By Dan Moreland

"Dan Severn is a great martial artist and an extremely strong wrestler who deserves to be called world champion, yet, he is severely underrated by the U.S. media. By matching Severn against top UFO fighters such as Naoya Ogawa and Don Frye, we can restore the value of the NWA title in honor of my friend, Giant Baba. . .. There are two large promotions in the U.S. which are very popular and I'm sure it would be more lucrative to associate with those promotions, however, those promotions do not present pro-wrestling in the traditional "strong" style which I was taught by legends such as Rikidozan, Karl Gotch, and Lou Thesz. They have turned our sport into a circus. The only promotion in the U.S. that has promoted that style of pro-wrestling despite the hype of "show style" pro wrestling is the NWA. I know that there are American pro-wrestling fans who want to see traditional "strong" style wrestling. I think the NWA and UFO together will provide something exciting for these fans to see, . . . . "-Antonio Inoki, 2/17/99, Chiba, Japan at a press conference to announce Dan Severn defending the NWA title in association his new promotion, UFO. (translated by Masanori Horie; reprinted from the Wrestling Booking Sheet)

The preceding tirade by Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki just goes to demonstrate not only how bitter and pathetic Antonio Inoki is towards American wrestling fans, but really how in the United States Japanese wrestling, like soccer will always be a colossal bore.

Inoki claims that the Big 2 have turned professional wrestling into a circus. True, but with all its ridiculousness I'll take the Monday night "circus" over Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuhara Misawa exchanging thrilling forearm chops and armbars trying to set up their usual 60 minute Budokan borefests anyday. The fact that Inoki considers the NWA the closest thing to his beloved "strong style" (read booooring) wrestling proves how not over Japanese wrestling is in the U.S.. The WCW and WWF are drawing 10 million viewers every Monday night, getting over 1.0 pay-per-vies buy rates and selling out huge arenas across the country. Inoki's beloved NWA is lucky to draw 200 fans in a sweaty armory in a Southern New Jersey cornfield.

Even NWA promoter Dennis Corralluzzo realizes what a joke this whole thing is, as he's protested the NWA-UFO upcoming Dan Severn title defense as he has dates on Severn already. Nice of Inoki to contact the most powerful US promoter of his beloved NWA, isn't it? And what a disgrace for him to use the name of the Giant Baba to put over his promotion, a man who he has had a bitter rivalry with the past 30 years! This would be akin to Hulk Hogan dying and Vince McMahon using his memory to put over the WWF belt.

And for Antonio Inoki to describe Dan Severn as "underrated" is a big laugher. Severn is a great athlete, but as evidenced by his recent failed WWF run, Severn is NOT underrated as a professional wrestler- just a major yawner.

Shoot style wrestling in the U.S is a total failure. Just look at the insuccess of UFC and the total lack of interest by WWF fans in "strong style" wrestlers. There is zero interest in Severn, Steve Blackman and really lukewarm interest in Ken Shamrock (who has gotten over more due to his look and charisma than his wrestling style). So why would Antonio Inoki make such idiotic and irresponsible statements?

Could it be bitterness of the way his infamous 1976 match with Muhammad Ali backfired when Ali wouldn't do the job, which would have made him the biggest sports star in the world? Or his failed effort to get over in the United States even after going so far as to buy upstate New York promotion NWF in an effort to shove his name down American fans throats? Perhaps he is still resentful that no American fans really cared who the hell he was when WCW brought Inoki in for a failed program with Steve Regal in 1994? Maybe not. Maybe the real reason Inoki has chosen to trash American wrestling is because right now, the WWF and WCW have surpassed New Japan to become the two most successful wrestling companies in the world. Like American car companies did to the Japanese, once again American wrestling has once again taken the lead form our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Hey I wish Antonio Inoki luck. Personally I was a huge fan of Japanese wrestling in the early 90s when it WAS obvious that the American product (with the exception of ECW) stunk to high heaven. And there is still a lot to be learned by Americans from Japanese booking. And even now, I'll admit that there are a lot of problems with the way the WWF and WCW present their products. But I'll take three hours of Monday night male oriented soap operas over watching Dan Severn, Don Frye and Naoya Ogawa exchange armbars and ankle submissions any day of the week!

You can hear Dan Moreland and PWBTS editor Fritz Capp on "Layin' the Smack Down" every Saturday night at 8 p.m. on the Wrestling Online Real Audio Network!

Dan Moreland is a columnist for Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Dan Moreland

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