Did you notice the amazing thing that happened not too long ago?
As WWE made the formal announcement that the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame class was Japanese star Tatsumi Fujinami, if you stood outside in just the right wind conditions, you could hear a great disturbance in the wrestling Force. . . As if thousands of voices cried out in total confusion. If you listen now, you might hear the echoes. . .
(Anyone recognize Nattie’s Daddy in a completely ridiculous 90’s gimmick? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)
((Star Wars and Ferris Bueller references in the first minutes of the column - I’m so proud.))
This is a sign of how completely underwhelming this announcement was - I’m choosing pop culture references over a career retrospective.
The only reason I know who Tatsumi Fujinami is, outside of my aforementioned PWI subscription as a teen, is that recently I watched a Fujinami match on WWE Network. In the early 90’s, WCW had a working relationship with New Japan, so a month or so ago I watched Ric Flair vs. Fujinami as part of. . . A SuperBrawl, I believe.
Other than that, the major reason people might know about Fujinami is that he is credited for the creation of two fantastic moves - The Dragon Sleeper and the Dragon Suplex. Sadly, neither are used particularly frequently in WWE, but both are worth some research.
As Jason Moltov has said numerous times, this is not the strongest Hall of Fame class in recent memory. In fact, it seems to be running solely on the star power of its first inductee, Randy Savage. While I am all for providing some international pizzazz to the lineup, there are many other options for inclusion that would have provided more of a punch.
To wit. . .
Rather than the supposed inventor of the hold, why not induct the Dragon Sleeper’s most famous user, one who happened to wrestle for WWE, if only for a year. At one time, boys and girls, Ultimo Dragon held TEN titles at the same time.
Read that sentence again. On second thought, don’t, let this image speak volumes.
A fixture in Japan AND Mexico, Dragon was also one of the most talented and popular cruiserweights in WCW, and while he didn’t invent the Dragon Sleeper, he is the innovator of the move which bears his real name, the Asai moonsault. If you’re a fan of Sami Zayn’s moonsault where he kicks off the top rope to the floor, he’s using an adapted Asai. Yeah, Dragon was cool, someone who is absolutely worth searching for in the WWE Network archives, and totally worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.
While the popularity of ‘cruiserweight’ wrestling might have been mostly thanks to WCW (or ECW, depending on which version of history you subscribe to), the WWF was not without its light heavyweights. In fact, the winner of the Light Heavweight Championship tournament was none other than Mr. Michinoku, who in many ways was Vince McMahon’s answer to WCW’s Rey Mysterio Jr.
Taka held the LHC for almost a year, though that was the only gold he held in the WWF. Sadly, despite Michinoku’s excellent in-ring abilities (I remember being flabbergasted at how easily Taka seemed to just ‘step’ up onto the top rope from the ring, despite only being 5’8”), he is mainly known as a comedy act as part of the evil Kai En Tai stable. If you know what “Choppy Choppy” means in wrestling, you know that not all the “comedy” was quite effective.
Neither Taka or Ultimo Dragon had incredibly successful WWF/E runs, but they, to me anyway, deserve inclusion in the Hall of Fame before Fujinami.
Our next contender is someone who has never seen a single day in Stamford (the Connecticut home of WWE, for those unaware. Go Whalers. ), yet for most, he is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong in saying that Muta is the pre-eminent Japanese wrestler in America, despite only having a relatively brief stay in the Western World. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching some of Muta’s NWA matches on WWE Network, and let’s just say he’s worthy of such high praise. The face paint, the mysterious entrance, the mist, and let’s not forget the moves - the power drive elbowdrop, handspring elbow and moonsault are all things that one would likely borrow if they could on a WWE 2K fantasy moveset.
If you’ve been following along on Twitter this week, you’ve seen it - Muta is arguably (now that Sting is but 9-10 short days away from making his debut) the greatest wrestler never to have had a WWF/E match. Just on reputation alone, this guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Seriously, I know I told you to go watch Ultimo Dragon, but forget that for now. Get onto WWE Network THIS INSTANT and go watch a Great Muta match. He’s everything we like from our NXT talents; if Hideo Itami was just afraction as good as Muta was, he’d be the favorite to win the IC battle royal right now, instead of languishing at Full Sail.
Some might think I’m reaching here, but think about it. Tatsumi Fujinami has done practically NOTHING on American shores, and as much as one might hate to admit it, WWE is an American company through and through.
Tajiri, however? US Champion, 2 time Tag Champion, 3 time Cruiserweight and 1 time Light Heavyweight Champion. Oh, and then there’s the ECW tag and TV title as well. Plus he’s the guy behind the Tarantula, one of the coolest and most innovative moves of the last 15-20 years.
Can I make an argument that without the Tarantula, Dean Ambrose doesn’t do the rope flippy-do clothesline? Sure I could.
What I’m saying here folks is that if Fujinami is getting in, so should Tajiri. And Hakushi. So should the Orient Express, Kaz Hayashi, Jimmy Wang Yang AND Jamie Noble (he was a Japanese sympathizer back in the Yung Dragons.)
That’s not even counting other Japanese greats who have next to no mainstream American exposure. Kenta Kobashi. Koji Kanemoto. Mitshuharu F’ing Misawa. (Fun fact: Never seen more than 1-2 Misawa matches, but he remains one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. Google Tiger Driver ‘91 to see why.)
Can someone explain the logic between these decisions? Why have I had to write about Fujinami and the Bushwhackers? What in the world is happening to my Hall of Fame?
What do YOU think? Which Japanese wrestling stars should have been entered before Fujinami? Can you make any sense of this at all? Be Heard.