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TRS: The annual PWI 500 2004 and the state of NJPW



8 November 2004

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Welcome Puro-heads to the latest edition of the Rising Sun! I know its been quite a while since my last article but hey thats what a new job does to your life, makes it hectic! After the last time when I looked into the Strong Style and its effects on the Puro workers I was stuck for inspiration. Then along came the PWI 500 for this year and I felt moved to write about the ranking of Japanese based grapplers and in particular Kobashi, Kawada and Tenzan.

Heres the list of the important Japanese based competitors rankings:

4. Kenta Kobashi
6. Toshiaki Kawada
11. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
26. Bob Sapp
33. Keiji Muto
47. Shinya Hashimoto
53. Jushin Liger
55. Naomichi Marufuji
68. Steve Corino
71. Kensuke Sasaki
72. Donovan Morgan
76. Jamie Noble
77. American Dragon
79. Michael Modest
84. Tiger Mask IV
87. Shinjiro Ohtani
90. Genichiro Tenryu
93. Naoya Ogawa
96. Yuji Nagata
100. Masato Tanaka
103. Masa Chono
107. Heat
109. Satoshi Kojima
116. Low-Ki
118. Kaz Hayashi
125. Jun Akiyama
132. Yoshihiro Takayama
134. Ultimo Dragon
135. CIMA
139. Kojo Kanemoto
143. Mitsuharu Misawa
154. Chad Collyer
157. Super Delfin
161. Predator
167. Manabu Nakanishi
171. Doug Williams
172. Dragon Kid
177. Taka Michinoku
182. Takehiro Murahama
189. Rockey Romero
191. Great Sasuke
193. Bison Smith
194. Ricky Reyes
203. Ikuto Hidikia
211. Osamu Nishimura
217. Tokyo Magnum
227. Bobby Quance
230. Dick Togo
231. Milano
232. Jinsei
235. SUWA
245. Jado
248. Yossino
252. Gedo
258. Riki Choshu
260. Chad Wicks
270. Scorpio
275. Gram Hamada
279. Akira Taue
288. Kohei Sato
289. Taru
296. Gran Naniwa
309. Mike Barton

Now number 1 in the list for the world was Benoit and he was followed by Eddie Guerrero and then HHH. I have no problem with these if it was purely an American list but I have a problem when I look at Japanese year and see the glaring mistakes.

It has been said by quite a few that this list goes off title reigns and not talent and many have attacked it before. In Kenta Kobashi though few could argue that they have failed to please Puro fans. After all he has reigned over NOAH since March 2003 and in that time defended his title 10 times. So why isn't he ranked number 1?

Benoit ruled the roost on Raw for around 6 months an impressive time if your not HHH in todays WWE. Guerrero held his for around 5 months as well on a struggling Smackdown and HHH himself held the gold for three months and has just regained it for a ninth time. But all aside from Benoits reign lacked in drawing the fans in addition to great matches. Benoits went off on a flyer with the two triple threats and his showdown with Michaels but it petered out when faced with Kane and then his dropping to Orton.

Kobashi on the other hand has retained through everything and has faced a multitude of competitors. Plus he headlined NOAH's Tokyo Dome show and faced off against Jun Akiyama in what many (including myself) have termed the match of the year. Hell even against limited foes Kobashi has churned out 3-5 star matches against them.

Other then that? Well I have a huge problem with Bob Sapp, Muto, Ogawa and Hashimoto being so high on the list and also being higher then Nagata and Akiyama who are the men in Japan right now along Kojima, Tenzan, Kawada and Kobashi. But hey I don't write for the PWI do I? And before I finish picking apart the 500, what about Tanahashi, Shibata and Nakamura, the break through stars in NJPW? Scandal!

And that leads me to NJPW, a promotion that is giving off a positive aura but at the same time is dropping into the toilet marked WCW circa 2000.

Now right now it has 3 of the top young stars in pro-wrestling around the world in Shibata, Tanahashi and Nakamura. It has two of the most competent workers in Nagata and Tenzan and one of whom is arguably the best tag and junior scene wrestler in any promotion. So how has it gone wrong? Well the same way WCW and right now the WWE is: the booking department.

Lets see, they have screwed up the prestige of IWGP title first by having Tenzan drop it twice in quick fire style, then giving it to Sapp who got his ass kicked and left it vacant. This for some reason meant that NJPW had to put it on Fujita who then got stroppy and wouldn't fight under NJPW's terms. So they screwed him, the fans and the title with a 2 minute fluke match at the Sumo Hall against Sasaki.

Then they annoy all the booking offices in Japan by thinking they could do better themselves. They failed miserably, which hurt their ticket sales and profits. Its leaning to more job cuts in January which could be positive or negative depending on the causalities. Finally wrestlers have too much say in the booking process, namely one man called Chono who has been booking himself over the rest of the more credible and more talented guys.

Since Tenzan got his second G-1 Chono has buried him personally and killed all the credibility as he goes into his Triple Crown match with Kawada and his Osaka Dome match for the IWGP title against Sasaki.

Those matches last year and almost certainly the year before would have been huge, but the way NJPW have annoyed the press and also over booked arenas and regions with sub standard shows has meant that they are making huge loses. Even established draws like Chono and Sasaki can barely pull 5,000 paid to Sumo Hall, a holy place for NJPW.

So their next big show has Sasaki v Suzuki for the IWGP title, it has a Triple Crown match with Kawada fighting Tenzan, it has Tanahashi and Nakamura colliding in what promises to be the start of a great friendly feud that brings back memories of Chono, Muto and Hash's rise in 1991. So what could be wrong with that? Well MiSuzuki shouldn't be near a title of that magnitude as he sucks at anything apart from a fake shoot style match up. Tanahashi and Nakamura is for the U-30 title which makes no booking sense as Naka said he'd in no way fight for it, plus its a Korakuen Hall level title and its been placed in the headlining spot. And also Kawada v Tenzan is a match of historical significance yet due to stupid booking and pointless tradition it is 7th on a 10 match card! Its G-1 v Triple Crown! Its the real ace of NJPW against one of the biggest names in Japanese history and the Triple Crown holder going for the new defence record of that title which was held by his arch rival Misawa!

Plus Puro cancer, Mr Choshu is back onboard and it looks like the promotion, well Mr Chono, is building toward a Choshu v Chono main event at the Tokyo Dome in January, good god that sucks so bad. Welcome to the future of Puro, its like the past and thats scary because as human nature and history proves, looking to the past brings disaster.

Think about that till next time Puro-heads.

Robert Heard



.

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