“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (1864)
Free will versus destiny. It’s a debate that has wracked the brains of history’s greatest philosophers, scholars and stoners. Are we the masters of our fate, carving our own path through our own life choices? Or are we walking down a road that was paved long before we took our first steps, impossible to escape even if we tried? In other words, is life predetermined?
Pro wrestling is certainly predetermined. Not only does its predetermination make it such a unique sport, but it is also the first line of defense for many wrestling fans whenever they hear that tired, maligned question that comes with declaring your love for pro wrestling:
“You know it’s fake, right?”
“It’s not fake,” you’re quick to say. “It’s pre-determined.”
Yes, the fix is in with pro wrestling. The physicality may be real, as are the injuries, but wins and losses come down not to a matter of athleticism, but planning. The booker gets to decide who wins, who loses, who becomes champion, who feuds with who, and practically everything else that matters in the ring.
Can you imagine all that power? All that control? To hold the fates of so many lives in your hands? It all sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but it’s true. That’s what a storyteller is, after all. Storytellers construct the paths for their characters to follow. The same is true for bookers. A wrestler could be a megastar champion who conquers the world and becomes a big name. That same wrestler could also be nothing, a perennial loser who only dreams of scratching the surface of superstardom, or maybe doesn’t get booked at all. It all depends on how the booker crafts the story.
But what happens when the storyteller is also part of his story? What happens when the booker is also an active competitor for the company he works for? Surely this is a massive problem. Even the most noble of men have some sort of ego. The temptation to continually put yourself and your friends on the winning side is too inviting. Who wouldn’t do it? Everyone wants to be a champion. Everyone wants to be a star. A wrestling booker (as in, a booker who wrestles) has the prime opportunity to be number one with a bullet for as long as he reigns. He can write his own destiny, his own legacy, to his liking.
Kevin Nash certainly wrote his own destiny. When he took over as head booker for WCW in late 1998, he booked himself to not only win the annual 3-ring, 60-man World War 3 Battle Royal (during which he eliminated an entire ring by himself), but to also break Goldberg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade and win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship (a title reign which ended 8 days later with the infamous “Fingerpoke of Doom”).
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that Nash used his position as booker to his own advantage, as well as to the advantage of his friends. Is it shocking? Of course not. Self satisfaction is the easiest (and more often than not, the most pleasurable) route to take. So when active wrestlers with booking power do not take easy street and instead choose to help other wrestlers become stars, they stand to be commended.
Gedo and Jado are New Japan Pro Wrestling’s bookers, and like Kevin Nash in WCW, they are active members of the New Japan roster. But Gedo and Jado do not follow in Nash’s footsteps. Despite the opportunities presented before them to put themselves over as top dogs as often as they want, the duo has, time and again, refused to do so.
Instead of ruling New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight division, Gedo and Jado have taken a major backseat in favor of letting the younger guys grow and shine as stars. Singles wrestlers like Kenny Omega, Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Kota Ibushi, along with tag teams like The Time-Splitters (KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley), The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), RPG Vice (Barreta and Rocky Romero), and reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish), have all been prominently featured as the faces of the Junior Heavyweight division, winning a host of championships.
Gedo and Jado, meanwhile, deliberately keep themselves off the list when it comes to big pushes. They have had only two IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship matches in the past five years, which they have both lost. The rest of the time they put themselves in meaningless tag matches on the undercard of the show where nothing of significance usually happens.
And when Gedo does appear higher up in the card, it’s right alongside his CHAOS stablemate Kazuchika Okada, either as Okada’s manager or as his tag partner (where he takes the fall for his team when they lose). Either way, Gedo’s sole mission is to ensure that someone else—whether Okada or the opponent(s)—is constantly being built up in the eyes of the fans.
As for the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament, Gedo and Jado have taken a backseat to the other competitors again. Jado finished last in his block in 2011 and 2013, and came in second-to-last in his block in 2012. Gedo finished second-to-last in his block in 2011, while finishing last in his block in 2013. As of this writing, Gedo is currently competing in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors and has made it his mission to win the tournament and win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from Kenny Omega. As of this writing, he is 2-0. Will Gedo win? My gut tells me no; this is KUSHIDA’s year. Of course, I could always be wrong.
Gedo’s last big singles match was in 2013 when he faced Prince Devitt for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Kizuna Road. It was his first title shot in nearly a decade. Gedo was massively over with the crowd, and there were a couple of extremely close kickouts that made it seem like Gedo could actually win the title. But Gedo lost the match. And in doing so, he effectively established the younger Prince Devitt as a strong, ruthless champion and a credible contender for Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Gedo wasn’t hurt by the loss at all. Gedo was still Gedo, a crafty veteran who doesn’t need big wins to build him up to the crowd because he’s way past that point in his career.
It’s so easy to be selfish. It’s so easy to push everyone else down to build yourself up. It’s so hard to do the opposite, to curb your naturally selfish tendencies in favor of the greater good, in favor of the next generation of wrestlers who will keep the company and the sport afloat in the years to come. I give Gedo and Jado all the credit in the world for being, as Paul Heyman says about Terry Funk in Beyond the Mat, “unselfish in selfish times.” New Japan Pro Wrestling is Gedo and Jado’s story, but they choose to let others be the stars.