Puroresu Pulse, issue 156: Misawa’s final years in All Japan

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Funaki vs Suzuki had a DQ finish, Hayashi handled Super Crazy, and in the September 26th main event, Kojima downed Takayama to regain the Triple Crown.

Dragon Gate: Tanizaki retained over Horiguchi.

New Japan: Nakamura beat Makabe to start his third IWGP reign.

NOAH: 9/27 featured Sugiura making Rikio tap to an ankle lock, Kobashi and Takayama over Mutoh & Taue (Kobashi pinned Taue), and Shiozaki retaining over Saito. 10/3 was highlighted by Kanemaru & Suzuki over Jado & Gedo, Shiozaki/Kobashi/Chono over Saito/Rikio/Yone, Takayama over Sugiura, and Kawada/Taue over Akiyama/KENTA.

Section 2- News

All Japan: The tour kicks off on Sunday with Takayama & Suzuki vs Funaki & Suwama. Akebono & Hama defend the All Asia belts on the 24th vs Taru & Doering. Hayashi defends against Hate (Hirai) the next night. The first of the Taiwan shows will feature an 8-man singles tournament, with enough stars (Suwama/Kea/Nishimura) that the winner would seem probable for the first Triple Crown match next year. The second show will have the first tag league matches.

Dragon Gate: Yoshino, Hulk & Pac will re-defend the trios titles on the 14th against Mochizuki, Akebono & Fujii. Yamato & Shingo put the tag titles up on the 18th against Arai & Kanda.

New Japan: The ten teams of the tag league are announced. No ‘strong’ teams other than Nakanishi/Omori and Nakamura/Yano, and they’re in the same block. I predict Nakamura/Yano vs Makabe/Honma as the final. Lots of speculation right now regarding a New Japan/IGF feud, which would focus on Ogawa and Barnett against Nakamura.

NOAH: Liger is the last person in the junior tournament. Block A features KENTA, Nakajima, Suzuki and Delirious. Block B has Liger, Kanemaru and Ishimori. Young wrestler Ippei Ota has announced his retirement. There will be one more Budokan show in December.

Zero-One: Ota isn’t the only one. Osamu Namiguchi will be retiring on the 24th.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

HUSTLE: The “new concept” debut on 8/27 with a dream 6-man on top only drew 800. However they were heavily papering shows before, so it might not mean a revenue drop.

New Japan: Chono is self-financing the show at Sumo Hall. Tenzan had neck and back surgery on 9/24, and is out indefinitely.

NOAH: They sold out the Budokan show the day after the Kobashi vs Mutoh tag was announced. The day of the show they added 2000 SRO tickets, and those sold out instantly. KENTA is the only wrestler who they got a working visa for, which is why he’s the only one ROH has been using. I have a feeling ROH might have told NOAH not to bother with getting any more, since they can’t afford to fly in as many guys as they used to. Their 9/12 show at Korakuen only drew 1250, despite two semi-big heavyweight singles matches and a junior tag title match. Between AJ, NJ and NOAH all using Korakuen on the same weekend, NOAH did the worst, showing that the post-Misawa sympathy support has quickly faded. The Misawa Memorial crowds are one-shots based on saying goodbye to Misawa and having a ton of star power. Saito had wanted to stop using the backdrop, but NOAH said it’s okay because fans think Misawa’s death was an accident rather than being Saito’s fault.

There’s a struggle between Nakata and Kobashi over what to do now that revenues are down. Nakata wants to cut the deadweight from the undercard, but Kobashi is friends with them and is sticking to the Japanese mindset of “loyalty = lifetime employment”. Kobashi apparently got offers to leave All Japan in the ’90s, but he refused out of loyalty to Baba. Kobashi thinks that everyone should take a pay cut rather than having several wrestlers lose their job. Meltzer didn’t expand on this, but the wrestlers in question wouldn’t be able to earn a living in other promotions. I would also point out that part of the “lifetime employment” mindset is hard work, and most of these guys are on the slow/lazy side of things.

Section 3- Emerald Shillsion

The title of this column is a gross understatement.

Section 4- Media Corner

2009 Ongoing

KENTA vs Aoki, GHC junior title, NOAH September 21st.

I’m not a fan of forty-minute long junior title ‘epics’ that became all the rage in Japan in recent years. Too much downtime, not enough substance between the big moves, and it makes small-show junior tags seem dull by comparison. This match avoids those problems by having good structure, logical transitions between moves, and reliance on both recent (ie. last few months) and in-match continuity. The main backstory is that Aoki made KENTA tap during the tag tournament, then got a ref stoppage win in a lead-in tag earlier in the tour. KENTA’s left arm might be vulnerable, but that doesn’t do anything to stop his nasty kicks.

Sasaki, Morishima & Nakajima vs Tenryu, Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki, GHC junior title, NOAH September 27th.

Ogawa and Suzuki have long been linked to Misawa both in and out of the ring. Tenryu does some Misawa tribute spots with Ogawa, and Suzuki continues the Misawa tributes he’s been doing, so this is the best Misawa memorial match of the two big shows. But what makes this match great is Tenryu’s performance, with all the charisma and selling and chopping and all-around Tenryu-ness that made him a legend. He’ll turn 60 early next year but you wouldn’t know it from watching him.

Takayama vs Sugiura, NOAH October 3rd.

Compact and very stiff.

Kawada & Taue vs Akiyama & KENTA, NOAH October 3rd.

The draw here was Kawada vs KENTA, and they deliver big-time. Kawada needs to be in NOAH so bad it isn’t funny.

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

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided not to re-hash analysis of matches I did in last year’s Kobashi columns. But I’ll still note them.

BONUS MATCH: Hansen vs Misawa, Triple Crown, August 22nd 1992.

Importance: Oof. ‘Importance’? This one is up there. It takes Misawa to the next level, makes The Elbow™ something to be feared for all time, and marks the transition to the new era of All Japan.
Uniqueness: Hansen controlling the action with focused technical work?! Why yes, that happens to be the core of the match.
Why it’s a good match: I watched this for the third or fourth time a few weeks ago, and that marked the first time I liked it. Why hadn’t I enjoyed it before? Easy: I didn’t understand the logic behind what they were doing. For instance, Hansen working over Misawa’s shoulder stemmed from an injury Misawa suffered the month before (July 21st; it’s in set 3). Misawa’s facelock is not only a submission hold, but it also softens his opponent up for elbows. Hansen shows that he’s more than just a good brawler, and also sells like crazy, AND gets nasty when it’s called for.

36. Kobashi vs Misawa, Triple Crown, January 20th 1997. Covered in the Kobashi set.

37. Misawa vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, October 21st 1997. Covered in the Kobashi set.

38. Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League 1997.

Importance: The last great Misawa/Akiyama match, and the last great Misawa vs Kawada tag.
Uniqueness: The finish is unusual, though reasonable.
Why it’s a good match: For reasons beyond my understanding, this matchup didn’t happen in the first ten months of ’97 despite the epic RWTL ’96 final. Despite that we get a match that does a good job of being in continuity with the RWTL ’96 matches in the last set. The struggle for control, the whole-team peril, the cut-offs, big nearfalls and a lot of intensity at the end: all the hallmarks of great All Japan tag wrestling. This managed to finish in the top 50 of my All Japan ‘90s vote, and it came in with hardly any hype or kayfabe importance so that’s really saying something.

39. Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, May 1st 1998.

Importance: All Japan’s first-ever Tokyo Dome show, after years of Baba playing it safe even though he could have easily sold it out before this.
Uniqueness: A bad ‘unique’ here: Misawa’s knees are a total wreck. After this he took two tours off, which is by far the longest time he was out hurt.
Why it’s a good match: The middle is a low-point for Misawa vs Kawada. The ending, with Kawada desperately hounding the champ in the hopes of finally taking the title from him after five failed attempts, is good enough to make it worth seeing.

40. Kobashi vs Misawa, Triple Crown, October 31st 1998. Covered in the Kobashi set.

41. Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, January 22nd 1999.

Importance: The last match Giant Baba ever saw, and unlike their Tokyo Dome match Misawa isn’t coming in nearly crippled.
Uniqueness: This match is known for a move that might have literally taken years off of Misawa’s life. Kawada doesn’t come out unscathed either, as he breaks his arm on Misawa’s skull about 1/3rd through and shows no ill effects. Kawada: more hardcore than you will ever be.
Why it’s a good match: Misawa and Kawada doin’ stuff. Plus one more instance of Kawada fighting like crazy to stop The Misawa Comebackâ„¢

42. Vader vs Misawa, Triple Crown, May 2nd 1999.

Importance: Main event at the Tokyo Dome equals important.
Uniqueness: It ain’t Vader doing Kings Road; it’s Misawa doing Vader-style. Vader shows that he can have a Dome-level match even after his watered-down years in WWF.
Why it’s a good match: Straightforward hard-hitting action. It’s Vader, I don’t have to go into the weeds and discuss backstory or technique.

43. Misawa vs Vader, Triple Crown, October 30th 1999.

Importance: Tokyo Dome rematch, which follows Vader pinning Misawa in a non-title match the month before (after Misawa had already wrestled Takayama).
Uniqueness: Eh, not really unique.
Why it’s a good match: It’s a heavyweight bomb-fest like their Dome match.

44. Misawa vs Akiyama, February 27th 2000.

Importance: Misawa’s last big match in post-split All Japan. In theory the winner of this would be sure to get a title shot within the next few months, but the split nixed that (sort of). The quality of the match dwarfs the kayfabe end, because this is FINALLY the high-level Misawa vs Akiyama match that never happened in the ‘90s for whatever reason.
Uniqueness: Misawa looking like his mid-90s self and delivering a mid-90s quality match in true Kings Road style. Akiyama stepping up big-time. This is one you’ll remember.
Why it’s a good match: Misawa takes control and handles things very well, keeping it interesting and setting up the big-match structure that was lacking in their previous bouts. Akiyama takes over in the middle and does a lot of neat, focused offense to really make it clear that this is going to be something special. By the time they reach the finishing stretch, Nippon Budokan is rocking and you at home can sense that Akiyama finally has Misawa in trouble. I put this #1 in the 2000 vote, and can see it finishing in my top 5 for the decade (in Japan). It’s just that good.

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