Kayfabe! – Back to the Territories with Jim Cornette: All Japan
Back to the Territories with Jim Cornette – All Japan Pro Wrestling
This winds up being similar to the Amarillo episode, in that this is really more of an interview with, and about, Stan Hansen, than it is All Japan. This winds up being better than the Funk episode, between the great stories from Stan and the research that Jim does. Hell, the cold open with Jim’s voiceover discussing the history of Puroresu, starting with Rikidozan, is the best opening they’ve done for a B2TT yet. They start with talking about the first time Stan went to Japan, which was in 1975 for All Japan. His deal was for $1,000 per week, but Baba took out 20% for taxes (that alone makes Baba probably the most honest promoter ever), so Stan actually made $800 per week, which was still a nice chunk of change in 1975. Soon afterwards, Stan started with WWWF, and they had a deal with Inoki, which led to Stan going to New Japan instead. Of course, they talk about his most famous NJPW match, which was against Andre the Giant in September of 1981. Stan says that Andre really was a good worker, and if he was against someone he respected, he’d be more than willing to show it (Note from Mike: Andre did something similar for Ronnie Garvin during the ‘70’s in Tennessee). Stan also brings up the origin of the lariat, and how it used to be legal to do in football, and that’s where he started doing it.
They sidetrack a bit to talk about the incident with Bruno’s neck, which was due to a bodyslam gone wrong. Vince Sr. wasn’t too happy with him, and he even had a guy take a swing at him on a train. In 1976, with the whole Inoki/Ali deal being closed circuited, it didn’t do terribly well, since most people thought it was just Muhammad Ali doing a clown show with some wrestler. Jim watched it Louisville, and not many others did. But, it did very well in the NY area because of the Bruno/Hansen match. Stan tells a funny story about getting heat with Vince Sr. while in Japan for the MSG League, and throwing a ping pong ball at him. Stan threw it an inch or so over his head, and it went exactly where he wanted it to go, but if he’d missed, he’d have hit Vince between the eyes.
They talk about the differences between Inoki and Baba, and how Baba was a big star in the US (including getting a rare win over Bruno in MSG), while Inoki toiled in Tennessee working for Nick Gulas. Inoki eventually bought out Pedro Martinez’s NWF so that he could became a big star, and promote himself as NWF Champion. When Baba formed AJPW and Inoki NJPW, Baba always used the great American talent like the Funks and the Destroyer, while Inoki preferred the Europeans like the British World of Sport stars, and Frank Gotch. Jim asks if there was any sense of jealousy from Inoki over Baba’s success in the U.S. and Stan doesn’t know. That’s actually somewhat of a recurring theme with Stan. Whenever Jim tries to bring up backstage or behind the scenes things, Stan doesn’t seem to know anything about it. As he puts it “I was in the ring, not the office.”
The NJPW/AJPW rivalry heated up big the early 1980’s when Abdullah jumped from NJPW to AJPW, and All Japan lured Stan away as revenge. Stan’s jump was actually huge for All Japan, as J.D. Dunn has put it, Stan showing up during the finals of the All Japan tag league was akin to seeing Scott Hall show up on Nitro. Stan would proceed to be on top in All Japan for nearly twenty years, working with all the top names. Stan gives the origin of his famous yell, he was actually yelling out the word “Youth” – because the Funks were the top gaijin in AJPW, and he and Brody were the young generation of Americans. They briefly talk about Brody jumping to New Japan in 1985, but don’t discuss why, which is too bad because it’s actually a good story. They talk about why the Brody/New Japan deal fell apart quickly, which was because they wanted to beat Brody right away, and Brody wouldn’t hear of it. Baba took him back in 1987, and he worked a few tours before he was killed in ‘88.
Jim brings up various partners that Stan had during his time in All Japan, like Terry Gordy, Ted DiBiase, Austin Idol (which Jim jokes was Stan’s way of apologizing to him for the beatings that he gave Idol during his brief time in Memphis), and Johnny Ace (which Jim also makes sure to tell the hilarious story of the famous sign in the crowd in Philly during a 1989 house show to describe how much the Dynamic Dudes were hated). They also bring up Stan’s time as AWA Champion, and how Stan didn’t even want it, because he was going to Japan so much. The idea was apparently to have Stan win it, and do a big rematch with Martel in Montreal. Well, that never came to pass, and they really weren’t doing anything with him anyway. He’d ask Greg Gagne about doing programs with guys, and nothing happened. Then, they just told him out the blue that he was dropping it to Bockwinkel, and he said no, because there wasn’t any real reason for it to happen just on the spur of the moment. Stan says it wasn’t personal, he had a lot of respect for Bockwinkel.
They wrap things up talking about Baba’s death in 1999, the NOAH split in 2000, Stan retirement in 2000 and his transition to being PWF President, until he stopped going to All Japan in 2007. Jim also points out that Stan is part of a group that contains only one-tenth of one percent of the population, in that he has at least four artificial joints.