Puroresu Pulse, issue 102


Section 1- Results

Dragon Gate: Fujii retained the top title over Mochizuki in what has to be considered an upset. Muscle Outlaw’z retained the trios belts, thus making their upcoming match with PoS Hearts a titles vs stable match. Genki Horiguchi turned heel and joined the Outlaw’z. Matt Sydal downed Yoshino to win the lightweight title on Monday.

Section 2- News

All Japan: The Akebono return match will be he and Owashi against Rikishi and someone to be determined. Lotta beef there.

Dragon Gate: Fujii wants Liger to be his next challenger. Fujii, Mochizuki & Kanda vs Liger, Jado & Gedo will take place on the 23rd and that show will determine Liger’s status. Sydal will defend his newly-won belt in ROH against Austin Aries, who is out of the weight class for what it’s worth.

New Japan: Koshinaka is getting a push due to a well-received appearance on one of Japan’s ubiquitous variety shows. He’s being considered for a title shot, and will face Nakanishi on the Sumo Hall show. Also on the show will be Chono & Milano vs Tenzan & TARU.

Section 3- Sumo-Sized Analysis

Phil looks at the Sumo Hall shows. That means I have to scrounge around for something to write about. Hmmmm

Section 4- One reason why the Royal Road ran so smoothly

There are many advantages that big tag matches have on big singles. One, it lends itself to good structure as one wrestler gets worked over at a time. Two, it helps keep the pace up by having wrestlers rest more explicitly on the apron than they can in the ring. Three, kicking out of finishers is more unexpected. Four, the multiple matchups keep things fresher. That’s much of reason why I much prefer Kobashi & Shiozaki vs Sasaki & Nakajima from 11/5/05 to the Kobashi vs Sasaki chopfest. That’s much of the reason why I prefer several Misawa vs Kawada tag battles to their 6/3/94 war. It doesn’t apply in all circumstances, and it doesn’t really hold up in the US because hardly any tag matches seem especially important, but I think it’s a lot easier to have a high-end 25 minute-plus tag match than a lengthy high-end singles match.

Which brings me to what I think is one of the more unappreciated reasons for the greatness of All Japan in the 1990s: the use of tag matches to space out epic singles matches. For as great as the wrestlers were, they would have struggled to keep matchups fresh if they had to go at it more than two or three times a year with one another. Misawa vs Kobashi happened four times in 1997, and I’m pretty sure that’s the most for any of the big singles matchups during the decade. What’s more, one of those matches didn’t air.

In addition to spacing out specific individual matchups, it also made it easier to book the Triple Crown. The fewer title defenses were more important, and fewer challengers were needed. Fans were satisfied because the tag main events were so reliably excellent. Consider this: between 1991 and 1995, All Japan ran Budokan Hall 29 times. Of those, 12 were headlined by tag matches. As best I can tell those shows sold out just as easily as ones headlined by Triple Crown encounters. Throw in all of the mid-range shows that sold out with the tag titles on top and they were very important for business, much more so than any tag titles today.

In addition to tag title and ‘dream tag’ matches at important shows, 6-man tags were a staple at Korakuen Hall and elevated the lesser names of the roster at the same time as they built up marquee feuds. For example, a match like Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi from October 1990 established the key players in the two-year feud, continued the Jumbo vs Misawa rivalry from the last two Budokan main events, and stands alone as a great match. Taue, Fuchi & Akiyama vs Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi from January 1993 established Taue as a team leader after Jumbo left the spotlight, it built up the forthcoming Akiyama & Ogawa vs Kobashi & Kikuchi match for the All Asia tag titles, and once again it was a satisfying top match at Korakuen.

Bit players like Fuchi, Kikuchi, Ogawa and a young Akiyama were able to contribute, the stable vs stable feuds developed, big names could add to their storied rivalries without using up ‘A’ material, the fans got tons of enjoyment and Baba could count on steady business numbers. Everybody won. Many federations wish to reclaim the formula that made All Japan so successful. Today’s All Japan lacks the performers, NOAH lacks the alliance and feud continuity, and various independent promotions that want to have epic matches fail to use tags as a foundation. Ring of Honor in particular would benefit in the long run from more tags and 6-mans in order to have less reliance on semi-predictable title matches and ‘dream’ singles encounters. While All Japan’s talent roster was second to none, the booking was every bit as important in producing the all-time classics.

I’m pretty sure I touched on some or most of these points in the past, but I think it’s worth reiterating. A consistently high-end product needs these kind of matches both for content and for continuity. And as usual you can see them, with more added every month, at the All Japan Archive.