Section 1- Results
Dragon Gate: Magnitude is the new Open the Dream Gate champ, ending a good reign by Mochizuki. Magnitude also looks probable to reach the semi’s of next month’s tournament, though I’d wager he’ll lose in order to set up a contender. I’d expect CIMA or Ryo Saito to challenge for the belt next year.
NOAH: The Budokan show brought in a solid, if not sell-out crowd to see Akira Taue win the GHC title from Rikio. This is Taue’s first singles title win since he downed Misawa for the Triple Crown in May ’96. The crowd was said to be molten hot for Taue, who is respected for bringing so much effort despite his obvious physical decline (much like Baba, though Taue isn’t so far gone yet). Two successful title defenses came on the undercard, with Scorpio and Yone/Morishima hanging on against Kanemaru and Shibata/KENTA. In non-title action Misawa beat Tenryu, Sasaki & Nakajima beat Kobashi & Shiozaki, and Akiyama & Koshinaka beat Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji. Akiyama wants a title shot. Tenryu appears to have been hurt during his match.
Section 2- News
New Japan: Biggest news of the week was an announcement that after 1/4, New Japan will not be running dome shows until things pick up. Sumo Hall will be their biggest venue. New Japan might take a short-term hit financially from this. Also, it seems that Brock Lesnar (set for a match on 1/4) has his contract through Inoki rather than New Japan. That could lead to some very interesting things.
As for the 1/4 Dome show, it’s having a theme change from ‘Homecoming’ to a New Japan vs BIG MOUTH focus. Interesting, because BIG MOUTH has been a total dud to date and most of the potential matches are along ‘homecoming’ lines (Shibata, Masa Funaki, Maeda all started in NJ). Choshu’s small ‘Riki Pro’ promotion uses many of the BIG MOUTH names, so I’m guessing that’s the source of this booking decision. Meanwhile Choshu has thoroughly mashed the reset button, eliminating all current stables and alignments. Choshu is also burying Naruse and Kakihara for some reason, which might have led to Naruse busting young lion Yujiro’s jaw before dropping a pinfall to him.
NOAH: KENTA will defend the junior title on 12/17 in ROH against Low Ki should he still be champ at that point. Their next Budokan show will be 1/22, and that hopefully means an end to the annual disaster at Kobe World Hall.
Section 3- Arik Cannon interview
This is the first of what I hope to be a series of interviews with US indy wrestlers, geared towards their thoughts on puroresu. Because so much of the current indy style is drawn from puro, and because indy wrestlers are a vital source of foreign talent for Japan, it’s worth looking at from both points of view.
The first person I got in contact with is ‘Anarchist’ Arik Cannon. Arik is a 4 year pro operating out of the midwest, whose notable bases are IWA:Mid-South and Chikara Pro. Having been trained by Chris Hero (among others), Arik’s style has a hybrid mix of lucha, European and Japanese influences. In 2004 and 2005 he earned a name for himself with hard-hitting battles against Hero, American Dragon, Samoa Joe and others. You can find out more about Arik at his website, www.arikcannon.com, and purchase shows from www.smartmarkvideo.com. Many thanks to Arik for his help and humble attitude.
Q: Were you a Japanese wrestling fan before you became a wrestler?
A: Totally. I was one of those kids trading tapes to get my hands on any, and everything I could. I started that in like the 7th or 8th grade. I think the first two tapes I got were the 1995 IWA King Of The Deathmatch and the 1994 Super J-Cup.
Q: How has your view of Japanese wrestling changed since becoming a wrestler? Did it influence your decision to start training?
A: My views on wrestling as a whole have changed since becoming a wrestler myself. All my viewing of Japanese wrestling only further influenced me to get into this crazy business. I was watching AWA, then NWA, WWF, WCW, and a little ECW as well all before getting into the Japanese stuff.
Q: What Japanese wrestlers and/or promotions have influenced you the most, and how?
A: I would have to say as far as wrestlers are concerned, Kenta Kobashi has influenced me most. He’s just always been able to draw me into his matches, and isn’t that the point?
Q: How do other wrestlers you encounter tend to view Japanese wrestling?
A: Some like it, and some don’t. It’s like wrestling in general. You have people that like it, and some that despise it. Some are uneducated to what else is out there when it comes to Japanese wrestling, and they think it’s all the same hardcore stuff with barbed wire and things that go boom.
Q: US independent wrestling has changed an incredible amount over the last five years. What do you think are the main contributing factors?
A: I think to each is own. Some guys are influenced by Lucha Libre. Some can’t get enough of the head-dropping antics we saw in AJPW during the 90’s. I don’t think it’s a matter of Indy Wrestling changing, but moreso that the Indy Wrestlers themselves are changing. Changing because of a desire to want to improve, to stand out, to make an impact.
Q: Where do you see the style going in the future?
A: I think wrestling as a whole in the future will be even more of a circus than it is now.
Q: For fans of Japanese wrestling, which of your matches would you say are most worth tracking down?
A: I think the following matches are worth tracking down, if you’re a fan of wrestling. Not just Japanese wrestling.
IWA Mid-South 7/31/04 vs. American Dragon Bryan Danielson
MPW (Minnesota) 9/25/04 vs. Kid Krazy vs. Joey Envy – Cruiserweight Title TLC Match
IWA Mid-South 9/24/05 vs. Chris Hero – Semi-Finals Of The 2005 TPI
A note on the above, Cannon has had a series of matches against Hero this year. All are worth taking a look at, and the TPI match relies quite a bit on their past encounters (much like big All Japan matches I’ve discussed). Cannon vs Hero is still ongoing, and widely considered to be the highlight of IWA Mid-South this year.
Next Column: Some news! Some results! Maybe some analysis! Who’s to say?