The Reality of Wrestling: Roundtable December

With the awards season just getting under way, looking towards the future seemed an ideal idea for the last month of the year. This month for the roundtable we are going that route and looking towards 2011. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about assistance as I was lucky enough to get the whole gang together this time around.

M.C.: Mike Campbell
D.D.: Dave Ditch
K.W.: Kevin Wilson
P.C.: Me

1. Who will win the 2011 Royal Rumble and why?

D.D.: John Cena, because he’s a “main event babyface” and he’s only won once. Other possible winners like Edge and Orton won after Cena, and Taker won’t be back in time.

M.C.: I think it’s too early to say right now. I’d say the favorite right now is the returning Undertaker. Everyone else who seems likely has other things going on, HHH will pick up his feud with Sheamus, Cena has his issues with Wade Barrett, and I expect Orton to be chasing Miz to the Royal Rumble.

K.W.: Good question. I’d say it was a way for Cena to come back, but looks like they already covered that. Then I’d say its a way to get Taker a big match at WrestleMania, but it doesn’t seem like he will be healthy enough. So I’ll go with the returning Punk, I can’t think of anyone else that will benefit from it and be able to have great promo work leading up to a WrestleMania match. Plus, the thought of Punk/Danielson having a title fight at WrestleMania is a pretty fun one, as unlikely as that is (more then likely it would be Punk/Orton).

P.C.: I’m going with Taker as we have all been fooled quite a few times with the Rumble winner being someone coming back from an injury sooner than expected as Cena did it in ’08 and Edge did it in January. And even if Taker’s injuries are as bad as we all believe and have been told they are, I still have to stick by my prediction. Not only that, but I don’t see Cena or Edge winning it this year, so if I had to make a more realistic pick I would take Orton. Miz has a title, I don’t see Mysterio winning and I see even less chance that they have someone like Morrison or Swagger or Del Rio winning. With that, process of elimination would give me Orton.

2. With NEO closing down at the end of the year, what is the future for women’s wrestling in Japan?

D.D.: A continued steady decline into irrelevance and obscurity, much like with men’s wrestling in Japan but on an advanced scale. Joshi has no way to grow whatsoever; their fanbase doesn’t include enough young girls to foster future stars, they can’t get mainsteam TV coverage, and the product/style hasn’t been actively good in so long that nobody knows how to use the limited talent effectively.

M.C.: With yet another joshi fed closing down, I don’t know if women’s wrestling has much more future to it. There are still several places for them work, LLPW, OZ, JWP, WAVE, etc. But it seems like the glory days of the ’90’s are as far away as ever.

K.W.: Probably the same as it has been for the last few years, joshi has already fallen down far enough that another promotion closing won’t have a big impact. Joshi will never go away as they will always have their fans in Japan, the better wrestlers of NEO will just create a few offshoots and business will continue as usual. The only thing it hurts is Joshi’s chance to gain back any momentum that has been lost the last five years, as NEO was one of the more recognizable promotions.

P.C.: I agree with the sentiment that women’s wrestling in Japan is so far down that one more promotion won’t set things back any more. However, I do believe that any flickers of hope for that part of the industry in Japan may have been set back many years. The fact is, this is one of the few women’s wrestling promotions in Japan that was around at some point during the 90’s. Yes, NEO was around after the apex had come and gone, but they started up right when things started really going downhill and were at least able to survive. On that note, it is that much more distressful for the women’s side of the industry that the two major promotions during the glory years—LLPW and JWP—are still around, but no other promotion of women’s wrestling since has been able to make any kind of a dent in Japan. NEO’s continued survival could’ve been viewed as a good sign that if nothing else, a women’s promotion with a somewhat recent start date could survive in Japan.

3. Why are Daisuke Sekimoto & Kota Ibushi—two of the most talked about workers in the Japanese Indy’s—not in either New Japan, All Japan, or NOAH instead of still being in their longtime Indy homes (BJW and DDT respectively)?

D.D.: Sekimoto is doing quite well considering that five years ago he was doing light tube deathmatches. He’s the Zero-One champ, which isn’t a huge accomplishment but it’s better than nothing. He was part of DDT’s big storyline of the year, ending in the Sumo Hall main event. And on the Big Japan end of things, Sekimoto is in charge of training their young wrestlers, so he’s invested in the company (and likely vice-versa). Even though he would be a vast improvement over marginal heavyweight slugs like Yano and Masao Inoue, Sekimoto is too short and too ‘indy’ for anyone to take a risk on at this point. Big Japan as a home promotion is just too big a stigma.

As for Ibushi, when healthy he does fine for himself. By remaining a semi-freelancer he can work at big shows for New Japan and NOAH and work overseas, all while still being loyal to DDT and getting whatever the top pay is in a company like that. I have a feeling that, unlike Sekimoto, he could get a contract almost any time.

M.C.: Because there is a lot to be said for loyalty in Japan. I don’t know about Sekimoto, but I know Ibushi isn’t exactly hurting for work while still working for DDT. Why leave the promotion that made them what they are? If Big Japan or DDT closes down, then they can hopefully sign up with one of the other big feds. But both guys seem to be doing just fine.

K.W.: I don’t know if it is true or not, but rumor/speculation in the case of Ibushi was that he was happy in DDT and that doing occasional tours with New Japan and NOAH was all that he was interested in. Since New Japan and NOAH have both put him over their own major Jr. Heavyweight stars at various points over the last few years, they clearly both think a lot of him as a wrestler. So I’d assume that if he called and said he wanted to work there more, they wouldn’t say no. Sekimoto though I am less sure about as he doesn’t really get any notice from the larger promotions. I don’t know if his stature (more short and built) is just not a good fit for the big leagues or what the deal is, but I am very surprised that he hasn’t done anything in any of the big promotions even if I don’t think he could ever go farther then the midcard.

P.C.: If it’s loyalty, then I hope both stay until it’s no longer in their best interests. And while I do hope that Ibushi continues to get bookings in NJPW and hopefully NOAH, I really would like to see Sekimoto getting more offers from promotions than just Zero-One or other small Indy’s. I still can’t believe that All Japan hasn’t at least brought him in once or twice is beyond me considering his look and style fits very well with what All Japan appears to be looking for in their main-event talent.

4. With Inoki announcing that Chono will be involved in some way with IGF, do you see a IGF/New Japan work agreement like New Japan’s with NOAH?

D.D.: I don’t see how there’s really an IGF to feud with. They’re the island of misfit wrestlers, with failed Inoki projects, over-the-hill and never-were MMA fighters, people the average puro fan doesn’t know, and freelancers that New Japan could bring in whenever they want. New Japan would be debasing themselves to associate with IGF at this point.

M.C.: When Nakamura won the IWGP Title, there was talk of NJ and IGF hooking up and it went nowhere. Chono isn’t even in New Japan anymore, so Chono/IGF working together is far from a sign of it happening.

K.W.: No, not in the same way anyway. IGF has a lot less to offer then NOAH in terms of competitive combat, since most of their wrestlers are no names or castaways in terms of their perception to the average fan. Ogawa is gone, so who does IGF have an (at least somewhat) exclusive contract with that anyone could care about? They might be able to drum up enough interest for a inter-promotional card at a Sumo Hall or something, but nothing more then that.

P.C.: First thing’s first: I’ve seen the belt and can only say it’s the loudest piece of gold in all of wrestling; I don’t care how much it cost or how many pricey diamonds are on it, the belt is too damn flashy and over-the-top (in true Inoki fashion). Now, when I put forth the idea of New Japan people coming in, I meant that since Chono still has a good relationship with New Japan—as far as I know he didn’t resign and no hard feelings were had by Chono or New Japan—they might send a few guys on that basis. I was reaching in suggesting a NOAH/NJPW-like agreement, but I don’t think it would be too far off to have a few New Japan guys like Nagata or Kanemoto or Nakamura are closer to the shoot-style wrestling that IGF runs on (or at least what appears to be shoot-style wrestling).

5. There seem to be small work agreements between AAA & All Japan and CMLL & New Japan where talent from the Mexican promotions are used on the Japanese promotions’ shows and vice versa. So far it’s only been sporadic in both cases, but could a more concrete agreement in the case of one or both of the Mexico/Japan work agreements (in the form of an invasion angle or a new stable forming within a promotion) with talent going to Mexico and to Japan help the business in general in Japan and Mexico?

D.D.: I doubt that Japan and Mexico can do much for each other. I don’t know enough about Mexico to say with certainty that Japanese wrestlers can’t have an impact there, but I fail to see why Japanese talent that can’t get over in Japan would get over in Mexico. As for the other way around, Mexico is very much lacking in heavyweight talent. Mil Mascaras in his prime could be brought in to face top heavyweights and be effective as a foreign sensation. Who can do the same today? Talented junior heavyweights are a dime a dozen, and they aren’t a significant draw outside of specific environments like Dragon Gate (which doesn’t need the help). Mexican wrestlers have more impacted Japan as trainers than anything else.

In a time where no Japan-focused full-time American has won a major heavyweight title since Scott Norton in 2001, the odds against any Mexican or even an entire promotion having an impact in Japan are quite long.

M.C.: It has happened a little bit in Mexico last year. When No Limit were over in Mexico, they joined up with Okumura and created a little anti-Mexico rudo group. Lyger joined up with them when he went over there last year, and both Taichi and Tanahashi were part of it this year too. Like with the IGF deal, I wouldn’t mind at all if it happened (especially in the case of NJ and CMLL) but I don’t think so. Right now it seems like the young boys from Japan are going there to get experiece and flesh out characters for themselves, and Luchadores comes over to round out talent for tours, tournaments, etc.

K.W.: It will make things more interesting, but I don’t know unless they get some really big names that it will do much for business. If the top draws of the promotions switched over and there was enough press for it, I can see some fans caring a bit, but generally (and I am speaking from the reactions in Japan as I don’t watch much Lucha Libre) the crowds don’t really seem any more excited to see a Luchador as they do to see any gaijin. So I think if they got the right wrestlers in the right storyline it might matter, but exchanging mid-carders with an occasional star will only produce fresh matches, not much more.

P.C.: I don’t believe that either industry would be impacted on that great a level from a major Japan/Mexico program as the problems that set the industry back in each country are very different. In Japan, and New Japan specifically, the majority of the damage was self-inflicted while in Mexico it can almost all be blamed on the global economy crash of ’08 as people still pay for wrestling down there (look at The E’s success there), but not at the same level that they had basically for the seventy years before 2008. As for the current Japan/Mexico relationships, I like them because it offers plenty of matchups and, history has shown, that wrestlers from Mexico in Japan and vice versa add up to some quality in-ring action.

PLUGS

Mike’s site

Ditch’s site and Ditch’s column

Kevin’s site

SEVEN MATCHES UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch: Megumi Kudo Vs. Combat Toyota, FMW, 5/5/1996

See, women can do deathmatches too! This match demonstrates what helped make FMW great: lots of blood and violence, but variety. Case in point: it’s not Onita, it’s not Tanaka, it’s not Hayabusa, but two women. And trust me, this wasn’t the only time that they let the women get violent in FMW either.

Masahiro Chono Vs. Yoji Anjoh, UWFi, 10/28/1995

The silver lining of the New Japan/UWFi feud—other than the dream matches that at least were able to happen—was that Yoji Anjoh got to show off his heel skills in a setting that let him show that he wasn’t just a great heel within his own promotion. Chono was the right guy, from a character/attitude point of view, to face Anjoh in UWFi since Mutoh had beaten Takada earlier in the month and Hashimoto was a better pairing for the most well-rounded of UWFi wrestlers.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara Vs. Super Tiger, UWF, 9/11/1985

Two of the masters of shoot-style going at it. This was near the end of the first incarnation of the UWF and was one of the last, if not the last, big match for the first UWF. For those who only know Fujiwara from his comedy and opening match tags or only know Sayama from his Real Japan promotion or the matches with Dynamite Kid, you owe it to yourself to view this and get a better understanding and maybe appreciation of these two. If you already appreciate and understand these guys, watch the match because you’ll enjoy it.

Bull Nakano Vs. Manami Toyota, AJW, 7/21/1990

Women’s wrestling in the 90’s starts here. I’m not the best authority on the history of women’s wrestling, but as far as my understanding of the history of that part of the industry goes, this is it. Nakano and Toyota would become even bigger stars than they are now and both women’s rises can be traced back to this match and other great ones that the two would have during 1990 and 1991.

Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi Vs. Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata, NOAH, 2/17/2002

The first Kobashi return tag, but not the most meaningful. However, this is the best of the Kobashi return matches and the only instance where it really looked like Misawa and Kobashi were going to pass the torch.

GHC Title Match: Kenta Kobashi (c.) Vs. Yoshihiro Takayama, NOAH, 4/25/2004

The definition of epic when it comes to NOAH. This match was in the making for nearly a year before it actually happened. And when it did…it happened hard. If you know anything about these two, then you know there will be plenty of big shots and, in this case, one moonsault above all others. Watch for it, you’ll know when it happens.

Triple Crown: Jumbo Tsuruta (c.) Vs. Genichiro Tenryu, AJPW, 4/20/1989

I can go on and on about how awesome these two guys are and all the great matches they’ve had with each other and on and on and on. But, in this case, I can describe this match (as Ditch does too) in one word: GANSOBOMB!!!!!!

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