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KinchStalker's Puro History thread: info from 2020 Jumbo bio and more! [UPDATE 2021.06.21: HISTORY OF THE IWE, PT. 4.1 (1974)]

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At the suggestion of people in the under-the-radar book recommendations thread, I have created this thread to share historical puro knowledge. The nominal purpose here is to disclose tidbits from a 2020 Japanese biography of Jumbo Tsuruta, but as this is tied up in research I've been doing for a bigger project, there will be other sources here. One that comes to mind is the blog here, which periodically posts history pieces distilled from the Japanese wrestling literature scene.

Tidbits from the first couple chapters of the Jumbo bio follow.

1. Something I've never seen mentioned in English sources is that Jumbo was a child of divorce. (His 1996 graduate thesis, which I also have a DeepL translation of, states that his father died of cancer the day after he returned from Munich, having listened to the radio to cheer on his son whilst bedridden. [Note 03.01: This is contradicted by the biography much later on, which states that he died on March 22, 1971.])

2. A theory proposed by the biography is that Jumbo's drive to become an Olympian was rooted in proving himself against the townsfolk who thought he was weak for not going through with the sumo apprenticeship he had been offered. He'd gone to one of the stables basically on a lark for his summer vacation, but they wanted him for real. However, his brother Tsuneyoshi is skeptical that the reason was this angsty. 

(For those unaware, Tsuneyoshi inherited the family farm. He still sells grapes at a premium, and has converted the first floor of the house into a museum dedicated to his brother. He and the farm are prominently featured in a television special from shortly before Tenryu's retirement, the context being that Tenryu was visiting Jumbo's grave for the last time. )

3.) Jumbo went through a little Beatles phase in high school. I find this quite amusing considering a story from a decade later (recounted in a Tenryu column here), when he'd never heard of Elvis Presley, and Tenryu dragged him to see what would be the King's final concert in Amarillo. (This was the night after he won his United National belt back from Billy Robinson in Florida.)

4.) The next few tidbits are corrections of Meltzer's obituary, which in the two decades since has remained the most extensive English-language biographical piece on Tsuruta.

4a.) His Olympic dream did not start when he read an article about the 1968 Olympic wrestling team. It's hard to exaggerate how big a deal the Tokyo Olympics were as a propaganda project for the reconstructed Japan, which had made great infrastructural developments under prime minister Hayato Ikeda (who was succeeded by chief Olympic organizer Eisaku Satō). Tsuruta may have been a farmboy, but this was definitely on his radar. The bio recounts that he was strongly affected by the sight of the Japanese Olympians' red blazers during the opening ceremony. (Here's a picture from when Tsuruta got to wear one of them himself.)

4b.) Jumbo's high school basketball team won the prefectural championship, not nationals.

4c.) The story that the future Mr. Pogo was the captain of the university wrestling team and rejected Jumbo is a mix-up. Tetsuo Sekigawa was a member of the judo team who turned him down, and later on, Tsuruta said he himself abandoned the idea because he felt he was too late to get as far as he needed to go in judo. (Boxing wasn't an option because the Munich Olympics weren't going to hold a heavyweight division.)

4d.) As for Jumbo being rejected by the wrestling team, this also seems to be revisionism to fit a narrative, not "Michael Jordan not making varsity" level but still somewhat framed. I think what was actually going on was that Tsuruta had gotten in in the first place on a basketball scholarship (not true, see further down in the thread). It is, however, true that an extensive reconditioning regimen was necessary for him to take up wrestling, which he underwent at the same YMCA location where, in 1966, Inoki first demonstrated the cobra twist.

4e.) The article Meltzer mentions was, in fact, responsible for bringing to Tsuruta's attention the fact that 7 out of the 16 men on it were enlisted in the Japan Self-Defense Force, to whom he would then go for training.

5.) After Munich, the sumo world also tried to scout Tsuruta. The Takasago stable had actually been trying to do so since before the Olympics. One smaller stable even made an offer guaranteeing Tsuruta both living expenses and immediate shares in the stablemaster.

6.) The popular narrative around Tsuruta joining All Japan is that he and Ichiro Hatta met with Giant Baba, and Tsuruta was compelled by Baba's smile when, upon finding that a small housecat had fallen asleep inside his shoe, Baba remarked that the cat "had a face like Tsuruta-kun". This isn't untrue, but it omits the fact that some prior courtship had gone on. One of Baba’s friends in the sports journalism world was Satoshi Morioka, and it just so happened that his brother-in-law, Akio Nojima, was involved in amateur wrestling. He was the president of Olympique Products, which produced the mats and equipment of the Japan Amateur Wrestling Association, and would also produce training gear for All Japan. Nojima had Tsuruta over for dinner a couple times, and courted him towards AJPW. (Morioka also apparently had some involvement in courting Tenryu.)

7.) There is something of a parallel between the Meltzerian "lazy Jumbo" discourse and his native reception, at least as it was at some point. Tsuruta has been called the first "salaryman wrestler" because he was explicit about this being a job for him, right down to his word choice at the press conference announcing his signing. He was apparently the first wrestler to say that he had found employment, as opposed to having taken an initiation or apprenticeship. You don't need to be a Japanese cultural studies major to detect the long shadow of sumo hierarchy there. In fact, one of Jumbo's university wrestling teammates claims that he had intended to become a professional wrestler even before the Olympics, and had even practiced his suplexes on the team mats. If I'm not mistaken the "careerist Jumbo" narrative would later feed into some heat, kayfabe or otherwise, with Choshu.

8.) {Rewritten/expanded point for future readers) Tsuruta was one of four people scouted by Baba and/or courted by Nojima for All Japan. One of these was his biggest amateur wrestling rival, Yorihide Isogai (who had competed in the Mexico City Olympics), who was forced to decline to take over his family business. The Chuo team captain who finally got his friend Jumbo into the club in 1971 was also pitched, but declined. The fourth person, Mitsuo Yoshida, would eventually enter professional wrestling through a different path, and would of course become much better known by another name: Riki Choshu.

9.) It's easy to miss, but part of the reason why Jumbo's suplex-machine style was so revolutionary was that he totally bucked the social order in puro by working that way. Masa Saito and Thunder Sugiyama had been amateur Olympians too, but they never ever used the backdrop in the JWA because the sumo-inherited hierarchy extended to no highspots for the lower guys. (I've read elsewhere that this held in AJPW for the rookies otherwise, at least until Akio Sato opened things up when he was booking in the early 80s. Side note, but as this bio will be sure to get into much later on, Sato deserves way more credit for helping AJPW develop than he gets in the West. And this is despite the fact that he's the best-known AJPW career midcarder over here due to his later Orient Express stint.)

It'll take me a while to get enough progress in the book to justify making another post, but I'll justify making a new thread shortly with a condensed version of a three-part blog post from the source mentioned at the beginning about the JWA coup.

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The JWA Coup
Summary of these blog posts, which each cite their sources at the bottom: Part 1, 2, 3

Antonio Inoki and Umanosuke Ueda were the instigators. Ueda chafed at how the executives were being paid more than the talent, and Inoki distrusted the company's accounting practices. They met in early November 1971 to form a plan. A crucial co-conspirator was a friend of Inoki's - all I have is the surname Kimura - who was one of the JWA's promoters and a licensed accountant, and who somehow got a peek in the company ledger. [2021.04.08 addition: according to a 2015 Japanese article written by Fumi Saito, his name was Akimasa Kimura, and the DeepL translation states he was chairman of the "supporter's association", which I presume meant sponsorships.] However, they needed Baba's support. I believe he was head of talent relations, and I think he was also on Nippon TV's board by this time. Whatever his positions, he had more political pull than them, and they needed his advocacy if they were ever going to pull this off.

They met on November 18, at the Keio Plaza Hotel. Kimura proposed a coup in which, once they had everything they needed, they would hold an emergency board meeting to demand the resignations of Yoshinosato, Kokichi Endo, and Michiaki Yoshimura, and then to place Baba and Inoki as president and VP. Baba didn't want to do this by surprise, though, and suggested a compromise that Inoki and Kimura didn't like but grudgingly went along with. He concurred that Endo was corrupt and had to go, but did not believe that Sato and Yoshimura necessarily deserved the same treatment, or if they did, then it was imperative that the executives left their posts in stages so as to smooth the public transition. It's also worth noting that Baba was suspicious of Kimura because he had not disclosed how he had procured the company ledger. Inoki, meanwhile, remained confident in the reliability of his friend; after all, he was an ex-cop.

The following night, the 1971 World Champion Series began with a Korakuen show. Before it began, Inoki and Ueda held a meeting with the roster explaining the plan. All signed except Seiji Sakaguchi and Kintaro Oki, though Baba was not present for this meeting. Ten days later, a meeting is held with top brass, and demands are made for “clear accounting and sound management”, as well as the aforementioned resignation/s. The latter was naturally postponed, but Endo was “hung out to dry”.

That night, Yoshinosato, Yoshimura, and the Great Kojika were at a snack bar in Shinjuku, when Ueda called to tip them off. They brought him down for questioning, and when he revealed Baba’s involvement they called him over too. Baba had been under the impression that under the new corporate structure, Yoshinosato would be chairman, Baba president, and Inoki VP. But Ueda revealed that Inoki’s real plan was to have Baba take the chair, with Inoki and his friend Kimura as P and VP. This would basically give Inoki and Kimura control of the company.

Ueda believed that Baba was the real traitor, and that he had ratted out the plan earlier. One day before the big meeting, Ueda was summoned and grilled by Endo, who knew everything about the plan. Endo claimed that Baba had let the plan slip to the president of the company that printed the JWA’s event programs, and he leaked this information to Endo. (The source notes that this could have been the result of miscommunication between Baba and Inoki, or just Endo lying to break down the reformers.)

Anyway, Ueda’s claim made Yoshinosato as well as Baba wary of Inoki and Kimura. Kimura tried to move quickly, to form a new company where Ueda would be a director, Baba backed out immediately. He had signed on for reform, not a coup or, heaven forbid, an exodus. Baba was then told that Kimura was about to retrieve some important documents from the JWA safe, and he told Yoshinosato to stop this from happening as soon as he could.

He was too late.

On December 2, Inoki contacted Kimura and was shocked to learn that Kimura cancelled the audit. The next day, Yoshinosato asked Inoki to resign from the board of directors.

But on the 6th, an unexpected party made their move. Kintaro Oki called a meeting of the wrestlers sans Baba, Inoki and Ueda, and drew up a letter requesting Inoki be expelled from the coming tournament. With Baba and Inoki having been involved in the coup, Oki thought that if he organized the wrestlers, he would have enough pull to become the tournament chairman, and thus become the new de facto ace of the JWA. He was persuaded by Yoshinosato to wait until the tournament’s end, though, since Inoki was scheduled to challenge Dory Funk Jr. for his NWA title.

This ended up not happening, as a B-I Cannon defense of the NWA International Tag Team titles against the Funks, which they lost, would be Inoki’s last in the JWA. Sakaguchi would end up getting that NWA title shot.

On December 13, 1971, Inoki’s explusion from the company was announced. In what sounds like some straight-up supervillain origin story shit, all the wrestlers then held a toast to celebrate Inoki’s firing. All of them except an 17-year old rookie (seen here at far left) named Tatsumi Fujinami. He never did much of note.

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Don't have anything to add except these posts are amazing. I adore reading about wrestling history, so thank you so much for these.

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Yeah, this is awesome. Brother KinchStalker bursting out the gate like Lesnar.

Quote

Jumbo went through a little Beatles phase in high school. I find this quite amusing considering a story from a decade later (recounted in a Tenryu column here), when he'd never heard of Elvis Presley, and Tenryu dragged him to see what would be the King's final concert in Amarillo. (This was the night after he won his United National belt back from Billy Robinson in Florida.)

It makes more sense when you remember that the Beatles had their series of concerts at the Budokan in late June and early July 1966, when Jumbo was 15. They were actually incredibly controversial at the time because the venue had been built to house martial arts competitions and ultranationalist types considered allowing a Western rock group to perform there to be sacrilege.

Quote

There is something of a parallel between the Meltzerian "lazy Jumbo" discourse and his native reception, at least as it was at some point. Tsuruta has been called the first "salaryman wrestler" because he was explicit about this being a job for him, right down to his word choice at the press conference announcing his signing. He was apparently the first wrestler to say that he had found employment, as opposed to having taken an initiation or apprenticeship. You don't need to be a Japanese cultural studies major to detect the long shadow of sumo hierarchy there. In fact, one of Jumbo's university wrestling teammates claims that he had intended to become a professional wrestler even before the Olympics, and had even practiced his suplexes on the team mats. If I'm not mistaken the "careerist Jumbo" narrative would later feed into some heat, kayfabe or otherwise, with Choshu.

There you have it. Jumbo was the Lex Luger of Japan. Also, Choshu having heat with Jumbo, worked or not, over careerism is a bit rich considering he's the one who bucked the traditional order by jumping to All Japan and then jumping back a few years later. The public was willing to accept the former due to all the scandals in New Japan, but the latter move was purely a business decision and made him seem like a greedy American athlete rather than an honorable Japanese sportsman. Supposedly, it led to a short-term dip in the popularity of pro wrestling in the country.

Quote

Inoki distrusted the company's accounting practices.

Oh, the irony.

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It is indeed.

If I may adjust my overcorrection glasses here, the final Elvis concert was in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, a few months after Amarillo. And since it all ties back to wrestling, I *only* know this because Jesse Ventura mentions it during the Honky Tonk Man's entrance on the 2/88 Main Event (which was in the same building).

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7 hours ago, PeteF3 said:

It is indeed.

If I may adjust my overcorrection glasses here, the final Elvis concert was in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, a few months after Amarillo. And since it all ties back to wrestling, I *only* know this because Jesse Ventura mentions it during the Honky Tonk Man's entrance on the 2/88 Main Event (which was in the same building).

I meant the last time Elvis performed in Amarillo. Poor wording on my part.

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16 hours ago, KinchStalker said:

7.) There is something of a parallel between the Meltzerian "lazy Jumbo" discourse and his native reception, at least as it was at some point. (...)

I don't want to say that Meltzer does not have his own opinions or that he is gullible, but there are lot of examples, where you read something Meltzer wrote (at least 20-30 years ago), and you can easily deduce who he was been talking to recently (Eddie Gilbert, Heyman, Konnan ...). He has native Japanese sources as well, so if you read an opinion of his on something Japanese wrestling related, you always read a bit what his sources think as well (Fumi Saito or whoever Meltzer was talking to 25 years ago).

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2 hours ago, Robert S said:

I don't want to say that Meltzer does not have his own opinions or that he is gullible, but there are lot of examples, where you read something Meltzer wrote (at least 20-30 years ago), and you can easily deduce who he was been talking to recently (Eddie Gilbert, Heyman, Konnan ...). He has native Japanese sources as well, so if you read an opinion of his on something Japanese wrestling related, you always read a bit what his sources think as well (Fumi Saito or whoever Meltzer was talking to 25 years ago).

Indeed, it just so happens that I previously knew about this (the only *new* info the bio itself told me was the teammate's claim that Jumbo explicitly intended to go pro before the Olympics, and the suplex practicing part) because Fumi mentioned it in a Japanese article on Jumbo. Unfortunately it seems like the site I got it from either no longer has it or lost it in a design update.

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21 hours ago, KinchStalker said:

6.) The popular narrative around Tsuruta joining All Japan is that he and Ichiro Hatta met with Giant Baba, and Tsuruta was compelled by Baba's smile when, upon finding that a small housecat had fallen asleep inside his shoe, Baba remarked that the cat "had a face like Tsuruta-kun".

There's an unrelated bit about Ichiro Hatta that I never see brought up in English. But first, I should probably explain who he was for those unaware. Here's an excerpt from the first draft of part one of the project I've been working on:

"Hatta lived an fascinating life. In 1929, after he and his classmates were defeated by a wrestling club during a US tour, the judoka became determined to spread amateur wrestling to his native country, and co-founded Japan’s first club in 1931, while studying at Waseda University. He was also working around this time as the secretary of Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo and the developer of much of the pedagogical model which we now associate with East Asian martial arts. Jigorō once told Hatta that it would take fifty years for him to establish a foothold for amateur wrestling. One of Hatta’s pupils would later remark that, 'by remaining hostile to the judo world of his birthplace, he may have been able to inspire his own fighting spirit and sustain his unyielding determination.'

Hatta became the third president of the Japan Amateur Wrestling Association in 1946, and inhabited the chair for the rest of his life. Due to the connections that the Association had made before the war, FILA cleared Japanese wrestlers to return to international competition in 1949, the first sport in which they were so allowed. Three years later, Hatta personally coached bantamweight Shohachi Ishii to postwar Japan’s first Olympic gold medal in Helsinki.

In the 1960s, Hatta managed to establish an athletic pipeline with the Soviet Union. In so doing, he also became an early international supporter of sambo, the hybrid martial art which had grown from the Red Army’s CQC protocol into a bonafide combat sport. If anyone reading this did amateur wrestling themselves in the last fifty years, then even you have felt the impact that Hatta made on the sport. For in 1971, FILA accepted his proposal, inspired by sumo, to change the area of a standard wrestling mat from a square to a circle, nine meters in diameter.


[later related excerpt] Anton Geesink is perhaps the most important foreigner in the postwar history of judo. In 1961, the Dutchman was the first non-Japanese judoka to win a world championship. The humiliated Kodokan was so determined to reclaim their symbolic dominance on a global stage that they finally acquiesced to the one demand which had kept judo from the sanction of the International Olympic Committee: weight classes. Ichiro Hatta was then able to use his pull to give back to the judo world which he had forsaken some thirty years before, and the sport was approved by the IOC just in time for the Tokyo Olympics."

Anyway, his role in facilitating Jumbo's transition into a pro wrestler is well known, as is his responsibility for connecting Ali to Inoki. But just a few years before Jumbo, he had made a more obscure but still substantial contribution.

So, in early 1968, the Great Togo was working as the booker for the International Wrestling Enterprise, and in fact was trying to take it over. He was apparently leading a somewhat unaware Lou Thesz along in his plans. (I actually bought a Kindle copy of Hooker solely to get some info on this, but unfortunately to old Aloysius Japan might as well have ended when Rikidozan did. Maybe when he wrote it, he was still salty about the UWFi betraying his ideals to bring over Vader.) 

I guess this is extraneous, but the story of Thesz's most famous match for the company is so emblematic of the IWE's hard luck that I have to pause to tell it. On January 3, 1968, they counterprogrammed a Giant Baba-Crusher Lisowski title match by booking a venue just across the river, and pitting a JWA defect named the Great Kusatsu against Thesz. Kusatsu was humiliated on national television when, after he appeared to suffer a legitimate concussion from a Thesz backdrop, referee Fred Atkins stopped the match. (Kusatsu held on to his bitterness so hard that he later doomed the IWE further during his tenure as booker, when his harassment of company ace Strong Kobayashi - I've read that in one alleged instance, he forced him to drink his own piss - drove the man to jump ship to New Japan. This led TBS to finally cut the IWE in 1974 from their original TV deal, which had already been cut in half two years earlier, likely due to economic fallout from the Nixon shock.)

Anyway, Togo left in February when his plans failed, and the IWE no longer had a booker with enough pull to let them get around their lack of NWA membership. Ichiro Hatta stepped in to save the company by hooking them up with Joint Promotions in the UK. European gaijin might not have had enough allure to overtake the Americans in the eyes of the Japanese fanbase, but this point of crosspollination was an important one. It's why certain guys from the IWE - Mighty Inoue and Isamu Teranishi come to mind - had noticeable European sensibilities in their work; that's where they did their seasoning excursions. And it's why the IWE were the first in the country to book not just Billy Robinson, but freakin' Andre. (If not for Robinson's extensive IWE work, there's a chance he never joins the AWA when Verne made a deal with the IWE in 1970.)

To close, my favorite stories about Hatta are that a.) he acted out on a diplomatic trip to North Korea when he raised a fuss during his speech about his Emperor's portrait being consigned to the corner of a room in wherever they were visiting, and got kicked out, and b.) he's the reason Benihana exists. One of the estimated thousand wrestlers he sent on excursions to promote the sport was Hiroaki Aoki, who stayed in New York City to eventually open a tepponyaki restaurant.

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21 hours ago, NintendoLogic said:

There you have it. Jumbo was the Lex Luger of Japan. Also, Choshu having heat with Jumbo, worked or not, over careerism is a bit rich considering he's the one who bucked the traditional order by jumping to All Japan and then jumping back a few years later. The public was willing to accept the former due to all the scandals in New Japan, but the latter move was purely a business decision and made him seem like a greedy American athlete rather than an honorable Japanese sportsman. Supposedly, it led to a short-term dip in the popularity of pro wrestling in the country.

I hadn't reached this point in the book when I made the first post, and if I edited it in something this big would get lost in the shuffle, but speaking of Choshu: Akio Nojima was apparently trying to court him towards All Japan as well. Besides how weird an alternate history with Choshu as a Baba guy is, it fascinates me that Jumbo, who was groomed for an immediate #2 spot, was originally just one of a batch of four amateur Olympians who Baba was trying to sign. I wonder if the remnants of sumo culture in All Japan would have subsided more quickly had Jumbo not been just the singular special case.

Sending him to America to debut was meant to establish that AJPW would be breaking from the shackles of sumo. Something I left out in my JWA coup writeup, which I now regret, is that a lot of what the reforms were meant to do was specifically clean up the ex-sumo baggage weighing down the company. (This gives more context to Ueda's behavior, as he was an ex-sumo fearful of perhaps losing his job or standing. It also explains why the locker room could plausibly have rallied behind Oki when he tried to make his move.) The last Japanese talent to debut in America for seasoning had been Sakaguchi,, who of course was a national judo champion (and runner-up to Geesink in the World Championship).

Also, if Baba got all four of these men, would the company have even had room for Tenryu in a few years?

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On 2/8/2021 at 12:11 AM, KinchStalker said:

 It's easy to miss, but part of the reason why Jumbo's suplex-machine style was so revolutionary was that he totally bucked the social order in puro by working that way. Masa Saito and Thunder Sugiyama had been amateur Olympians too, but they never ever used the backdrop in the JWA because the sumo-inherited hierarchy extended to no highspots for the lower guys. (I've read elsewhere that this held in AJPW for the rookies otherwise, at least until Akio Sato opened things up when he was booking in the early 80s. Side note, but as this bio will be sure to get into much later on, Sato deserves way more credit for helping AJPW develop than he gets in the West. And this is despite the fact that he's the best-known AJPW career midcarder over here due to his later Orient Express stint.)
 

Just a clarification on this: would Jumbo using suplexes really be that big an affront to the sumo social order, since he was immediately groomed to be the number 2 star and eventual ace? If it had been just any lower-carder doing all the moves, then yeah, I could see the old-timey sumo people getting offended. To an extent, this culture still permeates puro, given how the Young Lions in their matches in NJPW still are not allowed to use a whole bunch of moves.

Once again, a fantastic, outstanding thread and thank you for doing this!

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5 minutes ago, MoS said:

Just a clarification on this: would Jumbo using suplexes really be that big an affront to the sumo social order, since he was immediately groomed to be the number 2 star and eventual ace? If it had been just any lower-carder doing all the moves, then yeah, I could see the old-timey sumo people getting offended. To an extent, this culture still permeates puro, given how the Young Lions in their matches in NJPW still are not allowed to use a whole bunch of moves.

Once again, a fantastic, outstanding thread and thank you for doing this!

Nobody had a problem with Jumbo doing it. You're right, saying that he "bucked" the order is misleading, as he was the special case.

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I'm pretty sure that Jumbo didn't attend Chuo University on a basketball scholarship. Wikipedia says he entered The Faculty of Law at Chuo University through the entrance examination. My understanding is that he was rejected from the wrestling team because he was seen as a quitter. Jumbo didn't see basketball as a viable pathway to the Olympics and thought wrestling offered him a better chance because there was less competition for places. You can imagine how that went over with the wrestlers. 

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16 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I'm pretty sure that Jumbo didn't attend Chuo University on a basketball scholarship. Wikipedia says he entered The Faculty of Law at Chuo University through the entrance examination. My understanding is that he was rejected from the wrestling team because he was seen as a quitter. Jumbo didn't see basketball as a viable pathway to the Olympics and thought wrestling offered him a better chance because there was less competition for places. You can imagine how that went over with the wrestlers. 

That's probably closer to the truth. It's what Meltzer wrote, but he also wrote that Jumbo began his studies in 1970, when in fact it was the previous year. (Four-year bachelor's, after all). I was a bit confused that he would be seen as a quitter if he'd done at least one full year in basketball. The bio does say that Jumbo chose wrestling for his phys-ed course to  try to get an inroads to join the team, though.

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Okay, here's the DeepL translation excerpt. It...didn't come out great. Quotation is from a classmate-turned-teammate who I have previously alluded to.

It is a common belief that Tsuruta applied to join the wrestling team, but was turned down three times. 
"Actually, it was a little different. The basketball team was against it. Since they had entered the university through basketball, it would ruin the basketball team's reputation if they switched clubs without permission. But Tsuruta said he wanted to join the wrestling team, and I also wanted to join. Jiro Seki, our coach, wanted us to join too. After all, he wanted a heavyweight. So, I showed up at the wrestling club once in a while, but I couldn't move to another club."

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This is all really interesting. Thanks for doing it. A lot of my recent AJPW knowledge has been very textual. And when I've gone for context, it's either been through old Observers or by swallowing down more text (as in older matches. Every bit of context always helps and there's a lot here that I think we either didn't know, or we didn't have multiple, rounded sources on. I think as a general community, we just don't understand the sumo connection except for in the broadest, most general terms. There's obviously a lot more to delve into there in how certain norms we take for granted were developed.

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Does the book say Jumbo entered Chuo in '69? Jumbo was born in March of '51, so he should have entered University in April of '69, unless he failed his exams and went through a year of prep school. Assuming he finished his degree, and I've never heard anything to the contrary, he should have graduated University in March of '73. He left for Texas on March 22nd, 1973, which would have been shortly after his graduation ceremony. 

I have no idea what was going on with Chuo University club politics from 1969-73. I have read that Jumbo didn't think he had a future as a professional basketball player, which was one of the reasons why he ditched the sport. It seemed he was interested in making a living from sport at the time. The reason I suspect he faced some opposition from the wrestling club, regardless of what his teammate says, is the fact that he had to join the Self Defense Forces club, which was in Saitama and unaffiliated with the University. Just to save face with the Chuo basketball club? I have my doubts. Ultimately, he proved good enough to make the Olympics despite picking the sport up a few years out from Munich, which is extraordinary if you think about it, but by the same token, he wasn't as good a basketball player as people make out. Meltzer, in his usual overblown way, tries to compare Jumbo to top US college basketball players of the same era. I am pretty sure Jumbo realized he had no future in basketball, at least to the level that he wanted to pursue it. The Japanese basketball team actually ended up making the '72 Olympics, which is one of the few times Japan has qualified for Olympic basketball. 

What I would like to know is that if Mr. Pogo wasn't Jumbo's rival on the wrestling team, who was the wrestler who opposed Jumbo? Some sources say Pogo dropped out of Chuo after the first year, so it can't have been him. 

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Nothing much of note yet from the Jumbo bio. I've still got twelve pages about Amarillo to transcribe, so hopefully this will pick back up when Tsuruta returns to Japan. However, the blog I've been referencing just put out a piece on the circumstances around Mil Máscaras' first tour in Japan, and I'd like to share this info.

Surprisingly, this story starts with the IWE. Shortly after Isao Yoshihara, having been rejected by the NWA, finally made a connection to America through the AWA, the company held a promotional campaign called "Anata ga Puromōtā" ("You Are The Promoter"). This was a fan vote intended to scout out interest in wrestlers who had not yet been booked in Japan. Naturally, this meant that whoever got on did so because of their coverage in the Japanese wrestling journalism scene, and it just so happens that Gong editor-in-chief Kosuke Takeuchi really, really liked Máscaras. This article claims he had been featured in Gong fifty times before he ever worked in the country.

Máscaras placed second in this poll, which received almost 40,000 submissions. The other ten, from top to bottom, were as follows: Spiros Arion, the Sheik, Blue Demon, Ernie Ladd, Rocky Johnson, Ray Mendoza, Johnny DeFazio, Igor Vodik, and Baron von Raschke.

Arion and Demon were immediately given offers, but alas, JWA booker Mr. Moto then swooped in and took advantage, intercepting Arion and stopping Demon from coming to Japan. Then they made an offer to Máscaras, who had received an offer in 1970 from the AWA, and thus had a real risk of potentially appearing in the IWE. JWA made the better offer, and that was that.

When Máscaras arrived in Japan, he was flocked by Gong readers as well as the standard press peeps. This led to private resentment on the part of Arion, who had placed first in the poll but had not received such prior coverage. After this tour, he would never return to Japan. [NOTE 2021.04.24: This was an error on either the part of the article or on DeepL, but this isn't quite true. Arion did work with All Japan in 1974, as part of the Madison Square Garden series which saw AJPW and the WWWF work together. Perhaps it meant Arion never returned to the JWA?]

The IWE, meanwhile, would only ever manage to get the Baron.

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I have finally returned with more tidbits from the Jumbo bio. The following are mostly from chapter 4, which starts with Tsuruta’s return from Amarillo and then spans through 1974.

 

1.) The gown which he wore for his debut (seen here) would also be worn by Tenryu and Hiroshi Wajima for their respective debuts.

2.) During his debut match back in Japan, a Korakuen Hall bout against Moose Morowski, Tsuruta was understandably quite nervous, and his use of chops (both horizontal and brain) flew in the face of the expectations he was meant to fulfill. He gradually transitioned to elbows and forearms, which Dory had taught him, and which lived up to those “American” expectations better. (The bio confirms that this match was broadcast on NTV, but all I’ve seen are a couple fragments which were featured in a posthumous television documentary.)

3.) The poll to decide Jumbo’s ring name was the brainchild of AJPW television producer Akira Hara (no relation to Susumu/Ashura, presumably). Years before, in early 1969, the then-JWA producer pitched the idea to hold a fan poll to name Antonio Inoki’s new finishing maneuver. The process of naming the move that would become known as the Manjigatame lined up with Inoki’s rapid ascent in popularity in 1969.

a.) Meltzer didn’t really go into why “jumbo” was chosen so far as I remember, so perhaps I should explain why that was a buzzword in Japan around this time; they had recently rolled out their first Boeing 747. Also, about six months before this poll, Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki became the first Asian golfer to place in the top 8 of the U.S. Masters tournament.

4.) After Sakaguchi jumped ship from the JWA in March, and NET TV subsequently cancelled their broadcasts, JWA president Yoshinosato consulted with Rikidōzan’s widow, Keiko Momota, and others including NTV president Yozoji Kobayashi and Mitsubishi chairman Ken Okubo (whose company had been a longtime sponsor of NTV’s wrestling broadcast). It was here when the decision was made that the remnants would merge with AJPW, and this was announced on April 27. Baba really only wanted the younger wrestlers, but had been forced to take on all of them, who were as follows: Kintaro Oki, Umanosuke Ueda, the Great Kojika, Gantetsu Matsuoka, Akihisa Takachiho, Mitsu Hirai, Kazuo Sakurada, Mitsuo Hata (later to be known as Rocky), and Masao Ito.

5.) In the middle of September, just a couple weeks before Tsuruta’s return, Baba made the bold decision to have him be his tag partner in the NWA International Tag Team title match against the Funks on the promotion’s 1973.10.09 1st anniversary show. As I told the story when I brought it up in another thread, Ueda, Oki, and Matsuoka all left the company in response.

6.) Jumbo’s repertoire of four suplex variations was unequaled to that point in puro, partially because there was a self-imposed rule not to use other peoples’ signature moves. As for the suplexes, they were as follows.

a.) The German suplex, of course attributed to Karl Gotch. Among the puro crop, only Hiro Matsuda and Antonio Inoki, both disciples of Gotch, used it as well.

b.) The butterfly suplex, the signature move of Billy Robinson. Known as the “Human Windmill”, this maneuver blew Japanese reporters’ minds, and helped make it possible for Robinson to become the first gaijin ace during his tenure for the IWE.  The Funks, of course, would swipe the move and then teach it to Jumbo. [2021.03.12 addition: Rusher Kimura was using it before Jumbo as far as puro went, but he did receive some training from Robinson.]

c.) The “side suplex”, which we would now call a gutwrench, was the signature move of Horst Hoffman, who competed in the IWE’s 4th IWA World Series tournament in spring 1972.

d.) Finally, there was the “front suplex” (editing for clarity; this was the overhead belly-to-belly), which at the very least had not been seen to this point in Japan. This is why some called it the Jumbo Suplex at the time.

7.) As the book puts it, “Tsuruta was a new type of Japanese wrestler who competed purely on technique, not on guts or spirit, which are characteristic of the Japanese.”

8.) Jumbo made a second trip to America from March-April 1974. Among other things, this saw him become only the fourth Japanese wrestler to work MSG. (The previous three – Baba, Yoshinosato, and Mammoth Suzuki – had all done so during their 1961 excursions.) Upon his return to the Amarillo territory at the tail end of this tour, he defeated Bob Backlund in a television match, and also finally defeated Killer Karl Kox, whom he had never managed to beat as a trainee, in Albuquerque. For his final match before returning to Japan, Backlund got his heat back in El Paso.

9.) None of the matches from Jumbo’s expedition were broadcast on Japanese television because the expedition, as it were, was not for television, as local promoters had requested for Tsuruta.

10.) The first singles match between Baba and Jumbo was almost the 1974 Champion Carnival final. However, after Jumbo and Mr. Wrestling went to a time-limit draw in the semifinal, their rematch the following night saw Tsuruta sprain his left ankle after doing a leapfrog. Apparently it had been hurt in the Kox match, and this aggravated the injury, leading to referee stoppage. The book does not disclose whether this was a work, but it’s obviously a reasonable assumption.

11.) Jumbo’s singles win/draw percentage in his second year as a wrestler was an astonishing 90.9%. His only seven losses were against Dory (2), Brisco (2), Mr. Wrestling, Backlund, and Pedro Morales (all 1).

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