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    Monday, November 2, 2015

    Cafe Puro (11/2/15): Puroresu Controversies and Crazy Stories


    Apologies for last week's absence as I was in the middle of the country's biggest gaming convention of the year, the E-Sports and Gaming Summit (or ESGS) 2015. But as the old saying goes, let's get back to business!

    Wrestling, as we all know by now, is a universal language. The language may be different, but the experience remains the same for all of us. And for the amazing moments that we get to experience as wrestling fans, from the best matches to the unforgettable moments, every once in a while, something wicked comes in a way that we as fans would never have anticipated.

    The wrestling scene has been filled with controversies and unfortunate circumstances over the years, be it screwjobs, scandals, deaths, and the like. And in the world of entertainment, that comes with the territory.  If there is anything we have learned in the over the years, it's that in the world of fiction, sometimes, it's reality that tends to be scarier than most.

    So in line with the theme of Halloween (and yes, we do know that Halloween was over just a few days ago), let us take a look at the real life moments in the world of puroresu that are downright frightening, controversial, or both:

    Hiroshi Tanahashi's Crazy Bitch Ex-GF

    Today, we hold Hiroshi Tanahashi in high reverence as one of the greatest professional wrestlers who ever lived. But did you know that more than a decade ago, this almost never happened?

    Almost 13 years ago, in 2002, Tanahashi, during his younger rookie days, attempted to end a relationship with then-girlfriend, Hitomi Hara, who he met with previously during a TV appearance. What resulted was something that you could have probably seen in a TV anime involving a yandere: he was stabbed in the back (literally) with a knife! 

    Thankfully, it was not as serious as one could have expected, but he ended up in a hospital for a few months. While it was a scenario no loyal boyfriend should ever go through, it was a sudden blessing in disguise for Tanahashi. This incident led to a nationwide interest in seeing him return to the ring, and in effect, his stock rose as a professional wrestler. He came back a few months later and competed against the more experienced Manabu Nakanishi.

    I guess Tanahashi learned a little lesson about love, more than anyone could ever learn. And at this point, he might be making sure that this incident would only happen...

    ...just once in a century?

    NOSAWA? You Got The RONG GAI!

    You'd think the world of pro wrestling would lose their cast of crazy characters in real life. And then you meet a crazy yet talented performer named NOSAWA Rongai.

    As one of the key members of the long-running Tokyo Gurentai group, seeing him compete in various major and independent promotions (including AJPW, DDT, and self promoted shows). But sometimes, you really have to wonder how he manages to continue with his career despite some pretty damaging incidents.

    In January 2011, he along with TAKA Michinoku made their return to NJPW and allied with Satoshi Kojima's Kojima-gun (a precursor to what would become the Suzuki-gun faction). Now, it was NOSAWA that made the announcement that Montel Vontavious Porter would make his NJPW debut under Kojima-gun and he will be teaming up with the self-proclaimed Juggalo. However, in February 2011, he was involved in a crazy incident involving intoxication and an attempted taxi theft, and was arrested due to the incident. This led to NJPW removing NOSAWA from future NJPW events, as the latter had the unenviable task of getting everyone's good graces again after that incident.

    He managed to gain the trust of promoters, wrestlers, and fans for months, and it seemed as though he was getting back on track as he was set to return to NJPW as the latest incarnation of Black Tiger more than a year after the incident. But as luck would have it, he was arrested AGAIN, this time, due to attempted struggling of cannabis. NJPW once again removed him from future events, and we haven't heard anything in as far as future apperances go.

    Funny enough, despite these incidents, he still continues to compete in different indie promotions, showing everyone that despite his crazy antics, there are people who still cling to the fact that he is one hell of an entertaining pro wrestler.

    So Much HATE

    It is no secret that after the second AJPW exodus, which saw the formation of Pro Wrestling NOAH (we'll get to that in a bit), the company has not managed to achieve the same success they experienced back in the 90's. And under Keiji Mutoh's leadership, it seemed as though their attempt to bring themselves back up to prominence was a long and rocky road.  But as evidenced throughout Mutoh's term as president, things never seem to go his way in the long term, especially when actual physical malice was involved.

    An incident took place in an AJPW show in May of 2011 which saw Nobukazu Hirai, working under the alias "HATE" and "Super HATE," getting beat up by his fellow Voodoo Murders stablemate, TARU, in a real-life beatdown.  Despite the beating, he still had to compete in a match and fulfill his obligations as a pro wrestler. But unfortunately, he suffered a stroke right after the match, and was rushed to the hospital.

    The aftermath of the controversy was heated, with all members of the Voodoo Murders faction being suspended for allowing the incident to take place under his watch. In effect, the Voodoo Murders, one of the longest lasting factions in the Mutoh-led AJPW, was disbanded. And to top it all off, Mutoh had voluntarily resigned as the company's president. As for the victim himself, Hirai has not been in a wrestling ring since the incident. He may have survived the incident, but as for an in-ring return, only time can tell. 

    And you'd think that would have been the only problem in Mutoh's last days in his AJPW. But then you have the fact that Speed Partners, an IT, had purchased 100% ownership of AJPW. However, that's another story for another time.

    Nakata and the Yakuza

    It's no secret that business has not been doing really great for NOAH since the untimely passing of Mitsuharu Misawa. And like AJPW, the last thing they needed was another scandal that would rock their business to the wrong end even further, especially when they lost their guiding light and their cherished television deal.

    But alas, NOAH just cannot seem to catch a break. It was discovered in 2012 that long-time general manager of NOAH, Ryu Nakata, as well as management representative, Haruka Eigen, had Yakuza connections during 2003-2010, which certainly did not do any favors to the already struggling promotion. Because of the revelation, not only were these high ranking officials demoted, but they have been formally reverted to regular employee status, which means they have no say in any long-term decisions for the company.

    And for a company like NOAH, a company founded by a true legend of the sport such as Mitsuharu Misawa, to be even associated with a Yakuza is a serious black eye to their reputation. AJPW and NJPW may had problems in the past, but this was certainly worst in terms of PR and image. 

    To give you an idea of how much of a big deal it is, in 1963, a member of the Yakuza murdered the legendary Rikidozan, the founder of puroresu, with a urine-coated knife which poisoned him. And it was reported back in the day that TAJIRI wanted nothing to do with a storyline in WWE that may possibly offend the Yakuza for fear of his family's safety. And we haven't even touched on the other activities that they are practically known for.

    So yes, in Japan, be careful with your dealings.

    "Ghastly Match"

    A more recent controversy that took place early in the year involved joshi puroresu promotion, Stardom, and it featured one of the most brutal shoot fights that ever occurred in any organization.

    On February 2015, there was a match between Yoshiko (c) and Act Yasukawa for the World of Stardom Championship, a battle that saw the veteran Yoshiko defend her title against a young star that's becoming popular in the eyes of the audience, a wrestler who earned her keep by overcoming the real-life medical issues that hindered her from having a relatively normal life. 

    What we expected was a wrestling match, but it turned out to be an impromptu shoot fight that saw Yoshiko stiff the living hell out of Yasukawa in a pro wrestling environment. It was rumored that jealousy and being unwilling to drop the title to Yasukawa were the reasons why Yoshiko went to business for herself. And it may seem as though Yasukawa was relatively unaware of any surprise plans from Yoshiko that night. The unexpected shoot fight was so vicious, the general populace caught wind of the incident and dubbed this as the "Ghastly Match." Imagine it was Vader vs. Stan Hansen in a hoss fight, except it suddenly became all too real and all too surprising for both the fans and even the locker room. All I can say is check out the videos for yourself and you be the judge.

    The aftermath is just as unfortunate as the incident itself. Yasukawa was immediately sent to the hospital and was almost at risk of an involuntary retirement. Thankfully, she managed to return to the ring some months later and resume her in-ring career. Funny enough, this had shades of Tanahashi's previous incident considering the interest that rose from people who want to see her make a successful comeback from a life-threatening situation.

    On the other hand, Yoshiko was not just suspended indefinitely for her radical actions, but she was also forced to vacate her title, with their match being declared a no contest. And some time after the incident, Yoshiko had quietly retired from in-ring competition, which makes sense, since no promotion can easily book a wrestler who practically broke the rule of trust between two performers. 

    Stardom management also received a 30% pay cut due to their being unable to prevent the incident. Not to mention, rules were implemented to ensure that an incident like this never happens again.

    If there was any lesson learned from the incident, it's that trust is hard to gain, and if that trust between performers is broken because you went into business for yourself, prepare to accept the consequences.

    What incidents in wrestling, puroresu or otherwise, do you feel are scare-worthy? Sound off in the comments!

    Photo from Sportivissimo


    Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.
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    Item Reviewed: Cafe Puro (11/2/15): Puroresu Controversies and Crazy Stories Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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