Section 1- Results
Zero-One: Hidaka & Fujita retained NOAH’s junior tag titles on Saturday against Sugawara & Kagetora. Nakanishi & Omori won the tag titles on the same show. Also, the departure of president Nakamura might have been a work. Who the hell knows?
Section 2- News
All Japan: They’ve announced a link-up with the new Muga fed, and Kojima has expressed interest in working there.
New Japan: Inoki is running a show on 9/1 in the Budokan, marking the anniversiary of the Inoki vs Ali match. No word on if it will be MMA, wrestling or both. There’s no small amount of controversy surrounding New Japan’s role, as Simon Inoki has said New Japan will back the show, and New Japan ran the event where the show was announced. However Yukes wants no part of it, because they’re SANE. Will there be a falling-out between Yukes and Simon? Six of the ten G-1 wrestlers were announced, those being Tenzan, Tanahashi, Nakanishi, Nagata, Bernard and Liger. Nakamura will not be back in time, and Super Juniors tournament winner Minoru turned down a spot (thus Liger’s entry). New Japan pared this down from 12 wrestlers, making me think that Chono won’t return in time and that they can’t secure Lesnar or Akebono.
NOAH: Kobashi has had to cancel his future dates with the company, including the Takayama return tag. More below.
Section 3- Kobashi vs Cancer?
There wasn’t going to be a column this week. Then I saw the news: Kenta Kobashi has a renal (kidney) tumor, possibly malignant (cancerous). He’s getting treatment and is out indefinitely. Misawa in making the announcement looks shaken.
I wonder how it is that so much tragedy gets drawn to professional wrestling. Yes, there is drug use and steroid abuse. Yes, so many men are one slip on the ropes away from a broken neck or a bad concrete landing from a crushed skull. Yes, larger men in general have shorter life expectancies. That doesn’t cover nearly everything. It doesn’t cover the flukes, or the tragedies. Jumbo Tsuruta died because medicine in the Philippines wasn’t up to snuff. Chris Candido should have been on crutches instead of lying in the morgue. Brody and Rikidozan were murdered (the latter somewhat indirectly). When you sit back and really think about it, it’s staggering.
We don’t know if Kobashi will recover in months from a mere lumpectomy, or if he’ll need some ‘light’ cancer therapy, or whether he will need extreme chemo, or whether a cancer will spread like wildfire. Each of those scenarios happens thousands of times a day. Was there some root cause like steroid use, which is pretty much assumed in his case? Is this the end of his career or, like brain cancer survivor Liger, just a small bump in the road?
What I do know is how vital Kenta Kobashi is to Japanese professional wrestling. He is the ace of puroresu and has been since he won the GHC title before an overfull Budokan Hall crowd, a crowd that came for the most blatant one-match show in recent memory. He’s untainted by scandal or MMA, he’s respected by wrestlers around the world, he helps run things behind the scenes at every NOAH show, he regularly churns out several of the most-hyped matches a year, he exudes confidence instead of arrogance or forced bravado, and his addition to a match can make it a ‘dream’ match with ease.
If Kobashi is done, it doesn’t just take the rug out from under NOAH. It hurts Japanese wrestling as a whole. Losing the biggest star to a sudden tragedy like this would leave a hole that nobody is ready to step up and fill, either from the old guard or the young lions. The puro scene has had to absorb body blows for years now, and this would certainly be one of the worst ones imaginable.
Kobashi made it crystal clear that his top priority is getting back to work. Let’s hope he can without putting his life in jeopardy. Next to cancer, kicking out of the tiger driver ’91 is cake.
Section 4- Shill of the Week
It sucks to be Eric S right about now. He has pictures and words and he made them for YOU.