Section 1- Results
Dragon Gate: Dragon Kid beat Doi for the lightweight title in an interference-heavy match. This switch might be short-term, because their feud appears to be continuing and the match happened in Kid’s hometown of Nagoya. The semi-main tag had Sasaki & Mochizuki downing Tenryu & Tokyo, with Sasaki pinning Magnum. I suppose Tenryu isn’t THAT hurt.
Section 2- News
Dragon Gate: Magnitude will get a padding title defense on 12/4 against Ken Arai.
New Japan: Perhaps the biggest news to hit Japanese wrestling in years came almost out of nowhere, when it was announced that entertainment company Yukes had bought Antonio Inoki’s majority share in New Japan. Inoki needed the cash due to New Japan’s losses ($5 mil estimated) and the decline of the ‘Inoki Office’ shootfighting group. Choshu is still in as head booker, Simon Inoki is still in as New Japan president. This is the equivalent of Turner taking the NWA to form WCW in terms of impact. More on this story below. Also announced are two big December matches for Lesnar. On 12/10 he fights Nakanishi, and a day later he’ll take on Nagata. The year-end tour has zero title matches.
NOAH: The first announced title match of the tour is a junior tag title defense on 12/4. Kanemaru & Sugiura’s second defense (and just the 4th title match this year) will be against Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin, who have been moonlighting as good and evil Mushikings.
Section 3- NOAH’s Budokan show & A shill
After having downloaded NOAH’s last big show off of the ever-useful pwtorrents, I found that many things were worth writing about after I watched it. Then I got a call from Zach Arnold of PuroresuPower.com, and I was given a chance to voice my opinion on the most recent Puroresu Power Hour (wrestling edition). You can listen at their website. A very brief version of my opinions:
1. The attendance looked to be a sell-out. Last year NOAH didn’t come close with Kobashi vs Taue, and I think the big difference was the undercard.
2. Taue is NOT a viable long-term champ. He’s too broken down physically, and his value was mostly used up in getting the fan-pleasing win. I’ll discuss the main event in detail next week.
3. Rikio gets a very interesting reaction that I don’t particularly recall happening in the past. He’s seen as credible, to the extent that he has enough strength (in kayfabe) to finish anyone he goes up against. At the same time his utter lack of charisma and lack of good ring psychology led to him not connecting with the fans.
4. Misawa and Tenryu have gone downhill so fast it’s scary. Tenryu at least has stopped full-time touring, but Misawa wrestles every show and hasn’t taken much time off in AGES. He needs to, because his miscues over the last year and a half (dropping people, botched jumps) are dangerous.
5. Despite Rikio getting heel heat and Taue looking ancient, the Budokan show was more positive than negative for the heavyweight division. Akiyama and Morishima both looked very good, especially Morishima, which gives NOAH much more leeway in booking the title for the next year.
6. Having watched almost the entire show, I’m of the opinion that it’s the best wrestling event to take place in 2005. The Akiyama/Koshinaka vs Suzuki/Marufuji match is lots of fun. The main event is very emotional. The tag title match is really great action, the type of match that should appeal to anyone reading this. The Kobashi/Shiozaki vs Sasaki/Nakajima tag is (to me) better than the Kobashi vs Sasaki dome match because it features much more variety in the action and some really great stuff involving the young lions going toe-to-toe with puro’s heaviest hitters.
7. It’s one thing for me, an American, to recommend this show. It’s quite another to see the reactions of the crowd. The heat for the Kobashi vs Sasaki tag and the main event were off the charts, and the other matches got all the heat they deserved. NOAH rewarded the fans who paid good money to see a wrestling show, just like it did at the Dome, and to a lesser extent on 9/18. By not only producing strong big-show cards but also great matches, NOAH is firmly cementing itself as the top company in Japan. Though New Japan die-hards prefer its product, the sentiment from most Japanese and American puroresu viewers this year has been decisive. The question is no longer whether or not NOAH can catch New Japan; the question is whether New Japan can halt its skid and not fall further behind. Which leads to…
Section 4- The biggest reset button of all? Plus a bonus shill
It’s hard to fully digest what the New Japan/Yukes story means. I’ve taped a segment for this week’s upcoming Puroresu Power Hour in regards to this, but here are some of my thoughts on the matter anyway.
Inoki being gone from New Japan is a plus any way you look at it. He’s the one who put pressure on to bring in costly shootfighters at no gain whatsoever to the company, he’s the one who made sure that dome shows had next to no resemblance to tour happenings, he’s the one who refused to give up on the many-dome-shows-a-year model, he’s the one who publicaly said that he didn’t even watch New Japan’s product because it sucked, he’s the one who has repeatedly reached out to global pariah and regional disgrace North Korea… really he’s been nothing but a burden since retiring.
2005 has been a gigantic year of flux for puroresu. The two longest title reigns in a decade (Kawada & Kobashi) come to an end within a month of one another. NOAH breaks out with its best year of attendance and its biggest show yet. New Japan has perhaps its worst business year to date, and at the very least loses lots of money amidst more poor dome shows and a mostly flat G-1. All Japan lands Akebono, which could prove bane or boon. Now New Japan is seemingly secured from its debt by Yukes, is under new management, and has superstar gaijin Brock Lesnar in their employ. Oh but wait…
Lesnar was a part of Inoki Office. Inoki’s selling of New Japan combined with the awful attendance on 10/8 could combine to reduce Brock’s chances of staying. Yukes of course is a wild card. Maybe they want to do more in the US, which would mean they do everything possible to pacify the Manster. Heehee, ‘manster’. Maybe they want to get rid of Inoki influence. Maybe they want to cut costs. Those two would lead to Brock getting the heave-ho, though on 1/4 he faces Inoki Office’s Kaz Fujita. The politics surrounding that match boggle the mind.
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar’s value in the US has taken a big spike in the last week. Batista, one of WWE’s long-term pillars and essentially Brock’s replacement, is out a month with a broken back. Christian and Jericho, two mainstays in the PPV-appearing midcard, are gone. Austin is on the outs again. Add to that Eddie’s death, the upcoming end of Smackdown on UPN, AND the emergence of TNA all within a year? Bad news even if the profits are rolling in by the millions each fiscal quarter. Vince McMahon obviously has no desire to bring back Brock after the events of the last two years, but if he wants to maintain two year-round touring companies he’s going to need a hell of a lot more than JBL/Rey/Benoit/Orton/Undertaker opposite the Raw side. Especially considering that four of those five have logged over ten years in wrestling.
If you’re Panda Energy, now is the perfect time to strike at WWE. Christian Cage caused a bit of a splash; how much more would the Next Big Thing on Impact mean? It’s hard to deny that he’d be a better centerpiece for them than Jeff Jarrett. WWE in turn must know that Brock won’t be floating in free agency forever, so they can’t ignore him like they did when he was bound by the no-compete clause. That too boosts the chances that WWE offers him a big deal. And whether it’s WWE or TNA, doing tours with New Japan wouldn’t be part of the bargain. 2006 is going to be one hell of a ride.
Section 5- New Japan’s last Tokyo Dome card… ever?
Last-minute breaking news update! Choshu has presented a card for 1/4/06, and true to his ‘no outsiders’ pledge, every single match has at least one non-NJ regular wrestler. Oh wait. Lesnar vs Fujita still headlines.
We start the undercard with a Fujinami & Friends vs Choshu & Friends 10-man tag. ‘Friends’ to be determined. This replaces a rumored singles match that would have completely sucked. After that comes the start of the New Japan vs Zero-One series, as Chono & Tenzan battle Omori & Koshinaka. Old friends Kanemoto and Otani do battle, as do young shoot-stylists Nakamura and Kohei Sato. New Japan vs BIG MOUTH is the second feud, and features Nagata vs Murakami and Tanahashi vs Shibata. There’s a strong chance that this will go down, because Choshu has the approval of management. More matches to come.
Get ready for another third-full dome attendance.