Section 1- Results
All Japan: Seemingly out of nowhere, All Japan snagged Akebono as a full-time wrestler. He was hastily added to this tour, and has proven effective at drawing the extra seats needed to sell out tour dates. There’s already talk of giving him a Triple Crown show. In lighter news, Taka retained the junior title for the 8th time on Sunday.
New Japan: The G-1 Climax, 2005 edition, has come and gone. Given the raw number of notable matches, I’ll give the relevant results night by night. Night 1- Chono over Nagata, Kawada over Tenzan. Night 2- Makabe tore his achilles tendon, Suzuki over Nagata, Tenzan over Chono, Fujita over Tanahashi. Night 3- Kashin over Kawada (no really), Nakamura over Tenahashi. Night 4- Nishimura over Chono, Kawada over Nagata. Night 5- Suzuki over Tenzan, Chono over Kawada. Night 6- Fujita over Nakanishi and Nakamura over Yoshie to earn semi-finals spots. Night 7- Nakanishi over Tanahashi, Fujita over Nakamura, Nagata over Tenzan, Chono over Fujinami and Kawada over Nishimura (putting Kawada and Chono in the semi-finals).
The final night had three tournament matches. Chono downed Nakamura in a gigantic upset, and Fujita downed Kawada quite decisively. This led to Chono vs Fujita in the finals, with Chono barely scraping out the win and getting tons of crowd support. More on the booking of the tournament later.
Section 2- News
BIG MOUTH/WRESTLE-1: I mistakenly confused BIG MOUTH, which is a shoot-style promotion headed by Uei, and WRESTLE-1, which had a big Sumo Hall show on 8/4. BIG MOUTH isn’t quite big enough to merit coverage, while WRESTLE-1 is.
Dragon Gate: A number of feuds have been ongoing in recent weeks. CIMA vs Ryo Saito, which has had two singles matches (each getting a win), climaxes in a rubber match next week. PoS Hearts, who have lost a ridiculous number of matches (including a Triangle Gate challenge on the 10th), will head to Mexico to try and gain some form. Doi and Dragon Kid have been going at it, with a match for Doi’s title to happen on 9/11. Mochizuki’s next challenger will be found from the winner of a four-way on 9/17 between Yokosuka, BxB Hulk, Genki Horiguchi and Shingo Takagi (a young monster who could win). The winner gets the title shot a day later. Mochizuki beat Yokosuka last week in a singles match I saw, and it didn’t feel like one that would lead to a rematch.
Dragon Gate will have a couple big matches on Kaientai Dojo’s 9/6 show in Korakuen Hall. Mochizuki will go against KDojo owner/operator Taka Michinoku in a rematch of their bout on 7/3. This time, Taka’s KDojo title will be up for grabs. Blood Generation will defend the Triangle Gate against three KDojo members as well. There might be another Triangle Gate match in Dragon Gate on 9/7 involving Taka, depending on what happens on 9/6.
New Japan: Fujita vs Chono would seem to be set for the 10/8 Dome show, but Chono is saying that he’ll instead be in a Hashimoto memorial tag match involving Mutoh and two other big names. Fujita’s next title defense will be happening on 10/8. Chono’s heel stable seems to have dissolved, and the old Chono/Tenzan pairing has been renewed. Nagata challenged Chono to a singles match. The next junior tag title challengers will be Takemura and young Akiya Anzawa, stemming from the small post-G1 series of shows.
NOAH: Matches for all five titles will happen in the next month. Misawa, set to challenge Rikio on 9/18, was told by doctors that he’s suffering from a degenerative eye condition which is worsened by his continued wrestling. For reference, I was born on August 13th 1981, and Misawa made his wrestling debut eight days later. This could be Misawa’s last big match. Also on 9/18 will be the return of Kentaro Shiga as he faces Tamon Honda, KENTA defending the junior title against SUWA, and a dream tag of Kobashi & Taue against Akiyama & Tenryu. Interestingly enough, Kawada and Sasaki have yet to be booked since the Dome show.
Three title matches are scheduled for the current tour. On Saturday, Low Ki and Richard Slinger (All Japan/NOAH undercard mainstay) get a shot at the junior tag titles. Apparently Sugiura didn’t vacate the belts after all. 9/11 sees Makoto Hashi get a shot at Yone’s Openweight title, while Sugiura will team with Akitoshi Saito against tag champs Minoru Suzuki and Marufuji.
Section 3- G-1 booking with a new perspective
Had I been at this keyboard for the last three weeks, there’s little doubt I would have trashed New Japan’s decision to have Chono win the G-1. Chono is old, he can’t have long matches, his drawing power peaked years ago, etc, all the same reasons why WWE is addle-brained to put a Hogan formula match at the top of Summerslam. So why don’t I do that now? And why would New Japan do it in the first place? The answers lie on the penultimate night of the tournament.
The 8/13 Sumo Hall show was built on the strength of its main event, Nakamura vs Fujita. It was hyped last year as the biggest match possible in the Inoki-ism booking philosophy. Both have shootfight experience, both have elite amateur wrestling backgrounds, one is a New Japan loyalist while the other isn’t. That plus the addition of Kawada to the tournament plus a fairly big Tenzan vs Nagata match underneath should have led to the usual (two Sumo Hall sellouts in a row). Instead the house was only 70% full, with a reasonable 8000 claimed in the 11500 seat venue. There were open seats in the 4th row of those sold to the public, and open seats at all price ranges. When you consider that Nakamura vs Fujita was expected to headline the Tokyo Dome? Ouch.
Beyond that was the reaction Nakamura got from the fans… or rather a lack thereof. His ‘young star’ heat is beaten handily by Tanahashi’s, and his ‘superstar’ heat is absolutely obliterated by Chono’s. To be precise, EVERYONE’s heat in New Japan is obliterated by Chono. Chono’s heat in the final against Fujita was on par with another big show I attended, Hulk Hogan’s at Wrestlemania 18. Unlike the latter, Chono is on a roster where nobody else gets superstar-level heat. Tenzan used to before he was buried repeatedly, Nakamura and Tanahashi have had pulses of it but never for long, and Nagata’s heat has fell after his pathetic shootfight results. In Nakamura’s case there is a sense that the fans, more cynical than in the past, dislike his ‘forced’ push.
Though there’s no way to be sure, I believe that there’s a good chance Nakamura was originally slated to win the tournament but that things were changed due to the lack of response and attendance on 8/13. Despite Chono’s advancing years and fragile physical state, he is the star of the show and he has been on the roster full-time for twenty years. With smarter booking New Japan wouldn’t be left with Chono as the only way to send the fans home happy, but the reality of the situation on 8/14 led to the end result. I don’t think Fujita’s loss diminishes his drawing power because he never had much to begin with, so the only harm from Chono winning is that a younger star didn’t.
With Tanahashi banged up and momentumless, Nakamura wearing thin on some fans, and the Nagata/Tenzan generation looking dead in the water, I can’t blame Shin Nihon Prowres for going with Chono. If he can use the win to build interest in the Hashimoto memorial tag on 10/8, New Japan will be in much better shape than if they were left with the Fujita title match as the top drawing card.
Coming soon: reports on the five wrestling shows I saw in Tokyo