Welcome again Puro-heads to another edition of the Rising Sun. This time is my sad duty to inform you of the upcoming closure of the self proclaimed ‘Biggest Indy’ in Japanese wrestling, Zero One.
An offshoot of NJPW originally and owned mainly by Hashimoto and booked by him for the most part it was for quite a while a profitable organisation and up until last year was viewed as a major player in the Puro world.
Created in 2000 by the former musketeer Hashimoto (for more info on his career check out my Rising Sun #4 How to make a Hash out of stardom) and NJPW exiles Otanhi and Takaiwa it aimed to bring together juniors, heavy’s, foreigners and shooters in a hybrid tailored to appeal to all fans in Japan.
At first it pulled in crowds due to the good business puroresu was going through at the time and also the then great image of Hashimoto. This was a 3 time IWGP champion and a man who fought outsiders and shooters for the NJPW name and for the sake of pro wrestling. He was a mainstream name and a man who’d been on top since 1992, a solid draw at the Tokyo Dome and for a time one of the premier workers in the world, how could it go wrong?
Well for quite a while it didn’t then came the downturn in both business and in the physical form of the main man, Hashimoto. Plus add in the fact that they lost their NWA affiliation as well and trouble began to brew.
Hashimoto, despite his loss in stature and work rate was still a draw, the draw of Zero-One and despite his best efforts Ohtani (a great worker and a gem on the mic) and others where not seen as bonafide headliners compared to him, so when his shoulder began to get sore and degenerate Zero-One were in trouble. At the time the company was involved in a hot inter-promotional feud with AJPW. A feud that had seen Hash take the Triple Crown from old pal Muto and defended it against AJPW wrestlers before the shoulder injury forced him to vacate and heal up away from the ring.
But that didn’t help, the injury required surgery and if he had it then well he’d be back now. But after constant postponement he still hasn’t had it fixed and it’s 50/50 even with it if he will ever wrestle again.
Plus there came the financial loses as crowds dipped and wrestlers left. Ogawa went back to freelance and working HUSTLE shows with Kawada, Low Ki went to NOAH and others began searching for alternative employment. Then came the bombshell…
Taken from PuroresuPower.com:
Confirming the rumors in Weekly Fight (and posted on this page) several weeks ago, Shinya Hashimoto (text of his speech in Japanese) said that the current version of ZERO-ONE (along with his participation) would be terminated. Hashimoto blamed the company’s poor business on having a limited roster, which ultimately led to poor business performance. Hashimoto said that he had postponed his shoulder surgery in September, but that the surgery would take place in December.
Update: Livedoor is reporting that ZERO-ONE is in debt to the sum of 100 million yen ($1 million dollars). Livedoor claims that local promoters abandoned the ZERO-ONE company once Hashimoto no longer could wrestle. The general public consensus towards Hashimoto for abandoning ZERO-ONE and declaring the company dormant (leaving Ohtani, Tanaka, Nakamura by themselves) is that Hashimoto is the bad guy, and that he can’t be trusted for business.
Plus sidenotes indicate that AJPW still owe Zero-One money from when the two linked up and this would have cleared the debt up completely so that at least their was room for some cuts to insure an annual profit. Now? Well Hash has declared he will finally get his op and be out for around six months to a year and after that is more then likely to reappear over in his old home turf NJPW alongside old pal and fellow musketeer Masa Chono. (Just what they need, another ill-drawing fallen icon whose 40+ and broken down).
And the remains of Zero-One? Well they plan to carry on under Othani’s wing under the name ‘First On Stage’ which is being sponsored by Baltic Curry and under the affiliation of the AWA at the moment. Such is the perils of their financial state they are having to run charity shows to cover the cost of Hoshikawa’s medical bills after he slipped into a coma due to head injuries sustained in a Zero-One ring.
So as NJPW is supposedly sliding down the slope to ruin, if of course they lose their TV deal. Then there is AJPW who are just keeping stable and NOAH who whilst not doing spectacular business look safe and steady and can at least use their own wrestlers to help other shows draw. Proof? Misawa in AJPW at Sumo Hall equals sell out, Tenzan v Kawada at same venue? Two thirds full.
So it looks bleak right now in Japan, something to muse on till next time Puro-heads…