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I have finally returned with more tidbits from the Jumbo bio. The following are mostly from chapter 4, which starts with Tsuruta’s return from Amarillo and then spans through 1974.


1.) The gown which he wore for his debut (seen here) would also be worn by Tenryu and Hiroshi Wajima for their respective debuts.

2.) During his debut match back in Japan, a Korakuen Hall bout against Moose Morowski, Tsuruta was understandably quite nervous, and his use of chops (both horizontal and brain) flew in the face of the expectations he was meant to fulfill. He gradually transitioned to elbows and forearms, which Dory had taught him, and which lived up to those “American” expectations better. (The bio confirms that this match was broadcast on NTV, but all I’ve seen are a couple fragments which were featured in a posthumous television documentary.)

3.) The poll to decide Jumbo’s ring name was the brainchild of AJPW television producer Akira Hara (no relation to Susumu/Ashura, presumably). Years before, in early 1969, the then-JWA producer pitched the idea to hold a fan poll to name Antonio Inoki’s new finishing maneuver. The process of naming the move that would become known as the Manjigatame lined up with Inoki’s rapid ascent in popularity in 1969.

a.) Meltzer didn’t really go into why “jumbo” was chosen so far as I remember, so perhaps I should explain why that was a buzzword in Japan around this time; they had recently rolled out their first Boeing 747. Also, about six months before this poll, Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki became the first Asian golfer to place in the top 8 of the U.S. Masters tournament.

4.) After Sakaguchi jumped ship from the JWA in March, and NET TV subsequently cancelled their broadcasts, JWA president Yoshinosato consulted with Rikidōzan’s widow, Keiko Momota, and others including NTV president Yozoji Kobayashi and Mitsubishi chairman Ken Okubo (whose company had been a longtime sponsor of NTV’s wrestling broadcast). It was here when the decision was made that the remnants would merge with AJPW, and this was announced on April 27. Baba really only wanted the younger wrestlers, but had been forced to take on all of them, who were as follows: Kintaro Oki, Umanosuke Ueda, the Great Kojika, Gantetsu Matsuoka, Akihisa Takachiho, Mitsu Hirai, Kazuo Sakurada, Mitsuo Hata (later to be known as Rocky), and Masao Ito.

5.) In the middle of September, just a couple weeks before Tsuruta’s return, Baba made the bold decision to have him be his tag partner in the NWA International Tag Team title match against the Funks on the promotion’s 1973.10.09 1st anniversary show. As I told the story when I brought it up in another thread, Ueda, Oki, and Matsuoka all left the company in response.

6.) Jumbo’s repertoire of four suplex variations was unequaled to that point in puro, partially because there was a self-imposed rule not to use other peoples’ signature moves. As for the suplexes, they were as follows.

a.) The German suplex, of course attributed to Karl Gotch. Among the puro crop, only Hiro Matsuda and Antonio Inoki, both disciples of Gotch, used it as well.

b.) The butterfly suplex, the signature move of Billy Robinson. Known as the “Human Windmill”, this maneuver blew Japanese reporters’ minds, and helped make it possible for Robinson to become the first gaikokujin ace during his tenure for the IWE.  The Funks, of course, would swipe the move and then teach it to Jumbo. [2021.03.12 addition: Rusher Kimura was using it before Jumbo as far as puro went, but he did receive some training from Robinson.]

c.) The “side suplex”, which we would now call a gutwrench, was the signature move of Horst Hoffman, who competed in the IWE’s 4th IWA World Series tournament in spring 1972.

d.) Finally, there was the “front suplex” (editing for clarity; this was the overhead belly-to-belly), which at the very least had not been seen to this point in Japan. This is why some called it the Jumbo Suplex at the time.

7.) As the book puts it, “Tsuruta was a new type of Japanese wrestler who competed purely on technique, not on guts or spirit, which are characteristic of the Japanese.”

8.) Jumbo made a second trip to America from March-April 1974. Among other things, this saw him become only the fourth Japanese wrestler to work MSG. (The previous three – Baba, Yoshinosato, and Mammoth Suzuki – had all done so during their 1961 excursions.) Upon his return to the Amarillo territory at the tail end of this tour, he defeated Bob Backlund in a television match, and also finally defeated Killer Karl Kox, whom he had never managed to beat as a trainee, in Albuquerque. For his final match before returning to Japan, Backlund got his heat back in El Paso.

9.) None of the matches from Jumbo’s expedition were broadcast on Japanese television because the expedition, as it were, was not for television, as local promoters had requested for Tsuruta.

10.) The first singles match between Baba and Jumbo was almost the 1974 Champion Carnival final. However, after Jumbo and Mr. Wrestling went to a time-limit draw in the semifinal, their rematch the following night saw Tsuruta sprain his left ankle after doing a leapfrog. Apparently it had been hurt in the Kox match, and this aggravated the injury, leading to referee stoppage. The book does not disclose whether this was a work, but it’s obviously a reasonable assumption.

11.) Jumbo’s singles win/draw percentage in his second year as a wrestler was an astonishing 90.9%. His only seven losses were against Dory (2), Brisco (2), Mr. Wrestling, Backlund, and Pedro Morales (all 1).

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