The Reality of Wrestling: Roundtable October

Fall is here and with it the countdown to the end of the year has begun. As the wrestling world enters the final quarter of the year, that end of the year marks major shows for several major promotions the world over, as well as the beginning to the build to major shows for others. With that in mind, the questions this month do take on a theme of looking into the future, but for the promotions within this month’s questions, some long-term introspective thinking may be necessary.

M.C.: Mike Campbell
D.D.: Dave Ditch
P.C.: Me

1. Is Dragon Gate USA going anywhere as a promotion past where they are now?

M.C.: Highly unlikely. They run a couple of shows every two to three months, and seem to be at the mercy of the booking of Dragon Gate. While the second factor certainly endears them to the hardcore fans of Dragon Gate, it’s hard for them to really build up feuds and storylines when there’s no telling whom is going to be aligned and feuding by the time the next set of shows runs around. Unless they take a page out of ROH and try to run more regularly or scrap following DG to a tee, then I don’t see them making any progress at all.

D.D.: No way. In fact, by my estimation they’ve exceeded expectations in not having closed by now. Considering the cost of flying so many people from Japan, even with multiple shows per outing it’s still quite expensive to operate for an indy. Gabe said from the outset that it’s a niche/boutique product, and that’s all it can ever be. If ROH needed almost a decade for a low-end TV deal, DGUSA is staying put.

P.C.: Gotta go with Ditch and Mike here. The only chance this promotion really had of sustaining itself long term was establishing a few American stars and it hasn’t happened. I was at the Milwaukee show during the promotion’s latest round of shows and there were noticeable empty areas in a building that couldn’t hold more than 500. The show itself was the usual action packed, great show that I expected (even got bled on by Pinkie Sanchez), and conversations I had with other people attended told me that nobody was really that worried that the show would disappoint. But that’s my point: the Indy wrestling scene in the U.S. is such that those who follow it closely have many choices of what promotion they watch and just about all of these promotions use similar talent because it’s pay by appearance. Because of that, even if DGUSA goes under, American Indy fans likely won’t miss the Japanese talent as all of the big names within Dragon Gate have done numerous U.S. Indy dates in recent years. And the Americans within this promotion are Indy journeymen who will get work within the other Indy promotions in this country, possibly ending up in one of the bigger Indy promotions (ROH, PWG, JAPW) if they haven’t already been there in the past.

2. It’s been over two months since Money in the Bank in Chicago, so is Daniel Bryan going to start winning some matches soon?

M.C.: Of course he is. The losing streak is something that the WWE is known for doing, burying guys to see if they can stay over. If they do, then it’s onto the next big push. Look at Sheamus last year. After dropping the WWE Title to Randy Orton he was losing to everyone in sight for months. But, Sheamus managed to stay over and found himself as the U.S. Champion and later had the babyface turn on Smackdown. So Bryan will be just fine.

D.D.: It’s impossible to tell where they’re going with it. An online interview seemed to hint at him not waiting until Mania, which would mean he snaps, turns heel and jumps the champ out of frustration. Or, perhaps the losing streak would make him seem like more of an underdog heading into a match with Mark Henry, though that would assume a very long reign in a company with a short attention span. There’s also the chance that he’s just on the back-burner and will get a standard push starting at Rumble.

P.C.: He will start winning, but there’s just no way he’ll be cashing in the briefcase at Mania. The E has already shown on several occasions that they don’t know a long-term direction, feud, or storyline for Daniel Bryan. Then they had him win a world title shot and even that hasn’t been able to change a thing. The losing streak angle is designed to develop sympathy amongst the audience for the wrestler who is on the streak because that guy is so close to winning on many occasions, but can’t pull of the win; this worked somewhat on NXT when they gave Danielson a losing streak because most people either knew how good of a wrestler he is or had heard how good of a wrestler he is. But to go and do it again not only sends the message that creative has nothing for this guy to do, but that they don’t care. This tells me that it’ll be a shock cashing in like Ditch hinted at, or something along those lines. But no matter how it happens, it’ll happen before next April 1.

3. Do you think that TNA is starting a serious attempt to freshen up their main-event scene with the BFG series showcasing new people and Angle/Roode being the title match at BFG, or is it another trick/mirage?

M.C.: Of course he is. The losing streak is something that the WWE is known for doing, burying guys to see if they can stay over. If they do, then it’s onto the next big push. Look at Sheamus last year. After dropping the WWE Title to Randy Orton he was losing to everyone in sight for months. But, Sheamus managed to stay over and found himself as the U.S. Champion and later had the babyface turn on Smackdown. So Bryan will be just fine.

D.D.: Not as long as Angle and/or Sting is floating around the main event. We gripe about Cena in every title match, but Angle has probably been in a hundred PPV title matches at this point. And if it’s not 100, it’s getting there. If they can make it four months without a Monday Night Wars guy in a title match, MAYBE they’ll have turned a corner. Maybe.

P.C.: It’s 99.9% a mirage. I’ll always leave the 0.1 available in case said promotion ever removed its head from its ass, but I’m not planning a date for that to happen. This tournament did help expose TNA viewers to the new players in the heavyweight division, but that never conclusively means that these guys are going to be main-eventing pay-per-views or get title shots & title reigns, it just means they’re the new faces in the crowd. It would be new and fresh and something different, but I’ve been burned too many times by this promotion with too many wrestlers that were even easier hits than this recently rising group to believe that this is the group they actually go the full mile with. I believe Ditzie, Hulk, and the others are pretty set in their ways as far as how to operate, promote, and sustain this promotion to change.

4. The upcoming Suwama/Akiyama Triple Crown title match is proof that (a) All Japan is thinking outside the box, (b) All Japan will start to feed former Triple Crown champions or All Japan legends to Suwama for the remainder of his title reign (however long that is), or (c) All Japan is buying time to figure out what they really want to do with their world championship?

M.C.: I don’t think it’s any of them. One of the great things about Mutoh’s AJPW regime is that he turned Baba’s October Giant Series into the Anniversary Series, to recognize that All Japan was founded during the month of October. So let’s review, All Japan’s anniversary and former All Japan wrestler Jun Akiyama making a return to All Japan. Coincidence? Plus, the theme of the big Sumo Hall show is All Japan vs. The World, all four title matches are All Japan wrestlers defending against outsiders. What this means for Swuama is anyone’s guess. Unless All Japan has plants to work with NOAH, I don’t think Akiyama will be taking the titles. I’d like to see Masayuki Kono score some kind of big win, maybe beating Suzuki or Funaki in singles or a tag match, to set up Suwama vs. Kono as Suwama’s next defense.

D.D.: I’ll go with (d), that All Japan and NOAH are desperately flailing around in hopes of finding matches that can draw 5000 people in a metro area of around 30 million. It would help if Akiyama hadn’t just put over Shiozaki at the small Differ Ariake venue just last month; it would help even more if Akiyama had shown up during May through August. The booking makes sense but the way it’s being handled feels very rushed. Suwama has had it a while and there’s no heir apparent. Considering how much of the roster he’s already run through, Akiyama really seems like the way to go.

P.C.: It’s (c), and I wish it was any of the other two choices, but it’s not. Would it be cool if All Japan started bringing back guys for one or two tours like Sasaki and Takayama and Kawada for Suwama to pad his number of defenses with? Yes. Because the matches would have a different feel than previous matches between Suwama and Sasaki & Takayama had, plus Suwama/Kawada for the belts, I believe, still has some dream match value for a Sumo Hall card. It would be a way to give Suwama’s title reign some sustained momentum and give the promotion time to really make the point that there are new permanent faces at the top of the card (whoever they may be). But I know that’s not what it is and it’s too bad because those are the two major things that All Japan, as a promotion, needs to do: build up a new class of main-eventers and keep Suwama’s title reign rolling until a suitable new champ can be found and groomed. I do like the fact that Suwama/Akiyama is happening because I kind of called it months back when Akiyama made a brief appearance in All Japan, and the fact that it could turn into a tremendous match if both men bring their A-game.

SEVEN MATCHES UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

GHC Jr. Tag Titles: Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin (c.) Vs. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi, NOAH, 11/24/2007
Part 2

This was near the end of DG’s invasion of NOAH during 2007. This gave NOAH several great tags (like this one) and helped DG get long-term exposure on a major level during their rise. Kotaro and Marvin were still developing at the time despite having the belts and Speed Muscle was probably the most underrated team in all of wrestling at the time. They wouldn’t be that underrated for much longer after 2007.

SUWA Vs. Dragon Kid, Toryumon, 2/7/1999

Flashback to the days when Dragon Gate was still Toryumon and SUWA had his hair. But that doesn’t mean that quality has taken a hit or that the style or tempo of the action has gone down. And have I ever mentioned that SUWA is a great heel? I have. Well I thought you should know.

CIMA, Susumu Yokosuka, & Dragon Kid Vs. Naomichi Marufuji, Ricky Marvin & Ippei Ota, NOAH, 4/28/2007
Part 2

This was the match that really kicked off the year of Dragon Gate within NOAH. As a tactical move (I’m guessing), neither promotion used all major players in this junior tag. CIMA and Marufuji are two of the top juniors in their respective promotions, but Ota and Yokosuka’s presence brings a mix of the young & the experienced to the teams. The match itself seems to benefit from this. Plus, the point of this feud seemed to be to get the style of wrestling over more than anything else as the dream tags that could’ve been made with the tops of both promotions (only junior division in NOAH’s case) never really materialized. What ended up coming out of this feud was a lot of quality wrestling with this match being one of the better ones.

GHC Jr. Tag Titles: KENTA & Taiji Ishimori (c.) Vs. Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards, NOAH, 6/21/2008

In Japan, this was a forgone conclusion title defense. The NTV Cup was right around the corner and with both teams to be in the tourney, a title change wasn’t in the cards. However, don’t let knowing the result stop you. First off, looking at the teams and seeing the talent involved should entice you. The Danielson/KENTA feud is long over, but the two still know how to have good exchanges and segments. Davey was starting his rise up the ranks in ROH at this time and Davey was trained partially by KENTA. And one other thing not to overlook: KENTA & Ishimori are a regularly tagging team where Danielson & Davey aren’t.

Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards Vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Kota Ibushi, NOAH, 8/28/2008

This was part of NOAH’s annual NTV Cup. This has been one of the best qualitative moves NOAH has made in the last few years as the tournament has been consistently good and seems to offer a full load of action-packed junior wrestling each time. This match is a fabulous representation of the talent that this tournament features yearly with none of the four involved here being NOAH regulars at the time.

Jun Akiyama Vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima, NOAH, 7/11/2011

This was a very well-praised sprint from the summer. This isn’t necessarily new territory for Akiyama as he is the most often used guy at the top of NOAH’s roster that has shorter singles matches (major or not). Anyway, the action is quick and the shots are hard, you should enjoy.

Mitsuharu Misawa Vs. Jun Akiyama, AJPW, 2/27/2000
Part 2
Part 3

This was the match that made Akiyama as a singles wrestler. The mass defection was on the horizon, but not on this night. Akiyama has already had plenty of singles experience against All Japan’s four top dogs (Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, Taue), so this isn’t new territory for him. While the run Akiyama would have turned out to be not nearly as successful as his predecessors’ runs (and in a different promotion to boot), on this night it still looked like everything was possible for him.

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