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    Monday, March 14, 2016

    Cafe Puro (3/14/16): The 2016 New Japan Cup, And The Careers That Could Have Been


    Hello Henritos!

    Before we begin, we need to talk about the recently concluded New Japan Cup, which saw Tetsuya Naito finally winning the entire thing last Saturday!

    El Ingobernable managed to outsmart Toru Yano in the semifinals, securing the win in less than three minutes, which became the difference maker as he was well-rested enough to beat an already exhausted Hirooki Goto in the finals. Goto had to beat New Japan's newest acquisition, Michael Elgin, in a hard-fought match before securing a surprise pin on Unbreakable. But Naito managed to outlast Goto to a victory via the Destino.                                

    And by winning the 2016 NJC, he chose to face Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Invasion Attack 2016. He will face the man that beat him two years ago at Wrestle Kingdom 8, an event the Uncontrollable One is still bitter about to this day.

    Stay tuned next week for the full preview of Invasion Attack 2016, the second of the Big 4 events in New Japan's busy calendar year!


    Pro wrestling is, for lack of a better term, dangerous. It is an art that is already with its innate risks, and no matter how superhuman you are, getting hurt is part of the risks wrestlers understand when they signed up for this.

    Unfortunately, Kota Ibushi found out the hard way that while he is one of the most amazing human beings in the world, his crazy NJPW/DDT schedule was bound to get back at him.

    Having come back from a hernia on the cervical disc, he also made the conscious decision to resign from both companies he loves and to work as a freelancer for the first time in his career, all while initiating a project known as the Ibushi Research Institute in the process. However, this doesn't mean he will no longer compete for his former employers, but he doesn't have to work under a demanding schedule anymore. No matter how bulletproof one might think he is, working both schedules full time with the kind of stiff wrestling style he's engaged in will seriously affect your health.

    Japanese pro wrestling may have a relatively lighter schedule as compared to WWE (as the injury list would imply), but that doesn't mean it makes the risks any less apparent. The one positive that can come from this is that Ibushi is now able to set his own schedule and take care of himself.

    And unfortunately for these other guys, their careers were halted due to untimely circumstances:

    Milano Collection A.T.

    Milano had all the upside in the world: he was a superior talented junior heavyweight who can fly high just as much as he can play the technical game. In fact, he had a style that was ahead of its time, and being a former Best of the Super Junior winner certainly helped matters. It seemed as though a future Jr. title run was in the works.

    But unfortunately, just as he was able to get his groove on, a kick from New Japan booker Gedo went horribly wrong as the impact was too much for Milano's eye to bear. This led to his relatively early retirement in 2010, a career that made us wonder what could have been if the accident didn't happen. Though he did get one superkick in on Gedo, if that makes anyone feel any better.

    Today, he serves as a color commentator for New Japan shows, and is also part of the IWGP Championship Committee, the governing championship body of New Japan. And for those who are watching today's product, he is also the one who has the most interaction as of late with El Ingobernable and the winner of the 2016 New Japan Cup, Tetsuya Naito.


    Last week, we were unfortunately robbed of a legend in Hayabusa, who helped change the game as far as junior heavyweight wrestling is concerned, and he will sorely be missed by fans and peers alike.

    But it was more than a decade ago when he botched an attempted springboard moonsault in a match against Mammoth Sasaki, leaving him with a pair of broken vertebrae and paralysis that would last for the remainder of his life and led to his early retirement. It was also an unfortunate injury that resulted in the eventual closure of the first incarnation of FMW.

    The new FMW would eventually come to be in 2015, with Hayabusa being an executive in the new promotion, but it simply isn't the same since the accident 14 years prior.

    Takeshi Morishima

    Those who followed Morishima's career for years will know how stiff and brutal his matches are, especially for a man of his young age. His size and surprising agility led to many acclaimed matches during his career, and his Backdrop Driver was a thing of beauty. He even had some great matches in with a man who also recently retired, Daniel Bryan.

    But months prior to Bryan's emotional retirement, Takeshi Morishima announced that he had to retire due to years of punishment and injuries in his career as well as complications from diabetes. It is more of a case similar to Edge's, where his many dangerous matches led to his early retirement, except Morishima's diabetes made this more complicated. And that is why he didn't even have a retirement match to celebrate the end of his career.

    What made this even more painful is that at a time when Pro Wrestling NOAH is in need of some great talent, Morishima's talents would have been more than appreciated, especially during the Suzuki-gun invasion. A damn shame, really.

    Act Yasukawa

    We covered this months ago, but this match needs to be mentioned. After all, whatever petty incident that came prior does not justify any form of injury that leads to one's retirement.

    But then, here we are. Months after what was considered a black eye in modern day joshi puroresu led to the early retirement of one of the most exciting youngsters in the game, Act Yasukawa. After the infamous "ghastly match," with her opponent Yoshiko going into business for herself and shooting on Act in the process, resulting in multiple injuries in the facial area, many thought she would be able to come back and resume her once-promising career. It was later announced, however, that she would have to retire due to complications. She is still working in Stardom as a manager, so there is still some good from this.

    Meanwhile, Yoshiko would come back to wrestling after she retired due to the incident, making us question her morality in the process.

    A wrestling career in Japan may not be as time demanding as it is in the WWE, but it does not make it any less risky. Many factors can shorten the career of a pro wrestler, as evidenced by the examples presented in this list. If anything, they serve as a reminder to everyone that safety will always be a priority, and risks need to be mitigated in order to protect the livelihood of the men and women who entertain the fans on an everyday basis. At the least, Ibushi took the initiative to think of his career and long term livelihood before anything happens to him.

    What do you think? As always, if you have thoughts on the matter, sound off in the comments!

    Images from their respective owners

    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 (3/14/16): The 2016 New Japan Cup, And The Careers That Could Have Been Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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