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Thread: 90s All-Japan Pro Wrestling

  1. #1
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    Sep 2013

    90s All-Japan Pro Wrestling

    I have recently started trying to follow All-Japan Pro Wrestling from the 90s. I just watched the famous Misawa-Jumbo match where Misawa was put over and started his process to legitimately become The Man in AJPW.

    So, what do you peeps think of 90s AJPW, the home of the King's Road style, and the mecca of wrestling? So far, it has been amazing to me. How unforgiving was the style though? I believe both Kawada and Kobashi are crippled now, and Misawa actually died.

    Interesting story regarding the Jumbo-Misawa match I talked about earlier. Jumbo was apparently supposed to go over. However, Baba, showing that, unlike Vince McMahon, he is not tone-deaf to what the crowd wants, sensed that the crowd was molten for Misawa and it was time to strike while the iron was hot, changed the finish of the match on the night and informed Jumbo. Since Jumbo was considered significantly above Misawa then, he asked Baba if he could just do a count-out loss and not an actual pinfall loss. Baba legendarily just sent one word back: no. And Jumbo did the job, and the rest is history.

  2. #2
    Queen of Extreme Irishsara's Avatar
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    Oct 2013
    All Japan in 1988-1998 may have had the greatest main event roster in history. It had a strong gaijin heel base and the talent was HIGH all over but Baba really did have trouble because he kept playing it safe. He booked based entirely on Workrate and that main event was hard to break into. Everything revolved around the same eight to ten guys. Guys like Hiroshi Hase and Akiyama never got a shot at the top of the card no matter how over they were. you HAD to pay your dues even if they were gifted. The Triple Crown was unified in '89 and only 16 different wrestlers competed in Triple Crown championship matches til the NOAH split. 11 years worth of championship matches, and only 16 wrestlers competed in them. Some of those guys (Gary Albright for example) only challenged for the title once.

    What I love about All Japan of this era tho is the multiman matches of such caliber and the clean finishes.

    Kawada got out early to run a business (Ramen shop). Tenryu survived to work some great matches in the 90s. Personally i prefer 1980s AJPW to 1990s All Japan Pro Wrestling and while it was the second biggest promotion in japan, they were far behind NJPW overall in revenue and sales. It all fell apart at the end of 1998 though. I'll probably never be a NOAH guy because of it. In the 90s, I really liked Tenryu's WAR, some of HUSTLE's sillyness and Zero1.

    All Japan still hasnt recovered from the death of Baba (another lesson to Vince if you ask me). All Japan Pro Wrestling is too bound by tradition and black money to recover. I had hoped that Vince would turn them into a WWE territory but if you ask me, better to wait for them to die and swoop in for that EPIC tape library. All Japan is chained by its tradition today.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2013
    Interesting that you prefer 80s AJPW to the 90s. I will be honest; I skipped over the 80s because I had heard that there were screwy finishes all over and Baba never let any of his top talent job. However, I do love, love LOVE Jumbo Tsuruta from the few matches I have seen of him, so I will probably be checking at least the late 80s out. You are right; not a lot of wrestlers broke through the glass ceiling, much like WWF. However, the star cast is so great that I will take it. The one shortcoming I see is that AJPW, much like WWF/E, was a "big man" promotion, unlike NJPW, who pushed their juniors just as hard. You only got pushed in AJPW if you were big.

    Interesting that Kawada got out of the business. Good for him; probably saved his life. Misawa died in the ring, and Kobashi is more crippled than Zach Gowen. King's Road was cruel for them.

    How far ahead was NJPW in the 90s? I would be interested to see some numbers. I have always known that it was the bigger promotion; however, I did not care, because AJPW's wrestlers seemed more talented to me. Interestingly, I was reading an old Observer; a December 1997 issue, and this is what it had to say for their business:


    Estimated average attendance 10/96 2,470

    Estimated average attendance 10/97 2,763 (+11.9%)

    September 1997 2,300

    Estimated average gate 10/96 $83,890

    Estimated average gate 10/97 $95,100 (+13.4%)

    September 1997 $74,900

    Percentage of house shows sold out 10/96 20.0

    Percentage of house shows sold out 10/97 33.3

    September 1997 83.3

    Average television rating 10/96 4.0

    Average television rating 10/97 2.9 (-27.5%)

    September 1997 2.8

    Major show 10/96: Budokan Hall (14,000/gate unknown)

    Major show 10/97: Budokan Hall (16,300 announced/est. $800,000)


    Estimated average attendance 10/96 3,015

    Estimated average attendance 10/97 3,093 (+2.6%)

    September 1997 5,010

    Estimated average gate 10/96 $112,274

    Estimated average gate 10/97 $111,703 (-0.5%)

    September 1997 $205,260

    Percentage of house shows sold out 10/96 38.9

    Percentage of house shows sold out 10/97 37.5

    September 1997 55.6

    Average television rating 10/96 2.9

    Average television rating 10/97 2.8 (-3.4%)

    September 1997 3.1

    Yeah, they seem to be clearly ahead, although AJPW is still reasonably hot. What was the true hot period for AJPW? I am guessing 1990-1995?

    You are right about them being chained by tradition; from what I have heard, Baba even refused to do a Dome show because he did not want to make the Budokan Hall shows look secondary. That would be like Vince not booking WM at the Cowboys Stadium because it would make the MSG shows look secondary.

  4. #4
    Queen of Extreme Irishsara's Avatar
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    Oct 2013
    All Japan was hottest in the late 70s. When they got Hansen to jump and such. It was when it built a massive amount of goodwill and lifelong fans.

    The end of the 90s always seemed craziest for me for All Japan. Imagine if Vince dies and Cena, Bryan, Rollins, Ambrose, Dolph and most of NXT and the midcard went and formed their own company. Then Cena's new company convinced NBC to drop WWE. Then Steph got CM Punk to come back and brought over Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson from New Japan to reforge the company. All Japan lost 24 out of the 26 contracted Japanese wrestlers on one day in June 2000. Mrs. Baba brought back Tenryu from his exile. She kept Kawada (who i sort of place as the number 2/3 star in the company) and a few of the gaijin. She brings in Keiji Muto (The Great Muta) from New Japan to be the top star and even does a good bit of cross promoting with their most hated rival. .

    If Inoki hadnt lost his mind (Yakuza plot to combine MMA to pro wrestling) then i believe New Japan could have wiped out All Japan completely.
    Last edited by Irishsara; 01-27-2015 at 10:54 PM.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2013
    To be fair to Inoki, inserting a pseudo-shoot element was what got him over in the first place. Didn't he stage several matches which he claimed were shoot matches with several so-called martial arts practitioners and holding several martial arts tournaments all over the world to build himself up. Which he did. Dude is legitimately crazy though. Like, he makes Vince McMahon appear the sanest, most balanced, most sorted person in the world.

    Plus, there were so many extremely profitable wrestling companies which revolved around shoot-style like UWF. Maeda became a legit mainstream celebrity by disparaging "worked" wrestling and then holding shows which had matches which looked realistic, but were just as worked.

    I know about the Misawa and Pro Wrestling NOAH split. I figured Kawada stayed so that he could finally step out of Misawa's shadows and become the no. 1 man. Although, to be fair, he was given a chance in 1997 (I think), but Baba put the belt back on Misawa because Kawada just wasn't drawing; at least not on the level of Misawa.

    I have been wary of NOAH because, in a few matches that I have seen, they have been egregiously guilty of no-selling offence and just doing big spots after big spots after big spots, much like the modern indies.

    Man, I love Hansen. He is my GOAT. Not because of his drawing ability; I know several drew more than he did; I also know that people like Hogan, Funk and even Flair to an extent got over in many companies while Hansen was primarily a one-company guy, but bell-to-bell, I legit think he and Jumbo are the best in-ring performers to ever step foot in the ring. I love good brawling; and no wrestler gets me as invested in a match than Hansen does. I even wrote a column on him today; talked about him some, and then reviewed a Hansen-Kobashi match.

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