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KinchStalker

A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING ENTERPRISE PART 4.2 (1975)

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I needed a break because I needed a break, but I also took one to try to give myself more time to search for sources. By no means was 1975 an unimportant year for the IWE, but it is the year that I have found the least extratextual information about thus far. If I ever transcribe the book that Koji Miyamoto wrote a couple years back on this era of the IWE, maybe I’ll find more.

On an unrelated note, I finally got together the cash to order another book from Japan for transcription: the 2019 Four Pillars bio 夜の虹を架ける 四天王プロレス (roughly: The Rainbow over the Night: Shitenno Puroresu). It should arrive sometime in August, at which point I’ll survey it and figure out what I want to do. It’s about 150% the length of the Jumbo bio without accounting for pictures, so it’ll take longer, but I think the structure of the book will actually be lighter on me; dividing the book into sections for each of the Four means that this time, I’m not going to be blindsided by a 90-page and a 100-page chapter right after one another towards the end. I want to get this IWE stuff out of the way first because frankly, if I don’t nobody else will, but it’s a niche subject and I sympathize if it’s getting old.

Anyway, on with the show.

A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING ENTERPRISE

PART 4.2 (1975)

[Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3.1 here, Part 3.2 here, and Part 4.1 two posts above.]

A PARTNERSHIP ENDS

Spoiler

What had once been called the “Far East Chapter” of the American Wrestling Association was now in too financially precarious a position to continue their partnership with the organization. The New Year Pioneer Series, a 21-date tour from 1975.01.06-02.02, would be the IWE’s final tour as an AWA affiliate.

The stars of this gaijin crop weren’t even AWA guys. Danny Lynch worked Japan for the last time in his first Kokusai appearances since 1971, alongside kayfabe brother Butcher Lynch. [1] They would receive the tour’s only shots at the IWA world and tag titles, with the two losing clean in a tag title match on the tour’s second date, and with Danny losing clean to Inoue on the final show. Representing the AWA were Bob Orton Sr., making his last Japanese appearances (and first since 1960), and Bobby Slaughter, the future Sergeant, making his Japanese debut. Once again, Jiro Inazuma/Gerry Morrow put on a mask to work a few dates as a faux gaijin, this time named the Wild Killer. The joshi division got Susan Greene and Peggy Patterson to work against.

At the opening show in Korakuen, a masked wrestler named Chon Lee put over Isamu Teranishi. This was actually Hideyuki Nagasawa. At this point, Nagasawa (1924-1999) was the last active wrestler in puroresu to have been born during the Taisho period. His is the kind of name that gets lost in our surface-level puro histories, so when his in-ring involvement with the company ends in 1976, I might give him an extended bio in the footnotes. What you need to know right now, though, is that he was an ex-sumo who was part of Toshio Yamaguchi’s original All Japan Pro Wrestling in the 50s (although like Yamaguchi, he participated in that first JWA tour with the Sharpe Brothers) before joining the JWA in 1956 to become the JWA’s equivalent of a wakamono-gashira, who supervises young rikishi in sumo. He’d taken a step back in the JWA’s later years to work as a referee and in sales, and when they went under, Isao Yoshihara gave his old coworker a job in the materials department. Nagasawa would work as himself later in 1975 and into 1976 as an elder curtainjerker.

The IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title, which had been put on ice after Tadaharu Tanaka went on excursion in 1970, finally returned. On the tour’s third date, Teranishi defeated Jiro Inazuma for the vacant belt.

In February, Verne gave the company an ultimatum: him or Daigo. Kokusai chose Daigo.

RUSHER RISING

middle_1270257707.jpg.3535f69e4dd4bb7b4b8d1e621bf264c4.jpgmiddle_1270257778.jpg.b852fd57c26ef8189735284435616a65.jpg1835812641_1975_04.19kimuravsvachon.jpg.82138d3ab2301ace737fcf6b342a2166.jpg

Above: After losing the first fall to a cobra clutch, Mighty Inoue drops the IWA World Heavyweight title to Mad Dog Vachon on 1975.04.10 when he’s lured out for a DCO. Nine days later, Rusher Kimura defeats Vachon on the tour’s final date to cement himself as Kokusai’s ace, a position he will hold for the rest of the company’s life.

Spoiler

In March, two carriers dropped coverage of Kokusai Pro Wrestling Hour: Kyoko Broadcasting System (Kyoto prefecture) and SUN-TV (Hyogo prefecture). Both would later revive coverage, but I could not find the point at which KBS would, and SUN-TV would take three-and-a-half years to do so.

In addition to Daigo’s Calgary connections, Kokusai still had an ally in Mad Dog Vachon, who would be the star gaijin of the Dynamite Series. Vachon would be utilized on this 24-date tour (1975.03.09-04.19) as a transitional champion. Besides him, the gaijin crop was the leanest it had been in years, with only the Interns (Tom Andrews & Jim Starr) and a returning Jack Claybourne to wrestle the mens’ division. The women got Vickie Williams and Joyce Grable. Vachon ended up being a day late, so the Kimura wire mesh deathmatch that was scheduled to main-event the first show in Koshigaya (the first of ten cage matches on the tour) wound up going forward with the hasty substitution of “The Wildman”, who was just Tom Andrews without his white Intern mask.

On April 9 in Iwase, Kimura & Kusatsu defended their IWA tag titles against Vachon & Claybourne. However, this show also saw the joshi division finally roll out their old belts from Nippon Joshi Puroresu [I’ve decided to call them that henceforth so as to prevent confusion with the later Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling], as Chiyo Obata defended her IWWA Pacific Coast title against Williams. The following night’s Tokyo show opened with Obata & Terumi Sakura defending their IWWA Pacific Coast Tag Team titles – which the later Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling would revive in the following decade – against Williams & Grable.

Alas, that Tokyo show would also see the end of Mighty Inoue’s only world title reign. After winning the first fall in 9:30 with a cobra clutch, Vachon lured Inoue out for a double countout at 12:48. After the match, Inoue would ultimately express relief that the pressure of world champion was no longer upon his shoulders.

On the show’s last date in Sapporo, what people must have been expecting finally came to pass. After having gone to one victory and one DKO in the wire mesh with Vachon, Kimura defeated the Mad Dog within the cage, with a Boston crab at 7:25.

Rusher Kimura would remain the promotion’s ace for the rest of its run, and only ever lost the belt as part of mid-tour tradeoffs with top gaijins-of-the-month. However, Kimura was an odd pick for an ace even beyond his physical limitations. You have to understand that the promo machine he would become in his sunset All Japan run was an act that it took him many, many years to reach. In truth, Kimura was a deeply introverted person who was incredibly difficult for reporters to get much of anything out of. According to a Tokyo Sports article, one night Kimura and Yoshihara had dinner at Sumo Chaya Hamariki, a restaurant near the Kokusai office, where Yoshihara intended to coach Kimura on the mannerisms becoming of an ace. Instead, the two only exchanged a few words of thanks as they went through four bottles of sake. The most ace thing Kimura would do in 1975 is issue a challenge to Antonio Inoki in June, a matchup which would happen six years later, in a much different puroresu landscape.

Kimura & Kusatsu vacated their IWA World Tag Team titles on 1975.04.30, so that Kimura could concentrate on defending his singles title.

TOR’S WORLD, HE’S THE MAN

1776169177_kamatavskimura.thumb.jpg.85375361cd4426370d0d814ab19111e0.jpg273907035_kamatavskimura2.thumb.jpg.5be1d0f4ddd0759abdeac81b3daa3d2d.jpg278047289_kimuravskamatajune75.jpg.3d2ef79bc9521a6587e9e3e0fb52d341.jpg1620645249_kimuravstorkamata1975.jpg.7f3b427fcca63df7d4c92d19e7cdc408.jpg

Above: Rusher Kimura defended his title twice against a debuting Tor Kamata, first in a standard match on 1975.05.26, then in a wire mesh chain match on 06.06.

Spoiler

The 17-date Big Challenge Series took place from 1975.05.25-06.14. Geoff Portz made his first Kokusai appearance since 1968 (he had worked New Japan in 1973, and would do so again in 1976 for his final Japan apprearances), and Donna Christanello also returned. Butcher Brannigan, who had worked the JWA three years earlier as Killer Joe Nova (derived from his real name, Joseph Novo), made his final Japanese appearances. “Duke Savage” was the Apache Gringo, who had worked a 1967 JWA tour as The Savage. Accompanying Christanello to wrestle the joshi division was Daisy Mae.

The star, though, was Tor Kamata. Born McRonald Kamaka in Hawaii, he was broken into the business by Ed Francis upon his return from duty in the Air Force. His stage name was a reference to Tomas de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. (Man, that’s what Ivan Karamazov was missing when he recited “The Grand Inquisitor” for Alexei; the Inquisitor needed to give this returning Christ a Flying Sausage! Look, I had to get one lame Dostoevsky joke in there.) However, he had also wrestled in the late 60s as Dr. Moto for the AWA, enjoying substantial runs alongside Mitsu Arukawa with the AWA World Tag Team titles. In 1969, he had also teamed with Kimura at least once during the latter’s first American excursion. In the meantime, he had held the Stampede North American Heavyweight title for a respectable 155 days across three reigns in 1972.

In Korakuen Hall on May 26, Kimura defended the IWA world title against Kamata, which he won by disqualification in the second fall after a double countout. On June 6, a rematch was held as a chain match within the wire mesh, which Kimura won. Parallel to this, a tourney was apparently held for the vacant IWA tag titles, though the tour results don’t look like a tournament was actually held, beyond just having a June 8 match between Kusatsu & Inoue and Portz & Savage billed as its semifinal. In any case, Kusatsu & Inoue began their reign with a June 13 victory over Kamata & Savage in Morioka.

BIG SUMMER

979096797_1975_07.28kimuravsquinn.jpg.9f66a2d3604b85c577e6ee6cfb4fb3de.jpg

Above: Rusher Kimura defends his IWA World Heavyweight title against Big John Quinn on 1975.07.28.

Spoiler

The Big Summer Series spanned 26 dates from 1975.06.29-07.28. Gil Hayes and Joyce Grable were returning gaijin. Meanwhile, Big John Quinn, who had previously worked the JWA’s first NWA World Tag Team League in 1970 as Nick Bockwinkel’s partner, worked the first of what would be three Kokusai tours in the years to come. The Commandos were a tag team of two wrestlers named Andres Rodriguez and Ignatio Ramirez (according to the puroresu.com tour results page), but other than that I can’t find any info. Dottie Downs was the other gaijin for the joshi division.

The tour opened at Korakuen with the first native vs native title defense in two years, as Kimura defended against Inoue. When this aired on Kokusai Pro Wrestling Hour on July 7, it drew the program’s first 10% rating. On the last date, in Tokyo’s Ohta Ward Gym, Kimura retained against Quinn. Meanwhile, Kusatsu & Inoue made a single tag title defense on June 30, against Quinn & Hayes.

G.(Y). JOE

[I’ve written it out before, but look, I really don’t want to write out “Gypsy Joe” over and over again in this day and age, and he’s going to show up a lot from here on out. I’ll just refer to him as G. Joe or Joe.]

1261858682_1975_10.06kimurajoe.jpg.e3732382ddd4e6ddb69c8f8c9b46db23.jpg

Above: Kimura defends his title against G. Joe on 1975.10.06.

Spoiler

The Big Golden Series took place across 25 dates from 1975.09.07-10.11. This time, most of the mens’ gaijin were returning talent: The Killer (Benji Ramirez), Jose Rivera, and Issac Lothario. The joshi division got new faces Toni Rose and Sheila Shepard.

But the one new guy of the bunch was the most important. According to his Showa Puroresu minibio, G. Joe appears to have adopted that name the same year that he debuted for the IWE, when he appeared in Grand Prix Wrestling. This leads me to suspect that he got into Japan through Mad Dog. Whatever the case, Joe would become one of the most prolific gaijin in IWE history, as he worked eleven tours for Kokusai. He would also prove himself as a valuable ally, using his connections to book US-based gaijin (particularly from the Mid-South region, I believe).

Joe would participate in all three of the tour’s title matches. On September 8 in Isawa, he and the Killer challenged for the tag titles. Then, in a 2/3-falls match on October 6, and a cage match on October 8, he fought for Kimura’s IWA World Heavyweight title. [EDIT 2021.07.07: The material from the former show was broadcast live, and was the start of a cut down to a 54-minute timeslot which would persist for the rest of Kokusai Pro Wrestling Hour's run.]

WINTER COMBAT

577528574_1975_12.04kimuravsmartin.jpg.a16b7d264a3b86eeb7afee81c90f03b4.jpg

Above: Referee Osamu Abe attempts to restrain Pierre Martin from Rusher Kimura in their IWA World Heavyweight title match on 1975.12.04.

Spoiler

The Big Winter Series was a 28-date tour from 1975.11.02-12.06. The stars of the crop were Combat, the French-Canadian team of Pierre Martin & Mike Martel. Serge Dumont, a Quebecois wrestler scouted by Mad Dog Vachon and trained by Luigi Macera, made his only Japanese appearances. [2] Fellow one-and-dones from this tour were Gordon Ivey, a Saskatchewan-born boxer who switched professions at Stu Hart’s recommendation after a hand injury, and the masked King Tiger, who was actually US-born Colombian wrestler Bill Martinez, who most famously worked as (El) Tigre Colombiano. The joshi division got the returning Vickie Williams and Leilani Kai.

Combat worked a program with the tag champs, winning the titles in Korakuen on November 3, and retaining by disqualification in Mizusawa on the 11th, before dropping them back in the wire mesh on December 2 in the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium. Two nights later in Korakuen, Pierre Martin got a shot at Kimura’s IWA World Heavyweight title.

To lead into the IWE’s participation in the Open Championship League, three interpromotional matches with All Japan took place on this tour, the first since those April 1974 dates. In the undercard on the first Korakuen show, Snake Amami went over Munenori Higo with a rolling back clutch, and Katsuzo Oiyama pinned Kazuo Sakurada. On the tour’s last show, at the Farmer’s Market in Ito, the Great Kojika & Motoshi Okuma went over Teranishi & Oiyama in the third match.

OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE

1293603671_1975_12.10jumbovsinoue.jpg.3392e97e728aba75fc461537939409ea.jpg1357412684_1975_12.11inouevsmatsuda.jpg.332a319a71fe39f6c2e3d478de5b179f.jpg1968480031_1975_12.16kimuravsabby.jpg.09f9cfaeb2ac8d5ecf55b075e7cc04a6.jpg

Above: Mighty Inoue wrestles Jumbo Tsuruta in a match held towards the interpromotional Open Championship League on 1975.12.10. The following night, he receives a shot at Hiro Matsuda's NWA World Junior Heavyweight title as part of the Rikidozan Memorial Show. At far right, Kimura faces Abdullah the Butcher in a League match on 1975.12.16.

Spoiler

On 1975.09.29, the Open Championship League tournament was announced. As I covered in an earlier post, this was intended as an interpromotional tournament, tied to a Rikidōzan memorial show, and NJPW had been invited to participate. However, Inoki refused to cancel his match against Billy Robinson to accommodate it, and while Tokyo Sports eventually mediated between Inoki and Rikidōzan’s widow and estate guardian to reconcile their differences after the latter two “excommunicated” Inoki for this, he still would not participate, nor would any of his co-workers.

As for the IWE’s participation, the only potential snag I’m seeing is that Nippon TV, with their broader reach, got essentially exclusive broadcast rights to the Open League, even the matches with Kokusai talent. This set the tone for the two networks and their respective promotions’ relationship in the years to come, with All Japan/NTV as the dominant party.

As for the tournament’s participants, All Japan was represented by Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta, the Destroyer, and Anton Geesink, while the IWE sent all three of its current champions: Kimura, Kusatsu, and Inoue. Kintaro Oki came as a representative of his Korea Pro Wrestling Association. The various Stateside wrestlers were all “recommended” by various promoters:

1.      Abdullah the Butcher: NWA Vice President Jim Barnett (Georgia)

2.      Dory Funk Jr.: NWA Headquarters, Herman Gast (Amarillo)

3.      Horst Hoffman: Bob Luce (Chicago)

4.      Don Leo Jonathan: Gene Kiniski (Vancouver)

5.      Ken Mantell: Lee Fields (Alabama)

6.      Hiro Matsuda: NWA Headquarters, Leroy McGuirk (Oklahoma)

7.      Dick Murdoch: NWA President Jack Adkisson/Fritz von Erich (Dallas)

8.      Pat O’Connor: NWA Advisor/former President Sam Muchnick

9.      Harley Race: NWA Headquarters, Bob Geigel (Kansas City)

10.   Baron von Raschke: Dick Aufilds (Indianapolis), Bruno Sammartino (New York)

11.   Dusty Rhodes: Eddie Graham (Florida)

12.   Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods): Jim Crockett Jr. (N. Carolina)

It appears that political factors led to the tournament having a bizarre, complex format. Apparently, this was sold as a blend of sumo and rugby tournament rules, with popularity polls having something to do with the end result. If you count the December 11 Rikidōzan Memorial show as part of the tour proper, then this tour went for 13 consective dates from 1975.12.06-18. Three tournament participants dropped out partway through the tour because they had not been contracted for all of it, but kayfabe reasons were given for each: Race was injured by Abdullah in their League match on December 10 in Gifu, Mr. Wrestling was in rough shape after an injury (he last worked the Rikidōzan Memorial show, in a tag with O’Connor against the Texas Outlaws), and Kintaro Oki was apologetic after having hurt Yoshihiro Momota in the collateral damage of his match against Abdullah, on the show memorializing Yoshihiro’s dad.

As Baba’s point total couldn’t be beat, his match on the final date saw him win even though it was the semi-main before Abby/Destroyer. I’m not going to do the whole results table because I wouldn’t be able to fit the whole sheet in a single screenshot, and because the arcane tournament format led to several matches not happening (so I can’t really write it out like a round robin without a bunch of gaps), but I’ll give the point totals for the IWE guys. Rusher ended with 6 points, Inoue 7, and Kusatsu 2.

On the Rikidōzan Memorial Show, Mighty Inoue would receive the only conventional title match of the tour: a shot at Hiro Matsuda’s NWA World Junior Heavyweight title. Earlier on the same show, Kimura defeated Baron von Raschke, in the last intersection that the IWE would have with such a total AWA guy for years.

Part 5.1 will cover 1976. One of the most famous interpromotional puro matches of the decade will take place, and Kimura will face one of the most influential native heels in puroresu history.

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

Spoiler

[1] Danny Lynch had discovered a wrestler who resembled him named Steve Haggerty, and had teamed with him as his “brother”, but the Showa Puroresu minibio claims that Butcher was not Haggerty.

[2] On 1976.03.08, Dumont would become the penultimate International Heavyweight champion for Johnny Rougeau’s International Wrestling Association in Montreal. That August, he would drop it to Billy Two Rivers.

 

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