Kings Road History
written by Mike Campbell
Kings Road was a short lived promotion that ran five shows over a period of six months in the year 2006. The promotion was a breakaway group from All Japan Pro Wrestling, and it's name implied that it was going to be ran the same way the legendary Shohei "Giant" Baba had run All Japan during his time. As a serious federation, rather than the westernized style of entertainment wrestling that All Japan was focused on with Keiji Mutoh running the company.
The promotion itself only had two affiliated wrestlers, Kazushi Miyamoto was the first wrestler that All Japan had produced after the NOAH split in 2000. He'd floundered in his first few years, before catching on as part of a tag team called "Turmeric Storm" with Tomoaki Honma. Turmeric Storm were very popular, but lost much more often than they won. Miyamoto was then sent to the U.S. on a learning excursion, he came back to All Japan for a cup of coffee, before heading back to the states. He seemed to be ready to come back again, when the formation of Kings Road was announced and Miyamoto announced he was leaving All Japan for Kings Road. The other wrestler was Shota Takanishi, who was a member of the All Japan dojo, who hadn't yet debuted in the ring. He was said to be Keiji Mutoh's favorite of the current crop of dojo boys.
The first Kings Road show was scheduled for January 15th, 2006 and as the clocked ticked closer to the time, more and more wrestlers (both freelance and affiliated with other groups) pledged their support to the new federation. Many were former All Japan wrestlers such as Genichiro Tenryu, Takao Omori, Mitsuya Nagai, Yuto Aijima, and Taichi Ishikari. It also seemed to be only a matter of time before the man who was best associated with Baba's All Japan, Toshiaki Kawada, would jump on board (in fact it was rumored that Kawada had helped form the group).
When it was time for the first show (which was called "HATTAGE"), the similarities to the old All Japan couldn't have been more obvious. The ring mat was half-red and half-blue (which was a staple of All Japan in the 1980's until the early 1990's), the men on play by play were constantly name dropping Giant Baba. The show itself had to be considered a success, the 1,800 fans in Korakuen Hall witnessed Shota Takanishi have a very memorable debut match with veteran Yuki Ishikawa. Despite a losing effort, Takanishi showed great promise for someone wrestling their first match. There was also a very memorable incident involving Kendo Ka Shin, Tarzan Goto, Ricky Fuji, Gran Nanaiwa, and others, which started as a singles match and turned into an all out brawl, not unlike several instances in the early 1980's involving Bruiser Brody and Abdullah The Butcher. The main event was Miyamoto vs. Tenryu, it wasn't a classic match, but it had it's share of memorable moments, with Tenryu getting busted open, and Miyamoto using several moves of previous All Japan wrestlers, before falling to Tenryu's brainbuster.
It was after the second Kings Road show on February 28th, 2006 when cracks started forming. The show was titled "EXCITE" playing on the fact that All Japan had long called their February tour the "Excite Series." Takanishi had another losing experience in the opener, but once again showed great potential. A tag match pitting Steve Corino and George Hines against Tarzan Goto and Shiro Koshinaka gave the fans a bit of blood. Miyamoto once again fell in the main event, to another former All Japan wrestler, Takao Omori. The attendance for this show was nearly half of the first show, and the rumors of Kawada joining the federation had turned out to be just that, rumors. Despite several of his former partners and disciples (Tenryu, Nagai, Aijima, and Ishikari) being regulars with Kings Road, there was never any formal announcement from either the promotion or from Dangerous K himself. Miyamoto being touted as the ace of the company wasn't a great thing either. Only having four years experience, there wasn't any shame in him losing to a legend like Tenryu or a veteran like Omori, but he wasn't looking anything close to an ace, and it wasn't giving the company a great image.
The third show "Chapter 3" held on April 9th, saw the attendance at Korakuen Hall go back up to 1,800 but it was still considered a disappointment because this was the most loaded Kings Road show to date. It had heavy involvement from Pro Wrestling NOAH, three of the card's six matches featured NOAH wrestlers. Former All Japan wrestlers Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Kentaro Shiga, Naomichi Marufuji, and the legendary Mitsuharu Misawa all had matches on the show. Takanishi had another losing experience in the opener, and Miyamoto was once again in the main event. Miyamoto teamed with Taichi Ishikari to face Mitsuya Nagai and Daisuke Ikeda. And for the first time Miyamoto didn't lose the match. His partner did, when Ishikari was pinned by Nagai. Not only did Miyamoto still not look like a company ace, but he wasn't wrestling like one either and out of the four wrestlers, his performance was considered to be the worst.
Disappointing was rapidly becoming the best word to describe Kings Road. Despite it's name and supposed intent, any resemblance to the old days of All Japan were simply cosmetic. All Japan's glory days weren't due to the color of their ring mat, but rather due to the great matches and classic storytelling that went on. Which Kings Road didn't have, because simply, Kings Road didn't have a genius like Giant Baba booking the shows. After three shows, there was precious little sense of direction in the federation. There were no titles and no real rivalries going on. The only real trends were Takanishi's brave showings in the opening match and Miyamoto's participation in the main event. Baba's booking had things laid out to a tee with each step being a logical progression. Kings Road booking was more or less all over the place. Kings Road was nothing more than another federation, in a country that was already overflowing with them. Soon after the third show, it was announced that the promotion was changing it's name to "Battle League" which forever put to rest the hopes and dreams that the promotion would succeed in it's actual intent to bring back the classic style of wrestling once seen in All Japan.
The name change never actually went into effect, instead of the promotion being renamed, the remaining shows were simply named as Battle League. The first Battle League show was held on May 28th and was a prime example of the lack of real direction the promotion had. After the proverbial shot in the arm that the NOAH participation had given them, there were no NOAH workers booked. Instead a rivalry with Zero-One MAX was the focus, despite the fact that one hadn't even been mentioned or referred to on any of the previous shows. The hot main event of Chapter 3 wasn't followed up at all, with Ikeda working the second match with Takanishi, and Nagai teaming up with Yuto Aijima. The was one bright spot on the show though. The popular tag team of Turmeric Storm was reunited for one night. Tomoaki Honma had left All Japan back in March of 2006, and was working as a freelancer. The reunited Miyamoto and Honma were victorious in the main event defeating the Zero-One MAX tag team of Rikiya Fudo and Hirotaka Yokoi, giving the Kings Road ace his first victory in the promotion. The team that could never catch a break in All Japan, despite their talent and popularity, were the main event.
Battle League II wound up being the final show for the promotion. It was held on July 1st, the actual card only had three matches. Shota Takanishi scored his first victory in the opener, and Ikeda and Nagai were on opposite sides of a tag team match. The main event was a 5 on 5 elimination series between Kings Road and Zero-One MAX, with Miyamoto, Honma, Ishikari. Aijima, and Tomohiko Hashimoto taking on Kohei Sato, Ryouji Sai, Yokoi, Fudo, and Osamu Namiguchi. The Kings Road ace scored his second win when he eliminated Fudo, but it was short lived because he was the next one to be eliminated, and the first member of his team eliminated. The match went for nearly one hour, and ended with the Zero-One MAX team just barely getting by, with the only survivor of the match being Sai. The stipulation of the match was that if the Kings Road team lost, then the promotion would close. Life went on though. There wasn't any shortage of wrestling promotions in Japan to work for in the year 2006. And the biggest shining star in Kings Road, Shota Takanishi, was signed to a contract by Zero-One MAX, giving him a full time job and ensuring his awesome potential wouldn't be going to waste.
While it was sad to see a promotion with so much hype end in such a manner, it was also fitting given that a lot of the promotion was little else other than hype. Hype that Kawada would join them. Hype that a promotion to continue the tradition that Giant Baba had left behind. The question though is whether either of those two things would have made a difference in 2006. Even the major promotions were struggling with attendances, and it's highly unlikely that Kawada coming in would have significantly effected that. There's no doubt that it would have given the company a better image, and numbers would have increased, but in all likelihood, it wouldn't have made a huge impact. It's also unlikely that a Baba-like booker could have made a difference, because the key to Baba's booking was storytelling with logical progression, step by step, match by match, show by show. And it'd have been very difficult to do properly when there is only one show every month. So in the end Kings Road was destined to fail. It wasn't destined to flop as bad as it did, but it was still destined to fail. If wrestling fans learned anything from the failure of Kings Road, it was the lesson of moving on. Baba had been dead for seven years, and nobody was going to be able to carry his torch, and it was time to let the past stay in the past and move on.