Scout Report by Wrestlingscout

Japan - US Comparison

Many non-puroresu wrestling fans I talk to have a hard time understanding the current situation in the big three in Japan. While I could go on in try to hammer it in with facts, figures, or whatever, I thought a humorous comparison would be more adequate. I’ll just plug in the real names of wrestlers and promotions that they know, in an attempt to alleviate some confusion for non-puroresu fans.

Rewind your minds back to this past summer, WCW (New Japan) is struggling with Hulk Hogan (Genichiro Tenryu) as the champ battling with the likes of Scott Steiner (Kensuke Sasaki), Jeff Jarrett (Keiji Muto), and up-and-comer Booker T (Yuji Nagata) to keep his spot. While the WWF (All Japan) is prospering with The Rock (Toshiaki Kawada), Triple H (Mitsuharu Misawa), The Undertaker (Vader), Kurt Angle (Jun Akiyama), and Mick Foley (Akira Taue), and Steve Austin (Kenta Kobashi), who is having his usual injury problems. Forget about what happened afterwards, cause we’re going to rewrite some recent history.

Suddenly to everyone’s shock and amazement, Vince McMahon (Giant Baba) dies and the WWF is in disarray. His family (Mrs. Baba) tries to hold things together as Triple H initiates problems among the boys. He and most of the company decide to leave the WWF and for their own company, the WAVE (NOAH). The only people that stay in the WWF are the Rock, Jerry Lawler (Masa Fuchi), Kane (Steve Williams), Chris Jericho (Taiyo Kea), Chris Benoit (Johnny Smith), among other mid-carders. Despite having some respectable stars, the WWF is taken off USA (NTV) and is forced to bring in stars from all over, including WCW, who is looking to capitalize on the situation.

The WWF holds a surprisingly good match between The Rock and Jerry Lawler, which takes Lawler from being a comedian/wrestler to being a serious contender and partner of The Rock (forget about his years of success in the past because the WWF apparently has). At the same time the WAVE with Triple H as the owner and booker hold their first show with Triple H teaming up with long-time nemesis Mick Foley to take on the less heated pair of Steve Austin and Kurt Angle. After an Austin-Angle victory, in which Angle dominates, he turns on the unsuspecting Austin.

As all this is going down, the WCW is struggling, as their top stars are aging and people like Kevin Nash (Riki Choshu) are holding down young stars. Hulk Hogan drops the title to Scott Steiner and seeing the state that the WWF is in, the Hulkster feels indebted to help the company that made him a superstar. He returns to the WWF and teams with their top star, the Rock, to challenge the retiring Randy Savage (pretend he was working in the WWF) and Chris Jericho. This gives Hogan a big return match and helps elevate Jericho significantly. Hogan continues to help/hurt, depending on your view, the WWF by becoming a booker and big draw himself.

As the more prestigious WWF is in shambles, despite obtaining Hogan, WCW hopes to capitalize on the situation by starting a long-awaited WWF-WCW inter-promotional feud. They decide to have the WWF’s top star meet their champion in a non-title bout. While The Rock is considered one of the finest workers in the world, Steiner’s workrate is questionable and people doubt the two can have a great dream match. The two meet in what is arguably the match of the year. Despite the fact it is in a WCW ring, The Rock wins and Steiner even vacates his WCW title. In large, the inter-promotional matches come up with the WCW on top in the future. Booker T teams with Hugh Morrus (Takashi Iizuka) and goes the distance with The Rock and Jerry Lawler, which is a surprising finish. Then WCW holds a title tournament, which Steiner wins by defeating The Rock in the finals. Those two feats seem to put the WCW significantly ahead in the war.

Meanwhile, the WAVE is not as riding high with their first pay-per-view (Great Voyage, which was not actually NOAH’s first PPV). The undercard has a few decent showings, but is nothing exceptional; in fact they bring in a few stars to boost the ratings. The biggest star is former WCW champion (forget the fact he went to the WWF in the mid-90s), Lex Luger (Shinya Hashimoto), to take on rising star, Billy Gunn (Takao Omori). Triple H has a decent match against The Undertaker. Then in the main event, Steve Austin and Kurt Angle have match followed by mixed reviews. In what should have been a crowing achievement, the WAVE shows they are struggling. Then to add to problems, Steve Austin goes out for a year with a knee injury, which will seriously hinder the company’s drawing ability (workrate). In the tournament to declare the first WAVE champion, Triple H goes over former partner, X-Pac (Yoshinari Ogawa), Kurt Angle, and the Godfather (Yoshihiro Takayama) to show his political might.

So now non-fans can sort of understand the situation in modern puroresu. All Japan, the long -running traditionalist company is hurting due to the mass exodus of Misawa led wrestlers, who now make up NOAH. Even though they took most of the All Japan roster, they continue to struggle as the roster is made of has-beens, who are unexciting; youngsters, who can’t get over; and injury-plagued main-eventers. Meanwhile, New Japan is failing to fully capitalize on their lack of competition. They push All Japan around in the inter-promotional feud making it lackluster, despite the fact the matches are topnotch. Their own cards are strained by the questionable booking of Riki Choshu. In short, Japan is going through hard times and though the caliber of wrestling is suffering immensely it is not the top-quality it was several years ago.

Note: I do not in anyway want to misconstrue my comparisons. Hogan is not in the same class as Tenryu, same goes for Luger and Hashimoto, Gunn and Omori, and so on. This is simply a goofy comparison and by no way means to portray puroresu stars as being the equivalent of the second- rate workers on the top of the US cards.

 

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