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Ramsey

Japanese GOAT

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I'm not sure I've seen this exact discussion here but I came up with the idea after watching WK13. Someone on the English commentary team suggested that Tanahashi could be at least considered a contender for greatest Japanese wrestler of all time. Now, a discussion of greatest wrestler of all time worldwide is obviously an enormous discussion due to the amount of years and nationalities involved in this thing we love. However, narrowing the discussion to Japanese workers makes it at least more easy to define. All things start at Rikidozan post WW2 and expands from there. So, who ya got? Who, in your opinion, is the greatest Japanese wrestler of all time?

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I love Tanahashi, but I don't see him at the same level as Inoki or Misawa. Even Onita, and I really don't like hardcore wrestling.

As for who I'd see as a GOAT, I'll be boring and say Inoki. He had long wrestling career with many high points. Sure at the end things didn't work out well and he almost killed NJPW, but I don't think that that invalidates his earlier achievements.

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Are we talking strictly in ring or status/importance as well? If we are talking status/importance, then that kind of kills it for anyone post 80s realistically.

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To add to @Eivion's question/point -- If we're talking about in ring ability; then the notion of Tanahashi being the Japanese GOAT, to me, is laughable. I mean, this is subjective and all, but Tanahashi wouldn't crack the 10 or 20 maybe even for me.

For the sake of lists, off the top of my head, I'd rank him below the likes of Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, Taue, Akiyama, Jumbo, Tenryu, Fujinami, Choshu, Fujiwara, Onita, Hashimoto, Liger, Otani, Togo, Ishikawa, Hokuto, Kong, etc.

I'm sure if Japanese pro-wrestling was as popular when those guys were at their peaks as it is now with foreign fans, things would be different in this discussion.

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Hard hard question.

I am an avid cricket fan. In cricket there's an ongoing debate about who the best batsman ever is. Is it Don Bradman, who has the highest average by a clear distance whilst playing on uncovered pitches in the pre-war era, or is it a modern player such as Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar, who would have faced a wider range of super-athlete opponents and excelled at the top for longer. There are other variables, of course.

Eventually my friend decided this: it's hard or difficult or even just unfair to compare people who existed 20 years apart from each other.

I think this works for wrestling, even though some people linger at the top for longer because of the nature of the sport. Like, how do you begin to compare Hiroshi Tanahashi and Rikidozan? It seems like they exist in two different worlds.

This isn't me criticising the question, by the way, just explaining how I get to my answer/s.

Meltzer always posits that the hierarchy of Japanese wrestling goes something like Rikidozan as most popular, Baba and Inoki next, and then a raft of third tier guys like Tenryu, Choshu, Muta, Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, Hashimoto, and Maeda. Maybe a couple of others. I'm not trying to name them all.

Then there's the alternative history that brings in Kimura, Onita, Sakuraba, Toyonobori, Sayama, and a few others.

Also in terms of pure innovation or sheer overness you can't really miss: Chigusa Nagayo, Manami Toyota, Takada, Tamura, Kohsaka, Liger, and a few others.

Modern greats such as Okada and Tanahashi have to be in the mix too for the ways they've not just commercially revived wrestling in Japan, but re-energised it and detoxified it to a certain extent.

After all is said and done I think Akira Maeda has a strong shout. A huge draw, an innovator, an intriguing character, and a great worker in his day. It's not just the way that UWF links to MMA and that whole side of history, but Maeda's breaking away inspired others to do the same, which leads to the great boom period for a lot of promotions in the 90s.

Maeda is obviously an acolyte of Inoki and influenced him in many ways, which is why I'd call Inoki the GOAT of the Showa period.

Since 2000, for me, it is Hiroshi Tanahashi.

 

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3 minutes ago, sevendaughters said:

I think this works for wrestling, even though some people linger at the top for longer because of the nature of the sport. Like, how do you begin to compare Hiroshi Tanahashi and Rikidozan? It seems like they exist in two different worlds.

Not so much the case here.

First we have to identify what the question entails as @Eivionmentioned -- in ring ability or body of work/status or importance?

If it's based on in ring ability or body of work -- the only reason we couldn't debate Tanahashi v. Rikidozan is due to the lack of footage available for Rikidozan. However, Jumbo or Misawa v. Tanahashi is debatable because there's more than enough footage of all those parties available to rightfully debate, but even then it would all be subjective.

If it's based on status and importance, then it's a no contest as Eivion rightfully said.

If it's a mix of both in ring ability/status or importance then that could be debatable.

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32 minutes ago, Edwin said:

To add to @Eivion's question/point -- If we're talking about in ring ability; then the notion of Tanahashi being the Japanese GOAT, to me, is laughable. I mean, this is subjective and all, but Tanahashi wouldn't crack the 10 or 20 maybe even for me.

For the sake of lists, off the top of my head, I'd rank him below the likes of Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, Taue, Akiyama, Jumbo, Tenryu, Fujinami, Choshu, Fujiwara, Onita, Hashimoto, Liger, Otani, Togo, Ishikawa, Hokuto, Kong, etc.

I'm sure if Japanese pro-wrestling was as popular when those guys were at their peaks as it is now with foreign fans, things would be different in this discussion.

Haven’t you admitted that you barely watch modern NJPW though? Have you seen a lot of Tana’s body of work?

Anyway, as overall Japanese wrestling talents go (I’m not qualified to talk about drawing power and importance), Tanahashi is top 5 in my opinion.

My GOAT has been and will likely always be Kenta Kobashi. Misawa and Kawada come in 2nd and 3rd for me, and I’d probably put Jumbo at 4.

I have no problem saying that Tanahashi might be the best in NJPW history from a talent perspective. I’d take him over Inoki, Hashimoto, Fujinami, Choshu, Mutoh, Liger, Sasaki, etc. 

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Workrate comparison will always skew toward the modern worker (particularly 90s onward), and historical and statistical analysis gets you the older guys. That makes it less of a conversation, and I'm outlining what the general area of existing thought is so we might navigate this into a conversation rather than clumsily declaring Rikidozan better than Tanahashi because of culture; it takes bigger circumstantial events than the existence of Hiroshi Tanahashi for wrestling to be that popular again. Japan needed heroes and self-confidence after a destructive war. Rikidozan and his acolytes, beating up foreigners, were that. Japan is different now, arguably more sophisticated in many respects, and the storytelling capacity of wrestling has changed because of media and technology. Bill James wouldn't be able to nail this one down.

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I think somebody like Okada when you consider his body of work, might already be a top 10 Japanese worker ever. I will be very shocked if he makes my top 3 by the end of his career because I consider Kobashi, Misawa, and Kawada to be untouchable but I could definitely see him as the best NJPW worker ever when it’s all said and done.

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What's the metric you're judging on? Popularity?  Who's a draw? Who matters the most today? Long term appeal from their career? That stuff matters the most.

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36 minutes ago, FlaeBlazer said:

Haven’t you admitted that you barely watch modern NJPW though? Have you seen a lot of Tana’s body of work?

Yes and yes. And I still don't get this talk about him being an all-time great. The fact that I haven't followed/cared/liked New Japan closely 3-4 years because I was bored and burnt out doesn't mean I haven't watched any of it.

The list of people I mentioned are solely Japanese pro-wrestlers I'd rank above him. If I were to rank wrestlers from other nationalities, Tanahashi wouldn't touch my top 10.

Heck, I prefer Shibata to Tanahashi myself.

My favorite Tanahashi match is probably that one match where Fujita steamrolled him some 15 or so years ago. 

 

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I feel I should clarify that this is obviously an unanswerable question. I don't think "greatness" can truly quantified. Baba was incredibly over and, in his prime, a fantastic booker. However, even at his best he was never as good in the ring than most of his own employees. He's a legend. He's "great." I just posted this question because I think the amount of contenders to the GOAT title in Japan is at least easier to narrow down. I will say this; in-ring ability is held at a much higher premium among the Japanese fan base so I do think match quality must have a somewhat significant part in the overall discussion.

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My pick is Liger.

 

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30 minutes ago, Ramsey said:

I feel I should clarify that this is obviously an unanswerable question. I don't think "greatness" can truly quantified. Baba was incredibly over and, in his prime, a fantastic booker. However, even at his best he was never as good in the ring than most of his own employees. He's a legend. He's "great." I just posted this question because I think the amount of contenders to the GOAT title in Japan is at least easier to narrow down. I will say this; in-ring ability is held at a much higher premium among the Japanese fan base so I do think match quality must have a somewhat significant part in the overall discussion.

OK... So you're saying it's an unanswerable question and also dodging the question that was asked multiple times in the thread?

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1 minute ago, Edwin said:

OK... So you're saying it's an unanswerable question and also dodging the question that was asked multiple times in the thread?

are you doing this in the voice of your avatar?

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I just haven't seen enough pre-90's to think about All-time.

But from the era and times I've watched, my top five would probably be something like Kawada, Hashimoto, Misawa, Liger, and Tana.

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If we are going by mainstream success and tv ratings success most guys in this century or just this decade wouldn't make it in that category. There's also charisma, something Mutoh has over most guys. There's psychology, which to me was better in the 90's.

Theres been polls and panels in Japan about who's the greatest from a total history point of view and Inoki and Jumbo and Baba and Misawa gets in most of them. With only Tanahashi and Okada as the current guys getting in for some reason.

 

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1 hour ago, Edwin said:

OK... So you're saying it's an unanswerable question and also dodging the question that was asked multiple times in the thread?

Dodging? Um...no, not really. "Greatest," no matter how you quantify the question, in any field, will ALWAYS be relative.

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Edit: Never mind. Pointless thread.

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Ouch...

Discussion is pointless? Okie dokie. Have a good evening.

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Greatness should be measured in fatty tumors and dick implants, IMO.

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It's Kawada. 

It's actually Jumbo. 

But....

...It's *actually*, actually Kawada. 

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With Hokuto third.

Do furrrrners count? Hansen then should be in the conversation along with Kawada, Jumbo, and Hokuto.

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I'd probably go one or all of the NJPW big 4 (Choshu, Maeda, Fujinami, or Inoki) before him but that's just me. Maybe if he had more brawls like the Sano ones... 

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