Spotlight on Japan

Hi, my name is Jake Mulligan, and I am the new Inside Pulse writer, on the subject of puroresu (Japanese Wrestling). You may know me as JMULL, which I post as on about 80 different internet wrestling message boards. Now, as you may know David Ditch, an absolute expert on the subject, does write columns here on the subject. However, David’s writing is pretty inclined to the hardcore’s, and he writes about once a month. My goal with this column is to write about all companies in Japan, but still make it easily accessible to someone whose only exposure may be an ROH match or two, or perhaps even less. It won’t be introductory, but if you know a slight amount, I hope you will be able to get by reading this whole column. So with that done, let’s get on to the first subject of the day!

PRO-WRESTLING NOAH: KOBASHI TIME!

It is, in fact, Kobashi time for Pro-Wrestling NOAH, perhaps the most recognizable brand of puroresu for American fans due to their working agreements with ROH and TNA. Kenta Kobashi made his long awaited return to the ring on the 12.2.07 NOAH show in front of a raving, sold-out Budokan Hall crowd. He then, along with Yoshihiro Takayama, Jun Akiyama, and GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa, put on one of the most emotional pro-wrestling matches you could ever hope to see. Many have state that with Misawa’s uninspired title reign and NOAH’s very simple booking, they were simply waiting for Kobashi’s return to amp things up. And that very well may be true, as the entire show for his comeback was incredible, and ranks with the very best shows of the year. But with Kobashi back, they have many, many new matches to build to. Kobashi against Morishima is the ultimate first time dream match right now, and in my opinion the last one we will see. Kobashi can also have rematches of his great 2006 matches with KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji. Then, of course, there are the long awaited matches with Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama, rematches of the Wrestling Observer’s 2003 and 2004 Matches of the Year. So, we will see where NOAH goes with Kobashi, where and how he gets his first win, how many dates per tour (the answer for the January tour is 4, including the two televised shows), and if and when he gets the GHC Title. Lot of questions, and a lot of opportunities for Pro-Wrestling NOAH.

But, there is another big story for NOAH. On the Kobashi comeback show, former ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima defeated Naomichi Marufuji in a great, great matchup. He proceeded to challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Title, calling out Mitsuharu Misawa. The challenge was answered, and the match will go down in early March, at NOAH’s next show at Budokan Hall. Misawa defeated Morishima in his first defense of this reign, way back in January of this year. They also had a classic match back in 2006. Both times, the result was the same: Misawa defeated Morishima after a elbow strike to the head. But, in Morishima’s rematch, I see a different outcome. I feel that Morishima will defeat Misawa and bring the gold home. While he will be in ROH in 2008, his schedule will be drawn back, and he will probably be full time for NOAH. This would also free up Misawa for a non-title match with Kobashi, since it really doesn’t need the belt on the line. Finally, Morishima can have his defenses against the likes of KENTA, Marufuji, perhaps Rikioh, the young guard, and Kobashi matches on the undercard will help him draw and make him more popular. And once Kobashi finally runs the gauntlet, and feels up to it, you have the dream match and perhaps give the belt to Kobashi, or give Morishima the ultimate win. It’s a no lose in my opinion, and that’s why I feel a NEW GHC Heavyweight Champion is coming up in the next defense.

There’s one more thing I wanted to talk about on the NOAH end of the spectrum. At the end of the month, NOAH’s sister promotion, SEM, will run their annual Christmas show. SEM is basically run by the young guard, with the top stars being Morishima, KENTA, and Marufuji. But this time, some legends will be making the trek, for a series against the young boys (rookies/students) of NOAH. Along with some other “rookie vs. star” matches featuring GHC Junior Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Mohammed Yone, the series will feature Tsutomu Hirayanagi against Akira Taue, Ippei Ota against Mitsuharu Misawa, and finally, the top of the class, Atsushi Aoki, against Jun Akiyama. Expect all the young boys to be thoroughly killed, but these will be some extremely fun matches and surely a great show. Because if these don’t do it… the main event will. KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji will team up for the first time since September 2006 against Takeshi Morishima and Go Shiozaki, whom you may know from his classic match with Bryan Danielson at the ROH in Japan show in July. Shiozaki, also, will spend a good amount of time in ROH next year. This match has some great rivalries intertwined in it, as KENTA and Morishima have a long standing grudge, and are two men who NEVER team up, a rarity in NOAH. Also, Marufuji and Morishima have developed a beef of sorts since their tournament final in September, which Marufuji won with his big match finisher, the Pole Shift. Also, this match could be Go’s way of standing up to the ROH regulars, and showing that his time is now. It has a 60 minute time limit, and while some predicted a draw, I feel that after an amazing show of fighting spirit, Go will fall to KENTA’s go 2 sleep. This is definatly a match to look forward to. And on that note, let’s move on to…

NEW JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING: TNA…SERIOUSLY???

New Japan is gearing up for their annual show in the Tokyo Dome, and while last year, All Japan invaded, this year is certain to be a bit more… illogical. TNA will do a collective run-in on the show, with matches against all ends of the New Japan card. The card, full and complete in order is below, thanks be to Strong Style Spirit:

NJPW “WRESTLE KINGDOM II IN TOKYO DOME”, 1/4/08 (WPW/PPV)
Tokyo Dome

1. THIS IS WAR! ~NONSTOP RISING~: Milano Collection AT, Minoru & Prince Devitt vs. Christian Cage, AJ Styles & Petey Williams
2. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Wataru Inoue (c) vs. Christopher Daniels
3. Japanese Muscle Monster vs. The American Monster: Manabu Nakanishi vs. Abyss
4. NEW JAPAN vs. The Alliance GROUND ZERO: Takashi Iizuka, Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Masato Tanaka, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Yutaka Yoshie & Katsushi Takemura
5. GET THE TABLE! GET THE HIGHEST! – Hardcore Match: Togi Makabe & Toru Yano vs. “Team 3D” Brother Ray & Brother Devon
6. ONE NIGHT STAND ~LEGEND vs. VBH~: Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono, Super Strong Machine, Jushin Thunder Liger & AKIRA vs. Jado, Gedo, TARU, Shuji Kondo & “brother” YASSHI
7. Generation of Chaos: Hirooki Goto vs. Great Muta
8. IWGP Tag Team Title: Giant Bernard & Travis Tomko (c) vs. Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner
9. Final Resolution~REAL vs. Justice~IWGP 3rd Belt: Kurt Angle (c) vs. Yuji Nagata
10. IWGP Heavyweight Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

As you can see, there is major TNA influence, with the main end being Kurt Angle defending his “fake” IWGP title, which he won from Brock Lesnar (who himself basically stole the belt), against Yuji Nagata, who just lost the real deal to Hiroshi Tanahashi in October. Also, the Steiner Brothers will challenge Japan’s most dominant tag team, Giant Bernard (Albert) and Tomko. For those who haven’t seen their matches, they are both quite skilled, and Bernard had one of 2006’s greatest matches against Yuji Nagata, so if the Steiners can keep up, we could be looking at a real fun match. Abyss and Christopher Daniels also have singles matches on the card with New Japan talent, and Team 3D will face Tokyo Sports 2007 Tag Team of the Year in a Hardcore Rules match. This show looks great to me, and I will be sure to do a full preview as we get closer to the show date.

DRAGON GATE: KING OF GATE ENDS IN CONTROVERSY, BALLSHOTS

Dragon Gate’s King of Gate tournament, the annual 16-man run to determine the #1 singles wrestler has ended, and it wasn’t pretty. But to get to that point, let’s run through the whole tournament with some results and analysis. In round one, Dragon Kid got a huge upset over Shingo Takagi, establishing himself as a force in this tournament by beating New Hazard’s #1 (NH is Shingo’s stable, consisting of BxB Hulk, Cyber Kong, YAMATO, and new entry Shinobu). On the same night, Susumu Yokosuka bested Masato Yoshino, and then challenged him for his Brave Gate (lightweight) title. The challenge has been accepted and the match is set for 12/23. Gamma, the most hated man in Dragon Gate and the self-proclaimed “ace”, defeated pretty-boy Anthony W. Mori, and BxB Hulk avenged his broken jaw by defeating Ryo Saito. The next night, in Korakuen Hall, ROH representative Austin Aries defeated main eventer Naruki Doi in a big match, and in a legitimate Dragon Gate dream matchup CIMA defeated longtime partner Don Fujii. In the final night of round one, Cyber Kong defeated Tozawa-juku’s lone representative, Keni’chiro Arai, and Masaaki Mochizuki defeated former friend and new Muscle Outlaw’z member, Yasushi Kanda. And so, the stage for the quarterfinals was set.

In the quarterfinals, Dragon Kid scored another upset over longtime rival and friend Susumu Yokosuka, by countering Susumu’s counter, the World Liner. Also, with his patented powder attack and small package, Gamma defeated BxB Hulk. At the next show, Mochizuki backed up a lot of talk by defeating Cyber Kong, and CIMA put down Austin Aries with his Crossfire Bomb. In the semi-finals, taking place on the last night of the tour, Gamma defeated the Cinderella Story, pinning Dragon Kid in 4 minutes. CIMA then avenged his 2004 Dream Gate (heavyweight), defeating Mochizuki. This set the stage for a CIMA vs. Gamma final, which has been building since early 2006. In the finals, Gamma won by ref stoppage, when he kicked CIMA so hard in the balls that he could not continue. While Gamma won the tournament, the true story of the tourney, Dragon Kid, came out and challenged him to a re-match, which he won in an impromptu main event. Dragon Gate has promised a CIMA vs. Gamma rematch, but I imagine all roads will lead to CIMA vs. Gamma for CIMA’s Dream Gate title on PPV, most likely in late March.

BACK HOME

I will be making the trek to ROH’s 12/29 and 12/30 shows in the Manhattan Center, and to be honest I’m quite excited. Gabe Sapolsky, the booker, recently promised “two blow-away shows”, so we will see. I imagine Nigel vs. Aries will be quite the spectacle with both men throwing out all they have. I also believe that 12/30’s four way main event will come down to Nigel vs. Hero, with Nigel tapping Hero out. And for one last prediction, I believe we will see Aries vs. Marufuji added to 12/30 at the last minute.

I am also excited for PWG’s All-Star Weekend 6, though I won’t be at that. TARO is making a one night return to face Super Dragon, which should be really cool for long time SoCal indy fans. Also, Dragon Gate stars CIMA, Susumu Yokosuka, Naruki Doi, and Masato Yoshino are going, and have been booked in some interesting matches, such as Susumu’s matches with Super Dragon (night one) and El Generico (night two). Unfortunately they did not book Doi/Yoshino vs. Jacobs/Black, but you can’t win them all. So I suggest that if you are in the area, you should definatly check these shows out.

And with that, I will sign off. Thanks to jae, of DGUSA, Stuart of Strong Style Symphony, the NOAH USA website, David Ditch, KrisZ, and others for providing the info needed to complete this column. I will be back next week with a preview of NOAH’s Christmas shows and predictions, more on New Japan, and a match review. For questions, comments, or suggestions, contact me at jmull911@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading, and always expand your wrestling horizons: try some puro!

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