Riot in Ryogoku: New Japan's December 27th 1987 Disaster


I'd like to thank Loss of Pro Wrestling Only for doing a detailed summary of Dave Meltzer's coverage of the situation. There are also some of my own notes that cover what happened in the aftermath, but even some of that is from what Loss wrote.


Initial coverage

Inoki did a clean pinfall job for a newcomer named "Big Ben Bader" on 12/27 at Sumo Hall in 2:49. New Japan felt they needed Inoki feuding with a big American start to get TV ratings up. Also, this was going to be famous comedian Takeshi Kitano's first appearance and they wanted to put some heat on him in his quest to finish Inoki off. So, the mindset was that Inoki doing a job would get Kitano over and create a new Hansen/Brody level gaijin. It was the first job Inoki had done in more than two years, and before that, over 10 years.)

The card was supposed to be Inoki vs Riki Choshu in the main event, which is what drew the crowd and the high ratings. There was also a tag match advertised as "Big Ben Bader" and Masa Saito against Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura. Before the tag was about to start, Kitano's friends grabbed the mic and challenged Inoki to a match. The fans could see where this was going and hated it, and started throwing eggs, programs, orange juice containers and beer cans at the ring. Then, Choshu came out and Saito tried to stop Choshu from starting his match with Inoki. Inoki grabbed the mic and said he would wrestle both Choshu and Bader. Fujinami and Kimura then came out for their tag match and Saito came out. Choshu didn't want to come out, but finally did. Fans were screaming "Stop! Stop this match!" when Choshu started to wrestle Kengo Kimura. He won clean with the lariat, but the fans hated it so much it didn't have a chance.

Finally, Inoki/Choshu happened but only went 6:06, although it was a hot match where Choshu bled after hitting the ringpost, and Inoki kept punching his head before applying the octopus, which caused Hiroshi Hase to run in and save Choshu and give Inoki the win by DQ. The fans started rioting again and caused so much damage in the hall that a few days later, the Tokyo Sumo Association banned pro wrestling from the Sumo Hall. Baba had already been banned from the building because he signed sumo wrestlers Hiroshi Wajima and John Tenta. Inoki is now without a building in Tokyo except for Korauken Hall, which only seats 2,000. This is devastating for them, because they sold out all but one time in 1987.

-Something happened at some point in one of the scandal mags and Kitano and his buddies beat up the reporter, so he was suspended from television.

-The news got worse for them a few days later when TV-Asahi moved them from prime time on Monday nights to Mondays at midnight. Not only will that cut down their audience, but in Japan, the networks pay the promotions money to be able to broadcast their shows. Because they're in a weaker time slot, TV-Asahi will be paying New Japan much less money. This should be effective in April.

-Inoki faces crises like these annually and always comes back, but this time, it may be the real thing, because he is banking everything on Inoki vs Takeshi Kitano while phasing down Choshu. Choshu was being hurt because Inoki was the moral victor in their match, and also because he would never get the chance to do a revenge match with Maeda (more on that below).

From the next issue

-More on the riot: It took an hour for police to stop it, and not only did the tear the building up, but almost set it on fire.

Additional aftermath

-Vader wasn't over right away despite beating Inoki, but they kept at it and he got over to the point of being a draw within a few tours.

-The loss of revenue from having their TV slot changed forced them to cut salaries. Maeda refused this and eventually quit the company, as did several others, leading to the return of UWF as a separate company. This in turn led to the creation of every shoot-style promotion in Japan and several MMA companies, most notably PRIDE.

-Takeshi's 'promotion', part of the angle, opened up a real dojo that produced Jado, Gedo and Super Delfin.

-Vader claims he was drinking beer backstage when Inoki made his promo calling for him to come out (after the Inoki/Choshu match), and Vader says he wasn't expecting the match.