In the wrestling world, summer is really the best time of year on a global scale. In Mexico, Triplemaniaâ€”Mexico’s Wrestlemaniaâ€”was this past Sunday, every major promotion in Japan has at least one tournament taking place during the summer, one specific tournament to mention would be the 20th installment of New Japan’s G-1 Climax tournament coming in August. The summer months in the U.S. means the build to SummerSlam for The E and TNA celebrates another year. In the spirit of there being plenty to write about, this seemed like as good a time as any for a roundtable.
1. What do you guys thought about the whole Bryan Danielson/Michael Cole angle on WWE NXT with Cole criticizing Danielson and the “internet geeks,” and Danielson getting pissed about it?
Note: Ditch and Kevin’s responses were e-mailed to me before this week’s RAW
D.D.: On one hand, it’s interesting to see WWE acknowledge Danielson’s past and his existing fanbase. On the other hand, pretty much any time the word ‘internet’ is used on a wrestling program there will likely be a failed angle associated with it.
K.W.: The angle has been entertaining, and since wrestlers have been known to criticize Internet wrestling fans behind the scenes it doesn’t seem out of bounds for a heel announcer to do so. Danielson has to get pissed, for if he didn’t it would look like he doesn’t care that Cole is making fun of his fans so I have no problem with that either. Really one of the reasons that the Miz/Cole/Danielson feud is entertaining is that it feels different then all the other cookie cutter feuds, so while it might seem a bit lame to make fun of someone for having fans that enjoy the Internet, there have been worse reasons for feuds and in general it is one of the more entertaining storylines currently in WWE.
P.C.: The idea for this storyline was perfectly fine because it gave Danielson time on the air, but at the same time, did he have to go 0-10 on NXT for the storyline to be believable? He didn’t have to go unbeaten (we all knew that wasn’t going to happen), but a couple of wins would’ve made Cole sound even more like a dick for downplaying this guy who is winning because of his fanbase. Then again, an older pro Ala Jericho or Regal would’ve probably eliminated this whole storyline anyway; my belief being that the initial reaction to Miz being Danielson’s pro from the Internet community birthed this storyline. Then again, the fact that Danielson has more experience as a wrestler than Miz does make that pairing seem quite the joke doesn’t it?
2. What’s your take on Gabe Sapolsky’s new project, Pro Wrestling EVOLVE, where wins and losses literally count for something?
D.D.: It’s too soon to really pass judgment on EVOLVE, except to say that it feels like an also-ran after ROH and Dragon Gate USA. It’s nice to see workers like Sawa get exposure in the US. I hope they do more with larger guys like Sekimoto, who would do anything to wrestle regularly in the US.
K.W.: I think on paper having wins and losses mean something is a great idea. When I was a kid I always enjoyed seeing WCW’s rankings each week and see how my favorite wrestler was faring. But in reality it is very problematic and I don’t think in a small indy that it will work. With ROH, TNA, and WWE (not to mention Japan) all able to sign EVOLVE’s wrestlers which would prevent them from working in EVOLVE, it will be difficult to have many wrestlers with a lot of wins or losses on their records. They run the risk of just having a lot of 1-1, 1-0, 0-2 etc. wrestlers on their roster which would beat the purpose of keeping track of records in the first place. But like I said, much like communism, keeping tracks of wins and losses does sound like a good idea but rarely works in real life, we’ll have to see if Gabe can keep a solid crop of wrestlers together long enough for the records to become meaningful.
P.C.: My belief has always been that wins and losses do matter, especially in big matches or pay-per-view matches. However, one aspect of the fight game that wrestling shouldn’t adopt is actual win-loss records for the wrestlers. The fact that the guy won or lost is what matters, and if that guy wins a bunch of times, people are going to notice. Other than that, I couldn’t be more intrigued by this promotion. Like ROH and Dragon Gate USA they are going after a wide range of talent, and any promotion that gives more Japanese wrestlers exposure in the U.S. is okay with me.
3. In the past year, four different people have held All Japan’s Triple Crown title with Minoru Suzuki (a man who held the title this time three years ago) as the current titleholder. What can All Japan do with their world title moving forward?
D.D.: They need to have a long-ish reign with a clear ‘theme’. Kojima was aimless as champion. For Suzuki they seem to clearly have laid out an ‘old vs new’ theme, with Suzuki as the leader of the veterans now that Mutoh is out hurt. The biggest obstacle to this is a lack of depth in the ranks of up-and-comers: Suwama, Kono, and the can’t-draw-a-dime Hama. I doubt they’ll do Suzuki vs Hama again, and how can they do an extended theme based on two challengers? Perhaps they can get Akira “Kiyoshi” Raijin back from TNA for a tour, and perhaps a title defense against Mutoh when he returns over who leads the veterans, before Suzuki finally drops the title to Suwama.
K.W.: With their big youth movement starting up, which I am all in favor of, they need to decide which one they like the best (probably Suwama) and give them a nice reign of at least 6 months to put that wrestler over as the new top wrestler of All Japan. All Japan is ace-less at the moment and has been for awhile, so their biggest concern right now should be just to discover who that ace is and roll with it. Kono seems to have his best matches against Suwama, and if I ruled the world All Japan would have Suwama beat Suzuki at the next Sumo Hall show and have his first defense against Kono to establish themselves as the premiere feud in All Japan going forward.
P.C.: All Japan’s biggest problem in terms of booking in recent years has been a lack of patience with almost anything they do. Granted, Kaz Hayashi is on defense twelve of All Japan’s junior title, but if you look at both tag titles and the Triple Crown, it has been one example after another of lack of patience. Suwama and Ryoto Hama’s world title wins would be the best example of lack of patience dictating the Triple Crown. Suwama won his first world title less than a month after winning his first champions carnival while Hama won the belts in his first career challenge. Both of these would’ve benefited ten-fold from practicing â€œless is more.â€ Suwama winning his first singles tournament was good enough at the time to build off of towards a title win while Hama winning in his first challenge because of his previous career as a sumo wrestler and previous appearances in Sumo Hall is just silly, and would’ve worked just as fine if he lost. However, it has to be a younger wrestler who gets that mammoth title reign (one that will be needed) that gives them the ace distinction. Suwama is still the best choice in the heavyweight pool to be that guy as Masayuki Kono is less than two years removed from being in MMA, Hama hasn’t been a wrestler for two years yet, Taiyo Kea’s place within the promotion has probably been set in stone, and then you have several juniors who wrestle a more heavyweight style. As for when, they still have a little time, but I would’ve rather seen Funaki somehow get the belts since Suzuki already had a reign (and a pretty good one at that), and that would’ve been a more noteworthy story since Funaki has never won singles gold as a pro wrestler. Something to think about All Japan for the time being.
4. Since we were all wrong about DDT’s Sumo Hall show last year, let’s look at their show this year as if it’ll do just fine. What is the big plan to pull in people this year since Sekimoto/Ibushi already happened?
D.D.: It seems obvious to me that Sekimoto will hang onto the title heading into the Sumo Hall event. They’ve built him as the monster from Big Japan, and it would be anticlimactic if that storyline wasn’t wrapped up at their version of Wrestlemania. I was thinking HARASHIMA would be likely when I started writing this, and the next thing I know, I see the results of a KOD Title contendership tournament from today (May 30th) with HARASHIMA winning. It would be somewhat fitting if he won the title at the second Sumo Hall show main event after losing the title in the first. The other key element of the show will be a match or two of DDT against big name outsiders. Last year had Chono vs Sawada and Sasuke vs Takagi. Neither of those really could have been predicted in advance, so the only thing I’ll say is that DDT better have something up their sleeve if they’re going to repeat last year’s success. The second time might not have as much special appeal as the first.
K.W.: Based off of last year’s show doing do well, DDT is lucky enough that they seem to have fans that get excited about seeing the promotion in the large arena which allows DDT to just focus on their current storylines without doing anything special to draw. So I’d say that there is no plan, they are just going to hype and promote the hell out of it and hope that Sekimoto/HARASHIMA will be as exciting as Ibushi/HARASHIMA, and I am sure that Ibushi will have some sort of exciting match, maybe against a New Japan wrestler since he is in the Best of the Super Jr. Tournament as we speak. But I don’t see the promotion doing more then that and I guess they will surprise me and do well again.
P.C.: Considering the good turnout didn’t really help business, the allure of it being their first really big show was likely why they got past 8,000 paid last year. And they really shouldn’t expect to get back to that this yearâ€”if they do, fine, but they likely won’t. However, their approach last year was just fine for the kind of show they wanted to put on. They had their big match, they got a couple of big name guests and scored a double whammy by turning one of those guests’ matches (Sasuke/Takagi) into a dream match of sorts. Sekimoto/Takagi for the title comes to mind for a dream match, but HARASHIMA would be a fine choice and would provide an opening for the biggest Takagi/Ibushi match ever. As for any potential guests, Tenryu did wrestle in a tag with Sekimoto for Big Japan and did start his own Indy project, so I wouldn’t rule him out. And they might be able to go to New Japan for a little help again; Yuji Nagata has never had a problem mixing some sports entertainment into things, and a Liger/Ibushi singles match in Sumo Hall might look more appealing than Takagi/Ibushi. Plus, they’ve already announced Dick Togo/Tajiri for that show, so they’re off to a good start.
5. Did Takashi Sugiura come back too early from his injury, especially considering his position as GHC champ?
D.D.: There’s several ways to look at it. Was he needed for the tournament? Not really. His main contribution was the well-received match against Akiyama on the final night, which was Akiyama’s big win of the tournament and made good on Akiyama’s “do well or retire” threat. But they could have had a different wrestler in Sugiura’s place and had about the same effect, other than now Akiyama clearly has a title shot coming his way. Was he ready to come back? I’m in favor of “take the time off you need to get healthy”, especially after Misawa died because he refused to miss any tours. At the same time I will say that Sugiura didn’t look like he was hurting, so it’s possible he really was ready, in which case he absolutely should have been on the tour.
K.W.: No, I don’t think so. This is quite possibly Sugiura’s last big chance. He is 40, and the only reason he has the belt now is that NOAH forgot to train young wrestlers that were any good in the last 10 years besides Shiozaki. But if he took any more time off, it would have increased the chances of him having to forfeit the title and possibly never winning it again, and if he feels it is his last big run I am sure he wants to get as much out of it as he can. So from a personal standpoint I can understand it for that reason, if he wasn’t champion he probably would have taken more time off, but from a promotional standpoint obviously they want him back as soon as possible and as long he isn’t at risk for further injury then I can’t blame them for using him in some capacity while he finishes up being healed. If it was the neck, it would be a totally different story.
P.C.: If Sugiura had waited until after the tournament to come back, I would’ve had no problem with it. If the break wasn’t as bad as it sounded at first, fine, but why risk rushing it for a tourney that was designed to create a contender for you? Not only that, but if he wanted to come back, have him in tags or six-mans during the tour so he’ll be there, but he can ease back and have a fresh program at tour’s end. But he came out of it without suffering another injuryâ€”always a worry when you’re initially coming backâ€”and the match with Akiyama hopefully provided a glimpse of a future title match.
SEVEN MATCHES UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
I’m trying something new. Every week I’ll be giving my readers a match for each day until the next week’s installment (assuming I’ll be able to get them out exactly seven days apart). Whether it’s actually a match a day for each day in between the next installment is irrelevant. The point of this will be a way of letting people in on all the other types of wrestling, promotions of wrestling, and great wrestlers both past and present. Enjoy.
Zero-1 celebrated its first anniversary with these two guys beating each other. Can’t say I’m not thankful for that. The angle going in was Tanaka stealing Hashimoto’s NWA title belt from his office in front of the media, then basically holding it hostage for a match. He got it. Oh, he got it. Why the title wasn’t on the line I’ll never know, but it doesn’t take away from the match itself.
A different kind of champion versus champion match. Vader was still WCW champion at the time with his Starrcade loss to Flair still weeks away. Takada had won UWFi’s world title the year before and Vader had steamrolled through UWFi as well as WCW during 1993. The match is in front of over 46,000 at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo and did mark the highpoint for UWFi as a promotion.
The rematch eight months later. This came at the end of UWFi’s â€œBest in the Worldâ€ tourney. As if there’d be any final other than this. My pick for the best of the trilogy and the crowd atmosphere is typical for a big match in Budokan Hall.
The trilogy ends in another brutally stiff match between these two. UWFi was beginning its descent by this point as this was one of Vader’s last, if not his last, matches in UWFi.
This was near the end of Baba’s time as a main-event star. This was around the time Brody was become a star in Japan, and those two roads mesh well here. However, it’s a big match between two big stars, it’s All Japan, and it’s the 1980’s. The ending should be obvious.
Imagine if this was just a few years later and longer? Tajiri is only a few years pro while Wagner Jr. is a seasoned pro not even hitting his stride in Japan yet (that would come in New Japan a few years later).
One thing that was never lost on these two at their peaks was how to make a match fun. Even though their styles (at least Mutoh’s style as Muta) don’t really mesh perfectly, they still make things really entertaining. And who knew Liger could do a little bit of hardcore wrestling if the occasion called for it? Of course Liger getting unmasked is the best part. Oops, did I ruin it for you? Nope.