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The W - Pro Wrestling - [WON HOF] Ishin Gundan discussion...
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Boston Idol

Since: 17.2.03
From: San Jose, CA

Since last post: 4146 days
Last activity: 3939 days
#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.54
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.



:: 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
:: their wrestling fame? Did they get a heavily
:: featured 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.


"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
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