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On 5/30/2020 at 9:24 AM, Oyaji said:

So, yeah, Tomohiro Ishii: the perfect blend of Heisei and Showa wrestling.

Can I ask how you define Showa and Heisei wrestling? It sounds like 80s wrestling vs. 2010s wrestling, but within the Showa and Heisei eras there was wrestling that bore little resemblance to one another. When did the Showa era influence end and the Heisei era begin to define itself? Is 90s wrestling a holdover from the Showa era or the beginning of the Heisei era? I am overthinking this, but I'm curious. 

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I've been thinking about that too. Of course it's largely arbitrary and made up bullshit, but generally speaking wrestlers who were trained and came up through the Showa era like the 4 pillars were probably the first to blend the two eras effectively. NJPW's psychology for the Musketeers era was very similar to that of the Showa period, more so than the pillars. It was more of a fight feel with random violence and big signature moves compared to the layered storytelling of Kawada vs. Misawa, whom had more long term storytelling and wove grand narratives that were poetic in many ways. Plus, Oudou was more traditionally the slower mat-based approach up until Choshu came in and changed all of that in '85. Kensuke debuted in '86 and look at the difference between how he presented himself contrasted with how somebody like Kojima or Tenzan presented themselves. On the women's side, Hokuto strikes me as somebody who blended the two eras together effectively as well. She had the violence and fight feel but was an artist in her selling and storytelling. Some of her matches are something out of a tableau or painting (particularly the ending of that match from GAEA vs. Satomura where she couldn't beat the 10 count and was splayed out on the ropes like a corpse). Bull obviously learned from Matsumoto and was very much like that too. Aja is another one who focused on violence ahead of beauty. Toyota, conversely, to me has none of the Showa attributes and is pure Heisei, focusing on clean technique over violence. Sure, some of her matches had an awful lot of drama (the Yamada hair match for instance) but a lot of it was just kinda impressive moves strung together. Look at somebody like Liger and he went from the blood feud with Sano in the first year of the Heisei era to matches more built around incredible moves with a bit of story built in. Pissed off Liger would rear its head from time to time but it was a rarity. The NJPW class of '91 don't strike me as Showa wrestlers even though, they like Ishii, were trained by Showa wrestlers they didn't have the vitriol of their predecessors. Suzuki basically left wrestling to pursue violence as a sport and returned as a man out of his time. There were definitely the odd throwbacks like Takayama too. Look at the toll that violence took on those people who stuck with the Showa way though: Hokuto, Takayama, Misawa, Hashimoto, Bull... Lots of beaten bodies to varying degrees but they all paid a steep price. Wrestling isn't safe regardless of the style but the hard hitting nature of that old school style was brutal. 

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Shibata was 喧嘩ストロングスタイル or Fighting Strong Style. Focus on kicks but still pro wrestling. The black shrunks and demeanor are Showa era Strong Style. 

While Ishii is said in Japan to be Choshu-ism with 90's Heisei Tenryu-ism. The power battle. And carrying on Showa ways.

So yeah, both combine Heisei era and Showa Era.

Edited by D.Z
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I would imagine that wrestlers who were born in the Showa era, and trained and debut in the Showa era, would identify themselves as "Showa wrestlers," but I'm not sure how wrestlers felt who debut at the tail end of the Showa era and became stars in the Heisei era. I'm not even sure if there was a feeling like "this is the Heisei era!" I suppose there was since a lot of young wrestlers like Misawa were pushed at the beginning of the era, but there was so much shit going on at the time during the "Lost Decade" that I'm not sure how significant the Heisei era was at the time. I've lived in Japan since 2006, and I feel as though the Heisei era didn't really become a "thing" until people born in the era starting coming of age. To me, the real Heisei era wrestlers were guys like Okada. Even now, Reiwa means very little in the grand scheme of things because the Heisei generation are are still in their 20s and 30s. Looking at 90s wrestling, I don't see a remarkable difference in the gimmicks or the character portrayals from Showa wrestling to the stars of 90s All Japan, New Japan and All Japan Women. The promotions were run by Showa promoters with Showa ideas and Showa thinking. The business fortunes followed the pattern of the Japanese economy. The wrestling styles certainly evolved, but they were beginning to do so in the 80s. One of the hallmarks of the Heisei era was that the rigid socio-economic structure began to crumble. I wonder if that is the truly legacy of 90s wrestling -- the AJW women refusing to retire at 25 or 26, the rise of freelance wrestlers, and the sudden rise in independent promotions.

Of course, that doesn't have anything to do with the stylistic differences between Showa wrestling and Heisei wrestling. Personally, I've always felt the stylistic changes in Japanese wrestling were brought about by a constant need to top what they had already done. And the only way to do that was to go longer and do bigger and riskier moves. That's not the whole of it, but they wrestle each other so often in big singles matches that they feel like they have to add more. I don't know if that is a Heisei specific mentality or simply the way business evolved in that era. 

Sorry if that makes no sense. 

Edited by ohtani's jacket
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12 hours ago, Belgian_Waffle said:

Would BattlArts be the last time an entire promotion consisted of dudes devoted to a more brutal (if not exactly orthodox) "Showa" style? 

That's hard to say. BattlARTS definitely wasn't a shoot style promotion. It was a hybrid fighting style influenced in part by Ishikawa's love for Inoki, but not a strict homage to vintage strong style. I see it as a vibrant 90s indy. Maybe there were some 70s hard rock influences, but for the most part it was an amalgamation of everything else that was happening in the wrestling scene in the early 90s. 

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One of the big differences Suzuki cited between the wrestlers of the two eras were that Showa wrestlers saw wrestling as a job while Heisei wrestlers grew up as fans. I don't know if I buy that because a lot of the wrestlers of the late Showa era grew up as fans of Inoki, Suzuki himself was probably that way to a degree but not enough to the point he wouldn't leave even when Inoki was wanting to fashion him a star. Definitely the traits of Heisei are more engrained when you look at Tanahashi, Okada, Omega, Miyahara, etc.. It became a performance art rather than an attempt to make it feel and look like a fight. 

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If by talking about generational differences we're talking about contrasting a worked fight with a grand operatic combat narrative, I'm (perhaps oddly) interested in Yuji Nagata as a somewhat awkward transitional figure. There might not be a worse marriage of the two styles than the white-eyes armbar, held for ages, with no mind at all given to the idea that a joint simply can't fighting spirit through something like that. And of course we have his famous headkick KO, which became a pro wrestling spot shortly thereafter when he wrestled Josh Barnett. I think his matches against an ascendant Tanahashi and as a heel in NOAH are great examples of him mixing things successfully, though, and I have to say I'm very fond of his work on balance. (But then, my favorites are always the guys who couldn't quite be the guy.)  

Suzuki is interesting for a ton of reasons, but one small thing that comes to mind is how prominent he's made the Gotch-style piledriver as a finish. If Showa style is a fight, then anything can end it at any time. And of course, he used to wrestle more like that. I've just re-watched his GHC challenge against Kobashi, and he hits the piledriver as a pretty nothing mid-match spot. Now, he builds his finishing stretches around escalating towards it. If Heisei style has hallmarks, surely one must be that matches really only end in finishers, and end-match drama is primarily built around countering them, or kicking out.

Edited by Beech27
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Jun finds it interesting that young players from DDT think AJPW 90s is the best, so he will continue to inject what he knows in DDT.  And the offer to coach in WWE is gradually starting to open up again.

He mentioned it's Tajiri teaching the young in AJP now and AJP will center on video distribution.

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These were two of my favourites when I was first getting into Japanese wrestling. Holy shit, that is unfortunate we never got that match. The Dome would've been an appropriate setting for such a spectacle. 

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Katsuhiko Nakajima wants to do gimmick matches for the GHC National title. Ladder, hardcore etc.

I forgot to mention that Kaz Hayashi joined Lidet weeks ago, one of the sponsors that support NOAH. He could show up in NOAH later.

 

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On 6/1/2020 at 1:44 PM, ohtani's jacket said:

I would imagine that wrestlers who were born in the Showa era, and trained and debut in the Showa era, would identify themselves as "Showa wrestlers," but I'm not sure how wrestlers felt who debut at the tail end of the Showa era and became stars in the Heisei era. I'm not even sure if there was a feeling like "this is the Heisei era!" I suppose there was since a lot of young wrestlers like Misawa were pushed at the beginning of the era, but there was so much shit going on at the time during the "Lost Decade" that I'm not sure how significant the Heisei era was at the time. I've lived in Japan since 2006, and I feel as though the Heisei era didn't really become a "thing" until people born in the era starting coming of age. To me, the real Heisei era wrestlers were guys like Okada. Even now, Reiwa means very little in the grand scheme of things because the Heisei generation are are still in their 20s and 30s. Looking at 90s wrestling, I don't see a remarkable difference in the gimmicks or the character portrayals from Showa wrestling to the stars of 90s All Japan, New Japan and All Japan Women. The promotions were run by Showa promoters with Showa ideas and Showa thinking. The business fortunes followed the pattern of the Japanese economy. The wrestling styles certainly evolved, but they were beginning to do so in the 80s. One of the hallmarks of the Heisei era was that the rigid socio-economic structure began to crumble. I wonder if that is the truly legacy of 90s wrestling -- the AJW women refusing to retire at 25 or 26, the rise of freelance wrestlers, and the sudden rise in independent promotions.

Of course, that doesn't have anything to do with the stylistic differences between Showa wrestling and Heisei wrestling. Personally, I've always felt the stylistic changes in Japanese wrestling were brought about by a constant need to top what they had already done. And the only way to do that was to go longer and do bigger and riskier moves. That's not the whole of it, but they wrestle each other so often in big singles matches that they feel like they have to add more. I don't know if that is a Heisei specific mentality or simply the way business evolved in that era. 

Sorry if that makes no sense. 

I too consider the Heisei/Showa divide as relatively arbitrary. If "Heisei style" is to be defined by the adoption of entertainment aspects (thinking entrance stage, pyrotechnics, colourful wrestling attire and the like), the seeds were planted long before Hirohito popped his clogs. I look to events such as Tiger Mask's popularity, the Hogan/Inoki feud, Choshu's federation flip-flopping and the popularity of Newborn UWF as key indicators towards this trend, since each of them displayed a heretofore unseen vibrancy that was sorely lacking in the sport... well, that is if you discount Mighty Inoue's trunks in the 70s. In my view this shift reflected the rapid modernisation of Japan brought on by the bubble period, and while the rapid economic downturn at the beginning of the era had its' own impact on the profitability of the industry, by this point these modern facets were already indelibly etched into the style.

In other words, to measure the development of the style against the change in imperial eras serves to complicate matters more than it does clarify. I think of 1984 as the year that really catalysed this shift in styles, and tend to separate wrestlers based on this divide instead.

Edited by bleloch
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Pretty sure Ashino and Aoyagi are facing off to determine the challenger for Suwama’s TC. I wonder if it’ll end up with Yuma in Enfants, actually. Otherwise, Yuma is gonna need Sai back.

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43 minutes ago, bleloch said:

I too consider the Heisei/Showa divide as relatively arbitrary. If "Heisei style" is to be defined by the adoption of entertainment aspects (thinking entrance stage, pyrotechnics, colourful wrestling attire and the like), the seeds were planted long before Hirohito popped his clogs. I look to events such as Tiger Mask's popularity, the Hogan/Inoki feud, Choshu's federation flip-flopping and the popularity of Newborn UWF as key indicators towards this trend, since each of them displayed a heretofore unseen vibrancy that was sorely lacking in the sport... well, that is if you discount Mighty Inoue's trunks in the 70s. In my view this shift reflected the rapid modernisation of Japan brought on by the bubble period, and while the rapid economic downturn at the beginning of the era had its' own impact on the profitability of the industry, by this point these modern facets were already indelibly etched into the style.

In other words, to measure the development of the style against the change in imperial eras serves to complicate matters more than it does clarify. I think of 1984 as the year that really catalysed this shift in styles, and tend to separate wrestlers based on this divide instead.

As I said, this is largely arbitrary but the difference was never whittled down to black trunks v Tanahashi hair, it was more about mentality and approach to matches. Even Tiger Mask seemed like an ornery bastard on the best of days and wrestled a flashy yet aggressive style. Compare that to high flyers of today who are often times more gymnasts performing thrilling exhibitions of athleticism rather than trying to hurt their opponent and I think you get more to Suzuki's original point. Showa era wrestlers, according to his argument that I'm sure I'm butchering, saw wrestling as a job, largely did not grow up as fans, and wrestled with anger and violence. Compare that to wrestlers from the Heisei era, particularly with wrestlers who were trained well after the transition period of the early '90s, and almost all of them grew up wrestling fans (Nakamura speaks in his book to so many of the amateur wrestlers in high school and college being pro wrestling fans and it being a natural course to go from amateur to pro) and work a style more built around dramatic stories building to finisher dances instead of a simulated fight. 

There are holes in that thesis, of course, but as a general look at the zeitgeist of wrestling in Japan, I think it works. Again, look at Kensuke Sasaki and compare him to Tenzan and Kojima. It's not just the garish costumes, it's the goofy mannerisms and character work. Kojima is a lovable bread dad now but his nickname is Cozy (yes, I understand "Koji" -> "Cozy"). There is nothing cozy about Kensuke Sasaki except his flowing mullet I imagine would've been cozy. The Mongolian chop vs. an actual chop.

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1 hour ago, Oyaji said:

As I said, this is largely arbitrary but the difference was never whittled down to black trunks v Tanahashi hair, it was more about mentality and approach to matches. Even Tiger Mask seemed like an ornery bastard on the best of days and wrestled a flashy yet aggressive style. Compare that to high flyers of today who are often times more gymnasts performing thrilling exhibitions of athleticism rather than trying to hurt their opponent and I think you get more to Suzuki's original point. Showa era wrestlers, according to his argument that I'm sure I'm butchering, saw wrestling as a job, largely did not grow up as fans, and wrestled with anger and violence. Compare that to wrestlers from the Heisei era, particularly with wrestlers who were trained well after the transition period of the early '90s, and almost all of them grew up wrestling fans (Nakamura speaks in his book to so many of the amateur wrestlers in high school and college being pro wrestling fans and it being a natural course to go from amateur to pro) and work a style more built around dramatic stories building to finisher dances instead of a simulated fight. 

There are holes in that thesis, of course, but as a general look at the zeitgeist of wrestling in Japan, I think it works. Again, look at Kensuke Sasaki and compare him to Tenzan and Kojima. It's not just the garish costumes, it's the goofy mannerisms and character work. Kojima is a lovable bread dad now but his nickname is Cozy (yes, I understand "Koji" -> "Cozy"). There is nothing cozy about Kensuke Sasaki except his flowing mullet I imagine would've been cozy. The Mongolian chop vs. an actual chop.

Could it be that the general mindset of the average Japanese fan at this time was losing faith in the idea that pro wrestling was as legitimate as they had initially thought? Thus forcing the competitors to adapt, in this case taking greater influence from outside actors such as the WWF and to a lesser extent JCP whose business was in using pro wrestling as a chassis for over-the-top live action dramatics. When you consider how much effort was put forth by Maeda in '88 to denounce the legitimacy of the other two companies, I imagine that would have dented the perception of the "sport" in a lot of fans' minds, although I've not read anything explicitly stating as such.

Thinking about the start of the original UWF as well as Choshu leaving New Japan, the focus on entertainment over conveying legitimate competition moves gradually from that point onward, becoming particularly obvious in the Takeshi Gundan angle, for example. As a wrestler entering the industry during the change of eras, this paradigm shift must be more than apparent; and for those who eschewed U-style and joined one of the big two dojos would've surely absorbed the influence that late 80s US wrestling had on AJPW/NJPW around that time, excursion or no excursion. Another thing is that wrestlers coming in around this time would've been a young child during the Inoki/Tiger Mask stretch, where the appeal of pro wrestling began to really expand. This would have likely meant more people applying to the dojos for that reason, drowning out the field of codgers who, as you say, looked at pro wrestling as a job first. To parallel this thought, consider the number of AJW dojo applicants at the height of Chigusa's popularity, as she influenced so many schoolgirls to want to become pro wrestlers.

Hopefully I'm making some sense!

Edited by bleloch
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You gotta love it. It really has made me appreciate more time at home. I'm also excited to see Tank Ospreay in full effect. He was really starting to put things together since 2018 and kept getting better. Does he incorporate way more strikes, throws, both?

That A1 reference popped me too. Stolen from twitter below (size spioler, sfw):

Spoiler

Image

 

Edited by Oyaji
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New Japan is back on June 15, without fans at first, mostly to run the New Japan Cup. There are lots of juniors and some old folks, so we at least get some unique matches. (Okada vs Gedo in round one is pretty funny, for instance.) The finals will be in Osaka Hall, with 1/3 capacity, and the winner will challenge Naito for both belts the following day with the same seating arrangement. 

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Well Okada's region is a no brainer.  Tenzan's region has some questions but it's likely Goto or EVIL coming out of that.  Hiromu/Yano in Round 2 is gonna be 20 billion stars.  Tanahashi's region is pretty much a Group of Death though.

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