Puroresu Pulse, issue 92


Section 1- Results

New Japan: Chono & Nakamura beat Tanahashi & Kanemoto at Monday’s tag league finals. Also on the show was Tiger Mask defending his NWA junior title against Milano, though their feud will continue.

Section 2- News

Dragon Gate: DG and New Japan seem to be cooperating. Some DG wrestlers will appear on the 11/18 Lock-Up show, while Dragon gate gets”¦ Liger! Liger & BB Hulk vs CIMA & Matt Sydal takes place on 11/19, Liger/Hulk/Dragon Kid vs Muscle Outlaw’z happens on 11/23, and Liger vs Magnitude will go down on the 12/14 show. This year’s King of Gate tournament is a bit more normal, with 15 wrestlers (Ryo Saito gets a bye). First round matchups on 12/10 include Yokosuka vs Mochizuki, Magnitude vs Fujii, and Yoshino vs Dragon Kid.

New Japan: Four title matches are set for the year-end tour, headlined by Tanahashi vs Nakamura on 12/10 in Aichi. Also on that card will be Nakanishi & Omori vs ??? for the tag titles, and a Jado & Gedo padding defense against luchadores. Tiger Mask vs Milano for the NWA junior title will be on 12/2. They are running the Tokyo Dome on 1/4.

NOAH: Lots of notable matches are on tap for the next tour, notably KENTA vs Bryan Danielson on 12/2. Marufuji vs Misawa will get more than the usual build-up, with tag matches on all three of the taped lead-ins to their Budokan battle. The tag title tournament will be spread throughout the tour. Rikio & Sugiura vs Morishima & Yone will be on 11/17, Honda & Shiozaki vs ??? on 11/20, Taue & SUWA vs Takayama & Sano on 11/26, the other semi-final on 11/25, and the final on 12/2 as planned. Last but certainly least, Shiga’s next openweight title defense will be against rookie Ota on 11/29.

Section 3- Where I do links

Kevin Wilson is good people and this is a good show he reviews.

Botter is next-door.

Section 4- A postmortem

Meltzer came out just after the nick of time to say that NOAH’s show headlined by Marufuji vs KENTA only did a legit 7000, instead of the roughly double that number which was originally reported. The show was very heavily papered. This makes it the worst or second-worst Budokan show in NOAH’s history, depending on how papered the Akiyama vs Inoue show was. This means that the fans haven’t really accepted the NOAH juniors and their style as a replacement for the more traditional Kobashi-ism that usually is on top.

It wasn’t too long ago that I speculated on whether a New Japan show at Sumo Hall would do a comparable attendance number to a NOAH show at the Budokan, despite Budokan being about 50% bigger and NOAH ‘owning’ Tokyo. It came faster than I expected, because it looks like New Japan’s 10/9 event did a comparable number to NOAH’s 10/29 show. With how New Japan was struggling early this year and how NOAH was cruising just twelve months ago, the turnabout is quite something.

My greatest complaint about NOAH’s booking is that there’s so little of it. When they try, it gives something for the wrestlers to work towards, and the matches are better and focused as a result. Rarely do random combinations of capable NOAH wrestlers hook up out of nowhere and produce greatness. It has happened to be sure, but given the overall talent of the roster there is an awful lot of under-performing so far this year. From ignoring lesser title divisions, to having very few ongoing rivalries (which was VITAL to Baba’s booking), to bland big-show undercards, it seems as if everyone involved with the formulation of the product is taking a nap. It’s bizarre coming from a wrestler-owned-and-operated promotion, and I hope it’s a trend that ends before NOAH goes the way of All Japan.

But at least NOAH isn’t dumb enough to think it can move from Korakuen to the Tokyo Dome just because they’re a couple hundred meters apart.

Section 5- A premortem

One of the seminal events for the PuroPulse was coverage of the drama surrounding New Japan’s November 2004 show at the Osaka Dome. A mix of bad politics, inconsistent booking and colliding egos culminated in show that pulled in just over a 25% attendance. The financial losses were staggering, between hefty paydays and using the venue. It was one of the lowlights that led to New Japan requiring a bailout from Yukes last year.

New Japan did better at the 1/4/05 Tokyo Dome event, but their Tokyo Dome numbers both claimed and actual dropped a lot by the time 1/4/06 rolled around. And that was before the company lost much of its talent to budget cuts and/or Inoki bungling. Now their best effort, which is the exact ‘effort’ NOAH lacks, can’t fill a venue one-fifth the size if the Dome. Obviously they would use some outside resources in order to create the sort of ‘dream match’ scenarios a dome show requires, but their connections aren’t any better or more valuable than when ‘dream matches’ bombed over and over in 2004 and 2005. They can bring in Mutoh, Kojima, Takayama, Minoru Suzuki, Omori, the entire Dragon Gate roster and match them up the best possible way with New Japan’s finest and I’d say 15,000 tickets sold would be about the best they could hope for.

It takes something special to light a fire under the jaded Japanese wrestling fan base these days. Misawa vs Kawada and Kobashi vs Sasaki did it last year. With bridges between New Japan and NOAH burned, all they can do is trot out ‘dream’ matches that have either happened many times in the past or hold no significant appeal to casual fans. Even Kawada has faced most of the New Japan roster now. Unless there’s a significant ace up Simon Inoki’s sleeve like Kurt Angle, they can’t put on a respectable dome show.

Now, I’m used to this from New Japan by now. The overreaching, the vague plans, the lack of business sense, it’s old hat. But what I don’t get is why Yukes would allow something like this, seeing as how they’re supposed to be more ‘adult’ than Antonio Inoki and his various puppets. Aussie-based NJ guru Stuart has speculated that there are annual sponsor deals tied to running at least one dome show, but that isn’t convincing because the deals can’t possibly be worth enough for the money they’re going to lose. Maybe Yukes’ management is overly optimistic and/or incompetant? Maybe they’re giving the Simon/Choshu creative team one last chance? Maybe they figure getting headlines in the dwindling puro-newspapers is worth tens of millions of yen? Who knows.

This would all be so much easier if the Tokyo area had venues designed to seat 25000-30000 people. Though that would still be too much to fill it would perhaps be enough to sate New Japan’s ego, since clearly using Budokan Hall for their biggest show of the year is too reasonable to be expected. Or something. The mindset is so baffling and inscrutable. Imagine WWE running Summerslam in New York and booking the Meadowlands or Yankee Stadium instead of Madison Square Garden, because it’s a big show and they need to look impressive. That would never happen, of course, because Vince is too good a businessman and he knows his limits. Mind you, Vince thought the World Bodybuilding Federation and the XFL were good ideas. But at least he has the excuse that he doesn’t know them as well as he does the ticket-buying limit of the NYC market. Who in New Japan’s upper management can’t get the hang of Tokyo after all these years?

Oh by the way, Tokyo Sports via Zach Arnold says that Antonio Inoki will take a stab at buying back New Japan. Considering how Yukes stock has plunged since it bought New Japan, it’s feasible. Now might be a good time to try burying yourself in a good match in order to block out the anguished screams.