The Reality of Wrestling: Simon Inoki Resigns as New Japan President
By Phil Clark
It’s about time
Easily the biggest story to hit the wrestling world this weekend was the resignation of Simon Inoki as President of New Japan Pro Wrestling. With Simon’s departure, all traces of the Inoki family that aren’t owned by Yukes has left New Japan. It is also worth noting that this will be the first time in New Japan’s history that no member of the Inoki family has been in a position of power within the promotion. What happens to Simon and Antonio for that matter is still up for speculation; Inoki has been in the press as of late shouting that he will start his own promotion (we’ve heard that one before) and that New Japan talent may participate. The open spot that Simon has left is also up for grabs, but maybe more importantly, the working agreement between New Japan and TNA is off as All Japan now has a working arrangement with TNA that was made official with The Great MUTA’s appearance on this past Sunday’s Destination X PPV. In Japan, the plot has certainly thickened.
P.C. Says: Chono should become president; All Japan is a better fit with TNA than New Japan
Simon Inoki’s legacy will more than likely read like this when all is said and done: Simon was put in the highest position of power within New Japan and was given the opportunity to make changes for the better and maybe help bring the company back to respectability, but poor choices that hurt the company quickly and good choices that helped the company slowly sealed his fate. There was plenty of bad during Simon’s tenure as NJPW President including the New Japan booking committee, the collapse of business at the Tokyo Dome and Sumo Hall, and most notably, the Brock Lesnar fiasco. It should be noted that Simon’s time as President was not all disastrous; Simon did rehire Riki Choshu as head booker, which has paid off dividends after a slow start. That hire has proven to be one of the better calls anyone in New Japan has made over the past few years, but will be forgotten when all is said and done more so because of the family Simon is in than anything.
With the biggest opening in New Japan, it seems that there are only two candidates for the big job: Masahiro Chono and New Japan’s current Vice-President Naoki Sugabayashi. Normally, the VP would step in and take his rightful place on the throne, but in this case I think Chono is the man for the job. First off, he has been a long suffering booker since the turn of the century as a lot of his moves have been shot down from higher ups (Antonio Inoki being one of them) or have been passed in favor of shootfighters getting pushes or more content related to the shoot craze or Sports Entertainment. Also, Chono had to sit and watch as two of his better booked pushes went up in smoke in the form of Yuji Nagata losing to Cro Cop at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2001 and Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s first title reign ending in his first defense against a wrestler–Shinsuke Nakamura–with only 16 months of experience at the time. And the number one reason that Chono should get the job: because he stayed. Think about this: Mutoh left, Hashimoto left, Choshu left, Sasaki left. Chono is the only member of that old guard who did not leave New Japan at all during his career. Company loyalty like that should mean something. Even if it does mean more Shining Yakuza Kicks in big matches.
The other story to come of this was the proverbial switch in who’s working with TNA as All Japan seems to have taken New Japan’s spot in that arrangement. This is a good thing in my opinion as there are far more positives with All Japan working with TNA than New Japan. First off, Keiji Mutoh brought Sports Entertainment to All Japan and has kept it there since taking over just over four years ago. Since TNA is booked by Vince Russo at the moment, you can make the connection. Not only that, but all the different possibilities are just too tantalizing: The Voodoo Murderers coming in and raising hell (a feud with LAX would be too cool), the return of TAKA Michinoku to American T.V. with a host of possible X-Division dream matches and the possibility of a number of dream matches involving Samoa Joe (Joe/MUTA, Joe/Kojima, possibly Joe/Kea, and of course Joe/Kawada). Of course, of all the dream matches that may happen with Joe, Joe/MUTA is easily the most likely due to several factors including flying talent in and the fact that MUTA is already in America and is staying for a while. New Japan isn’t as much about Sports Entertainment as All Japan is and I would rather not have wanted to see Vince Russo in charge of booking Hiroshi Tanahashi and anyone else that New Japan was intending on sending over. In the case of All Japan’s talent, they simply fit better.
The Reality is…MUTA’s appearance at Destination X is an indication that the new working agreement is official (or should be, you never know). The prospect of seeing MUTA in the six-sided ring for a match is a bit of nostalgia I wouldn’t mind seeing especially with the knowledge that the match itself probably won’t be much outside of nostalgia. The thought of the All Japan wrestlers listed above coming to TNA is an interesting prospect, one that could help spice up the product at a time when it needs it. However with Samoa Joe now fully in the main-event circle and LAX solidified as the dominant tag-team in the promotion, there are good signs. On the flip side, there are also many bad signs as evident with the Last Rites Match at the Destination X PPV and the “Fire Russo” chants couldn’t be more apropos at this time. If a compromise could be made where Mutoh could be in a high position of power in terms of booking the men from his promotion, I see no problem with this working agreement because I trust Mutoh’s knack for Sports Entertainment booking a lot more than I’ll ever trust Russo’s.
This Week’s “FUCK YOU!” goes to:
No, it’s not about anything from the PPV. To be honest, I enjoyed the PPV and found to be solid (with one exception) with a great main-event. What chaps my ass with TNA this week is that they’ve finally broken ties with the NWA citing problems with notifying the NWA about title changes and having to pay fees when they run shows in NWA markets. I’m hoping this is an example of TNA believing they’re bigger than they are and not a financial issue because if it is, look out below. The affiliation with the NWA was something that attracted hardcore wrestling fans to the promotion and was the one thing that kept TNA from becoming what it will be when this becomes official: WCW Part 2. To put it simply, having the NWA World and Tag Titles did mean that TNA didn’t have to start from scratch title-wise when they started as a promotion; they already had something to build off of and use to earn credibility a little easier. I will secede the fact that breaking ties with the NWA won’t change a whole lot in TNA, but it is an opportunity for them to build a lineage for their own major titles. Hopefully, this doesn’t come back to haunt them.
Tags: Puroresu, TNA