Puroresu Pulse, issue 165: The Revenge of the Return of the Grab Bag

Section 1- Results

New Japan: Nakamura retained over Nakanishi in front of a 35% full Sumo Hall. Also on the show, Devitt & Taguchi retained over Gedo and mystery partner Dick Togo; Tanaka beat Goto; Yujiro & Naito retained over Texano & Terrible.

NOAH: Ishimori & Marvin beat Kanemaru & Hirayanagi in the junior tag title decision match.

Section 2- News

All Japan: In what I can only describe as an attempt to one-up New Japan’s risky booking of Nakamura vs Nakanishi, the March 21st Sumo Hall show will be headlined by Kojima defending against Hama, following Hama pinning Mutoh in a tag. Akebono & Hama defend the All Asia belts against Kojima & Nishimura on the 7th. Also set for Sumo Hall is Suzuki vs Funaki in a cage (?!) and Hayashi defending against Kai.

Dragon Gate: Juventud Guerrera is being brought in to replace the Young Bucks on a few shows. Big tag set for the 5th as Doi & Yoshino tangle with Yamato & Shingo.

New Japan: Marufuji’s next defense is against Kanemoto on the March 5th Korakuen event. The most notable first round NJ Cup match is Nakanishi vs Tanaka. Goto will get a bye to round 2, which will once again be the big show of the tour at Aichi Prefectural Gym. It’s confirmed that the winner will face Nakamura on April 4th.

NOAH: Kawada vs Morishima is set for the Budokan show. Somewhat short notice but better late than never!

Section 2a- Meltzer News

IGF: They sold out JCB Hall, which shouldn’t really be impressive considering the venue’s size, but it is for a promotion that normally draws 2000 or less. The big result was Josh Barnett over Bob Sapp. Also, Sapp is now a pop culture phenomenon in South Korea.

New Japan: The 4000 they drew for Nakamura vs Nakanishi was a company low at Sumo Hall. I’d point out that they only did slightly better for the far more expensive Lesnar vs Akebono main event in ’06. Jado is out with a concussion, and Meltzer thinks the fact that he’s on the bench shows that the Japanese are taking concussions more seriously.

Misc: All Japan and Dragon Gate will use Sumo Hall on consecutive days. I doubt that matters, since Doi vs Yamato and Kojima vs Hama appeal to completely different audiences. If DG doesn’t have the better attendance I’ll be stunned.

NOAH: Injuries are so bad that several of the released wrestlers are still on most shows just to fill out the cards.

Osaka Pro: They drew 5000 in Osaka Prefectural Gym on the 11th, which is as good as major promotions do there.

Section 3- SHILL*WIN

STOP WHINING. Now, it’s one thing for a person in the wrestling business to say “shaddup ya dumb marks” and make disparaging comments about anyone using the internet. It’s another for our NEW INSIDEPULSE™ COLUMNIST to point out that people who hate everything about WWE should really consider the alternatives. He says indies, I say puro.

Section 4- Affirmative Action Media Corner

I have an uncountable volume of puro linked on my three websites. Yet despite that, one would be hard-pressed to find wrestlers of significant pigmentation. So in honor of Black History Month I’m highlighting most of the matches with non-pasty competitors.

”Black Magic” Norman Smiley vs Kazuo Yamazaki, UWF June 11th 1988.

Man oh man, Smiley could frigging GO when put against decent competition. It’s a shame he was mostly a joke in WCW, because I’m sure he could have rocked the mat with Regal and others.

Abdullah the Butcher vs Yoshinari Ogawa, All Japan August 25th 1991.

Abby makes Ogawa bleed. Straightfoward and enjoyable.

Scorpio vs Shiozaki, NOAH April 3rd 2005.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, I don’t like many Scorpio matches. The guy is a great athlete with charisma and he isn’t a mindless spot machine, yet there’s just something missing to me. Anyway, this is a simple ‘vet vs rookie’ match with Scorp controlling most of the way and letting Go look like an emerging phenom. Scorpio does everything one could ask for in the situation.

GRAB BAG

Section 5a- A couple notes from a Destroyer interview in Japan

-Destroyer learned the figure four from Lord Blears, after Buddy Rodgers (the main user of the hold) retired.

-Rikidozan knocked out four teeth with a chop. Later, they traded stiff kicks, and he learned Rikidozan knew a few choice words of English.

-He never had a written contract with Baba in ~20 years of working for him.

-Dan Spivey married his daughter.

Section 5b- Meltzer notes from his biography of Masa Saito

-He was a national amateur champion and competed in the 1964 Olympics, and as a result was snapped up by JWA after the Olympics.

-Toyonobori, the top star after Rikidozan’s death, was pressured out of JWA and formed his own promotion. Inoki and Saito joined him, with Saito acting as president because he had a college education. They couldn’t get enough foreign talent due to JWA being in the NWA, and closed down a few years later. That forced Saito to look for work outside the country. He landed in California, which had a history of successful Japanese wrestlers.

-In the US he was limited by his stereotypical ‘evil Japanese’ gimmick, and couldn’t show his in-ring talent, though promoters would simultaneously claim he won a gold medal in ‘64. Despite this he was able to tour the US and be successful without having things arranged for him by a Japanese promotion. This gained him a lot of respect in Japan. He was also considered (in Japan) one of the top few Japanese wrestlers from a technical standpoint. Despite this, he wasn’t pushed much in Japan while in his athletic prime because he spent most of his time in the US.

-In 1970 he was given a rare chance to show his skill as part of a feud that established Jack Brisco as the top man in Florida.

-In 1974 he joined New Japan, and was made the mentor of an Olympic wrestler from South Korea who would later be renamed Riki Choshu. In 1979, Saito was part of a tag feud that first got Choshu over. He was also part of the angle that got Choshu even more over in the early ‘80s, though this time Saito was a supporting player. This built to a ‘Loser Leaves’ match with Inoki in ’83 that was done to allow Saito to go to AWA for a main event run with Hogan. Saito was good enough that he could be a credible opponent for Hogan despite the size difference.

-He spent 2 years in jail after he and Ken Patera got in a fight with police after Patera broke the window of a McDonalds with a huge rock. It took 18 officers to subdue them, with 10 of them suffering injuries, 6 of which Saito caused. With Patera’s strength and Saito’s strength/skill combo, I can believe that, especially before tazers became widespread. Saito didn’t start his sentence until 1985, and in the meantime he joined Choshu in jumping from New Japan to All Japan.

-His famous ‘two hour’ match with Inoki on an island was more like 45 minutes, with an hour of neither man coming out of their ‘camps’. The overall feud with Inoki in 1987 was the biggest in Saito’s career, and is seen as his greatest set of performances.

– Even though Saito lived in Minneapolis, he could only earn a living in Japan once he reached his mid-40s. He became the foreign talent booker for New Japan in the ‘90s, and was responsible for finding stars like Scott Norton. Saito also worked a lot with a young Vader in preparation for his debut in Japan.

-He was involved in the last two AWA title changes, trading wins with Larry Zbyszko in early ’90. By that point the title was so devalued that New Japan put Saito’s title win on the middle of a Tokyo Dome show.

-Here’s an odd detail to be in a Masa Saito bio, but it’s worth repeating. Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto went on one date while part of New Japan’s tour of North Korea, and they got engaged the next day. Awwwwwwww.

-Saito’s retirement match was delayed until 1999 because New Japan had big retirements for Choshu and Inoki the year before.

-He is currently working at the Kensuke Office gym, overseeing the training of their young wrestlers. He has put a lot of effort into Nakajima. Saito is currently suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, but he still makes sure to stay in shape.

Section 5c- Meltzer notes from 1991 (with some gap-filling by moi)

All Japan:
-“All Japan 6/1 at Budokan Hall with Baba returning in a six-man tag team match, Kroffat & Furnas defend against Kikuchi & Kobashi, Misawa vs Gordy, Kawada vs Williams and Stan Hansen & Danny Spivey defend their world tag team titles against Tsuruta & Taue. With the exception of Misawa vs. Gordy, which is a new match-up with a hard to predict finish, this hardly sounds like a show worthy of Budokan Hall.” I can’t say his analysis is particularly wrong in terms of the booking being on the weak side, but All Japan was so hot that they still sold out and got good TV ratings.

-Misawa suffered a legit broken nose on 10/14/91, and stayed on the tour. This led to one of my favorite 6-man tags ever.

New Japan:
-Fujinami had a major back injury, which is why he declined so much as a worker between the late ’80s and early ’90s

-Honaga beating Liger in the BOSJ ’91 final was a gigantic upset, was the first junior match to headline a big show, and started what would become a regular Choshu booking trend where big names aren’t always protected and upsets happen regularly. When they tried again with a young Akira Nogami winning the title on 8/9/91, the crowd didn’t take to it, and fans were getting tired of Liger dropping the title in order to get someone over quickly. It worked for Sano and Benoit, but Honaga’s cheers died fast and it failed completely with Nogami, who didn’t get over until the 2000s.

-Owen Hart was legit hurt by a super DDT Liger gave him in ’91. Here’s the match in question.

-“Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki will be coming (to WCW) in September and staying for one year. The real reason behind this is because Hase & Sasaki are being groomed by New Japan to make a comeback in late 1992 as guys who are top of the card guys, but also so Hase can make contacts in the United States, learn the American ways, etc. because Hase is going to wind up as one of the most influential office workers in New Japan and basically be Riki Choshu’s right-hand man and handle much of the dealing and contacts with foreign talent.”

-New Japan tried to work the Japanese media about things like Muta jobbing in WCW, but it failed because of hardcore fans who watch bootlegged shows from the US.

-The first G-1 was an unprecedented success, as far as having four shows in a row all with a gate of around $1 mil. Mutoh beat Vader on 8/10 to reach the finals. “(T)he audience flooded the ring with pillows which is a sumo tradition that is considered the highest honor.” Chono got the same treatment for winning the final. The pillows are brought by fans so they can be comfortable in the middle section, and I wish I’d known that for when I went there. It marked the changing of the guard from Choshu/Fujinami to the Musketeers. The next year Mutoh won the IWGP title, and the three of them would dominate the IWGP title and G-1 tournaments for the decade. The tournament was booked by Choshu to create a sense that there were a lot of top level wrestlers in the company who could beat each other. There were rumors of Choshu retiring in September ’91. Ha!

-Weekly Pro had Norton as the most popular gaijin for their mid-year 1991 awards, despite his being so new.

-The 10/14/91 WON mentioned “a kid named Scorpio” who started training in the NJ dojo

SWS:
-SWS banned Weekly Pro over negative coverage. Other wrestling papers then made nice in order to maintain access, but they lost credibility for it. This carried over via. Tenryu to WAR and is the reason why WAR wasn’t on Weekly Pro’s 1995 Tokyo Dome show.

-Asai jumped from UWA to EMLL, and did so because the money offer was such that he made more in Mexico than Muta did in the US. This led to him going to SWS, which in turn led to him being in WAR as Ultimo Dragon when it started.

UWFi:
-UWFi didn’t have the rights to the UWF name, thus the “i”. However they used the UWF theme without any problem. From what I can tell, the Japanese don’t care much about things like song usage, within reason.

-“The reason UWFI is booking so many no-names from the Tennesee area is because the booker is Shinji Sasazaki, who is retired as a wrestler but is living in Tennesee and working in a Japanese restaurant. Interest is already dropping for UWFI because of no decent foreign names, weak main events and live cards that only last 90 minutes with tickets priced at $57.”

-Due to running only one show a month, UWFi ran out of money very quickly. Takada arranged for them to get backing by Megane Super, a glasses company. Megane, through head honcho Hachiro Tanaka, already owned SWS and Fujiwara Gumi. Megane had gotten Tenryu because of a then-record 800k offer.

-They did a controversial 1 minute Takada vs Backlund match because Bob wouldn’t agree to a decisive finish. Fans almost rioted because the main event was such a letdown.

Next Time: Some juicy nuggets regarding a Hall of Fame wrestler. But which?! Answer: it depends on Meltzer. But really, when doesn’t it?

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