Puroresu Pulse, issue 152: More Misawa

Columns, Features

Puroresu Pulse, issue 152: More Misawa

Section 1- Results

Dragon Gate: Doi beat CIMA to become the dual singles champion. Saito & Horuguchi, and Yoshino/Hulk/Pac both retained their respective tag titles. Akebono, Mochizuki & Fujii won the trios title contendership.

New Japan: Tanahashi downed Sugiura to retain the IWGP title. Tiger Mask held off Kanemoto, and Taguchi & Devitt were also successful. Tenzan beat Iizuka.

NOAH: The biggest result in the junior tag league so far is Aoki making KENTA tap to a cross-armbreaker.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Their junior singles league will wrap up on 8/7 at Korakuen, with Takayama & Suzuki vs Mutoh & Suwama underneath.

DDT: Their Sumo Hall card is now pretty much complete and it’s… not so great. Main event is HARASHIMA vs Ibushi, with Chono vs Poison Sawada JULIE and Takagi vs Sasuke underneath. Sanshiro is really rolling the dice.

HUSTLE: Takada’s retirement match will be against… Magnum Tokyo.

New Japan: The last two wrestlers in the G-1 are Masato Tanaka and Tajiri. Tanahashi’s next title defense is confirmed for 9/27 at Kobe World Hall, and there will be a Sumo Hall show (and thus a likely title match) in September. Based on the announced G-1 schedule, I would guess that Tenzan and Bernard won’t advance since it tends to only be people who get points on the last round-robin day. Tiger Mask defends vs Mistico on 8/15.

NOAH: They will return to Nippon Budokan on 9/27 for a big Misawa tribute show. Morishima vs Sugiura is set for 8/1, and it will be interesting to see if that one has a finish.

Zero-One: Surprise entrant for the Fire Festival: Akebono. Final is 8/8 at Korakuen.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

I updated the Misawa page with a mix of Meltzer and non-Meltzer info. It’s towards the bottom.

Joshi: Takashi Matsunaga, one of the architects of All Japan Women, died at 73. Meltzer went over how huge AJW was during its prime, between running 300 events a year and having enormous TV ratings in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Their biggest show, November 20th 1994 at Tokyo Dome, drew 32500 with a $4 million gate and over $1 million in merchandise. Takashi worked with his brothers to run the company, and Meltzer says he was the key brother. Dave’s overview of the promotion’s history is his usual great stuff.

Something he implies but doesn’t really state is that during AJW’s peak they were excellent at drawing around 3000-5000 for shows, but they didn’t do as many of 10000+ as they would in the ‘90s. In the ‘70s and ‘80s their fanbase was teenage girls, and the shows were part wrestling and part concert, so the business model wasn’t “use house shows to build to a big arena event” like we’re used to in other promotions. As the focus went from wrestler/singer ‘idols’ towards straightforward wrestling, they gained more appeal among wrestling fans (ie. men) and did more traditional booking to set up big events. Even though the TV ratings were much smaller in 1994 than 1984, they had a higher percentage of fans who wanted to go out of their way to see ten hours of professional wrestling. The quality of female wrestlers spiked for a brief period during the ‘90s, as they drew the best athletes from among the large pool of women who were fans of AJW in the ‘80s. Quality declined because there were so many fewer female fans in the ‘90s to draw talent from.

The Matsunagas were hurt by the decline in business, but what destroyed them was bad real estate investments. They went bankrupt in ’97 and the promotion never really recovered, though it did limp along until 2005.

There’s a slight parallel with today’s Dragon Gate. DG draws a huge portion of its fanbase from people who otherwise don’t like pro wrestling, including many women. Yet they’re able to use the ‘build to big shows’ pro wrestling mindset without driving said fans away. This means that DG is somewhat insulated from the long-term decline of pro wrestling in Japan, but they’re also vulnerable to a hard slump if they lose their aura of being fashionable. If DG had to ‘settle’ for only the normal wrestling fans, they would quickly become just another indy.

Other: Ultimo Dragon and Great Sasuke agreed to a mask vs mask match. I would guess Sasuke loses, since he’s got the job in politics and lost two different singles title matches in June.

NOAH: The 7/5 show with Shiozaki vs KENTA was a legit random draw. They wouldn’t have wanted to do Go vs KENTA with no build, and especially not so soon after doing Akiyama vs KENTA. Also, Meltzer is killing me with not making it clear whether the ’04 or ’05 NOAH dome show did better. First he has it as 52k/50k with 2004 as higher, but two weeks ago it was 50k/52k the other way. And I could swear that reports in 2005 said it had a better attendance than 2004.

WWE: They only drew 4000 and 4600 for shows at Budokan Hall. Meltzer says interest in the show went down due to a Simon & Garfunkel tour. Eh? Anyway, they did a good job selling the expensive seats and did around $1 million between the shows. They did less staging and effects than normal, which disappointed fans who expect WWE to have the best production values.

Section 3- New Lords, New Shills

ROUNDTABLE. Which, in allowing me to talk about current events, gives me more leeway to pimp Misawa goodness.

Section 4- 2009 Media Corner

Best of 2000

We’re nearing completion of the best of the year 2000 vote over at the DVDVR message board. The overall ‘best of the decade’ vote isn’t likely to take place for another two years, since we’re being thorough in trying to find matches that aren’t as well known. For example, for 2000 there are three or four matches that get by far the most attention, but the next few are also very worthwhile. Here’s one of those.

Kobashi vs Takayama, Triple Crown, All Japan May 26th 2000.

The final Triple Crown match before the split, and by far the best Takayama match from his All Japan years. Takayama really steps it up here, keeping things interesting when he has control and doing very well in hanging with Kobashi during exchanges. On paper Takayama was a weak challenger coming in, but he does such a good job that by the end the crowd sees him as a very real threat to the champ. This ‘new’ Takayama would go on to become one of the best Japan had to offer, and this match is worth seeing both on its own and as a coming out.

2009 Ongoing

Shiozaki vs KENTA, NOAH July 5th.

Hardly perfect, but they sure do beat the ever-lovin’ daylights out of each other.

Section 5- Misawa’s Career, part 2 of 7

Last time, Misawa went from a rookie to a budding superstar. This installment covers the bulk of his feud with Jumbo Tsuruta and places us just before his first Triple Crown victory.

8. Misawa & Kawada, vs Tsuruta & Taue, September 30th 1990.
Importance: First of four meetings between these teams. In kayfabe terms this was the least important since nothing was on the line, but for historical purposes it’s huge. That’s because it ended up as a big ‘coming out’ for young Akira Taue, who had recently been elevated to the status of Jumbo’s #2 after the departure of Yatsu and Kabuki. Taue was initially considered a flop when he debuted in ’88, especially compared to fellow ’88 classmate Kobashi. Matches like these, where Taue worked hard and was helped along by his betters, eventually led to his becoming a great worker. Also, the length of the match is important (more on that below).
Uniqueness: The dynamic of this matchup is really something else. Misawa and Kawada still had yet to prove themselves as a really deserving top team (in kayfabe), and Misawa was only a few months into his big push, yet they’re heavy favorites due to Taue’s weakness. Misawa was already so established with the fans that Taue trying to trade strikes with him showed courage.
Why it’s a good match: It’s long. That might be a turn-off to some considering that they don’t end it with ten minutes of huge bumps and nearfalls, but to me they did a remarkable job of delivering a long match with very little drag despite three of the participants not having been in the main event scent for long (especially Taue). This match was much longer than the norm in the post-Choshu era and it helped show the tremendous potential for the ‘epic’ battles to come.

9. Tsuruta, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, October 19th 1990.

Importance: The first of many MOTYC-level 6-man tags that All Japan produced in the ‘90s, and the first meeting of the top three from Jumbo Army and Misawa’s Generation Army (either ‘New’ or ‘Super’ or ‘Over’ Generation Army depending on the translation).
Uniqueness: To be honest it’s more uniquely important for Kobashi than Misawa, which is why I covered it there. However it’s well worth pointing out for the Jumbo vs Misawa feud as a whole.
Why it’s a good match: It’s these six guys. C’mon. If you haven’t watched it yet, you owe it to yourself.

10. Misawa & Kawada, vs Tsuruta & Taue, Tag League 1990.

Importance: In kayfabe terms this wasn’t important in the least, since both teams were out of the running for the tournament. This does hint at things to come as it has a big match feel at Nippon Budokan for a ‘mere’ tag bout.
Uniqueness: We get to see more personality and attitude from Misawa and Kawada, as they take some cheap shots and give them right back. They were tweener faces, willing to break the rules a bit to give Jumbo’s crew what they deserved.
Why it’s a good match: The 9/30 iteration was a great ‘long’ tag. This raises the bar for the more standard 20 minute long tag, with great storytelling and tons of heat. A truly great piece of tag team wrestling, and once again it’s Misawa and Kawada showing their out-of-nowhere maturity by controlling the bulk of the action. Taue does what he needs to (sell), Jumbo is great in spurts, and most of all, this match rewards you for paying attention from start to finish.

11. Misawa vs Terry Gordy, June 1st 1991.

Importance: Coming off a failed title shot against Jumbo, Misawa is faced with something he’s never managed to overcome: a big-name gaijin.
Uniqueness: This match is designed to make Misawa look like a world-beating powerhouse, and Gordy deserves a ton of credit for his selling here. They managed to really put over two different moves in a single match, Misawa’s face lock and his running elbow out of the corner. But keep an ear on other big moves that the announcers hype.
Why it’s a good match: The first half is slow but it plants the seeds of the overall story, which revolves around just how Misawa can put away someone he probably can’t execute a tiger driver or tiger suplex on. Several quality standing exchanges of Misawa against the massive, caveman-like Gordy help impress the impact of Misawa’s elbow smash. The psychology of the finishing stretch- Misawa banging away at Gordy’s face until he’s vulnerable- is one that I think Misawa should have used regularly. It certainly would have helped to slow down or prevent the head drop escalation that eventually led to Misawa’s demise.

12. Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kawada, tag titles, July 24th 1991.

Importance: Second title shot for Misawa & Kawada, but only the first ‘real’ shot because the last time Misawa was sick and could barely wrestle. In addition to Misawa vs Gordy there was also a solid Williams vs Kawada bout on June 1st, so both teams are very familiar with each other.
Uniqueness: It’s one thing for Misawa and Kawada to look good while beating up Taue. It’s another thing for them to look credible against a nigh-unstoppable pairing known as the Miracle Violence Connection. But they do look good, and they would be reliable in tag title matches for years to come.
Why it’s a good match: I’d say “um, it’s these two teams, duh”… but the March match with a sick Misawa wasn’t good. This however lives up to its potential. So… it’s these two teams, duh.

13. Misawa & Kawada vs Tsuruta & Taue, tag titles, September 4th 1991.

Importance: Jumbo vs Misawa in the main event at Nippon Budokan, only this time Misawa is the one coming in on top. First of many times Misawa would headline Budokan in a tag match. First of many times we see Misawa wrestle ‘hurt’, which in this case might have been a work but usually was not a work.
Uniqueness: Misawa never used the ‘tiger’ moves on Jumbo. Why, I’m not sure. As of the April ’91 version of Jumbo vs Misawa (which juuuust misses inclusion here), Misawa really needed some more ways to beat Jumbo. This match establishes how that can be possible, and it changes the feud.
Why it’s a good match: Even though I’d say it’s the least of the four iterations of the matchup, the last ten minutes or so are hot and the finish is executed so flawlessly that it remains one of the defining moments of Misawa’s career.

14. Tsuruta, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, October 15th 1991.

Importance: Okay it’s just another 6-man. But what it lacks in ‘importance’ it makes up for in ‘being incredible’.
Uniqueness: Misawa legit busted his nose on the last show an goes on despite it because he’s MISAWA. They play it up effectively, meaning that the entire time is a desperate fight against the odds for Misawa’s crew. We see Kawada really step up to try and take the lead, which is fitting since he was 9 days away from a title shot against Jumbo.
Why it’s a good match: Jumbo and Fuchi are off-the-charts great in this, just such total bastards. Kawada and Kikuchi fight like mad. Korakuen Hall rules. This rules. I love pro wrestling despite the fact that Misawa took his “can’t miss a show” attitude too far. Misawa died because he treated a broken neck like a broken nose. Watch this match anyway.

15. Misawa & Kawada, vs Tsuruta & Taue, Tag League 1991.

Importance: One last time for this matchup, and with it taking place halfway through the tournament it’s vital to the chances of either team winning.
Uniqueness: Again, this isn’t especially unique, but they can’t all be.
Why it’s a good match: Once they get into the second half they turn it on, and man can they turn it on. It also helps that they have the September match to build from.

16. Tsuruta & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, tag titles, June 5th 1992.

Importance: The last big Jumbo vs Misawa match before Jumbo stepped back from ‘serious’ wrestling due to the effects of hepatitis. More important for Kobashi and Taue, but still, important for Misawa in hindsight. Plus it’s the first big outing for Misawa & Kobashi, the team that would be so great starting in ’93.
Uniqueness: Again it has more to do with Kobashi and Taue having big outings, but Misawa does nicely in his role as top guy on his team.
Why it’s a good match: Psychology! Selling! Nearfalls! Hate! Everything you love about the feud.

Next Time: Hopefully I can make some phonecalls. If not, we’ll always have Misawa.