Puroresu Pulse, issue 144: A few Questions with Yuki Ishikawa

He’s pudgy. He’s got bad hair. He will punch you directly in the face and not blink if you do likewise. He runs a promotion called Battlarts that was a proverbial mine of hidden gems in 2008, and a decade ago was doing quite well for itself. Call him fake at your own peril.

Oh and NOAH had what might be its final successful Budokan Hall show. You might be interested in that as well.

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Suwama & Kondo won the tag title contendership, while Suzuki & NOSAWA retained the All asia belts.

Dragon Gate: Gamma & Yokosuka won the tag titles, following a face turn by Kagetora of Real Hazard. More below.

New Japan: Round 1 of the NJ Cup included Nakamura over Makabe and Yoshie over Nakanishi. They did reasonably well at big Aichi Prefectural Gym.

NOAH: Shiozaki & Sugiura beat Nakamura & Milano, KENTA retained the junior title from Nakajima, and Akiyama wrested the GHC title from Sasaki.

Section 2- News

Dragon Gate: CIMA is back full-time, and he’s started a stable called Warriors 5. Gamma, Yokosuka and Kagetora are the other members, with #5 to come on the 20th. The Sumo Hall card has been rounded out. Mochizuki’s crew will take on the Kensuke Office juniors (building towards Mochizuki vs Nakajima); CIMA will challenge Yoshino for the lightweight title; Saito & Horiguchi challenge Gamma & Yokosuka; Kamikaze will defend the trios titles in a 3-way against Real Hazard and World-1. A very strong card for the company’s biggest test to date. Dragon Gate has secured some airtime on TV Tokyo as part of the show, though almost certainly just one show.

NOAH: This year’s tag league participants were announced. Not only is the field quite weak, it also lacks Sasaki & Nakajima. This, along with the Budokan results, have led to speculation that the NOAH/Kensuke Office relationship might be coming to an end. There are still some collaborations between the group this month, but there’s nothing announced from the start of the tour (4/11) on. Also, the Budokan show looks to be headlined by the tag league, so no Akiyama title defense on this tour; could be a VERY bad attendance number. Zach Arnold reports that Doug Williams, a semi-regular for NOAH, is one of several gaijin that will no longer be used due to budget cuts.

Section 2a- Meltzer news

NOAH: They drew 14,200 for the Budokan show, its best showing since the December ’07 Kobashi return. Some New Japan fans came for the NJ vs NOAH tag, helping the draw. NOAH’s deal with TV Osaka is more focused on showing wrestlers in their daily life rather than events, so it won’t help out with things like arena costs. NOAH will stick with Budokan shows until they lose money.

Misc: There’s a ton of stuff in the March 9th WON about the beginning of wrestling in Japan, and wrestling related to NTV (AJ/NOAH). Great stuff as only Big Dave can deliver. Go buy a subscription! One thing I’ll note from it: in 1999 Misawa and NTV came to an agreement about NTV jumping with Misawa to start a new promotion (NOAH). They held off on the All Japan split until over a year after Baba’s death, and on top of that NTV didn’t air NOAH until February ’01 (not April ’01 which is what Meltzer said). This was all done to avoid looking like they were unfair to the widowed Mokoto Baba. Mokoto jumped right into a prominent role after Giant Baba passed away, and she immediately made enemies.

Section 3- 144th issue shilltacular

PC and KW take on NJ and TNA. I sent in my take but it wasn’t nearly as long so I guess Phil decided not to use it or something.

Section 4- Media Corner

2009.

Kobashi vs Masao Inoue, NOAH March 1st.

Not “30 minute head drop epic”, but “Masao Inoue stooges and sells like crazy”.

Shiozaki & Sugiura vs Nakamura & Milano Collection AT, NOAH March 1st.

A very worthy sequel to the January 4th tag. I had been very concerned about Milano being in a heavyweight-style battle after his thus-far lackluster stay in New Japan. Those concerns were misplaced, and Milano really brought the goods. Nakamura vs Sugiura resumed with a vengeance. Shiozaki looked like he belonged in the big-time. Let’s all hope NOAH vs New Japan continues.

Section 5- Mr. Battlarts

Last time I had an interview with a Japanese promoter, with a big assist from Matt of Zero-One USA for the hook-up and answer editing. This time it’s a completely different Japanese promoter… with Matt doing the hook-up and answer editing. But he’s not doing all the work! The text doesn’t copy and paste itself y’know.

Battlarts is a unique breed known for some of the stiffest matches in the world. Their main run, from 1996 through 2001, would see them mostly do small shows of under 1000 (or even 500), but on occasion muster up big events at places like Sumo Hall. Over the years they’ve worked with a plethora of promotions, and they’re responsible for talents like Mohammed Yone and Ikuto Hidaka. In late 2001 they collapsed due to financial backers pulling support, and since then they’ve been pretty much an indy. Ishikawa currently divides his time between Battlarts, training wrestlers, restauranteuring, and occasional appearances at promotions like Zero-One and Satoru Sayama’s Real Japan.

Yuki Ishikawa came up in Fujiwara Gumi, which was short-lived but quite successful and responsible for a number of talents. That promotion lost some of its talent in the creation of Pancrase, and the rest later went to Battlarts. Ishikawa was trained by Fujiwara and as a result has plenty of technical skill and toughness. Oh, and his ability to answer questions in English is better than Jimmy Yang’s. That’s right, he’s exchanging emails with me in English. As with the Takagi Q&A my thoughts and explanations are in italics.

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Q: Are there any wrestlers from the Showa era that you are a fan of?

A: I was training at a shoot fighting gym under the 1st Tiger Mask. I was also a fan of Tiger Mask (Mr. Sayama) and I liked Stan Hansen and Roland Bock.

Bock was a German who had his peak in the ‘70s. Ishikawa was also influenced heavily by Inoki. My initial question, on Inoki, was misunderstood.

Q: Were you happy to be in the first Inoki Genome Federation match?

A: Of course, it was a pleasure. However, maybe Inoki didn’t get to see my match. He was very busy backstage and preparing to appear for the show opening.

Ishikawa wrestled his trainee Sawa in a ‘dark’ match on the first IGF show. He has since wrestled on the main card of two more IGF shows.

Q: What was it like learning from Fujiwara?

A: Training in detail on all submission holds. (No, he didn’t teach us, we stole his techniques; that is Japanese style).

Fujiwara is one of the great repositories of submission wrestling knowledge. Thankfully he trained many wrestlers and still does seminars. Ishikawa assisted him in a recent session.

Q: Why do you and Ikeda hit each other harder than any other wrestlers hit each other?

A: Because we are not hitting each other, we are hitting the fucking stupid people in the world who think that pro-wrestling is fake like a trained monkey show. They say that pro wrestling kicks are fake so it is not painful. etc. Once they see our fight, they have nothing to say. They watch our fight like a fool with their mouth open with surprise. So our violent fight is not only for our opponents but for the fucking people that make light of BATTLARTS. Our fight is anger towards people who make light of us.

Here is their most recent singles match, from Ikeda’s similar Futen promotion. It speaks for itself.

Q: Why are Battlarts and Futen not working together now?

A: Because it is like a marathon, and if we run side-by-side forever it will not create anything new, you know. So right now we have to run alone.

Ishikawa and Ikeda have been the pillars of Battlarts, and Battlarts wrestlers were crucial in Futen. The companies stopped working together at some point last year, and it isn’t clear if they will cooperate again in the future.

Q: Right now business is bad for professional wrestling in Japan. The economy is in recession. What do you think wrestling companies can do?

A: I don’t care about the pro wrestling business, I just think about BATTLARTS and myself.

Deep down that’s what every promoter thinks, he’s just honest enough to say it.

Q: Why did Battlarts start to have shows on DVD starting with February 25, 2007?

A: We found a good conection to a DVD producer at that time.

After Battlarts closed in 2001, the overwhelming majority of shows weren’t taped. Now they’re all filmed for DVDs.

Q: Are you happy with how the DVDs have been selling?

A: Yes, I hope many people find out and see BATTLARTS fight all over the world.

The DVDs are sold in Japan for 2000 yen (~$20 US), which is almost half what most DVDs sell for. As a result they sell like hotcakes at shows, and hopefully they can find a way to distribute overseas.

Q: There was an elimination match on July 26, 2008, ending in a 45 minute draw. Did it seem special to you?

A: Yes.it was great match, and we had great time. It was a tough match like our original BATTLARTS fights. Veterans (Ishikawa, Ikeda, Otsuka, Usuda) mixed with the young generation (Super Tiger 2, Sawa). I loved that fight.

I didn’t hype this match because there were a couple things that didn’t click with me, but fans of the original Battlarts years have raved and many have dubbed it Japan’s MOTY if not the world’s. The end of the match was Ishikawa and Ikeda raining hell on each other.

Q: Americans have also really liked the match of you and Yoshikawa versus Hidaka and Sawa. Are you happy with that match?

A: Yes. Of course I liked it, but I like the July 26, 2008 fight better. Many people say this match (with Hidaka and Yoshikawa) is better. However it was too smart for me, because I like a crazy tough fight.

The match I’m referring to took place on August 31st, and it was my second favorite match from Japan in 2008. This and the July 26th match are likely to finish in the top ten in the big Death Valley Driver puro vote that wraps up this weekend, which thoroughly scoured Japan’s best. The August 31st match is a combination of junior heavyweight and Battlarts styles, so it’s very hard-hitting and athletic, but not as pure of a Battlarts match as Ishikawa prefers. I’m not sure if “smart” refers to the match appealing to “smart marks”, or if it refers to the match having complex sequences. Either way I just love the answer.

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I sent Ishikawa some more questions just before sending in the column. Hopefully the answers will come in time for the next issue. My thanks to Ishikawa, and to Matt for his continued help!

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