Japanese wrestling in some very important ways is no different to any other wrestling you will find around the world. Basically there are bookers, owners and of course members of the roster who have, as they say, influence with the office…
But who are they? Who are the people who say who goes and make the biggest moves in the business?
Well prepare to find out…
Starting out in the late 90’s over in Michinoku Pro as a pupil of Ultimo Dragon who had by time called the promotion his base, CIMA, then known as Nobuhiko Oshima started his rise to the top.
After a spell with his mentor in WCW working in opening matches he then came back to Japan following his mentor once more who had by now needed to go into retirement after a botched surgery on an elbow injury caused nerve damage in his hand and cost him the use of two of his fingers.
Starting his own movement and promotion Toryumon Dragon pushed his star pupils which included CIMA now known as Shiima Nobunaga and others such as Magnum TOKYO, Dragon Kid, Judo Suwa (a.k.a. SUWA), Sumo Fuji (a.k.a. Don Fuji), Susumu Mochizuki (later Yokosuka), Yasushi Kanda et al.
Lending some stars from M-Pro at the beginning, like SASUKE (a.k.a. Great Sasuke) the concept grew and grew until a schism occurred and Dragon left for the WWE and Toryumon was left without its father leaving the elder brothers of TOKYO and CIMA to run the shop. Moving forward as Dragon Gate and using new titles such as the Open the Dream Gate, Open the Brave Gate and the replacement for the old Trios title, Open the Triangle Gate
This didn’t endear everyone however and a heel group known as Aagan Iisou left the promotion with Kondo and YASSHI leaving to rejoin TARU in AJPW and Sugawara going off into freelance work but the promotion continued.
TOKYO was more concerned with expanding outwards and changing his style to that of Heavyweight using the help of Tenryu and so CIMA took over the day to day booking and working to move the likes of Doi, Yokosuka, Ryo Saito and Yoshino as well as bringing more outsiders in such as Austin Aries, Jack Evans, Kevin Steen, Matt Sydal and also by exposing themselves to the US fans using RoH as a gate way.
After TOKYO went into retirement due to the accumulative effect of years old injuries and a fresh orbital bone break it left CIMA alone and in power of the group. He sought then to strengthen his ties with PWG and RoH in the US even further and then tied himself close to both NJPW AND NOAH.
As a result CIMA recently won the PWG Battle of Los Angles Tournament, his star pupils SHINGO and Doi held the RoH tag team titles, he and RoH also ran a show together in Japan as well as creating the WrestleJam events where the best of the west and east independent scenes often collide. Doi and Yoshino have recently won a new title, the new Twin Gate tag belts which were created and unified with the historic and old IJ Tag belts that belonged to Tenryu’s old promotion WAR and used his negotiation skills to earn the duo a run as the GHC Jr Tag Champions in NOAH as well.
Needless to say that with his re-arrangement of the factions that dominate the Dragon Gate storylines and also his faith in his younger roster members CIMA is doing great right now, not to mention he is currently on top of the promotion as the Dream Gate champion beating none other then Jushin Thunder Liger to claim that throne. With his business soaring and his links with other promotions profitable and strong CIMA right now is one of the biggest movers and shakers in the land…
But what about the next fellow?
This man is the president of his own promotion built by him, around him and staffed by people who left a profitable and much loved promotion to take the risk of starting a fresh with him…
So it’s fair to say the guy has quite a bit of political clout.
Put simply Misawa has managed to do all of these things…
– Have Tanahashi of NJPW job to Rikio over the GHC title
– Nagata and Chono to do likewise for Kobashi over the same title.
– He has negotiated Akiyama entering the G-1 Climax and getting him to the final.
– A run as IWGP Jr Tag champions for Kanemaru and Kikuchi
– Liger to job to Marufuji and KENTA to establish the new GHC Jr Titles
– Tenryu and Kensuke Sasaki to come to NOAH and lose to him (Tenryu) and Kobashi (Sasaki)
– Managed to build his bridge with AJPW through Keiji Muto and return their to fight Kojima as well as having Muto and Kea to come and lose to him and Ogawa on a big NOAH show
– Helped establish Zero-One by lending his and Akiyama’s support which in turn led to Hashimoto doing the same
– Start the DIFFER cup movement for the Junior heavyweights of the Indy scene and bring the best into NOAH itself such as KUDO, Kota, Isihimori etc
– Run shows alongside RoH in both the US and Japan
– Establish the GHC Title as a truly WORLD title
– Start a working relationship with TNA
– Bring together all the other promotions in Japan together bar AJPW and NJPW with the GPWA Alliance.
Sure his booking has sometimes had mistakes but the fact is he established NOAH as the number one federation in Japan and also as the only company that could run the Tokyo Dome show at somewhere approaching a profit unlike New Japan who still continue to try but have not succeeded in quite a long time.
Put simply due to a mixture of good will, reputation and the ability to also allow co-operating company’s stars to get a win as well Misawa has now built up a great promotion with ties that extend around the world. Need less to say he is a shining example to all… in fact no man could have maybe achieved more… well maybe, if it wasn’t for this guy…
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger
To put it simply the greatest political mind and mover and shaker in the business ever is this man, Liger, a man who in his own in ring career was an innovator and a battler over coming both a brain tumor and a serious, almost career threatening ankle injury but even that casts a pale shadow next to his achievements in pushing Junior Heavyweight wrestling to the front of peoples minds in Japan.
Although it is true that Tiger Mask and his duels with The Dynamite Kid opened the eyes of the wrestling world to the potential of ‘the little guy’ it was still the same after Mask left to join the UWF and go down the MMA route… Little guys were an attraction, big men where the stars and the draw.
But when Keiichi Yamada took on the Liger gimmick of manga fame and began his ascent to the top of the Jr. Heavyweight ranks the landscape in Japan began to change.
Liger drew people in, not on the same scale as Inoki or later the likes of Hashimoto, Muto et al but he did draw. Without him and the waves of younger juniors whom he helped train propping up the mid card NJPW events, even the glory days of the mid 90’s would have been a far more barren and less enthralling place.
He started by pushing the young Chris Benoit, first as the Pegasus Kid under a mask and then later as Wild Pegasus. He brought in the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Sabu, The Great Sasuke, TAKA Michinoku, Gran Hamada, Ultimo Dragon and so many, many more…
He also brought forth the best junior talent that came through the NJPW system such as Koji Kanemoto, Shinjiro Otani, Kendo KaShin, Tatsuhito Takaiwa who all went on to hold IWGP Jr. Heavyweight and Jr. Tag Title gold. Otani also was the first ever WCW Cruiserweight champion due to Ligers great relationship with WCW stemming from his stint there in the early 1990’s… but that would soon sour in the new millennium when new management took over.
He brought the best of the best when it came to Junior Heavyweights for one of the most celebrated two nights in wrestling history back in 1994 when he launched the Super J Cup. He established the junior centric Best of the Super Jr. tournament as THE tour of summer just behind the illustrious G-1 Climax and also brought pretty much all of the Jr. Titles in Japan together as the J-Crown in 1997 which was short lived unfortunately as the WWF reclaimed their old Jr. Heavyweight title to crown TAKA as their champion in response to the success of the Cruiser Division in WCW.
He is still today a premier performer in the scene even now and uses his status to help get over new talent in junior based promotions all over Japan and even turned up in RoH to aid their end of the year extravaganza. Also the push of the younger generation such as Taguchi, Minoru, Inoue and Goto and also spots to Danielson, Daniels/Curry Man, Milano Collection AT and Devitt in recent years.
As far as political movers go this man is the top of the tree, no one has brought together so many different promotions and so many differing wrestlers.
No Liger and his showcasing and then Dragon, Benoit, Malenko and Guerrero would never have had the chance to go over to ECW & WCW and break out. Sasuke would never have become a legend and a politician. TAKA would never have ended up in the WWF and then come back to Japan as a hero and Maru, KENTA and so many more would maybe not have had the chances they have been given after Liger gave them the rub.
Put simply he changed Japanese wrestling from heavyweight centric to a place where the two styles could co-exist and provide the most colourful scene in the world today…
No that’s a political game plan and then some…. All those others in power around the world should look at these three men and their key idea of co-operation and learn from it… the WWE didn’t when they ran the Invasion angle and that cost them dear. Maybe when the opportunity arises they can do it again and MUCH better using the ideals of these men as their template.
Till next time Puro-heads.