July 16, 1996 in Osaka, Japan
Furitsu Gym drawing 4,080
THERE IS GOING TO BE A VOLK HAN VS. TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA MATCH ON THIS OSAKA SHOW; knowing that, how can we be expected to focus on or even passingly attend to anything else (in which "else" clearly and rightly reads as "inherently lesser" at least so long as our thoughts remain within the realm of shootstylegræppz). Let us do our best though as we first bear witness to the RINGS Official Rankings that weirdly do not always seem all that well-aligned with what happens on RINGS shows but which are nevertheless sort of interesting as they state the following: 10. Vrij 9. Ilioukhine 8. Kohsaka 7. Nagai 6. Kopilov 5. Tariel 4. Zouev 3. Nijman 2. Han 1. Yamamoto. We are far outside of those rankings in our opening contest between and indeed betwixt Wataru Sakata and hey look it is Valentijn Overeem again: when last we saw him, he won a shoot against Tjerk Vermanen by kata-ha-jime on that seedy Amsterdam card. He did well! Sakata seems awfully calm before the bell and I think this would only be possible for him were about to engaged in a work rather than a shoot but I don't know, maybe he is just a super chill person when faced with danger. Ah ok no it is because this is a shoot-style match, that's why. When Overeem takes Sakata's back he looks for that same kata-ha-jime that served him well in the darkness of FREE FIGHT GALA but he finds less success with it here. They are having a very relaxed and nice match! Even when Sakata is felled by knees it all seems low-key in a pleasing way. When the end comes for this match (as it must for us all in time) it is by means of the ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (腕挫十字固) so loved by all at 6:42 and I feel that I have been eased in to a fine little time of græppling by this mild encounter.
Sergei Sousserov hasn't been here for a while, has he? As I recall his deal is that he seemingly has all of the right things of shoot-style but does not really put those things together in a way that gets the most out of those things. Like for example he just launched Naruse with something on the sori-nage end of the ura-nage spectrum; there is an excellent example of the things of which we spoke only a moment ago, and maybe he has totally figured it all out since the last time we saw him and it won't just be isolated things that are really good but instead the whole match! I hope so! He has just thrown the ever-more-floppy-haired Masayuki Naruse with a pretty big koshi-waza (hip technique) but lost control and was nearly camel-clutched (that would be a devastating kubi-hishigi or spine lock). Sousserov tries to rise and slam his way out of several hadaka-jime strangulations and each attempt is more exciting than the last but in the end all are ineffective and he must reach for a rope with his toes. This is really good! Naruse puts Sousserov down with a knee and is up by two rope breaks also so that is four of Sousserov's ten points gone already. Masyuki Naruse loves to back-fist, spinningly, and does so here: Sousserov throws with the rice-bale reversal of tawara-gaeshi (俵返) which one most closely associates with countering the two-hand reap of morote-gari (双手刈) but no you can do it whenever you can snap your opponent's posture down low (Toshiro Daigo, 10th dan, offers this as his first example of it in Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques)!, wrap them up, and huck thusly:
Don't let anyone tell you it is not a part of modern competition judo because 78kg+ Olympic and World Champion Idalyis Ortiz of Cuba threw with it for ippon in Rio! Don't let any of those same people tell you it was best as a counter to morote-gari because it was actually always a pretty busted counter to that! Anyway Sousserov throws with a really nice one but in the end Naruse switches a hiza-hishigi knee-crush/calf-slicer to a single-leg-Boston-crab style kata-ashi-hishigi and wins by submission at 12:48. Another fine little match!
RINGS JAPAN TAMURAAAA KIYOOOSHIIIIIIIIIII vs. COBRA-KAI WILLIIIIIEEEE PEETERSSSUUUUU:
Probably a minute in, Peeters throws with the greatest throw of his pretty-greatly-throwing RINGS career thus far, just hoisting him straight up and whipping him off to one side before driving him to the mat, it was glorious:
The only real fault you could find with that throw is that referee Yuji Shimada had not only called for a break but had stepped in and clapped both guys on the shoulder to let them know a break had been called before any of the throwing had happened or been started. But that didn't stop Willie Peeters, shoot-style dikk! Peeters, I guess to his credit, doesn't just keep on græppling down there as though everything were cool, but instead stands up at once like "oh yeah ok break." He throws again soon thereafter, similarly though less dramatically, and actually stands up out of a decent position rather than try his luck against the subgræppz of young Tamura. Tamura's leg-kicks are pretty sharp! And his shoteeeeiiiis are straight and true. He sure is a quick little fellow! (He is bigger than me.) Peeters throws with an admirable koshi-waza (hip technique) but again, nothing doing on the ground for him, really. Tamura harries him with hadaka-jime, nakedmost of all strangles, a couple of times, but the ropes are ever near. Peeters does a fine job of being increasingly "shook" by Tamura's ne-waza (ground technique) to the point where he just grabs a rope as soon as Tamura takes him down with swift, low, tackling morote-garis without it ever seeming comical or dumb, and it's a pretty fine line. He laughs off some Tamura kicks to the body but it is clearly fake-laughing them off and by that I mean it comes across as fake in the secondary world; this is deliberately fake fake-laughing that shows Peeters to be trying to bluff his way through this; it is really quite artful of him. Another fine touch: Peeters gets ashi-kansetsu'd (leg-locked) near the ropes and grabs them, but the hold is on so excruciatingly that he lets go of the ropes and taps the mat hurriedly. What a great rope break! This is really some of Willie Peeters best work. Tamura wins by way of ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame (腕挫三角固), an arm-lock whilst triangling, at 10:47, which you kind of can't quite see because of the camera angle (even on the replay), but which Peeters makes clear to all as he walks away from the hold after the tap:
GREAT JOB EVERYBODY, especially Willie Peeters!
The ever-pec-flexing Dick Vrij, after being ably seoi-otoshi/背負落/shoulderingly-dropped by Christopher Hasemen, knocks his foe right out (not for real don't worry) with a knee at 3:08, giving us plenty of time to explore the history of RINGS in the HISTORY OF RINGS segment, this time focused keenly on 1993. Lots of Maeda! Then it is on to Bitsadze Tariel (they should call him BIG-SIZED Tariel! he's so big that that is what they should call him!) and Joop Kasteel, who is also enormous. The numbers bear this out as Kasteel is a pretty lean 120kg, Tariel a robust 140kg. This perfectly reasonable but unremarkable høssbattle ends with a knee to the liver, I think is the idea, at 7:47 and your winner and still huge is Bitsadze Tariel.
OK HERE WE GO VOLK HAN VS. TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA EVERYBODY REMAIN CALM THOUGH (much like me). Kohsaka enters the ring first, and gone is the puffy blue Adidas vest of yore, its place now taken by a weirdly cut up Adidas shirt, and I don't know that this is as good but I do know that it is good:
The warbly synths that have heralded Volk Han so oft before do so again as the crowd readies itself for delights heretofore unknown, maybe. Alright ok alright let's see: Volk Han tries to take the back standing but is thrown; Kohsaka ends up on bottom though; and the ashi-kansetsu leg-locking has begun in earnest pretty much at once and the crowd is already way in as Han's figure-four-esque hold is countered by Kohsaka's footlock and both roll to the ropes (no escapes charged, but a restart standing). Kohsaka looks good with a morote-gari takedown that he follows with hadaka-jime but his choke is slipped and Han messes with his arm in the mode of ude-hishigi-te-gatame (腕挫手固) and TK wants out (he achieves this through ropes). They are back to leg-locks sooner than you might even expect, and why would they do anything but; the crowd is in and the lovely overhead græpplecam is showing every transition and counter to its maximum advantage so what is not to like so far in this encounter of excellent guys. OH MAN I thought TK might have it with a juji-gatame just now but I am once again revealed to be a fool as Han hooks his toe over the bottom rope (the only rope that really matters in RINGS when you think about it, the other ones are only there so it is't all just tripping). TK just barely makes the ropes after his arm is gyaku-ude-garami/Kimura'd heinously only for his leg to get all hooked up after he tried to roll free, look it's neat:
Han attacks with a not-entirely-unrelated hip-lock colloquially known as the banana split a few moments later and the crowd is like no please don't; this is hideous. Han comes closest with his wildly ornate waza; TK with his workmanlike juji-gatame and hadaka-jime; and so each holds his place in the divine economy. DOUBLE-AGONY-IN-MAN DOUBLE-AGONY-IN-MAN this is the first time we have seen Volk Han's simultaneous mae-hadaka-jime front choke and te-gatame armlock in what feels like an age! BUT TK HAS THE COUNTER and it turns out the counter has been the minor-inner-winding of kouchi-makikimi into a far-side juji-gatame into an ude-hishigi short-arm-scissor/slicer all along, who knew:
Han makes the ropes, our heroes are stood, and in an impressively gnar barrage of palm-strikes and knees (they look great in the slow-motion replay), Volk Han opens up a fairly ghastly cut where TK's left orbital bone, like, becomes the bridge of the nose? (I am not a doctor.) Kohsaka is attended to by the referee and by many hands reaching in under the bottom rope but in the end it is rightly decided that he cannot continue with a cut like that and so your winner by TKO at 11:23 in a finish that was extremely strong and yet leaves one wondering what the actual plan for the finish was had it been allowed to take shape IS VOLK HAN. That match was excellent!
Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Hans Nijman (R.I.P.) have a tall task set before them as they endeavour to best what came before (if that is indeed their aim, and what do I know, maybe it isn't even) in this battle of the top-two ranked RINGSists but they actually have a great little match: Yamamoto takes Nijman down and pursues him unto rope breakage twice within the opening twenty (twenty!) seconds; Nijman in fact racks up six (six!) rope breaks by the end of the second minute before he lays Yamamoto out with a beautifully placed head-kick, like it is about as good as head-kicks can look in shoot-style match, and Yamamoto goes down convincingly. He beats the count but is head-kicked again at once, and sells it like death for the KO at 2:35:
That was all very well done HOWEVER it raises the extremely alarming possibility that Yamamoto has been shoot-style defeated only to soften the blow should he be bested in next month's main event against RICARDO MORAIS in what I have come to look to with grim certainty as a definite shoot; it's just got to be, right? And if it is, Yamamoto will essentially be killed by murder, right? If any of this speculation is correct it is madness, as Ricardo Morias is a thousand feet tall and also the same amount of pounds heavy. Footage of him pounding on a helpless Mikhail Ilioukhine is shown and I worry even more than I already had been, in that Ilioukine was legit, much more so than Yamamoto: in 1995, he won the IAFC: Absolute Fighting Eurasian Championship by beating five men in one night in Moscow, pretty much ripping up people's legs immediately in every bout the final (hadaka-jime); a few months later, also in Moscow, he beat four men (including the great Igor Vovchanchyn by "submission [chin in the eye]") before Morais choked him out in the finals. And it doesn't even matter that you have never heard of most of the nine guys Ilioukhine ran through on those shows (nor have I, I am not going to pretend), that's still a totally and deeply real thing to have done, and Ricardo Morais finnnnnished Mikhail Ilioukine, so what will he do to Yamamoto, the poor boy? Akira Maeda is probably like, well, Yamamoto lasted almost twenty minutes against Rickson (so weird!), so how much worse could this be? It could be much worse; it could be awful.
FOR YAMAMOTO CERTAINLY BUT PERHAPS, DARKLY, NOT FOR OUR ENJOYMENT? WHAT HAVE WE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO AND WHAT DOES DAVE MELTZER HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WHO WE ARE AND HOW WE GOT HERE ok actually a tonne this time:
July 15, 1996:
"RINGS has a major show set for 8/24 at the Ariake Coliseum near Tokyo."
A reader (Steve Y0he, Montebello, California) writes:
I can't believe you gave the Kiyoshi Tamura story so little space. Tamura has a lock of being the next great superstar in Japan. Rings signing him insures them a future. The move may have saved strong style wrestling in Japan. I couldn't be happier since Rings is my favorite strong style promotion and now we can look forward to Akira Maeda passing his top position to either Yoshihisa Yamamoto or Tamura and a feud between the two that is sure to follow. Tamura's matches with Dick Vrij, Andrei Kopilov, Illoukhine Mikhail and Volk Han will keep me buying tapes for years to come."
Dave responds: "DM: Totally agree with your points about Tamura."
July 22, 1996:
"The main event on the RINGS 8/24 show at the Ariake Coliseum will be Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Ricardo Morais, a Brazilian who will be managed by Renzo Gracie, that won one of the UFC events in Russia. Morais is listed at 6-8, 250 and is a Gracie student from Rio de Janiero. As I said, the line grows thinner as this would be the first Gracie family remember to participate in what is pro wrestling." [I am not sure the current scholarship would support that last assertion! But I admit to not having read it all!--ed.]
July 29, 1996:
"RINGS ran on 7/16 in Osaka before 4,080 fans with an "upset" in the main event as Hans Nyman captured the No. 1 ranking beating Yoshihisa Yamamoto in 2:35 via referee stop. The other top matches saw Volk Han beat Tsuyoshi Kousaka and Kiyoshi Tamura over Willie Peeters. The 8/24 Ariake Coliseum show's main event of Yamamoto vs. Ricardo Morais has been changed from RINGS rules to Vale Tudo rules with Renzo Gracie managing Morais. Don't know if that means the match will be legit but obviously that's how they are trying to sell it to the Japanese fans, although apparently most Japanese fans believe RINGS is legit even though the matches are worked to look as legit as worked matches done to garner crowd pops can look. Maurice Smith faces Kiyoshi Tamura and world-class Jiu-Jitsu fighter Eigen Inoue debuts against Masayoshi Naruse."
"7/16 Osaka Furitsu Gym (RINGS - 4,080): Wataru Sakata b Valentine Olfrain, Masayoshi Naruse b Sergei Susserov, Kiyoshi Tamura b Willie Peeters, Dick Vrij b Christopher Hazemann, Bitszade Tariel b Joop Kasteel, Volk Han b Tsuyoshi Kousaka, Hans Nyman b Yoshihisa Yamamoto"
August 5, 1996:
"Illoukhine Mikhail of RINGS defeated the most recent Brazilian Vale Tudo champion Mestre Hulk by submission in 7:03 of a shoot match on a 7/14 shoot show in Japan."
August 14, 1996:
This issue has the longest history of NJPW I think Dave has ever done, and in the very likely event that you are a subscriber to the WON I recommend this issue very highly! Here are brief excerpts "RINGS" and "Maeda" bring us to; I really do think you'd like the whole thing though:
"The financial and credibility damage from the Ali match nearly ruined New Japan. But largely through TV-Asahi, one of Japan's major networks which broadcast New Japan and did a Super Bowl like rating for the match, the company was kept afloat. To rebuild both Inoki and the company, several major things took place. The first was to remove the stench of the Ali match with a series of victories by Inoki over martial arts superstars. Ruska was brought back, as was another judo Olympic medalist, "Buffalo" Allen Coage, who later became a name pro wrestler as Badnews Allen. Karate stars Eddy "Monster Man" Everett and Willie Williams (who is still active today in Rings and has made himself a long career in Japan off losing a famous match to Inoki) and boxer Wepner were brought in along with Mike Dayton, a former Mr. America competitor who made a name for himself doing strongman stunts, and one or two obscure pro wrestlers who they masqueraded as martial arts stars. In addition, stemming from the Inoki-Ali deal, Shinma, Inoki and McMahon Sr. became business partners which gave Inoki access to WWF wrestlers. Andre the Giant became a regular top attraction doing the perhaps the best monster heel role in wrestling a decade before ever doing it in the United States, as did Hansen, beginning a career that would make him the biggest foreign star ever to appear in Japan. McMahon Sr. even sent the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Billy Graham to New Japan, and it was with New Japan in 1980, before the AWA or WWF, that Hulkamania was first created as the powerhouse blond with the huge physique who became the only person besides Inoki who could physically stand up to Andre. And Bob Backlund became a regular visitor as WWF champion. After all his mixed match wins, Inoki was presented by McMahon a belt as WWF World Martial arts champion in late 1978. Inoki would often come to Madison Square Garden and defend the title. While he never got over big in New York and his matches were never highly pushed locally, the press in Japan attempted to create the mystique of Inoki as an international superstar playing up his WWF victories huge."
"With Shinma running the business, he and Inoki had used company money to save Inoki's side businesses that weren't as successful. The money from all the sellout houses disappeared to save Inoki's outside interests as fast as it came and then some. The wrestlers, furious about the embezzlement of funds, attempted a coup, similar to what Baba and Inoki tried more than a decade earlier. When the coup failed, it was Sayama who was in the Inoki position, in that he was the one about to take some major heat. Rather than face the repercussions, he suddenly retired, but the details of Inoki and Shinma's being caught embezzling millions from the company went public.
Inoki had to give up his Presidency of the company, and Shinma, the booker and Chairman of the Board, who was the mastermind behind creating what at the time was the biggest wrestling promotion probably in history--basically the creator of the Inoki illusion, the Tiger Mask explosion and the Choshu revolution, was the big scapegoat, having to resign completely. Inoki returned as a wrestler, but by this point feelings had embittered toward him. The company proved it could draw without him, physically he was past his prime, yet he continued to be on top and would never put over the upcoming stars. Choshu and Fujinami's feud was still on fire, even after a multitude of double count out finishes on major shows. When the public first heard word about the embezzlement scandal involving the wrestling hero, business dropped, similar to a post-strike atmosphere in baseball, at least after the early strikes. And like with baseball, a few months later, fans forgot and business was strong. But the bitterness remained.
First Shinma, mad because he was the scapegoat and with plenty of ideas left, created his own promotion, the Universal Wrestling Federation, and went about his new job of creating his second Inoki, a 24-year-old former karate star named Akira Maeda. Shinma initially got the backing from the WWF and sent Maeda there to win the International title that Fujinami and Choshu had feuded over. But that deal fell apart while Maeda was on tour, and suddenly Maeda, sent to the WWF as a star, was forced to do jobs every night. Maeda brought his trainer, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and his "little brothers" in New Japan with him to UWF, Nobuhiko Takada, the young wrestler with perhaps the most potential of all, and Kazuo Yamazaki, the long-time training partner of Sayama. Shinma also convinced veterans including Rusher Kimura to join with his group and even made a play for Inoki to leave New Japan although Inoki apparently agreed at one point and then backed out. Karl Gotch was then hired as trainer, and Gotch tried to convince the wrestlers to change the style to something more serious and realistic. The UWF became the first pure shoot illusion--illusion in that it was simply just a stiffer work but paved the way to a whole new trend in Japanese wrestling, a nine-year long journey from fake shoots popular only among hardcores in Tokyo, to a brief period as the most successful promotion in the world, all the way to the end products, today's UFC, Vale Tudo (which Sayama is now a promoter of), Pancrase and K-1 kick boxing.
Ironically, Shinma was booted out of the group he created before long. With the company's new direction not exactly setting the world on fire, some of the wrestlers went to Sayama, the retired superstar who, while a great flier and Lucha stylist, still in his heart always preferred a more realistic style from his kick boxing and shooting background. Sayama, who had written a wrestling expose called "Kayfabe" during his period out, talking about the scandal and the fact wrestling matches were predetermined, agreed to come back for a huge payoff. Having Sayama work greatly boosted the group's credibility and they became a hot cult ticket in Tokyo, although still had trouble drawing elsewhere. Sayama made a he goes or I go ultimatum regarding Shinma, as the bitter feelings remained from the New Japan period, and the wrestlers backed Sayama. However, Sayama and Maeda ended up with an ego clash of their own one year later while the company was falling apart in the middle of its own gangster scandal. In September of 1985, about 18 months after its debut, the first UWF ran its final wrestling show and Sayama retired for the second time."
"After the UWF folded, Maeda, Takada, Fujiwara and Yamazaki returned to New Japan in January of 1986, but it was a short but important trip. The wrestlers all had nowhere else to go. And New Japan needed them, since it was trying to remove the stench from a screwed up tag team tournament which ended 1985. Inoki & Sakaguchi were scheduled to face Brody & Jimmy Snuka. A few days before the finals, Brody, who went to Japan in a bad mood to begin with, had a singles match with Sakaguchi, a huge former national judo champion, turn into a semi-shoot with Brody using his chain and attacking Sakaguchi's knee. Since Sakaguchi was the President of the company, Brody figured his days were numbered and on the train as they were going to Tokyo for the championship match, Brody simply got off the train. Snuka, to show loyalty to Brody, got off with him. Trying to make the best of a horrible situation, a no-show in the tag tournament finals, Inoki & Sakaguchi wrestled Fujinami & Kengo Kimura in the impromptu finals, and for the first time, Inoki allowed his protege Fujinami to pin him.
Maeda's return was the next stage of the interpromotional angle, this time bigger than ever. There was more box office power in Inoki vs. Maeda than any wrestling match in company history. Only one problem. Maeda absolutely refused to put Inoki over. At one point, booking without a finish in mind or perhaps with the traditional double count out in mind, New Japan announced an Inoki vs. Maeda match for Sumo Hall, and sold all 11,000 tickets in a few hours. However, they had to change it to a ten-man tag match main event with the UWF vs. New Japan because Maeda wouldn't put Inoki over, or even work with him, and worse than that, there was legitimate fear what Maeda would do in the ring to Inoki. However, the Maeda submission oriented style, while able to sell a lot of tickets for the right dream match, wasn't as successful to the casual fans who didn't understand the less flashy submission moves. While 1986 educated a lot of casual fans to submissions and paved the way for the future success of shoot style pro wrestling that followed a few years later, TV ratings fell and New Japan eventually lost its Saturday night prime time slot.
Maeda was a combination charismatic star and problem. He couldn't work well with Americans, but had great matches with Japanese. They had a goldmine match but couldn't put it on because neither would do a job or even make the other look good, or for fear, like in Maeda's famous match with Andre the Giant, it would turn into an uncooperative disaster. All these things built Maeda's reputation with the younger fans and he was still expected to be the Inoki of the future. That was only made clearer when New Japan went back to the old formula, the mixed martial arts match, booking a double main event on October 9, 1986--Maeda against a former world light heavyweight kick boxing champion named Don Nakaya Neilsen, Inoki against a former heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks. The show drew a sellout crowd, but more importantly, drew a 29 rating on television. Things couldn't have gone better for Maeda, as he and Neilsen put on the greatest mixed match, at least up until that time, in history, while Spinks was a total disaster as an opponent to put over Inoki. The clamor was greater than ever to build the company around Maeda.
New Japan got another boost when the prodigal son, Choshu, returned in mid-1987 after leaving All Japan while holding its PWF heavyweight title, bringing back most of the wrestlers he took with him. Suddenly New Japan had talent like in the glory days, but so much damage had been done over the previous four years that neither the crowds nor television ratings picked up like everyone thought Choshu's return would do. With Choshu and company back, Maeda was suddenly no longer the flavor of the month. Which leads to...the shoot kick.
The original UWF, idolized by the teenagers of that time as the real deal, was a hot ticket at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, but really nowhere else. After the promotion folded and Maeda and Takada returned to New Japan, the New Japan Korakuen Hall shows were considered UWF home court. A six-man tag was scheduled at Korakuen Hall in November of 1987 with Choshu's team against Maeda's and rumors were flying several days beforehand that something was going to happen. As Choshu held Osamu Kido in a scorpion, leaving himself wide open, Maeda threw a legitimate kick as hard as he could to Choshu's eye. While it didn't knock Choshu down, it did bust his eye and break an orbital bone. New Japan was faced with one major predicament. What Maeda did was simply shoot a kick in a style that worked kicks were thrown regularly. To make a big deal about it publicly would be basically a public admittance wrestling was a work and let everyone know the kick was a shoot. To ignore it would be even worse for business, because anarchy could take over in a minefield of egos. Maeda was immediately suspended, and New Japan laid out a series of stipulations which he'd have to follow, such as spending several months in Mexico where he'd have to do Lucha style and make little money, and when he returned, put Choshu over clean in a singles match (Maeda had not done a job for any Japanese wrestler except Fujiwara, who had a shooter reputation, since his return), as his punishment. Maeda refused and never wrestled for New Japan again. Yet his cowardly act ironically made him (along with Hulk Hogan) one of the two hottest wrestlers in the world. A very minor incident took place that same week. A hot-headed 18-year-old wrestler who was the star of the dojo, with such amazing potential that was already wowing fans in prelim matches was also suspended, in this case for punching out a cab driver. His name was Masaharu Funaki. Business dropped in the tag tourney with Maeda suspended and Choshu injured, to the point that only 5,000 fans attended the finals of the 1987 tag tournament, while at the same time, All Japan was on fire as it brought back Brody, Butcher and Snuka for its tag tournament.
At this time, Inoki went for a WWF angle instead of a New Japan angle. He got the man who ruled the night time air waves in Japan, the Japanese equivalent to Johnny Carson in those days, to become manager for a new monster superstar by the name of Big Van Vader. Jim Hellwig was originally supposed to be the monster who was going to be pushed as the new generation Stan Hansen or Hulk Hogan. Hellwig, however, went with the WWF, leaving New Japan with a second choice--Leon White. White's debut, beating Inoki in 2:00 at Sumo Hall, was disastrous since the place was sold out based on an Inoki vs. Choshu main event. With fans mad after an angle that saw Inoki want to face the debuting monster instead of Choshu, they ended up first having Inoki beat Choshu in a quick 6:00 match, followed by Inoki losing in almost a squash to an unknown in order to make his rep immediately. At the time, Vader was a large green wrestler and his beating Inoki caused the place to riot. The talk show host immediately bailed out of the angle. Ironically, over the next year, while feuding with Fujinami, Vader became the most improved wrestler in the game and after that disastrous debut, turned into exactly what New Japan was hoping for, the next generation version of Stan Hansen.
Rather than return to New Japan, Maeda got financing to form the second version of the UWF, with Takada, Yamazaki, Fujiwara and some time later, Funaki and Minoru Suzuki following suit. The UWF with its more realistic style, sold out every card but one during 1988 and 1989, most in a manner of hours. All Japan and New Japan had made a habit of double count out finishes when big stars were matched against each other, while UWF ended every match with a submission or knockout. Fans at the All Japan and New Japan shows started reacting very negatively when the finishes weren't clean, and the promotions had no choice but to change decade long booking patterns created basically to "protect" the stars."
"New Japan continued the same training program that has created more Hall of Fame calibre wrestlers over the past two decades than all others combined. Inoki, much as he would have liked to, had his chance with Ali to do something athletically real two decades ago but couldn't pull it off. His hated rival and other prodigal son, Maeda, wanted to do the same thing but was also held back by the fact he, too, was just a pro wrestler, although he's taken wrestling one step closer to reality. Some 17 years after the Ali fiasco, mixed martial arts matches have become something of the rage. And the final generation right out of New Japan's camp, Funaki, has actually become the sports reality that Inoki's fantasy and Maeda's dream were of becoming. But Funaki's comparative success today as compared with Inoki and Maeda in their heyday has also been proof that fantasy is often far more powerful than reality.
The single greatest angle in the history of wrestling took place in September of 1995--the New Japan vs. UWFI feud which led to the Muto vs. Takada match. By this time, the man who specialized in the concept, Inoki, had almost nothing to do with New Japan's business and is basically a figurehead brought before the fans on big shows. It's the Choshu show and his biggest angle resulted in an unprecedented three Tokyo Dome sellouts over a seven month period and more than $20 million in live revenue (gates plus concessions) over the three shows including the biggest money live show of all-time.
It was the same old trick. Create a promotion vs. promotion feud and put together a match that fans believe because the stakes are so unbelievably high, that fans believe nobody will do the job and they actually believe they're going to see something real. Whether it was Inoki vs. Kobayashi, Inoki vs. Ruska, Inoki vs. Kimura, Inoki vs. Chochyashivili or the elusive Inoki vs. Maeda or the biggest one ever--Muto vs. Takada, the story is basically the same, the characters are just updated."
WHAT A LOT OF EXCELLENT STUFF and I assure you there is more coming when next we meet! Thank you once again for your time and attention to these crucial matters!