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TRS: Is Strong Style Too Strong?



27 August 2004

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Welcome Puro-heads to the latest edition of the Rising Sun, hope you've enjoyed the others so far!

For this article I aim to pick apart the style of the Japanese feds and look and see if, its possible, that maybe the style has become too stiff? Is it needed? And also if grapplers in the East need to tone down their style...

The catalyst for this article is the injury, the serious injury, to Takayama in the recently passed G-1 Climax that came after he suffered two weeks of intense and painful punishment in stiff matches in both NOAH and NJPW. The match he had with Kensuke Sasaki was the final straw, it was a classic, they traded hard strikes and stiff head drops as per the style of both men. Takayama took all of the punishment and put Sasaki away with his Everest German suplex but afterwards passed out cold and was taken to hospital... The reason? A blood clot in his head and damage to a vein in his brain....

Now it all started when Sano in NOAH botched a Northen Lights Bomb and Takayama started to feel numbness... Then he took a stiff Hercules Cutter from Nakanishi which caused further damage but he agreed to work on... Then after he took a bucket load of punishment against Sasaki like Northen Light Bombs, Lariats, hard chops and suplex's he passed out, the reason tests found where cerebral thrombosis. Although he has responded to medication and the swelling has gone down and flow resumed he still is feeling some numbness down his right hand side...

But people like Nagata and Tenzan throw in hard strikes and head drops and other moves but they don't injure people? Why? Is it the style? Or is it the workers? Well its both...

The Japanese wrestling environment calls for frequent and long tours where moves are used that Vince McMahon banned years ago. The booking in all the feds has led to a downturn in business so how do you gain more interest? Throw in insane moves and gain hype. It's a Japanese tradition believe it or not and dates back to the All Japan glory days of 1993-1999, a stale top line that produced classics because of the punishment dealt out.
So the wrestlers are being dropped on their heads, night after night, and also dealing it out. It your not snug or in most cases stiff, then you are not rated as a worker, everything has to look real to suspend the fakeness of the sport and push wrestling as a legitimate sport, particularly in the wake of the MMA boom in Japan that has hurt the business of all concerned in Puro circles.

So the style needs work, slowly but surely... its more a problem in NOAH then anywhere due to the AJPW style living on through the workers who switched... Just watch the Akiyama v Kobashi or Misawa v Kobashi matches... they are trying to kill each other! In NJPW its less of a problem due to the more submissive style, in NJPW you are just as likely to see a stop to match from Submissions then a big head drop and nearly every wrestler has a submission finisher with the exceptions in the top line of Sasaki and Shibata. Strikes also take a big role as well... Its snug and can border on stiff, but due to the varied ends to matches over the years the fans are open to a finish from a hold or strike rather then a Super Exploder or a Burning Hammer or Tiger Driver '91....

But workers are also a problem... There are some wrestlers who 'crowbar' their opponents quite nastily and it causes problems as well... Takayama had his face broken by Misawa in NOAH in their GHC title match as did Kobashi due to Misawa's famously stiff elbow strikes... Takayama give Nakamura a beating as well when the two faced off in January and Nakamura had to vacate the IWGP due to the recovery time as well... Sasaki is also stiff beyond belief as well... his lariat and chops bring a tear to my eye, I feel them from here watching the tapes! And bad news for NOAH's juniors, Low Ki is there and he doesn't believe in pulling his kicks at all...

This style in Joshi and in Puro has caused deaths and serious injuries before... Plum Mariko received concussions from the stiff Joshi style and continued to work, and she died the day after a stiff tag match from a brain bleed, Masakazu Fukuda died after absorbing a stiff flying elbow from Shibata in a young lion match in April 2000 after he slipped into a deep coma... These events for some reason haven't changed the style and it should.

So how do you change it? How do stop the injuries? Well the tours need cutting back, the head drops saved for big end of tour matches and the Tokyo Dome and also people like Sasaki, Takayama, Misawa, Low Ki and others who kick people in need to be stuck back in the dojo and worked with to stop it... Its a bit late for Misawa and Takayama and Sasaki, but people like Shibata who is stiff need to be taken aside by Nagata and taught how to be snug... Stiff but comfortably so, a style used by Akria Maeda, Nagata and Kawada for many years... Kawada's big Ganso Bomb and Homicidal Back Drop Driver where saved for really special occasions...

So hopefully there will be less of these incidents in the next year, but as the MMA grip on Japan's Puro fanbase tightens I won't hold my breath, I just wish the bookers and the workers would see that in the end the style might just be the death of them...

Till next time Puro-heads.

Robert Heard



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