I’ve been watching quite a few wrestling shows recently, but they’re mostly bits and bobs, often used as background noise while I’m working.
Thoughts on various wrestling shows
- Stardom CINDERELLA TOURNAMENT 2022 and 愛媛・松山大会
I’ve been enjoying the Cinderella Tournament! I like how the “Over the Top Rope” stipulation gives the matches a different feel while also adding a clear reason for top-card wrestlers to participate without just dominating. I used to have mixed feelings about the “the winner gets to wear a nice dress” aspect, but honestly that’s a much more relatable and fun motivation for winning a tournament than like, “here’s a huge trophy.”
It’s too bad the smaller shows don’t have commentary though… I’m at the listening comprehension where having (Japanese) commentary to listen to really adds a lot of positive engagement. Especially for Stardom shows since they pretty much always have a wrestler do guest commentary, and it’s fun to hear more from them that way and see how they do. Like Mayu’s really personable and great at reacting believably big to stuff in ring whereas Giulia is cool and aloof and less good at doing that lol. Tora’s fun and loves Maria from Marvelous. Himeka strikes me as shy genuinely but she had an impressively professional commentator delivery. Etc…
- NJPW HYPER BATTLE’22
Good guy Tama Tonga redeemed by Tana’s benevolence is an interesting development.
Taichi really excels in weird, memorable matches (that one with Ibushi and all the kicks…) so I’m actually really curious to see what he might do with the King of Pro-Wrestling trophy – which so far I’ve just thought of as an excuse to have Yano matches on big cards (which I’m fine with).
Enjoyed the championship matches, but I do wonder if maybe they should cool it for a bit on the “it’s the same match-up as X number of years ago” storylines between this and the anniversary show…
- TJPW Still Incomplete '22
I think I mentioned I watched this and enjoyed it! I especially liked Hyper Misao’s applying for the Up Up Girls opening. Looking forward to kaiju vs. hero!
- DDT 路上プロレス世界一決定戦
I watched the first leg of the 路上プロレス tournament. It’s fun! Although I’m very very very much not the type to make a scene in public so it goes against every instinct of mine… It’s fun to see the locations they wrestle in! 江ノ島 looks very picturesque! And you get a nice buffet of silly things, from Takagi’s genial visit to the Big Japan dojo and Abdullah eating an alarming number of raw eggs, to spooky 666 stuff.
I haven’t watched the second part yet though (probably would have been more motivated to if Suzu Suzuki had won - I noticed though that Prominence shows are on Wrestle Universe… maybe I’ll check those out)
Looks like the next big shows to look forward to are around Golden Week! I think I’m most curious about Shoko Nakajima vs. Hyper Misao, the Cinderella Tournament finals, and how Maika’s Wonder of Stardom title shot will go in her hometown of Fukuoka
週刊プロレス No. 2168
Tanahashi’s column is about the New Japan ring announcer retiring and his replacement, someone named 大星, an interesting name. I’ll have to keep an ear out to see if I notice a difference – the ring announcer is one of those areas of presentation that’s fundamental but hard to notice from just an English speaking perspective. The retiring ring announcer’s name is 尾崎 and he worked as the ring announcer for New Japan for about 15 years (following Kero Tanaka’s tenure).
Giulia’s column is about the non-Suzu Suzuki members of Prominence. 柊くるみ is a モンスター with an impressive jumping press. 藤田あかね was Giulia’s 一番苦手な先輩 when she was starting out in Ice Ribbon, and she says she still has トラウマ from one of her first matches being against her - fighting a wild boar would have been more pleasant. Giulia wonders what a singles match now would look like, perhaps she’d be the one to make Akane cry this time. 宮城もち apparently describes herself as “wrestling’s 佐々木希.” Giulia praises her technique, and says that as a person she was the most もともな person in Ice Ribbon. Giulia’s got a lot of things she’d like to tell her about since leaving, so she’d like to chat with her after crushing Prominence. 世羅りさ, the boss of Prominence. Giulia recalls the pain of a match with her and her psychopathic, “人間の匂いがしない笑い” during it. But Giulia says she was a reason she wanted to leave Ice Ribbon, as she didn’t like that despite being so powerful Sera would ふざける - sounding a bit Kenohish in (I think) expressing distaste for some of the sillier things that happen in Sera’s matches. She also doesn’t like that Sera didn’t show interest in 後輩 at the time and didn’t like her announced intention to marry and quit wrestling at 30.
Kenoh talks about the GHC junior tag belt being cursed lately, and compares the dynamic at the moment in some way to the currently running Taiga Drama 鎌倉殿の１３人.
There’s a big feature on Cosmic Angels!
The first part is an interview with Tam Nakano and Mayu Iwatani recounting how and why Tam broke away from Mayu and Stars, and Tam’s growth from out from under Mayu’s shadow into a fully-fledged faction leader on equal standing.
The second is some gravure pictures and a brief interview with Mina Shirakawa - The magazine writer notes that there’s always been some portion of wrestling fans who are against グラビア, and she notes that she has the most social media followers in Stardom, and if that motivates some one out of thousands interested in bikini pictures to try out watching wrestling, then that’s good. “それを期待してるから、私はこれからも脱ぐ.” She says she wants to marry and raise a family but would come back to wrestling after maternity leave since she loves it.
Then there’s cooking with Unagi Sayaka! The magazine staff heard she was a good cook so they had her make like, a full multicourse meal in a big rented kitchen. The food looks good! Apparently the salmon in butter sauce was especially うまい. She says she honed her cooking skills the first time she was living with a partner - she worked a バイト at a pachinko parler during the day, and as a バニーガール at night so there was a brief window of time they were together throughout the day and so she filled that with cooking as a way to spend time together and try new things. They tease the possibility of a recurring ウナキッチン column.
Finally, there’s a spotlight on the newest member, Waka Tsukiyama. Apparently she was born in New York, but moved back to Japan when she was 5. Both her parents are doctors, and she went to college and had a successful career as an OL at a firm related to medical stuff, but her real passion was acting and eventually she built up savings and quit her job. She came to wrestling via Actwres girl’Z and loved it (especially the training - the intensity of actual matches was intimidating). When Actwres halted wrestling shows during the pandemic, she wanted to focus on wrestling and have a lot of matches and get stronger, and quickly ended up in Stardom. She’s still just been losing, but wants to feel victory - especially against Mai Sakurai, whose departure to Donna Del Mondo felt like a betrayal.
P.S. can I just say I’m confused by the amount and configuration of denim Mina Shirakawa is wearing here? It’s like if you wore three denim vests on three different parts of your body and then took off the middle one…
There’s an interesting bit in the “back-issues you could check out on the mobile app” section about how in 1989, when 昭和天皇 died, beginning the 平成 era, all the wrestling shows (like everything else) canceled… except seemingly a Riki Choshu produced New Japan show, which failed to notify any customers about a cancellation, leading to the whole roster from Inoki on down and New Japan staff lining up in Korakuen to apologize to any fans who came expecting a show.
The history column talks about how the orthodox path to success for 昭和 era wrestlers was 海外武者修行を終えて凱旋帰国 - Rikidozan did it, Giant Baba did it, Antonio Inoki did it, Yukio Sakaguchi did it, Strong Kobayashi did it, etc. - and anyway, apparently Tatsumi Fujinami was especially successful in this regard, causing something of a sensation upon his return to Japan in 1978 when he was hailed as a successor to Inoki.
(I don’t think I put together just how far back the roots of the “excursion” model go…)
There’s an interview with Tsukasa Fujimoto, the main figure in Ice Ribbon. She promises big changes to come, big enough to make you forget the year-end with so many departures. She’s also producing her first entire show (I’m not sure but I think they mean still affiliated with Ice Ribbon but it’s Fujimoto’s show in the way those Risa Sera produced shows were?). The magazine staff tease her a little more about her not being married yet – I heard it’s been announced since that she got married, so perhaps part of the joke was they knew more than the public at the time!
The costume column is about Tetsuya Endo, showing off his new velour ensemble for his induction into the stable Burning. There’s a flaming B on the butt and gown which stands for “Burning.” Another こだわり point is the 少ない面積. Endo says he aims to not neglect tanning and weight training and to be a 肉体だけでお金を取れる選手.
Mutoh’s column is about injuries, to which he is no stranger. Apparently his first knee issue arose when he was in Puerto Rico and he wrestled immediately after surgery and ended up getting a push there and wrestled more, making it worse. If he had Doraemon’s time machine he might go back and tell his young self to not do that, but his knees would have run into problems some other way. There’s the sudden kind of injury and that kind of nagging injury where there’s always a tough decision about when enough is enough and it needs to get taken care of.
Michael Nakazawa’s AEW report is a spotlight on the Japanese women’s wrestlers in AEW, which is nice to see.
There’s a column about Hikari Noa and her then upcoming bout with Hikaru Shida after Noa recovered from covid (it was physically fine but mentally rough). She says 「両国国技館で血を流せたら最高ですね！志田さんの血を誰よりも近くで見たいし、私の血も志田さんに見てほしい.」
週刊プロレス No. 2169
Here’s a good picture of Nakajima getting slapped by Fujita.
(blurred because it looks like it hurt)
Kenoh talks about Fujita joining NOAH and winning the GHC heavyweight championship, and gripes that he’s in his 50s. The interviewer asks about Funaki, who’s in his 50s but in Kenoh’s stable, Kongo, and Kenoh draws the distinction as being that Funaki wisely is staying independent and therefore hungry and motivated, like a stray dog as opposed to one brought in as a pet that loses its survival instinct, using Mutoh and his current injury as an example I suppose of the latter.
There’s an interview with Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato about their successful quest to become the 69th IWGP junior tag team champions. Said quest is largely driven by Taguchi and his 「”６９”への異様な執着」, Master Wato is just politely along for the ride. The interviewer grills Taguchi on why he swapped out Rocky Romero for Wato and whether he just wants to be the 69th champion with anyone.
Apparently despite his demeanor in backstage interviews, Taguchi is very quiet off camera, and Wato is quiet too so it’s been a tentative warming up to each other as partners across such an age gap, but Wato feels like he’s learning something. They’re pretty frank about not having a chance in the New Japan Cup as individual wrestlers.
Giulia’s column is about fan votes held for match order (apparently one of the recent shows had a fan vote to decide which would go on last, highspeed or wonder of stardom). She doesn’t really like them because they distract from the matches themselves, and she says by analogy, an Italian chef wouldn’t say to a customer “which of these courses would you like last?” (frankly, I agree with her!)
There’s a double page ad for American Spirit cigarettes with the slogan タバコは、農業だ, and a picture of someone picking a package of cigarettes out of the dirt which I feel like makes me think more of litter than 農業…
Anyway, I just think the ads in the magazine are sort of interesting. The vast vast majority are things directly or tangentially related to wrestling, and the rest are like… cigarettes, horse racing, and papayas.
The history column talks about this match involving the team of Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, ＢＩ砲, and famous luchador Mil Mascaras.
It also mentions a cage match between Rusher Kimura and Ox Baker (the wrestler who was in Escape From New York), but alas, can’t find the specific one.
Looks like Hikaru Shida announced a challenge for an upcoming Ice Ribbon show – cool she’s popping up in more than one place!
The costume column is about Mai Sakurai, the new addition to Donna Del Mondo in Stardom. Her black costume is apparently not actually new one from a previous promotion that she didn’t use very much at the time. It includes レガース even though she’s not a kick-centric wrestler, she trained on kicks before coming to Stardom and wants to incorporate them more in the future.
As promised, Hideki Suzuki’s “偏屈論” column returns following his WWE firing, with a fresh coat of paint and a new interview format. It sounds like a major factor in his decision to go to NOAH was money. As it was when WWE paid him the most money he’d received as a wrestler. In contrast, he notes, the magazine staff are paying him [REDACTED].
This ad for the New Japan mobile game featuring Tanahashi is uh… very direct! (not that far off from my genuine phone background though come to think of it…)
(blurred for propriety?)
(Reminds me of the グッズ ad they ran during some shows a while back that was 100% just “if you buy New Japan merch, Tanashi might smile at you”)
週刊プロレス No. 2170
I thought this picture from the NJPW anniversary show was kinda interesting - it’s Tanahashi caught in a Fujiwara armbar. And… that’s Fujiwara, the guy the move is named after.
(This is a tangent, but for a little bit I thought this was the guy who was rumored to have ordered the murder of Rikidozan, the rumors of which I have a 700 page book apparently refuting that I’m curious but intimidated to try reading some time… but anyway I doublechecked and I was thinking of Kimura of the Kimura lock. Anyway it’s interesting the gravitas lent to someone by their name preceding them in wrestling move name form.)
Tanahashi talks about the anniversary show in his column - apparently the final moment when Tatsumi Fujinami gave (NJPW founder) Antonio Inoki’s catchphrase (“ダー！”) wasn’t planned. They talk about Tanahashi’s longtime admiration for Fujinami, and the interviewer says that Tanashi is the key bridge between legends like Fujinami and wrestlers like Okada - 現役とレジェンドの橋渡しにピッタリです。 to which Tanahashi, #1 dad, replies ”棚橋渡しですね。”
In Giulia’s column she talks with Maika about a wrestler participating in Stardom’s New Blood show, 稲葉ともか. Tomoka is Maika’s 妹分 the way Maika is Giulia’s 妹分. I didn’t know who they were talking about at the time, but look up pictures - I think I’ve seen her around, in shows or the magazine. Her style looks karate centric.
P.S.I remember being really struck by Utami Hayashishita’s look at this press conference with her short haircut and stance…
I didn’t actually notice this while I was reading, but caught it just now - an interesting item in the mobile app section is a brief recounting of Chigusa Nagayo’s first retirement in 1989. She sang songs and wrestled, and apparently at one point introduced to the stage as “私のベストパートナー”, Rossy Ogawa (current head of Stardom, then involved in management in AJW).
This isn’t mentioned in the small column (and I haven’t verified the source or anything), but I looked up on wikipedia why she retired, and it claims “in 1989, Nagayo reached age 26, the mandatory retirement age for female wrestlers in AJW at the time. Nagayo claimed to be getting married, however later admitted that it was a lie.” Geez! Makes her tearful speech quoted in the magazine about loving pro-wrestling and “今度また、この世に生まれてきたら、またプロレスがやりたいです。” and her continued involvement in the wrestling business today especially meaningful.
There’s a lot going on in that one historical trivia blurb about the industry then and now and gender roles and all kinds of things… I would be curious to try to learn more to have more context about this kind of thing in general.
The history column is pretty interesting - talking about the first year of NJPW pre its television deal, and how 日本プロレス strongly pressured newspapers against giving the new promotion major coverage, to the point that the 旗揚げ show was relegated to back pages while a nothing 日本プロレス match got the headlines. Tatsumi Fujinami also recounts how apparently at the time, he was still new and so had to help put up posters for shows, and they would frequently be found torn down or defaced later that day, apparently due to 日本プロレス affiliated promoters attempting to stymie the new promotion.
There’s an interview with Shoko Nakajima ahead of her match against Miu Watanabe. She talks about memories of meeting her at the start of TJPW, and what she thought of her then, saying Miu had great reflexes and she doesn’t, and she’s always felt a notch below her. She says now she thinks of Miu and her as 兄弟, with her as the 兄 and Miu as the over-achieving 弟.
She says that for a long time she thought about how she didn’t have an answer to the question “Miu has kicks and Yuka has high flying, what do you have?” - and so she felt she had to figure that out. Now she would say the answer is 「私は小細工が得意です。」in the sense that she feels that as much as she might train, she’d still be able to only do what everyone else can do, not anything new. So she’s accepted that and focused on knowing how to use precisely the tools she does have.
I also really like her look in the photo with the interview.
Speaking of Shoko, this picture of Raku defeating the Tokusatsu club’s 合体 maneuver with her lullaby made me laugh.
Tsukushi, the current Ice Ribbon ICE✕∞ champion announced she’s retiring, saying she wants to try things outside of wrestling (which is completely understandable since she’s a former kids’ wrestler). It’s another blow to Ice Ribbon, but it sounds like it was at least planned since before the 7 other wrestlers left the promotion, and that just extended the timeline a bit.
Genichiro Tenryu talks in his column about Fujita joining NOAH. He was especially struck by how it looks like Fujita is really enjoying pro-wrestling. He recounts a story a long time ago when Fujita was new in New Japan and Tenryu was running WAR, visiting New Japan and seeing Fujita sitting alone eating and looking sad, and wondering if he didn’t like プロレスの社会, so when Fujita went off to do MMA stuff internally he thought やっぱり. So anyway, it’s nice that Fujita looks like he’s enjoying himself.
He says that NOAH in the CyberAgent era is feeling less and less like the All Japan inheritor that it started as, with many newcomers associated with other promotions, and Fujita’s entry being a new symbol of that ”変わるNOAH” but he says this is good and only natural. 「変わっていくのがプロレス団体だから。」
He also talks about the NJPW anniversary event, and particularly Okada talking about Antonio Inoki, who since his departure NJPW have largely avoided talking about (I think just to chart a new course and stuff, and get some distance from the rough 2000s era of the company? But he was also like, a politician and had scandals and stuff so I wonder what the extent of the アンタッチャブルness is). But with Fujinami (strongly associated with Inoki) brought in so prominently, New Japan is bringing those historic connections and references more to the forefront in a way he speculates they wouldn’t have done if they were still on their pre-corona hot streak.
He also says he’s envious of New Japan in a way to see so many prominent figures of the company alive and well, from Inoki to Fujinami, Maeda, etc… he started in All Japan, and some of the most prominent figures from there of Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta, and Mitsuharu Misawa have all passed.
Finally the magazine staff ask him to comment on the first ever 3-week streak of women’s wrestling being on the cover of shupro. He says there’s been a lot of change and gossip in the world of women’s wrestling recently, and with men’s wrestling pretty stagnant, it’s completely natural that people would be drawn to where the interesting topics were. He says it’s just about what sells magazines.
the costume column is about Go Shiozaki and his プロレス界のマント themed costume. He says it’s not going for a Superman style superhero cape sort of look, but a regal, Harley Race type of look. But he’s not a king, he’s a prince.