Note from Morpheus: Every month in the LOP Columns Forum, there is a vote to determine which columnist had the best month out of all the writers in the forum. The winner of Columnist of the Month is then given the opportunity to post one of their columns on the Main Page. In December, this honor (notice the lack of a u in that word; fucking Brits - AGAIN) was bestowed upon jovanbkt for the first time. Without any further ado, I am pleased to present to you his main page effort. Congratulations, jovan.
The Columnesque Stylings of JovanBKT - The Conspiracy
January 2014 - LOP News Page - the WWE Has Officially Closed Down.
This seems insane, the WWE is the dominant force in professional wrestling, the thought of it disappearing in 3-years is laughable, and yet a company just as dominant disappeared in the same time frame.
There was a tremendous upheaval in Japanese wrestling in the 1970's. On the one hand you had the Japanese Wrestling Association, the biggest promotion in the country, one of the most successful in the world and a major player in the dominant NWA. Built by the beyond-iconic Rikidozan who headlined a record number of sold out shows until his death in 1963 it was now in the hands of 4 executives and the 2 top stars, former Rikidozan students Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. On the other hand you had the drive and ambition of those same men. In 1970 the JWA was the dominant force in the Japanese wrestling scene, similar to the position the WWE finds itself in today. By 1973 it no longer existed.
What happened? The JWA was a company that was a major player in the global wrestling scene, was home to the most popular wrestlers in Japan and frequently flew in of many of the top foreign names in the wrestling world, had 2 nationally viewed television shows and a world title won by Rikidozan from then NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz, the last true undisputed world champion, and via Thesz the NWA International Title could be traced back to the first Undisputed World Champion Georg Hackenschmidt in 1903. How did a company with so much going for it end up fading away without so much as a whimper in such a short period of time?
The JWA had been built around Rikidozan. The man was beyond a myth to the Japanese people, who had been bombed into submission by the Allies in World War Two and occupied by Allied forces, mostly Americans. It is hard to imagine the hatred they must have felt for their oppressors, who were helping to rebuild the country. Pro Wrestling had failed in Japan on 3 previous occasions, drawing a huge crowd on the first night and then nothing after that, but when Rikidozan trained in it and returned from the US after a very successful heel run he overnight became a megastar. By beating cheating American heels the Japanese people ate up his heroic Japanese babyface gimmick and he was quick to capitalise on his remarkable fame.
Rikidozan set up the JWA and then was given membership of the NWA allowing him to bring in the biggest and best names in the wrestling business. Lou Thesz and The Destroyer had matches with Rikidozan that are still in the top 10 most watched TV moments in Japanese history, not "wrestling moments," no, we're talking "television moments," up there with the moon landing and other iconic moments like that. More than half the population of Japan would watch him on a regular basis, over 50-million people, and this in a time when most Japanese were struggling to put food on the table. Rikidozan was the undisputed king and father of puroresu. He then went to the USA again, and won the WWA World Heavyweight Title in 1962, the second biggest title in wrestling. Then it was announced he would be facing Lou Thesz in 1964 for the NWA Title, and was heavily favoured to win due to his incredible drawing power in Japan and the West Coast of the US, but was then stabbed in a night club by a m ember of the yakuza. He died a week later in December 1963.
When Rikidozan died he had been training 2 men to succeed him, one was a former baseball player, the 6-foot 10-inch Giant Shohei Baba who was headlining across the USA, taking on the AWA, NWA and WWWF champions in headline events when Rikidozan died. He cut short his US tour and returned home to help the JWA. The other was a young athlete called Antonio Inoki who had been training with shoot wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Karl Gotch. Both men had the look and tools to headline and take Rikidozan's place, the Executives in charge chose Baba, based on his former baseball career and his incredible size.
Baba was successful, nowhere near the level of Rikidozan, but no one expected him to be. The JWA stayed strong though and Baba was made the 4th Executive of the JWA and as a result was dealing with TV producers and NWA Bookers and big name wrestlers on a daily basis.
Inoki was mired in the mid-card but continued to improve and was a better in ring competitor than Baba. He was young, hungry and when the chance to defect to a new company, Tokyo Pro, in 1966 came along, he bolted with the JWA President to help set up the new company. As a result of the President defecting Baba moved up the Executive ranks and continued to dominate the annual World Big League Tournament while holding the NWA International Title. Baba was soon the biggest wrestler in Japan, and still doing well on sporadic overseas tours.
At Tokyo Pro Inoki proved he was a good draw, and a legitimate headliner. Tokyo Pro gained a fast following via its national television slot and Inoki was soon as big a name as Baba, but, something was not right, the money they had been promised never materialised and within a year Inoki quit the newfound company over a pay dispute and returned to the JWA in 1967. Sort of like Kurt Angle jumping ship to TNA, but then finding the money he was due to be paid was less than a third of what he has signed on for, so jumps back to the WWE. At least in the JWA Inoki knew he would get paid what he was promised.
This set up a huge potential Baba vs. Inoki match up, never had there been a big Japan vs. Japan feud, everything followed the Native vs. Foreigner (known as "Gaijin") template set up by Lou Thesz and Rikidozan. But the Executives decided to hold off this match, but Inoki was now too big a name to keep from the top of the card, so they created the B-I Cannon, Baba and Inoki as the first "Super Team."
It was no surprise that the B-I Cannon were a huge success in the ring and at the box office. But Inoki was not satisfied with being Baba's tag partner. Winning tag team gold and tag team tournaments were fine, but Inoki wanted to be the top guy, and Baba was still the top guy. Time and again Inoki asked for the match only to be told "It is not yet time."
Tokyo Pro folded without their top star, and their TV time spot was brought by the JWA. But here complex contracts were brought up, NET aired the traditional JWA show with Baba as the top star, NTV aired the new show with Inoki as top star. The three companies agreed that Baba and Inoki would be kept apart, one could not appear on the others show. And for 3-years this worked well. Inoki continued to try and become the top guy, even winning the World Big League Tournament in 1969, a major honour as only 3 men, including Baba and Rikidozan, had done so before.
Then, it happened.
In late 1971 Antonio Inoki was engaged to celebrated actress Baishō Mitsuko, one of the most famous celebrities in Japan as a result of her appearing in several award winning films. They were a true "Celebrity Couple" in every sense of the world, both young, good looking and talented within their fields. Their massive celebrity wedding as due to be paid for by the JWA, as traditionally a Japanese employer would pay for an employees wedding. But, and this is the "conspiracy theory," Inoki was told that he was not going to get a title shot against Baba at any point in the foreseeable future as the B-I Cannon was such a money making team.
Inoki had no idea what this money making team was making as he was paid a standard wage, the same as everyone else on the roster. Only the champion and Executives were paid extra. Due to this Baba was making big money, Inoki was not. Inoki made moves to become the top man, planning a hostile take over of the JWA from within.
But someone talked. To this day no one knows who.
The B-I Cannon suddenly lost their tag titles, with Inoki taking the fall, and 2-days later Inoki was fired.
He had no job. No income. No way of buying the JWA anymore, and no way of paying for a very expensive upcoming wedding. He was one of the best wrestlers in the world but could not find work in his native land, and did not want to live abroad without his soon-to-be bride, who was a famous actress in Japan and a nobody elsewhere. He was stuck in Japan.
He took quick action and used what money he had to set up a new wrestling company, New Japan, in early 1972. He called on his old mentor Karl Gotch to headline with him on their first tour and it was a huge success, he was off an running and the company would not look back. New Japan brought in the biggest and best, or even the worst, whatever it took to make money New Japan booked, from the greatest wrestlers in the world to freaks of nature that could not work at all, to celebrities and sportsmen who were willing to mix it up.
The JWA barley missed a beat, but soon there was a problem. NTV's contract gave them new Inoki matches and no Baba matches, but the JWA did not have any new Inoki matches to air. Baba knew this was a problem and argued against what happened next, saying he would quit the company over it. He was overruled by his fellow executives.
In June 1972 the JWA aired Baba matches on their NTV show. NTV was furious they had broked the contract and threw them off the air, replacing them with Inoki's New Japan, where they have remained to this day.
Baba called a press conference and forfeited the NWA International title and announced he was leaving the company. He was flanked by the Momota brother's, the children of Rikidozan, showing their support for the "real" hand picked heir to Rikidozan's wrestling empire and legacy.
Baba announced he would set up his own wrestling company, All Japan, and his first hire was a man beyond credible, the Japanese super heavyweight wrestler who had just returned from a great series of performances at the Munich Olympics, the man who would become known as Jumbo Tsuruta, one of the greatest in ring performers of all time.
Baba used the connections he had made over the past decade, and soon NET sided with him and removed the JWA from their network and put All Japan on instead. Within weeks the NWA voted to replace the JWA with All Japan, and suddenly All Japan had access to the Funk Brothers, who brought the NWA International Titles with them that they had held in the JWA. The Momota brothers then signed over the NWA International Heavyweight Title to Baba and underlined the fact that All Japan was the true home of Rikidozan's legacy.
With the loss of their TV deals, top stars and the foreign stars of the NWA, and with all other major names being tied up to New Japan the JWA was in crisis. Imagine if the WWE lost all their major stars, ppv and TV deals. It would be a tremendous blow to the company.
With no TV, no stars, no foreign imports, the JWA was on the ropes and looked to merge with New Japan, until the new President (and top star) decided he did not want to co-exist with Inoki and his ego and the deal was scuppered. Possibly a bad decision, as within weeks the JWA was bankrupt and closed its doors for the final time.
All Japan would become home to some of the greatest workers of all time, putting on some of the greatest matches ever. Of the 64 five star matches on record since 1980 32 of them were in All Japan under Baba's booking and performed by those trained and/ or polished by Baba. New Japan has become one of the biggest wrestling promotions on Earth, and home to some of the biggest extravaganza's in wrestling, at their peak in the 1990's they were putting on 4 Wrestlemania sized shows every year.
The JWA started puroresu, it defined it and shaped it. But it showed just how quickly a company can fall from the top. The same happened with WCW, it broke records in 1997, but by 2001 it was being sold off like an old kettle at a yard sale.
The WWE should not face this problem, they are too dominant on a worldwide stage, but they must learn from history. Both the JWA and WCW had one problem, they failed to create new stars and relied on old ones, once those older stars were gone, so was the audience. The WWE have spent the past years introducing us to new main event players.