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Wrestling / Giant Baba

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Shohei Baba (January 23, 1938 – January 31, 1999), best known by his ring name Giant Baba, was a Japanese professional wrestler and promoter. Baba is best known as a co-founder of All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), a promotion he founded in 1972 along with Mitsuo Momota and Yoshihiro Momota, the sons of Rikidozan. Along with being the top star of All Japan its first decade of existence, Baba was the promotion's booker, promoter, head trainer and president from its inception until his death in 1999. Baba was also responsible for recruiting much of the talent for All Japan, and was the public face of the promotion for much of his lifetime. Considered one of the most beloved Japanese wrestlers ever, Baba was a national hero with a popularity in Japan comparable to Hulk Hogan in the United States.

Among his many accomplishments, Baba was a record seven-time winner of All Japan's signature tournament, the Champion Carnival,note  a four-time PWF World Heavyweight Champion, three-time NWA International Heavyweight Champion,note  and a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.note 

Tropes associated with him include:

  • Author Avatar: Along with being the top star of All Japan its first decade of existence and the public face of the promotion for much of his lifetime, Baba was the promotion's booker, promoter and president from its inception until his death.
  • Berserk Button: Submission finishes. He was known during AJPW's heyday for deeply detesting them, which often led to his wrestlers having to rely on other forms of grappling to win and get over.
  • Big Good: Baba increasingly became viewed as such for AJPW as his in-ring career wound down. It's been said that, despite pro wrestling being a notoriously cutthroat business, Baba's word could always be trusted. If you had a handshake with him, it meant that you had a done deal.
  • Create Your Own Villain: It was rumored that the infamous one-night wrestler Raja Lion (who was billed as a Pakistani karate champion) was actually some tall guy Baba found working in a curry shop and brought in to have someone to compete against. This certainly would explain the subsequent match, in which his infamous total lack of skills, either at wrestling or karate (or any other kind of martial art for that matter) immortalized him on Botchamania.
  • Finishing Move: Jyurokumon Kick (Big boot), neckbreaker drop.
  • Game of Nerds: Baba was known to recruit fairly heavily from baseball. The fact that Baba himself was a baseball player before becoming a pro wrestler likely has to do with this.
  • Gentle Giant: Baba, the legendary and beloved late owner of AJPW. As Mick Foley once stated, it looked like his moves couldn't break an egg, and the real person was said to be serious, but had nonetheless a gentle personality that extended to his in-ring persona.
  • The Giant:
    • Well, it's in his ring name for a reason. Baba was 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), with only a few wrestlers during his time, such as André the Giant, billed 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) being able to slightly surpass him in height. He's also one of the tallest Japenese men in recorded history, with only Yoshimitsu Matsuzaka (1930-1962, 7'9") and Yasutaka Okayama (1954-present, 7'8") being confirmed taller. note 
    • He's also infamous for booking the biggest guys possible as a promoter. It took Antonio Inoki and Genichiro Tenryu's success with junior heavyweights to make Baba put more thought into their usage and the average size of Japanese wrestlers has gradually shrunken following his death.
    • His funeral actually had to be delayed, since they couldn’t find a casket that could fit his body.
  • Good Counterpart: As the face of All Japan he was this to Antonio Inoki as the face of New Japan, deliberately by Inoki's design. Inoki was still a good guy, most of the time, but wanted everyone to know he was much meaner, more unscrupulous and willing to flaunt his money than Baba.
  • Hidden Depths: He's mostly known as a tall man who slapped and kicked people, but Baba had extensive knowledge of joint locks and pinning combinations. It's just that the situation rarely called on him to use them.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: There's a very good reason, at least in Spanish-speaking media, and even more so in Mexico, to address him to either with his real name (Shohei Baba) or using his wrestling persona (Giant Baba) in English exclusively: "Baba" either means Spit, or even worse, in certain contexts, Giant Dumbass. Just to take an idea how delicate this situation was in Real Life, this courtesy wasn't extended to another contemporary wrestler, André the Giant, since his wrestling name was literally translated as "Andre el Gigante" in Spanish-speaking media. note 
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Himself in his JWA days on the pages of Tiger Mask.
  • Red Baron: His appearances outside Japan had him called "The Giant of the East."
  • Rivals Team Up: Baba and Inoki's one-night-only reunion as B-I Cannon in 1979. It took a lot of work from Tokyo Sports to even get them to appear on the same card thanks to years of bad blood, but they managed to keep it together for as long as it took for the match to finish up. Their partnership broke down nearly immediately after when Inoki insinuated they would have a match together post-match, when Baba had promised no such thing.
  • Signature Move: The Coconut Crush, a headlock transitioned into a facebreaker knee smash. Also, anyone with a passing familiarity with 70s Japanese professional wrestling knows well the "Baba chops".
  • Tag Team: BI Chou/BI Cannon with Antonio Inoki in JWA.
  • Take That!: During his late career comedy match period, Baba decided to send up Inoki's famous "wrestler vs. martial artist" matches by billing himself against Pakistani "karate champion" Raja Lion.
  • Trope Codifier: Of serious, sports-based, matches-as-storytelling booking with as many clean finishes as possible; the "Kings Road" style of professional wrestling. Baba obviously wasn't the first to bring this to professional wrestling, and he wasn't even the first of his decade, given the Universal Wrestling Federation, but he is believed to be the best at it as a booker.
  • Trope Namer: For Garbage Wrestler. He called rival promotion FMW "garbage" since their wrestlers would mostly use foreign objects in matches with regularity.
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: In 1987, Baba faced a fellow giant, Pakistani karateka Raja Lion, in a "different style fight." Baba won the fight by submission.