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  Aug 5, 1999

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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Japan scene slays North America
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

 Despite the fact pro wrestling is enjoying an incredible level of popularity in Canada and the U.S., there appears to be one, unmistakable fact that has eluded everyone: Japanese wrestling, by far, is vastly superior to the glut of garbage that WCW and the WWF pass of as wrestling today.

Japan's top two promotions New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling, along with smaller outfits like Michinoku Pro Wrestling, currently offer the best wrestling to be found on the globe. Period. Japan has it all over their American counterparts and it isn't even a close competition.

North American fans don't want to hear that because it challenges their popular belief that the WWF and WCW can do no wrong. Wrestling reporters and journalists on the Internet, entrenched in their views on American wrestling, are in denial, labelling anyone espousing the virtue of Japanese wrestling as a wrestling snob.

It's a label I wear proudly in light of the all the stripper matches, monthly cookie-cutter PPVs and forgettable three-minute matches that clutter the airwaves every Monday night. While fans may salivate over the crap going on in WCW and WWF, I look to the Land Of The Rising Sun for my wrestling entertainment.

And the main reason is because it's still considered wrestling in Japan. It boggles the mind how anybody can get genuinely excited by the sports entertainment, action adventure series or whatever label Vince or Eric has slapped on wrestling this month.

The difference between Japanese and American wrestling in 1999 is night and day. In Japan things like work ethic, match quality, ring style and actual wrestling are held in the highest regard. Those qualities still mean something there. Sadly, these are concepts totally out of place in the WWF and WCW where the focus is on showmanship and glitz.

Wrestlers like Jushin "Thunder" Liger, Mitsuhara Misawa, Koji Kanemoto and Kenta Kobashi set the standard for work ethic and ring work in wrestling today. These stars, and several others in Japan, put 100 per cent effort in their matches regardless of whether or not the TV cameras are rolling.

Compare that with the WWF's recent outing at the SkyDome where the majority of the roster, saving themselves for the next night's PPV show, unashamedly dogged it and put in haphazard efforts in entertaining a large crowd. Recent WCW house shows are reported to be embarrsements to the company.

Japan is also where scorned American wrestlers begin their second careers. After being misused and wasted in the WWF, Vader became rejuvenated in All Japan Pro Wrestling, capturing the Japanese Triple Crown title and winning the prestigious annual Champion's Carnival in April. Vader is once again at the top of his game as a headliner in All Japan and is having his best matches in years.

Meanwhile, several of Vader's peers are living the high life, earning their fame with the use of smoke and mirrors.

Where else but in the WWF and WCW do you have wrestlers getting over because of the cute, catch-phrases they scream out? It seems that shouting out stuff like "Pimpin' ain't easy" and "Feel the bang" passes for actual ring work these days. Without these cute little phrases the Godfather, Diamond Dallas Page, Mr. Ass and others would be forever regulated to mid-card purgatory where they belong.

Vince McMahon has often argued that wrestling fans want more than just two guys grappling in the ring in tights and that promoting wrestling as a sport simply isn't economically feasible.

Try telling that to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Noted for having the best roster in pro wrestling and for promoting the best matches in the world, New Japan is probably the most profitable wrestling companies in the world. Their level of financial affluence makes the WWF look like a low budget, mom and pop outfit.

Consider that New Japan routinely draws a live gate of $5.3 million for two annual Tokyo Dome shows. The Tokyo Dome shows draws a sellout crowd of 63,000 fans and rakes in several more million in concessions and merchandise. Tallying it all up, one Tokyo Dome show grosses just over $10 million in revenue. Even with all the success that the WWF is enjoying today, it would take them roughly six weeks to duplicate what New Japan can do in one afternoon.

Yes, it's the Japanese who lead the way in pro wrestling. One viewing of their TV shows, with excellent, well booked matches free of idiotic booking and screw-job endings, would convince even the most ardent WWF and WCW fan clinging to the illusion that North American wrestling is the best in the world.

Special Thanks

I want to thank everyone who took the time to e-mail me regarding my previous editorial "Remembering Bruiser Brody.' I received close to 30 e-mails and the outpouring of emotion in those messages proved that, perhaps, not everybody has forgotten about Brody and his incredible legacy. Your response also made me feel a little less jaded and cynical about the pro wrestling industry (no small feat, I can assure you!).

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