Section 1- Results
All Japan: Akebono beat Big Daddy V in what has to be the â€˜biggestâ€™ singles match of the year. Suwama & Kono beat Suzuki & Funaki when Suwama pinned Funaki.
Dragon Gate: Yoshino beat Tigers Mask to win the lightweight title, then immediately vacated the belt because he already has the main title. Doi & Yoshino beat Saito & Horiguchi in the tag league final, after beating Yokosuka & Kness in the semis.
New Japan: Notable round-robin results from the G-1 included Kojima over Bernard and Goto; Goto over Nagata; Shiozaki over Goto; Devitt over Tanahashi; Nakamura over Kojima; Nakamura vs Shiozaki went to a 30 minute draw; Yujiro over Nagata; Tanahashi over Makabe. In the final, Kojima became the first non-contracted wrestler to win the tournament by defeating Tanahashi.
NOAH: Sugiura retained over Akiyama, Shiozaki beat Nakamura (which was added after their G-1 draw); Kanemoto & Tiger Mask won the junior tag titles. They only claimed 5500.
Section 2- News
All Japan: Hijikata, aka Toshizo, has left the company. The tag title match that Lance Cade was scheduled to be in has been cancelled.
Dragon Gate: There will be a tournament on Sunday to crown a new lightweight champ. Doi, Hulk & Tanisaki go for the trios titles on the 3rd. Doi & Yoshino challenge for the tag titles on the 17th, though that might not happen because Kness has a shoulder injury.
New Japan: Masato Tanaka jumped Makabe and demanded a title shot, which will happen on 9/26 in Kobe World Hall. Kojimaâ€™s title shot will take place on 10/11 in Sumo Hall.
NOAH: Kanemoto & Tiger Mask defend the junior tag titles on Saturday against Kanemaru & Hirayanagi. Sugiuraâ€™s next defense is against Shiozaki on 9/26.
Section 3- Shill Garden in Shin Kiba
Phil talks G-1.
Section 4- Media Corner
These first two should have been in the last issue, but I forgot. My bad. Third one happened Sunday so it doesnâ€™t get much faster than this!
Sasaki vs Shiozaki, NOAH July 24th.
Certain details, for instance the length and a major botched spot, drag this down. But the way itâ€™s laid out, especially the second half, is better than any heavyweight singles match from Japan in some time. It tells a story and is the perfect set-up for a rematch.
Akiyama & KENTA vs Nagata & Taguchi, NOAH July 24th.
Nagata versus KENTA is probably the best matchup from Japan all year, just white-hot hate and brutality. I want a rematch with someone replacing Taguchi, who is just way too soft and bland for this type of thing.
KENTA vs Aoki, NOAH August 22nd.
It seems I liked their match last year more than anyone. It was very technical and focused. This is very different: a hard-hitting strike-based sprint that might have been a MOTYC in front of even an average crowd. Thank goodness this is the end of NOAH using Ariake Coliseum.
I Love the â€˜90s Part 6: I Love All Japan Hidden Gems
Early 1990 All Japan has been largely overlooked because it lacks the â€˜best of the decadeâ€™ or â€˜career-changingâ€™ material that started with Misawaâ€™s unmasking and his feud with Jumbo Tsuruta. As a result of my capricious decision to run down the â€˜90s in this column (something that will likely never be completed), I decided to take a look at this period. Three of the four matches in this update are ones I hadnâ€™t seen before this summer. Considering the insane amount of All Japan Iâ€™ve watched over the last 9 years, thatâ€™s remarkable.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Mask vs Tenryu & Fuyuki, All Japan January 14th 1990.
On one hand this is depressing, since of the four only Tenryu is alive. On the other hand Iâ€™m very glad to have stumbled upon this match. Jumbo vs Tenryu is a known quantity when it comes to quality wrestling, and Tenryu extends his hatred to encompass Tiger Misawa. Add in a neat finish and youâ€™ve got yourself a bout well worth your while.
Tenryu & Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Isao Takagi, All Japan January 20th 1990.
Takagi is an ex-sumo went on to become Arashi. And if you donâ€™t know who Arashi is, youâ€™re probably better off. Anyway, young Takagi takes it to Tenryu in a big way, and Tenryu goes on a rampage that leads the match in a different direction than the usual â€˜young guy fights valiantly but losesâ€™ finish.
Tenryu vs Isao Takagi, All Japan January 28th 1990.
Tenryu beats seven shades of crap out of Takagi. Itâ€™s pretty much a squash, but boy howdy WHAT A SQUASH!
Hansen & Dan Spivey vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Kobashi, All Japan April 16th 1990.
Spivey wonâ€™t show up much despite having three solid years in All Japan; he wasnâ€™t on the elite level of others in the company. Heâ€™s a good hand, though, and more than holds up his end amidst three hall-of-famers. The real star of this is the crowd at Osaka Prefectural Gym, as the people react to everything in hilarious fashion. Great fun!
Section 5- G-1 Aftermath & NOAH Keeps On Strugglinâ€™
New Japan: Well, canâ€™t say I saw that one coming. I suppose in the future weâ€™ll have to include â€œNew Japan trained freelancersâ€ in the â€œwho can win G-1â€ predictions, though even with that I still wouldnâ€™t have picked Kojima, who hadnâ€™t appeared for New Japan in a couple years and who was returning from a couple months off. Whatâ€™s more, I was positive that nobody who lost on the next-to-last day would bounce back and win the tournament, but thatâ€™s what Kojima did. Itâ€™s a good move if Kojima goes on to wrestle at most of New Japanâ€™s big shows going forward, since there wasnâ€™t anyone on the main roster who really needed to win the tournament (or was in good position to do so). It adds one more feather to Kojimaâ€™s cap and washes away the taste of his Triple Crown loss to Hama.
And the company decided to throw another surprise in by having Masato Tanaka throw out a challenge. This one Iâ€™m less sure about. Tanaka hasnâ€™t actually accomplished much in his numerous New Japan treks, and he just came off a loss in Zero-Oneâ€™s Fire Festival final. He isnâ€™t any sort of draw in Kobe, so they really need a good semi-main if theyâ€™re going to fill the venue. Bottom line here is that heâ€™s there to pad Makabeâ€™s title reign.
As for Makabe vs Kojima, Iâ€™d say Kojimaâ€™s odds are good. Makabe with three title defenses and five months as champ will have proven himself as a non-fluke. Trying to give him an â€˜epicâ€™ reign would be fruitless, since he isnâ€™t ever going to be the face of the company and he isnâ€™t a box-office attraction. Kojima winning the title would keep his momentum going and he would have ready challengers in Nakamura and Nagata since they beat him during the tournament. Kojima would also be better than Makabe to use as the person Hirooki Goto finally defeats to win the title, perhaps at the January 4th Tokyo Dome show. But thatâ€™s getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
The tournament was booked very well overall, with plenty of upsets and all the big names getting enough big wins to maintain credibility. Kojimaâ€™s win adds to the companyâ€™s main event depth and also will help make future G-1 finals unpredictable.
NOAH: I guess it makes sense to throw in the towel on Ariake Coliseum after the latest attendance failure, but Iâ€™m not so sure Nippon Budokan will lead to much improvement. Sundayâ€™s card was a strong one with the addition of Shiozaki vs Nakamura, plus reasonably interesting midcard singles bouts in Kojima vs Yone, Sasaki vs Taniguchi (who replaced Ogawa), and KENTA vs Aoki. There isnâ€™t much more they could do without looking desperate, though having Kawada on the card wouldnâ€™t have hurt.
It seems rather obvious that Shiozaki will beat Sugiura, which ought to be a much more satisfying title win than the somewhat depressing one over Rikio last year in the wake of Misawaâ€™s death. With Shiozaki having gotten several big wins over New Japan in recent months, plus his strong showing in defeat versus Sasaki, he seems much more legit than he was a year ago when NOAH gave him a somewhat force-fed push. Heâ€™s not going to be the second coming of Kobashi, but heâ€™s a good enough athlete with a good enough look that he can be built around. What isnâ€™t clear is whether heâ€™s any sort of draw, though the same can probably be said of all young stars in Japan.
It shouldnâ€™t be too difficult to fill out a good reign for Shiozaki. Heâ€™ll have to face Sasaki, and Morishima seems logical. Throw in Kojima, someone from New Japan, and perhaps Kawada or Marufuji, and youâ€™ve got enough to last most of a year. He needs at least two solid defenses this time around, especially since his only successful defense last year was against Saito. However, it isnâ€™t important who he faces so much as how the rest of the company is booked. Big cards right now are very thrown-together, and thereâ€™s still very little in the way of continuity within and between tours. They still havenâ€™t put together clear stables, and if Shiozaki is going to be a leader he NEEDS to have â€˜followersâ€™. He needs to have clear rivals. He needs the kind of booking that made most of Japanâ€™s biggest stars and yet has been absent from NOAH for years.
In 2004 and 2005, I was a broken record when it came to New Japanâ€™s problems. Itâ€™s going to be the same way with NOAH until they get their act together.
Next Time: I donâ€™t know! Which probably means a grab bag.
Tags: 1990s, G-1 Climax, Puroresu