Puroresu Pulse, issue 129: Changes a’plenty

A lot has happened in the last two months. Nothing has the potential long-term impact of the shift by Kensuke Sasaki from All Japan to NOAH.

Section 1- Results

All Japan: On June 28th Suwama beat Nishimura, Suzuki & Kea took the tag belts from Mutoh & Doering, and Hijikata retained over Samurai.

Dragon Gate: Leading up to the Kobe World Hall show… Yoshino, wearing a mask, beat Gamma for the lightweight title. This led to it being vacated again. Saito & Yokosuka retained the tag titles against Dragon Kid & Pac. Shingo, Gamma & Yamato retained the trios titles against Mochizuki, Fujii & Kishiwada. Iwasa, Arai and newcomer (via Big Japan) Shinobu then won the trios titles on 6/28… only to lose it to Gamma, Kanda & Yamato on 7/12. Shingo and BB Hulk fought to a 60 minute draw on 6/29 in what was supposed to be a #1 contenders match, but CIMA vacated the title and thus they had a rematch at Kobe World Hall to decide the new champion.

On July 27th, Shingo beat Hulk to win the title. Afterwards he essentially turned back to being a face. Underneath them, Horiguchi won the lightweight title, Saito & Yokosuka retained the tag titles against NOSAWA & MAZADA, and Gamma/Kanda/Yamato retained the trios titles in a four-way elimination match.

Kensuke Office: The show on June 13th sadly only aired a smallish amount of Sasaki beating Marufuji and KENTA beating Nakajima. Hopefully those will come out on DVD.

New Japan: Wataru Inoue won the juniors tournament, then bizarrely vacated the junior title and became a heavyweight, saying it was too much work for him to stay under the junior weight limit. Yeah. Tiger Mask beat Devitt in the finals of the junior title tournament on 7/8. On the same show Tenzan beat Iizuka to win their feud. Nakanishi went on a bit of a tear, beating Omori, Hirooki Goto and Makabe in order to earm a shot against Mutoh on 7/21. Mutoh won that. Also on 7/21, Minoru & Devitt regained the junior tag titles from Liger & AKIRA, while Makabe & Yano retained the tag titles against Bernard & Rick Fuller. I remember WCW Saturday Night, and I care about Rick Fuller.

NOAH: KENTA & Ishimori retained the junior tag belts against Suzuki & Marvin on 6/1. They then retained in the UK over Danielson & Edwards. Also in the UK, Kanemaru retained over Jay Briscoe. Kotaro Suzuki made a shocking heel turn that led to he and Kanemaru beating KENTA & Ishimori for the junior tag titles on 7/13. Morishima retained over both Sugiura and Rikio, and went to a 30 minute draw in a non-title match vs Sasaki. Akiyama beat Marufuji on 6/1. Kobashi & KENTA vs Sasaki & Nakajima on 6/14 went to a 30 minute draw. In addition to Morishima vs Rikio, the 7/18 Budokan show had Kanemaru retaining against Ishimori and Sasaki beating KENTA.

Zero-One: Nakanishi and Makabe are both in the Fire Festival, with Makabe pretty much sure to go to the finals on Sunday. Makabe already beat Ohtani, while Nakanishi vs Tanaka went to a 30 minute draw. Also, Tanaka beat Sekimoto for the billionth time.

Section 2- News

All Japan: The first defense for Suzuki & Kea will be on Sunday against Suwama & Nishimura. Also on Sunday will be the final of an ongoing junior round-robin tournament. The August 31st Sumo Hall show will have both IWGP and Triple Crown defenses.

Dragon Gate: They will have a show in LA on September 5th, with 14 Dragon Gate wrestlers. Saito & Yokosuka will defend the tag titles against the Jacksons, while Doi, Yoshino & Hulk go after the trios titles. Also there will be Stalker Ichikawa vs Necro Butcher. August will be dominated by a 9 team 2-man tag round-robin tournament, which wraps up on the 28th. Shingo’s first defense will be on the 31st vs Cyber Kong. Unless I’m mistaken, they will eventually wind up as only having done one defense of the main title in Tokyo over the course of an entire year. Their relative strength in several areas of Japan is quite important, and it sets them apart from indy promotions.

New Japan: Lots of talent in the G-1. Block A has Tanahashi, Kojima, Ohtani, Makabe, Bernard, Nakanishi and Wataru Inoue. Block B has Kawada, Nakamura, Nagata, Tenzan, Yoshie, Hirooki Goto and Yano. No Chono, which since he’s wrestling on the tour says a lot about his career status. 8/15 will have Angle & Chono vs Ohtani & Styles, 8/16 will have Angle & Nakamura vs Tanahashi & Styles and a junior tag title rematch of Minoru & Devitt vs Liger & AKIRA. 8/17 will have a slate of round-robin matches and one final match.

NOAH: The September 6th Budokan show will be headlined by Morishima defending against Sasaki. There will also be the finals of this year’s junior tag tournament, which features Kanemaru & Suzuki, the Briscoes, KENTA & Ishimori, Danielso & Richards, and Nakajima & Ibushi.

Section 3- Pulsewrestling dot com? How long was I gone?!

Oh Disco Inferno, where did you go wrong? It seems only yesterday you were hitting Nakanishi with a giant disco ball.

Phil Clark and Some Other Guy talk about stuff. I dunno, it’s 4 weeks old.

Check out my forum if you haven’t yet.

Section 4- About the last two months…

June 9th, 2008, a day that shall live in infamy (if only to me). The fine people at Hostgator decided to pull the rug out from under my puro network, and the latest move forced quite a lot of change. Just as things seemed to be settled down, last week my new host moved and my sites didn’t transfer smoothly. That was finally ironed out yesterday. With all the hassle involved in managing 200GB worth of media, I didn’t have much time to write a column. Also, I didn’t want to come back until I knew for certain that the sites would be available in working order. They’re back, I’m back. Oh, and speaking of the sites, I’m now doing my own DVD rips so there’s more reason than ever to go! All Japan! NOAH! Everything else!

I’ll get back to Kobashi next time, and provide a quick-and-dirty link roundup since a lot of the links no longer work.

Section 5- Kensuke Office on the move

Some time over the last few months, Kensuke Sasaki switched from being primarily oriented around All Japan to entering the orbit of NOAH. He was on the full All Japan tour in April, and he and Nakajima look to wrestle there sporadically in the future, but going forward the main place where Sasaki, Nakajima and the Kensuke Office young lions appear the most will be NOAH.

Granted, Sasaki’s drawing power has diminished greatly since he cut the mullet. Granted, he’s still a freelancer. Granted, he has by now matched up against NOAH’s big guns in high-profile matches. Granted, he and Kobashi do mostly the same things in a match. The fact remains that Sasaki is the biggest name to become a regular in NOAH since… well since NOAH started. Whether or not Sasaki wins the GHC title he provides a much-needed dose of freshness to the promotion, as does Nakajima. There are still plenty of untapped dream matches to be done with both of them, be it singles or tag, and hopefully the title scenes will no longer require quite so many questionable challengers.

The Kensuke Office dojo is another interesting aspect. Right now they’re only a little while in, and they’ve had the horrific luck of two career-ending injuries in the last two years, but it is certainly another source for a potential big star to come up. NOAH needs all the young talent it can get. That said, I wouldn’t count the dojo or Kensuke himself as anything more than a short-term patch.
NOAH has yet to get one of its younger generation to a point where they can consistently (or ever in most cases) draw a legit 10,000 on their own. I like Morishima just fine but his match with Rikio was far from filling the Budokan and that’s a matchup they’re counting on for at least another decade. Sasaki will do better than Misawa, Akiyama or Taue at making the youngsters look big-time, but his rub doesn’t mean nearly what it used to.

The move is a limited positive for NOAH, but a big blow to All Japan. Nakajima looked to be one of the centerpieces of their junior division, and now will have to be replaced by the still-unproven Hijikata. Sasaki was one of the central talents in the last five Champion Carnivals, including two finals, and just came off an 8 month reign with the Triple Crown. Switching out Sasaki in main events with Nishimura isn’t going to cut it, not by a long shot. That means even more pressure on Suwama to perform. Rikio’s GHC reign flop hurt NOAH a lot, and Suwama is in the same situation with a company that has a smaller margin of error. And no offense to the dozens of remaining All Japan stalwarts out there but Suwama isn’t as good as Rikio.

Next Time: G-1! Kobashi Part 5! Be here!

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