Because of some significant developments in New Japan that require a lot of analysis and some backstory, I’m going to be doing this week’s PuroPulse a two-parter. Today’s installment is the news and results. Later in the week I’ll discuss the current situation with New Japan and All Japan, along with how the death of Giant Baba and other past events led to where we are now, and future possibilities. Thankfully there’s enough news to merit a separate column.
Section 1- Important results & title matches
New Japan- Four notable matches on their Sumo Hall show. First, the team of Tanahashi and Nakamura defeated Keiji Mutoh and Nishimura, continuing the build to Tanahashi vs Mutoh. Gedo & Jado defended the junior tag titles against Minoru Tanaka and Kanemoto when Tanaka turned on Kanemoto to join Liger’s heel stable (now Liger/Jado/Gedo/Takemura/Tanaka/Dick Togo). The semi-main ‘death match’ was turned to a mere lumberjack match, as Nagata and Tenzan were downed by Chono and Frye. This was a very chaotic brawl, and interference galore led to Chono pinning Nagata. Nakanishi joined Chono by disposing of Tenzan. In the main event, Kensuke Sasaki won the IWGP heavyweight title with an ‘accidental’ pin when Fujita had him in a choke sleeper. Somewhat surprising result, and the nature of it has led to a general conclusion that Fujita is through with New Japan. More on that ugly situation below.
NOAH- Their tour opener on Saturday saw Kobashi beat KENTA, as expected. Notable about it is KENTA lasting 16 minutes with the much, much larger Kobashi.
Zero-One- On Friday they had an all cage match show in Korakuen, but despite the lineup they failed to sell out the usually reliable venue. Two title matches headlined. In the first, Omori defeated Masato Tanaka to win the NWA UN title, Zero-One’s main belt. In the second, Sato defeated Sakata to retain the Zero-One US title.
Section 2- Other news & Upcoming matches
All Japan- Following a tag match on the tour opener, Kawada and Sasaki got into a scuffle. They have a history, and since both are champions it’s creating speculation of a potentially gigantic title vs title match. The main event had participation from Nishimura and Tanahashi, who are getting more and more involved with Mutoh of late.
New Japan- Where to begin. Shibata has been doing a lot to hint towards a confrontation between he and Kawada, which nearly happened this past May at the Tokyo Dome. They’re both involved in the big tag tournament on the 24th, and could meet in the finals. Perhaps it’s building to a Triple Crown match. Either way, there would be plenty of kicking to the face. Also on the 24th is Minoru Tanaka defending the IWGP junior title against Kanemoto, and now it seems they’d have been better off waiting a week to book that match since there’s now a feud to build from. I’d expect Tanaka to go over and become a monster heel for the babyface coalition to chase.
The biggest news stems from the Sumo Hall show on Saturday. The Chono/Liger heel stable has grown quite large, as Liger added Minoru Tanaka, while Chono added Don Frye, Scott Norton and Nakanishi. More important than those turns, however, was the stunning return of legend Riki Choshu. Choshu, formerly a lead booker for New Japan, had left to start his own promotion called World Japan. It was a spectacular disaster, and now it seems Choshu and New Japan have humbled themselves enough to work together. Choshu was confronted by Nagata, and the fans sided with Choshu. Speaking of Nagata, he’s being pushed as Sasaki’s number one contender, though Tenzan made his voice heard. Nagata vs Sasaki is already set for this coming Sunday, so we might see their issue settled there to allow for a Sasaki vs Tenzan match on either 11/3 or 11/13. OR…
…Sasaki might vacate the title, stemming from the crowd’s bad reaction to the finish of his win over Fujita. Sasaki voiced dissatisfaction with winning that way, and Fujita seemed to not care about having lost because it was such a cheap finish. The title has already been vacated twice this year, and they did a title tournament in February, so Sasaki might defend it as a probable transition champion. The belt as certainly seen better days. All told, 10/9 points to a major shift in New Japan’s booking plans. The IWGP title change, the Chono/Liger army, Choshu’s return, a variety of crowd reactions, the possible All Japan cross-overs, and of course the looming cloud of the still blank slate Osaka Dome show… it’s a lot. And it’s why I need the second column this week.
NOAH- Misawa has made rumblings about being the next challenger to Kobashi, following the almost-metaphysical-certainty title defense against Saito. Such a match would almost certainly happen on their recently announced show at the Budokan in early January, though we could see it in December. To date Misawa is the only one to end a Kobashi title reign (in ’97 and ’98, and indirectly in ’00 because Kobashi vacated the Triple Crown when All Japan split and Misawa formed NOAH).
Zero-One- Despite his orbital bone break, which caused horrific discoloration to his eye, Shinjiri Ohtani refuses to take time off. He wrestled on the cage show, winning a singles match. There’s concern that he’s going too far in order to make up for the company currently being without Shinya Hashimoto and Naoya Ogawa.
Misc- Ultimo Dragon is having his unmasking show on Thursday at Korakuen. The main event is him tagging with Liger and Great Sasuke against a trio of Tiger Masks: the original, Sayama; the third, Kanemoto; the current, Tiger Mask 4. The New Japan storyline involving Liger and Kanemoto could overshadow the final Ultimo Dragon match.
Later this week: New Japan! All Japan! Splits, crossovers, television deals, booking directions and much, much more all collide as I try to combine a big info dump with a modicum of necessary analysis. Look for it!