Section 1- Results
All Japan: Notable Champions Carnival round-robin results included Suwama over Funaki, Akiyama vs Kea going to a draw, Kea over Suzuki, Nagata over Suwama, Funaki over Nagata, Kono over Funaki and Suwama, Minoru Suzuki over Akiyama, and Sanada over Minoru Suzuki. Kenzo Suzuki was injured in his opening night match with Minoru Suzuki. I guess thereâ€™s only room for one Suzuki. In the finals, Nagata beat Sanada.
Dragon Gate: Saito & Horiguchi retained over Shingo & Yamato. Mochizuki beat Yoshino to win the Dream Gate title. Blood Warriors retained the trios titles, so World-1 is over.
New Japan: Tanahashi retained over Nagata.
Section 2- News
All Japan: Sekimoto & Okabayashi defend the All Asia tag titles on Big Japanâ€™s Korakuen show on the 28th against Hama & Soya. A Sumo Hall show has been announced for June 19th; we should expect Suwama vs Nagata to take place there.
Dragon Gate: Kinta Tamaoka, long-time ref, has been fired. Mochizuki is starting to organize a new babyface stable to replace World-1. Kamikaze will challenge for the trios title on the 24th, and there has been some drama surrounding Kagetora so look for someone to turn. Set for the 5th are Mochizuki defending against Yamato, Pac defending against Doi, and Saito & Horiguchi defending against Yoshino & Hulk. King of Gate returns in May, with 16 wrestlers from the company. One would assume that the winner will get a title shot at Kobe World Hall in July, but it could take place in June. 1st round includes Mochizuki vs Shingo and Doi vs Hulk.
New Japan: Devitt & Taguchi defend on the 19th in Kaientai Dojo against Oishi & Asahi. Also on the 19th, in New Japan will be Kojima vs Makabe, and Naito & Takahashi vs Tenzan & Wataru Inoue in a #1 contenders match. Nakamura will be Tanahashiâ€™s next challenger, on 5/3. Also on 5/3 will be Nagata vs Tanaka, the junior tag champions defending against Richards & Romero, and Bernard & Anderson defending against the #1 contenders. Devitt vs Low Ki on May 14th is officially a title match. Itâ€™s pretty much certain they wonâ€™t use Sumo Hall until the G-1.
NOAH: The April tour will mark the return of the tag tournament. 8 teams, one block. Notable teams: Takayama & Sano, Kings of Wrestling, Morishima & Yoshie, Sugiura & Yone, Akiyama & Saito. Somewhat under-the-radar, Minoru Suzuki pinned Sugiura in a 6-man. Sugiuraâ€™s next title defense will happen on May 8th. If thatâ€™s the match, it would be a matchup of the shortest â€˜big leagueâ€™ heavyweight champs in recent years, both of whom get by because theyâ€™re legit.
Section 2a- Meltzer Notes
All Japan / Dragon Gate: The thinking in Japan was that the weekend of the 18th-20th would be a holiday as the country recovered from the disaster, and that things would mostly return to normal on the 21st. Thus, All Japanâ€™s Sumo Hall show went off without a hitch while Dragon Gateâ€™s was cancelled. However, transportation was still affected on Monday, lowering All Japanâ€™s attendance.
Misc: Jesse White, Vaderâ€™s son who has wrestled a few times in Japan, is likely to sign with WWE. Heâ€™s a good athlete with size.
NOAH: The Fukuoka show on the 21st only drew 2500. (Not really a shock given NOAHâ€™s weakness outside Tokyo).
Section 3- Shills to the Future
Roundtable! I would like to point out that we had to get our answers in by Tuesday, so we werenâ€™t able to know the Champions Carnival or Dragon Gate changes that happened this week.
Section 4- Media Corner
Over the coming weeks Iâ€™m going to make some changes at my trio of media sites. The end result will be a reduction in the amount of new content. After five years and (probably) over 1000 matches, thereâ€™s not much low-hanging fruit left. That said, there will still be an update of one form or another every day!
Suzuki vs Nakajima, junior title, 3/5/11, JIP. Kotaro is getting good at stringing together his elbow combos, and they put together a suitably big finishing run that has above-average flow thanks to the strikes.
Hidaka vs Takafumi Ito, Int’l junior title, Zero1 3/6/11. As the pre-match video shows, Ito beat Hidaka in a shoot. He transitions quite effectively to pro-style and busts out some great shooty counters.
Section 5- Great Hisa part 1
In the process of talking to various puro-focused personalities online, I somehow neglected to pick the brain of the man who started the ur-website that remains a great resource today, puroresu.com. Our email back-and-forth produced quite a bit more than I expected it to! The conversation stretched over a month, as things like the disaster in Japan and the birth of his first child understandably took priority over the Q&A.
Q: When and where were you born?
A: 1971 in a rural area of northern Hiroshima Prefecture. I came to the US in 1987 when I was 16. Barely spoke English. Since my hometown was very small and I wasn’t from a rich family, I never had a chance to attend live wrestling cards before I came to the US. Kind of embarassing, isn’t it? I went to only one All Japan card. I don’t go back to Japan that often.
Q: How did you become a pro wrestling fan?
A: I always knew who Baba, Inoki, Tsuruta, Abdullah, Mascaras, and Destroyer were even when I was only 5 or 6. That’s how famous those guys were. However, All Japan moved from 8pm on Sat to a late night spot around that time. I was able to catch a tag team match involving Mascaras & Dos Caras just once right before the time change. My hometown didn’t have the station that carried New Japan until the summer of 1980. I was only a 4th grade then. One Friday night, I was watching a weekly cartoon at 7pm. Then, I continued to watch another show, a drama for kids, at 7:30pm. I had no idea what would come up next at 8pm. That was the first time I saw the guys like Inoki and Fujinami on TV. I got into it right away.
Q: When you moved to the US, did you quickly start buying tapes? Did you buy from people Japan, or mostly from traders in the US?
A: I knew no wrestling fans in the US in my first few years here. I could barely spoke English. I didn’t even know tape trading was so popular back then. Luckily, my mother often sent me videos from Japan. Also, whenever I went home during vacations, there were always few friends who had many tapes ready for me to take back to the US. So, I didn’t have to miss much.
Q: Did you really coin the word ‘puroresu’ online? I was told that katakana for ‘pu-ro-re-su’ has been regularly used in Japan, but I can imagine that sort of thing wouldn’t easily become known overseas.
A: Did I “coin” it? Maybe not, because, as you said, it was commonly used in Japan. Did I make it popular online? Let’s see…
Around 1990, I started using so-called (pre-internet) “online services”, such as CompuServe and Prodigy. Each service had a pro-wrestling forum. Back then, Wrestling Observer was the main source of the news from Japan for American fans, but Meltzer confused the readers with the facts and his own opinions. While he praised the Japanese wrestling, his view was more like just another American watching Japanese matches only for so-called “workrate”. He shared reviews on Japanese matches, completely ignoring the cultural aspect of the country. His cult followers claimed he was the expert on Japanese wrestling when he didn’t even understand the angles and interviews let alone the language. He probably has good news sources nowadays (I don’t know because I stopped reading his stuff in the mid-1990s), but back then, his stuff was usually like, “my friend in Japan told me this, so it must be true”. And, there were of course those who would say to me, “Your opinion on Japanese stuff is different from Meltzer, so you must be wrong.” That really bothered me.
So, I wanted to provide my own perspective as someone who was a native to Japan and understood its culture to enjoy its style of pro-wrestling. I used to get some heat for that because I was trying to get to the point that Japanese pro-wrestling was (well, at least it was back then) more realistic than its American counterpart (cartoonish WWF; GLOW; Horsemen doing a promo with a mannequin?). You now, it was before the internet became common, and the world wasn’t as small as it is today. There were many people who couldn’t stand someone like me. There were guys who supported me, however, including Dave Scherer, who was active just about everywhere online, and Jeff Rubin.
Anyway, I got an access to the internet around that time (1990 or 1991) because I was a computer science student. Back then, the access to the internet was limited to certain people, such as college students in cetain programs , IT/telecomm company employees, etc. Even Microsoft didn’t yet have a website. I became active on the RSPW newsgroup, and continued to provide information on Japanese pro-wrestling with my poor English. Around the same time, Katz Kawai, who was in a Ph.D program at Univ. of Texas in Austin, became active on the newsgroup. He didn’t like Meltzer’s views with a different reason from mine. We kinda got together to help the English-speaking wrestling fans to understand how “we” enjoyed the Japanese pro-wrestling. Before we knew, we were using the word “puroresu”. However, Dr. Kawai started using other words in Japanese when I thought he didn’t need to (e.g. “puroresuraa” for pro-wrestlers, etc.). I stuck to “puroresu” only.
Of course, there were people who didn’t know how to pronounce the word, including Meltzer. I guess they were trying to pronounce it like an English word (pure-oh-ree-soo, or something like that). So, did I make the word popular? I don’t want to take any credit for something I didn’t do, but for this, I proudly say “yes”. If you ask this question to any English-speaking puroresu fan who was active online in the early 1990s, my name should pop up…whether it’s Dave Scherer of PWInsider or “grapsfan”, a famous online poker player. David Lagana, a former WWE writer might remember me for that too.
Q: How did you put together all the information in your history section?
A: I was a double major in Computer Science and History. I don’t remember much of what I studied at college, but I do like studying history especially for something I’m interested in (wrestling, music, etc.). Besides, title histories were always my passion since I was in elementary school. Sources of the history section of puroresu.com are Japanese books, magazines, websites, mailing lists, correspondents in Japan and the US, etc. For Wrestling-Titles.com, newspaper sites such as NYTimes.com, Google News, and NewspaperArchive.com have been my main sources recently.
(I highly recommend him for historical data, especially going beyond â€˜big eventâ€™ results that most sites are limited to for pre-2000.)
Q: Are there things about Japan/ puroresu that you think westerners have a hard time understanding?
A: Oh, where should I start…
I believe any form of entertainment is heavily influenced by the culture of that particular country. You probably can’t enjoy puroresu as much as people in Japan do unless you know the language and culture of Japan. Not just the certain aspects of the matches, but also broadcasting style, angles, interviews, the way media covers the angles/matches, etc. I believe the same goes to lucha libre. Even in the U.S. and Canada, pro-wrestling used to have different style in each territory.
When Rikidozan opened the JWA dojo, he brought a lot of customs and “undocumented rules” from sumo, which was based heavily on the “nenkÅ joretsu” (seniority-wage system) and what we call “taiikukaikei” (sport team system/mentality) of Japan. Unless you understand these two, plus the stronger hierarchical society, it may be very difficult to fully enjoy puroresu. Even I have difficulty explaining them to non-Japanese sometimes. I believe these factors had a huge impact on the popularity of the feud between Fujinami and Choshu, Tsuruta and Misawa, and Misawa and Kawada, as well as the promotional rivalry between Inoki and Baba.
I’ve been SLOWLY working on my PuroresuWiki and planning to add more to the Glossary of Japanese terms category so that I can provide some more cultural/social info in order to help others understanding puroresu better.
(Iâ€™ll add that the â€˜seniority wageâ€™ applies even to indy workers. Zero1 Matt mentioned to me that someone like Menâ€™s Teioh would cost vastly more than a current junior-heavyweight like Madoka, despite Teioh never having been a mainstream star.)
Q: Have you had much contact with fans / message boards in Japan? English-speakers have almost no idea of what ‘smart’ Japanese fans think.
A: Yes, but we usually don’t like completely breaking kayfabe among the fans either. Well, at least in my generation…
Here’s a big difference between Japanese and Americans. I believe this has something to do with the last question too. Let me over-generalize a little bit. Americans want to make everything clear even when they don’t need to. They have to take sides on every freaking thing which exists on this planet. On the other hand, Japanese like making things blurred even when they have to make up their minds to draw a clear line. If you try to make everything clear, they think you don’t belong there. I’m not saying which society is better or worse. Just a difference of the culture.
Many Japanese fans enjoy discussing puroresu like it’s a real sport by keeping the things blurred. I guess you can say it’s the suspension of disbelief. Of course, things have changed over the years due to UWF/MMA and the infamous books by Peter Takahashi. There are, however, still some message boards whose rules prohibit breaking kayfabe in the discussions. Of course, there are ones in which people enjoy acting like ‘smarts’, but they seem to be younger generation. Let’s say, it’s something like “yeah, we know that, but why do you have to mention that when we are enjoying it just fine?”
Q: Maybe this is something you didn’t deal with much in rural areas, but… why is there so much tolerance of yakuza activity in such a clean, orderly society like Japan? That is what I am most confused about.
A: Good question. I wonder why too. But then, I wonder if Japan is really “a clean, orderly society”. Eh, maybe compared to the US, it probably is. There is one thing I’ve been wondering, however. As bad as the existence of yakuza is, Japan might have had higher crime rate, especially in the individual level, without yakuza. Unlike the US, drugs and guns are controlled by yakuza. What if yakuza didn’t exist? There may have been a lot more “ordinary” people committing crimes. Again, I’m just wondering and hypothetically speaking here.
(While the yakuza does mete out harsh justice to â€˜unauthorizedâ€™ criminals, I strongly doubt crime would increase in their absence. The social and cultural factors so often related to crime in the US arenâ€™t present in Japan.)
To be continued!