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KinchStalker's Puroresu History Thread [UPDATE 2021.09.29: 2019 FOUR PILLARS BIO, CHAPTERS 14-17 PT. IV]

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3 hours ago, KinchStalker said:

Jumbo’s singles win percentage in his second year as a wrestler was an astonishing 90.9%

Was it planned that way, or was he just that good? Were promoters looking after him purely as a favour to Baba, or would he have had such a record regardless? 

Jumbo is my biggest wrestling black-hole (Bockwinkel's probably second) so I'm really enjoying this. Watching his ouevre is something I've been procrastinating on for a while. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do this @KinchStalker, much appreciated.

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3 hours ago, Dav'oh said:

Was it planned that way, or was he just that good? Were promoters looking after him purely as a favour to Baba, or would he have had such a record regardless? 

Jumbo is my biggest wrestling black-hole (Bockwinkel's probably second) so I'm really enjoying this. Watching his ouevre is something I've been procrastinating on for a while. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do this @KinchStalker, much appreciated.

It appears that he did get a positive reputation from his Amarillo trainee work. I should have noted that only one of those losses - the Backlund one - happened in America, and as I mentioned that was a Western States Sports show in El Paso. So it was Dory booking when he lost.

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I'm really enjoying this thread and all these interesting tidbits about Jumbo. I've only seen the "big" matches of Jumbo's career from the 80's & 90's and I think only a handful of his 70's stuff. I really haven't watched him as in depth as someone who knew how highly regarded he was; especially compared to the 4 Pillars or even his contemporaries like Tenryu, Choshu or Fujinami.

So now with all this extra insight and information I've been going back and watching/compiling a list of whatever I've been able to find online of Jumbo's career from start to finish and it's been so enjoyable and such a breath of fresh air to take me out of the modern product for a bit and reset by watching someone as great as Jumbo. 

Thank you again for all the information you've shared, it's been one of the best threads I've read on this board since I've joined. 

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8 hours ago, Dav'oh said:

Jumbo is my biggest wrestling black-hole (Bockwinkel's probably second) 

Lucky you. (unless you end up not enjoying them of course, but...)

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12 hours ago, KinchStalker said:

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.

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”, 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.”

As said before, fascinating stuff. Really interesting to see the american/european influence on Jumbo and how it had permeated the whole classic AJ style, as opposed to what Choshu would do in the 80's, which really is entirely Japanese in spirit.

Ok, I'll go straight into goofy-ass analogies, Jumbo was more Kurosawa, Choshu was more Mizoguchi (well, Choshu was more Fukasaku probably, really...)

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3 hours ago, El-P said:

Ok, I'll go straight into goofy-ass analogies, Jumbo was more Kurosawa, Choshu was more Mizoguchi (well, Choshu was more Fukasaku probably, really...)

This analogy delighted me greatly, but man, I wish Jumbo's career had ended on a note like Madadayo (which I maintain is somewhat underrated).

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I have finished transcription of chapter five of the Jumbo bio, which spans roughly from 1975 through early 1978. This book eschews a beat-for-beat chronicle of his career in favor of a looser approach, though, so there may be tidbits from this period that pop up a little later. I missed a couple days of work due to a power outage in my area, but when I got a hotel room I made up for lost time, and managed to crunch out the rest of the chapter over the weekend.

1.) The earliest Tsuruta US match in circulation is, of course, the 1975.02.05 NWA International Tag Team title match with Baba against the Funks. The biography states that this match took place in San Antonio instead of Amarillo because Nippon TV refused to broadcast a match where All Japan talent would likely be booed, and San Antonio was, of course, a nearby market where the Funks were loathed enough to make Baba and Jumbo babyfaces at least by function. (Hearing this confirmed really does contextualize contemporaneous JWA/AJPW footage shot in America, from Baba’s matches against Fritz and Kiniski in Los Angeles on to stuff like both US Jumbo/Bockwinkel matches and Baba’s matches against Baron von Raschke and Abdullah the Butcher. It’s really unfortunate because this likely means that, with the exception of the aforementioned Jumbo/Bockwinkel matches, there isn’t much surviving tape out there which documents Tsuruta’s acceptance as a babyface. Which eventually ran out on him, even before the AWA run; refer to how Mid-Atlantic booed him against Tommy Rich in 1982 – inevitable, perhaps, but one does wonder if NTV made a miscalculation from their perspective in filming it.)

2.) There is some interesting info here about the circumstances around the 1975 Open League.

              a. The tournament was the brainchild of Satoshi Morioka, Baba’s journalist friend who I mentioned in my first post as having been involved in the facilitation of Tsuruta’s scouting and courtship. 

              b. On one level, it was to commemorate three things: the 13th anniversary of Rikidōzan’s death, the third anniversary of AJPW, and the American bicentennial.

              c. On another, it was a response to Inoki, who was actually still trying behind the scenes to get the singles match with Baba that he’d so badly wanted back in 1971, after winning the World League. Inoki refused to participate in a tournament, so the “Open League” was titled such to stick it to him. [Edit 2021.06.05: There was more drama to this story than the bio revealed, revolving around Inoki's refusal to cancel his match against Billy Robinson to attend the 1975.12.13 Rikidozan memorial show. See this post on page six for more.]

             d. An interesting tidbit that specifically pertains to the Baba/Jumbo match from the League, which was their first singles match: the side suplex that Jumbo hit in that match was a repeat of when he did the same thing four days earlier, in a Budokan tag match alongside Dory against Baba and the Destroyer.

3.) This chapter goes a bit more than the previous one did into the early backstage culture surrounding Jumbo, due to the sudden death of his mentor and handler Masio Koma. I believe that Meltzer’s obituary cited Koma (alongside Akio Sato) as responsible for whatever basic training Tsuruta received before flying out to Amarillo, but he didn’t go into Koma’s deeper importance. The segment pertaining to him does confirm that Tsuruta was the target of professional jealousy backstage–I was struck by the anecdote that Jumbo was allowed to ride in the special green car, then reserved for Baba and the gaijins, from the beginning–but that Baba used Koma, who he most trusted, to both take some of the heat off of Jumbo and teach him the etiquette that would otherwise have never been instilled in him, due to how much of the hierarchy he leaped over. He suddenly died of kidney failure on March 10, 1976. That evening, Jumbo had the first of his ten-match trial series against Verne Gagne. Maybe I’m looking too hard for things, but I think you can see some real sadness in Jumbo’s face before that match starts.

4.) The Trial Series, which began with the aforementioned Gagne match and ended in January 1979 against Fritz von Erich, was a campaign to help further establish Jumbo as a top singles wrestler. Early in 1976, a fan vote was called to gauge interest, and nearly 80,000 ballots were counted. The top fifteen picks, which were counted regardless of political feasibility, were as follows: Bruno Sammartino, Terry Funk, Billy Robinson, Dory Funk Jr., Verne Gagne, Abdullah the Butcher, Harley Race, Antonio Inoki, Rusher Kimura, Andre the Giant, Kintaro Oki, Dick the Bruiser, Nick Bockwinkel, the Sheik, and Lou Thesz. (Gagne was available because the AWA was opening itself in general to more interpromotional cooperation, not just because of the termination of their deal with the IWE.)

5.) Robinson jumped to All Japan because New Japan had tried to cut his pay, and as a recent divorcee he was too financially vulnerable to accept this. [2021.05.15 addition: According to a 2019 Igapro article, the second of a two-part series on the circumstances around the Inoki/Robinson match, the reason for this pay cut was that NJPW was saving money to make the Ali match happen.] All Baba did was match the original offer.

6.) There’s an interesting little thread about how Jumbo wouldn’t just borrow moves he’d seen others perform – such as in 1975, when Ricky Gibson worked a tour and hit Jumbo with a missile dropkick (when Jumbo adopted the move, famously using it in the Chris Taylor match from December '76, AJPW commentator Takao Kuramochi dubbed it the "Ultra-C Missile Dropkick") – but would also modify techniques he’d already learned if he liked the way that another person did them more. The bio claims that Tsuruta modified his dropkick technique to resemble Gagne’s rather than Brisco’s, and that, in the amount of training that he accepted from Billy Robinson, modified his butterfly suplex technique to more resemble Robinson’s than the one which Dory had taught him: from “big and loose” (Dory apparently liked the broader gesture so that the audience could better understand it) to “fast and strong”.

7.) Jumbo did receive some training from Robinson at Baba’s suggestion – Fuchi was forced to be his practice dummy – but it sounds like he eventually gave up, because he felt it was “dangerous”. I know Meltzer wrote at some point about Robinson’s frustration with Jumbo, who wanted to be the American-style wrestler that Billy probably felt was a waste of Tsuruta’s talent.

8.) In their early years, AJPW had rented a three-bedroom apartment and a kickboxing gym to be their training camp and dojo, but in 1976, they built a five-bedroom training camp with a dojo in the garden. Tsuruta was the owner; he’d had to take out a 50-million yen loan, but the company was to pay it off through rent, and once it was paid off, it was Tsuruta’s to sell.

            a. Fuchi has reminisced about this period, both in this bio and on his personal blog, and there’s something he recounts Jumbo telling him at this time that breaks my heart in retrospect: “We're still in our twenties, but we've only got twenty years left in our wrestling careers. You should take good care of your body because your life after quitting will be much longer. Don't drink too much alcohol, either.” Fuchi remarked that, even though Tsuruta was only 25, he’d already planned out his life.

            b. In this era, Jumbo’s three juniors were the “three crows” Fuchi, Onita, and Kazuharu Sonoda. While he would later gain a reputation as a penny-pincher regarding his juniors, at least compared to Tenryu (keep in mind that Jumbo was not a social drinker), he often took these three with him when sponsors took him out to dinner. (This isn’t in the bio, but I have to mention an Onita tidbit about Jumbo which I love; when seniors prepared the chankonabe for the company while out on tour, Jumbo’s recipe wasn’t the fanciest, but it was the only one plentiful enough in meat for everyone, no matter their hierarchical position, to receive some.)

9.) Naturally, the bio cites Jumbo as a pioneer of the “idol wrestler” who attracted a significant female audience. (I’ve read elsewhere that this was paralleled a little bit later by Fujinami’s junior ace run.) I couldn’t tell you if this had any connection to the joshi boom which the Beauty Pair would usher in, but while on one hand I’m not sure that they attracted the same kind of women, on the other hand the timeline does roughly match. (Check out this 1977 cover of Weekly Fight, which features Jumbo and Tenryu carrying Maki and Jackie respectively.) One thing, at least, is certain; for better or worse, if not for Jumbo Tsuruta, we’d never have gotten that woman who got Hiroshi Tanahashi to pin her for a television show.

10.) This builds on the last point, and it’s something I’ve been waiting for: scoops on Jumbo’s musical career. The image of Jumbo playing his Gibson acoustic guitar in his spare time, and writing lyrics on tour, was quite an attractive one; I can’t help but think of this in the context of the Japanese folk-rock boom which had occurred earlier in the decade: your Happy Ends and Yosui Inoues and whatnot. He wasn’t the best singer (honestly, from the later tie-in singles that Atsushi Onita and Mighty Inoue did I'd say both had better voices, though Jumbo was far better than Fujinami), but he did some well-received shows, including a charity concert to support welfare facilities for the disabled. His first single was “Rolling Dreamer”, which came out a year before he began using it as his entrance music. He wrote the lyrics himself.

           a. Fuchi has a blog post where he reminisces about this period. He mentions that he had a phase trying to learn guitar as well, and if I understand correctly Jumbo was at one point workshopping a cover of “Hotel California” to perform with his junior.

           b. There’s a bulletin board, deactivated but still up, which either his widow Yasuko or eldest son Yuji set up in the early 2010s to talk to fans about their memories of Jumbo. (We’ll probably get to Yasuko’s story, which I already know, in the next chapter or two.) I've read some of the stuff on there for the video project I'm developing. Anyway, Yasuko was asked about Jumbo’s music, and she responded that Tomomi never sang for her out of shyness. He ended up giving his guitar to a cousin who lost it, which she noted with sadness, since one of her younger two sons would probably have loved to have it.

11.) Jumbo was the first in puro to use entrance music. His first theme was, of course, “Chinese Kung Fu”, a French disco single derivative of “Kung Fu Fighting”. (Here you can watch some French gals dance to it.) It was the idea of AJPW broadcast director Susumu Umegaki, and was first used on October 30, 1975, for Jumbo’s entrance before wrestling Abdullah the Butcher.

12.) However, this use of music wouldn’t really click until February 1977, when Umegaki was inspired to have Mil Mascaras, whose popularity had fallen a bit, enter to “Sky High” by Jigsaw. The importance of Jumbo and Mascaras’ classic August 1977 match is often ascribed to being an early prominent example of the crosspollination between puroresu and lucha libre, but this overlooks the fact that Mascaras had taken booking in Japan for six years prior. (Also, even if Gran Hamada hadn’t come back from training in Mexico yet, Mach Hayato may have. [Subsequent correction: he hadn't.]) The term that the bio uses for this match is “idol showdown”, and its popularity (if you don’t know, it inspired Kobashi to change his dream job from baseball to wrestling, and also got Kawada interested in wrestling) makes more sense when you put it in that context than if you try to see in it the first inklings of lucharesu.

[2021.04.19 addition: I have since received some information which suggests that Jumbo was merely the first native wrestler to use music in Japan. I was perusing Mighty Inoue's Japanese Wikipedia page, as one does, and it tells a very interesting story cited from the 2017 IWE biography and from a 2014 Weekly Pro Wrestling article on Inoue's 1974.10.07 shot at Billy Graham's IWA World Heavyweight title. Apparently, during his European excursion Inoue had used Naomi Chiaki's 1970 hit single "Yottsu no Onegai" as entrance music. The TV director was inspired by this story, and got an instrumental cover of "Jesus Christ Superstar" to play for Graham's entrance.]

13.) The chapter ends in early 1978 with the UN title match against Anton Geesink, where we learn some cool tidbits about his involvement in puro. The JWA had actually wanted him since 1964, after he had won in judo at the Tokyo Olympics. They specifically had interest in running a Baba/Geesink program to compete with NHK’s annual New Years Eve singing contest. Alas, Geesink’s signing finally happened due to an alliance between Nippon TV and Saburo Arashida, a promoter who years earlier had arranged the Beatles’ 1966 Japan tour, in an effort to increase stagnant ratings.

------------

One last thing. The bio has not mentioned this story, at least not yet, but I cannot in good conscience omit it: that time in 1975 when NJPW booker Hisashi Shinma attempted to seduce Jumbo to the Inoki side of the Puro. (This is a summary of the story as recounted in this blog post, which cites its own sources at the bottom.) While Inoki was by this point not interested, having recruited the future Riki Choshu, Shinma didn’t want to give up yet. He proposed to Koshiji Miura, who essentially ran NET TV (still wasn’t TV Asahi yet), that he attempt to recruit him. Miura even proposed that, in the event that Tsuruta suffered a career-ending injury, NET would pursue a deal with him as a commentator.

One day, Shinma and his intermediary picked up Tsuruta in Inoki’s limo and tried to lure him with the suggestion of an excursion for the WWWF, and then another in Los Angeles, so that NJPW’s involvement would not necessarily be clear. Tsuruta was reportedly attracted to the idea of working MSG, but though they drove him to NET headquarters, and Miura then went into the limo to discuss it further, they never heard back from Jumbo.

Around six months later, though, Tokyo Sports president Hiroshi Inoue chewed Shinma out for his aggression. Tsuruta had told Baba what happened; apparently Baba had laughed it off and never tried to make it public, but it somehow got passed along to Inoue. Inoue was pro-New Japan, but he hated anything that threatened to disrupt the order of the larger industry, so he was incensed at Shinma’s audacity.

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This might not be worth its own post but since I'm using this place to dump the Jumbo knowledge I've acquired, I might as well show you all what I believe to be his first acting credit: a bit part in the final episode of 1976 drama Oretachi no Tabi, in which he plays the boyfriend of a woman who one of the leads tries to chat up.

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So much fascinating stuff there. Thank you again and again.

And really :

5 hours ago, KinchStalker said:

11.) Jumbo was the first in puro to use entrance music. His first theme was, of course, “Chinese Kung Fu”, a French disco single derivative of “Kung Fu Fighting”. (Here you can watch some French gals dance to it.)

And so the first theme in puroresu was a disco track by Les Clodettes, who weren't just some French girls, but the dancers for Claude François who basically was the biggest French pop star of the 60's and 70's (big time TV star too), and still basically a cult figure to this day ! And the music was apparently by Bernard Estardy, a quite famous (in some circles) figure of the library music scene. 

Mind blown.

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55 minutes ago, El-P said:

So much fascinating stuff there. Thank you again and again.

And really :

And so the first theme in puroresu was a disco track by Les Clodettes, who weren't just some French girls, but the dancers for Claude François who basically was the biggest French pop star of the 60's and 70's (big time TV star too), and still basically a cult figure to this day ! And the music was apparently by Bernard Estardy, a quite famous (in some circles) figure of the library music scene. 

Mind blown.

I had figured the dancers (thanks for the context) were the equivalent of something like Legs & Co., which was this troupe in the late 70s who would dance to songs on Top of the Pops.

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Somehow, after taking a break on Monday, I managed to crank out all 50 pages of chapter six by 3am Friday morning. This won’t be as dense in factoids as the previous one, because much of this chapter is dedicated to a discussion that, while interesting and definitely important in an understanding of Jumbo’s reception, contains relatively few tidbits that I can really package in the format I have done up to this point. There is some juicy stuff in this chapter, but much of it is packed in the back 15 or so pages.

So, about Jumbo’s reception. The bio states that, as early as a Gong article in June 1978, Tsuruta’s aptitude as the future of All Japan was being called into question, for he “lacked the mental fortitude” of a future ace. He slotted into that Number Two role very well, and had certainly gotten the hang of professional wrestling faster than Tenryu and Choshu, who were the only other contemporaries who’d been plucked as “elite” prospects. But as this article notes, his true rivals at the time were all those who had “been discarded like weeds, and…risen on their own”; these were Fujinami, Rocky Hata, and Masanori Toguchi, working at the time as Kim Duk.

It’s noted that Rocky Hata connected to many fans more than Tsuruta due to his more hard-fought path. But it was Toguchi who would be Jumbo’s first native singles rival, even though his gimmick name obscured that fact. (In every single thing I’ve read about him, it’s made very clear that Toguchi has continued to hold onto a legitimate dislike of Tsuruta. I looked up Japanese Amazon reviews of his autobiography, and one of them even read that he’d made the claim that Jumbo had actually gotten Hep A, and had contracted it because he wasn’t hygienic enough to buy his own bar of soap! [2021.04.23 MAJOR CORRECTION: THIS WAS AN ERROR IN MACHINE TRANSLATION. TOGUCHI WAS CLAIMING THAT TSURUTA HAD CONTRACTED HEPATITIS AT A "SOAPLAND", I.E. BROTHEL.])

Toguchi ended up leaving All Japan at the end of April 1981. New Japan sent out feelers when they learned that he was having a dispute with the company over his wish to bring his family from North Carolina to Japan.

Mitsu Hirai, one of the people who joined AJPW in the JWA absorption, had wanted to teach Jumbo more than Koma had taught him, but Baba used Koma as a shield to prevent him from getting involved in his training. Kabuki stated that “Jumbo didn’t have any ideas of his own, and wasn’t very resourceful in fights.”

A passage that sums up this part of the bio: Anyone can make a fight. However, it was Jumbo's responsibility to make a wave in the whole flow of the match, to make Jumbo Tsuruta. But Jumbo was never responsible for any of his fights. Baba-san lost Rikidōzan. After Toyonobori's death, Baba must have felt that he had to do it himself, and the image of Giant Baba was created in NTV's broadcasts, and he gradually became a top star. That's why Baba-san was so good at "playing the role of the 209cm Giant Baba". That's the greatness of Baba. But Jumbo had never been given responsibility, so he didn't know what he had to do in the end.  

This coupled with Jumbo’s persistent failure to win NWA title matches led to him earning the sarcastic moniker of “zensenman” (“good fight man”).

To close this part, I want to quote the comments of television producer Akira Hara, which I think dovetail interestingly with some of the criticisms I’ve seen levied against Tsuruta, some on this very forum by various departed old gods of the IWC: He was undoubtedly a genius. He was the top wrestler in the world. The only thing he lacks is something to touch the audience's heart. He was too smart to be a professional wrestler. He lacked something that would touch the hearts and souls of the Japanese. I think that was the only thing he didn't inherit from Baba. There were many good role models, though. Like Baba-san, I think Antonio Inoki was the best example in terms of wrestling to win the hearts of the audience. Hypothetically speaking, if he had been exposed to Inoki, he might have come up with something completely different.“ (Insert Terry Taylor reference here.)

---------------

Now for the hot gossip.

1.      Samson Kutsuwada attempted a coup (which I alluded to elsewhere on the forum) in 1977. He was going to have the support of major right-wing player Ryoichi Sasagawa. Sasagawa was going to bribe both Baba and Inoki out of the promoting game with gobs of money, and puro was going to be united once again, with Jumbo and Fujinami as the aces of the new generation. But word got to Baba, and Kutsuwada was dismissed and subsequently blacklisted. Baba did not allow the story of the coup to go public because it was imperative that he maintain a stable image against the openly tumultous NJPW company culture. (On the inside, the bio appears to at least imply that Baba tried to keep All Japan so culturally hierarchical partially because he wanted to prevent another Baba vs Inoki sort of situation happening internally.) Baba gave Jumbo preferential treatment after the coup by making him the president of affiliate company B&J, which handled the ring transportation and setup. However, he had no authority. According to Kyohei Wada, Motoko's attitude was that "we can't leave anything to him until he learns", but they never really taught him. Jumbo wasn't stupid, so he knew he was just a figurehead. Honestly this surprises me because he was more like Misawa in that way than I thought; it's just that Baba wasn't going to die anytime soon at this point. So Jumbo tried not to get involved in management from then on, not because he was overwhelmed like I'd assumed, but because of this treatment.

2.      1981 is when a major restructuring of AJPW took place at Nippon TV’s behest. At the end of this year, Mitsuo Mitsune took the presidential seat, and three big plans were set in motion: a three-year phase-out of Baba as ace (or even a retirement), the transition of Tsuruta to ace, and the fostering of a new Number Two. They wanted to make Tsuruta the new booker, but he very much did not want this responsibility. Luckily, Akio Sato had learned how to book from George Scott while working in the Mid-Atlantic territory, and eventually took the position. He was responsible for abolishing the seniority system, nurturing the likes of Misawa and Koshinaka (the latter has said that their Mexican excursion never would’ve happened if not for Sato), and ushering in the KakuRyu (Jumbo/Tenryu) era.

3.      Hisashi Shinma tried once again to get Tsuruta in 1980/1. Three years later, his old Chuo University wrestling team senior Noboru Urata, now UWF president, also approached him.

 

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4 hours ago, Indikator said:

That Urata connection sounds interesting. What else did he do in the business?

First of all, the machine translation was misleading; upon further research it looks like he was a senior of Jumbo's in the sense that he was an alumni. I ran his name through some Japanese sites. The most journalistic source is sadly locked behind a paywall, and I can't find much of anything pre-UWF, but I managed to find some info about his tenure as UWF president from the blog I've been consulting.
 
He was brought on by Shinma, a fellow Chuo alum. He then brought scandal upon the UWF when he was arrested for coercion of Sayama's manager, Shoji Koncha. (During a meeting, Urata had had a Yakuza boss he knew, who happened to be Koncha's boss, attend as a witness, and said boss forced Koncha to break his contract with Sayama and write a letter of reminder.) It looks like he came back and was reinstated right around the time of the infamous last Sayama/Maeda match, and facilitated the deal that absorbed the UWF remnants back into NJPW. After this, he apparently got involved with Shooto.

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On 2/15/2021 at 12:18 PM, El-P said:

As said before, fascinating stuff. Really interesting to see the american/european influence on Jumbo and how it had permeated the whole classic AJ style, as opposed to what Choshu would do in the 80's, which really is entirely Japanese in spirit.

Ok, I'll go straight into goofy-ass analogies, Jumbo was more Kurosawa, Choshu was more Mizoguchi (well, Choshu was more Fukasaku probably, really...)

This made me soooooo happy, but I thought Fukasaku was more inspired by French New Wave.... I don't see how Choshu is anything like Gilbert Cesca

 

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I have finished transcription of chapter 7. This is one of the lighter chapters on new information overall, as it spends a lot of time recapping matches, but there is still some stuff worth sharing. The next chapter will be about the Ishingun period.

1. Jumbo’s switch to black trunks, first seen in the 1982.06.08 Flair match, was the decision of one of the television producers. To make the subtext explicit, this was to recall Rikidōzan, just as the change of his signature moves was to recall Thesz. In this way, Jumbo made a symbolic break from the shadow of the Funks and Amarillo, which his moves and starred trunks had evoked.

2. At one point, one of the network people told Jumbo he wanted to see a “real” Thesz-style backdrop. He proceeded to do one in a singles match against Harley Race, and Race blew up at him backstage afterward. (This reminds me of the story of Harley chewing Jumbo out after his first NWA title match against Flair, for suplexing the champ before the finish.)

3. Verne Gagne originally wanted Baba to be Nick Bockwinkel’s opponent on what would be the February 23, 1984 AWA title match. (There is actually some logic to this, since Jumbo had received four unsuccessful shots at Bockwinkel from 1979-83, while Baba had only wrestled him once in a 1980 RWTL tour singles match.) However, both president Mitsuo Mitsune and television producer Akira Hara wanted Jumbo to finally win the belt. While this book does not go so far as to acknowledge wrestling’s worked nature, Akio Sato makes it as clear as he possibly can without breaking kayfabe that he threatened to quit All Japan if Baba didn't let him put Jumbo over. The 14.9 rating that the episode with the title match drew was satisfactory from NTV’s perspective.

4. Sato told Jumbo not to work dirty during his AWA tour as champion, which is why the matches we have on tape from this reign are more Jumbo’s take on the travelling champion than an attempt to be a sneaky foreigner.

5. It’s finally time to talk about Yasuko. Things are about to get mushy, brothers.

Yasuko Aramaki was studying at Kobe University in 1978 when her classmate and friend, then dating AJPW lead commentator Takao Kuramochi, took her to see a summer show. As Tsuruta told their “love story” to the author (staying up until 3am to tell it the night after announcing their engagement), it was love at first sight for him. They dated over the next two years, albeit relatively infrequently due to their lifestyles and relative distance. Kuramochi has spoken of being his friend’s wingman to help him with his shyness. However, they broke up around the time of her graduation; he’d suddenly gotten serious and wanted her to marry him and be a housewife, but she held on to her childhood dream of working as a stewardess. He claimed to have burned the letters and cried, but she continued to send him cards over the years.

Yasuko would have a change of heart in December 1983 when, as luck would have it, she would serve the Babas. It was after the RWTL tour had ended, and they were taking the class of the Meikyukai, a NPB hall of fame founded by the great Zainichi Korean pitcher Masaichi Kaneda, on a holiday trip to Hawaii. (Kaneda had been a friend of Rikidōzan, and in fact was probably the biggest celebrity friend who shared and was privy to his true heritage. Judging by this story, as well as a great photograph from New Year’s 1982 which features him alongside Baba, Inoki and Jumbo, I must assume that this carried over into friendships with Rikidōzan’s successors.) Yasuko was struck by Baba’s gentlemanly manner, and began to desire a life like that which Motoko had.

On January 24, 1984, Tsuruta received a call from Yasuko’s mother, asking him to meet her daughter again if he was still single. On the 30th, they reunited, and she told him that she had achieved her dream, and was now ready to quit and “be happy as a woman”. (This isn’t the most progressive story, but in a way its bittersweet epilogue, where Yasuko honored Tomomi's memory by running a nonprofit in his name and thus becoming a working woman again, makes it go down easier for me.) After the US tour in March, they went to Yasuko’s parents’ house to receive their blessing, and then to visit the house of Tsuruta’s youth. They were engaged on June 24, with Mitsune and his wife attending on the Babas’ behalf, and officially announced this in July. (This timestamped clip from the announcement is all I’ve seen. In it, Yasuko is asked what she wants her husband-to-be to do differently once they are married. She responds that he always lets go of her hand when others see them, out of shyness, and that she wants him to stop doing that.)

Unfortunately, Kuramochi’s friendship with the Tsurutas would not survive Jumbo’s death, as he disclosed in an interview a couple years back. Yasuko had begged him to prevent the television director (he was retired from commentary by this point, but was still working with the network) from using footage of Tsuruta’s open casket in their funeral coverage. Her husband would not have wanted the world to see him in such a way. However, the salaciousness of the imagery was too great for Kuramochi to convince the producers to respect this wish, no matter how hard he tried. He and Yasuko have never spoken since.

 

 

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This is a remarkable thread so far, I really have nothing to add other than I found this and thought it would be a good addtion:

 

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I’m about 10 pages into chapter 8, about the JPW era of AJPW, but as a lead-in to that post I thought that I should go into greater detail than the bio itself does about the story of JPW’s formation. My posts have tended to be more about the non-New Japan side of puro history, since my personal project pertains to All Japan specifically, but this post should help make up for that a bit.

What would eventually become Japan Pro Wrestling was a result of the extended fallout from the unsuccessful coup attempt in August 1983, when Inoki’s financial abuse of his position was revealed. I don’t know how well-known the actual affair is in English-language circles, so I’m going to go into it.

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In 1980, Inoki founded Anton Heisel (I don’t know the meaning of the Heisel part, but I do know that Anton is derived from Antonio), a biotech startup with the cooperation of the Brazilian government focused on the production of ethanol from sugarcane bagasse. This had really taken off in Brazil in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis, when its government financed a program to phase out fossil fuels in automobiles. This manifested in the ethanol-gasoline blends now sold in the country. There were, as there continue to be, great concerns about the pollutant effects of bagasse conversion to ethanol (specifically the aldehydes produced in alcohol oxidization), but Inoki was convinced that they were manageable. Sure, livestock which are fed recycled bagasse are prone to diarrhea, but Inoki logic saw that as a good thing because that meant more fertilizer. Inoki could solve the food crisis!

He couldn’t. Japanese climates couldn’t facilitate the fermentation process of such organic fertilizer effectively. This enterprise ended up hitting Inoki’s wallet even harder due to Brazilian inflation.

To recoup the billions he had lost, Inoki got TV Asahi to pledge 1.2 billion yen in broadcasting rights as collateral, but it wasn’t enough. (The debt would eventually be transferred to Kiyoshi Sagawa, founder and then-chairman of delivery company Sagawa Express, in exchange for stock certificates.) What seems to have led to the coup attempt was NJPW’s June 1983 shareholders’ report, which reported a profit margin of a mere 26 million yen on nearly 2 billion yen in sales, with a carryover profit of 7.2 million and no shareholder dividends.

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Back to the story. In December 1983, NJPW sales manager and coup conspirator Naoki Otsuka resigned from his post to form New Japan Pro-Wrestling Entertainment. The name was transferred to him by Inoki, which he did to “keep the New Japan name” even if the promotion itself was taken over by TV Asahi. Investors included Haruka Eigen and eventual JPW chairman Katsushi Takeda. Choshu would quickly become closer to Otsuka than New Japan proper, as his private production company, RIki Production, was entrusted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling Entertainment to operate.

Cracks soon formed in the relationship between the ostensible sister companies. Inoki was not present at NJPW Entertainment’s founding party, which led to distrust from Otsuka. NJPW Entertainment, rather than NJPW itself, organized a Fujinami/Choshu match on February 3, 1984. I can’t tell you exactly how they did this, but it clearly didn’t help their relationship, as Inoki began to suspect that Otsuka planned to take over event booking and monopolize profits.

Choshu’s own relationship with the company would deteriorate. The source I’m taking this from kayfabes it as manifesting in his interference in the June 14 Inoki/Hogan match, where he hit Hogan with a lariat. To put it mildly, the fans did not like that. However, I think it’s reasonable to suspect that this was true in a different way: namely, that Choshu did not like this angle or at least its result. Hogan got to go back to the WWF without any real damage, and Inoki’s kayfabe supremacy prevailed.

After this tour, NJPW Entertainment arranged an event at the Denen Coliseum on August 26, but New Japan cancelled. This is where Giant Baba enters the picture. Either Otsuka, who thought NJPW was harassing him, or Baba, who respected Otsuka’s acumen as a salesman, sought contact with the other through the go-between of Gong magazine’s Kosuke Takeuchi. Now, it must be made clear that this was not Otsuka jumping sides; as he ran an entertainment company, either he believed or Baba convinced him that he could play with both sides. But when the Denen event was revived as an AJPW event, NJPW obviously saw it as betrayal.

As NJPW’s Summer Fight Series began, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Nobuhiko Takada jumped ship to the UWF. Choshu would also be offered a UWF contract, but Otsuka reported this to New Japan, who then moved to offer an exclusive contract with TV Asahi, in an attempt to both curb Shinma’s attempt and to separate Choshu from Otsuka.

Two months later on August 24, just after the company had returned from Pakistan, Otsuka was handed his notice by Inoki himself. After the scheduled events through Septemer, the two companies’ dealings would cease. Two days after the AJPW Denen show, Otsuka notified New Japan that he was leaving, and that he was going to pull everybody except Inoki and Sakaguchi with him. In fact, the day after receiving his notice, Kuniaki Kobayashi had asked Otsuka if he was quitting. After this, Otsuka received a call from Choshu to meet him at his apartment, and when he did so he found Kobayashi, Yoshiaki Yatsu, Animal Hamaguchi, and Isamu Teranishi were also present. It was here when Otsuka made his offer to Choshu to come along with him and “break new ground”.

Ishingun would proceed to participate in the Bloody Fight Series, but Choshu approached Sakaguchi to request that he and Yatsu take an expedition to the WWF to refresh themselves. At this point the cracks in the promotions’ relationship had obviously begun to form, but Vince hadn’t totally burned the bridge by jacking up the fee yet. So this appealed to Sakaguchi because Choshu would not only be separated from Otsuka, but could also help repair their relationship with what had been their most fruitful American partnership.

Sakaguchi announced backstage on September 18 that Choshu would be going on expedition, and Ishingun vowed to unite with Inoki. However, three days later, Ishingun held a press conference at the Capital Tokyo Hotel. (I believe this photo is from that conference.) Ten minutes beforehand, they had collectively submitted their notice to New Japan and announced they were joining Otsuka. Baba was not a part of the conference, but he showed up and stated that All Japan would be ready to accept them if they approached.

Then, even more of the New Japan roster would align with Otsuka. These included Eigen, who as previously mentioned had been one of NJPW Entertainment’s investors, and Otsuka’s friends Masanobu Kurisu, Nobuo Yasunaga, Shinichi Nakano, and Fumihiro Niikura. Killer Khan then joined at Otsuka’s invitation, and Masa Saito and referee Tiger Hattori did the same at Choshu’s request. Katsushi Takeda put up the money for everyone’s contracts. At this point, NJPW Entertainment merged with Riki Production to form Japan Pro.

Before Ishingun’s dramatic entrance into AJPW on December 8, 1984, Japan Pro also arranged the British Bulldogs’ ship-jumping to become AJPW gaijins, starting with the RWTL. The next year, they would also lure over the Calgary Hurricanes: Super Strong Machine, Hiro Saito, and Shunji Takano. (This is skipping ahead a bit, but I know that in late 1985 AJPW and NJPW would sign a no-pulling – or as machine translation hilariously puts it sometimes, no-pullout – agreement. This is why Dick Murdoch never came back to All Japan, even though he apparently wanted to.)

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According to Inoki's Japanese Wikipedia page, his Brazilian biofuel venture was called アントン・ハイセル, which would be Romanized as anton haiseru. Maybe it's supposed to mean Highcell or something like that.

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There's nothing unusual about a Japanese woman quitting her job to get married. It happens all the time. The fact that she resisted marriage at the beginning was progressive enough for the times. I'm fairly certain that if she decided to quit her job and marry Jumbo that she was ready to leave the airline industry. Working again after Jumbo died doesn't really strike me as progressive. It seems tragic to me, as though it filled a gaping hole. 

 

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You’re right. I know it's a cultural norm. My perception of the story might have been colored a bit by some speculation I’ve seen on the Japanese web surrounding her actions, running with how the guy who arranged the surgery didn’t get all of the payment because the operation was a failure (and because the hospital director gave his medical opinion to the press), and his claims that Yasuko not only wasn’t present when he died, but was also exchanging business cards in the hospital that day, which made him suspicious of the foundation she started. Maybe she had wanted to work again?

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I'm not familiar with that story. When I first started trying to tap into Japanese info, there was a lot of sleaze thread level stuff, especially about Joshi wrestlers. Eventually, I lost interest. Personally, I'd take it  with a grain of salt like all of the Motoko Baba stories.

I'm intrigued by the idea of Jumbo not being Japanese enough. The salaryman quote is well known, but something changes around the time of the Misawa feud because all the salarymen are popping like mad for him. I guess they aged with him. 

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BTW, I know Gordi is friends with Jumbo's son, but one of my wife's best friends is married to Jumbo's cousin. Dunno how many Kevin Bacons that is, but I always get a kick out of meeting the dude. 

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5 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

Personally, I'd take it  with a grain of salt like all of the Motoko Baba stories.

I always just assumed Motoko was the bad cop like JR/JJ Dillon/Johnny Ace would be for Vince. Everyone loved Baba so someone had to be the bearer of bad news. 

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