Normally thereâ€™s a nice pile of results and happenings to fill up the opening portion of a column, and something in there will be worth expounding on in more detail. Sadly itâ€™s not the case this week, and I neglected to put together the latest interview, so Iâ€™ve cobbled together two new bits oâ€™ content to sate your puroresu needs. Some nuggets from Meltzer and a handful of matches for you to watch, just a click away!
Section 1- Results
New Japan: Goto pinned Nagata in the big 1/30 tag.
NOAH: KENTA retained over Kotaro Suzuki in a match that included fake blood, real blood, interference, ref bumpsâ€¦ and a clean finish? Only in Japan. Also, Yone ended his years-long team with Morishima and linked up with Rikio.
Section 2- News
New Japan: Nagata vs Goto is set for the 15th. Also added is a 4-way tag for the next junior tag title shot. New Japanâ€™s next Sumo Hall show will be April 5th, and that should have the IWGP vs NJ Cup match.
NOAH: Kobashi will return at the March 1st Budokan show. KENTA vs Nakajima on the 11th will be for the junior title.
Section 2a- News via Meltzer
New Japan: The 1/30 show only drew 900, despite the big main event and coming off the dome show. They consider it a disaster. The next night with a lesser main event drew 1600. 30th was a Friday, 31st was a Saturday. Who knows.
NOAH: They’re looking into doing some shows in China to compensate for the downturn they expect after they lose their TV slot. Shiozaki turned down an offer from WWE, something NOAH is playing up. Akiyama is hyping 3/1 by saying that if he doesn’t beat Sasaki he won’t go after the GHC title again. Kobashi said he wants to start in opening matches and work his way up, meaning he’ll likely be in for very little time in short tags until he’s really healed. Won’t do much for business but hopefully they’ll be realistic this time.
Section 3- Economic Shillulus Package
Phil talks Mania.
Section 4- Meltzer Puro Notes part 1
As I mentioned previously, Iâ€™ll be providing more of Big Daveâ€™s proverbial table scraps, with some accompanying commentary from moi. This weekâ€™s batch is from 1988, via. Loss of the ProWrestlingOnly board.
-All Japan and New Japan started getting bumped to late night timeslots early in the year. For New Japan, they had a big riot in late â€™87 surrounding an angle with comedian Beat Takeshi that gave them a black eye. With All Japan there was no particular reason. Inexplicably, both promotions were primarily in said timeslots throughout the next two decades, despite the boom in the mid â€˜90s.
-Inoki drew 34,000 fans over three shows in Italy. New Japan went back in 2005 but with far diminished results and wonâ€™t be returning.
-As New Japanâ€™s junior division really got going in 1988 with the likes of Owen Hart and Hase, TV-Asahi kept them off TV due to fears that juniors would hurt the ratings.
-Bruiser Brodyâ€™s loss to Jumbo Tsuruta on 4/19/88 was Brodyâ€™s first clean loss in Japan since 1980. He died three months later.
-Misawaâ€™s marriage was heavily covered by the press, and All Japan didnâ€™t try to hide him despite the fact that he had been under the Tiger Mask gimmick for years. Thatâ€™s why fans instantly knew who he was when he unmasked two years later.
-Koji Kitao, a big sumo star who left the sport controversially, started training. Meltzer said that he had the potential to be the biggest thing since Rikidozan, but Kitao was lazy and had a big ego. That early assessment turned out to be right on, as Kitaoâ€™s career wound up being full of disappointment and horrible matches.
-The second iteration of shoot-style promotion UWF was very hot despite a tiny roster, selling out shows quickly and making enough with one show a month to support the wrestlers. The popularity was due to Akira Maeda, who really made a name for himself with a shoot kick in Choshu the year before. That incident led to his departure from New Japan and put a crimp in Choshuâ€™s heat.
-There was a lot of lobbying from several promotions to get Bob Backlund to do a match. He was very reluctant but eventually agreed to work in UWF, with good results.
-Fujinami was getting a strong push in large part because he was threatening to leave the company. Inokiâ€™s full-time career was coming to an end, Choshu was weak, and the Mutoh/Chono/Hashimoto generation wasnâ€™t ready yet, so Fujinami had leverage. It helped that Fujinami was able to draw against a still-green Vader.
Section 5- Media Corner
Last year I focused on shilling Kobashi. Now Iâ€™ll do more general hyping, with an eye towards keeping YOU current on the best matches of the day while also rolling out classics. And to make it even better, said classics will primarily be from my new and ever-expanding DVD collection. No more pixellated footage from fuzzy VHS tapes!
Classic greatness: Spotlight on Ohtani.
Shinjiro Ohtani might not be WON Hall of Fame material, but he was still one of the best junior heavyweights Japan had to offer in the glory days of the mid-90s.
Ohtani vs El Samurai, January 21st 1996.
This one is a doozy. Not in the usual juniors division â€œfast pace and spectacular highspotsâ€ way, but rather because of the super-slick and often brilliant submission work. If youâ€™re looking for big dives and suplexes youâ€™ll be disappointed, but if youâ€™re willing to give it a chance Iâ€™m sure the quality will shine through.
Liger vs Ohtani, IWGP junior title, March 17th 1996.
For all intents and purposes this was the Misawa vs Kawada of New Japan juniors. They faced off several times in tags on every tour and always gave their best effort in singles encounters. Ohtani, who debuted many years after Liger, was out to take Ligerâ€™s spot as the ace of the division. Liger, who missed most of 1995 with a leg injury, was early in his title reign and was making some changes to his style now that a lot of high-risk moves had become too risky. Ohtaniâ€™s charisma really shines, and the finish would become a trademark to this day.
Liger vs Ohtani, IWGP junior title, February 9th 1997.
Rematch that works in much the same way, and is widely considered to be even better.
More from 2008
Yuki Ishikawa vs Super Tiger II, Battlarts October 25th.
Battlarts shows take a while to get around because that make their own DVDs and donâ€™t have a TV show, thus my bringing it up three months later. Ishikawa, the leader of the company, takes on the young trainee of the original Tiger Mask. ST2 takes it to Ishikawa from the get-go, touching off a see-saw battle with a boatload of hard shots.
2009 starts off with a bang
Nakamura & Goto vs Misawa & Sugiura, New Japan January 4th.
Even though the January 4th dome show is the â€œWrestlemania of Japanâ€, it doesnâ€™t produce that many notably great matches. Especially since 1997 or so. This is a big exception, as the latest round of New Japan vs NOAH kicks off in grand fashion. It isnâ€™t a sprawling epic, but instead is a tight and heated contest with everyone except Goto really delivering on the big stage. And Goto certainly isnâ€™t bad himself. Misawa dishes out skull-jarring elbows, Sugiura steps up in whatâ€™s probably the biggest match of his career, and Nakamura shows the FIRE that he lacks most of the time. Hopefully we see some more matches stemming from it, though if nothing happens by the March 1st NOAH event Iâ€™m afraid the crossovers might be over already.
Coming soon: A feature-length interview with Mike Modest!
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Tags: KENTA, new japan, njpw, Noah