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KinchStalker

2019 FOUR PILLARS BIO: CHAPTERS 25-31, PART SIX

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This will either be the final or penultimate post. The final chapter is an examination of the Shitenno's legacy, and I may or may not share some of that stuff. Apologies for the formatting inconsistencies, I have no idea how to resolve them.

2019 FOUR PILLARS BIO: CHAPTERS 25-31, PART SIX

There isn’t much that Ichinose brings to the story behind AJPW’s first Dome show. There’s nothing he says that you couldn’t read in Eggshells or contemporaneous Observers. I guess I could bring up that Kobashi had “mixed feelings” about Baba saying that Misawa vs. Kawada was AJPW’s best match in a press conference. Ichinose seems to frame the Halloween 1998 Misawa/Kobashi match as Kobashi’s response to this. Also, it’s made very clear that Baba would never truly put Kawada ahead of Misawa in the pecking order, due to their junior-senior relationship. I’m going to skip the rest of the stuff about the first five months of 1998, since it adds nothing new and I want to get the albatross of this book off of my neck so that I can research other things guilt-free.

Ichinose’s last issue for Weekly Pro was the one covering Kobashi’s Triple Crown victory against Baba. His other great love was baseball, and he would finally get to cover it in a freelance capacity. However, Ichinose intended to maintain his relationship with Baba. This would not last long, though.

Before he came back, Misawa openly criticized his company in the press. He stated that All Japan did not use guest talent effectively and that its treatment of the junior division was poor. Since Misawa had made his critiques public as leverage, this was dubbed the Misawa Revolution. Baba acquiesced. The GET breakup angle at the beginning of the Summer Action Series II tour, wherein Johnny Ace turned on Kobashi after their tag loss to Taue & Tamon Honda, was seen as an immediate refutation of the akuruku part of Baba’s motto. Yoshinari Ogawa’s call-up to Misawa’s new tag partner was a subversion of Baba’s ideal of the “clash of big bodies”. (Ichinose doesn’t mention that Misawa’s original choice was the even more radical Masahito Kakihara, which was vetoed.)

At some point, Misawa finally figured out that Weekly Pro had been offering creative input, and confronted Wada: “It’s Tarzan, isn’t it?” Now, by the time Misawa learned that Weekly Pro was involved, Tarzan had long since stopped coming to creative meetings. Yamamoto still had good relations with Baba, and had since mediated to get Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Don Arakawa to work dates for AJPW, but only Ichinose was still pitching ideas. Fuchi is quoted recalling that Motoko had always asked him what matches he wanted to see on a tour, and that the Weekly Pro involvement had lightened Baba’s load, since he wanted to decide on a tour’s cards as soon as possible and appreciated assistance for provincial shows. Regardless, “Misawa did not want to be moved in a way that was beyond his control.” Ichinose spends the next couple pages quoting Misawa interviews from the past couple years, speculating that his discontentment had begun in 1996. He also contrasts Kawada’s “three-year cycle” theory with Misawa’s beliefs, painting this as another of their myriad differences.

Ichinose’s last meeting with Baba was a hotel lunch in September, with Motoko and Wada. Ichinose recalls a quiet Baba, who at one point mused that “in just one or two tours”, Misawa would realize how hard the job really was. (Kawada is critical of Misawa’s skill as a booker, believing it directly hurt AJPW attendance. In his opinion, Fuchi was more qualified for the role, as shown by his central role in putting the Super Generation Army matches together.)

Ichinose also reads a sense of bitterness in Baba’s comments on the 10/31 Misawa/Kobashi match. He wonders if Baba may have planned to strike back, and Wada is quoted making a very interesting claim in the 48th issue of G Spirits.

“After that, there was a meeting between Baba and Misawa...I still remember that he said, "Don't interfere with my wife at all. I'm the only one who can use the All Japan Pro-Wrestling sign. If you want to do it, you can take over all the offices and training camps, and you can call it 'Misawa Pro-Wrestling'. But I won't let you put up the All Japan sign there."

Baba died on January 31, 1999. Ichinose was in Texas covering the Yakult Swallows training camp when he heard the news.

—-

Ichinose might not have been covering AJPW anymore, but he still offers some interesting nuggets. According to him, Misawa was intent on bringing Shinya Hashimoto onto the Baba Tokyo Dome show as a surprise opponent for Kawada. Hase was even used as an intermediary. But alas, Motoko put her foot down. 

Ichinose claims that Jumbo had actually wanted to retire for years, but that Baba insisted he remain as a part-timer. He wasn’t paid full salary, but he still got a living wage. As the company’s financial situation got tighter and bled into production cost cuts on their television program (think of the shitty lighting on some tapings, such as the 1997 Kobashi/Hase match), some among the locker room came to resent Tsuruta for leeching off of their wages. 

Baba’s tendency to keep most of his wrestlers’ earnings in savings (to be used for, say, a down payment if one were to purchase a house, as Taue recalls) can’t have helped. Much earlier in the book, Ichinose listed a revealing amount of earnings by various wrestlers, as was revealed when the SWS guys tried to take Baba to court. In the fiscal year beginning April 1, 1989, Tenryu received ¥2,355,000, while Yatsu got ¥1,628,000 and Kabuki got ¥1,332,000. Compare this to Goro Tsurumi, who always stayed freelance and received ¥7,352,000. Meanwhile, top prospects such as Shunji Takano and Isao Takagi made 6.1 and 4.4 million yen that year, while the likes of Fuyuki and Nakano made less than ¥750,000. (Remember, Tenryu tried to negotiate higher wages for his juniors when his contract renewal had come up.) Ichinose tempered that by adding that AJPW alumni would express gratitude for the pensions they were provided, but one can easily see how this setting would breed resentment in leaner times, and why Misawa wanted to modernize the contracts.

A decade later, Ichinose got a call from Motoko.

Mitsuharu Misawa had died.

 

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