Friday, February 24, 2017

RINGS 12/24/94: BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA VOL. 2

Battle Shot at Niigata Vol. 2
December 24, 1994 in Niigata, Japan
City Gym drawing 2,548

  

WELCOME ONCE AGAIN TO NIIGATA ITS FLOWER IS THE TULIP ITS TREE THE WILLOW ITS BIRD THE SWAN and we are here as before for (the) BATTLE SHOT which occurs between the semi-finals and finals of the annual RINGS tournaments that sometimes bear different names but reveal to us always the same truths. I like it! Think of it, I think, as akin to the low-key Korakuen Experiment shows that no longer seem a part of anything (some experiments fail [like Wallace Stevens says our blood will {well I guess he asks if it will (but it is a leading question)}]). 

KAZUO TACHI and KAZUNORI HASE are our new friends today and I think what I am finding out about Kazuo Tachi is that he is a Japanese full-contact Tae Kwan Do fighter? That's not exactly what I would have expected anyone to be. Hase, if I am not mistaken, is a Kyokushin guy; I judge this from his short-sleeved uwagi, his severe hairstyle, and just his energy, man. He removes the uwagi but maintains his zubon which is to say he opts for pants. Not a whole lot happening here, I can tell you in all honesty, as we enter now round three in this (shoot) tepid (worked? yes I think worked) kickboxing bout. I suppose they must be in round five by now? We'll find out soon enough, I'm sure. Yes ok after five rounds it is Kazunori Hase who takes the decision OH MY GOD HE BROUGHT NUNCHAKU FOR AFTER AND HE IS DOING THINGS WITH THEM TO CELEBRATE and you will believe me I hope when I tell you that business just picked up. Interestingly, if you go to the wikipedia entry for nunchaku it says 'nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku, often "nunchuks",[1] "chainsticks",[2] "chuka sticks"[3] or "karate sticks"[4] in English)'  lol karate sticks. Also: "On Americas Funniest Home Videos. Various painfully erroneous uses of the nunchaku can be seen in nearly every episode aired."

I have much higher hopes (for the match, not for karate sticks) as Takeshi Ono and Wataru Sakata, eager young stylists, make their ways to the ring. Ono is coming in super lean and a little weird looking, good for him:



He is of Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Group (Purofesshonaru-resuringu Fujiwara-Gumi, プロフェッショナルレスリング藤原組) and this is, like, radically to his credit, and so I support him as he adventures himself against the much larger and quite mean Wataru Sakata, who, if you can believe it, is wearing almost the same colour trunks and pads (this is very much to his credit, so none of this is easy). This is so much more like it, and immediately so, as they are græppling in just the right sorts of ways rather than fighting in completely the wrong kind of ways (not græppling enough) like our new friends earlier. GIIIIIIIVE UP? the great Yuji Shimada asks of a squished and half-choked Takeshi Ono just before he rolls out of trouble; this is all good. After the break, and a little visit with his corner (I think because of blood), Ono shoots in low for a morote-gari (双手刈 two-hand reap) but Sakata, who one must note once more is way bigger, just kind of pushes him over like *boop* and it's a little funny, a little sad. Heeeeeyyyyy Ono kind of slammed him down just now to a nice little cheer from the crowd which is good but the movement itself looked pretty fake so that's not great. I like his rolling hiza-juji-gatame knee bar a lot better! Sakata's juji-gatame is looking sharp and yeah in fact that is the finish to this nice little match at 11:28. There is much bowing and handshaking and everyone is very pleased with how everything has gone. 

TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA vs. DAISUKE IKEDA is precisely what I am here for and I hope it is not arrogant of me to assume perhaps also what you are here for too? If I have mistaken you please forgive me but I am pretty charged up right now. I watched a number of Hidehiko Yoshida videos last weekend, some instructional, some television documentary, some judo shiai, and also some kakutogi and let me tell you I liked seeing TK alongside (a likely high or soon to be) Kazuhiro Nakamura in Yoshida's corner, just three judo pals out there getting it done . . . together. In none of those instances, though, was Kohsaka attired quite like this:



You will recall that in his first (and until now only) RINGS appearance, a fifth round KO win over Nobuhiro Tsurumaki in Yokohama in August, Kohsaka attacked with a ne waza (寝技) verisimilitude we had not before seen, a crispness of execution and yet a solidity and just grinding heaviness that felt vastly more real than what anyone else had yet managed. It is, and I think will be proven to remain, unique amongst his græpplecontemporaries: this isn't Volk Han's admirably weird rolling kansetsu (bonelocking) ingenuity, or the yet-to-come hyper-real transitional fluidity of Kiyoshi Tamura, an elf-king clad in living flowers; Kohsaka's work is in a straightforward sense truer (meant not as a judgement of merit but a statement of fact) than either of those things. Which of these three essentially unassailable approaches and bodies of work (Kohsaka, Tamura, Han) most appeals to you is a question of individual sensibility and taste (level), and there are no bad choices to be had amongst these three finest RINGS stylists of this or any age (there is just the one age so it's easy), but if we are going to properly begin to theorize the gradations between them -- the gradual change between hues, tones, and shades -- it is at least worth considering, I think, the specificity of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's achievement: not just an obviously credible and high-level (highest-level) shoot-style, but within that, a particular heavy shoot-style, a strong shoot-style, a Kodokan shoot-style? I don't know. When we note that the only aspect of his waza that appears in any way "light" or fanciful -- the signature TK Scissors under whose banner we here assemble -- surely ranks amongst his most proven in straight shoot contexts (although as TOM has rightly asked, what is a "shoot?"), be it pitted against the early Lumax Cup wiles of Egan Inoue, the recent sheer enormity of BARUTO, or any number of contests in between (one thinks of Randy Couture, particularly), is this paradox? Or dialectic? When RINGS moves to nothing but shoots, Han's style and Tamura's style both change, because they need to; Kohsaka's doesn't, because it doesn't; please consider this. We are in pretty deep right now and let me tell you I am relieved that we are merely at the end of 1994 with years and years to go because we need time to work all of this out. 

THAT TIME IS PERHAPS NOT EXACTLY NOW as we are underway and as we theorize into abstraction let us not loose sight of the specificity of what lies before us in this moment in that this is Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs Daisuke Ikeda which is a great idea and let's see what happens. In the first instance, kicking. Then: a TK rampage of palm strikes to the head and hard knees to the body; when Ikeda, who is less busy, gets his own palm strikes in, though, they are savage. Ikeda's attempt at a morote-gari/two-hand-reap/double-leg sees him sumi-gaeshi/corner-reversal'd right over, and TK takes the back heeeeaaavily (this is already so good). Rather than rush to place his hooks, TK grinds Ikeda down with pressure low on the hips and a monkey-grip control inside Ikeda's right arm. He attempts an arm-lever turn-out as though to attack either with yoko-sankaku-jime (side triangle choke, the most common one in judo; it is called an inverted triangle in jiu-jitsu and mixed fight where it is rarer) or to just whip him over with gyaku-ude-garami like Masahiko Kimura seemed to like. It is entirely possible and even I guess I would say probable that a big part of why Kohsaka's style connects with me so thoroughly is that it is the one I best understand, and I say this with all humility with regard to the feebleness of my own understanding of all things, obviously, but it's not just that Kohsaka ends up in positions I have learned to end up in, it's that his approach to getting there is the precise approach I have spent thousands of hours myself approaching, right down to the merest and seemingly least significant grip (it's not though). An ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking) exchange leads us to a rope break and we are back on our feet. Both Kohsaka and Ikeda have basically ideal shoot-style physiques, I will note to you as Ikeda shoots low for morote-gari only to be stuffed and have his back taken again, even to the point of a TK hadaka-jime (naked strangle) attempt, rolled out of but into tate-shiho-gatame (top-four-corners hold). Rope break, back up, another low dive at the legs from Ikeda, and this time Kohsaka hooks the arm with his legs in the mode of the ude-hishigi-ashi-gatame (arm-crushing-leg-hold) that can lead to this finish if you are Yamashita or to the hell strangle of jigoku-jime for the rest of us. Yuji Shimada is doing some of his best GIIIIIIIIIIVE UP? work here and his persistence in that question calls to mind the news of a new Fire Pro Wrestling does it not? (I am not about to re-enter the world of getting video game systems but I wish everyone all the best with this; I am sure it will be super fun for them!) Ikeda's rolling leg-lock attempt is squished as Kohsaka flattens him out and attacks first with ude-garami (arm entanglement) and then juji-gatame (why not keep the ude-garami/double wrist grip for it? There is literally no reason not too! Oh wait it's on the near-side arm, forgive me) but we end in a tangle in the ropes; another Ikeda low rolling entry leads to yet more flattening, and this time to an ude-garami straightened to ude-gatame extremes and finally, at 8:17 . . . to completion:



That was brilliant and I loved it, and now we have the débuting Vassili Chvaia against the stout and stalwart Masauki Naruse, and let me tell you, these men are here to græpple (this is to their credit). Chvaia likes throws and leg locks! Can you believe it? Masayuki Naruse continues to be low-key tremendous with how hard he works towards the arm-triangle choke of kata-gatame (shoulder hold), switching his hips (koshi-kiri, Koji Komuro calls it in the excellent book you can get him to mail you from Tokyo and he signs all of them, "hip cutting") through to kesa-gatame (scarf hold) position whilst maintaining that first grip and just heeeeeaving back (that is a bad place to be, underneath all that). HEEEEY Chvaia finishes with a totally text-book old-school flat ude-gatame of a kind that you don't see that often but which a(n excellent) student of mine who announces submission events called (by that correct name, which probably helped no one but which put a song in my heart) very recently: 


A fine début for Chvaia!

Because Masayuki Naruse has already competed, it falls upon Mitsuya Nagai to take to the ring against Volk Han. You will no doubt recall that an earlier contest between these two proved to be an early and improbable classic of the genre? Nagai comes out boldly, and Han retreats for but an instant before a step-over wrist-lock into juji-gatame and then it is just an insane tangle of ashi-kansetsu and who could even hope to know what all is in play or how any of it could have led back to juji-gatame as it did just now to both my confusion and my delight. And now dueling heel hooks! Remember when people's legs were getting so shredded by heel hooks in Pancrase that the good people of Pancrase were like ok hold on let's re-evaluate here? Just this week I was told that a judo player from one province over (whose waza I have much admired), a perennial nationals competitor, who in recent years participated with much success in the local and regional submission græppling scene, had his knee just utterly ruined by a heel hook gone awry in the finals of something or other, and pretty much all the things that can come apart in a knee did, and that's probably it for him. It's dark. Consider, by contrast, juji-gatame, such as that applied by Volk Han (again) against Mitsuya Nagai: what is the worst case scenario from that hold? Basically no problem, see you in a month or so. It's different, and better. HUIZINGA ROLL HUIZINGA ROLL HUIZINGA ROLL or as it is sometimes called the reverse omoplata but in my experience even the least judo-wise are calling what Volk Han just hit the Huizinga Roll and if you would like to learn it for yourself, why not watch the great European and Olympic champion Mark Huizinga teach it himself in Saskatchewan? Please note the position of the left arm, it is crucial! Han is all over this eager young Nagai, I don't even need to tell you, but Nagai is no one's fool, especially not as regards rolling entries into hiza-juji-gatame like the one he is doing at the very moment we come together. Nagai's waki-gatame (armpit-hold/Fujiwara armbar) is welcomed by the people of Niigata but it is otherwise fruitless; his juji-gatame is very much the same. And now striking, in the interest of rising action! Han entangles another impossibility of legs and Nagai is quickly running out of escapes; I think Han is in slightly better shape in that regard and also as regards the utterly punishing full-nelson kubi-hishigi (neck crush) that has ended this fine bout at 15:15. The post-fight highlights remind us that Volk Han hit both a hammer-lock suplex and a true leg-reaping ashi-garami like in the Kodokan's katame-no-kata (forms of græppling)! 



Somewhat weirdly, our BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA VOL. 2 main event is Akira Maeda vs. Yoshihisa Yamamoto for the second time in like eight days. Clearly I support this no less than I support Akira Meada saying "hiza-juji" (knee-crossmark) in his pre-fight pre-taped interview (in both cases, lots), but it is I think notable and, again, kind of weird? Expectations (mine) are extremely high for this contest as their previous encounter proved absolutely riveting (to me) in every respect (that I care about [the græppling]). WE ARE UNDERWAY and seconds in Maeda has battered Yamamoto to the canvas, what is this, where are the græpples. Ok they in fact appear very soon after I complained, and Maeda forces Yamamoto down and to the ropes for an escape in like eight seconds so Yamamoto is way behind already. After the restart we soon have Yamamoto with the advantage in ne waza over the turtling (kame) Maeda and while there is not much "happening" happening, lone voices absolutely shriek YAMAMOTOOOOOO and MAEDAAAAAAAA and there is just an intensity to it all that is working. Yamamoto's hiza-juji roll is squished (this is happening more and more to hiza-juji entries, which is a significant change in my view) but he is doing well! Wait on he isn't, he needed to burn another rope break on a Maeda gyaku-ude-garami from the bottom with a leg trapped in niju-garami (nice work, Maeda!). This is way, way more low-key than the Nagoya match but I like it. Juji-gatame! Kata-guruma! Ashi-gatame! These are but a small handful of the waza here performed and also venerated. Maeda is looking pretty non-chalant about the hiza-juji Yamamoto is working but grabs a rope as though he merely wearies of Yamamoto's folly. A knockdown! Yamamoto is catching up! I am very sure Maeda just punched Yamamoto in the face with a closed fist (that's not allowed) but Yuji Shimada knows the score and lets it go. I will freely admit that one thing I am looking forward to as we transition to straight shoots over the course of our RINGS-time together is a drop-off in the 50/50 leg-lock position. I am very much in favour of exciting leg-locks, please do not mistake me! But sometimes these guys are like "lemme just . . . lemme just take a sec here" and like three times out of five the place they want to do that is 50/50. This is a minor point, not a major one, but we have time for both kinds because of the discursive nature of this endeavour that we share. YIIIIIIKES at 11:44 Maeda catches Yamamoto's kick and twists him to the ground to apply the ashi-kansetsu (leg-bonelocking) we know best as ashi-garami (leg-entanglement) and the speed and seeming lack of care with which he did has locked my own old bones. Good match! Not as good as their tournament bout but a suitable main event to a nice little card!        
WHAT THEN DID DAVE MELTZER SAY:

January 16, 1995: This BATTLE SHOT AT NIIGATA seems to go entirely without mention, so far as I can tell, but Maeda's name comes up again and again in Dave's pretty interesting assessment of where exactly UFC stands as it enters 1995:

"The momentum UFC takes into 1995 makes its growth one of the biggest, if not the biggest, story to watch as it involves this industry.

Within wrestling I've gathered there are different schools of thought in regard to UFC. One school of thought are those who believe the current lows in TV ratings and attendance can be traced to the lack of seriousness, intensity and believability of the product, believe as UFC gets more popular, pro wrestling will suffer because the style looks more serious and it will expose what "real" fighting looks like to the public. In addition, it is something new at a time pro wrestling seems to be in a desperate search for something new but only succeeding in poor attempts to recreate the past.

Another school of thought is that UFC is a fad that will either quickly die out due to a lack of sustained interest or through governmental regulations banning the events. Yet a third school of thought is the totally oblivious school pretending it isn't there, although considering Titan's actions in taking one of its new characters as a direct rip-off, and WCW's in at one point attempting to get one of its wrestlers entered in UFC, shows neither group is really ignorant of what is going on here. And since they also know the buy rates, they have to be concerned.

One of the advantages of following wrestling worldwide, and in particular, wrestling in Japan, is that in most, but not all cases, if you follow Japan, you see what the trends are and problems that will face wrestling in the United States five to ten years earlier than it hits the United States. This is a perfect case in point.

Although there are several differences, some of which are major, a lot of this situation is similar to 1988-89 Japan and the incredible success of the old UWF. For those who weren't following the scene at that time, in 1987, Akira Maeda, who was one of the top stars with New Japan, was suspended for taking a cheapshot in a match, and rather than take the punishment, got backers and pulled several of his proteges and friends from New Japan and reformed the second UWF, a more realistic looking but still with predetermined finishes form of pro wrestling. The original UWF (1984-85) had a cult following in Tokyo with a stronger stiffer style of work although because the public wasn't quite ready for what they were doing and a lack of television to sell the public on it, the group couldn't draw well outside Tokyo and a lot of fans really didn't understand what they were seeing because it looked so different from the pro wrestling they were used to. After the first UWF folded, Maeda and several others (including today's hot draw Nobuhiko Takada) joined New Japan and with their style being exposed on network prime time television each week, the casual audience started understanding that their kneelocks, armbars, chicken wings, achilles tendon holds, half crabs and short arm scissors were finishing submission maneuvers. By just being there and being top stars within New Japan, it also put these so-called realistic maneuverings into the style of the New Japan wrestlers and has since become part of Japanese style across all promotions since all the younger wrestlers of today grew up watching it on television in 1986-87.

When Maeda formed the second UWF in 1988, this time the public was on the same page and ready. UWF was the hottest promotion in the world for a few years, climaxing by selling out a Tokyo Dome show (60,000 tickets sold in three days) in record time for a show on November 29, 1989. Eventually the organization disintegrated due to major front office problems, and splintered into different groups that have today evolved into Maeda's Rings, which still draws well but has totally lost its fire [HOW DARE YOU--ed.], Takada's UWFI, which is the most popular right now, and Pancrase, which is actually the most realistic looking and seems to have a significant cult following since it drew more than 11,000 fans two consecutive nights at Tokyo Sumo Hall three weeks ago.

Of the three successors to the original UWF, Pancrase, which is the most extreme when it comes to a realistic looking style, is the closest to UFC and there have been a number of athletes cross-over from one to the other, most notable of which is Shamrock.

If wrestling people have reason to be concerned about UFC, and they should at least be concerned, martial arts businessmen need to be positively scared to death. UFC exposes what is done in pro wrestling as a work. Big deal. Everyone knew that to begin with. But it also exposes karate and tae kwon do in street fighting situations. This exposes exactly what their businesses are being built around to not be the case. Because of that, within the martial arts world, there are numerous people who hate the Gracies for purely business reasons and some for personal reasons as well. They would love to be able to say UFC's, which are the very public affirmation of the Gracie style being superior to better known and more lucrative martial arts businesses, have predetermined endings and that Royce Gracie's victories are frauds.

In a sense, that's a gigantic difference between UFC and a UWF derivative in Japan. But from a wrestling fan and business perspective, it isn't as big a difference since it appears most fans in Japan believe in Pancrase and the lures of a UWFI or a Pancrase at least enough to believe in the drama of the deadly submission holds and UFC is identical in regard to both its drawing mystique and its effect on what we'd call traditional pro wrestling.

When UWF got hot, and even in the 1984-85 period when it only had a cult following, there were many in the traditional pro wrestling world who thought it was the worst thing to happen to pro wrestling. UWF wrestlers openly said what they did was real and that pro wrestling was fake, and they were all ex- (and as it turned out future) pro wrestling stars. And while that in many ways made them the biggest hypocrites of all, the fact is, traditional pro wrestling in Japan is still more than alive and well. And UWF style pro wrestling is also both more than alive and well. Both styles co-exist, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. In fact, by introducing more realism and submissions and getting the style over to the public, it allowed All Japan and New Japan to do more realistic looking matches that fans would pop for because they were more educated. In a sense, instead of exposing or hampering pro wrestling, they enhanced it and paved the way for the current boom in attendance which is directly due to a more serious and more athletic-like ring style and finishes.

Switch six years later to the United States. There are very key differences. UFC has no television, let alone weekly network prime time like Maeda was on with New Japan to get new submission moves over. There are no famous wrestlers, and certainly no Maeda's, that had name recognition going in to pro wrestling fans, as the top drawing card for UFC. With predetermined endings, Maeda could book himself as the ultimate fighter which was great since he had name recognition and great popularity going in, was a good athlete, and was Japanese. Royce Gracie had no real name recognition outside some small circles of martial arts one year ago, and most importantly in a country that is still more drawn to size, power and nationalism, Gracie, no matter who he beats and how often, will never be huge, will never look imposing and will never be accepted as an American. UWF never was a shoot, except perhaps in occasional undercard matches. American pro wrestling was much farther from realism than Japanese style to begin with so adapting more realistic moves that get over in another form to enhance the style will look even more foreign. Most importantly, pro wrestling isn't as popular right now to begin with, although in 1988, the period when UWF changed the Japanese scene, pro wrestling was considered in a lull when it came to popularity. The reason UFC caught on in the United States while UWFI didn't in the United States is not the real vs. fake issue, but somewhat better marketing and more because when Americans think of a fight, they think of the punch and martial arts, largely because of movies and the popularity of boxing. So even though UFC's have downplayed punches to not be as important as wrestling and submissions, by seeing the punches and having bare-knuckle punches and martial arts kicks legal, that is the primary violent draw. The Japanese on the other hand, don't think of a punch. They think of wrestling, martial arts and submission moves, because of pro wrestling's popularity for years on television and martial arts movies. UWFI, which doesn't include punches to the head, is tailored to the Japanese mentality. The punch to the head is still the most over move in a UFC to fans. The open hand blows to the head hurt the excitement to an American fan at home who has seen boxing his entire life, whereas to someone in Japan, that's not a factor.

So that's the difference between Japan 1988 and United States 1995. The similarities are more obvious. Pro wrestling at a lull. The important matches have unrealistic and predictable screw-job finishes. A new group, that if not real, certainly looks real enough or more real than anything seen before, gains exposure and catches fire. UFC hasn't caught fire like UWF did seven years ago, but it was starting from absolute zero whereas UWF started with built-in popularity based on the names of Maeda, Takada, Fujiwara and others. But on PPV it already rivals the two major groups and has more momentum than either. UFC could also burn out as a fad, be banned by this time next year, or lose its edge because of the expected plethora of worked imitators that will surely spring up based on its success.

There is also both AAA and ECW to consider as far as shaping the future of wrestling. Both are limited in potential for obvious reasons but that isn't saying they couldn't either or both be successful. The key is exposure and worrying about strengths and weaknesses of the products as arguments really means nothing until the groups first get the necessary exposure to allow them to compete on a major scale. Japan already has its own group with an AAA type modern-day Lucha Libre combined with Japanese style, Michinoku Pro, that has a cult following promoting in small towns in rural Northeastern Japan. It has made enough of an impact this past year that its top wrestler was named Wrestler of the year by Weekly Pro last week. Most of the signs are that the group may be artistically successful, it is not financially successful, although it is far more successful than its U.S. regional counterpart SMW. It has several ECW's, the two most prominent being FMW, which is exceedingly successful, and IWA which shows signs of some popularity. Although AAA has far more potential as has already been shown as an ethnic draw with eventual crossover, it doesn't appear to have the organization either here or in Mexico that is going to make it happen. It came off a PPV with great momentum and has largely squandered it. ECW's future depends on first getting exposure strong enough to run PPV off it, then being successful on PPV. Without those two steps, they may gain a lot of notoriety among some fans, but they really won't be a factor as major players in 1995.

End result of history. Traditional pro wrestling five years after the UWF exploded was more successful than ever before in Japan. UWF style was also successful. But it wasn't that simple as just ignoring the new fad, doing your the same thing you've always done, being patient, and prospering.

In fact, All Japan and New Japan, the big two, made their own product more realistic. All Japan, the most conservative company in the world, reacted strongly to the change in the business. They dropped blading completely and eliminated all screw-job finishes. They focused more of the work on submissions and very stiff work, while maintaining some of the high-flying spots. The elimination of the screw-jobs is probably the biggest change from the traditional DQ and double count out finishes in the top matches of years past, and the one that should be most credited to the increase in attendance, although they also gained a reputation as having the best main event matches in the world which didn't hurt as far as drawing fans to the arenas. What UWF, in giving people either knockouts or submission finishes every time out did, is make fans no longer accept anything but a clean ending. All Japan's matches weren't made realistic like a UWFI style, but were more realistic than any pro wrestling style in years. While its popularity increased greatly at live events, there is a downside to this as well. While this style seems to attract fans to buildings, what happened at the other end was similar to 1987 New Japan. Maeda in key matches was a big ticket seller, but since his matches were unspectacular to the casual fan, TV ratings dropped and eventually New Japan lost prime time, although judging from how New Japan's business went since that time, it's far better off the way it is now. All Japan also saw a ratings drop, although most feel that was due to having the same matches over-and-over, which is also a negative byproduct of what they were doing. The stronger the style, the harder it is to find wrestlers who can be put on top and execute the style. A weak athletic style, like a WWF style, can be done by nearly anyone with a little bit of experience in the ring and a nice looking costume. Anyone but a top worker in All Japan immediately stands out like a sore thumb. Ted DiBiase, when he went back, was a top worker and stood out like a sore thumb which showed just how difficult the style really had become. Eventually they were moved to an horrendous time slot, and the combination of the same talent and same matches and weak television did take an edge off All Japan this year although not in Tokyo where it has sold out every event for years.

While New Japan didn't go quite as far as All Japan when it comes to all clean finishes (although I can only recall out of more than 100 house shows, four matches that didn't have clean finishes all year) and total elimination of the blade, they largely followed suit. They even took sports realism one step farther, to eliminating the so-called traditional ladder of success in Japan. Instead of focusing on one wrestler and having rigid positioning of talent, they had a system where any of the top wrestlers could beat any other and upsets happened frequently. The top matches were intriguing because the fans knew there would be a pin at the end, and also didn't know for certain who would win or what move they'd win with.

My feeling is that WWF will be the most adaptive to change in 1995. It has to be. Unlike in WCW, the money WWF loses comes right out of Vince McMahon's pocket book, so money losses aren't just fun and games to him as they are with the people running WCW. He's obviously very serious about his bottom line and it must also be a precarious bottom line these days as exemplified by no revenge and no major raids in the other direction. It will be very difficult for a WWF so weaned on never doing finishes where top babyfaces lose clean, to break from the pattern. It'll be even more difficult to fans weaned on never seeing their heroes lose clean to accept those changes if they are made. All the rumors of WWF going to a Japanese like system in 1995 with more parity on type and clean finishes means that top faces are going to have to do jobs or the system won't work. But for a Japanese system to work means WWF would have to greatly improve its house show workrate and quality of its crew overall. The United States as it stands now doesn't have the grassroots system of Japan or Mexico when it comes to creating new stars and giving them the necessary fundamental background. Instead, as WCW showed with Alex Wright and Jean Paul Levesque on the last PPV, promotions are so desperate to create new stars that they are pushing people well before they are ready and it shows on the big cards. WCW won't change in 1995. Hogan is in charge. Hogan only knows 1980s American style. Ric Flair only knows it as well. In the Hogan 1980s American world, the top faces is superman and not athlete and he doesn't lose clean. The top heel never wins clean. Where's the heat if the heel wins without cheating? Only problem is in 1994, no company with that attitude made a profit."

OK GOOD! Thank you for your time and attention and let us reconvene soon for '94 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS TOURNAMENT FINALS. 












1 comment:

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