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Puroresu Politics and a Mini-Japanese History Lesson
I'm currently taking a class entitled "Traditional East Asia," which is taught by a highly respectable (PhD from Princeton) professor from China. She has educated me that Japanese history and culture is very different from our own in America and to understand contemporary Japan, you must understand not only its long history, but China's as well. We're currently at the mid-way point in the course and I find myself drawing constant comparisons between events in history and events in wrestling. Though some are good and some are not so good, at least I have a forum to get a few of them out.
Japan had two great emperors during the Asuka Period (550-710 CE), Teichi and Temmu. These two brothers tried valiantly to reform and centralize the Japanese government (as to be more like China's), but were inevitably cut down by noble families, namely the Fujiwara. From 710 to 1086, the Fujiwara ruled Japan by controlling the Imperial family. While all this was transpiring, the Japan we often think of (shoguns and samurais) were getting their start by running the noble families' land, virtually running it and merely paying taxes. These people were the Bushi, who eventually saw the weakling Fujiwara were harboring a better life then they were in the Heian capital. In time there was a long struggle for power, but in time military might won out and this is when the age of Shoguns and Samurais hit their peak.
Though this is all interesting, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with modern Japan especially puroresu? Wrestling has always been a combination of politicians and warriors, some are one or the other, but to be the best, you have to be both. The Bushi learned the art of war first, but soon became competent politicians and were able to seize power. In puroresu, often unlike American wrestling, people learn their craft well and then can play the game completely, instead of being untalented manipulated. So, I'm going to take a few of the events or the past few months and analyze the ramifications on both the political end and in-ring potential.
Team 2000 Split After having this on my mind lately, I think this is both a positive and a negative. It will be excellent for elevating Kojima and Tenzan either together or separately (I'd prefer the latter). This makes sense because Chono will obviously want to push his boys and I wouldn't be surprised to see him put one of them over in a big way. Kojima is just awesome and the better of the two, I think he can be a full-fledged face, but seeing Tenzan stay a solid heel (I'd like to see him return to Chono and be his #2). One the negative side, Chono will continue to push himself and though his in-ring work is rapidly declining and this is definitely an avenue to propel his career further in a top spot.
Muto vs. Misawa Two of the biggest stars of the 90s, who have looked surprisingly good in the new millennium, now looking to do battle for the first time. People are looking at this with mixed feelings, some think its too washed up oldsters trying to cash in on their past glories. Others think it is a dream match. From a political standpoint this is a very big match. Firstly, Muto would be the first New Japan player to compete on a NOAH card. Secondly, he is the Triple Crown holder and that makes him an All Japan representatives of sorts. This would be unbelievable, even if it was non-title or if he Mrs. Baba wouldn't let him bring them. In the ring it is hard to predict, Misawa's had two **** quality matches this past year and Muto has been down right awesome with shot knees. These guys could have a MOTY if they went all or they could mail it in and have a lackluster one.
All Japan-WAR feud With Genichiro Tenryu running the show (to an extent) in All Japan, the inclusion of WAR in storylines is hardly surprising. So far this has been mostly Tenryu rallying the troops and going over the All Japan guys, namely himself over Taiyo Kea. This is a good feud for Kea, who is being pushed as a major player. Politically this is a safe program with a classic a Strong Style feud between a veteran and a youngster. For Tenryu, the booker, it keeps him in a good spot with him going over a rising star and for Kea he is being put in a spot all wrestlers hope to achieve. The problem has been that Tenryu has gone over Kea five times this year! This is bad, Kea is not looking like an up-and-comer, he's looking like a 25-year old that can't beat a 51-year old.
Yuji Nagata IWGP Championship chase After beating Keiji Muto (who was the Triple Crown holder) in the finals of the G-1 Climax, Nagata seems on the threshold. With Sasaki returning and being pushed as Inoki's new shooter/Goldberg, Nagata's chase will probably continue. Fujita seems to be on the outs as the Champion, which is good for New Japan, but he won't be cast off, which is good for his credibility, drawing power, etc. Sasaki went over Nagata at the 10/28 PPV and seems like he'll win another IWGP Crown and Nagata will chase some more. Match-wise, these two can have higher quality battles then Fujita and his rare appearances. Sasaki will definitely continue to prosper being a current Inoki boy, but Nagata has paid his dues and is ready to claim his throne.
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