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Somehow, after taking a break on Monday, I managed to crank out all 50 pages of chapter six by 3am Friday morning. This won’t be as dense in factoids as the previous one, because much of this chapter is dedicated to a discussion that, while interesting and definitely important in an understanding of Jumbo’s reception, contains relatively few tidbits that I can really package in the format I have done up to this point. There is some juicy stuff in this chapter, but much of it is packed in the back 15 or so pages.

So, about Jumbo’s reception. The bio states that, as early as a Gong article in June 1978, Tsuruta’s aptitude as the future of All Japan was being called into question, for he “lacked the mental fortitude” of a future ace. He slotted into that Number Two role very well, and had certainly gotten the hang of professional wrestling faster than Tenryu and Choshu, who were the only other contemporaries who’d been plucked as “elite” prospects. But as this article notes, his true rivals at the time were all those who had “been discarded like weeds, and…risen on their own”; these were Fujinami, Rocky Hata, and Masanori Toguchi, working at the time as Kim Duk.

It’s noted that Rocky Hata connected to many fans more than Tsuruta due to his more hard-fought path. But it was Toguchi who would be Jumbo’s first native singles rival, even though his gimmick name obscured that fact. (In every single thing I’ve read about him, it’s made very clear that Toguchi has continued to hold onto a legitimate dislike of Tsuruta. I looked up Japanese Amazon reviews of his autobiography, and one of them even read that he’d made the claim that Jumbo had actually gotten Hep A, and had contracted it because he wasn’t hygienic enough to buy his own bar of soap! [2021.04.23 MAJOR CORRECTION: THIS WAS AN ERROR IN MACHINE TRANSLATION. TOGUCHI WAS CLAIMING THAT TSURUTA HAD CONTRACTED HEPATITIS AT A "SOAPLAND", I.E. BROTHEL. Upon Tsuruta's death, Kabuki also made comments to this effect.])

Toguchi ended up leaving All Japan at the end of April 1981. New Japan sent out feelers when they learned that he was having a dispute with the company over his wish to bring his family from North Carolina to Japan.

Mitsu Hirai, one of the people who joined AJPW in the JWA absorption, had wanted to teach Jumbo more than Koma had taught him, but Baba used Koma as a shield to prevent him from getting involved in his training. Kabuki stated that “Jumbo didn’t have any ideas of his own, and wasn’t very resourceful in fights.”

A passage that sums up this part of the bio: Anyone can make a fight. However, it was Jumbo's responsibility to make a wave in the whole flow of the match, to make Jumbo Tsuruta. But Jumbo was never responsible for any of his fights. Baba-san lost Rikidōzan. After Toyonobori's death, Baba must have felt that he had to do it himself, and the image of Giant Baba was created in NTV's broadcasts, and he gradually became a top star. That's why Baba-san was so good at "playing the role of the 209cm Giant Baba". That's the greatness of Baba. But Jumbo had never been given responsibility, so he didn't know what he had to do in the end.  

This coupled with Jumbo’s persistent failure to win NWA title matches led to him earning the sarcastic moniker of “zensenman” (“good fight man”).

To close this part, I want to quote the comments of television producer Akira Hara, which I think dovetail interestingly with some of the criticisms I’ve seen levied against Tsuruta, some on this very forum by various departed old gods of the IWC: He was undoubtedly a genius. He was the top wrestler in the world. The only thing he lacks is something to touch the audience's heart. He was too smart to be a professional wrestler. He lacked something that would touch the hearts and souls of the Japanese. I think that was the only thing he didn't inherit from Baba. There were many good role models, though. Like Baba-san, I think Antonio Inoki was the best example in terms of wrestling to win the hearts of the audience. Hypothetically speaking, if he had been exposed to Inoki, he might have come up with something completely different.“ (Insert Terry Taylor reference here.)


Now for the hot gossip.

1.      Samson Kutsuwada attempted a coup (which I alluded to elsewhere on the forum) in 1977. He was going to have the support of major right-wing player Ryoichi Sasagawa. Sasagawa was going to bribe both Baba and Inoki out of the promoting game with gobs of money, and puro was going to be united once again, with Jumbo and Fujinami as the aces of the new generation. But word got to Baba, and Kutsuwada was dismissed and subsequently blacklisted. Baba did not allow the story of the coup to go public because it was imperative that he maintain a stable image against the openly tumultous NJPW company culture. (On the inside, the bio appears to at least imply that Baba tried to keep All Japan so culturally hierarchical partially because he wanted to prevent another Baba vs Inoki sort of situation happening internally.) Baba gave Jumbo preferential treatment after the coup by making him the president of affiliate company B&J, which handled the ring transportation and setup. However, he had no authority. According to Kyohei Wada, Motoko's attitude was that "we can't leave anything to him until he learns", but they never really taught him. Jumbo wasn't stupid, so he knew he was just a figurehead. Honestly this surprises me because he was more like Misawa in that way than I thought; it's just that Baba wasn't going to die anytime soon at this point. So Jumbo tried not to get involved in management from then on, not because he was overwhelmed like I'd assumed, but because of this treatment.

2.      1981 is when a major restructuring of AJPW took place at Nippon TV’s behest. At the end of this year, Mitsuo Mitsune took the presidential seat, and three big plans were set in motion: a three-year phase-out of Baba as ace (or even a retirement), the transition of Tsuruta to ace, and the fostering of a new Number Two. They wanted to make Tsuruta the new booker, but he very much did not want this responsibility. Luckily, Akio Sato had learned how to book from George Scott while working in the Mid-Atlantic territory, and eventually took the position. He was responsible for abolishing the seniority system, nurturing the likes of Misawa and Koshinaka (the latter has said that their Mexican excursion never would’ve happened if not for Sato), and ushering in the KakuRyu (Jumbo/Tenryu) era.

3.      Hisashi Shinma tried once again to get Tsuruta in 1980/1. Three years later, his old Chuo University wrestling team senior Noboru Urata, now UWF president, also approached him.


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4 hours ago, Indikator said:

That Urata connection sounds interesting. What else did he do in the business?

First of all, the machine translation was misleading; upon further research it looks like he was a senior of Jumbo's in the sense that he was an alumni. I ran his name through some Japanese sites. The most journalistic source is sadly locked behind a paywall, and I can't find much of anything pre-UWF, but I managed to find some info about his tenure as UWF president from the blog I've been consulting.
He was brought on by Shinma, a fellow Chuo alum. He then brought scandal upon the UWF when he was arrested for coercion of Sayama's manager, Shoji Koncha. (During a meeting, Urata had had a Yakuza boss he knew, who happened to be Koncha's boss, attend as a witness, and said boss forced Koncha to break his contract with Sayama and write a letter of reminder.) It looks like he came back and was reinstated right around the time of the infamous last Sayama/Maeda match, and facilitated the deal that absorbed the UWF remnants back into NJPW. After this, he apparently got involved with Shooto.

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On 2/15/2021 at 12:18 PM, El-P said:

As said before, fascinating stuff. Really interesting to see the american/european influence on Jumbo and how it had permeated the whole classic AJ style, as opposed to what Choshu would do in the 80's, which really is entirely Japanese in spirit.

Ok, I'll go straight into goofy-ass analogies, Jumbo was more Kurosawa, Choshu was more Mizoguchi (well, Choshu was more Fukasaku probably, really...)

This made me soooooo happy, but I thought Fukasaku was more inspired by French New Wave.... I don't see how Choshu is anything like Gilbert Cesca


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