Puroresu Pulse, issue 177: Current Events and G-1

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Jimmy Yang beat KAI in the junior tournament final to earn a shot at Hayashi on the 29th.

New Japan: Devitt was Marufuji’s replacement. Notable G-1 results include Anderson over Tanahashi, Naito over Makabe, Nagata over Nakamura and Shiozaki, Bernard over Nagata and Goto, Kojima over Shiozaki, Yano over Makabe, Goto over Nakamura, Nakamura over Bernard and Kojima, and Shiozaki over Bernard. Attendance in Aichi and Yokohama both seem to have been good, and Osaka was reasonable considering it was a fairly weak card (just Nakamura vs Goto being of importance). Right now, B block has 6 wrestlers with 6 points and 2 with 0.

Zero-One: Ohtani beat Tanaka in the Fire Festival finals.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Two big matches set for Sunday’s Korakuen show: Suzuki & Funaki vs Suwama & Kono, and Akebono vs Big Daddy V. Hijikata has quit the company.

New Japan: I just have to point this out. On the first six shows of the tour, they booked one tag match with participants that will face off in the final six round-robin matches on the last show. Considering that only one final day matchup is between guys who should be comfortable in a ‘big match’ setting against each other (Makabe vs Tanahashi), that will help the other matchups go smoother and in some cases provide an ‘issue’ heading in. Just plain smart.

NOAH: They’ve booked Nippon Budokan for September 26th. One explanation I’d have is that they might draw more there than at Ariake, enough to make up the difference in venue cost. Kotaro Suzuki returns on the 28th, versus KENTA.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

DDT: The 8800 attendance number for Sumo Hall appears legit. He says Marufuji vs Ibushi was the big draw.

NOAH: They only drew 800 people for a 10th anniversary show at Differ Ariake, with a big 2 of 3 falls main event of Sugiura & KENTA vs Shiozaki & Morishima.

Section 3- Climbin In Yo Window Shillin Yo People Up

Phil-led roundtable featuring yours truly.

Section 4- I Love The New Japan ‘80s Part 5: Errata

I leave you with ten matches that were either small bits on the set, came just before the set, or didn’t make it but I happen to enjoy.

Andre the Giant vs ???, MSG league, New Japan June 1st 1979.

It’s supposed to be one match but we get a bigger one. Unlike the ‘Andre vs other big man’ battles we got in the Hansen and Khan matches this is the classic ‘Andre vs much smaller opponent’, and Andre in his prime really was one of the greats. This has gotten nothing but positive reviews so far, since it works for both the puro novice and those who are hardcores like myself.

Fujinami vs Ryuma Go, WWF junior title, New Japan November 2nd 1979.

Ryuma Go, who recently passed away, had a series of bouts with Fujinami in the late ‘70s. The matches hold up quite nicely today, and were better than most of Fujinami’s early ‘80s junior bouts because Go brings a lot of energy and crowd heat. Go wound up becoming quite the unique figure in Japanese wrestling, bouncing between big leagues and tiny skuzzy indy feds. I’m not sure what prevented him from becoming a top-flight star like Fujinami, because while Fujinami was the better athlete, Go was no slouch.

Inoki & Fujinami vs Andre the Giant & Rene Goulet, MSG tag league final, New Japan December 10th 1981.

Decent when Goulet is in, and non-stop greatness when Andre is in. It’s less than 10 minutes long and has several memorable moments.

Sakaguchi & Hoshino vs Andre the Giant & St. Clair, New Japan June 13th 1985.

It is all about Hoshino as David and Andre as Goliath. Another short but fun tag.

The Cobra vs Don Arakawa, New Japan August 1st 1985.

Don Arakawa, who has wrestled forever and been everywhere but never really accomplished much, has the performance of a lifetime. Cobra (and the finish) kinda detracts from it, but Arakawa is SO GOOD that this isn’t to be missed.

Inoki vs Fujinami, New Japan September 19th 1985.

The folks at DVDVR didn’t enjoy the Inoki/Fujinami singles bouts, but I did and I’m not alone on it. Solid technical wrestling along with dueling crowd factions makes this worthwhile, albeit not jaw-dropping.

Masa Saito vs Maeda, New Japan May 18th 1987.

Short and bloody. A real shame we didn’t get more interactions between these two, who are both legit tough and a bit stubborn at times.

Maeda shoots on Choshu, New Japan November 19th 1987.

If this didn’t happen, UFC might not have gotten big. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration… but only a bit. Maeda was forced out of New Japan, started the second UWF, which spawned UWFi, RINGS and PWFG, which spawned Pancrase and PRIDE (along with RINGS becoming all-shoots), which led to the MMA boom in Japan, which set the stage for UFC becoming a big deal. All from a single kick.

Owen Hart vs Yamada & vs Koshinaka, New Japan June 1988.

Owen was an incredible athlete. Both matches are joined in progress to their respective ultra-hot finishes.

Fujinami vs Inoki, IWGP title, New Japan August 8th 1988.

The DVDVR crew hated this, but I think that’s because they saw an incomplete version. This one goes long, with it slowly declining in quality other than the last few minutes. The opening is really choice 70s-style technical wrestling. This was a hugely important match, and Inoki’s last title bout.

Mutoh, Chono & Hashimoto vs Fujinami, Kimura & Koshinaka, New Japan July 29th 1988.

The Musketeers unite in a short but hate-filled trios outing. Mutoh’s look is quite different from what we’re used to, a bit more ‘serious’, but it works. It slays me that they didn’t even get ten minutes, let alone the terrible finish, but That’s The 80s.

Section 5- Current Events

All Japan: They’ve got essentially a two-match card set for Sumo Hall, and it hinges on the appeal of two Su’s: Suwama and (Kenzo) Suzuki. In the former case, I’m sad to say that he’s one of many young stars that have failed to show an ability to draw. Last year his match with Takayama was an afterthought next to Masa Funaki’s return match in the main event, and his 2008 title defense against Kea was secondary in importance to Muta vs Hirooki Goto. Suwama is decent but he doesn’t light the world on fire, something that isn’t helped by his constantly having too much time to kill in title matches. Minoru Suzuki isn’t exactly an attendance magnet either, so while the matchup will appeal to hardcore fans it won’t draw in the casuals who are needed to fill a big venue.

As for Suzuki, it’s difficult to gauge how popular he is in Japan. It isn’t like when Mutoh or Masa Saito would return to cheers after having strong showings in the US; Suzuki was a WWE midcarder with a short run, followed by a longer time in less-important Mexico. There are certainly less-interesting choices than Kenzo, but is he interesting enough to get people’s hard-earned yen? I have my doubts. While they should top the dismal 4100 they did in March, they have next to no chance of matching what DDT did. Especially when they’re so close to more appealing New Japan and NOAH big events.

Dragon Gate: I’m still not used to the thought of Yoshino, one of the smallest men on a small roster, as the champ. But he’s popular with the lady-types who populate DG crowds and he’s gotten enough big wins over the years to be credible in kayfabe. To an extent I think they short-changed Yamato, but Yamato will almost certainly have another run down the line. The good thing about Yoshino’s size is that even more of the roster than usual can be a credible challenger. For instance someone like Kness, or Dragon Kid (who got at shot vs Yokosuka in ’06 only because of their past history). Yoshino isn’t someone who detracts from the Dragon Gate formula, and so I expect their good times to keep rolling unless the product as a whole takes a serious dive.

NOAH: Sugiura is a hard worker, and he’s as legit as anyone on the roster, but it’s time to end his reign. Maybe it’s a matter of NOAH’s weakness as a promotion, or maybe it’s fan bias against someone who is barely a heavyweight, but he simply isn’t drawing. Akiyama looks like he’s in better condition to be champion than he was when he won last year in a listless match with Sasaki. More importantly, Akiyama is a bigger name with a better ‘heavyweight champion’ look. I don’t think Akiyama should get an especially long reign, but at the very least he can run out the year and either pass the torch to Shiozaki or lose to a New Japan wrestler (Nakamura/Tanahashi) who would then lose to Shiozaki.

At this point I still don’t think the company quite ‘gets’ their fanbase. They need to be dishing out potential matches of the year on their cards, or at least matches with a whiff of an epic heavyweight-style clash. Sasaki & Nakajima vs Shiozaki & KENTA generated an instant sellout at Korakuen, it didn’t give away a match they’d need to save for a big show, and it delivered in terms of being high-end action. The last NOAH match to generate serious ticket sales was Sasaki & Morishima vs Akiyama & Kobashi, and that despite a dismal fall season for the company, no buildup/backstory and no airtime on NTV. Even though it was cancelled, the fact is that the fans responded proves that there are still lots of hardcore fans willing to pay for that big fight feel. NOAH doesn’t have a deep roster, but they have enough names and connections that they should be able to have one really attractive tag on every Korakuen card and three on every major event. Following up Sasaki’s win over Shiozaki with a singles match against Yoshinari Ogawa is just the sort of thing that makes me wonder if anyone in NOAH knows what they’re doing.

Next Time: G-1 fallout & NOAH big show results! All Japan hidden gems from 1990!

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