KinchStalker Posted September 29, 2021 Report Share Posted September 29, 2021 2019 FOUR PILLARS BIO: CHAPTERS 10-17, PART EIGHT This will be the final post covering the second half of part two of the Pillars book. --------- Tarzan Yamamoto’s suggestions to make Korakuen Hall a priority of the company had paid off. By early 1992, these events were selling out so quickly that AJPW began to cater to those who weren’t fast enough, through a postcard lottery system for a certain number of seats. “I CAN’T REST ANYMORE” Above: after Mitsuharu Misawa was legitimately injured in a Korakuen six-man tag on July 21, Toshiaki Kawada was substituted in his place. Three nights later, a local promoter threatened to lower his payment for the AJPW show he had purchased if Misawa took the night off, and Misawa was pressured to work the rest of the tour in a sling. On the March 4 Budokan show, which reportedly set an attendance record of 16,300, Misawa lost his third shot at the Triple Crown to Stan Hansen. Six weeks later, in the final match of the Champion Carnival, he lost to Hansen again. The August 22, 1992 Budokan main event would be Misawa’s fourth Triple Crown shot, his fifth singles match against Hansen. Yet, it would also be Hansen’s fourth defense of his titles. In his comments before the match, Misawa vowed that he would not challenge for the titles for a full year if he lost again. One month earlier - on the July 21 Bruiser Brody memorial show in Korakuen, to be exact - Misawa had led Chosedaigun in another six-man tag against Tsurutagun. Jumbo Tsuruta was absent from the tour, for what was then reported as a reaggravation of an old leg injury, so they had the advantage going in. However, this was derailed when Taue legitimately injured Misawa’s shoulder (specifically, Misawa suffered a dislocated acromioclavicular joint). Kawada was substituted in to restart the match. Misawa would take the following night off, a show in Tsushima; however, when the local promoter for the July 24 Izumo event threatened to dock his fee for the show due to Misawa’s absence, Baba asked him to return. At that point, Misawa would later recall his feeling that “he couldn’t rest anymore”. Misawa would work the last seven dates of the tour in a sling. At the very least, he would get a little rest before his title shot, as the Summer Action Series II tour would start nearly three weeks after the Summer Action Series I tour had ended on July 31. However, his title match would only be his third of the tour. Above: Misawa hits Hansen with the hardest elbow he has to win the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling Issue #511, dated 9/8/1992] Ichinose recalls arriving at the Budokan on August 22. What struck him was that the long, long line that he had seen upon his entrance was not for the ticket office, but for advance ticket sales for the next AJPW Budokan event: the promotion’s 20th anniversary show on October 21. Ichinose was genuinely moved by how far the promotion had come since the bleak aftermath of the SWS departures. As you likely know if you’re reading this, this was when Baba finally put the belts on Misawa. Ichinose’s remarks on the match aren’t particularly revealing, though he was as surprised as anyone by the elbow strike finish. Misawa's postmatch comments frame the match as being as much his battle against his own body as that against Hansen. ROAD TO THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY Above: On September 9, 1992, Kawada and Taue face off in a #1 contendership match to be Misawa’s first challenger. In an August 28 interview with the author during an Osaka show, Misawa admitted that he had not yet proven to himself that he deserved to be the champion, a statement which was in keeping with remarks he made after his victory over Hansen. Misawa’s first defense was scheduled for the October 21 Budokan show, but a #1 contendership match in Chiba on September 9 would determine whether his challenger was Kawada or Taue. In his postmatch comments on August 22, when asked which of those he would rather face, he responded “...you're waiting for me to say Kawada, aren't you? Then write that down. I think Kawada is the one worth wrestling at this point.” There was, however, hesitation baked into his remarks. Meanwhile, Kawada stated at the 8/22 show that, if he won the contendership match, he wished to use a separate locker room before their title match, because he believed that he would need to isolate himself from his partner to have a match that would satisfy their audience. Misawa disagreed, as at the August 28 show he responded that the two could save their feelings until the day of the match. It was a difference in ideologies; Misawa believed that they did not need to take this measure because they had a smooth relationship, while Kawada believed that it was because they had a smooth relationship that he had to do this. Ichinose recalls how Revolution had gotten their own tour bus to reinforce their separation from the main unit of the roster, and how in the faction’s earliest days as just a tag team, Genichiro Tenryu and Ashura Hara traveled separately to smooth their transition from rivals to partners. Ichinose also notes that Kawada’s belief that distance was necessary was sympathetic to Baba’s own sensibilities. After all, the “ippon hanamichi”, the single entrance stage and ramp, was a development in the presentation of professional wrestling that Baba despised and kept out of his product for as long as he lived; whether post-Baba All Japan was to continue the tradition of having wrestlers enter through the first and third doors of the venue would be one of the irreconcilable differences between Misawa and Motoko which brought about the NOAH exodus. Ichinose became anxious that Kawada might not give a comment if he were to win the Chiba match, so he decided to interview him at the b-show in Nagano on September 8. It was here when Kawada gave further insight into his anxieties. In their interview, which would be published in the Weekly Pro Wrestling issue dated September 29, 1992, Kawada admitted that he was worried that, if he won the #1 contendership and then challenged Misawa, then that would be the end of it. He would still be a member of the Super Generation Army. He didn’t see where the story could go from there. In short, he was afraid that, ultimately, “nothing would happen”. The following night, Kawada wrestled Taue as planned. This match appears to have been (Ichinose doesn’t mention it) the debut of Kawada’s signature entrance theme, the original composition “Holy War”; this was after two years of using “The Last Battle”, a minute-long piece of music from the anime adaptation of motorbike racing manga Bari Bari Densetsu. As for the match itself, Kawada won in 18:46 with a stretch plum. In his postmatch comments, Kawada declined to comment on his thoughts about wrestling Misawa, proving Ichinose’s hunch correct; instead, Kawada was interested in expressing his gratitude that he and Taue got to wrestle the main event of the last show of the tour. Both of them had worked hard, and he hoped that they could both make it to the top. Above: Jun Akiyama debuts at the 20th Anniversary show in Korakuen. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling Issue #515, dated October 6, 1992] After a September 17 Korakuen show to celebrate the actual 20th anniversary of the company, which saw the debut of Jun Akiyama as well as a unique Chosedaigun/Tsurutagun six-man with Giant Baba tagging alongside Tsuruta and Fuchi, the 20th Anniversary Giant Series tour began with another Korakuen show on October 2. 10/21/92 As has already been established, the seventeen-date tour ended at Budokan. While not contemporaneously broadcast in full, it was a relatively early example of an AJPW show that we know was professionally taped in full, as it would be broadcast many years later. Besides the main event, the most interesting match was the semi-main event. While it was a six-man tag with mostly old and/or limited performers, the Baba/Hansen/Dory vs. Andre/Jumbo/Gordy match was positively received when announced due to the twist of trading Hansen and Tsuruta. Ichinose claims credit for the idea. In his recollection of the match itself, Ichinose points out a “mischievous” detail: Baba’s use of the Mongolian chop against Andre, which recalled Andre’s NJPW/WWF feud(s) with Killer Khan. Kagehiro Osano’s 2020 Jumbo biography features claims from Masanobu Fuchi that one of the plans for this match’s finish was to have Jumbo finally pin Baba. However, they settled on having Tsuruta finally go over his teacher Dory. Kawada’s request for a separate waiting room had not been granted until this last show. From the start of the event, he had declined all interviews, though Akira Fukuzawa predicted that he would be very talkative in the ring. Before his Mexican excursion, Mitsuharu Misawa had wrestled Toshiaki Kawada four times in a singles context. He had won all four matches: the first three by pinfall, the last via submission (single-leg crab). That had been on October 18, 1983, almost exactly nine years before this match. Above: various photographs from Misawa and Kawada's first singles match in nine years. Thirteen minutes into this match, a spin kick gave Misawa a concussion. This match too would see Misawa battle himself, and he would admit that he could not remember the second half of it, or even the precise point at which his memory faltered. Misawa would also admit in postmatch comments to NTV interviewer Shigeru Kaneko that he didn’t feel like he had won the match. The copy for Weekly Pro’s feature on the match, in what may have been the first AJPW special issue printed by the publication, read “The Door of Dreams”. Their coverage read that this match, or perhaps more accurately, the fact that Misawa and Kawada could have had that match without the heat of rivalry to draw upon, had opened such a door for a new era of professional wrestling. And yet, the match would not be chosen for Tokyo Sports’ Match of the Year, which instead went to Kawada’s June 5 title shot against Hansen. Whether or not this was influenced by Misawa’s attitude towards the ceremony, Ichinose cannot confirm. POSTSCRIPT Above: Misawa & Kawada win the Real World Tag League on their third attempt together. This photograph may have been a candidate to be the cover photo for the Weekly Pro Wrestling issue covering the tournament final; however, in an indictment of the disappointing year-end show, Tarzan Yamamoto instead decided to give the cover to new UWF International signing Naoki Sano. This photo would instead be featured on the cover of a calendar feature (or included calendar, I don't know) in the last issue of the year, dated for the first two weeks of 1993. This section of the book ends with light coverage of the next four or so months, and the picture of stagnation they painted. With Tsuruta’s post-tour hospitalization, Taue was partnerless as the 1992 RWTL approached. While Fuchi, Mighty Inoue, and Rusher Kimura were seen as options, Ichinose and Yamamoto recommended that rookie Jun Akiyama be called up instead, to establish him as a valuable future asset. Baba hesitated but eventually agreed. Taue & Akiyama reached the finals, where they were defeated by Misawa & Kawada. The match itself was decent, and Ichinose’s Weekly Pro recap was favorable on those terms, but Yamamoto’s commentary in an editorial forty pages earlier was harsh, writing that “[the year-end Budokan show] scored zero as an entertainment event”. As Tsuruta’s absence continued into the new year, the product remained stale, and by late February, Kawada’s dissatisfaction was visibly bleeding into his performances. After the Excite Seres' Budokan event on February 28, in which he had wrestled Hansen, Kawada was frank with Ichinose: “It's boring. It's boring for me, it's boring for you. For them, it's like watching the sequel of the same movie over and over again. They can see what's coming, and it's not interesting. If I were a customer, I wouldn't want to see it again.” Spoiler  Ichinose notes that Baba had been fond of Khan during his days working for AJPW by proxy. I don’t know if Khan reciprocated, although I do know that Khan legitimately disliked Jumbo, due to comments Jumbo made about how Khan’s ugly face made him a natural heel in the States (which, to be clear, weren't framed as a compliment). Khan responded in his 2018 autobiography that he had worked very hard to develop those facials, and that while Tsuruta may have been a great wrestler, he wasn’t much of a man. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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