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wrestling / Columns

Destiny 8.05.07: The IWGP 3rd Belt Controversy

August 5, 2007 | Posted by Matt Adamson

Greetings readers and welcome to the newest edition of Destiny. It’s been a wild week for me as I’m preparing for a bit of a vacation (but I’m loyal to you all so will continue to write this column while I’m vacationing). It should be a nice relaxing time and I’ll be watching an awful lot of puro and some old school territorial stuff as well. In fact, I’ll be writing video reviews from now on called “Going Old School” that will feature primarily shows from over 20 years ago from promotions like WWWF, World Class, AWA, Portland, St. Louis, CWF, Memphis, Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic/Jim Crocket Promotions, Stampede and others. I hope you check it out. I’m really looking forward to these being available for you all to read. Be on the lookout for reviews of Portland Wrestling’s 60the Anniversary Extravaganza, WWF’s Showdown at Shea 1980, and AWA’s Blood On The Sand on 411 soon.

Not everything in the world is all peachy, however, as there has been a terrible tragedy in the northern Mid-West of the United States. My thoughts go out to those affected by the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That is a familiar area to me as I have family that travels that stretch of road and thankfully they were nowhere near it, but with so much going on, my heartfelt thoughts go out to those who weren’t as lucky as I was. It’s something to think about as I live in a city with 14 bridges crossing major rivers. Let’s all hope this is the last time a bridge goes down like this.

The IWGP 3rd Belt

I’ve decided that I’m going to use my column this week as an avenue to gripe about something going on in Japan these days regarding professional wrestling. Now, I may turn some heads in saying this, but I’ve never been a fan of Antonio Inoki. I know how important he is to puro and how beloved he once was (and likely still is to most), but I can’t get over how he has decided to operate the Inoki Genome Federation and some of the decisions he has made in the past regarding New Japan. I get the impression that he really still buys into the hype surrounding him and thinks he is above the unwritten laws of common courtesy in wrestling. With that in mind, I may come across with a bias, but I hope I am informed enough to accurately paint the picture of this situation that I am hoping to.

The IWGP 3rd Belt, due to the IWGP name is owned by New Japan. It does not under any official banner belong to the Inoki Genome Federation. Brock Lesnar came in as the champion possessing the belt he had failed the return to New Japan after having been stripped of the title due to no-showing a title defense. Sure, the excuse that Lesnar never lost the title is there, but in all honesty, he did lose the title when he failed to appear for a title defense. When New Japan stripped him of the title that was it, he was no longer champion, even though he didn’t lose it in the ring. So, Inoki starts up a promotion and headlines it with an IWGP title defense by “champion” Brock Lesnar defending against Kurt Angle. Granted they did change the name of the title to IWGP 3rd Belt, but implying that it is an IWGP title is what the real kicker is. This would be similar to if for some reason Vince left the WWE to his kids, and decided to go and start his own new promotion. Then he would go and hire John Cena who holds the WWE title, but the WWE strips him of the title, but The McMahon Genome Federation calls their championship the WWE Heavyweight Title. Something to that effect which is my eyes is bad business practice, similar to that of the backstabbing in the old days.

There are things in wrestling that we have seemingly gotten over during the last 20 years and I hate to see something akin to the territorial days of the NWA return that is a negative part of that period. Backstabbing has no place in wrestling and besides the Monday Night Wars has taken a significant downturn since the beginning of the death of the territorial system in the early 1980’s. What Inoki has done is brought it back, and unless this is all done in kayfabe, it is in poor taste and I would personally like to see the end of it.

Interestingly, now we have Kurt Angle on TNA holding the IWGP 3rd belt and it is being recognized as the IWGP Championship. Meanwhile the IGF has begun to refer to the title as the IWGP title claiming Lesnar was never actually stripped of the title. So, we have two major promotions claiming to possess the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, and another (TNA) claiming their roster member (Kurt Angle) possesses the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, while it is actually the 3rd belt he holds which is an unofficial title. Confused yet? You should be.

The IWGP Championship is currently and officially the top championship of New Japan Pro Wrestling and is currently held by Yugi Nagata. Brock Lesnar was stripped, as I stated before and did not return the title. Why? Because he said he was owed money (which traces back to Simon Inoki), but that fact is not confirmed, because it could be that he was owed money for appearances he had yet to make (such as the no-show title defense), or that he was unhappy with what he was being payed by New Japan and held them up for more money. He also claimed to have had “visa issues” which have more or less been laughed at by the Japanese wrestling media. Regardless, the IGF version of the IWGP title held by Kurt Angle is nothing more than a prop or a representation of a title with no lineage prior to Brock Lesnar’s less than 1 day title reign at the IGF show in June.

Last week, Shinsuke Nakamura, in true puro fashion, called out the IGF and Kurt Angle saying he will hunt them to end the disgrace of this unofficial IWGP title. This is one of those things that Japanese promotions do to save face and protect themselves, which is understandable. The chances of there being a showdown between Nakamura and Angle are slim, but if it does happen, it is likely to be an attempt to resolve the issue due to possible legal struggle (that’s my take on it at least). It’s all confusing and ridiculous and childish and makes me sad to see this kind of behavior at the top of the business, but of course this is nothing new, and will probably continue until wrestling breathes its last breath.

Catching Up With Puro!

This is the part of the column where I will recommend a relatively recent puro show (within the last couple years). I realize that this is nothing new, and that I’ll be recommending quite a few shows that people have already recommended numerous times throughout the recent history of the beloved/despised IWC. I hope you take my recommendation seriously and hunt down these shows and expose yourself to puro (please, don’t be an exhibitionist) and find out what you’re missing. You can typically find most of these shows from anywhere between $3 and $8 USD at a variety of places online.

IGF 6/29/07

Well, this is one of those things that you just have to see, for historical reasons. While there is not much here in terms of wrestling, it is the show that introduced us the the B.S. title that is the IWGP 3rd belt. The Lesnar vs. Angle match is good, but nothing when compared to their classic from WrestleMania XIX, or their Ironman match. It’s fairly obvious that Lesnar has some serious ring rust and remains very one dimensional throughout the match, but it remained interesting and Angle is almost always able to deliver. The rest of the show is hit and miss, but nothing is just unforgettable, but like I said, if you want to catch up on what’s going on in puro (like the title “Catching Up With Puro!” indicates) then you absolutely need to see this show. You can find it for $2.99, which is one hell of a bargain.

Here’s the card…

1. Munenori Sawa vs. Yuki Ishikawa
2. El Blazer vs. Rocky Romero
3. Kevin Randleman vs. Alexander Otsuka
4. Michiyoshi Ohara vs. Tata Kunou
5. U-STYLE Tag Match: Kiyoshi Tamura & Ryuki Ueyama vs. Hidehisa Matsuda & Yuki Kotake
6. Josh Barnett vs. Tadao Yasuda
7. Naoya Ogawa vs. Mark Coleman
8. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar

Mail! Mail! Mail!

I’m pleased to have gotten some email over the last couple weeks. You are lucky for me to share them with you. Well, maybe not, but those who do indeed write me, avoid the impending WRATH of the Iron Sheik. I’ll start this one off with an email from Mark, he writes…

I’m not sure why anyone who likes NOAH would like TNA, but otherwise this was a really good read.

Perhaps in future issues you could do an “Important Figures” segment on the top wrestlers with each company – a bio of sorts. Even though I and my friends enjoy the work of NOAH and Dragon Gate wrestlers in ROH a lot, with exception of guys like Kenta Kobashi, we really know little of the wrestling background of these younger wrestlers too. Which brings me to my final thought….

I’d be interested in learning more about alliances – historical and present – between Japanese and American promotions. The ROH alliances are well known, and I believe I read that TNA has some sort of alliance with AJPW or NJPW. Are there any others? And how have Japanese/American alliances worked out historically?

Thanks for writing, Mark. Funny that you would mention NOAH and TNA. The idea behind my recommendation was that people who watch TNA might enjoy NOAH, but I’d have to agree, if I was writing this column for Japanese fans who want to check out American promotions, I would pass on any recommendation of TNA to fans of NOAH.

As far as your “Important Figures” idea goes, I love it! That’s a great idea for the weeks, like this one, where little is going on. You can pretty much be certain of something like that to come.

Now, relationships between promotions is something I have tackled twice now. Here are links to those specific columns…

The TNA/All Japan Relationship

ROH and NOAH Sittin’ In A Tree

In both of these columns I discuss some of the history of International wrestling promotion relationships. I don’t know if I’ll do any more of that any time soon unless maybe PWG gets involved with somebody or maybe if the WWE wises up and has Shinsuke Nakamura comes over for a little North American wrestling education. Thanks again for writing in.

Jeremiah Blair also did the wise thing and avoided the WRATH of the Iron Sheik by writing me. He wrote…

First, I’d like to thank you for your columns. They are very easy to read and easy to understand for people like me, who are just getting into Puro through independent promotions like ROH. It’s nice to have a general idea of the atmosphere and the business, which is very different from the wrestling you see stateside. It’s very much appreciated.

I have a simple question that came to me when pondering the ROH cards in Japan. I thought NOAH and Dragon Gate were very well represented, as they have been in ROH for quite some time now. Undoubtedly, one of the most intriguing matches schedule was unfortunately cancelled, as many people were looking forward to the dream pairing of CIMA and KENTA. After watching a bit of NOAH and Dragon Gate, I almost feel as though CIMA might be an even better fit in NOAH than he is in Dragon Gate. Now, obviously, Dragon Gate would not want to lose CIMA full time, but I was curious – do you think NOAH would be interested in pursuing a working relationship with CIMA? Is there a reason this wouldn’t be possible? It just seems as though he’d be able to make an immediate impact and work up to the level of KENTA and Marufuji if given time and an opportunity.

You know, that’s a very good question. Considering CIMA’s apparent position in Dragon Gate, it would seem he is potentially in charge in some capacity or has some pull in the company. I really don’t know much about the inner workings of that particular promotion. I wish I did and may ask around to some who might know. NOAH might not be all that interested in CIMA also because they really like heavyweights. As awesome as their juniors are, I think they like their juniors to wrestle a more heavyweight style, much like we see from Marufuji and KENTA. I guess Ricky Marvin and Kotaro Suzuki might be the exception, which might be an in road for CIMA. Either way, Dragon Gate runs a successful full time schedule and since he is their main draw, my guess is that there is more money in DG for him than there would be in NOAH being almost a nobody. I could be totally wrong on this however.

Thanks for your compliment about my column. I’m glad it’s coming off that way because frankly that’s my main focus is to make everybody be able to understand it. I’ve read stuff about puro years ago when I knew little and was just lost and didn’t want to write my column that way. Thanks for reading and of course for saving yourself from the Iron Sheik.

Pluggin’

If you want some further reading around here at 411wrestling.com, I’d recommend checking out some of the other columns around here such as…

“Truth B Told” by Bayani Domingo
“The Shimmy” by Andy Clark
“Evolution Schematic” by Mathew Sforcina
“Schmozzes and Screwjobs” by Daniel Wilcox
“The Independent Mid-Card” by Samuel Berman
“You’re An Idiot and Here’s Why” by Rob Halden
“Column of Honor” by Ari Berenstein
“The 411 Independent Draft Spectacular”
“Buy or Sell”
“Fact or Fiction”

Until next time…

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Matt Adamson
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