Puroresu Pulse, issue 79

Section 1- Result

NOAH: Sugiura retained the junior title in Europe.

Section 2- News

All Japan: The Hase retirement match on 8/27 will be either him vs Suwama or a tag with Sasaki vs Suwama & X.

New Japan: The Inoki Genome show has been abruptly ‘postponed’ with no replacement date announced. Hopefully the plug got pulled before things got too locked in. After having a cup of coffee in All Japan, Milano Collection AT is turning his sights on New Japan. He’ll tag with a returning Chono on the 8/12 and 8/13 Sumo Hall shows. I’d bet quite a bit that Tanahashi will be involved in the 8/12 match, since he and Milano squared off at New Japan’s recent WRESTLE LAND brand. In a semi-related story, New Japan and Dragon Gate are in the early stages of talks for inter-promotional work. A major factor in this is the friendship between Mochizuki and Minoru Tanaka.

NOAH: Sugiura & Kanemaru will get a junior tag title rematch against Hidaka & Fujita at the 8/13 Differ Ariake show. Kobashi has left the hospital.

Section 3- Your Fill of Phil

Phil Clark and Mike ‘Skin ‘N’ Bones’ Campbell co-authored this piece on Brock Lesnar. Somehow Phil landed columns 49642 and 49842. COINCIDENCE?! Probably.

Section 4- Joementum?

During the calendar year 2004, Samoa Joe had probably the best year that any wrestler has had so far in the decade. He worked long matches and sprints. He worked main events and he worked underneath. He worked technical and he worked brawls. He was heel and face. Considering that he was more ‘passable’ than anything else as recently as 2001, that’s quite an accomplishment.

His 2005 wasn’t shabby either, and he made a nice transition from ROH champ/ace to TNA badass. This year he’s being talked up as a potential NWA champ, which would put him in rare company as a guy who didn’t have Big Three experience in doing so. He’s won over fans wherever he wrestles, he’s popular backstage, he’s connected, he’s reliable… he seemingly has everything going for him. So why on earth wouldn’t it make sense for him to challenge Jun Akiyama for the GHC title on September 9th?

Perhaps I should clarify. There’s “make sense” and then there’s “make NOAH sense”, which is different (like “make New Japan sense” is different). NOAH’s main belt isn’t defended often (5-7 times a year) and on the rare cases when the challenger isn’t a native NOAH wrestler it’s either a ‘reliable’ Japanese outsider (Nagata/Chono/Suzuki) or a ‘regular’ gaijin (Vader/Bison). A wrestler who hasn’t been in Japan for years, has never done a NOAH tour, who’s under contract elsewhere and whose name value doesn’t come from Japan or WWE is not someone that should be co-headlining a venue as large as the Budokan.

More than that, NOAH wouldn’t give a shot to someone who they wouldn’t bother to pay tour money for. Rest assured that NOAH knew about Joe during 2004, and certainly knew him months before the Kobashi match, yet they never made a strong effort to obtain his services. Joe is no longer a dirt-cheap worker and NOAH tends to favor gaijin who are bargain-priced (Bison, juniors) or are more established in Japan (Scorpio). Joe doesn’t have ‘the look’, which is to say that they overlook flab from Jun Izumida but not from someone who requires an intercontinental plane ticket. Talk of Joe being marred by his former work in Zero-One can’t be taken seriously at this point, given the current junior tag champs and how NOAH used Low Ki for so long, but neither do his Zero-One days give him a leg up.

But Japan is all about having the best wrestlers in the best matches, right? Heh. If they were workrate fetishists or cared about match-of-the-year-candidates then Danielson wouldn’t be showing ROH trainees the ropes and Joe never would have lasted long enough to be signed by TNA. Japan is about money, and after a certain degree of in-ring competence their primary concern is marketability rather than pure grappling skill. Making Samoa Joe into someone ready for a Budokan main event would take several tours, because it would involve exposing today’s world-class Joe to the Japanese press and audience, and he would need to get some big wins in order to be taken seriously. Even then Joe might not do any better than Masao Inoue at the gate.

For the tens of thousands of dollars that would entail they could just as well bring in a pricey Japanese outsider who would draw better. Or they could save the yen and rely on in-house talent; I’m betting on the latter, especially when Misawa et al see Morishima, Rikio, Marufuji and KENTA as the long-term future of the company. No matter how much Akiyama and the Japanese press hint at the possibility of an Akiyama vs Joe dream match, we’re far more likely to see Akiyama take on one of the ‘new four corners’, Misawa, or even Kensuke Sasaki. Akiyama vs Sasaki would be a sell-out, Akiyama vs Misawa might do the same, and Akiyama vs one of the young stars would be an investment in the future and wouldn’t need a full house to be profitable.

The chances of NOAH working around Kobashi’s schedule AND paying him more than he’d make in the states AND taking a risk in putting him on top of a big show are next to nil. They would be slim even if Joe was NWA champ, something we won’t see until fall at the earliest. Despite all the plusses that Joe brings to the table we shouldn’t expect to see the Samoan Submission Machine wrestling on the green mat any time soon, if ever.

Section 5- Am I asking too much?

The final night of the G-1 Climax is one of the ten biggest wrestling shows in Japan every year, along with NOAH Budokans, NJ dome shows and other supershows like the Hase retirement special. It has to date always been a complete sell-out and it dominates wrestling media coverage.

So I suppose it makes all the sense in the world for NOAH, K-Dojo, DDT, and three joshi promotions to have shows in Tokyo that day. Mind you, only one of those shows (K-Dojo) is scheduled in such a way that one could reasonably see it and the G-1 final. Is it so much to ask that I not have to choose between the G-1 final and a GHC junior tag title match? Then again it could be worse; there are 8 puro shows and 2 MMA shows in Tokyo on the 6th.