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The Twilight Of Suzuki-Gun: “It’s Zack Sabre Time!”

Should they stick with the Sadistic Suzuki, or JUST TAP OUT?

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ZSJ has now been a member of Suzuki-Gun since March 6th, 2017. His 3rd year since joining might be the most important.

Valentin explores the changing landscape of New Japan and one particular stable that could use a leadership change.

As announced by Gedo on the day he betrayed Kazuchika Okada to ally himself with Jay White, a new era is upon New Japan Pro Wrestling. So far, CHAOS and Bullet Club have been the main factions affected by the company’s restructuring, but it might just be the beginning. Other groups will likely get their fair share of change in the future, and today, let’s take a look at Suzuki-Gun.

 What if I told you that Zack Sabre Jr could possibly lead his own faction in New Japan ? Would you believe me ? Since coming back on the day after Wrestle Kingdom 11, the group lead by Minoru Suzuki, while managing to grab some gold here and there, hasn’t fully been able to establish their dominance over the New Japan Landscape. Suzuki-Gun’s main attraction has been non other than ZSJ, and it has been the case for quite a while. From getting in the G1 Climax in his first year, to win the New Japan Cup, being a real threat to Kazuchika Okada, and being a strong contender in last year’s G1, Sabre hasn’t stopped climbing the ranks of New Japan, and is affirming himself as a future star. While he has yet to win any gold in Japan, he reclaimed the RevPro Heavyweight Championship from Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 13, which was Suzuki-Gun’s only victory of the night.
 

When you take a look at Zack stablemates, it is slightly difficult to say they reached the same heights as their British brethren. Minoru Suzuki, as the leader, has been in a spot where he managed to grab both the Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight championships. He also competed for the Heavyweight championship and was the man to put Hiroshi Tanahashi on the shelf early last year. We will comeback to Suzuki later in this article as we will know look at both of the faction’s teams. First, Killer Elite Squad, had a bit of a rough time the last two years. The duo managed to enter Wrestle Kingdom 12 as IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team champions, but since then, Smith and Archer took a backseat inside their division. The junior duo of El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru have held the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team titles for 304 days, until Wrestle Kingdom 13, which honestly is quite the feat. Lastly, Taichi has been, at the age of 38, starting to make his way into the Heavyweight division, getting a decent showing against the likes of Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi or Will Ospreay. he won the NEVER Openweight Championship a few months ago from Hirooki Goto, but quickly dropped it back to the former champion. Taichi will get to face Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship in Sapporo on February 2nd.
 Let’s not forget that Takashi Iizuka will be retiring on February 21st, as he approaches his 33th year since he debuted.

 As you may guess, the issue, if you can actually say there is one, is not about necessarily about winning or competing for championships. So far, the faction still keeps itself relevant enough to be in nearly constant contention for titles, but as said before, never did Suzuki-Gun felt like New Japan’s top faction for a decent while, if not ever. The group returned while Los Ingobernables de Japon picked up steam, when Bullet Club was shining under Kenny Omega’s light, and when CHAOS was possibly at its peak since Okada became the leader. In such a filled landscape, it was definitely harder for a returning faction to establish itself at the top.

 Let’s now go back to Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. The master and his apprentice, in a way. As time goes by, more of the spotlight goes from Suzuki to Zack, and it may not be too bold to say that the time pass the torch is not too far away. ZSJ has been in constant growth since joining Suzuki, and is reaching for a status that Minoru himself hasn’t fully been able to acquire. Who knows how and when a hypothetical, but credible transition inside Suzuki-Gun will take place, but let me tell you this : We will see Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr face each other.
 

Whether it happens sometime this year, let’s say during the G1 Climax, early next year, or both, is still quite uncertain. What I am convinced of, and hopefully this article will convince you as well, is that Suzuki-Gun’s leading figure will definitely change at some point. To back this idea up, don’t be surprised to see ZSJ claim his first IWGP championship. Zack did say he would take the US title from Juice Robinson on US soil, remember ?

 One last thing to mention, this evolution of Suzuki-Gun to, let’s say it, an eventual “Sabre-Gun”, will likely not just concern a change in who’s leading the pack. Don’t be surprised if the group welcomes new members in the future, as most of the actual members are at least 35 years old, with the exception of Zack Sabre Jr and Davey Boy Smith Jr.

With a part of the group reaching the last few years of their careers, Suzuki-Gun is subject to change. What do you think the future holds for this faction ? Which wrestlers could you see end up joining them in the future ?


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Opinion

The Paradox of the Wrestling War in 2021

The IWC has been talking about a certain Friday Night and what numbers matter. Tommy Starr chimes in with his perspective on this “war”.

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“War is peace… freedom is slavery… ignorance is strength.”  These are among George Orwell’s key three slogans in his novel 1984, which exemplify the ideology that when one has the power to lull individuals into false senses of security, they will blissfully ignore truth and reality to serve a perpetual agenda.

Since the inception of AEW, wrestling media has insisted on this idealistic narrative of a born-again “Monday Night Wars” comparative to that of a bygone era of professional wrestling that has not been seen since and will never be seen again.  For one reason or another, modern wrestling fans have bought into this impractical religious doctrine hook, line, and sinker, despite statistical evidence that contradict this ideology.

To put this in perspective, if there is a genuine wrestling “war” in the wrestling market today, it is not merely a war of the companies of AEW vs. WWE, rather it is a frivolous war between the oppositional fans of AEW and WWE.  The center of authority that continues to drive this animosity amongst the opposing fan bases rests at the helm of the wrestling media and the individuals within the business itself.  The manipulative narrative of the wrestling media and wrestlers in the business have managed to perpetrate a falsified creed that AEW and WWE are “at war.”  It is interesting to note that this blanket statement hedges the particular element of what both companies are at war with. The common implication is the war of competition, particularly competition for viewership.  And while this narrative carries some validity, it misses the key detail of what this abstractive war revolves around.  It is a waging fight among AEW and WWE fans to try and claim superiority over the other, despite the apparent truth that both sides are failing to expand beyond their niche audiences.  Hence, neither party can credibly claim any form of superiority.  In essence, this religious irrationality to suggest that one company is directly “winning” over the other continues to miss the essential endgame of what winning a war truly looks like.

In the business world, “smart companies” understand and invest in long-term strategies of acknowledging that when they lose small battles, they allow their opposition to enjoy those smaller victories; meanwhile, they do not allow those battle losses to obstruct their long-standing progress.  So contextually, AEW would be wiser to accept that their Friday night edition of Rampage show running head to head with SmackDown lost in overall viewership numbers by approximately 288,000 viewers, despite the fact that not only was SmackDown running on a different network due to Fox coverage of the 2021 American League Championship Series, but that AEW Rampage had actually gained viewership from the previous week by about 15.14%.  Instead, wrestling media continues to propagate that overall viewership is subordinate to what truly matters in this equation, that being the key male 18-49 demographic.  What this discounts is that when one analyzes actual numbers, both shows essentially tied in the target 18-49 demographic at a 0.24.

A strategic business owner obsessed with “winning wars” understands his opposition’s leader and avoids engaging in projecting irrational and petty beliefs in order to stir up his or her army.  Rather, it would be wiser to quietly and cautiously observe the opposition’s decision-making to effectively counter-program and capture the attention of potential consumers.  This does not bode well for Tony Khan when he engages in social media warfare with the opposition to try and stoke a fire that merely exists in a metaphorical fantasy.  All the while, the rival niche audiences partake in nonsensical arguments over which organization “won” a war that has not, does not, and will not exist, despite a genuine hope that professional wrestling will ever reach that level of popularity again worth necessitating a war.

A true and authentic wrestling war in today’s culture should be the fight to reassemble a lost and/or new audience. Per discussion of a lost audience, that insinuates both parties fight for the admiration and trust of disgruntled audiences that have since tuned the product off from their habitual consumption.  Arguably, this can be seen as a lost cause, considering most of these wrestling fans have long since distanced themselves from professional wrestling. However, a business that can successfully earn back that trust of disassociated consumers is a fruitful investment. Catering to loyal and clinging fan bases may be short-term goals, but they are not expansive business strategies.  And based on the weekly viewership numbers, ratings, and key demos for both parties, AEW and WWE continue to cater short-term appeal to their niche audiences instead of investing in long-term strategic outreach to new audiences.  The art of mastery on this level is a war worth fighting for.

Sources:

  • Casey, C. (2021, October 18). Who won Friday night’s ratings battle between WWE smackdown and AEW Rampage? WWE. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://comicbook.com/wwe/news/wwe-smackdown-aew-rampage-oct-15-ratings-war-who-win-tied-demographic-smackdown-wins-audience/.
  • Feloni, R. (2014, August 14). 33 war strategies that will help you win in business. Business Insider. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/war-strategies-to-win-in-business-2014-8.
  • Thurston, B. (2021, January 15). Key demo and total audience: What are they and how much do they matter? Wrestlenomics. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://wrestlenomics.com/2020/07/14/key-demo-and-total-audience-what-are-they-and-how-much-do-they-matter/#:~:text=With%20a%20new%20head%2Dto,advertisers%20to%20the%20programs’%20networks.


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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: October 2021

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

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Bron Breakker

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

We’re more than halfway through October, and you know what that means! It’s time to make a list of my five favorite wrestlers! It’s either do this or write about the latest wrestling news, and as fun as it is to talk about television ratings, this seems more productive at the moment.

5. Mercedes Martinez

It’s considered impolite to discuss age. At least it used to be. I’m not sure anything’s considered impolite anymore based off of what I read on the Internet & see on television. People have pitched manners out the window as they’ve become accustomed to not worrying about getting punched in the face. There’s a point I’m trying to get to here, and that point is that it’s nice that women’s wrestling has arrived at a place where I can write about somebody that’s been wrestling about as long as I’ve been an online wrestling journalist, and they’re kicking ass & taking names. Makes me feel a bit less creepy.

Martinez’s return to the indies & emergence in Impact Wrestling has gone well. What Impact is doing with her isn’t exactly rocket science: have Mercedes Martinez destroy everybody in her path to a title shot, and make people believe that whoever the champion will be between Mickie James & Deonna Purrazzo will have a difficult test on their hands. Simple, right? Throw in the incoming debut of the IInspiration, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about the Knockouts Division & where it’s headed.

4. Bron Breakker

Yes, the name is pretty awful. Yes, NXT 2.0 isn’t exactly setting the world on fire after a few weeks. But it’s tough to deny the talent of the son of Rick Steiner. Dude has the physicality & the speaking tone of his father & uncle. Not quite the size of Rick or Scott in later years, but if genetics are any indication he’ll get there. It won’t be long before he’s NXT Champion, heck, I’m kind of surprised he didn’t get drafted to Raw or SmackDown already. He’s got money written all over him.

As for that pesky name issue…names aren’t as big of an issue as we like to think they are. Dolph Ziggler would have been future endeavored years ago if bad names held talent back. You also have to keep in mind that WWE will probably change his name before he gets to the main roster. No need to sweat the small stuff here. This guy will be a star somewhere under some name. Probably for the best the longer he holds off using the Steiner name, given how the wrestling business works.

3. Junior Dos Santos

If you’ve followed mixed martial arts for any length of time, you know that most fighters’ careers don’t end in a blaze of glory. Fighters want to keep fighting, and even if the losses keep stacking up they still think they’re one win away from getting back to the top. Young fighters are looking to make their names, and beating the brakes off of fighters with track records is a good way to do that. At age 37, JDS has entered that phase of his MMA career. He’s lost four straight fights, all via TKO, all to younger fighters looking to make a name. He could keep doing that, or he could move on to something else while his name still has value.

Why not pro wrestling? Granted, I seem to be one of the few people writing words on wrestling websites that actually like AEW’s angle with American Top Team & Dan Lambert, but JDS is the perfect fit for something like this. He’s a large human being, wrestling fans by & large know who he is, and he has the type of athletic ability that should transition well to pro wrestling. He’s lost a few fights, but the people he lost to are doing pretty well in UFC’s heavyweight division. I’m willing to give it a chance. Also, when the inevitable AEW vs. WWE shootfight rumble happens, AEW’s going to need him around.

2. Roman Reigns

It’s like we said years & years ago: Turn Roman Reigns heel and people will start to like him. I don’t know why the idea took so long to enact, but WWE finally turned Roman Reigns heel and people have started liking him. How about that? Amazing how these things happen. Roman’s charisma has become much more apparent in his role as the Tribal Chief, Head of the Table, Big Dog, Island of Relevancy or whatever else they’re calling him this week. The interactions between Roman & Brock Lesnar have made for good television, so good that I think even Patrick O’Dowd is on the Paul Heyman bandwagon these days.

That all being said, I think I’m enjoying his off-screen character more than his on-screen character these days. Reigns has taken the baton from Seth Rollins & become Mr. WWE Defender, and does it in a way that’s less whiny than what Seth used to do. Perhaps a bit delusional, but much more convincing. Who would win in a shootfight between Roman & CM Punk is completely irrelevant, as last I checked none of these people were shooting in WWE or AEW rings, but he managed to make people care about it somehow. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

1. Bryan Danielson

I know we’re supposed to care first & foremost about what company somebody works for these days. So I’m sure there are some of you out there that have decided that the man formerly known as Daniel Bryan has to be washed up and no longer one of the best wrestlers in the world. Or he’s unfairly putting his life on the line outside of the welcoming bosom of WWE. Nah, it’s probably just the easy “B+ player” talking point that most of the same folks went with when Bryan was still with WWE.

Me, I just care about what’s going on in the ring. Whether other people like it or not has never been one of my main problems. As I’ve pointed out before: I don’t get paid by any of these companies, and I don’t get paid by other people to shill for them. All I know is that it’s a joy to have Bryan Danielson back on my television, and his matches have been as good as expected. It really doesn’t take all that much to make me happy, just good wrestlers doing good things.


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