Puroresu Pulse, issue 91


Section 1- Results

All Japan: Minoru Suzuki managed his title defense against the former Superhero In Training. Kondo notched another defense himself over NOSAWA. Team Mist (Muta/Tajiri) beat Kojima & Hayashi. Show only drew 3300, a mere 40% full.

New Japan: Tenzan’s GBH stable won both of the stable-war matches, including a main event where everyone but Tenzan was eliminated and Tenzan somehow pinned Chono by himself (after some botched double-teams). They claimed 7000, which if true would be quite remarkable given the card.

NOAH: Marufuji beat KENTA to retain the GHC title in a match that tied Kobashi vs Akiyama 7/10/04 as the longest in the title’s history. The show drew 12000-14000, and I don’t think much more could have been expected.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Sasaki’s injury forced he and Nakajima to vacate the All Asia tag belts. The standard All Japan tag titles, dormant for 2 and a half years following their abduction by Kendo KaShin (there was even a lawsuit I believe), are going to return next year. Minoru Suzuki continues to lobby for a Triple Crown defense against Mutoh or Kojima. The big match of the tag league, Mutoh & Kawada vs TenKoji, will happen at the 11/23 Korakuen show.

Dragon Gate: The Stalker vs Tozawa retirement match is now even more confusing, because both of them are on cards after the 11/12 show.

Inoki Genome: When I speculated that NOSAWA’s ‘Bom-Ba-Ye’ show was more likely to go off properly than Inoki’s I wasn’t kidding. NOSAWA, who landed Takayama for the main event, is still set to have his show on 11/8. Inoki was supposed to have his show on 9/1, then 10/15, then 11/24 in Seoul, and now that has been cancelled without a replacement date.

New Japan: The Nakanishi/Omori team is back after some political delays, and they’re likely to defend against the tag league winner. Chono vs Simon dominates the company’s hype. The possibility of a 1/4/07 dome show continues to be up in the air.

NOAH: Marufuji vs Misawa will finally take place on the 12/10 Budokan show. In other news, Bryan Danielson will be on the next tour. It’s assumed that Danielson will lose the ROH title in December, and Danielson is missing two ROH shows for this tour; we just might see NOAH become Danielson’s home in 2007 (with ROH in-between). Sano sustained a knee injury and could miss significant time.

Section 3- What can I shill if not a Botter?!

Phil talkin’ puro.

Section 4- New paradigm?

For a moment you might think Gabe Sapolsky was scripting things. Both Marufuji and KENTA were hoping to win ‘match of the year’ honors with their bout, and said so in press interviews. Keep in mind that even Liger doing an ROH shoot interview in 2004 wouldn’t discuss best/favorite matches and opponents because of rigid kayfabe standards in Japan. Not having watched Marufuji vs KENTA, I would assume based on its length and their last two bouts that they tried to have an epic encounter for the ages with lots of big moves and nearfalls and neat counters and so on and so forth.

It’s one thing to work with an eye for MOTY consideration; it’s another thing to come out and say it. In theory they should want to win in 30 seconds and go home. In a different age that kind of talk would get serious heat from the guys upstairs, but now? Kayfabe is dead, don’t worry too much about walking on the grave. Fans have come to expect long title matches, extended finishing sequences and ‘special’ performances at big shows; why not promise them what they want?

I’m not in favor of a wrestler or a promoter throwing terms like MOTY around. It’s perhaps my least-favorite thing about ROH. But whatever your opinion on that subject matter, or on the ‘2.9 count style’ so prevalent today, it’s hard to argue with the result: the most successful show headlined by juniors in Japan since June ’99 when the Best of Super Juniors final was on top at the Budokan. And that had the benefit of both Tenryu vs Hashimoto AND a Meng match underneath, versus nothing in particular for Marufuji vs KENTA. MENG!

However you want to spin it, that both of them have been competitive with the heavies in recent years and both have been groomed for main-event slots, they’re juniors and they wrestled a distinctly junior-flavored match. No, they didn’t draw a sell-out, but nobody expected them to. What they did draw was more fans than New Japan at Kobe World Hall, All Japan at Fukuoka International Center, and Dragon Gate at Okayama Orange Hall put together, despite those venues having a larger combined capacity, and two of those being big shows with heavies on top. I’m sure NOAH management realizes this as well, and thus it could be a sign of things to come.

It’s not a matter of KENTA taking over for Kenta (Kobashi), so much as it is a matter of NOAH being able to expand its main-event pool with small-but-capable (and marketable) stars. It means that they can stretch the big heavyweight matches, take time in developing young lions like Shiozaki, and that they don’t absolutely need to have at least one of the old guard involved to manage a profitable Budokan show. It means not having to fixate on recruiting the best amateur heavyweights, but instead being able to focus on recruiting capable pro wrestlers regardless of size (something I believe they do already). It means marketing a product where in-ring entertainment is more than just alluded to, aimed towards hardcore wrestling fans who aren’t satisfied with credible heavyweights in mediocre matches.

Perhaps I’m overstating things. Perhaps NOAH has been using this mindset for some time, or perhaps it isn’t at all and this is a fluke. I just can’t help shake the feeling that in the next ten years we’ll be seeing more of Marufuji and KENTA in title matches than we will Rikio. I doubt that prospect bothers NOAH fans on either side of the Pacific.