Section 1- Results
All Japan: Kojima retained against Suwama on Saturday. Sasaki & Nakajima did likewise against the hefty Yoshie/Issei tandem.
Dragon Gate: Yoshino retained his title over Horiguchi on Sunday.
New Japan: Liger and Wataru Inoue have clinched spots in the semis. Minoru Tanaka or El Samurai, and Kanemoto or Tiger Mask can get the other spots.
Section 2- News
All Japan: Kojima vs Kea is in place for the 7/3 Ota Ward Gym show. The winner is likely to defend against Minoru Suzuki at the Hase retirement show in August.
Dragon Gate: Yoshie vs Takagi has been added to the 7/2 card. We’ll see just how strong Shingo really is.
New Japan: New Japan has requested that Chono & Tenzan vacate the tag titles due to Chono’s upcoming absence, but Tenzan refuses. Odd to have this angle so soon after Chono got hurt considering the lack of challengers lined up for them in recent months.
NOAH: Takayama & Kobashi vs Akiyama & Misawa was announced for the 7/16 Budokan show. Hidaka & Fujita defend the junior tag titles next Saturday in Zero-One against Sugawara & Kagetora. NOAH is using a lot of luchas, including Psicosis, on this tour. Isn’t Psicosis under WWE contract? EDIT: He is and he isn’t, I’ll elaborate next week.
PRIDE: SkyPerfect, the top PPV company in Japan, is holding off on canceling PRIDE (and HUSTLE) from its schedule. That said it seems to be on the brink of doing so. Zach Arnold aptly compared the PRIDE situation to that of Barry Bonds, where there’s a public assumption of guilt but no criminal charges.
Section 3- Takayama returns
Between the time he fought Nagata on the 5/2/02 Tokyo Dome show and his bad concussion during the 2004 G-1 Climax, Yoshihiro Takayama was (at least for my money) the most consistent and probably best wrestler on the planet. He could wrestle a variety of opponents in different card positions for any length of time he had to, and time after time he’d get just about the most he possibly could out of the situation. Whether it was selling Masao Inoue’s offense, doing a killer sprint with Shibata (twice), working the mat with Nishimura, carrying Nakanishi, making Rikio look like a good worker, going to war with Sasaki, or allowing KENTA to stand toe-to-toe with him, Takayama’s portfolio over those 27 months is a thing of beauty.
A big reason why he had so many great matches is the same reason why he got hurt: he became the busiest wrestler in Japan and wrestled most NOAH *and* New Japan tours back to back to back. Add in his refusal to shy away from punishment, his shootfights and his size and injury was an inevitability. Stiff matches with Takuma Sano, Kensuke Sasaki and Manabu Nakanishi (well not so much that one) over the course of the first week of August 2004 was enough to keep Takayama on commentary duty for the better part of two years.
Thus my dilemma as a fan. On the one hand, Takayama is a great worker who brings good ring sense and selling and impact to his matches, and right now the Japanese scene needs a shot in the arm. On the other hand, Takayama suffered a stroke and is going right back to working main events. Considering how headstrong most wrestlers are I doubt he’ll change his style much, and who knows if he’s been given full clearance to wrestle by his doctor. A head injury followed by one hard shot was enough to kill New Japan young lion Masakazu Fukuda in a match against Shibata in April 2000, and Fukuda was younger and had far less mileage on him than Takayama does. To an extent we should trust that Takayama is a responsible adult capable to handling his own health. To an extent we shouldn’t trust any wrestler to be responsible, as demonstrated by the astonishing number of grossly premature deaths over the years.
For now all we can do is hope for the best and look forward to a potentially great Budokan main event.
Section 4- Shill of the Week
Lucharan by David Brashear. What is it with Daves writing about non-US wrestling on the Pulse?