Puroresu Pulse, issue 122: Kobashi In 7 Easy Steps (part 1)

Section 1- Results

Dragon Gate: CIMA defended the main title against Gamma, Yoshino defended the lightweight title against Dragon Kid, and Arai & Iwasa captured the tag titles from Doi & Yoshino. In addition there has been a massive amount of turmoil in the Muscle Outlaw’z and New Hazard stables, and we should get a lot of turns very soon.

New Japan: Minoru Tanaka & Prince Devitt won the junior tag titles from Taka & Togo on 1/27. Devitt, the first foreigner to join the New Japan dojo in the last decade, has been with the company for two years now and is clearly in it for the long haul. Also on the show, Wataru Inoue defended the junior title against Taguchi.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Minoru Suzuki has decided to move on from the company. Where he’ll call home next is anyone’s guess. Dory Funk Jr’s retirement match is he and Nishimura, who he helped train, against Tenryu & Fuchi. Mutoh & Tanahashi vs Kawada & Kea is also set for Sumo Hall.

Dragon Gate: A 5-on-5 elimination match with MO’z vs NH will happen on 3/7 to sort out the stable instability. Unstable stables, oh the irony. Yoshino has yet another title defense, this time on Sunday against Saito.

New Japan: Both Low Ki and Tomko are out with injuries, though Tomko is well enough to wrestle in TNA (hint hint). Tomko is still scheduled for the tag title match somehow. Minoru & Devitt vs Liger & AKIRA for the junior tag belts has been added to the Sumo Hall card.

NOAH: Kobashi announced that he’s been fully cleared by doctors. That could mean he wrestles the entire March/April tour. In other news, Rikio returns on the 28th, and he and Akiyama will wrestle Hero & Castagnoli on the 3/2 Budokan show. Also added to that card is Marufuji & Sugiura defending the tag titles against the Briscoes.

Section 3- You know what goes here. Don’t lie to yourself.

Phil looks at wrestlers in MMA.

Aaron tears his hair out over TNA.

Jmull is still writing columns.

Section 4- Kenta Kobashi’s Career in 50 matches, part 1 of 7

Whether you’re a puro novice who wants to know what all the hype is about, someone who’s vaguely familiar with him but has some gaps in his chronology, or someone who just wants to watch some quality pro wrestling, this series is for YOU. I selected 50 matches out of countless worthy choices on his resume. They aren’t the best matches that Kobashi was in, but rather are matches that encapsulate his career and contain his best performances.

We start with Kobashi’s formative years. He debuted in early ’88 and despite not having an amateur background he moved up very well. By mid ’92 he was someone who was reliably placed in main events on mid-level shows, he’d held the All Asia tag titles multiple times, and he was not so far off from breaking into the company’s upper tier.

1. Kawada vs Kobashi, July 1st 1989
Importance: Kobashi’s first singles match against Misawa, Kawada or Taue.
Uniqueness: Both of them wrestle a totally different style than they would later. It also has more of a ‘really good midcard singles match’ feel than their later ‘really good main event’ matches.
Why it’s a good match: Kawada didn’t have many chances to show his singles match accumen in the ’80s, and Kobashi was green, so this could have been very dull or sloppy. Instead it’s well-executed and interesting, with a lot more technical wrestling than you’d expect and some nifty spots.

2. Tenryu & Hansen vs Jumbo & Kobashi, July 15th 1989
Importance: Kobashi’s first Korakuen Hall main event.
Uniqueness: It didn’t take long before Kobashi was able to hold his own and outgrow the ‘young lion’ role. This is the main example of young lion Kobashi having to deal with the veritable giants of the company.
Why it’s a good match: Tenryu/Hansen is one of those combinations you just don’t want to be up against, especially when you’re the designated whipping boy. Kobashi is a rookie but shows plenty of fire and looks like the future star he would go on to be.

3. Can-Am Express vs Joe Malenko & Kobashi, October 11th 1989
Importance: Kobashi’s first title match.
Uniqueness: Kobashi teaming with Joe Malenko? Kobashi as a huge underdog going for the gold? Not exactly what we’re used to. Plus he wrestles more like a cruiserweight than a tank.
Why it’s a good match: Here’s something that if it had happened in 1990 would be exponentially more famous. It’s the kind of high-energy highspot-filled bout that gets hyped quickly by the right people (ie. Meltzer), but that’s not to say this is a spotfest. Far from it. It’s high-end tag wrestling with high-end movesets, and it’s still exciting today.

4. Jumbo vs Kobashi, August 31st 1990
Importance: Kobashi’s first singles match against Jumbo Tsuruta, and his highest-profile singles bout yet.
Uniqueness: This was a day before Jumbo vs Misawa II, and you might expect Jumbo to mop the floor with Misawa’s 3rd-in-command. Instead, Kobashi gets in a ton of offense and comes up just short against the man considered to be the ace of the company. Their other two meetings would follow that trend, but this established that Kobashi couldn’t be counted out even against the very best.
Why it’s a good match: Jumbo was so amazing at making young stars look good in the early ’90s, and it’s not hard to make Kobashi look good, so there you are.

5. Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, October 19th 1990
Importance: The first iteration of this match, which would be the defining 3-on-3 matchup for All Japan in the decade.
Uniqueness: Later matches would have a lot of focus on Kawada, Taue and Fuchi, but this has Kobashi as a centerpiece. And not in a very pleasant way.
Why it’s a good match: The 6-man tag has always been important to making up wrestling cards in Japan, as opposed to in the US where it’s almost entirely singles and 2-on-2. It’s not quite like lucha libre where the 6-man can headline supershows, but still, it’s vital. This particular matchup, across its four taped incarnations, is the best there ever was in Japan. Starting here they raised the bar significantly.

6. Kawada vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival ‘92
Importance: Seeds are sown for a rivalry that would develop a year later.
Uniqueness: Kawada and Kobashi, still teammates, really go at it here.
Why it’s a good match: Somehow Kobashi never went at it hot-and-heavy against Jumbo’s crew the way he did with Kawada over the years. Why, I’m not sure, but the intense exchanges bring out the fighting spirit that would turn Kobashi into a headliner. This sort of match puts the ‘gem’ in ‘hidden gem’.

7. Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, May 25th 1992
Importance: The most famous undercard match All Japan had in the ’90s.
Uniqueness: As hot a crowd as you’ll ever see.
Why it’s a good match: Practically flawless. Kobashi is probably in this match the least of anyone, but his role is vital. It’s a must-see match anyway so, um, see it!

Next time: More Kobashi, NJ Sumo Hall fallout, the All Japan Project results, and maybe additional content!