19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?

No. Tag team matches were relatively rare in Britain at that time, and singles champions tended to wrestle only in singles.

20. Was he innovative?

Yes. Amongst British workers, he is usually mentioned in the same breath as Dynamite Kid when discussing the hard-hitting aerial style most associated with the latter. Certainly his bumps and suplexes were not common, and latterly his brawls outside the ring were considered somewhat groundbreaking in the otherwise very pure, traditional British style.

21. Was he influential?

Yes, in the sense that a generation of younger wrestlers grew up wanting to be like him. It is said in British dressing rooms that Dynamite got famous by taking all Rocco's stuff and doing it before bigger crowds overseas. In Britain, Rocco had the same influence that Dynamite had in Canada and Japan.

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

Difficult question, given the calibre of his opponents. Given how young Yamada was when working with Rocco, one would have to think Rocco had an influence there. Sayama, too, seems to have been impressed enough with him to take him to Japan as a featured opponent.

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

He certainly never showed anything less than 100% effort. I've never heard stories about him being anything less than easy to work with.

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

None that I can tell.

 

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