Puroresu Pulse issue 188: Chris Hero Interview Part 1

Columns, Interviews, Top Story

Section 1- Results

Dragon Gate: Yoshino retained over Fujii. Cyber Kong beat Hulk in a singles match, so I’d look for him to get a small-venue title shot down the line.

New Japan: Devitt & Taguchi won the junior tag titles from Ibushi & Omega. Berard & Anderson retained the tag titles.

NOAH: Sugiura and Marufuji & Aoki both retained on the 15th. Takayama beat KENTA.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Akebono & Kea defend against Kono & Doering on the 6th. Hayashi vs Kondo on the 11th will determine Minoru’s first challenger, while Akebono vs Kono vs Kenzo Suzuki on the 13th will determine Suwama’s next challenger.

Big Japan: Ito’s next title defense will be May 5th in Yokohama. He will face the winner of a 10 man (in 2 blocks) round-robin tournament, the final of which will take place in April. Based on who’s in it and how it’s laid out, I’d say Kasai and Takashi Sasaki are most likely to win.

Dragon Gate: Mochizuki vs Brodie Lee on the 10th will determine Yoshino’s next challenger, though if Brodie wins it’s Gamma who gets the shot. Pac vs Tanizaki and Mochizuki & Fujii vs Saito & Horiguchi are set for the 6th. The new heel stable’s name is Blood Warriors.

DDT: Dick Togo returns on Sunday, against long-time stablemate Antonio Honda for DDT’s title. Togo will retire on June 30th.

IGF: Their show on the 5th will be headlined by ex-sumo Shinichi Suzukawa against Kimbo Slice. WMOTY candidate right there, as they have a combined experience of 1 match.

New Japan: Devitt & Taguchi defend the junior tag titles against Taka & NOSAWA on Sunday. Devitt defends against Taka on the 20th. Also on the 20th, Bernard & Anderson defend against Nakanishi & Strongman. The biggest match so far for the US tour is Devitt vs Low Ki, which could potentially be a junior title match if Devitt is still the champ.

New Japan & NOAH: In the spring they will open a joint gym/dojo. There are quite a lot of interesting angles to this, even beyond the obvious “NJ and NOAH working together” one. For instance, NOAH uses Differ Ariake as its home base, with a gym/dojo, a dorm, and offices. Why would they invest in a new training facility, unless it means they’re going to vacate Differ? I was initially skeptical when it was announced, but the short turnaround on the facility opening suggests it’s a done deal.

Zero-One: Tanaka vs Nagata has been added to the Sumo Hall card.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

IGF: Suzukawa, the ex-sumo that Inoki has decided to push, was involved in a sloppy worked-shoot versus Mark Coleman back in September. Coleman was told he was going over, but Suzukawa didn’t tap to any of the submissions Coleman locked in. Suzukawa wasn’t doing much damage, but with his size he was able to give Coleman some hard hits, and Coleman hadn’t trained for a real fight so he wasn’t in shape. Eventually Coleman just gave up. Meltzer is rightly baffled that Inoki would have Suzukawa try to shoot on Coleman, who probably could have ended it early had he realized what was going on. And if Suzukawa was going into business for himself, why would Inoki stick with him? Ah, there’s nothing like Inoki to make your mind want to burst.

Misc: Giant Baba was a star in the US in the early ‘60s, headlining across the country, before he was brought back to Japan after Rikidozan’s death.

New Japan: There’s talk of changing the January 4th Tokyo Dome tradition, be it a new venue or date.

NOAH: He notes that they only drew 700 for their first show of the year at Differ Ariake. While not a good number, the lineup wasn’t as strong as the 10 Year Anniversary shows in August, which only did slightly better.

Section 3- Shilltastica Mania

CB breaks down the Rumble.

Section 4- Media Corner

2011

Nagata vs Suzuki, New Japan January 4th.

They use their faces to take advantage of the big screens to get big reactions. A solid match move-by-move, but it’s their personalities and the venue that make it worthwhile.

Takayama vs KENTA, NOAH January 15th.

Every bit as brutal as you’d expect.

I Love the ‘90s Part 14: I Love Jumbo Tsuruta So Much

In this set, we cover six months of All Japan in the middle of 1991. A period in which Jumbo was the company’s ace, and the promotion really hit its stride with the every-match-is-at-least-‘good’ Jumbo vs Misawa feud. This set highlights Jumbo as he takes on the three heavyweights in Misawa’s stable. Those three were rightly seen as future leaders, and Jumbo makes them look that way while keeping himself strong. It’s a delicate balance that few wrestlers manage, and it’s a big part of why I consider him the greatest of all time.

Matches already covered:
-Misawa vs Gordy, June 1
-Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kawada, July 24
-Misawa & Kawada vs Jumbo & Taue, September 4
-Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, October 15

Jumbo vs Misawa, Triple Crown, April 18th 1991.

Jumbo, fresh off winning the Champions Carnival, has his first and only singles title match with Misawa. While not quite at the same level as their 1990 bouts, there’s still lots to love. What really stands out to me is how raucous the crowd is.

Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, April 20th 1991.

Wow. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without pimping the best 6-man tag ever. Is it 100% flawless from bell-to-bell, no, but then how many matches are? What we do get is lots of enjoyable pairings, some great moments, boatloads of the quality action you come to expect from All Japan, a lively K-Hall crowd, and it ends precisely when it should. My 1991 MOTY, and comfortably so. Must-see.

Jumbo vs Kobashi, May 24th 1991.

Even though Kobashi is the #3 guy in Misawa’s stable, Jumbo always sold for him and took his big moves. This is similar to their 1990 match, though you have more of a sense that Kobashi is a man now, rather than a high-functioning young lion.
Jumbo vs Kawada, Triple Crown, October 24th 1991.

There’s several lead-in tags before this that aren’t standouts but do a good job of showing Kawada as a threat to the champ. This isn’t as ‘amazing’ as it could have been, and there’s definitely some flab in the middle, but the first third and last third are still CHOICE. It’s one of Kawada’s ten best singles matches, and considering that he’s my second favorite wrestler I’m not saying that lightly.

Section 5- Chris Hero & Japan, part 1 of 2

When it comes to “wrestlers who like and are influenced by Japanese style”, Chris Hero is at or near the top of the list. I’ve tried to do an interview with him for years, but in a way it’s better that it’s come now that he’s become a success in NOAH. Chris gave me 104 minutes of his time, and that’s with me trying to avoid subjects he’s spoken about already. Along that line, let’s start off with what he’s said previously.

Notes from an interview with Slam Wrestling

-While in Japan he was able to do intensive training at NOAH’s dojo. He reached a new level of conditioning.

-His favorite Japanese wrestler is Kawada.

Notes from an interview by Mike Cranwell

Mike’s interview was split into four parts. Here’s part 4, which contains links to the first three. Mike is good people and one of the regulars in the ‘best of’ votes over at DVDVR.

-His first exposure to puro was in the form of Japanese wrestlers like Liger, Shinzaki and Taka Michinoku competing in the US.

-After wrestling for a year he started buying tapes featuring the wrestlers he was familiar with. He moved on to promotions like Toryumon and Michinoku Pro, and eventually All Japan, which had the clearest influence on his style.

-While in Japan he met a fan who helped him do a blog in Japanese.

-His 2009 match with Go Shiozaki really got him over in Japan, along with his efforts to learn the language and his work ethic.

-It took several tours for him to really get comfortable in Japan and be able to interact with the NOAH roster in person.

-Ryu Nakata, NOAH’s top office worker, took notice of Hero and Claudio back in 2006. They would have gone to Japan sooner as a team, but Claudio was briefly signed by WWE. Hero got his first NOAH tour in February 2007 but it didn’t go well.

-He was on the June 2009 tour, and thus was on the show where Misawa died. There’s more detail about this in the interview.

Notes from his RF Shoot inrerview

-Madman Pondo hooked him up with a Big Japan tour in 2004. Was treated well, but he isn’t a hardcore guy so they didn’t bring him back.

-As of the interview he’d been making a living in wrestling for 3 years.

Notes from my interview. My comments in parentheses.

Matches against Japanese opponents outside Japan

-Faced Shinjitsu Nohashi of Michinoku Pro in CHIKARA’s 2003 tag tournament. Nohashi was Mini Araken at the time, part of the “Toryumon X” class of Ultimo Dragon Gym trainees. Nohashi teamed with Skayde, who was making his US debut. Skayde and other Toryumon X students slept at Hero’s house, at one point numbering well over a dozen. (It helps that Japanese wrestling students are used to cramped living conditions).

-Faced Billy Ken Kid & Ebessan/Kikutaro in CHIKARA’s 2005 tournament. Kikutaro speaks a fair amount of English because he made numerous trips to California as part of the original Tokyo Gurentai stable (along with NOSAWA, MAZADA and Minoru Fujita). Kikutaro is very funny in person.

-Took on Milano Collection AT on April 1, 2006 in IWA Mid-South. Hero loved wrestling Milano, who like Chris had trained a lot with Skayde. Milano was fluid, athletic, and a good technician.

-Took on Dick Togo in a ladder match at IWA East Coast. This was a match that came about because of Pondo’s connections in Japan. Togo “busted ass”, and they got along well enough that they eventually met up in Japan despite never being on the same show there.

-Another match in IWA:EC was versus KUDO of DDT. He notes that KUDO was doing the “Tony Jaa double-knees” before anyone.

-Battled Yago & Miyawaki in a CHIKARA tag title defense. It was quite hard-hitting. Both were good opponents. Yago is a skilled musician and martial artist, so Hero thinks pro wrestling is an odd choice for him.

-Got to fight Ryo Saito in WXW. Saito was in the main event of the first T2P show, where he wrestled Milano. Hero, being a fan of T2P, made sure to finish Saito off with a spot he borrowed from that match.

-Tangled with Hidaka at EVOLVE 2. Chris looked forward to the match after hearing Alex Shelley rave about him. Hidaka was in great shape. Despite Hidaka being from Zero-One, there were no political issues in how the match went down.

-Had an epic battle with Tozawa at PWG’s 2010 Battle of Los Angeles. Chris tends to get most of the credit for how good the match was, but he credits the fact that Tozawa got over with PWG’s fans in previous matches. Hero used the word “magic” to describe it. (I’ll add that in addition to being the #5 match in the Wrestling Observer vote, I think it’s the best singles match containing a Japanese wrestler in the last couple years. Get the show.)

Matches against Japanese opponents in Japan

-He and Claudio went up against Taue & Izumida at Nippon Budokan. Hero showed off the depth of his puro knowledge by noting that Taue and Izumida were once known as the Violence Bulldogs. The match was fun, especially doing spots on the ramp. Taue has a presence and can be intimidating unless you know him. Download link.

-His first big success in Japan came when he went up against Go Shiozaki in Korakuen Hall. Chris says part of why the match worked is that they built a rapport in ROH and Europe. The watch wasn’t “planned” as anything special, but it ended up bringing down the house. It’s still brought up by Japanese fans. Download link, match joined in progress.

-A somewhat lesser-known match was against the now-retired Ito, a young lion. Hero won the match with the stretch plum, a tribute to Kawada. Download link.

-Got the opportunity to face Takayama, who at the time was the Triple Crown champion. Chris was flattered to be given the opportunity. The match was slow but ‘impactful’. At one point Chris did Takayama’s trademark “No Fear!” pose, eliciting a great post-match reaction from the big man.

-Went up against GHC champ Sugiura in a singles match at Korakuen. Even though this particular match “could have been better”, Chris generally enjoys wrestling Sugiura.

-His last big singles match was against Sasaki. Chris recalled a match against Sasaki & Morishima, where Chris got beat up but earned respect for it. He built a good rapport with Kensuke, and the match brought out his best.

-The biggest match of his career saw the Kings of Wrestling challenge Takayama & Sano in the semi main event at Nippon Budokan. Hero called it “a career highlight”. The atmosphere and press conferences gave it a big-fight feel to him. Over the course of the match the fans “bought in” more and more, and for that to happen at such a big venue made it even more special. By the end much (if not most) of the crowd wanted them to win. After the match, as they left the ring, the spotlight was put on them and they got more applause for their performance. Even though right now they haven’t been booked on a tour, Chris is confident they will be after getting such a positive response. They have momentum now and hope to build on it. Download link.

Next Time: A rundown of the NOAH roster, and lots lots more!