Section 1- Important Results
All Japan: Taka Michinoku defeated Great Sasuke to form a triple crown of juniors titles.
New Japan: Satoshi Kojima defeated Hiryoshi Tenzan in just under 60 minutes to win the IWGP title. Tenzan suffered severe dehydration in the closing minutes and was unable to do anything before the match was finally stopped; he’ll miss some shows on the next tour. Afterwards Kojima threw down the IWGP belt to incite the New Japan wrestlers, and he’s said that the titles will be defended separately. Naturally, everyone wants a title shot. Also at the 2/20 Sumo Hall show, Tiger Mask defended the junior title against Liger and Chono’s stable defeated New Japan in a series of singles matches lasting 52 minutes.
Section 2- Other news & Upcoming matches
All Japan: Kea and Jamal will defend the tag titles on the 20th against the reunited Full Blooded Italians tandem of Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli. The next night, in a significantly bigger bout, Kojima and Kawada take on Mutoh and Sasaki.
BIG MOUTH: They finally announced their first two shows. The first will be the 26th at Saitama Super Arena, and will have many K-1 kickboxers including Bob Sapp. April 23rd at Yokohama Arena will be a more wrestler-intensive show, including Choshu vs Shibata.
Dragons Gate: Milano Collection AT is suffering from a severe muscle strain and general wear and tear on his body. He’s taking an extended leave, which Magnum Tokyo did in the past. The Triangle Gate titles were vacated, with new champs to be crowned on Sunday. Also, they’re now doing some talent exchange with Taka’s K-Dojo promotion.
New Japan: Lots of big news in the wake of 2/20. To start, Ron Waterman will begin appearing on New Japan shows this month following his push at the 1/4 Tokyo Dome show. On Friday, Jado and Gedo will once again defend the junior tag titles against Kanemoto and Wataru Inoue. On the 13th, Nakamura and Tanahashi defend the tag titles against the reborn Jurassic Powers team of Nakanishi and Norton.
Sumo Hall will once again host some big bouts on the 26th, starting with Nakamura and Tanahashi against Chono and Minoru Suzuki in a possible tag title match. Tatsumi Fujinami will have a return match, with possible opponents ranging from Choshu to Misawa. Nagata will go to battle with shoot-style expert Tsuyoshi Kosaka, something that apparently is bringing out Nagata’s dark side. Nagata seems to be hinting at joining Chono’s stable. There’s also a rumored Kojima title defense to bolster a thus-far weak card for the big venue. Last but not least, a 16 man openweight tournament will take place in April; it’s getting billed as a ‘G-1 Climax of spring’.
Section 3- Adventures in tape buying
There are some places to ‘legally’ buy Japanese wrestling tapes. Said places are not only rare, but ridiculously expensive. It should be common knowledge that a somewhat large underground tape market is the beating heart of US puro fandom, as a handful of people import shows from Japan and sell copies. Said copies are re-copied and passed along all the more. I myself have a meager tape site: http//ditchtapes.lcwe.com , and literally hundreds of others are out there. They’re easy to find.
Four years ago when I first ventured into the world of tape buying, I had much to learn. I’ve blown quite a lot of money in the process, and as such I feel it’s important to pass along some pointers.
1. The better the website, the more reliable the dealer. Simply put, someone forking out the cash for a large, well-designed website isn’t going to be a con artist. Why? Because there isn’t any money in scamming people on puro tapes. Typically those at the top of the food chain (who get tapes directly from Japan) have the most income, and thus have the best sites. Of course there are some who are mail-order only, such as the illustrious Jeff Lynch, but they’re the exception. Your chance of getting bad information or a rip-off increase when dealing with, say, a crappy Angelfire site.
2. Remember video quality. Good dealers will mention the quality of the tape they’re selling, from poor to excellent to master. If you’re not too concerned, very good (VG) is just fine. If you’re picky, or plan on copying the tapes for trading, you can’t afford to be much below EX. Master copies are reliable, and those who have master tapes tend to have the best quality VCRs. Oh, and chances are if you’re trading tapes with someone, neither party is using a master copy.
3. A number of things can reduce video quality. Among them:
-Using an SLP mode to pack 6-9 hours onto one tape will always have consequences.
-TV shows look worse than ‘commercial’ home video releases because there is no ‘master copy’. This might get better with the introduction of digital TV though.
-‘Best of’ compilations are often very poor quality because making the compilation adds a generation of taping to the process (a ‘generation’ is a copy. 1st generation means a copy of a master, 2nd gen is a copy of the copy, etc).
4. DVDs are slowly proliferating among tape traders, and in many cases they’re the cheapest thing going. DVDs avoid countless issues with VHS tapes, but at the same time they almost as a rule lack footage from before 2000. Naturally it’s just a matter of time before everything is DVD, but until then we’re stuck with tapes for a lot.
5. Don’t rely on the match ratings provided by the dealer himself (herself? yeah right). Their recommendations don’t always flow with reality, for instance the insanely overhyped IWA King of the Deathmatches 1995 which just isn’t worth the time it takes to watch, or those who feel the need to call every other big match ‘5 stars!!!!’.
6. Be a smart shopper. Price, quality and selection vary an incredible amount from website to website. I won’t point to any one place as the best (because I’m not certain myself), but you can find out more about specific dealers by nosing around in assorted tape trading message boards like Crazy MAX.
7. Don’t expect to be able to get every really good match that ever happened. Even if every tape you select is a winner, there’s just too much out there to grab it all in one fell swoop. Even a modest collection takes hundreds of dollars to assemble, but thankfully from there you can start trading with people.
I hope that answers some questions for those of you who have yet to actually invest in puro. Any other questions, by all means email me. Any spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, the website again is http://ditchtapes.lcwe.com . Hey, I had the restraint not to mention it for 20 issues, I think I can shill it twice.
Next Week: Kobashi’s toughest title defense yet! Will he survive? Either way there will be big ramifications for the GHC title. I’ll analyze that and the Kojima ‘Quadruple Crown’ situation.