Section 1- Important results & Title matches
All Japan: TARU of Toryumon (now Dragon’s Gate) debuted on their Sunday show.
New Japan: Nagai & Naruse retained the All Asian tag titles against the team of Iizuka & Kakihara on 12/23.
Zero-One: They ‘set up’ Takaiwa’s upcoming loss to Kanemaru by having him drop their junior title to Super Crazy on 12/18.
Section 2- Other news & Upcoming matches
All Japan: They announced the stripping of the tag titles from Nagata & KaShin, who never defended after six months. A decision match will happen on the 16th in Osaka, between Tag League winners Jamal & Kea and former New Japan tag champs Tanahashi & Yoshie.
New Japan: In a last-minute rush, New Japan assembled the card for the ‘Wrestlemania of Japan’ on Tuesday. First up, as you’ve no doubt heard, Brock Lesnar will be in attendance at the show. His WWE no-compete clause ends in March, at which point it seems clear he’ll start competing in Japan. Brock presents a world of potential for many reasons; he hasn’t alienated Japanese wrestling fans, he’s got the established WWE and NCAA reputation, he has a world of talent for a big man, and he’d be the biggest non-washed-up US star to hit the Japanese circuit in years. He’ll also be in line for big-money shootfights, so don’t think that touring with New Japan will be the default.
As for the 1/4 card itself, we start with two junior singles bouts. Liger vs Kanemoto will take place for the 5th time on a 1/4 show, and here it will be for a junior title shot. The junior title itself will be up for grabs when Heat defends against Tiger Mask 4, who as I mentioned in my last column has at least a 50/50 shot of winning. Yuji Nagata will have an exhibition spar with his brother, amateur champion Katsuhiko. Katsuhiko has been signed for some time to a New Japan developmental deal. Minoru Suzuki will warm up for Kobashi by taking on New Japan’s new ‘chairman of wrestlers’ (like a site foreman) Takashi Iizuka. Satoshi Kojima invades New Japan once again, squaring off with Osamu Nishimura.
Third from the top is the Inoki-driven concept match, called the ‘Ultimate Royal’. It will be (to the best of my knowledge) a series of singles matches with mixed wrestling/shootfighting rules, among eight men with amateur and/or shootfighting backgrounds. New Japan regulars Nagata, Nakanishi, Yano, Blue Wolf, Naruse and Nagai make up the bulk. Blue Wolf’s brother, Dolgorsuren, will be involved as well. The big name is Ron ‘H2O’ Waterman, a former WWE developmental talent with past shootfighting success and a monster build. Waterman could become a New Japan staple this year. Waterman vs Nagata is the matchup to look for here.
The top two matches, Tenzan vs Chono vs Choshu and Tanahashi vs Nakamura, are happening as expected; Tenzan won’t defend the IWGP title, but Tanahashi will defend his U-30 belt. I anticipate Chono winning the Dogfight to set up Tenzan vs Chono on 2/20 in Sumo Hall for the title. Nakamura has said he’ll “seal” (retire) the U-30 belt if he wins it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen, as it did the trick of helping to promote Tanahashi.
edit 1/4: Liger, Tiger Mask, Suzuki, Kojima, Waterman, Chono and Nakamura won their bouts.
NOAH: They announced the full card for Saturday at the Budokan, plus partial cards for the January tour. Kanemaru vs Takaiwa for the GHC junior title will finally take place there, along with the return match for Takeshi Morishima. Morishima has long been seen as a potential contender for knocking off Kobashi. As for the tour, its ongoing event will be a singles match series for rookie Go Shiozaki, though not nearly as high-profile as the one KENTA had over 2004.
Go’s trial, and the month’s tour, end on the 23rd in Kobe World Hall; Go meets Kobashi. Also on the 23rd, Misawa & Ogawa defend the tag titles against Scorpio & Doug Williams. Sadly for NOAH this seems destined to be yet another early-year disaster for them in that venue. Last year saw a mere 1/3rd full audience for Kobashi’s title defense against Sano. Speaking of Kobashi, it appears that following his retention against Minoru Suzuki, he’ll defend again on the 3/5 Budokan show. That challenger would seem to be Misawa or Rikio, and Kobashi would be assured of having a 2 year long reign, something not seen in Japan since Misawa’s first Triple Crown reign from ’92 to ’94.
Section 3- Feedback request
One of my goals in this column over the long haul will be to bring up ‘wrestling theory’, dealing with the elements of good pro wrestling as best shown in puro. As I go along there will need to be some whole-column analysis on my part when it comes to notable matches, both good and bad. What I’m looking for is feedback from you, the reader, as to how to do it.
The possibilities range from breaking down the match in a detailed blow-by-blow manner, to discussing a series of matches, to looking at specific examples of how various elements of wrestling occur (or don’t) in a wide variety of matches. Is any one especially preferable, or should there be a mix of them as circumstances warrant? Are there any matches you’d like to see me analyze? Should I include North American matches in the mix? You tell me!
Next Week: New Japan and NOAH big show results and fallout! Strategy and selling in building an epic! The Bills in the playoffs!
Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.