Matt Singh

Puro Rising

Puroresu is looking for better things in 2004, and with annual 4/1/04 Tokyo dome show already under their belt, it looks like thing will indeed be brighter…

New Japan Pro Wrestling 4/1/04 Tokyo Dome show results and analysis:

*1.Hirooki Goto over Naofumi Yamamoto at 6:21 when Goto applied a crab hold for the tap-out
*2.Katsushi Takemura over El Samurai at 6:53 when Takemura landed a moonsault press for the pinfall
*3. Makai Club I, Mitsuya Nagai, Ryushi Yanagisawa & Ryota Chikuzen over Michiyoshi Ohara, Hiro Saito, Tatsutoshi Goto & Enson Inoue at 11:55 when Nagai hit a Hyper Knee on Goto for the pinfall
*4.Shinya Makabe & Toru Yano over Blue Wolf & Wataru Inoue at 10:18 when Makabe landed a German suplex hold on Innoue for the pinfall
*5.Masayuki Naruse over Tadao Yasuda via disqualification at 2:09, Yasuda and Naruse had a rematch afterwards immediate, which Naruse won at 0:30 when Naruse applied a choke for the technical knock-out
*6.Ryusuke Taguchi over Akiya Anzawa at 4:53 when Taguchi hit a drop-kick on Anzawa for the pin
*7.Gedo & Jado over Tiger Mask & Heat at 17:15 when Gedo landed a tope-rope Splash on Heat to retain IWGP jr. tag titles via pinfall
*8.Jushin Liger over Takashi Sugiura at 17:52 when Liger hit a top-rope Brainbuster to capture GHC jr. title via pin
*9.Hiroshi Tanahashi over Yutaka Yoshie at 17:06 when Tanahashi used a Dragon suplex to retain the U-30 title via pinfall
*10.Josh Barnett & Takashi Iizuka over Kazunari Murakami & Katsuyori Shibata at 16:04 when Barnett used a Capture-Buster on Murakami for the pinfall
*11.Osamu Nishimura over Minoru Suzuki at 9:39 with a backslide for the pinfall
*12.Manabu Nakanishi over Genichiro Tenryu at 10:20 when Nakanishi landed a Fisherman’s suplex hold for the pinfall
*13.Yuji Nagata over Kensuke Sasaki at 12:10 with a Nagata Lock II for the technical knock out
*14.Keiji Muto & Bob Sapp over Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan at 21:00 when Sapp hit a powerbomb on Tenzan for the pinfall
*15.Shinsuke Nakamura over Yoshihiro Takayama at 13:55 when Nakamura applied a chicken-wing arm lock for the tap-out to unify the IWGP & NWF titles

All live reports from the show said it was a good, solid show. Tenryu jobbing clean was a surprise, and helped get Nakanishi over more. Why Tiger Mask and Heat continue to get jobbed-out is another one of those Inoki-made baffling decisions, the only rationale can be the ‘loyalty factor’. With Liger winning Noah’s Global Honoured Championship Junior title, it will probably mark the start of a Noah versus New Japan program, which if done well could heal New Japan of it’s five-year stale run.

Josh Barnett, former UFC fighter, is without question the biggest prospect of 2004 on the foreign-side of things for New Japan. Whether or not the promotion can book him right is another question. However, with Barnett being voted one of New Japan’s best wrestlers of 2003, it’s hard to see Masa Chono and Jushin Liger (head bookers) messing this one.

Official attendance number is 53,000 paid, which would be about right considering Bob Sapp was working the show in a match with New Japan legends Keiji Mutoh and Masa Chono. Mutoh is an interesting one, as he works for and owns part of once bitter rival All Japan. Nagata versus Sasaki was a very bloody affair, with both suffering from heavy blood-loss. Legend Tatsumi Fujinami showed up at the halfway point of the show and called out New Japan founder Antonio Inoki, who appeared on the giant screen. The angle is that Fujinami will be retiring sometime soon. In a separate angle on the show, Inoki showed up at the arena with Ryoto Machida, Masayuki and Josh Barnett, who all won their MMA matches on 31/12, Inoki then proceeded to give his usual motivational speech.

Pride/Dream Stage Entertainment and Zero-One 4/01/04 show results and analysis

*1. Low Ki defeated King Adamo, Kyohei Mikami, & Jun Kasai in 7:03 when Ki used a Ki-Crusher on Kasai for the pin
*2. Zebraman over Ikuto Hidaka at 6:54 seconds with a Zebra Bomb for the pinfall
*3. Satoshi Kojima & Kaz Hayashi over Dos Caras Jr. & El Solar at 13:53 when Kojima landed a lariat on Solar for the pin
*4. The Predator & Kevin Randleman over Masato Tanaka & Shinjiro Ohtani at 14:41 when Predator landed a King Kong Buster on Tanaka for the pin
*5. Giant Silva over Kohei Sato & Katsuhisa Fujii at 2:18 when Silva hit a chokeslam on Sato for the pinfall
*6. Shinya Hashimoto over Vader at 9:59 via count-out
*7. Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras Sr. & Sicodelico Jr. over Dusty Rhodes, Tom Howard & Steve Corino at 13:10 when the always-selfish Mascaras hit a flying cross body on Corino for the pinfall
*8. Toshiaki Kawada over Mark Coleman at 6:07 when Kawada applied a heel-hook for the technical knockout
*9. Bill Goldberg over Naoya Ogawa at 12:49 when Goldberg after landed the Jackhammer after a spear for the pinfall a Jackhammer and spear

Live reports from this one were the exact opposite of the New Japan show, this was not a good one for Zero-One and Pride/Dream Stage Entertainment. Hashimoto versus Vader was a far cry from their late-1980’s-early-1990 bouts. This one didn’t get over at all, with the crowd loudly booing the screw finish. After their match, Dusty and Corino did a tease-split angle, with them arguing, which resulted in Dusty nailing Corino with his Bionic elbow. After the Goldberg versus Ogawa match, Goldberg got on the stick and shouted a challenge to Hashimoto, which will take place at the March Hustle-1 show at Yokohama Arena.

In a sign of just how much Vince McMahon has lost his touch as an industry-wide influential promoter, said match and show take place just a week before WrestleMania, at which Goldberg is currently booked to face Brock Lesnar. If Vince is lucky, Hashimoto will take it easy on him in regards to working stiff. Knowing Hashimoto, he will. The official attendance number is 23,730 which isn’t good for the 53,000 seater Saitama Super Arena, and also isn’t good with the name value on the show.

Looking into 2004, things look rather brighter for Puroresu as a whole. However, Keiji Mutoh perhaps the biggest turkey in Puro in 2003, looks set to work more closely with his former employer New Japan, but his promotion’s top ace Toshiaki Kawada won’t be as he’s still staunch in his rejection of a spot on a big New Japan show. Kawada however is willing to work Zero-One shows. 2003 was not a good year for Puro, but what’s new, that’s been the case since 2001. Some may even say since 1999. What clear is that the Puro community, unlike WWE, is under no illusion that things need to change. Well, all bar-Antonio Inoki, a man that rivals Vince McMahon for sheer buffoonery as it pertains to changes needed to the product.

It’s a bitter-sweet irony that both McMahon and Inoki were once great world-wide rivals in the ‘best promoter’ stakes, but now they’re fallen icons who are mocked by their territories mainstream for such obvious mistakes. It’s bitter because both have now probably their best working roster then ever, and sweet because each man has a huge ego that’s being dented on a regular basis. However said ego denting is in all probability the very reason New Japan is in the position it is.

With Inoki’s recent firing from Dream Stage Entertainment (Pride’s parent company), Inoki’s staunchness towards his current view on New Japan will have only been strengthened. However, with head bookers Masa Chono and Jushin Liger both opposing Inoki’s outlook on the business (that it should be fused with shootfighting/MMA), there’s a ray of hope. With New Japan, the promotion will never die. There’s way too much history, prestige and honour involved for it to just die. However, despite what it’s most loyal supporters would say, it’d be best dead than be forced to live a WCW-like life of complete fecklessness. What’s evident is that the majority of New Japan, both its workers and the office, know that Antonio Inoki’s booking and promotional outlook are nonsensical, and go against everything they’ve seen and heard outside of New Japan.

Matt Singh