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Japanese GOAT

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1 hour ago, sevendaughters said:

has anyone managed to work super matches with everyone or at least everyone on their approximate level? Genuine question. I actually quite like, for some reason, that some guys just don't work out despite their apparent talent.

Pre-OD Terry Gordy perhaps? I'm sure that there must have been instances, but I can't recall Liger or El Samurai ever having a bad match with a competent opponent. It's still early, but Okada can make quite a case for having outstanding matches with everyone on the upper levels of NJPW.

And here's a dark horse in the discussion, he gets little love on this board but Hirooki Goto always seems to deliver no matter what the occasion. I know it takes some Westerners a bit to get into his stoicism and he'd probably be more popular with Westerners if he showed more typical fire, but it is what it is.  While he's worked very few "super matches", he's also had very, very few bad ones. There's something to be said for being consistently good while rarely great or rarely bad. With Goto, you pretty much know what you're going to get and it's always good. I'd rather watch Hirooki than Kenny any day of the week.

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If Goto’s stoicism was lost in translation, western fans wouldn’t have Misawa on the pedestal we collectively do. Plus, the whole FIERCE WARRIOR fighting man who fights hard gimmick is spectacularly unsubtle. People get it; people just don’t always want it.

And I really like Goto, for the most part. I will never not watch his matches; but I don’t really remember... any of them, really? With Kenny, you might get genius, so I’d rather take the chance. Even during an “off year”, we got the Ishii G1 match, and several GL tags that are absolutely brilliant—plus the WK main event showed an adaptability to a slower, less ballroom-dancing-with-knee-strikes finishing run to cap off a great match. 

Okada’s an interesting case, because he doesn’t really adapt at all. He’s going to hit his spots, substituting them into your match template, beat you doing it, and somehow it’ll be amazing and you’ll come out looking better for it. We’re at least a decade away from getting the necessary volume and perspective to evaluate his GOAT-case, and never being the most popular guy in his home company will hurt it for sure, but he’s putting together one of the best imaginary comp sets ever.

Having thought about this all a little more, I’m not really closer to an answer for myself, but I think I’d choose Keiji Mutoh if I had to enter into a debate competition on the subject. You’ve got: a ton of footage working various styles, basically always in an accessible, “casual” friendly way that people still enjoy now (that is, little to no “you had to be there!” factor); success on two continents; helped pioneer the heavyweight doing junior stuff style; maybe the most influential move-set ever; massively over and a big draw for a boom period; had an entire other gimmick he could main event with, even if the matches usually weren’t great, there are iconic moments against Hase/Liger/Shinzaki; had a total second wind as a main eventer in All Japan; very important office/business figure...

He’s not really close to my favorite, but I think I’d have the easiest time arguing for him in front of some imaginary panel of judges. 

This post is already all over the place, but on the subject of “guys who aren’t the greatest but were very good in basically all contexts” I want to mention Yuji Nagata. His WON induction inspired me to go back and watch a ton of his stuff, to try and understand why the Japanese voters unanimously voted him in, and—while he’s always been a favorite—I’ve increased my appreciation. He got sacrificed on the alter of MMA for the sake of pro wrestling, and yet stayed credible as the defender of New Japan honor despite that; he could work very near a shoot style, and had to carry Josh Barnett in a WK main event when the guy had never worked before; he was perhaps best in a kind of shoot/brawl/bleed style, as against Makabe, Sasaki, Murakami; he bridged the gap from that to Tanahashi himself and his new New Japan main event style, and excelled in those matches; he was a great antagonist in NOAH, and worked well in the suplex spamming environment against Akiyama and Kobashi; he’s in one of the best tag matches ever; his old man run still rules.

Obviosuly I can’t account for what he’s like to work with or be around—though Bryan Danielson saying he’s the best in-ring partner he’s ever had is not nothing—but it surely factors in. So, yeah. Nagata doesn’t belong in a GOAT discussion, and the saluting and white eyes stuff is corny; but he’s been asked to do a lot, and mostly been very good to great. Tana couldn’t have sailed New Japan to prosperous shores if Nagata hadn’t kept them afloat in the storms, and... well, this metaphor works better for NOAH. Whatever. 

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Mutoh is certainly a good choice, I was always disappointed that WCW lacked the balls to give him a run with the title, whether they kept the conceit of him not speaking English and requiring a manager as mouthpiece or just let him speak for himself (Mutoh's English is just fine), I think it was a huge missed opportunity not pushing him to the moon.

As you say, he could adapt to any style and was remarkably innovative; you really nailed it by pointing out how accessible he is to newbies or casual fans. Unlike many of the guys that we've discussed, Mutoh's work (especially in the US as the Great Muta), requires no explanations or backstory, dripping charisma, Mutoh was on a level with Sting and Flair as far as being an exciting performer that people could immediately become invested in. That he operated on that high of a level without speaking a word is a testament to just how good he was, and in typical WCW they completely dropped the ball. Some years later in the true alcoholic-like insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result and proving that the company had learned nothing, they repeated missing a golden opportunity with La Parka. (If you can't get over a guy who is terrific in the ring, dresses in a skeleton costume and dances; you really have no business in the wrestling business...) But I digress, the failure of WCW to give Mutoh even a short run with the main title has to go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in wrestling history. 

Despite the missed opportunity Stateside, Mutoh went on to have one of the most important and interesting careers of any wrestler in the history of puroresu. I can easily recall a time that the very suggestion that the same man might become the ace of both NJPW and AJPW would get you laughed out of the room. As it is, you can make a pretty solid argument that as an executive Mutoh was a step below Inoki and Baba in importance; but once you factor in his innovative ringwork and lasting influence, you have a pretty solid platform for making the case that with all factors taken into account that Mutoh could very well be considered the JGOAT. 

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On 1/8/2019 at 6:25 PM, Edwin said:

Edit: Never mind. Pointless thread.

I won't say pointless, but it is very hard to compare across generations.

 

It will always be a fun conversation though

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