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20 July 2004

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In my last edition of the rising sun I highlighted the big new young guns looking to move up in NJPW, the likes of Yoshie, Shibata, Tanahashi, Nakamura and Taguchi... Well bright as the future is for them the future isn't golden quite yet...

The generation before them produced 4 talents who should have been the top liners in Japan for years to come. Their names? Nagata, Tenzan, Kojima and Akiyama. Now out of all of these Akiyama was the most promising, a startling natural talent, an innovator (Wrist Clutch Exploder, Sterness Dust) and an easily credible babyface who was fast becoming a carrier....

After the split and NOAH came about it seemed that Akiyama was set to be the big dog in the yard, he turned on Kobashi his long time partner and went into a run against the GHC Champion Misawa... In NOAH's biggest show (at the time) Aki got the duke after two Wrist Clutch Exploders and began a run as the champ which many thought would be lengthy...

That was all until the best friend of Misawa, a former 5 time AJPW Jr Heavyweight title holder by the name of Yoshinari Ogawa beat him in 4:20 with a small package! Ogawa dropped the gold to Takayama who was everywhere at this time after two poor defences against Rikio and Taue and then the belt began passing round Misawa and Kobashi....

So we come to NOAH's biggest ever show, their first Tokyo Dome show and Kobashi holder of the gold for over a year faced off against Akiyama, many thought Kobashi would drop the gold, it made sense after all to drop to the younger, better conditioned and red hot superstar.... So what happened? Kobashi retained after a Burning Hammer in 35 minutes!

And this is typical in Japan at the moment, in All Japan over the past year the gold has been passed around Hashimoto, Muto and Kawada... Three 40 somethings who have seen better days in particular Hashimoto and Muto whose American leanings are hurting All Japan at the moment... The guy who should be fighting for the gold, the man who would have an epic fued with the Crown holder Kawada.... Satoshi Kojima. But instead the last fighters up for the Crown? Mick Foley, Jamal, Tenryu, Hashimoto and Don Fyre...

The only hope is New Japan which has placed great faith in the new 3 musketeers of Nakamura, Shibata and Tanahashi, placing the gold on Nakamura and giving chances to Tanahashi and Shibata to fight Fujita the IWGP Champ... But they are no angel's however as the Nagata generation that held such talent as Nagata, Tenzan, Kojima (before the switch) and Nakanishi was held down by Chono, Hashimoto, Tenryu and Muto (…wait those names again!) and stagnated for quite a while in the mid-card....

It's made worse by the fact that Chono, Muto, Hashimoto and Misawa, old fading stars wary of their spots are in charge or in positions of power in the big 4 companies... Unless this changes then the problems that hurt NJPW's bright young things in the late 90's and is effecting Akiyama now will continue and the 'Generation Next' will fail. The last time a company was in this position? WCW, and we know how that turned out....

So I leave you with that thought until the next Rising Sun when I'll try and come up with some remedies to the problem...

Till next time....

Robert Heard



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