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KinchStalker

2020 JUMBO BIO, PART NINE

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2020 JUMBO BIO, PART NINE

I still have three pages left, but the final section thus far seems to just be a conclusion summarizing the book and citing the interviewees, so I don’t feel too bad about ending things here. Thus concludes my posts culled from the Jumbo biography, and I can rest over Easter weekend. For reasons which should be obvious to anyone familiar with Tsuruta’s career arc, this is going to be light on wrestling tidbits and heavy on biographical information.

1. Tsuruta was hospitalized on October 31, 1992, the same day his second son was born. After the October Giant Series had ended, his liver functions spiked to thirty times that of normal human levels. The press conference announcing the cancellation of his RWTL appearance came a day before the tour began. Tsuruta’s weight dropped to 90kg, and one of the Babas remarked that “he seems to have returned to the Jumbo he was when he first joined us”.

2. Nikkan Sports revealed Tsuruta’s hepatitis in their May 28, 1993 issue, after Japanese reports had previously referred to it as a “visceral disease”. They reported that Tsuruta was retiring, having interviewed his physician, but a late edition of Tokyo Sports issued a rebuttal through a direct Tsuruta interview.

3. When Tsuruta was finally discharged on June 20, announcer Fumito Kihara had them play “J” at the hospital entrance. After an appearance at the 1993.09.24 Korakuen show, in which he did not participate but greeted the audience and stated his intent to return to the ring, he began to recover at home. During this time, he consulted Dr. Kijuro Nomura for advice on how to adapt his lifestyle. Despite improvements to his physical condition, Nomura’s guidelines were firm: tag matches only, never work to the point of exhaustion, and avoid strikes due to risk of liver or spleen rupture. Baba had reassured Jumbo that he was under no pressure to return, as “his life was more important to him”, but that he would be happy to accommodate him if he really wanted to continue.

4. During his hospitalization, Tsuruta read an article in a golf magazine about former pro golfer Fusako Masui, who was now pursuing a coaching degree in grad school at Tsukuba University. On October 18, 1994, he took the entrance exam for the master’s course in phys-ed at the same university, and his success was announced two weeks later. Admitted on April 6, 1995, Tsuruta began to attend the university twice a week after a three-hour commute by train and express bus. He completed his master’s thesis in 1996 (which actually was posted on Tsuruta’s old website back in the day, and is still accessible through the Wayback Machine), and graduated on March 15, 1997.

5. In the meantime, Tsuruta had other engagements, such as a one-day coaching session of the Tsukuba womens’ judo team in the summer of 1994, and a 1996 lecture at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, at the invitation of the Japan Sumo Association, where he gave advice to about fifty head wrestlers on how to train young rikishi integrating coaching and dietary science. Tsuruta became a lecturer at Keio University and at the Toin University of Yokohama in April 1996, and shortly after his graduation became a lecturer at his old alma mater Chuo.

6. Kawada makes insightful commentary about how Tsuruta’s approach to his career, resented as it was by the macho puro culture of his day, ended up being the way of the future:

“The image of professional wrestlers has always been enhanced by their boldness, but when Tsuruta entered professional wrestling, he abandoned the image of a wrestler by saying, "I'm going to work for All Japan Pro Wrestling.” However, I don't see any wrestlers nowadays who are so bold. It was only me and Misawa who had that kind of wrestler's temperament. Today's wrestlers are harder than businessmen. They don't drink and they don't spend money. They are even better than the Jumbo Tsuruta of those days.”

The biography also notes that since his retirement, Kobashi has essentially modeled his career after Tsuruta’s, making a living on the motivational speaking circuit while also running a gym.

7. When he started lecturing at Chuo, Tsuruta began to aspire to move to America for research activities. The person who helped make it happen was Matty Suzuki, who had taken a liking to Tsuruta when he was young and had maintained contact, and who now lived in Oregon. An acquaintance of Suzuki’s was an alum of Portland State University, and he told them about Tsuruta, whom the university accepted.

8. The book makes no mention of the story that Meltzer had reported around Tsuruta’s departure from All Japan: that he had essentially given up his board of directors’ seat by ensuring Misawa inherited the presidency and incurring Motoko’s wrath. This is probably still true – Osano recalls that he “sensed a complicated background in Misawa's casual consideration “, though when he asked Fuchi about “[Osano’s] memory of that time”, he claimed not to have been aware beyond what little Yasuko Tsuruta had told him – but  the story told here is less dramatic. According to the bio, Tsuruta resigned himself, and initially was planning to remain a part-timer at his current pace. Motoko secretly had Jumbo in mind as the next president, according to Wada, but of course if you’ve been reading along you know Jumbo wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. The issue was, Tsuruta had already been issued his J-1 researcher’s visa, and it would difficult to obtain a second one. So he retired completely, calling one wrestler after another to tell them personally. The interpersonal tension that is mentioned, though, is that an unnamed All Japan wrestler, who was then attending graduate school on his own dime, was under the mistaken impression that All Japan had paid Tsuruta’s tuition, and that now he was “going to America with All Japan’s money”.

9. Osano tells a cute personal story here. In January 1999, he moved from being Gong editor-in-chief to the head of the Japan Sports Publication editorial planning office. The first book he worked on was the Giant Baba memorial issue, and the next was the Jumbo retirement issue. Osano notes that he made the book to “repay the kindness he had received” as a reporter for All Japan, and with the hope that Tsuruta’s three young sons would understand and respect that their father was a great wrestler. It was to go on sale the same day the Tsurutas left for Portland, and Osano was unable to deliver the book personally due to work commitments, but he sent a Gong reporter to deliver a copy hot off the presses directly to Jumbo.

10. According to Fuchi, Baba had a plan for the 20th anniversary show on 1992.10.31 to finally give Tsuruta a pin over him, and even though his finally going over Dory had some resonance, I think that would’ve been a better moment for the occasion had it been feasible. (Then again, Jumbo should’ve pinned Dory in like, 19*82*, but what’cha gonna do.)

11. The circumstances of Jumbo’s death are more or less already known in English-language circles, but I guess there’s a couple things I can add. Tsuruta might have gotten the procedure in Korea instead of the Philippines, but all the eligible donors as per Matsunami Hospital were Zainichi Koreans (i.e. residing in Japan), and that would have broken Tsuruta’s condition for privacy. Matty Suzuki had known that Tsuruta moved back to Japan at the end of 1999, and had visited him, but kept his promise to Yasuko and kept the secret. American correspondent Jimmy Nakanishi, a friend of Tsuruta’s, was called by Yasuko and given the news the day after he died. The news came to Osano when he and others were attending the press conference announcing the Crush Gals’ reformation, and while nobody could report on it yet the information caused quite a stir in the press room.

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On 3/13/2021 at 10:22 PM, KinchStalker said:

A public acknowledgment of Tsuruta’s resistance to backstage involvement came in his response to an in-ring “this is no longer the era of Baba and Inoki” promo that Choshu cut in January 1985, where he said that “our era is expressed in our matches”.

This is fascinating. Choshu cut a semi-shoot promo in 1985?

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On 3/13/2021 at 10:22 PM, KinchStalker said:

Remember the anti-pullout agreement that Baba and Inoki had signed in December 1985? Well, that still applied, even to gaijins (hence why Dick Murdoch couldn’t ever come back to All Japan, and maybe why he ended up doing those Japan indie appearances later on), and even though AJPW had long since left the NWA by this point, Ric Flair was still considered an All Japan gaijin by its terms. 

This is a pretty interesting deal if guys were branded "AJPW" or "NJPW" basically for life, it was like they'd signed a feudal pact.

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38 minutes ago, NintendoLogic said:

I don't know, I kind of like the idea of Mutoh considering leaving wrestling for a career as a municipal employee.

Ikiru likely would've gone much differently had it starred the emissary of the Great Muta. Imagine old-man Muta misting all the bureaucrats in his way to get that playground built.

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I don't think I ever heard that rumor, but I think I read something attributed to Misawa and/or Kawada that if Tenryu had asked they would have followed him.

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It's all hearsay, but Tenryu offered to double Misawa's salary and when Misawa said he was happy with his current situation, Tenryu told him to forget about it because it was discussed over drinks. Another story is that when Baba was willing to work with WAR on the condition that Tenryu apologize on his knees to Misawa and the other wrestlers. Tenryu was willing to do so for Baba but not the others. 

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6 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

It's all hearsay, but Tenryu offered to double Misawa's salary and when Misawa said he was happy with his current situation, Tenryu told him to forget about it because it was discussed over drinks. Another story is that when Baba was willing to work with WAR on the condition that Tenryu apologize on his knees to Misawa and the other wrestlers. Tenryu was willing to do so for Baba but not the others. 

I've heard stories about interactions between Tenryu and the AJPW guys post-departure when Hisame has mentioned them on her secondary Twitter dedicated to the Four Pillars - such as when a hammered Tenryu stormed the dojo with a baseball bat because he was under the mistaken impression that Kobashi had talked shit about him - but those two episodes are new to me.

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SWS was fascinating. The amount of money Tanaka spent was sickening. Most folks' natural reaction is to suspect it was a tax write-off, but whatever it was, it was exorbitant. At first, it seemed like Tanaka wanted to create a rival to the UWF (perhaps when he couldn't buy the existing one), then it morphed into some kind of idea where Japanese wrestling would merge into one entity. From a personal viewpoint, Tanaka giving Fujiwara a loan was one of the reasons why UWF split up, which pisses me off because the UWF was one of my favorite all-time promotions. But, on the other hand, they would have split up anyway, and Tanaka helped bankroll PWFG, which we're forever grateful for. 

Another rumour I read was that SWS were targeting Fujinami.

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I believe the official story is that Fujinami was in attendance at the 1990.05.14 AJPW show as a public display of their interpromotional cooperation, but this Igapro article on his hernia, recovery period and comeback claims that he was also there to send a message to SWS making his presence known.

And yeah, I'm really dreading having to put everything together for part 2. I have to juggle the UWF politics with whatever was going on with FULL to get everything sorted out.

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