Section 1- Results
All Japan: Both tag titles were defended on Sunday. Kea & Jamal downed Albert & TARU, while Kondo & YASSHI fended off Hayashi & NOSAWA. YASSHI will have a (likely doomed) junior title shot against TAKA on Friday.
Dragon Gate: The trios title match of 7/3 was redone four more times in the last two weeks between the same teams. Blood Generation retained once, then Do Fixer took the titles and retained them once. Blood Generation came out on top in an elimination match on 7/12 to end the series.
New Japan: Three titles were on the line on Monday, and one changed hands. Tenzan fell in his second title defense, as Kaz Fujita captured the IWGP heavyweight title for the third time. The juniors titles stayed put, with Tiger Mask 4 keeping the singles gold and Tanaka & Goto holding onto the tag straps.
NOAH: The Tokyo Dome was filled, with at least 52,000 tickets sold and perhaps more in attendance. Misawa triumphed in the main event over Kawada, which Kawada blamed on Misawa’s added ‘mass’ (re: fat). Kobashi beat Sasaki in a war. Rikio retained the heavyweight title over Tanahashi. The tag titles remained with Suzuki & Marufuji, as they defeated Akiyama & Hashi. Last but not least, KENTA won the juniors title over Kanemaru.
Section 2- News
BIG MOUTH: Their debut show, WRESTLE-1, will take place at Sumo Hall on 8/4. The card is headlined by the first round of an, ah, eclectic 8-man tournament. The four matches are Sapp vs Albert, Akebono vs Muta, Choshu vs Sasaki and Tenryu vs Murakami. Akiyama will be on the show.
New Japan: Rumors are cirulating about a tie-up between New Japan and NWA:TNA. One of the centerpieces of this would be Samoa Joe.
NOAH: Kawada made it clear that he isn’t finished with NOAH. Hooray! KENTA nominated SUWA for his first title defense, following up on their rivalry since SUWA debuted in NOAH. That sentence had lots of CAPS.
Section 3- Farce Farce Farce
NOAH pulls in a better crowd for a Tokyo Dome show than New Japan has in years- and with a pure ‘traditional wrestling’ roster. NOAH gets set to add Sasaki and Kawada to their regular roster, creating dozens of interesting matchups. New Japan’s formerly undisputed spot at the top of the Japanese wrestling scene hangs in the balance. What do you do if you’re New Japan?
Well, that depends on if you’re Masahiro Chono or Antonio Inoki. As with any promotion with multiple bookers such that one has absolute power, it’s difficult to determine who came up with what. That said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Inoki was the one who called for the title switch to Kaz Fujita. Tenzan’s first title loss was an Inoki call, and both of Fujita’s previous title wins were as well. Inoki hasn’t had confidence in a ‘traditional wrestling’ champion like Tenzan in some time, instead preferring shootfighters (Sapp, Fujita) or wrestlers who do shootfights (Nakamura, Nagata, Takayama, Yasuda). You have to go back to 2000, when Choshu ran the show, for a long title reign for a non-shooting champion (Sasaki).
Tenzan might get another IWGP reign or two; nothing is out of the realm of possibility. But the chances of him being any sort of respected, established ace in the mold of Inoki and Hashimoto are long gone. He won’t even reach the level of a mid-grade ace like Sasaki was. To put it in the context of another sport, I’m a life-long Buffalo Bills fan. I always will be. When the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, the generated more scorn and ridicule locally and nationally than they did without reaching the big game before and after. Tenzan has become the Buffalo Bills of Japanese wrestling, much to his detriment. Given his buffalo-related gimmick in the ’90s that’s eerily fitting.
Kaz Fujita might be willing to ‘play ball’ this time. It’s likely that he’ll be on more tour shows, and that’s a sign he’s more on board with helping out New Japan rather than just helping out himself. The big goal is having him put over Nakamura or Tanahashi (most likely after a G-1 win by one of them), and if done more professionally than the Fujita/Sasaki title switch last year it just might work. Fujita vs Tanahashi from last June was, to me, the best IWGP heavyweight title match of 2004; it can be the same in 2005. This dark cloud just might have a silver lining. Then again, that was said twelve months ago, and it led up to one of the biggest farces in company history.
Fujita claims to respect the memory of Hashimoto. Let’s hope he does Shinya proud and tries to respresent the best aspects of Japanese wrestling, despite being associated with its worst.
Section 4- WWE Releases Watch
Cruiserweights with necessary talent: Kidman, Shannon Moore, Jimmy Yang/Akio (who has been in All Japan before).
Cruiserweights with no apparent use to All Japan: Spike Dudley.
Heavyweights with necessary talent: Charlie Haas (all but confirmed to go there).
Heavyweights with no apparent use to All Japan: The Dudleys, Mark Jindrak, Gangrel, Mordecai, Maven, Mike Morgan.
Heavyweights still likely to get signed by All Japan because Keiji Mutoh is a goofy bastard: Gangrel, Maven, Mike Morgan.
Heavyweights that we should pray never wind up being used by All Japan no matter how much industrial glue Mutoh may or may not be huffing: Mordecai.
WWE releases who have showed up in All Japan: None.
Next column- I finally analyze the G-1 field