Not being a native to Japanese culture has led to westerners creating their own lore when it pertains to Japanese wrestling. We create these myths about the significance of Kenta Kobashi’s Burning Hammer as a way to build the story into something that meets the intensity we’re seeing before our eyes. Over the weekend, Pro Wrestling NOAH provided us another legend; one that will be remembered for decades to come as “the thirty minute stare match”.
The COVID-19 outbreak changed how we consume entertainment. Most sports leagues have decided to shut down completely but pro-wrestling has continued on, albeit without the presence of fans. Many companies have tried their hands at how to make the most of the situation but have seen varying degrees of success. Now it was NOAH’s turn.
I don’t understand a word of Japanese but as Go Shiozaki is making his way to the ring, the commentary clearly says “Inokism versus Misawaism”.
Kazuyuki Fujita is the face of early 2000s New Japan Pro-Wrestling. The period was known as Inokism, named after the founder of NJPW, Antonio Inoki, who’s mission in life was to prove that pro wrestling was the strongest martial art.
In order to succeed in his mission, Inoki would signup his wrestlers for MMA fights. While most wrestlers didn’t fare well in these competitions, Fujita found success. This led to Inoki putting the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on Fujita to help legitimize the world’s outlook on wrestling.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that while Inoki and NJPW were fixated on this approach, NOAH had surpassed them as the most popular wrestling company. Headed by Mitsuharu Misawa, the idea behind Pro Wrestling NOAH was to have these grand shows featuring matches with overarching crescendos.
When the match between Go Shiozaki, and Kazuyuki Fujita was announced, it turned heads. These two approaches of pro wrestling were now on a collision course.
The bell sounds and Shiozaki walks to the middle of the ring. Fujita stays put in his corner. He’s refusing to meet Go halfway. Now if Go is to move, Fujita has won the match out of principle because he’d have given legitimacy to this outsider’s approach on the sport. Where do we go from here?
Fifteen minutes pass. The two are staring daggers into each other’s eyes with a fist clinched and ready for whenever the moment’s right. Fujita moves first, but only to the corner on his right. He’s taunting Shiozaki. Go is sure not to make any advancement forward but he does turn his body as to position himself towards Fujita. This move is done a second time before finally, after thirty-one minutes, Fujita cracks by moving forward.
Go has won the mental battle; he refused to give Fujita his way. But now, Fujita has taken Go to the mat and has him mounted. They’re right next to the ropes, Go could have easily grabbed on and forced the break but that would have put them back at square one. Go has worked too hard to break Fujita’s will and refuses to give Fujita the satisfaction.
After struggling to fight his way back up, Go is on his feet. Fujita manages to shoulder him back down to the mat but that’s pro-wrestling – Go wins again. Go then slides to the floor and Fujita goes on the chase. He tries getting under the skin of Go by putting his hands on the GHC Heavyweight Championship and spitting sanitizer in his face. Neither do the trick.
Incensed, Fujita grabs Go and gives him a tour of Korakuen Hall. He slams Go into the elevator door and attempts to drop him off the balcony. Go stands his ground on the balcony but refuses to retaliate. Frustrated, Fujita stomps off back to the ring where he awaits his defeat.
Go has already won before he gets back in the ring. He’s proved time after time throughout the match to be the cooler head and didn’t once break his values.
I don’t speak Japanese. Am I creating my own story? It’s possible. Personally, I don’t believe this is a match you can grade purely by the moves. There is a story being told and to me it’s much more significant than “the thirty minute stare match”.
This is Inokism versus Misawaism and in a Pro Wrestling NOAH ring, Misawa always wins.