Monday, June 30, 2014

Reference Points: Eddie Kingston and the New Japan Heavyweights

If you like Eddie Kingston, watch 1990's New-Japan
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
I freely admit that I am more of a fan of junior heavyweight wrestling than anything else. This is normally not a problem, because there's a lot of great junior-style stuff to sink your teeth into even now. But when I was a young wrestling fan, all babyfaced and apple-cheeked, I was a snob about it. And this is a sad thing to admit, but I didn't care for anything that wasn't Jushin Liger or Brian Pillman or Rey Misterio Jr. I regret this now.

There were people of my age bracket though who were watching more than that, and I missed it. One of those people is that mean-seeming soul directly above these words, former Chikara Grand Champion Eddie Kingston. And if you find yourself saying "I want to see Eddie Kingston-style matches" but you don't want to spend money to find them, then I have some places to start.

For the first stop, We're going to go to a man that Eddie himself has admitted to idolizing, and someone who has been a good influence on my wrestling fandom. Mr. G1 himself, Masahiro Chono. Chono is, along with Keiji Mutoh and Shinya Hashimoto, one-third of the Three Musketeers which were, as I always understood it, kind of the New Japan answer to the Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, and Taue troika that dominated the 1990's. But what Chono match should I go with here? So many choices. So many options.

But truthfully the only one that makes sense to me is a match from BEFORE he became Mr. G1, and the black-clad and goateed menace of nWo Japan. When clowns like Michael Cole talk about big fight feel, this is what they mean. The entire building knew something special was happening, and they wanted to see the whole thing go where it was supposed to.

But Chono isn't the only New Japan Heavyweight I think you should watch to more vitally understand Kingston's work. There's another. This is the guy who I fell in love with when I started watching New Japan for more than just Liger, Koji Kanemoto, and Shinjiro Ohtani. This is a guy who, at least to me, represented the idea of what a heavyweight was supposed to mean. And for a while, Kingston was the Chikaraverse's version of him. Minus the awesome sideburns and general Fat Elvis milieu, of course, but the point still stands. And when you think of Shinya Hashimoto there's a lot of great stuff I could link you to. But I think the best one is also the most dignified IWGP Title match of the Pre-Tanahashi era.

Everything is struggled over, every hold and strike carries with it extra weight. Also, this is Hase's only shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Watch it.

Now, by all means, this isn't the be-all and end-all of Chono and Hashimoto stuff. Trust me when I tell you that there is a vast treasure trove on the internets. Watch it. But understand that you are watching the building blocks of Eddie Kingston. Maybe that helps.