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Flash n' Burn – The Fate of T2P

About 3 months ago I wrote that 2002 was going to be the year of the juniors in Japan. Well, things haven't quite shaped up like I thought they might with some injuries and stalling, but only 1/3 of the way through the year. In my opinion the biggest event in the Japanese indies this year has to be the birth of T2P. If you have not caught either of the group's shows – do it ASAP! While I've only seen the first (the second will be in the mail sooner than later), I can already say this group is the best new thing in a long time. The question is how will this new group, with a totally new style fare?

Japan has had a handful of groups that were true trailblazers: UWF, FMW and UWA being the standouts in my mind. So let's look at these three more closely:

1. UWF was wildly popular, but fizzled out eventually. It had some good star power, but the concept "shoot-style" pro-wrestling was the kicker. The second time around was much more successful with bigger names, better matches and a little more organization. Hell, Nobuhiko Takada is still living off his success there. It catapulted many wrestlers who did things with New Japan, All Japan, WAR, etc. and yet others started their own feds, namely RINGS and Fujiwara-Gumi (which died quickly and became Pancrase and BattlARTS). This one group and its concept perpetuated a whole chain of events with the simple idea of making wrestling look as legit as possible. Because of it legit groups like Pride, K-1 and Pancrase are popular, though its imitators died out just as it did.

2. FMW might be regarded as the biggest success of the three, though that is certainly debatable. However FMW's influence has been felt worldwide. When Atsushi Onita took "Memphis brawling" and brought it to Japan and upped the violence, he created a monster. All his crazy death match gimmicks and use of foreign stars and outside talent propelled FMW into a third group spot in the mid-90s without a doubt. As a result clones began cropping up from IWA and Big Japan at home and ECW abroad. IWA seemed to be mostly a money group and for that reason it brought in big talent, but has never done anything too innovative. Big Japan took over the FMW throne and totally rejuvenated the style and like FMW and IWA worked with ECW (IWA now works with ECCW), they worked with CZW. All that confusing interpromotional stuff aside, the wave of garbage wrestling in Japan was big, but has largely died down. FMW has also gone belly up while many of those who copied it are still in business.

3. The UWA was the first attempt at "lucharesu," which was well received due to the novelty of lucha in Japan. It used native luchadors like El Gran Hamada and Yoshihiro Asai (later Ultimo Dragon) as well as some of the very best talent of Mexico. While they weren't a big long-term success, the UWA opened the door for highflyer groups, the first being Michinoku Pro and later Osaka Pro and Toryumon. These three groups have been able to operate on a small scale with ups and downs. The groups are usually only as hot as their talent pool and main angle, which usually revolve around gang wars. Another group that the UWA opened up doors for was CMLL Japan, whose infrequent trips make their novelty of "pure" lucha libre a moderate success. These groups are only able to do well on a local level and as a result are quite centralized. Former MPro star TAKA Michinoku is even looking to do a similar group with his "K-Dojo." The key for success here is fresh faces, excellent talent and excitement all the way.

What do these three groups have in common? They were all successful, but died (some quicker than others). T2P's novelty might be so that it will become huge and perhaps even mimicked (if that's possible), in which case we may see moneymen and (further) hybrids take over their "Clasico Lucha" gimmick. How likely is that? I'd say not very, this style seems so unique and is not really grounded in something native, assuming it's grounded at all. So do I think T2P will "flash," as in be a "flash in the pan?" No, this style is just cool and the wrestlers are too young and talented for the fans not to catch on. I heard someone in a message board (Lucha Libre Aficionados) talking about how luchadors have a certain flavor that puro wrestlers lack and thus they can "get love" from the fans. While this fan (El Tercero) seemed to be largely flaming puroresu, he made a good point. T2P has that lucha flavor with all its bizarre gimmicks, unique holds and so on. I think if the Ultimo Dragon Gym continues to pour out 20 year olds of this caliber T2P has no choice but to succeed. So like a candle, this company is ready for a long burn in the wrestling world.

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