Puroresu Pulse, issue 174: The Intelligent Sensational Grab Bag

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Taru & Big Daddy V retained the All Asia tag titles over Kondo & Hiroshi Yamato. Akebono beat Hama.

Dragon Gate: CIMA beat Billy Ken Kid to win the Osaka Pro title. World-1 beat Warriors for the trios titles on the 20th, but Warriors won a rematch on the 24th.

New Japan: Makabe retained over Shiozaki, Bernard & Anderson won the tag titles, Devitt unseated Marufuji for the junior title, Takahashi took Yano’s hair, Nakamura downed Puder, and Goto beat Tanaka.

Section 2- News

Dragon Gata: Horiguchi defends the junior title on the 3rd versus Tigers Mask. CIMA defends the Osaka title on the 9th versus Osaka stalwart Black Buffalo (I give CIMA a 98% chance there). Black Buffalo, Tigers Mask & The Bodyguard of Osaka will challenge for the trios titles on the 11th.

New Japan: Devitt’s first defense will be on the 11th vs Aoki. The tour-ender on the 19th will have Makabe defending against Nakamura, and another 3-way tag title match where the winner has to take 2 falls.

NOAH: Tanahashi vs Shiozaki is set for the 10th. Ishimori & Marvin defend the tag titles against Nakajima & Miyahara on the 14th. Shiozaki vs Sasaki, Marufuji & Aoki vs Nakamura & Gedo, and Akiyama & KENTA vs Nagata & Taguchi have been announced for the 7/24 show at Osaka Prefectural Gym. Kawada will be back on the July tour.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

New Japan: They sold out Osaka Prefectural Gym on 6/19 thanks to NOAH fans who came to support Shiozaki and Marufuji. Nakamura and Puder once trained together at a kickboxing school in San Jose, back when Nakamura did MMA training.

NOAH: Kobashi is getting married to his long-term girlfriend, who is famous as the singer Mai Mizuki. Kobashi had talked about being single and wanting to find the right woman, in order to appeal to female wrestling fans, despite being in the relationship.

WWE: They’re using Sumo Hall on 8/20 and 8/21. (Between that and the G-1, All Japan could struggle with their Sumo Hall show at the end of August).

Section 3- Shill In Alive 4

DVDVR New Japan 1980’s vote results.

Straightforward is best.

Section 4- A Destructive Bag Of Grabbing

The Destroyer: Background

Back in ’06, I wrote about how The Destroyer had some of the best ring psychology you’ll ever see. Since that time I learned that Destroyer, real name Dick Beyer, lives in a remarkably straight line 2 hours from me. So you can imagine that when I found out he’d been interviewed for over an hour by Dave Meltzer, I was all over that. It especially helps that, unlike in 2006, I can now offer video detailing the awesomeness that is The Destroyer.

Dick Beyer grew up in the Buffalo area at a time when Buffalo was healthy enough to be part of a wrestling territory. I grew up at a time when there was no territory in western NY, and wrestling was primarily something to be consumed through a TV rather than in person; that’s probably part of why getting puro tapes proved so addicting for me. The fact that Beyer became a star in California, became a superstar in Japan, and then moved back to Buffalo is a testament to how down-to-earth he is. The man helps out the swimming and wrestling teams at a local high school, and he’ll be 80 years old on July 11th!

Because what he did happened decades ago and mostly on another continent, The Destroyer (aka Dr. X) is just about unknown by today’s wrestling fans. In fact I’ll bet many of you don’t know Dick. Well, here’s your opportunity to learn about him.

Notes from Wrestling Observer interview

-He was a successful amateur wrestler, and faced the likes of Tim Woods (Mr. Wrestling 1).

-While wrestling future pro Don Curtis, he was discovered by the local promoter. Had planned to be a phys ed teacher, but became a success as a pro wrestler.

-He first got masks by buying women’s girdles that his wife sewed into masks.

-He wrestled Gorgeous George in 1962 in a mask vs hair match, which wound up being George’s last match.

-While in Califormia, he won the WWA title, which was one of the top belts in the country and had official ‘world title’ status. It was held by Rikidozan before that and as a result was a big deal in Japan. He wrestled a series of matches in California in early ’63 against Giant Baba while holding the title, and carried a then-green Baba for an hour.

-The Japanese press covered the matches extensively, and thus when Destroyer went to Japan to face Rikidozan it was huge news. Beyer had no idea it was going to be a major match until he got there. It’s worth noting that this was several years after Lou Thesz had wrestled in Japan, so there was a lack of major ‘Rikidozan vs American’ matches, which was by far the biggest drawing card in Japan. It ended up as one of the two most-watched matches in wrestling history (along with Rikidozan vs Thesz). Download link for Rikidozan vs Destroyer.

-Rikidozan wasn’t easy to work with, in that he wouldn’t “give” anything in the ring. Beyer mentions Mil Mascaras as being the same way. Download link for Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras,1973.

– Six days later, Rikidozan invited Beyer to go out partying with him. Beyer turned him down, and that night Rikidozan was stabbed by a yakuza member. The stab wound got infected because the knife blade had been urinated on, and Rikidozan died a week later.

-He missed the first All Japan tour in 1972 because he had dates set with AWA. When he got there for the second tour he noticed that there was a severe lack of Japanese talent and figured that the Japanese side of the company needed more support, so he offered to move to Japan and wrestle as Baba’s tag partner. Baba agreed, and they did an angle where Destroyer said he’d join with Baba if Baba beat him in a singles match. Baba won and from then on Destroyer was a babyface in Japan. Beyer and his family then moved to Japan. Download link for Baba vs Destroyer, 1972.

-At first Baba offered Beyer $1000 a week (which was good money in the early ’70s) when he got Beyer to move. Then, Baba doubled the offer but said Beyer would have to cover all of his own expenses. Beyer says that was a mistake to accept, in part because he had to pay for his kids to go to private schools.

-He got a regular role on a TV comedy/variety show called Uwasa no Channel (Channel of Secrets), and between that and wrestling he ended up living in Japan through 1979.

-He has a Destroyer golf tournament in Japan in August, and before then he’ll take some high schooler wrestlers from Buffalo to a meet in Japan. The latter is something he’s been working on for years.

-He has a book coming out. It’s finished and they’re looking for a publisher.

Other matches from The Destroyer’s Japanese career

In the course of reading Meltzer’s obits for Jack Brisco, he mentions that Jack and Destroyer had a series of matches in All Japan during the ‘70s, including at least 1 that went 60 minutes. There’s a staggering volume of great old-school matches like Jack vs Destroyer that either wasn’t taped, or the footage has been lost or is damaged beyond repair. As a result there’s a tragic lack of Destroyer footage, but here’s a good chunk of what exists.

Destroyer vs Toyonobori, JWA February 26th 1965.

Toyonobori was the big star in Japan after Rikidozan’s murder. He wasn’t what one would call “great”. Or “good”, for that matter. It’s a testament to Destroyer’s skill that he was able to carry Toy-bo for an hour. I especially enjoy him yelling at the ref and insisting that he’s nothing like Fred Blassie, who had caused a sensation in Japan.

Giant Baba vs Destroyer, JWA March 5th 1969.

This is a piece of old-school magic. I can’t even begin to list how many different things they do to perfection in here. They entertain with technical grappling, they entertain with their personalities, they entertain with comedy, Destroyer cheats like a criminal mastermind, they tease big spots then pay them off, and the end result is an hour well spent. By far the best Baba singles match on film and probably Destroyer’s best as well. The difference in what Baba brought to the table compared to Rikidozan and Toyonobori is night-and-day.

Inoki vs Destroyer, JWA May 19th 1971.

One thing to come out of the New Japan ‘80s project is that Inoki was often problematic as a worker. He’d get lazy, he wouldn’t sell, he’d go through the motions, etc. He could get away with it because he was a cultural icon. That wasn’t the case in 1971, so we get a good match. Inoki didn’t quite have Baba’s ring psychology, but he was a hell of an athlete and no slouch on the mat.

Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras, All Japan July 25th 1974.

There’s a lot to enjoy about their ’73 encounter (linked above), but this takes it to another level. Two approaches to old-school matwork meld together wonderfully, especially the teasing of Destroyer’s figure-four. There’s also the best leapfrog spot you’ll ever see.

Destroyer vs Don Leo Johnathan, All Japan World League 1975.

Johnathan is one of the best big-men ever, and is another legend of whom little footage exists. Dick Beyer’s lack of stature would seem to be a problem at first, but they’re smart enough to use the disparity in order to make things fun.

Destroyer vs Horst Hoffman, All Japan World League 1975.

Hoffman is a European grappler who was a world-class technician, and he influenced a young Misawa’s ring attire by often wearing green tights.

Terry Funk, Jumbo Tsuruta & Tenryu vs Destroyer, Jerry Blackwell & Ron Bass, All Japan September 14th 1982.

All Japan Classics aired hardly any relevant Destroyer matches taking place after the ’75 World League, in part because Destroyer stopped being a headliner in the mid-70s. This matchup is chock full of old-school fun. Blackwell is better than you’d expect just from looking at him. The dream pairing here is Terry Funk vs Destroyer, and it does deliver.

In conclusion: Dick Beyer was the man. And we’ll be returning to the subject of The Destroyer sometime down the line.

Next Time: New Japan ‘80s resumes!

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