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Chapter 27 starts concurrently with the events of the previous chapter, as Ichinose recalls his frustration that he could do nothing as an All Japan reporter to stave off the magazine’s decline. Back in 1991, when Weekly Pro had lost access to SWS, their coverage of the Super Generation Army, particularly Kawada (who got one Weekly Pro cover a month from March to August), had helped keep them afloat. Unfortunately, there was no equivalent to 1991 Kawada in 1996 AJPW.

This chapter concerns itself with Taue and Akiyama.


The 1996 Champion Carnival saw Taue defeat the returning Steve Williams in the April 20 final. When the two had wrestled their league match, though, it was a stinker. On March 26, they wrestled to a draw in Nagano-Suwa. After the match, Baba called in Taue alone and scolded him for his poor performance. As Taue recalls, Baba wasn’t scary. He didn’t hit you, and he didn’t even talk a lot. But when he scolded you, you listened. Taue’s performance in the final would satisfy Baba.

The next several pages meditate on Taue: his relationship with Baba and how he compared to the other Pillars. Unlike the other three, Taue had not been a wrestling fan. He stuck with the business because he had a family to support; it was either that or driving a truck. It feels like this part of the book is retreading old ground, or at least spelling out things that already felt established. Stuff like how Taue never tried to add a signature strike to his arsenal unlike the other three, or how he felt that his sumo training gave him a certain pride even if he didn’t share the other Pillars’ temperament. Taue doesn’t bring up the famous bench press story, but he mentions a couple episodes with Baba, such as when the woman who lived in Baba’s Hawaii mansion for most of the year mistook him for his son, and the time when the hood of Baba’s Cadillac bonked him in the head in the Hawaii rain, while Taue tried to stifle his laugh. The first thing that comes to mind from the peak period of Taue’s career, though, was the cars he bought. He liked American full-tuned cars “that were so stupid that he now wondered why he drove them”. He also returned to driving school around this time when he caught the urge to ride a Harley.

Taue won the Triple Crown from Misawa on May 24, in what was his fourth attempt. His only successful defense came against Kawada at the end of the tour. The two had not wrestled a singles match outside of the Carnival since 1992, and the match was considered a deflating affair. Ichinose recalls his amusement at Akira Fukuzawa’s naive declaration that the match was still in its early stages, fifteen minutes in. Ichinose quotes the Weekly Pro writeup: “One of Kawada's mottos is that ‘pro wrestling is not just about techniques’, but on this day, Kawada was just about techniques.” After the match, he writes that Kawada sat sadly in the dressing room, “like a puppy in a pet store”. Kawada ruminated on his slump, saying that he felt “less dangerous” than he had been five years before. If All Japan was a school, he had been trying to be an honor student, and that had made him weak. Furthermore, he stated that he thought the audience wanted to see something fresh. While the Holy Demon Army would ultimately remain together until the NOAH exodus, these comments clearly teased a possible Seikigun breakup; Kawada’s theory of wrestling as a three-year cycle comes to mind.

From here, the book transitions to the subject of Akiyama’s promotion to Misawa’s primary tag partner. The next few pages lay his angst bare.

When Akiyama pinned Kawada to win the AJPW World Tag Team titles on May 23, it was his second victory over a Pillar; he had pinned Taue in a January six-man. However, when Akiyama was handed the belt he refused to wear it. He stated in postmatch comments that he did not feel he could wear the world tag belt while he was still chasing the shadows of Kobashi & Kikuchi, as the then-All Asia tag co-champion with Takao Omori.

Ichinose supposes that Akiyama was not in the position to tell the press not to put him on the Pillars’ level, but he is still ashamed in retrospect that he did not notice how deeply it wore on him. In the early 2000s, Ichinose learned that Akiyama had been suffering from an anxiety disorder since the mid-90s. As early as an interview at Ikegami Honmon-ji temple in February 1996, Akiyama recalls sweating profusely during an interview with Ichinose, although Akiyama successfully covered it up as his being embarrassed about the question of his recent marriage. He was too ashamed to tell anyone, but the wife would pick up on the husband’s struggles. Akiyama recalls a panic attack he suffered while taking a shower; while it had subsided by the time he heard the siren of the ambulance he had asked his wife to call, the incident made him afraid to bathe. The bullet train and airplane became dreadful experiences, with Akiyama pinching his inner thighs to cope with flights. His high-profile singles matches on top of his title defenses often ruined his ability to sleep. He even recalls a panic attack that struck during a televised match (on July 16, 1999, against Yoshinari Ogawa).

This chapter ends with Akiyama’s appreciation of Kawada. While the persona he developed was a genuine expression of himself, the book observes that he developed into a Kawada-like presence in NOAH, and Akiyama himself states that, through wrestling against them, the rhythms of Kawada, Taue and Fuchi became imbued in him, not those of Misawa and Kobashi.

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  • KinchStalker changed the title to 2019 FOUR PILLARS BIO: CHAPTERS 25-31, PART THREE [TAUE & AKIYAMA IN MID-90S]

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