Puroresu Pulse, issue 59


Section 1- Results

All Japan: After much ref-bumping and interfering and the like, Kohei Suwama pinned Kojima on Sunday. Also on that show, Kea made up with RO&D and Kensuke Sasaki dyed his hair pink in tribute to Yoshie. Good ol’ Sasaki.

NOAH: A sell-out was claimed for Sunday’s Budokan show. Akiyama defeated Minoru Suzuki as expected to make his successful first defense. Zero-One stars Ikuto Hidaka & Minoru Fujita won the junior tag titles from Kanemaru & Sugiura. The four singles matches pitting NOAH-honed stars against All Japan classics ended in a tie: Misawa over Morishima, Kobashi over KENTA, Marufuji over Taue, and Rikio over Ogawa.

Section 2- News

New Japan: Rumors of a sale to WWE are exaggerated, I can assure you. Rumors of Lesnar vs Akebono were not because that is now set. Chono & Tenzan have been having some tension revolving around Chono’s status as the leader of their team, as though nothing has changed since they first won the belts 11 years ago.

NOAH: Akiyama’s request for a contenders’ tournament among NOAH’s veteran midcarders (ie. Tamon Honda, Akitoshi Saito, Kishin Kawabata) is moving ahead, so that will likely be what determines April’s challenger. I’m guessing that a big title defense won’t come until the July show at the Tokyo Dome, unless NOAH adds an early June show at the Budokan. Kotaro Suzuki has joined Makoto Hashi on the injured reserve with a broken cheek bone.

NOAH/Kings Road: The already-struggling upstart Kings Road has hooked up with NOAH for its next show, which makes it hard to tell whether it really is an All Japan puppet as was speculated. NOAH is advancing its plan for the ‘Shem’ offshoot promotion as well.

Section 3- A Gift

This site has several gigs worth of pre-split All Japan. Some of the finest wrestling ever. Free! All I ask is for you not to spread the link around and click one of the ads every now and then. I’ll discuss any of those matches in detail on request.

Section 4- Where does NOAH go from here?

The 3/5 Budokan show was a display of economic booking. Marufuji over Taue, the ‘big upset’, doesn’t hurt Taue any more than his loss to Ogawa four years ago. KENTA and Ogawa were underdogs from the get-go. Anyone seriously following the promotion knew Suzuki wouldn’t get the title, and he wasn’t squashed, so he isn’t hurt. Kanemaru & Sugiura losing their belts doesn’t mean much since they weren’t doing much with them anyway. Nothing on this card was a particular ‘dream match’ being given away, and they used essentially the same talent as they would on a tour show in front of a tenth as many people.

But as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Leading that list is Misawa putting himself over Morishima. I’ve seen a lot of people defend that decision due to the fact that Misawa looked better than he has in some time, the crowd was hot, and Morishima wasn’t really expected to win anyway. But why is that? Simply put, it’s because NOAH booking moves at a glacial pace. Rikio was making waves by early 2001 but it took four years to pull the trigger on him. Morishima was looking like a main event caliber talent at least as early as 2002 if not sooner, yet he’s still stuck as a tag champ who can’t get a big singles win. Akiyama isn’t even as dominant as he was during NOAH’s debut five and a half years ago. The juniors still aren’t booked as any sort of serious threat to heavyweights.

I’ve seen people say that now the crowds will be more anxious to see a rematch between Misawa and Morishima, one where Misawa puts over another young talent. The problem is that approach not only requires Misawa to stay healthy for several more months (he’s been wrestling for 25 years already!), and for the rematch to be good, and for fans to maintain interest, and for Misawa to even book it. It’s also very mechanical booking if he does. Morishima going toe-to-toe with Misawa on Sunday then *winning* would surprise the crowd, make the match that much more memorable, and accomplish everything that a rematch could. What does Misawa winning do? There’s no clamor for another Misawa title match after the flat Misawa vs Rikio bout last fall.

What made Jumbo vs Misawa 6/8/90 so special was that even though Misawa just keeping it close in a loss would have helped him, they went all the way and put Misawa over. Because he was competitive throughout the match his cradle win was still viewed as a decisive victory… though the countout/DQ-riddled All Japan ’80s booking also made cradles more credible. Point is, Misawa wasn’t expected to win, but he did. Maybe he would have had the exact same success if Jumbo won, but the fact remains that Misawa’s win gave him momentum that lasted the rest of his career and transferred into the feud which also established Kawada, Taue and Kobashi as superstars. For more on that visit the link above.

Because Morishima lost, Rikio was already established as a world-beater, Marufuji got a cheap win and Kobashi is Kobashi, NOAH is only marginally better off for having done the singles matches (Morishima getting slightly more buzz). Meanwhile none of those wrestlers are involved in the upcoming contendership tournament, meaning that there won’t be flow from the March Budokan main events to April’s. That the names mentioned (Sano, Saito, Honda, Kawabata, Shiga, Izumida) haven’t done anything notable in months is another problem. Then you run into the question of who Akiyama faces four months from now when NOAH tries to repeat last year’s Tokyo Dome success. Continuity and a few risks were what made NOAH so good in the second half of 2005, but for some reason it’s New Japan who seems to understand that today.

Then again if they can actually put together Kobashi vs Sapp for the Dome, everything I just said is mooted. After all, who expected Misawa vs Kawada and Kobashi vs Sasaki before they were announced?