Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Golden Circle "In America Part 1" by Greg Anthony

If you were to start naming the greatest japanese wrestlers of all time names like Inoki, Baba and Rikodazan might be among the firsts. Then you might start naming more modern names like Ohtani, Masawa, Kobashi. You might even start dissecting the impact of gimmicks like Tiger Mask I-IV, Jushin Liger or Hayabusa. However as great as these athletes are, how many of these names are even recognizable in America?

Who are the most successful that arrived from the land of the rising sun? Whose name could be acknowledged in Tokyo as well as Tucson or Tampa Bay? Who was able to take their infinite wealth of knowledge from their homeland's product and translate it into the American style?

To me, no one is as iconic as The Great Muta. Maybe it was the face paint or the samari garb, or maybe, just maybe it was the unique style of Muta that made him stand apart from pack. His matches with Sting,usually for the television title, in the late 80s were one of those rare occasions were you had two guys that were so different, yet so similar. Billed as the son of Florida/Texas star The Great Kabuki, Muta adopted the same gimmick, mist and all. Muta went on to become an NWA World Champion eventually losing the strap to Barry Windham. As great as The Great Muta was, the last time he was seen by american fans was in mid 2000 in WCW. So who has carried that torch the last decade?

The Japanese Buzzsaw, Yoshohiro Tajiri without question has been the most recognizable Asian athlete in pro wrestling for the past 10 years. He first showed up in WWF in '97 to compete in the light heavyweight tournament. A tournament designed to showcase another talent. His talent caught the eye of wrestling mad scientist, Paul Heyman and began working for ECW. A triple threat match pitting Tajiri vs Supercrazy vs Little Guido became a match that could happen anywhere, at anytime and was used as a great addition to any ECW card. When ECW closed in 2001, Tajiri began his WWE career. In his four years with the company, he had title reigns as US Champion, Cruiserweight Champion and Tag Champion with the late, great Eddie Guerrero.

It’s hard enough to make it as a pro in anything. Now imagine trying to make it half way around the world. These men have been cornerstones of the sport in Japan and have for sure made their mark on wrestling in America. They aren't just great Japanese wrestlers, they are great wrestlers. I'm just glad we got to see them in America.