HASH IS DEAD
Shinya Hashimoto died Monday in Yokohama, Japan after collapsing suddenly and being rushed to the hospital. The cause of death was reportedly a massive brain hemorrhage. He was 40 years old.
Out of all the major stars who emerged to carry the Japanese scene through the boom period of the 1990s, it could be argued that Hash was the least known and least appreciated by non-Japanese wrestling fans.
All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Four Pillars of Heaven (Kawada, Misawa, Kobashi, and Taue) are relentlessly pimped by traders, critics, and wrestling writers, to the point where even most casual wrestling fans have at least heard their names by now. Jushin Liger gained a lot of exposure over here by putting on great matches for WCW, and other great New Japan welterweights like Ohtani and Kanemoto got plenty of exposure when people outside of Japan started collecting comp tapes of the matches that Chris Benoit wrestled as Pegasus Kid and Wild Pegasus. The widely collected 1994 Super J Cup gave massive exposure to many other Japanese high flyers. The rise in popularity of Mick Foley did a great deal to expose Japan’s Death Match elite to the rest of the world. Hash’s fellow New Japan Musketeers Keiji Mutoh and Masahiro Chono got exposure as members of NWO Japan, and Keiji’s Great Muta persona is arguably the first thing that comes to mind when non-Japanese fans think of 1990s Japanese wrestling.
Outside of Japan, Hashimoto has kept a realtively low profile.
BIG IN JAPAN
Although he remains relatively under-appreciated outside of his home country it can be reasonably argued that, in Japan, Hashimoto was the biggest star out of all the young lions to emerge in the 90s. Certainly, he was an enormous box office draw, as David Ditch pointed out in his column yesterday, Hash wrestled in the main event of an amazing total of eight shows that drew in excess of 50,000 people. For much of the 90s, Hashimoto was the wrestler who personified New Japan Pro Wrestling in the public’s mind, much as Hogan personified the WWF in the 1980s or Steve Austin did a decade later.
His most typical role was as the defender of New Japan and the Strong Style of fighting. Many of his biggest and best matches were fought against invading outsiders or practitioners of different fighting styles. These matches turned Hashimoto into a Japanese hero, and he was the closest thing to Antonio Inoki’s successor that New Japan has ever had.
STRONG STYLE SPIRIT
Hash stood barely six feet tall, but wrestled at weights ranging from 260 to over 300 pounds. He was broad shouldered and thickly muscled, but his huge belly, goofy sideburns, and big pudgy face hardly gave him the look of an assassin.
In the ring, however, Hash was a stone cold killer. He employed viciously stiff kicks and chops leading to shoot style arm bars and triangle chokes. He threw the most vicious spinning backhand, or Urrican, this side of Aja Kong. Hash’s deadliest weapons were his Jumping DDT and his Vertical Brain Buster. His best matches were often very realistic-looking, and he was able to work his believable style with a wide variety of opponents.
In 1994, he worked a match with Liger that is one of the best big man vs. little man matches ever. His 1995 G-1 finals match with Mutoh is considered by many experts to be the best New Japan Heavyweight Singles match of the 1990s. In 1996, he took on invading Shoot Style specialist Nobuhiko Takada in what was arguably the best match of the big-money New Japan vs. UWF-I feud. In the 1998 G-1 Climax tournament, he fought a battle with the legendary Genichiro Tenryu that is lauded to this day as one of New Japan’s all-time stiffest matches. As recently as last year, he was still putting on kick-ass clinics in grumpy stiffness with wrestlers as diverse as Toshiaki Kawada and Steve Corino.
Perhaps my favourite Shinya Hashimoto match was the completely uncharacteristic brawl that he had in 2003 with Kintaro Kanemura in tribute to their recently deceased friend, the Death Match specialist Kodo Fuyuki. Hash starts the match by holding up the urn containing his dead friends ashes, then throwing himself back-first into the barbed wire surrounding the ring, which sets off a huge explosion. Kanemaru takes the urn and repeats the grand gesture. The two men then bow, and proceed to beat one another senseless in memory of Fuyuki. The craziness is cranked up several notches by the fact that Fuyuki’s wife and sister are at ringside, and the camera catches both of them in the throes of a complete emotional breakdown. Even stranger is that fact that Hash subsequently left his own wife and kids to take up with Fuyuki’s widow.
DON’T JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR IT
This is not something I have ever done before, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, but I have posted several Hashimoto matches for download as a form of tribute. I think it’s fitting, considering that relatively few people have had the chance to see him at his best. It’s ironic, but not surprising, that Hashimoto’s death has probably led to more non-Japanese people being exposed to his work than ever before.
The matches were all capped by the good people at Death Valley Driver and the Smark’s Choice forums. I hope that they don’t mind me re-posting their work in the spirit of celebrating Hashimoto’s memory.
I’d ask that you only download one match, since the hosting site only allows a limited number of downloads before the files are made unavailable. I’d like as many people as possible to have a chance to see Hashimoto for themselves.
Downloading Instructions: Cut the url and paste it into your browser. Change the “xx” to “tt”
Hash vs. Tenryu ’98 G-1:
Hash vs. Takada ’96:
Fuyuki Tribute Match:
Hash vs. Mutoh ’95 G-1:
The Mutoh match is in real media format, so you may want to download Real Alternative if you don’t already have Real Player (or even if you do).
Eric S. and David Ditch also wrote about Hash in their columns.
Pretty much everybody else wrote about Matt Hardy.