Cubed Circle Newsletter 212 – Genichiro Tenryu’s Retirement Show, Survivor Series & More!
In this week’s issue we return to semi-normalcy with coverage of the latest Rizin news (not normal at all), Tenryu’s retirement show, Survivor Series, an horrendous RAW, why you should be watching the Disco Challenge Ladder Match instead, and the follow up to the famous Ted DiBiase heel turn of 1982 leading into the Super Dome!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
The Pro-Wres Digest for November 22nd – November 28th 2015.
Clearly, there was no ISIS terrorist act carried out during Survivor Series. I don’t feel particularly comfortable even talking about this, because a wacky, tech-issue ridden, pro-wrestling newsletter is not the forum for discussing a bunch of brainwashed psychopaths who kill innocent people. Regardless, on Saturday 21/11, there was in fact a warning that the Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA was on a list of potential targets for terrorist activity. The International Business Times cited the online network of activates, Anonymous, as the source of this “intelligence”, however the Anonymous twitter on the very same day tweeted that that had no idea where these rumours came from. Even if there was never really any danger to anyone attending Survivor Series, WWE took the threat extremely seriously and beefed up security at the Philips Arena. There are plenty of pictures from the event with armed security and police cars everywhere, but thankfully they were never called into action. HHH made a statement on his Facebook page and reassured people that there was no credible information about any threat for the Survivor Series, but he noted the extra security and stated that fans would not be allowed to bring any kind of bag into the arena; even women’s handbags were prohibited. Vince McMahon inevitably got the last laugh on the phantom terrorists by having Lilian Garcia sing the national anthem before the show, so once again the heartbeat of America, the WWE, triumphed over evil!
In yet another injury blow for the WWE, it was reported on Monday that Cesaro will be out at least 4-6 months with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Curiously, Jim Ross first had the SCOOP on twitter on Sunday night before the Survivor Series, which Cesaro had to be pulled from and replaced by Titus O’Neil in the 5-on-5 match. WWE confirmed the injury the next day and stated on their website that Cesaro had been working through the injury for two months because he didn’t realise the severity of the damage.
Monday’s RAW ratings were an absolute catastrophe. The show did a 2.16 with 2.95 million viewers, the lowest non-holiday number since March 3rd 1997 when the show did a miserable 1.9 rating. The first hour did 3.19 million viewers, hour two did 2.99 and the third hour dropped to 2.71 million. By comparison, the 2014 show the day after the Survivor Series when Sting debuted did 4.29 million viewers: Hour one did 4.73 million, hour two did 3.99 and hour three did 4.01 million viewers. That’s a drop of 30.2% in one year; to say people were not interested in seeing Sheamus as the new champion is an understatement. The next time you see one of those “Did You Know” graphics on RAW and WWE are bragging about they have more social media followers than the NFL, keep in mind that this past Monday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills crushed RAW in the ratings and did 14.26 million viewers.
TNA are running FIVE straight nights of TV tapings from January 5-9 in Bethlehem, PA at the Sands Bethlehem Events Centre. The first show which will be taped on 5/1 will be the debut episode on PopTV and is being advertised as “live,” however in TNA language that means at least a two-hour delay. The usual names will be appearing, including: Kurt Angle, Matt & Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Ethan Carter III, Drew Galloway, Bobby Roode, Gail Kim & Tigre Uno. TNA will also be taping TV in the UK at the end of January, so they will end up with at least 3 months of TV shows in the can. On Wednesday Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported that TNA had cancelled their tour of India which was scheduled to run from December 2-4. The story goes that they were scheduled to fly to Paris before connecting to Mumbai but apparently “safety concerns” and “logistical issues” caused the entire tour to be “postponed.” TNA’s TV deal with SonySIX includes the company doing at least one tour a year of India and the dates were paid shows with free admission, so it is not a matter of low ticket sales. They were planning on taping some One Night Only PPVs and the semi-finals of the world title tournament while over there; luckily the semi-finals were already taped back in July so they can just dust of that footage for iMPACT. Word is that the wrestlers are once again not happy at all with TNA, as they now have to scramble to get indie bookings to make up for the money they would have been making. TNA is claiming that all the talent will still get paid for the India tour, however that is hard to believe considering some of the guys and girls in TNA don’t get paid after working a show that actually took place, never mind a show that was cancelled. There are currently no TNA dates scheduled until the January 5th “live” iMPACT show in Bethlehem, PA.
Speaking of shows being cancelled/postponed, AAA announced on 25/11 that their big year end show, Guerra de Titanes would not be taking place. The event was set for 12/4 at Feria de Tampico in Tampico and Rey Mysterio vs. Johnny Mundo for the vacant AAA Mega Heavyweight Championship was the advertised main event. It seems like the explanation, while not confirmed by the company, is that Mysterio was unavailable for that day and AAA have “postponed” the show rather than cancelling it all together. Lucha Underground have two taping dates set for December on the 12th & 13th so it is entirely possible that Mysterio could make his debut in the Temple that weekend. I suppose now that Guerra de Titanues is cancelled, anyone from AAA could work the Lucha Underground tapings; hopefully Marisela Pena doesn’t show up in the front row and awkwardly receive hugs from the technicos all night long.
Solomon Crowe and Brad Maddox are no longer working for the WWE. Crowe, who had been in the NXT system for nearly two years, was virtually never seen on NXT TV except in the role of an enhancement guy and he reportedly asked for his release, which was granted on 24/11. Maddox had not been seen on TV since the end of his stint as the RAW GM and Mike Johnson is reporting that he was fired for some comments he made before last week’s SmackDown tapings in Knoxville, TN. Supposedly, during a dark match with R-Truth, Maddox got on the mic and referred to the crowd as a bunch of “cocky pricks” and the WWE brass were so furious that Maddox was cut a week later. It is hard to believe that they would fire Maddox just for using a light swear word. My guess is that Maddox was already on the bubble and this was likely the final straw in the minds of Talent Relations.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru announced that he will become a free agent when his contract with All Japan will expires on 15/12. I don’t expect Kanemaru to go back to NOAH, where he worked from 2001-2012 and became the company’s first ever GHC Junior Heavyweight champion, since Kanemaru jumped to All Japan with Jun Akiyama, Go Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki in January 2013 when the whole Kenta Kobashi NOAH firing debacle went down.
In this week’s Observer it was reported that Zack Sabre Jr is finishing up with NOAH after this current tour which ends on 30/11. Sabre is not advertised for any of NOAH dates December, including the big “Destiny” show on 23/12 at the Ota Ward General Gymnasium in Tokyo which features Minoru Suzuki defending the GHC Heavyweight title against Naomichi Marufuji. There have been rumours of WWE being interested in Sabre for a couple of months now and Dave Meltzer noted that he had been talking about moving to the US even before the WWE rumblings began. WWE recently ran a story on their website about Sabre and put him over as one of the top stars on the indie circuit, which obviously got a lot of people thinking Sabre was Florida bound. Sabre is advertised for two Revolution Pro Wrestling shows in January: on 3/1 it’s Sabre vs. Marty Scurll in a rematch of the BOLA semi-final at the London Cockpit and on 16/1 Sabre challenges AJ Styles for the Undisputed British Heavyweight title at the York Hall. If Sabre is going to end up with a developmental deal, and you would have to believe that a guy with his abilities would be a no-brainer to be brought into the top mix in NXT, it looks like it will be at some point in early 2016.
It is official; Bob Sapp vs. Akebono is set for the Rizin New Year’s Eve show. Nobuhiko Takada made the announcement on Fuji TV on 27/11 and a rematch of the most watched fight in the history of Japan is set. Sapp & Akebono’s kickboxing match for K1 on New Year’s Eve 2003 did a monstrous 54 million viewers; it was Akebono’s first fight after leaving Sumo and Sapp was a huge TV celebrity so everybody wanted to see the battle of the monsters. In their first fight, Sapp KO’d Akebono at 2:58 of the first round with a right hook. The closest thing to a rematch was when the two were on opposite sides of an eight-man tag match at Wrestle Kingdom 7 on January 4th 2013. The two have quite the terrible record when it comes to fighting. Akebono is 0-4 as an MMA fighter, losing to names such as Giant Silva, Don Frye & Royce Gracie, all of whom were past their prime when they beat him. Akebono’s Kickboxing record isn’t much better either as he is 1-8, with his lone win coming in 2005 against Nobuaki Kakuda. That’s a combined record of 1-13. Sapp, who retired from fighting in late 2013, on the other hand is 11-18-1 in MMA, with his last win over Sascha Weinpolter in 2010, and 11-17 in Kickboxing. I doubt that they will have the same interest as in 2003, but still it is yet another freak-show added to the Rizin card for New Year’s Eve and this one might be the most ridiculous of them all.
Go Shiozaki competed in his first match back in NOAH on 26/11 when he defeated Mitsuhiro Kitamiya in 9:41 at Korakuen Hall. I haven’t seen the match yet, but from reports it appears that Minoru Suzuki sat in the front row then had a stare-down with Shiozaki afterwards; so it looks like they are teasing a match between the two at some point.
Jesse Barr, whom I have become quite familiar with doing the Mid-South reviews, underwent a quadruple bypass surgery this week. Jesse, the son of Portland star, Sandy Barr and older brother of the late Art Barr, is probably most well-known for his time in the WWF as Jimmy Jack Funk, the kayfabe brother of Dory & Terry. Barr also was one of the victims of the many legendary badass Haku stories, as in 1987 during a show in Puerto Rico Barr & Haku got into an argument which almost resulted in Haku ripping out his eye. Barr may not have lost his eye, but he did lose his job, as he was fired by the WWF for the incident.
Some sad news emerged on 26/11, as the news of Tommy Gilbert passing away was released on Twitter by his son Doug. Tommy Gibert, father of Doug & Eddie, was 75 and was part of the Tennessee wrestling scene throughout the 60s, 70s & 80s, working for Nick Gulas and Jerry Jarrett. Doug broke the news with a Tweet which read, “Earlier this morning, my dad Tommy Gilbert left us and is now home in heaven with Eddie. Prayers during this difficult time are appreciated.”
There is a big weekend of independent wrestling in the UK, with Progress running the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London on 29/11 which sees Will Ospreay defending the Progress title against Mark Andrews in the main event. Also on the card is Marty Scurll vs. Tommaso Ciampa and last month promoter, Jim Smallman, announced that this would be Ciampa’s last independent booking before going to WWE fulltime, however there hasn’t been much news or any kind of update as far as that goes. Preston City Wrestling are running their biggest weekend of the year, with 4 joint shows with Ring of Honor from 27-29. Adam Cole, reDRagon, Roderick Strong, Dalton Castle and ROH champion Jay Lethal are all appearing on the shows and will also be involved in a bunch of meet-and-greets over the course of the weekend.
Ring of Honor announced on 23/11 that they will be bringing some New Japan guys over to work the 14th Anniversary show on 26/2 and the TV tapings the next day on 27/2 in Las Vegas, NV. At present Shinsuke Nakamura is the only name advertised for the shows.
Some TV notes in brief: NXT this week featured the much talked about Eva Marie vs. Bayley match for the Women’s title. Do not be fooled into thinking the match was good, because it was not at all, however the agents did a fantastic job of laying everything out in such a way that Eva would not be too exposed. Still, the match had to be heavily edited for the TV show and all the ref bumps, Nia Jax interference and kicking out of finishes couldn’t cover up the fact that Eva Marie is just not cut out to be a professional wrestler. Her selling is deplorably bad and her offence is just as terrible, but WWE are in love with her so she will be on the main roster no matter what in 2016. Bayley tried her best in the match and she retained the title after the company did everything in their power to convince the Full Sail crowd that Eva was going to win the title. It was a fine example of how to lay a match out to cover up somebody’s glaring weaknesses, however I see that almost every week with JYD in Mid-South and at least his punches and kicks were a million times more believable than Eva Marie’s.
Also on the NXT show was one of the best contract signings in a long time. Finn Balor demanded Samoa Joe come out and look him in the eye, however Joe simply walked down the ramp, got in the ring, signed the contract and walked away, never looking at Balor once. It was so great. Sadly, they had Joe jump Balor from behind on the ramp and they had a nice brawl, but if they would have just held the brawl off for a week and left the contract signing the way it was, they could have had an all-time memorable segment. SmackDown was essentially the New Day Thanksgiving Holiday Spectacular. New Day had a “Potluck Dinner” and a bunch of guys showed up for a mildly amusing comedy segment. Xavier Woods was dressed up as the Gobbledy Gooker, but he was jumped in the back by the Usos and Jey Uso put the costume on to mess with New Day during their match with the Lucha Dragons. Jimmy Usos brought Xavier out all tied up in his underwear and Jey revealed that he was in the Gooker outfit and the Usos and Lucha Dragons laid out the New Day. The main event was actually worth checking out if you have the time, as Dean Ambrose beat Dolph Ziggler & Tyler Breeze in a #1 contenders match for the IC title. The only negative was that Ambrose pinned Breeze; 50/50 at its finest.
Genichiro Tenryu’s Revolution Final November 15th 2015
Sumo Hall, Sumida, Tokyo
The career journey of former All Japan Triple Crown Champion, founder of SWS, and ace of WAR, Genichiro Tenryu, was an interesting one. Unlike his career rival Jumbo Tsuruta, or the Holy Trinity who rose to prominence following his 1990 departure to SWS, Tenryu began his career as what many would consider a sub-par worker. Over the course of several years, however, he grew into his push, and became one of the best workers of not only his era, but the next several that followed — a performer who had one of the most legendary feuds in the history of All Japan pro-wrestling with Jumbo Tsuruta, culminating in their 1989 classic at Budokan Hall. But Tenryu’s career was unique for more than just the fact that he got a slower start than the major generational stars that came before or after, as longevity wise he ranks amongst the very best Japan has ever had to offer, performing at the highest level from the mid 1980s to the early/mid 2000s. This was a period where Tenryu had some of his greatest matches outside the context of the Jumbo Tsuruta feud, battling the likes of Toshiaki Kawada, Satoshi Kojima, and Keiji Mutoh, and carrying an All Japan that may have approached collapse without him following the NOAH exodus of 2000.
For as much sustained success that Tenryu had in-ring, very few performers remain at a world class level entering their mid-40s, let alone 50 and on-wards, and whilst Tenryu was able to work the grizzled veteran role through to his 2004 NJPW run, time eventually caught up with him. Post-2004 Tenryu still managed to break out an occasionally great performance, but for more than a decade Tenryu was the grumpy old man that was fun to watch on occasion, but wasn’t lighting the world on fire as he did All Japan, and New Japan to a far lesser extent. In more recent years Tenryu worked sporadic undercard and gimmick matches for NOAH, All Japan, and even Osaka Pro, Dragon Gate, and DDT – as well as on the much beloved HUSTLE in more central roles.
But after continuing to perform in a role still fulfilled by Fujinami, Masa Fuchi, and Fujiwara , Tenryu, remarkably older than Fuchi and Fujinami, announced his retirement in February, in October challenging Kazuchika Okada for his final match on November 15th at Sumo Hall. 10,500 at Sumo Hall on the 15th saw what may very well have been Tenryu Project’s final show, featuring a bizarrely charming hodgepodge of talent from around Japan from Mieko Satomura to The Great Kabuki to Tomohiro Ishii to Ricky Fuji to Jun Kasai to Kikutaro to Riki Choshu. Major promotions, NJPW, AJPW, NOAH, BJW, Dragon Gate, and Sendai Girls were all represented, as was the fringe of Japanese pro-wrestling; Ryukyu Dragon Pro-Wrestling, and Dotonbori Pro-Wrestling for example (neither of which I have ever encountered) and an eclectic blend of freelance indie sleaze. The first half of the show was largely miss-able, however, and dragged considerably at points with several DUD and negative star matches . But, when accounting for the fact that the average age of the performers on the card was 43, perhaps a low quality undercard was to be expected.
Stars and non-stars alike in related styles were generally grouped together as logically as possible. Crazy old Ricky Fuji was paired with the likes of Kikutaro and The Winger (a former W*NG undercard talent, now freelancer) on the undercard, the joshi had their match (thankfully there was no intergender work on the show), and there was a NJPW style junior multi-man, only with fewer dives, which featured Liger, Shima, Fujita, Dragon Joker (?), and others all lumped together in a match of the masked, and slightly less immobile. The shooters had their corner too, one which made for the second best match on the show; Fujiwara (66!) and Takayama (body of a 76 year old) working opposite Minoru Suzuki and Kazunari Murakami in what was a standout *** 3/4 – **** level battle with many a slap, strike, and submission.
Other match combinations were quite inexplicable, fourth on the show was a clear negative star match in Great Kabuki, KAI, and Buki versus Jun Kasai (!), Toru Sugiura, and Great Kojika, at 73 years of age. Kojika quickly (and this was evidently the only thing he did quickly) demonstrated why no one should be wrestling at 73; wrestling in a t-shirt and more immobile than Manabu Nakanishi — for perspective, this man still wrestles every month and debuted in 1967.
The best match on the show was the semi-main event tag team match pitting current BJW Tag Team champions against one another with Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazuyuki Fujita versus Yuji Okobayashi & Suwama. The match psychology was unique with Suwama and Fujita having a ridiculously prolonged stare-down at the beginning of the match after having to be restrained by their respective partners. They then proceeded to elbow the tag champions to the outside so that they could continue their face-off. The interesting story here was that the crowd, who too booed Okada in the main event at times, turned on Suwama and Fujita, Fujita in particular. This led to a strange dynamic where BJ Strong were the babyfaces on opposite ends whilst Fujita, and at least in the match’s early period, Suwama, were in one way or another disliked. In fact, the heat Fujita generated even translated into the post match where Fujita was booed when attempting to get Suwama to agree to a shoot fight! Whilst this was the best match on the show, what followed was in every way the most significant.
Tenryu entering for his final match got a great reaction, although most certainly not on the order of a Kobashi, or even Tsuruta who didn’t wrestle on his retirement show due to health issues. Similarly, as banged up as Kobashi may have been heading into his final match at Budokan Hall, he worked a six-man tag and was at the time nearly twenty years younger than Tenryu was here. Still, even if Tenryu struggled to get up at times, failed to throw compelling strikes, was slow and visibly exhausted towards the end of the match where he fell to the Rainmaker, Okada and Tenryu probably satisfied anyone who entered with realistic expectations. The Rainmaker finish fell flat though, with the crowd deflating somewhat when they saw the main around which the show was built lose, whether or not the majority of those in attendance were one-night nostalgia fans returning to see a hero from at least one generation ago retire, or followers of one or more of the many promotions on-board is unclear.
Credit also needs to be given to Okada, who carried Tenryu better than most anyone could have expected him to. Tenryu’s lack of agility and rigid movements were accounted for as best possible, although if Tenryu hitting the ropes, as cringe worthy as it may have looked, was out of Okada’s control (as were the numerous potatoes he took), as were many moments throughout, but he managed to do all he could to prevent the show’s centrepiece from falling into disarray — when the Okada of a couple of years ago would have. This wasn’t a legendary performance from either man, but it is an experience that will benefit Okada, and aided in sending Tenryu out on as high a note as his body would allow — perhaps even a little higher.
During the post match as visibly emotional a Tenryu as you are likely to see, rose to his feet for the entrance of Stan Hansen and Terry Funk, who were flown in to present him with flowers, a plaque, and so forth. Unfortunately, what looked like a worthwhile video package was shown only in the arena, meaning that we only got a 50×50 partially obscured version. The ten bell salute and stare off into a single spotlight followed — longtime traditions for Japanese pro-wrestling retirements — at which point Tenryu was showered with streamers.
In comparison to the Bull Nakano and Kenta Kobashi retirement shows of recent years this show does not compare. However, the upper card on this show, from match nine on wards is worth seeking out. The retirement ceremony was great, and in the building undoubtedly spectacular with the inclusion of the video package. The Okada match wasn’t a masterpiece in any sense, but a carry job that served as a showcase for Okada’s growth as a worker, and a happy send-off to one of the more influential Triple Crown Champions of all time, and a legendary figure in Japanese pro-wrestling.
Star Ratings for Revolution Final 2015/11/15:
1. Ricky Fuji & Sanshiro Takagi vs Kikutaro & The Winger
2. Meiko Satomura & Tomoko Miyagi vs DASH Chisako & Sendai Sachiko
3. Jushin Liger, Ryota Chikuzen, Gurukun Mask, Shigeno Shima & Dragon JOKER vs Onryo, Kuuga, TARU, Minoru Fujita & Yasu Kubota
4. Great Kabuki, KAI & Buki vs Great Kojika, Jun Kasai & Toru Sugiura
5. Yoshinari Ogawa & Kendo Kashin vs NOSAWA Rongai & Kenichiro Arai
6. Koki Kitahara, Ryuji Hijikata & Kotaro Nasu vs Katsuhiko Nakajima, Hikaru Sato & Kazuki Hashimoto
7. Shiro Koshinaka & Arashi vs Taiyo Kea & Yuto Aijima
8. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Yoshihiro Takayama vs Minoru Suzuki & Kazunari Murakami
9. Riki Choshu & Tomohiro Ishii vs Akitoshi Saito & Ryuichi Kawakami
10. Suwama & Kengo Mashimo vs Kazuyuki Fujita & Yuji Hino
11. Genichiro Tenryu vs Kazuchika Okada
I would be very happy with an annual show of this sort.