Section 1- Results
All Japan: The May 30th event had Takayama and Hayashi retain over Suzuki and Hijikata, respectively.
Dragon Gate: By far the most stuff of any promotion over this span. The 5/24 event had Shingo over Yamato after yet more Real Hazard bickering, and Warriors 5 retaining the trios titles over World-1 in controversial fashion. 5/29 featured Yoshino over Gamma for a title shot, and Kanda trying but failing to oust Yamato as RH leader. On the 31st, CIMA retained over Tozawa. On Sunday, Yoshino, Hulk & Pac won the trios titles in a rematch from 5/24. Saito & Horiguchi retained the 2-man tag titles over Shingo & Dragon Kid. And last but not least, Thursdayâ€™s Doi vs Yoshino title bout ended with Doi on top. Also, CIMA & Gamma beat Saito & Horiguchi in a non-title match, so that would seem to set up a title shot.
New Japan: With two round-robin shows left to go in Best of the Super Juniors, only two notables are out of contention: Black Tiger (Takaiwa), who is 0-5 so far, and Yamato, who at least got wins over Liger and Kanemot.
NOAH: KENTA retained over Marvin on the 4th.
Section 2- News
All Japan: Two title matches are set for July 5th: Hayashi vs MAZADA, and Kea & Suzuki vs Mutoh & Kono.
Dragon Gate: The Real Hazard/Yamato situation was put on hold during Yamatoâ€™s tour of New Japan. It should wrap up by monthâ€™s end. CIMAâ€™s next title defense will be on the 21st vs Arai.
Section 2a- News via Meltzer
All Japan: Takayama vs Suzuki drew 3350, not so hot given the size of the venue, but not a shock either considering that there wasnâ€™t a feud there. I donâ€™t understand why Suzuki won the Champions Carnival. Heck, they had a singles match just last year with Suzuki winning, thatâ€™s enough backstory for a title match.
Misc: WWE is doing a Japanese tryout in July.
Inoki ‘discovered’ MMA superstar Lyoto Machida in Brazil. This was pushed as a repeat of when Rikidozan discovered Inoki (a track star) in Brazil and brought him to Japan to train in wrestling. Machida was supposed to get some MMA wins and then become NJ’s ace. However his MMA debut at the May ’03 dome show was boring, with Machida taking no chances and just grinding it out. Afterwards Inoki punched him for not looking like a star. To this day Machida isn’t a big star in Japan because he made such a bad first impression. Despite win after win, he only started looking like a world-class fighter in the US.
New Japan: TenKoji might be done. Meltzer says that he has a sense from the TNA end that the Dudleys won’t be losing on their next Japan trip, which is later this month. Thus, NJ is having Bernard & Anderson get the shot so they donâ€™t have to feed yet another Japanese team to the Dudleys.
NOAH: Junior tag league returns in July, so there might not be a GHC title defense at the JCB Hall show.
Section 3- The Hard Luck Shillers
Phil looks at HD Net.
John looks at a banged-up ROH.
Section 4- Media Corner
Tanahashi vs Nakanishi, New Japan May 6th.
I clipped it down to the last 3rd or so, because thatâ€™s the juicy part. Power versus technique.
Sasaki & Morishima vs Misawa & Shiozaki, NOAH May 6th.
Drags in parts, but thereâ€™s a lot of stiff shots and a great finishing stretch.
Akiyama vs KENTA, NOAH May 17th.
I much prefer KENTA doing â€˜heavyweightâ€™ wrestling, with more of a focus on strike exchanges and transitions. They even struggle for control like it was 1990s All Japan or something.
Shiozaki vs Chris Hero, NOAH June 4th.
I clipped this to the last 3rd as well. Hero finally BRINGS IT in Japan and the crowd shows its appreciation.
Section 5- Grab Bag 2
If Iâ€™d done this column last week, this would have been the lead. Now, however, enough details have come out that the situation is very murky. Iâ€™ll do what I can to stick to the facts.
Nine years ago, a monkey named Cora was bought by CIMA to be a pet at the Toryumon gym. Cora was kept through the transition to Dragon Gate. At some point she suffered abuse, and young wrestler RYOMA started a blog writing from Coraâ€™s POV about the abuse. It is hard to tell what allegations were real and what werenâ€™t, and who did what. A yet-to-debut trainee was apparently the worst, and RYOMA looks to have participated as well. The trainee is unlikely to be heard from again, and RYOMA has been suspended indefinitely.
Cora was kept in sub-standard conditions, with the excuse being that they were ignorant to regulations for keeping monkeys. She is now living in a properly sized cage at the home of CIMAâ€™s parents. Dragon Gate has promised to post updates and pictures of her in the future.
The story broke in Japanese blogs based on the fake one RYOMA wrote. The backlash grew quickly, and while Iâ€™m not sure it made a splash in the mainstream Japanese press it did get to the point where Dragon Gate scrambled to take action. There was even pressure exerted by deathmatch icon Matsunaga, which is about as random a thing as can be imagined in an already baffling story.
Bottom line: MONKEYS SHOULDNâ€™T BE PETS..
More 25 year old tidbits that are still interesting
Credit to Cross Face Chicken Wing at Pro Wrestling Only. These come from Meltzer in late â€™84 and early â€™85, a period of great instability in Japan.
-Inoki flew several wrestlers to an island after a tour just to make sure Baba didn’t get to them, due to all the recent defections (UWF, Choshuâ€™s crew).
-UWF president Irata was arrested, along with a member of the yakuza, for threatening Tiger Mask’s former manager Sogawa. They wanted complete control over Sayama and threatened Sogawa prior to UWF’s first show. The scandal killed UWFâ€™s chance at a TV deal and is the reason that the promotion closed so quickly.
Comment: every time I think Iâ€™ve seen the last important piece of news relative to the UWF/New Japan splits something else comes along that if it happened in the US would be a gigantic, universally-known incident.
-Inoki vs Bad News Brown drew the largest crowd of 1984, when 45,000 watched them in Islamabad, Pakistan.
-Meltzer took a vacation in Japan in late ’84. He mentioned how AJ, NJ and UWF were the best in the world, which was controversial at the time since very little Japanese footage had made it to the US. Dave called the reaction for Choshu’s debut in All Japan louder than that of anyone in the US in years. He had a hard time watching UWF’s stiffness.
-UWF got $160,000 from a New Japan sponsor, then walked away from a meeting where they would discuss rejoining NJ. The sponsor demanded the money back, but UWF only had 48k left after quickly covering debuts. “Group should last through the summer with a new sponsor” said Meltzer, which was accurate. The wrestlers said they’ll retire rather than return to traditional style, and while in the end most returned to New Japan they were allowed to do lots of UWF vs UWF matches and keep their style when wrestling New Japan guys.
-There was a bit of a scrum between AJ, NJ and WWF over the British Bulldogs. He Bulldogs felt underpaid and that they’d done all they could in NJ. AJ offered 30-40% more per week. Meanwhile, the Road Warriors were getting $10,000 a week each right from the start! And themâ€™s 1984 dollars!
-NJ wanted to give King Kong Bundy a big push but were hugely disappointed in his ability.
-A scheduled Inoki vs Hogan match was nixed because their last match caused a riot. Itâ€™s weird to think of Hulk Hogan matches getting that kind of reaction.
I sent a second batch of questions to Ishikawa a while back. He responded to the questions, but not the â€œwhat do you think of (wrestler name)â€ list. I have a feeling he wonâ€™t, so this is likely the end of what Iâ€™ll ask him unless something specific comes up.
Iâ€™ve edited his responses for the sake of grammar.
Q: What happened in late 2001 to make Battlarts stop having shows?
A: Simple, the events showed a big loss and it was very difficult to keep going.
The promotion very abruptly came to a stop in late â€™01, despite no particular slump in attendance or a big money-losing show. Lukie, the Aussie guru of all things Battlarts, said that a lot of the office management left, but that the losses should have been bearable if they kept going. Since 2001 the shows have been much smaller and more sporadic, and from what I can tell, entirely on Ishikawaâ€™s dime.
Q: On April 10th, 1999, you had a match at Tokyo Dome (a New Japan show). Kazuyuki Fujita did a very hard throw and you landed on your heard. Were you hurt?
A: No, nothing. I was surprised but it was no problem.
Ishikawa not being injured does fit with his schedule immediately after the match. However, watching the move makes one wonder just what heâ€™s made of that there wasnâ€™t upwards of seventy broken bones:
Q: There are many wrestlers you havenâ€™t gotten to face. Who would you most like to?
A: I donâ€™t have an interest about that.
As with the question about other promotions, it would seem Ishikawa really doesnâ€™t care.
Q: What was your biggest match?
A: November 23rd, 1998 at Sumo Hall.
This would be the biggest Battlarts event, which had the semifinals and finals of a tournament. The main event was Ishikawa defeating Bob Backlund. It only drew a half house, but hey, thatâ€™s what New Japan does nowadays.
Q: What is your favorite match?
A: May 27th, 1998 at Korakuen Hall versus Ikeda.
Q: Are your restaurants doing well?
The answer to this one was hard to follow, so Iâ€™m not going to try a straight â€˜grammarâ€™ translation. It looks like one was sold, one was closed, and one is still open and remains his day job.
Q: What is your goal for Battlarts?
A: Battlarts is my goal.
Matt seems to think that means he just wants to do shows as they are, rather than worrying about growing. Considering that they would be hard-pressed to get a sponsor or a TV slot, anything more than they currently do would mean Ishikawa going into debt. Heâ€™s smart not to.
My thanks to Yuki Ishikawa for his answers, and as usual, Matt of Zero-One USA.
Next Time: Another grab bag? A full interview? Will I finally turn heel? Or have I been a heel the whole timeâ€¦