There has always been a lot of negativity on the internet about Kodo Fuyuki since even before he ever started working for FMW due to the notion that he was a poor worker, although Fuyuki improved tremendously and had some great matches through out his years in FMW. Due to that negativity already established it was easy for most people to blame Fuyuki on FMW's change in direction that most people did not like and FMW suffered financially as a result before eventually having to declare bankruptcy on February 15, 2002 with FMW being over 3 million dollars in debt on its last day.
A lot of the negativity of Fuyuki deserved and some of it is not. It seems like most people just think that FMW was doing great in 1997 with the traditional FMW style of street fights and death matches with everything going great until they decided to change directions and make Fuyuki the booker in 1998 as soon as the red ring came into place in August 1998.
The truth is FMW had a rough year financially in 1997. They did have a successful Kawasaki Stadium on September 28, 1997 where they announced 50,000 fans although Hayabusa states the real number was 36,000 fans. They also had a successful sold out Yokohama Arena show back on April 29, 1997 drawing 16,000 fans for Megumi Kudo's retirement show. Those bigger shows were successes, but FMW still had the issue of struggling on the house show circuit like it always had since the start of the New FMW following Onita's retirement in May 1995, but the difference in 1997 was this was first year that Korakuen Hall shows were no longer be automatic sell outs like they had been in 1995 and 1996 and they were now not able to recoup the lost money of touring through out the country.
Shoichi Arai also blames the lack of profit that they saw for
the price tag that came with Atsushi Onita in 1997 which resulted in a financial
burden for the company as he was taking such a large portion of the gate feeling
he was the reason for the shows doing well, when he was a reason, but unlike
during his era of FMW he was no longer the only reason.
Even though these Korakuen Hall shows that FMW were putting on would be considered in today's standards, the fact that these Korakuen Hall shows were now not able to make up for the financial losses of touring the country put FMW and Shoichi Arai in a bind. Arai simply did not pay his taxes in 1997 at the end of the year like he was supposed to. 1997 also did not look like it was going to be a fluke year either, as the beginning of 1998 things looked even wore as the decline continued to grow as they didn't even sell out the January 6, 1998 Korakuen Hall show which usually the New Years shows were always automatic sell outs since most people were still off work for New Years. They also went into 1998 having lost a major sponsor NBK a mail order company that had paid FMW annually $280,000 dollars. Things looked bad, with no real hope in sight.
Then DirecTV Japan came along and offered Arai $800,000 dollars a year for three years to air FMW on their PPV channel. DirecTV though apart of this agreement wanted FMW to change in the new direction as they were promoting "American Entertainment" and they wanted FMW to become "Entertainment Wrestling" just like WWF was, which was beginning to catch fire in the states and no company in Japan was doing what they were doing. FMW started a slow start of the change in 1998, they started doing more storylines that would require acting involved than just a standard promo which had always been the norm. Things would completely change though as long time booker Go Ito who had overseen the FMW angles through out the last three years and Shoichi Arai had issues as Go Ito hints that Kodo Fuyuki was beginning to get in Shoichi Arai's ear with angles and storyline ideas and Go Ito still being in his twenties didn't handle knowing that in the most mature way and ended up just quitting FMW in April 1999 feeling that FMW was already going in a negative direction and things were going to continue to get worse.
Go Ito quitting opened the door for Kodo Fuyuki to take over and
Fuyuki was already a big WWF fan and enjoyed entertainment wrestling as he was always a bigger fan of the American style of wrestling than Japanese style. Fuyuki was a kid in a candy store with this new position. Fuyuki had a new job title on top of being the heel wrestler, but Fuyuki also feels that Arai placed him as the certain bad guy following the Arai and Onita break up months earlier that saw Onita leaving the company while FMW was in the progress of changing direction from the "anti-establishment" hardcore wrestling that Onita had built to something different. Arai entrusted him with the keys to the castle in return for being the symbol of the new entertainment style and that he was the one that hated Onita when Fuyuki actually respected Onita and had no issue with him although Onita was not a fan of Fuyuki due to the entertainment style that he brought to the table for FMW.
Fuyuki when taking over as booker in May 1999 knew though that it would be an upward battle to do "Entertainment Wrestling" in FMW because FMW would always be associated with Onita and fans would always compare it to the hardcore death match style that made the promotion well known. Fuyuki wanted to change FMW's name to WEW so that all the old FMW fans wouldn't compare the two. Arai did not allow this though, as he felt the branding of FMW was already established and to go under a new name and essentially starting over would be too hard.
Fuyuki did come up with good storylines, but most of them were bad. He was able to establish the entire roster and give pretty much every wrestler a storyline and purpose, but most of the acting the wrestlers did was bad. They gained a lot of new fans, but they lost even more old fans through out the years as it seemed like the "Hayabusa" fans were the largest group attending the shows especially house shows since any "Entertainment Wrestling" fan wasn't going to attend a house show 4 hours away from Tokyo when it was just a wrestling show with matches and no entertainment wrestling.
The wrestling itself though continued to be really good if not
even better, but FMW was also dealt with a lot of bad breaks. DirecTV in Japan
ended up closing down and FMW would to go to SkyPerfecTV where they would make
less money to air their shows on PPV. Then Hayabusa had to take 6 months off
from November 2000 to May 2001 to get double reconstructive surgery and that
essentially killed the company no matter who was going to be booker as the house
shows that already were already a big struggle for the company became a huge
money pit, followed by Korakuen Hall shows which had always needed to do well to
make back up the money were now only being half filled without Hayabusa on top.
Everywhere that FMW use to get money was now gone or not supplying the money
that the company needed to live.
Arai just continued to collect debt as Fuyuki and Arai both agreed to never downsize the company to where it looked like a small independent just to survive, it would be easier just for the company to close with Arai and Fuyuki agreeing that if were to happen, that they would start up another company together and finally just call it WEW with the FMW wrestlers. The goal for Arai and Fuyuki's FMW was to take a big swing, so that if it was a success, it would be a big success and FMW would become a huge phenomenon making all sorts of money, and if the big swing missed, then FMW would be over and they would move on to a different company.
The stress of the big swing missing though and all the financial losses took a toll on Shoichi Arai though who was also dealing with a divorce at the time in 2001. By this point, Hayabusa was now back from his double elbow surgery, and although not every FMW show was a complete financial negative like it had been while he was out, there still were plenty of shows that were and they were still so much in debt from the 6 months that he was out.
Fuyuki and Arai's relationship would begin to sour. Arai would begin to blame Fuyuki for bad booking decisions, Fuyuki would feel frustrated that Arai wasn't even around as he was out trying to find sponsors or just sell FMW to someone else, that he had no right to criticize his decisions if he wasn't going to have any part in helping with the decisions. Fuyuki would get his feelings hurt after not being invited to an after party following the FMW August 11, 2001 show in Komazawa which was a big show that was another financial loss for the company that Fuyuki had booked. Fuyuki would end up quitting the company and at that point was just done with Shoichi Arai the person. Fuyuki though would eventually decide to come back and re-take his spot as booker after feeling like the only promotion he could go to was All Japan where he would just be another wrestler, and going back to FMW meant he could go back to booking entertainment wrestling which is all he really wanted to do. Arai would let Fuyuki come back, but the relationship between the two was over at that point.
Fuyuki would continue booking, Arai would continue looking for sponsors and an owner to buy the company and the two would not speak. Things would just get worse after Hayabusa would end up being paralyzed ending his pro-wrestling career. FMW's debt would just continue to pile up until the loan sharks that Arai had been borrowing from to keep FMW going for the past year while in huge debt would end up finding out just how many people he had borrowed from, and begin cashing the checks that Arai had paid them extra to not cash until a certain date when funds would be in the bank account. Once all those checks begin to get cash and then eventually bounce that was the official end of FMW on February 15, 2002 with Fuyuki and other wrestlers having to try and protect the office with loan sharks trying to take anything and everything they could knowing that they were not going to be getting back the money that Arai owed them.
The big swing that Arai and Fuyuki had wanted to take with FMW
was a miss. Fuyuki that although they had a plan of just starting up a new
company if FMW closed, that big swing and miss killed both him and Arai. Arai
because of all the stress from all the debt he had collected and just wanting to
end it all while helping out his family from what was owed to the loan sharks,
and Fuyuki finding out that he had rectal cancer that most likely he been in his
body since 1995 ended becoming a huge problem for him due to all the stress as
Fuyuki a person who hated going to see doctors out of fearing of being told he
was going to die, would finally go see a doctor in April 2002 and be told the
news he never wanted to go to a doctor for and that was he had rectal cancer,
and although the doctor would not tell Fuyuki this, he would tell Fuyuki's wife
that if he took the proper medication from the cancer that he would probably
live just another five years.
Fuyuki despite the cancer forcing him to retire continue to gather up sponsors to start up his his WEW promotion in May 2002. The promotion right away would take a big hit when Mr. Gannosuke would announce he was starting up a rival promotion called WMF and would be taking half the FMW wrestlers including Hayabusa with him to start it up because Gannosuke didn't want to continue to do the "Entertainment Wrestling" style anymore that he had just seen not work in FMW.
Fuyuki continued with WEW with only half the FMW roster through out 2002 although during this time he had also made the decision to stop taking his cancer medication he was supposed to take following the finding out about his rectal cancer which resulted in the cancer moving to his liver and his condition to worsen fast .
Fuyuki began to get real weak, but also he had decided at that point that he knew he was going to die, but he wanted to go out his way and that was die in the ring in front of the fans in a Exploding Barbed wire Death Match against Shinya Hashimoto at Kawasaki Stadium.
Fuyuki's last appearance in public was on March 11, 2003 at Korakuen Hall to announce the Hashimoto vs. Fuyuki match for May 5, 2003. Fuyuki who was unable to walk anymore at that point due to his quick decline decided to take a lot of morphine and with the assistance of the WEW wrestlers guiding him got in the ring and met with Shinya Hashimoto to agree on the Kawasaki Stadium match, although Fuyuki's condition was that there was no way he was going to make it to May.
Fuyuki's condition began to get even worse following his last public appearance. He would go in and out of consciousness waking up thinking he had the match with Shinya Hashimoto and won despite how hard Hashimoto kicked. Then he would wake up and just get up to try and go to the bathroom even though he was hooked up to all different times of machines.
Eventually Fuyuki would fall into unconsciousness and never wake up and pass away the night of March 19, 2003. Kintaro Kanemura would end up replacing Fuyuki for the May 5, 2003 Kawasaki Stadium match which is best known for both he and Hashimoto taking Fuyuki's urn and going into the exploding barbed wire to symbolize Fuyuki being part of the match. Kanemura actually has no memory of the match after knocked out by a punch by Hashimoto before Hashimoto would get the win.
Whether it was good or bad, Fuyuki always seemed to be make things interesting, and even in his passing the interesting things involving him and his family didn't seem to stop.
Fuyuki's legacy is a strange one. FMW going by the 1995-1997 style that they had done before DirecTV came along probably was on the route of eventually going under anyway, just possibly at a later time but they wouldn't have had the funds from DirecTV, they would have still continued to lose money on house shows and not gain it back because of the decline of Korakuen Hall attendances, and Hayabusa's body was still going to break down and he was going to have to miss shows due to that eventual elbow surgery.
I do think things would have still been better with Go Ito continued to be the FMW booker just because he had a previous track record of creating good things even if they might not have been able to draw anymore either because of just the decline of the Japanese economy during this time.
Go Ito himself knew that when he left FMW in 1999 that it was only a matter of time that that the company would last no matter who was put in charge of creative. The entertainment route was already in place before Fuyuki became booker, but it is some of his decisions (urination angle, anus explosion) that will always stick with his legacy in a negative way as the reason FMW closed down less than three years after he took over as booker fairly or unfairly.
Fuyuki had a following though that appreciated him. The May 5, 2003 Kawasaki Stadium show promoted by him was able to announce a crowd of 18,500 fans to see his final dream. It is the biggest Kawasaki Stadium crowd since the area began getting used again at the turn of the century and something that is universally praised by those that see it for the first time.
Like I mentioned earlier Fuyuki was originally disliked on the internet because of his work rate, but he really did have a creative mind for his matches, and was able to put on some real quality matches including several with Hayabusa which I still say Fuyuki was the one that was able to keep their 60 minute Iron Man match together after Hayabusa ran out of gas during it. Hayabusa up until his passing was always very positive about Fuyuki, and Chris Jericho who worked with Fuyuki in WAR has always been very complimentary of him for the things he taught him.
It also seems like the DDT promotion has also taken over as Entertainment Wrestling company, and have been able to become a successful promotion while doing so. It has now been 20 years since Kodo Fuyuki passed away, and although there will never be another Fuyuki, I know sometimes I wish there would be, as sometimes wrestling needs a maverick like Fuyuki that is willing to be a bad guy and try and do something different as if there were more people like Fuyuki in the pro-wrestling business, the business at least in Japan would be much less dull.