After my last three articles looked at the rise of youth and the problems facing them and hopefully a possible solution I decided to take a different focus. This time my lens falls on Hashimoto, Hash to his friends and one of Japanese wrestlings top draws during the mid-90’s….
Hash burst on the scene in 1989 taking part in the tournament for the vacant IWGP title after 5 or so years of climbing the ranks (he debuted in 1984 alongside Chono and Muto) and overseas learning.
After coming of age in the tourney and losing to established gajian monster Vader he went onto tag team success with Masa Saito and then came the big time, the G-1 Climax tourney, the first one.
He and his fellow young rivals Chono and Muto where the stars of the tournament and afterwards hit the ring and proclaimed themselves the future of NJPW, the 3 musketeers were born.
He went on to feud with Muto and Chono and took his first IWGP title from Muto in 1993 and went on to hold the gold three times and on two occasions held it for over a year, there was no doubt that during the 1990’s Hash was the ace of NJPW. He was also during this time its top draw and made more money on top then any other star at the Tokyo Dome shows, that meant big bucks to the company. He took on all comers from any style, Kickboxers, Karate, Judo (which he is proficient in) and any other fighting style so that he could to prove that Strong Style was the dominant style much like Inoki professed….
Then after his two tag reigns and his G-1 and IWGP wins he hit a brick wall by the name of Naoya Ogawa, a top judo star and a man Hash found hard to beat. After 3 losses and only one win he vowed he’d defeat him or retire… But he didn’t and instead struck out in a new direction and returned to declare independence and registered the name Zero-One as a new company.
It all started in March 2001, the company brought together shoot style, high flyers, strong style, gajians and most importantly Hash on top with old friends Ohanti and Takaiwa and doing good business. He took NWA title gold soon after from Steve Corino and also formed a team with old foe Ogawa known as OH-Gun which dominated the NWA Intercontinental Tag scene in the company. Hash was in a good position with good links with All Japan, New Japan and NOAH and drawing well.
He led his troops into battle with All Japan in 2003 and took the Triple Crown from Muto before he suffered some injuries and he had to vacate to bring the Zero-One feud to a bit of a damp end, but Hash had another big plan….
With backers DreamStage Entertainment he aimed to run frequent PPV’s known as Hustle that would take on an American theme and display gimmicks, gajian and shooter talent at top with him as usual playing the home defender
To say its been a disaster is an understatement. Hustle-1 saw Bill Goldberg go over the previously unstoppable killer Ogawa in the main event and saw Hash go head to head with old foe Vader. But the match was dire, the old fire gone from both it just looked like two out of touch slobs hitting each other in a rubbish brawl… To make matters worse it ended in a double count out which drew loud boo’s from the crowd.
Then at Hustle-2 Goldberg cancelled his match with Hash due to his Wrestlemania XX commitment which meant Hash and Kawada tagged as a dream team against shooters Randleman and Coleman… unfortunately Randleman beat the crap out of him with stiff offence and the beat up body of Hash could take no more and the ref stopped the bout dead.
Much worse was that after drawing over 23,000 at Hustle-1 in Saitama the attendance in Yokohama (Hustle-2) dipped to just over 10,000 and featured a horrid main event where Ogawa took on 6 wrestlers in a handicap match….
But still despite the fact that his reputation had declined ever since his Triple Crown win and declined further with his gimmicked Hustle shows he decided to plunge on. He and Ogawa took on the washed up Outsiders in the short main event of Hustle-3 along with the injured and slightly washed up Mick Foley challenging Kawada for the Triple Crown and Super-Grandpa Dusty Rhodes beating Steve Corino with that damn elbow drop in another short match. Another bad omen occurred when the lads booked Choshu fresh off his failure in World Japan to beat King Adamo in under three minutes with his tired old lariat….
But the ultimate sign that Hash has lost his marbles came just last week as he ran Hustle-4, a series against Nobuhiko Takada and his Monster army… not monster as in big, oh no, monster as in shooters dressed in monster masks and gimmicks…
Then came the Hustle army and their gimmicks… Hash came out as Hustle King wearing a Elvis style jump suit and a huge afro wig… Kawada came out as Hustle K wearing a Bruce Lee outfit and ‘Lighting Up’… And Ogawa came out as Captain Hustle, the Hustle armys very own superhero….
To gauge how far the concept has fallen in many eyes you only have to look at attendance. Hustle-3 drew 12,000 after 2’s dismal 10,000 and 4 drew around 11,000 paid… Hash used to sell out the Tokyo Dome with its 64,000+ seats whilst in New Japan, now he draws a sixth of that figure….
So whats to blame? Well his act is tired and in Zero-One he has wisely put others ahead of him on the card but most of the time regardless of his position he goes over…. His ideas and gimmicks are mostly lost on the far more serious Japanese audience and the fact is that the fans are now sick of him, Muto, Misawa and maybe Chono being near the top of the food chain.
He could have retired after vacating the Crown with alot of dignity and as a legend but now Hash has done what the title says, made a hash of it all…. If Hash wants to keep hold of what legacy he has left after his poor 2003 and dire 2004 he should go now rather then keep the horrid Hustle show going on and befriending Choshu who is in many circles is viewed as a puro cancer.
But he won’t, he’ll be thinking of the money just like Inoki before him….
So until next time take care and pity Hash as he prepares to lose more money on this venture, later Puro-heads.