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2020 JUMBO BIO, PART SIX

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2020 JUMBO BIO, PART SIX

Here we go with chapter 8.

1.) There’s a linguistic note that I think is worth making about JPW’s name, as Japan Pro Wrestling sounds more generic than it originally came off when divorced from context. See, their name was *literally* Japan in katakana (ジャパン), rather than the Nihon (日本) that AJPW and NJPW had in their Japanese names.

2.) Choshu claims that Akio Nojima never directly tried to court him towards All Japan, though the biography maintains that All Japan was first to approach him. However, like Tsuruta his decision to join New Japan was perhaps influenced by his stomach, as he was treated by NET TV’s athletic director and future NJPW managing director to a top-class steak-and-sukiyaki dinner. ("Wrestlers eat like this every day?" "Uh, they sure do kiddo.") Whatever the case, it’s made clear as the chapter ends that, whatever RIki Choshu’s gripes towards Jumbo, Mitsuo Yoshida had genuine respect for Tsuruta from the beginning, and had even gotten second-row seats alongside the rest of his wrestling team to one of Jumbo’s first All Japan shows.

3.) I really wish this bio didn’t wait until halfway through to drop this trivia, but Jumbo’s jumping knee was inspired by that which was used by kickboxer Tadashi Sawamura. (Here’s a clip of the genuine article.) Sawamura was popular enough to receive his own anime, and he would later be immortalized in Pokémon as the original namesake of the species which players such as myself would come to know as Hitmonlee. [Note 2021.04.13: Three weeks after this post, Sawamura died of lung cancer at the age of 78.]

4.) The author, who was working for Gong by this time, recalled in January 1985 that All Japan vetoed their intent to put Choshu on the cover, since Jumbo is the ace of AJPW and don’t you forget it. (I was looking at the covers on the preview function of Weekly Pro Wrestling’s site, and had been puzzled by AJPW-era Choshu’s initial absence from covers despite objectively being the biggest story. This explains it.)

5.) There’s some really interesting stuff about Yoshiaki Yatsu here. While he was preparing for the Moscow Olympics, in which the US-led boycott would prevent him from competing, he worked at the Ashikaga Institute of Technology’s high school, where he was active in the coaching of Misawa and Kawada. He was broken into the business in a way that was unusually Americanized for a New Japan talent of the time. Instead of being sent to Gotch’s house, he was trained first by Pat Patterson and then Hiro Matsuda. From here he would work on-and-off in the Louisiana and Florida territories in the early 80s, where he ended up making the acquaintance of several All Japan guys, such as Kabuki, Sakurada, and Fuchi. A year-and-a-half before he made his debut in an All Japan ring, he worked on a World Class show in June 1983 where Baba, Jumbo, and Tenryu also performed, and Baba booked him and Jumbo to share a hotel room, where they talked until the morning about their careers.

6.) The Jumbo/Choshu singles match was originally scheduled for August 5, 1985, as part of JPW’s third tour, the Summer Dream Festival. (In kayfabe this appears to have been the result of a brawl that broke out between the two in a press conference leading up to the June 21 Budokan show, when Choshu got pissed about Jumbo’s reaction about not getting to wrestle Choshu in a singles match. Basically he saw it as emblematic of Jumbo’s air of superiority.) The bio doesn’t mention this, but my suspicion is that they wanted this match to happen on this tour because this was the first JPW tour to get Nippon TV coverage. (All we have of the first two tours are handhelds.)

In kayfabe this would be further delayed due to the events of the match on August 2, a KakuRyu vs. Choshu/Khan tag wherein the latter inflicted a worked injury on Tsuruta. On August 5, Tsuruta was admitted to the Keio University hospital. If you’ve watched through the 1985 AJPW television, you might have noticed that starting in late May, Jumbo began wearing a supporter on his right elbow. Here he learned the cause of the pain: acute osteoarthritis and delayed ulnar nerve palsy. That day, he underwent a three-hour surgery. His right knee joint did suffer a hematoma due to the August 2 match, but physical therapy was sufficient. These weren’t serious injuries, but it was during the blood tests that Tsuruta learned something far worse. He carried the hepatitis B virus, through matrilineal transmission. In late 1986, he began taking interferons to fight it off.

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