Michinoku Pro is a Japanese lucharesu professional wrestling promotion founded by professional wrestler The Great Sasuke. Sasuke founded MPro in 1992 following the demise of Gran Hamada's UWF lucha promotion (not to be confused with the UWF that invaded New Japan Pro-Wrestling).

Sasuke's idea was to base the company in Iwate prefecture in the northeastern part of Japan, known as the Tohoku region. In fact, if you look at the Michinoku Pro logo, you'll notice it says "North Eastern Wrestling". Since that part of the country is rural and has a dearth of sports teams and general entertainment, Sasuke figured that he could easily be successful running shows in that area, and in the winter and off months, they could work as special guests on other company's shows.

Michinoku held its first show in March of 1993, and began attracting attention quickly, getting good exposure through magazine coverage, cable exposure, and appearances with other promotions, such as New Japan Pro-Wrestling and FMW. One such appearance was Sasuke's show-stealing performance at the Super J Cup in 1994, where he faced Jushin Thunder Liger and Chris Benoit in a stellar pair of back to back matches. In fact, Sasuke's match with Benoit won the award for Best non-North American Match in the RSPW Awards for 1994.

Despite Sasuke's impressive showings, Michinoku Pro would get its biggest draw by far with the inception of Kaientai DX in 1996. (For the record, DX means "Deluxe", and does not relate to Degeneration X). Kaientai revolutionized the Japanese indy scene, redefining what a heel stable could be. In Japan, wrestling matches don't frequently use the moral tales of good versus evil that predominate North American professional wrestling. There tends to be more of a theme of two warriors clashing, and demonstrating their fighting spirit, with the man with the stronger spirit winning. As a result, Kaientai's blatant cheating and double and triple team tactics took many aback. One can see strong influences from Kaientai in Crazy Max and M2K of Toryumon, as well as the Legion of Violence in Osaka Pro, which included seminal Kaientai member Dick Togo.

1996 ended up being Michinoku Pro's banner year, with the highlight being their third anniversary show, a live TV special featuring an incredible 10-man tag match involving Super Delfin, Gran Naniwa, Gran Hamada, Tiger Mask IV, and Masato Yakushiji versus the entirety of Kaientai DX: MEN'S Teioh, Dick Togo, Shiryu, TAKA Michinoku, and Shoichi Funaki. That match is used as the textbook definition of how to make a great spotfest. Also on the show was an incredible match featuring Dos Caras, Dynamite Kid, and Kuniaki Kobayashi versus Mil Mascaras, Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama, the original), and The Great Sasuke himself. One can only imagine the amazing thrill that it must have been for Sasuke to wrestle with so many of his own idols.

In 1997, Sasuke sought to branch out into the US, and ended up making a deal to appear at ECW's first PPV, "Barely Legal". While Sasuke's dealings with Paul Heyman were less than smooth, the ECW appearance made for good publicity for Michinoku Pro, and Sasuke ended up making a deal with the WWF, which had been looking to create a light heavyweight division. As a result, Sasuke and his protégé, TAKA Michinoku, had a match at a WWF In Your House event in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and then again at the Raw the next night. However, contrary to Sasuke's expectations, the WWF was far more impressed by Michinoku than Sasuke, and ended up signing him to a WWF contract.

Disappointed at not getting a WWF deal, Sasuke went back to ECW to work several shows, and ended up putting over Justin Credible. At this point, Michinoku Pro was in trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for bounced paychecks. MEN'S Teioh, Dick Togo, and Shoichi Funaki all quit, ending up with three year contracts with the WWF with their Kaientai buddy, TAKA. Shiryu was poached by WCW, Yakushiji left for Big Japan and Wellington Wilkins, Jr. was busted for drug possession. MPro was not doing well.

Michinoku Pro ended up keeping a low profile for the next few years, and has slowly climbed back up into the public eye with help from the wrestlers of Ultimo Dragon's redhot Toryumon promotion, who were training up in MPro before Toryumon got off the ground. Nowadays, MPro has lured many of puroresu's hottest performers to their shows, from former Kaientai member Dick Togo to famed New Japan superstar Keiji Mutoh.

If you're interested in the practical aspects of indy wrestling, I highly recommend that you read Sheldon Goldberg's account of how he ended up acting as a middleman for Michinoku Pro and getting screwed out of approximately $4,000 in the process. While it's easy to read it and get the impression that Sasuke (and Paul Heyman, to a certain extent) is a shady character who breaks deals and doesn't pay people on time, it's far more interesting to examine it as a demonstration of how the wrestling business works, particularly on the small scale. Professional wrestling is a true love of many of those involved in it, and the tenuous grasp on financial solvency that many promotions have can often lead promoters and wrestlers to do things they might not otherwise do. Goldberg's story can be found at http://www.puroresupower.com/sheldon.htm .

Sheldon Goldberg, http://www.puroresupower.com/sheldon.htm
"Sasuke", http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/review/323479.html
Brian Socha, http://www.prowrestlingtapes.com/

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