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[tOA 24/7] Choshu's Army, background...

 
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Frank_Jewett
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:23 pm    Post subject: [tOA 24/7] Choshu's Army, background... Reply with quote

The story of Choshu's Army begins in October, 1982. New Japan was having success running Japanese versus Japanese matches as part of a faux inter-promotional feud with the refugees from IWE, who were actually on New Japan's payroll. New Japan president Hisashi Shinma, seeking to create additional Japanese versus Japanese rivalries within the company, developed a plan to create a new faction. The focal point of his plan was Riki Choshu.

On October 8, 1982, Riki Choshu, who had just returned from Mexico, turned on tag team partners Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami. Choshu grabbed the microphone and shouted "I am not a dog that lets you bite me!" New Japan veteran Massa Saito came out in support of Choshu, lending credibility to Choshu's efforts to break away from the established regime. On October 22, Choshu had his first singles match against Fujinami. Four days later, future Choshu's Army member Kuniaki Kobayashi wrestled his first singles match against junior heavyweight champ Tiger Mask. Choshu faced Fujinami again on November 4, along with a rematch between Tiger and Kobayashi, but Choshu did not appear for the rest of the year, perhaps due to pneumonia.

On January 6, 1983, Choshu and Saito fought Seiji Sakaguchi and Killer Khan, but Khan, a longtime fan favorite, turned on Sakaguchi to join Choshu's new faction, the New Wolves. Choshu's group also included Kuniaki Kobayashi and Gran Hamada, who were both feuding with Tiger Mask, along with former IWE star Strong Kobayashi, though Hamada left the group after a couple of months to wrestle in Mexico and Kobayashi retired without wrestling as part of the group.

Over the next four months, Choshu's New Wolves feuded extensively with both New Japan and the IWE faction. The main rivalries were still Choshu versus Fujinami and Kobayashi versus Tiger Mask with Saito and Killer Khan teaming with Choshu in tag matches and six man matches. On April 3, 1983, Choshu finally completed his individual quest, defeating Tatsumi Fujinami by count out to capture the WWF International title. During this period New Japan enjoyed incredible success as business doubled over the previous year. Choshu's group and the intra-promotional rivalry were a huge success, setting the tone for the future of puroresu where Japanese vs Japanese rivalries within a promotion would become a booking staple.

In June 1983, the status of Choshu's group became cloudy. Saito lost a loser leaves town match to Inoki to cover his absence while spending the summer touring in the US. Choshu and longtime IWE mainstay Animal Hamaguchi quit their respective factions in New Japan to form a breakaway third promotion. It was rumored that they had secured their own television deal, but in July they returned to New Japan. Apparently this was another angle designed to build up the rivalry between Choshu and New Japan by making Choshu's group seem like a separate promotion, though later this angle would seem oddly prophetic as Choshu and his faction eventually walked out on New Japan to form an independent promotion, Japan Pro Wrestling.

When Choshu and Hamaguchi returned, they announced the formation of "Ishin Gundan" or "Revolutionary Army." Hamaguchi became Choshu's regular tag team partner. Hamaguchi and Choshu gelled immediately as Animal's rapid pace matched well with Choshu's fiery intensity. Massa Saito and Killer Khan remained part of the group. Veteran Tiger Toguchi was also added to provide depth since both Khan and Saito frequently toured abroad. Kuniaki Kobayashi remained with the group as their lone representative in the junior heavyweight division.

On August 4, 1983, Fujinami defeated Choshu in a match for the International title, but Fujinami refused the belt because he had won by count out which showed up Choshu for accepting the belt after a count out win over Fujinami four months earlier. A rematch for the vacated title was scheduled a week later in Calgary, but Choshu missed his flight and the title was awarded to Fujinami by default. Also on August 4, 1983, the original Tiger Mask wrestled his final match before retiring and leaving Kobayashi without a strong rival.

The rivalry between Fujinami and Choshu continued in September as they fought to a series of no contest results while Choshu and Hamaguchi went undefeated in tag team matches. In October of 1983, Yoshiaki Yatsu returned to New Japan after spending several months in the US. Yatsu joined Ishin Gundan and quickly gelled with Choshu and Hamaguchi to form the best working six-man unit of the decade.

On November 3, 1983, Ishin Gundan battled New Japan's Seiki Gundan in a special four man challenge series as the promotion found new ways to exploit the feud. In a theatrical presentation, the two factions stood behind curtains and grabbed ropes to determine who their opponent would be. Hamaguchi drew Sakaguchi and pulled off a surprising upset when Sakaguchi was disqualified for tossing him over the guard rail. Choshu beat Maeda in the second match, showing up the man who would one day become his bitter rival. With Ishin Gundan leading 2-0, it was up to Fujinami and Inoki to defend the honor of New Japan. Fujinami fought valiantly to withstand Khan's attack, but the match ended in a double count out. Inoki beat up the overmatched Yatsu in the final bout to give the New Japan fans something to cheer about.

In the annual tag league in December, Choshu teamed with Hamaguchi to finish 4th while Khan and Toguchi, who had lost the 1982 final before joining Choshu's group, finished a distant sixth. The highlight of December came on the eighth when Choshu, Hamaguchi, and Yatsu defeated Fujinami, Akira Maeda, and Kengo Kimura in a fast paced, super heated match in Tokyo.

Choshu's feud with Fujinami continued in early 1984, but in April, New Japan was rocked by the defections of Rusher Kimura, Akira Maeda, and others who left in April to start a new promotion called the UWF.

On April 19th, Ishin Gundan challenged Seiki Gundan again in a five man elimination challenge. Fujinami opened for Seiki Gundan, eliminating Kobayashi and Teranishi, but Ishin Gundan targeted and injured his left hand and Yatsu eliminated him by count out when Fujinami's leg got caught in the ropes and he was unable to return to the ring. Yatsu then overcame young Nobuhiko Takada in a ten minute sprint that stole the show before being beaten by Kengo Kimura. Hamaguchi defeated Kimura, but Yoshiaki Fujiwara intentionally fought Animal to a double count out to set up Inoki versus Choshu in the final match. Inoki and Choshu battled for ten minutes until Inoki hit one of his trademark flurries to take control. Choshu lost when his corner gave up for him while he was trapped in Inoki's octopus hold.

Choshu again fought Fujinami and Inoki in singles matches in August. On September 14, 1984, Choshu, Yatsu, and Hamaguchi fought Inoki, Fujinami, and Kimura in what turned out to be the last match in the Ishin Gundan vs Seiki Gundan feud. One week later on September 21, Choshu, Hamaguchi, Yatsu, and others walked out on New Japan. Saito and Khan joined the group and they eventually formed a new promotion called Japan Pro-Wrestling.

On November 1, 1984, Choshu attended an All Japan card in Tokyo. Before the main event, Genichiro Tenryu challenged Choshu. Choshu tried to enter the ring, but he was blocked by young wrestlers and left. This was the beginning of Choshu's feud with Tenryu. On December 8, 1984, Choshu and his followers showed up at another All Japan show and confronted Giant Baba. On December 12, Choshu, Yatsu, and Hamaguchi debuted in All Japan against Kojika, Okuma, and Ishikawa in a dark match on the undercard of the 1984 tag league final. The next day, Japan Pro-Wrestling held it's first card. Choshu faced Davey Boy Smith in the main event.

On January 2, 1985, Choshu and Yatsu faced Tenryu and Ishikawa in another dark match. The next day Choshu and Hamaguchi defeated Tenryu and Okuma in their first televised match in All Japan. Tenryu threw his ring jacket at Choshu before the match to emphasize their budding rivalry. Choshu and company battled Tenryu and Tsuruta throughout the month of January, including a live TV special on January 19 where Choshu, Saito, and Khan fought Tsuruta, Tenryu, and Ishikawa. The tour climax was Choshu and Saito battling Tsuruta and Tenryu to a draw on February 5, 1985. Saito looked set to challenge Jumbo, but Saito ended up spending time in prison in the US instead. On February 21, Choshu defeated Tenryu by count out in 9:12 on a Japan Pro-Wrestling show that wasn't televised.

The rivalry between Choshu and Tenryu continued to be the focus, though Choshu got to challenge Ric Flair for the NWA world title on May 4, 1985. On June 21, 1985, All Japan held their first show at Budokan Hall in almost ten years with Choshu challenging Tenryu for the United National title in the semi-main event under Baba versus Rusher Kimura. The Budokan show aired the next day on a two-hour prime time TV special as the popularity of All Japan soared. Choshu dominated Tenryu down the stretch but got disqualified, paying back Tenryu's loss in February and confirming that Tenryu was becoming a major Japanese star.

With the first phase of Baba's plan completed, the focus shifted toward Choshu versus Tsuruta. Choshu was scheduled to face Tsuruta in their first singles match at a Japan Pro-Wrestling show in August, but Jumbo withdrew due to an injury. Kuniaki Kobayashi's match with young Choshu's Army member Norio Honaga became the first JPW match to air on All Japan's TV show. In October, Choshu got to challenge AWA world champ Rick Martel on another prime time special. On November 4, 1985, Choshu finally met Jumbo Tsuruta in a singles match. They fought to a sixty-minute draw with Jumbo dominating Choshu.

In December, Choshu and Yatsu teamed in All Japan's Real World Tag League tournament. The influence of Choshu's Army on All Japan was obvious as everyone worked a much faster style than they had in previous years when old stars like the Funks dictated the pace. The results of the faster pace were a mixed bag. Choshu and Yatsu versus Tsuruta and Tenryu blew away earlier tag matches, but the final with Choshu and Yatsu facing Stan Hansen and Ted DiBiase was marred by numerous mistakes and many of the tournament matches seemed abbreviated due to a lack of stamina. In another show at Budokan, Choshu and Yatsu battled Hansen and DiBiase to a thirty minute draw in the final tag league match to earn a four-way tie for second place in the league.

In early 1986, the feud between Choshu's Army and All Japan reached its zenith. On January 11, Tsuruta ran in and attacked Choshu after a tag match with Tenryu and Okuma. Three days later Jumbo attacked Choshu prior to another tag match and injured Choshu's ribs, making himself the heel and Choshu the babyface. On January 28, 1986, Choshu and Yatsu challenged Tsuruta and Tenryu for the International tag titles. Prior to the match, Choshu grabbed the microphone and yelled "If you can't beat me tonight, you never will" at Jumbo. What followed was one of the greatest tag matches of the decade with Tenryu pinning Yatsu with a powerbomb after 22 minutes. One week later the teams met again, but that time Choshu and Yatsu won as Yatsu pinned Tenryu with a german suplex after Choshu's lariat from the apron.

Choshu and Yatsu defended the titles against Tsuruta and Tenryu on March 4, 1986, but the match ended in a double count out with Rusher Kimura and Ashura Hara running in afterward to try to create a third Japanese faction. On March 13, All Japan fought Choshu's Army in a special "best of seven" challenge of randomly drawn singles matches at Budokan. Among the matches, Tsuruta beat Hamaguchi, Choshu beat Tiger Mask, and Yatsu battled Tenryu to a thirty-minute time limit draw.

After March 13, the rivalry between Choshu's Army and All Japan became much less focused as Baba tried to introduce a third faction. Eventually the Calgary Hurricanes, Shunji Takano and Super Strong Machine, and Hiro Saito, who were also part of Choshu's group, returned from Canada and were set up as the new Japanese faction. Killer Khan jumped from Choshu's Army to give the new group a senior presence who could challenge Choshu.

On June 12, 1986, again at Budokan, Choshu and Yatsu defended their titles against the Road Warriors, winning by DQ. Tenryu beat Strong Machine in the semi-main event while Tsuruta battled Tiger Jeet in the undercard. On July 31, 1986, again at Budokan, Yatsu fought Tenryu to a no contest while Choshu defeated Killer Khan in a bloody death match. Tsuruta challenged Hansen for the AWA title in the main event. Choshu battled Tenryu in another singles match on September 3 and Choshu and Yatsu defended the titles against Tsuruta and Tenryu again in late October.

Choshu and Yatsu teamed again in the 1986 Real World Tag League, finishing in a tie for third place. Tsuruta and Tenryu beat Hansen and DiBiase by count out at another Budokan show to win the league. Tsuruta and Tenryu had fought Choshu and Yatsu to another thirty minute draw during the league. The two teams met again twice in early 1987. Choshu and Yatsu won the first match, then lost the second match and dropped the titles to Tsuruta and Tenryu on February 7, 1987.

On February 23, 1987, Choshu left All Japan and his faction began to splinter. Choshu showed up at a New Japan show on April 27 with Kobayashi, Strong Machine, Hiro Saito, Norio Honaga, and Hiroshi Hase. Khan went to the US while Yatsu and Takano decided to remain in All Japan. Hamaguchi retired in August, though he would eventually return. Choshu closed Japan Pro-Wrestling in October after he was allowed to return to New Japan. The last vestige of Choshu's Army was gone.

Frank

(Originally posted at tOA on July 29, 2005)
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Frank_Jewett
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:27 pm    Post subject: Choshu's Army, breakdown Reply with quote

10/82 - 12/82:

Choshu turns on New Japan stars, Kobayashi challenges Tiger Mask. Choshu's Army has not yet formed.

1/83 - 5/83:

Choshu, Saito, Khan, and Kuniaki Kobayashi form New Wolves faction as New Japan business takes off. Choshu wins International title.

6/83 - 9/84:

Choshu and Hamaguchi form Ishin Gundan faction with Saito, Khan, and Kobayashi. Toguchi joins to add depth to the heavyweights.

10/84 - 12/84:

Choshu's Army leaves New Japan, starts Japan Pro-Wrestling, and signs on with All Japan, but they cannot appear on television.

1/85 - 6/85:

Choshu's Army invades All Japan leading to Choshu vs Tenryu at the first Budokan show in a decade. Choshu makes Tenryu a star as the promotion starts running two hour and live prime time TV specials.

7/85 - 12/85:

Choshu becomes Tsuruta's rival and Choshu and Yatsu become the rivals of Tsuruta and Tenryu in tag league.

1/86 - 3/86:

Feud between Choshu and Yatsu and Tsuruta and Tenryu peaks as Tsuruta turns heel and Choshu's Army wins tag titles. Rivalry between All Japan and Choshu's Army peaks with the seven man challenge in March.

4/86 - 12/86:

Choshu's Army begins to feud with other Japanese factions including Rusher Kimura and Hara's group and the Calgary Hurricanes with Khan. The latter are actually members of Choshu's group. All Japan runs more Budokan shows and more TV specials.

1/87 - 2/87:

Choshu and Yatsu battle Tsuruta and Tenryu two more times as they trade wins and give back the tag titles.

3/87 - 4/87:

Choshu leaves All Japan and shows up at a New Japan show, though he must wait several months before he can wrestling on New Japan's TV show. Choshu's Army breaks apart and he eventually closes Japan Pro-Wrestling.

==========

Choshu's Army lasted as a group under different names from 1/83 to 2/87, just over four years. During that time they did massive business in two different promotions, shifting the balance of power when they jumped and leading to a period of incredible success for All Japan in 1985-1986 that transformed the business model and booking model of that promotion.

Riki Choshu was essential to that run, though others also played indispensible roles in the success of the group which in turn made Choshu a bigger singles star.

Massa Saito joining with Choshu at the start gave Choshu's group the credibility and heft it needed to be taken seriously as a rival faction to New Japan. It's no accident that Observer coverage from that era cited Saito as the leader of the group. He was their biggest star.

Killer Khan provided additional heft and helped shape the character of the group as an excellent six-man unit. Again one turns to the Observer to see that the New Wolves were named best working trio in the world in early 1983, at the height of the Freebirds' run in Dallas.

Kuniaki Kobayashi extended the feud into the juniors division, giving Choshu's Army a link to the wildly popular Tiger Mask. Kobayashi also met the group's high standard for excellent ringwork.

Hamaguchi and Yatsu joined later in 1983, but they became the signature partners of Choshu in tags and six-mans and worked in the group on a full time basis which helped the group maintain a strong presence without Saito and Khan.

I would cite all of the above as key members of Choshu's Army for the reasons listed. Others like Toguchi and the Calgary Hurricanes either provided depth or rode the group's coattails.

The argument against inducting Choshu's Army into the WON Hall of Fame is that Choshu is already in as a singles star. That view blindly overlooks the fact that Choshu was going nowhere in New Japan prior to the formation of New Wolves.

It was the faction that got Choshu over and propelled him to singles stardom. It was the faction that allowed Choshu to revolutionize All Japan's approach and make Japanese vs Japanese a staple. It was the faction that allowed Choshu, a selfish worker, to be protected from having to do jobs in singles matches.

Without the New Wolves of Massa Saito and Ishin Gundan, Choshu would probably not have become a major star. His work had not inspired the fans and he had no platform to pass Inoki and Fujinami as a singles worker, even if he was a heel. Like Ueda or Matsuda, or Hara prior to the Revolution, Choshu would have been an isolated novelty who occaisionally had a big match, not the leader of the opposition force within the promotion.

But Choshu's Army isn't on the ballot, nor do I expect they ever will be, so at this point they serve mainly as a comparison for the Fabulous Freebirds.

Frank

(Originally posted at tOA on July 29, 2005)


Last edited by Frank_Jewett on Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jdw
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for reposting, Frank.


John
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:46 pm    Post subject: [Gordy List] Ishin Gundan Reply with quote

Before going through the traditional Gordy List questions I want to cover a couple of points.

First, the Gordy List has often been used by writers to "make a case" for a candidate who they feel should be in the HOF. Such efforts are typically skewed toward positive answers.

I don't know if I would vote for Choshu's Army. I certainly respect those who feel that no group candidacies should be allowed or that groups should have to meet the same high standards as individual candidates. I didn't compose this list to try to change or to discredit such views.

I do feel that Choshu's Army is comparable to the ongoing candidacies of the Freebirds and the Midnight Express where multiple lineups and shifting memberships are being allowed under a single group banner. I also feel that Choshu's Army presents a stronger case than either of those two groups, which is why I am presenting that case now.

One might validly set the bar for induction above Choshu's Army, but one would need a crooked bar to then put the Freebirds or the Midnight Express into the same HOF.

Secondly, before considering any group one must ask if any of the members are worthy of HOF consideration as individuals and how their individual value affects the case for the groups.

The Four Horsemen are not currently under consideration, but they present a good example. Ric Flair, the most prominent Horseman, was a huge star before the formation of the group and continued to be a huge star despite the dissolution of the group. This suggests that his personal achievements contributed more to the group than the group contributed to him.

Without Ric Flair in the Four Horsemen, the group would have been much less famous. Without the Four Horsemen, Ric Flair would likely have been just as famous. Because of that, the case for the Four Horsemen as a HOF group is not very strong.

The Freebirds provide an alternate model. Terry Gordy was a relative unknown prior to the formation of the group, he was a big success on his own at some points while separated from the group (the notion that the Freebirds were a continuous group for eight years is patently absurd), and he was famous after leaving the group with little help from the group legacy since his fame was in Japan where the group meant little.

Without Terry Gordy in the Freebirds, it is hard to imagine the Freebirds existing. Without the Freebirds, Terry Gordy might still have become a major star on his own as he did in Japan, but it was being in the Freebirds that established him as a major star in the US before he went to Japan.

The Midnight Express are the ideal group candidacy since none of the members who should be included were worthy of HOF consideration on their own. Clearly Jim Cornette achieved HOF status while he was with the Midnight Express rather than while he was with Yokozuna.

So before doing a Gordy List on Choshu's Army, I have to consider whether the fact that Riki Choshu was a HOF as an individual weakens the candidacy of the whole group.

In this case, Riki Choshu is most similar to Terry Gordy, having become a major star as a result of being part of the group.

The difference is that unlike Terry Gordy, Riki Choshu never became a singles star without benefiting from group involvement. Choshu rose to prominence in New Japan as part of Ishin Gundan. Choshu jumped to All Japan and was prominent as part of Ishin Gundan.

Riki Choshu did not become a star without Ishin Gundan until his return to New Japan in 1987, so it seems fair to credit the group with a large portion of Choshu's stardom during the period when he was a member.

Having answered that question, the group Ishin Gundan is worthy of a further look using the Gordy List, again respecting the right of voters to chose criteria above or below the information presented in the list.

Frank

==========

1. Were they ever regarded as the best draw in the world? Were they ever regarded as the best draw in their country or their promotion?

Ishin Gundan worked as rivals to the top faces in both New Japan and All Japan. Like the Freebirds opposite the Von Erichs, that makes it tougher to prove that they were the draw rather than the top faces who they opposed. The evidence that suggests Ishin Gundan had the drawing power is that the same faces did not draw as well either before or after their feud with Ishin Gundan.

As such, it appears that Ishin Gundan was the best draw in Japan. The balance of power shifted when they jumped from one promotion to another.

2. Were they an international draw, national draw and/or regional draw?

They were a national draw in Japan. They did not work outside of Japan as a group, so they cannot be called an international draw.

3. How many years did they have as a top draw?

From 1983 to 1985, Ishin Gundan was clearly a top draw. In 1986 the group began to diffuse, so it is harder to categorize their drawing power. In 1987 the group broke up. Choshu remained a top draw, becoming an even bigger draw as a singles star. The other members were not draws on their own.

4. Were they ever regarded as the best workers in the world? Were they ever regarded as the best workers in their country or in their promotion?

Choshu, Saito, and Khan were praised by Dave Meltzer as the top working group in the world in early 1983.

Choshu, Yatsu, and Hamaguchi were regarded as the top working six-man unit in the world from mid-1983 through 1985.

Choshu and Yatsu were regarded as the top working tag team in All Japan from 1985 to 1987.

5. Were they ever the best workers in their class (sex or weight)? Were they ever among the top workers in their class?

As noted above, the trio of Choshu/Yatsu/Hamaguchi was the best working trio from mid-1983 to 1985. The tag team of Choshu/Yatsu was the top working team in Japan from late 1985 to early 1987, putting up MOTD caliber matches against Tsuruta and Tenryu.

Yatsu was regarded as one of the top heavyweights from 1984 to 1986, which coincides with his membership in Ishin Gundan. Kuniaki Kobayashi was one of the world's top junior heavyweights from 1983 to 1985.

6. How many years did they have as top workers?

As a group, Ishin Gundan were top workers in tags, six-mans, and juniors from 1983 to early 1987, so the total is about four years, with top status in different areas during various parts of those years.

7. Was they good workers before their prime? Were they good workers after their prime?

Choshu, Hamaguchi, Yatsu, and Kobayashi were good workers prior to the formation of Ishin Gundan. As workers within Ishin Gundan, they quickly rose to top status, so there is no "before their prime" period as a group.

Ishin Gundan dissolved in 1987 when Choshu jumped back to New Japan, Yatsu stayed in All Japan, and Hamaguchi retired. As such, the group did not exist after its prime either.

As for the individual workers, Yatsu declined rapidly, though he was acceptable and occasionally good for several years when teaming with Jumbo Tsuruta. Choshu remained a very good worker for several years after the breakup. Hamaguchi eventually came back and was still good. Kobayashi was still good also, but was generally lost in undercard matches.

8. Did they have a large body of excellent matches? Did they have a excellent matches against a variety of opponents?

Ishin Gundan had several great matches against the team of Tsuruta and Tenryu. They also had a few great matches opposite various members of Seikigun including Inoki, Fujinami, Kimura, and Maeda.

Beyond that, they had some very good tag matches against All Japan factions that included midcard workers like Ishikawa and Okuma. They also had a very good match against DiBiase and Hansen in the 1985 Tag League.

9. Did they ever anchor their promotion(s)?

As the heel rivals they served as the foils for almost all of the top babyfaces, much like the Freebirds in the UWF only to a greater extent, so this should be a qualified yes.

10. Were they effective when pushed at the top of cards?

Yes. They could main event in singles, tags, or six-mans, draw well, and put on a great match.

11. Were they valuable to their promotion before their prime? Were they still valuable to their promotion after their primes?

As mentioned earlier, the group did not exist as such after their prime. Choshu became more valuable. Yatsu was still valuable for a few years as Tsuruta's partner. The value of Hamaguchi and Kobayashi is harder to establish because of their use. Generally they were of far greater value as part of Ishin Gundan than at any other point in their careers, despite being good workers before and after Ishin Gundan.

12. Did they have an impact on a number of strong promotional runs?

Yes. The strong promotional runs followed them. The balance of power shifted from New Japan to All Japan when they jumped in late-1984 and it shifted back to New Japan when Ishin Gundan disbanded and Choshu returned to New Japan.

13. Were they involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?

Ishin Gundan versus Seiki Gundan was so memorable that it is often used to define Japanese vs Japanese feuds even though it wasn't the first such feud. Choshu and Yatsu versus Tsuruta and Tenryu is remembered as the top Japanese tag rivalry of the eighties. The storyline of Tenryu becoming a major star opposite Ishin Gundan and particularly Choshu is well remembered. The feud between Misawa as Tiger Mask and Kobayashi should be remembered as the high point of Misawa's run as Tiger Mask.

14. Were they effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?

Yes. Their most highly regarded match featured an angle where Choshu had injured his ribs. Choshu grabbed the house mic and challenged Tsuruta, saying "if you can't beat me tonight, you never will!"

Of course the entire history of Ishin Gundan was basically one long angle where "rebel" wrestlers formed their own promotion and challenged the traditional power structure. That they could pull this off twice and continue to gain support through their All Japan run shows how effective they were at playing their rebel roll to younger fans.

15. Did they play their role(s) effectively during his career?

Kobayashi in particular was great at elevating less experienced high flyers like Cobra and Tiger Mask.

Choshu did a wonderful job opposite Tenryu as the charismatic, emotional foil that pulled Tenryu out of his shell and gave him a reason to get fired up.

The tag members were all great at getting heel heat by using creative double and triple team maneuvers.

16. What titles and tournaments did they win? What was the importance of their reigns?

Choshu and Yatsu won the tag titles in All Japan while Choshu and Kobayashi also won singles titles in both New Japan and All Japan, but their title reigns weren't critical to their success. They were the top heels in All Japan in 1985 even when they weren't holding top heavyweight or tag team titles.

Individually Choshu feuded with Fujinami over the WWF International title which raised the title to prominence during that brief period.

17. Did they win many honors and awards?

Ishin Gundan won several WON awards. Their feud with Seiki Gundan (New Japan) was runner up WON Feud of the Year in 1984 and Kobayashi's feud with Tiger Mask (Misawa) was runner up for FOTY in 1985. Kobayashi and Tiger Mask bagged WON Match of the Year in 1985 while Choshu and Yatsu teamed in the MOTY runner up 1986 against the team of Tsuruta and Tenryu. Choshu and Yatsu also got runner up for WON Tag Team of the Year in 1986, following Choshu's runner up for WON Wrestler of the Year in 1985. Choshu's lone singles match against Jumbo Tsuruta also won Tokyo Sports Match of the Year in 1985.

18. Did they get mainstream exposure due to heir wrestling fame? Did they get a heavily eatured by the wrestling media?

I don't know about mainstream exposure. The group was covered by the Japanese wrestling media, but I don't have a clear idea of how much coverage they received compared to Baba, Jumbo, or Inoki. I have seen covers for both Choshu and Yatsu, but the one Yatsu cover I saw was based on his attempt to stage an amateur comeback representing Japan.

19. Were they top tag team wrestlers?

Yes. The weren't just top tag wrestlers, they were defining the state of the art in tag team wrestling with their urgency and their innovative combination moves.

20. Were they innovative?

Yes. The back suplex/flying neckbreaker drop and various other double team moves were innovative.

21. Were they influential?

Ishin Gundan raised the bar on using double team moves in tag team matches and moved All Japan tags from the old NWA style of the Funks toward the nineties style of Misawa/Kobashi and Kawada/Taue. Their spots were still being used in the nineties by Japanese heel teams including Keientai Deluxe and Team No Fear.

Ishin Gundan also revolutionized the way Japanese promotions were booked. While not the first group to work "interpromotional" Japanese vs Japanese matches, Ishin Gundan established that such rivalries could be "home grown" within a single promotion and that they could be valuable at all levels of the card, even replacing Japanese vs Gaijin as the main event.

In this sense the success of Ishin Gundan led directly to such memorable programs as Now Generation vs New Generation in New Japan, and Jumbo's Army vs Tenryu's Revolution, Jumbo vs Misawa, and Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue in All Japan.

22. Did they make the people and workers around him better?

As a group they made opposing workers look better. Ishikawa and Okuma had their best matches opposite Ishin Gundan in 1985. Tenryu became a huge star directly as the result of his feud with Ishin Gundan in general and Choshu in particular. Misawa also looked better with Kobayashi than he did at most other points during almost six years as Tiger Mask.

One could also argue that Tatsumi Fujinami became a heavyweight star opposite Riki Choshu while they feuded over the International title, but much of the credit there would go to singles matches that were set up by the Ishin Gundan angle.

23. Did they do what was best for the promotion? Did they show a commitment to wrestling?

Jumping from New Japan to All Japan certainly wasn't the best thing to do for New Japan.

Choshu's refusal to job in All Japan was not what was best for the promotion, but it also was not so unusual during an era of frequent screwjobs. Yatsu and Hamaguchi were willing to do jobs, even clean jobs and the group was ultimately successful.

Their commitment is difficult to gauge. Hamaguchi retired after the group disbanded in 1987, when he still could have been effective. He later returned. Yatsu declined rapidly, in part due to injuries and in part due to his poor conditioning. During their prime as Ishin Gundan however, the entire group showed their commitment by coming out fired up and working hard on almost every TV show.

24. Is there any reason to believe that they were better or worse than they appeared?

The group never achieved their full potential due to political or personal reasons. New Japan never pushed Choshu as a legitimate threat to Inoki during Choshu's run with Ishin Gundun. Likewise the tag faction focused more on six man than on tag titles.

In All Japan, several factors came into play. The All Japan faction didn't have enough depth to match up against Hamaguchi with a quality performer. As a result, Hamaguchi got stuck with Ishikawa as his peer and rival. Saito, who jumped to All Japan with Ishin Gundan and was originally Choshu's top partner, was lost due to legal problems in the US before he had a chance to work as Tsuruta's rival.

And for whatever reason, be it obstinance, mistrust, or Choshu's refusal to job, Ishin Gundan did not get the key victories that would have taken them to the pinnacle of All Japan as legitimate equals with Jumbo and Tenryu.

Even with all that, Ishin Gundan was a top draw and the hottest faction in both Japanese promotions over a four year span. One can only wonder how the face of Japanese wrestling might have changed if either promotion had seen fit to push them all the way to the top with wins over the top Japanese stars.

==========

Finally, when considering a group, another question needs to be answered as part of the Gordy List.

25. Which members should be included in the group?

Major contributors to the success of the group should of course be included in the group, but the nature of a group candidacy rests in the overall strength and success of the group, so I suggest using three additional "rules" for inclusion or exclusion when evaluating a group.

I. Buddy Roberts Rule (inclusion)

If the member helped to establish the group identity or added significant value and helped to sustain the group while the group was achieving at a HOF level, that member should be included in the group.

Buddy Roberts helped carry the workload for the Freebirds in the ring during their rise to prominence and sustained the group along with Terry Gordy during periods when Michael Hayes was injured or elsewhere. As such, it is difficult to develop a strong HOF candidacy while excluding him.

II. Sunshine Rule (exclusion)

If the member did not help to establish the identity of the group and made no significant contribution to sustaining the group, that member should be excluded even if membership coincided with a period where the group achieved at a HOF level.

III. Jimmy Garvin Rule (exclusion)

If the majority of the time the member spent as part of the group occurred after the group was no longer achieving at a HOF level, that member should be excluded from the group.

Jimmy Garvin joined the Freebirds in the late eighties after the group ended up in WCW as part of the UWF buyout. Though the Hayes/Garvin Freebirds were the only lineup ever to capture a "world" tag team title, the Freebirds as a group were clearly in decline due primarily to the absence of Terry Gordy. This can be illustrated clearly by the level of excitement generated by frequent rumors of a "reunion" with Gordy and to a much lesser extent Roberts. Had the earlier Freebirds lineups not existed, Hayes and Garvin would not receive any HOF consideration for their work together under the Freebirds banner.

Note: The same criteria would apply to someone who was a member of the group before the group rose to prominence and who contributed little or nothing to the establishment of the group identity or the increased success of the group. Pete Best of the Beatles would be an example. Randy Rose of the Midnight Express could also be an example.

So for Ishin Gundan, I would include:

Riki Choshu - Founder and major star throughout the existence of Ishin Gundan

Yoshiaki Yatsu - Major contributor to the group from late-1983 to early-1987. Choshu/Yatsu/Hamaguchi became the quintessential working trio of the decade.

Animal Hamaguchi - Major contributor the group from late-1983 to early-1987. Was Choshu's top regular tag partner until the emergence of Yatsu in 1985.

Masa Saito - Original member from early-1983 to early 1985 when a US prison term interrupted his career. Provided credibility and also helped establish the style and quality of Ishin Gundan as shown by praise for the work of the Choshu/Saito/Khan trio.

Killer Khan - Original member from early-1983 to mid-1986 who also helped establish the style and quality of Ishin Gundan and helped to sustain the group at a HOF level in later years.

Kuniaki Kobayashi - Member from 1983 who represented the group in the Junior Heavyweight division giving the group more prominence within the promotion while maintaining a HOF level of achievement as an individual.

There is no clear analogy to Kobayashi in the Freebirds, but one could think of Kobayashi like Lex Luger while Luger was a member of the Four Horsemen: Strongly representing the group while performing primarily as an individual.

Frank

"The Saito, Choshu, Killer Khan threesome has developed into the most powerful force in Japan. After seeing a few of their matches, I can honestly say I've never seen a three man team that comes anywhere close to their effectiveness. Even as a duo, any combination of the three is better than any US tag team." - Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer Newsletter - June, 1983

(Originally posted at tOA on August 6, 2003)
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Frank_Jewett
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also reposted an old Gordy List for Choshu's Army which touched on the Freebirds, the Horsemen, and the Midnight Express.

The Freebirds have less to brag about than Choshu's Army, but Meltzer has always been able to dismiss Choshu's Army by pointing out that Choshu is in the HOF for his individual achievements. Obviously if the Horsemen were inducted as a group, Meltzer would have to give up the ghost on that argument, though it has always been a bad argument since it ignores the fact that Choshu, unlike Flair, was going nowhere prior to the formation of the group.

Flair elevated the Horsemen. He was the top heel for several years before the Horsemen became a faction.

Choshu's Army, from the New Wolves to Ishin Gundan to Japan Pro-Wrestling, elevated Choshu.

Frank
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DGinnetty



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:48 pm    Post subject: more info Reply with quote

I received most of the 1982 NJ season on DVD today, and the first show I popped in was the 10/8/82 tag match.

It has some cool moments;

Firstly, they announce Choshu's name before Fujinami's, which Choshu takes exception.

Inoki and Fujinami head to the apron, leaving Choshu to start the match. He wants Fujinami to start. Yelling ensues, with Fujinami shoving him.

Choshu is in and goes to tag Fujinami. Fujinami ignores him. Choshu returns the favor later in the match.

More slapping and arguing, all the whiile Inoki is being triple teamed in the other corner.

Finally, both Fujinami and Choshu are in the ring, fighting eachother. Bell rings. Chaos ensues.

I can only imagine what the viewers reaction was after seeing this angle. After Baba, Inoki, and Jumbo; CHoshu and Fujinami were the next 2 in the native pecking order. To see them feuding could only be supassed by seeing Inoki and baba feuding, or Jumbo and either Choshu or Fujinami.

Classic stuff.

Dan Ginnetty
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jdw
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is what originally aired:

10-08-82 NJPW TV
3. Antonio Inoki & Tatsumi Fujinami & Riki Choshu d. S.D. Jones & Abdullah the Butcher & Bad News Allen

10-15-82 NJPW TV
3. Antonio Inoki & Riki Choshu d. Bob Orton Jr. & Bad News Allen

10-22-82 NJPW TV
1. Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Riki Choshu

10-29-82 NJPW TV (taped 10-26)
1. Tiger Mask d. Kuniaki Kobayashi


11-05-82 NJPW TV (taped 11-04)
1. Tiger Mask d. Kuniaki Kobayashi
2. Tatsumi Fujinami d. Riki Choshu

The 10/29/82 Tiger vs. Kobayashi along with both 11/04/82 matches aired on NJ Classics. I could swear I've seen the six-man listed somewhere before, but if I had, Dan certainly would have it before now.

It looks like everything is in place for a Kakumeigun/Ishin Gundan vs. New Japan (& IWE) series.

Per Hisa Tanabe:

Quote:
Kakumeigun (Revolution Army)
Masa Saito
Riki Choshu
Killer Khan
Kuniaki Kobayashi

It later became Ishin Gundan (Restoration Army) w/ these additional members:

Animal Hamaguchi
Yoshiaki Yatsu
Tiger Toguchi (Kim Duk/Tiger Chang Lee)
Isamu Teranishi
Hiro Matsuda (temporary "advisor" while Saito is away from Japan)


The transition would be in July. The first TV match was:

07-01-83 NJPW TV
3. Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura vs. Riki Choshu & Animal Hamaguchi

This also was a total rebirth of Saito's career in Japan. Prior to the January 1983 series, he hadn't worked for New Japan since February 1980. Choshu jumping back in 1987 would also get Masa a job essentially for life with New Japan.



John
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jdw
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dan - what happens in these matches that never aired? How nutty is the heat already? Does Choshu do a number on Inoki as well?

jdw wrote:
10-15-82 NJPW TV
3. Antonio Inoki & Riki Choshu d. Bob Orton Jr. & Bad News Allen

10-22-82 NJPW TV
1. Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Riki Choshu


John
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DGinnetty



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

jdw wrote:
Dan - what happens in these matches that never aired? How nutty is the heat already? Does Choshu do a number on Inoki as well?

jdw wrote:
10-15-82 NJPW TV
3. Antonio Inoki & Riki Choshu d. Bob Orton Jr. & Bad News Allen

10-22-82 NJPW TV
1. Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Riki Choshu


John


Even in the 10/8 tag, Choshu had no problem with Inoki. It was all against Fujinami. I will check those matches and get back to you.

Dan Ginnetty
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jdw
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Riki bringing the hate for "favored son" Fujinami. :) Though it would be cool if he snaps off on The Boss in the tag the following week. There are a shitload of tags the following year with Inoki in them, so you have to think that they play to it.

Choshu "refused" to wrestle in the Tag League, so it turned into more than just Anti-Fujinami - very fast he hated the whole damn company. :)


John
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DGinnetty



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jdw wrote:
Riki bringing the hate for "favored son" Fujinami. :) Though it would be cool if he snaps off on The Boss in the tag the following week. There are a shitload of tags the following year with Inoki in them, so you have to think that they play to it.

Choshu "refused" to wrestle in the Tag League, so it turned into more than just Anti-Fujinami - very fast he hated the whole damn company. :)


John


True. Other than the tag match and the singles matches, Choshu does not appear on TV for the rest of 1982. I didn't see Choshu saying anything to Inoki or acting up against him. I get the feeling that this was more against Fujinami; proving that he should be in the top spot.

The 6 man aired in edited form on commercial video a couple times, but never complete. They miss his anger at getting introduced before Fujinami, and post match crap.

Dan Ginnetty
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