Hustle Mania on 11/25/07
review by Reed Benson
This is the first of two reviews I’m writing that focus on alternative puroresu promotions. Usually when you think of puroresu, you think of hard hitting, high impact, and/or high flying strong style. Hustle has some of that, but is mostly based around off-the-wall characters and over-the-top storylines. There are a lot of wrestlers you may recognize, a few you know well, and a couple that you’ll only see here.
The main storyline in HUSTLE is the battle between the HUSTLE army and the evil Monster Army, led by Generalissimo/President Takada (Nobuhiko Takada). Most of the matches revolve around sub-plots of that. Here’s what Hustle Mania brought us:
- "Monster K'" Kohei Sato, Aka Onigumo & Ao Onigumo vs. "Super Cyborg" Ryoji Sai, KUSHIDA & \(^o^)/ Chie
Hustle shows usually start with an opening ceremony, or at least they used to. My version of show doesn’t include one, but according to Stevie at http://hustle.puroresufan.com, Toshiaki Kawada opened the show with a couple songs while dressed like Elvis. I should add that I’m going to be using Stevie’s site a lot during this review, because I don’t know a lick of Japanese.
"Monster K'" Kohei Sato, Aka Onigumo & Ao Onigumo vs. "Super Cyborg" Ryoji Sai, KUSHIDA & \(^o^)/ Chie
\(^o^)/ is apparently pronounced “BANZAI.” I honestly can’t tell if Chie is male or female. The Onigumos are like evil spider-men who creep around a lot. Everyone else looks like regular wrestlers. KUSHIDA and Aka start, negating each other with simple chain wrestling. Chie and Ao tag in, and Chie ends up getting the better of the spider. Chie calls out Sato, who no sells Chie’s forearms and kicks his/her leg out from under him/her. He quickly disposes of KUSHIDA, then goes at it with Sai. Sai knocks him down with a dropkick, so Chie comes in to try again. Same result. Chie gets stretched in a half crab, but KUSHIDA makes the save. Sato kicks Chie hard, KUSHIDA saves him/her again. Sato throws KUSHIDA onto the ramp and kicks the crap out of him up to the entrance. Ao and Aka go for synchronized diving headbutts on Chie, but miss, and Sai cleans house, then goes out after Sato. Everyone goes outside, and KUSHIDA runs down the long ramp and does a somersault onto everyone. Back in the ring, KUSHIDA hits double running knees, a half suplex and running dropkick on Ao for two. He goes for a moonsault but gets knees. Aka sprays KUSHIDA with spider webs. Chie tries to save him, but Ao comes in a sprays him again. The spiders perform stereo rolling cradles, but Sai makes the save. Sai and KUSHIDA use Chie as a battering ram, then toss him/her at Aka and Sato before dropkicking them. KUSHIDA hits Ao with a top rope moonsault for the pin to end a fun little opener! Winners: Ryoji Sai, KUSHIDA & \(^o^)/ Chie!
The Great Sasuke & Hitomi Kaikawa vs. Giant Vabo & Nitouhei Shimada
There’s a video package before the match. Kaikawa is a J-Pop idol who had a match in Hustle before. She was beaten and humiliated by Giant Vabo. The show some clips of her at a pre-show deal doing training. Shimada (ex-PRIDE FC ref Yuji Shimada, infamous for his late stoppages of fights) and Vabo taunted and humiliated her until Sasuke made the save.
For the match, Shimada comes out in a gi and sunglasses and applies chapstick to his lips. Throughout the match, he tries to kiss Kaikawa. They start the match when Vabo throws Sasuke out. Shimada takes Kaikawa down and goes for the kiss. She pushes him away and hits a running dropkick. She goes for the pin, but Shimada tries to kiss her again. Kaikawa gets full mount and slaps at him. They get up and she slaps his sunglasses off. Shimada throws off his gi, revealing a black and pink one-strap singlet. He tags in Vabo, who drags Kaikawa around and slams her head in the corners, then chokes her with his foot. Kaikawa manages to kick Vabo, which makes him mad. Sasuke tags in and hits a springboard back elbow for two. He hits a modified blockbuster and a missile dropkick for two. Vabo takes over and hits some running knees, then plants him with a big chokeslam. Kaikawa tags herself in and slaps Vabo repeatedly. Vabo flattens her with a slap of his own, then gets his bag of volleyballs and whips her with it. He covers her with a knee, but she valiantly kicks out. Vabo lifts Kaikawa into a Canadian backbreaker, then drops to his knees before slamming her down. He tags in Shimada, who is ready for the kiss. He applies a step-over toehold, then turns her upper body so he can see her face. Kaikawa fights him off until Sasuke saves her. Vabo throws Sasuke out, and Shimada tries to whip Kaikawa into Vabo’s big boot, but she reverses. Vabo charges, but Kaikawa ducks and Vabo tumbles outside. Sasuke hits a tope con giro. With the fans applauding her on, Kaikawa scales the turnbuckles and does a plancha onto Vabo. She almost gets counted out, but makes it into the ring at 19. Shimada misses a kick, and Kaikawa kicks his legs out from under him, then hits a belly to back suplex. She crawls over and grabs a Kurt Angle/Ken Shamrock-style ankle lock. Shimada almost makes the ropes, but Kaikawa pulls him back, and he taps out! Winners: The Great Sasuke & Hitomi Kaikawa! Great storytelling that worked around the non-wrestlers’ limitations.
Dynamite Hardcore Weapon Match: Kintaman & Kurodaman vs. "Fire Monster" Shinjiro Otani & The Monster C
Kintaro Kanemura and Tetsuhiro Kuroda wear masks as Kintaman and Kurodaman, and they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to gain membership into the Monster Army. Monster C is played by Steve Corino as far as I know; his disguise is better than his opponents’. A “Dynamite Hardcore Weapons Match” involves red sirens that go off at various intervals, and the wrestlers have to find them and hit them. Then a special weapon will appear at the top of the rampway.
They start brawling immediately. Kintaman hits a jumping headscissors on C. They get into a forearm vs. leg kick fight with the crowd chanting “E” and “C” back and forth. C wins. Kurodaman beats C into a corner, then Kintaman rolls a bowling ball into his groin twice. Ohtani comes in and gets beaten down by Kurodaman. Kurodaman does a Shawn Michaels-style falling ladder splash on Ohtani. He puts Ohtani in the corner with the ladder and goes for a clothesline, but Ohtani dodges. Ohtani puts him in another corner and does his trademark facewash spot, getting the crowd to chant along (even though he’s evil). The siren goes off and the button is on the ramp. Ohtani hits it first, and the video screen displays a casino machine with different wrestlers. Whatever the weapon is, they don’t get to it right away. Instead, Kintaman splashes Monster C through a table on the floor. They go to the ramp, and we find that the first weapon was a bicycle. Kurodaman rides it down the ramp and clotheslines Ohtani. They do it again before the sirens go off. The button is on a person in the crowd. C and Kurodaman run out to get it. C suplexes Kurodaman on the floor and hits the button. The screen almost gets three Takadas in a row, but not quite. Again, we don’t see the weapon right away; in fact, I don’t think they even use it. (Stevie’s site says it was a trash can.) C and Kurodaman suplex each other on the floor some more, while Kintaman brawls with Ohtani in the ring. C comes in and helps Ohtani, and it’s somewhat obvious that they’re stalling for the last button. The sirens go off, and the button is in front of one of the announcers. He takes it and runs around the ring, tossing it in to Kintaman, who hits it. The screen shows a Takada figure manipulate the machine to get three Monster logos in a row. Up from an elevator platform comes former K-1 and PRIDE FC fighter Mark Hunt! He walks to the ring (trying to keep a straight face) and punches both Ohtani and Monster C. Kintaman covers C for the three count! Winners: Kintaman & Kurodaman!
As far as brawls go, this was pretty boring. I’d seen the bicycle spot before, though it’s still pretty nifty. Everything else seemed like stalling and waiting for the buttons. Mark Hunt looked to be having a grand old time, though. Post-match, he did the Team No Respect dance with the winners and accidentally punched them both.
Keroro Gunsou vs. Scott "Flash" Norton
Keroro Gunsou is a manga/anime series named after its main character, a little green alien with a big head. The name means “Sgt. Frog.” I don’t know who portrays the character here. I’m a huge Scott Norton fan. The pre-match video package describes him as having “JURRASSIC POWER.” Keroro comes out as a little-body, big-head mascot-like thing, talking the whole time. On the entranceway, he becomes engulfed in smoke and reappears in a more human-like form. Norton is accompanied by a limping Yuji Shimada.
Keroro talks (via a voice in the arena speakers) throughout the whole match and screams when he takes big moves. He starts by winding up, coming off the ropes and throwing a big punch at Norton. No effect. Keroro is a little perturbed, but tries again with a roundhouse kick. Same result. Norton looks disgruntled. Keroro calls for a time out and makes a phone call in his corner. Norton grows impatient and yanks him up, then chops him down. Keroro begs off. Norton whips him off the ropes, but Keroro ducks a clothesline, slides between Norton’s legs and dropkicks his back. Norton charges, but Keroro pulls the top rope down and Norton falls outside. Keroro hits a baseball slide and gives the victory sign in the ring. Norton comes back in and Keroro tries the punch again, but Norton catches it. Keroro tries with the other hand, but same thing. Norton chops him down again. Norton whips Keroro from one corner to the other hard a couple times. The crowd chants “Keroro!” Keroro tries to pull himself up with the ropes. Norton gives him a vertical suplex, but Keroro kicks out of the pin attempt. Norton tries hooking the leg, but Keroro still kicks out. Keroro powers up as the crowd chants, then charges at Norton and bounces off him. Norton attempts a powerbomb, but Keroro escapes and dropkicks his leg, then rolls him into a la magistral cradle for two. He hits a running dropkick and climbs up top as Norton stands. Keroro goes for a cross body, but gets caught and Norton powerslams him for the pin! Winner: Scott Norton!
That was a long squash match with a couple hope spots. It had Scott Norton, so I liked it. Afterwards, Keroro hobbles up the ramp and changes back to his regular form. He says something that gets the crowd to cheer before leaving.
"The Beast" Bob Sapp vs. Hard Gay
HG is very popular in Japan. His background includes a stint on a variety show where he went around town in costume gyrating and making people laugh. He was going to retire last year, I think, but that thankfully didn’t last long at all. Before the match, there’s a backstage sketch with HG and other Hustle Army members that features Genichiro Tenryu slapping Ryoji Sai with a fan and saying the F word. All right, then.
HG taunts Sapp, who charges at him. HG leapfrogs him, then dodges a second charge. Sapp grabs HG by the head with his huge hand and clubs him down. Sapp runs through HG with a shoulderblock, and HG rolls out of the ring to recuperate. Sapp roars. HG gets his bearings and goes back in, only to be clubbed numerous times and thrown down. Sapp slams HG’s head into the mat a few times while HG’s in a seated position, then applies a neck crank. He slams HG a couple more times and tries to pin him with one foot, but HG kicks out. HG tries to fight back with forearms, but Sapp no-sells and picks him up for a slam. HG slides free and dropkicks Sapp into the corner, then hits a running spinning heel kick. HG does his version of the facewash, where he uses his crotch instead of his foot. Sapp shakes it off and powers HG into the opposite corner. He goes back and charges him, but HG dodges, then applies a gratuitous head scissors white Sapp is still standing. Sapp pulls him up for a powerbomb, but HG continues to apply pressure and Sapp falls. HG rolls him over for a two count. Sapp angrily wipes his face and gets up. HG kicks him in the leg, then the gut, then hits a enzigieri that sends Sapp outside. HG does a top rope plancha onto Sapp. As Sapp re-enters the ring, HG hits a springboard guillotine leg drop to the back of his head. HG climbs to the top rope as Sapp gets up. Sapp dodges HG’s leap, and HG lands on his feet, only to be hit by another shoulderblock. Sapp pulls HG up and hits a running front dropkick (seriously) for a two count. HG’s pretty much limp, though, and Sapp picks him up and powerbombs him for the pinfall! Winner: Bob Sapp!
Well, Sapp can’t sell for crap, but otherwise, this match worked perfectly towards his strengths. HG is always entertaining, and Sapp’s angry facials after getting a face full of HG were pretty funny.
"Hustle General" Genichiro Tenryu, Real Gay & TAJIRI vs. Yinling-sama, Monster Bono & Shireichoukan Anjo
This will take a lot of exposition. Tenryu used to be a Monster General, but he lost a stipulation match to HG and had to dress up like him. He quickly became a babyface, though he doesn’t dress like that anymore. TAJIRI and Yinling have both switched sides a bunch of times. They were both heels when they tagged against RG and Great Muta. Muta spit green mist onto Yinling’s…lower body, and this caused her to later lay an egg. Out hatched Baby Monster Bono (Akebono with a pacifier). RG is a friend of HG; he wears an HG outfit to the ring, but he wrestles in play trunks and boots. He’s pasty and thin, but he’s actually pretty good in the ring. Yoji Anjo has been a Monster lackey probably since the beginning. The pre-match video package is confusing.
TAJIRI starts with Yinling, whose offense is sold as if she’s one of the guys. She slaps TAJIRI with her whip a couple times and kicks him. She twists his wrist and gives him a couple arm drags before standing on his elbow. Anjo tags in and does some chain wrestling with TAJIRI. TAJIRI lays in a kick and does the handspring elbow. Bono and Tenryu tag in. Tenryu can’t seem to knock Bono down. He hits a slow enzigieri that phases Bono, then tries a suplex and a body slam unsuccessfully. Bono slams him and tags Anjo. Anjo chops Tenryu, but it only ticks him off and he sumo rushes Anjo into the babyface corner, tagging RG. RG seems hesitant to get into the ring, but the fans cheer him on. RG hits some ineffective strikes. Anjo chokes him on the ropes. Anjo lifts him vertically upside down and drags his head across the mat. He does it again, this time spinning him like a top. Anjo hits a Judo chop and tags in Bono. Bono headbutts RG. Bono gives RG a huge atomic drop. Bono throws RG around. RG tries a sunset flip. Tenryu comes in and chops Bono, but Bono just sits down on RG’s chest. Yinling tags in and puts RG in an abdominal stretch. RG reverses into one of his own. Yinling reverses into some type of surfboard, and Bono comes in to rub him rear in RG’s face. Yinling cradles RG for a two count. Yinling shoves RG to his corner and calls out Tenryu, grabbing her whip. She ducks a clothesline and gets Tenryu in an arm wringer, then whips his gut and puts him in an armbar. Tenryu escapes and puts Yinling in a seated surfboard. RG comes off the ropes, does a cartwheel, then exposes his thong and moons Yinling. Bono literally kicks RG’s butt and saves Yinling. Bono slams Tenryu and lets Yinling climb onto his shoulders, then splashes Tenryu. TAJIRI makes the save. He holds Bono’s head for RG to moon, but Bono swats RG away. It all breaks down, and Yinling and TAJIRI are left alone in the ring. TAJIRI gets Yinling in a corner and knocks her out with a high kick. Bono shoulderblocks TAJIRI and goes to check on his mother. Tenryu school boys him from behind and gets a three count! Winners: Genichiro Tenryu, Real Gay and TAJIRI!
Another wacky six-person that was fun to watch. I wouldn’t have minded seeing it get a little more time, with RG playing the babyface-in-peril a bit longer. He’s good at that.
The Esperanza vs. "Hustle Resistance" Wataru Sakata
The Esperanza is General/President Takada’s ultimate vehicle of destruction. It’s actually Nobuhiko Takada dressed like a creepy robotic version of himself. His matches feature eerie music and dark lighting. Sakata is something like the newest leader of the Hustle Army, having rallied the troops back when it seemed like Takada had all but decimated them. So it’s the Hustle ace against the seemingly indestructible Monster…well, monster. (There are a lot of monsters in the Monster Army. Go figure.)
Esperanza stands in the center of the ring as Sakata circles him, cautiously planning his attack. Sakata finally summons his strength and throws a punch, but Esperanza blocks it and grips Sakata’s wrist. He twists it around and holds it as Sakata struggles in pain. Esperanza pulls Sakata’s arm and flips him over with an arm whip. Sakata holds his arm and tries to keep his distance. He goes for a body kick, but Esperanza catches it and traps it. He holds onto it for a while, then flips Sakata onto his stomach. Esperanza gets some distance, then forms his hand like a gun and begins aiming it at Sakata for the laser Bitan attack, but Sakata rolls away. The crowd breathes a huge sigh of relief. Sakata gets to his feet and comes off the ropes, only to be dropped by a palm strike. He gets back up, and the Esperanza kicks his leg out from under him. Sakata sells it like he’s been hit with a chair a few times and rolls to the ramp. As he drags himself up by the ropes, Esperanza aims the laser Bitan again. He fires, but Sakata dodges, and the invisible laser hits a spot above the entrance. There’s an explosion, and then a cameraman falls off the balcony to his doom! At ringside, Tenryu slaps Sakata to rile him up. Sakata hobbles into the ring and tries a double leg takedown, barely budging Esperanza. Esperanza aims the laser Bitan at Sakata, but he sees it and rolls away before it can be fired. He tries a spinning heel kick, but it’s blocked and only hurts his leg more. Esperanza hits a throat thrust on Sakata, then another one when he gets back up. Esperanza kicks Sakata’s leg again. He gives him a hard knee to the gut in the corner. Sakata crawls along the mat. Esperanza grabs his head in an iron claw and pulls him to the center of the ring. Sakata lies nearly motionless. Esperanza lifts him up to his knees and prepares for a finishing kick. Suddenly, a female voice cries out, and at the entrance appears Eiko Koike, a Japanese model and wife of Sakata. She challenges the Esperanza and pulls out a small, heart-shaped shield that reads “LOVE & HUSTLE.” The Esperanza powers up his laser Bitan and fires. A spotlight follows its path to Eiko, who uses all her strength to block it and send it back at Esperanza. There’s a small explosion, and he drops to his knees. He has trouble standing up as the crowd rallies behind Sakata. Sakata nails a superkick, causing Esperanza to explode again. This time, he collapses, and Sakata crawls over and pins him! Winner: Wataru Sakata!
This match was a good example of style over substance. This match didn’t a have a bunch of big moves, but what it did have was sold to mean something. There was a lot of drama and the crowd bought every second of it. It was like a good movie, but in a wrestling ring. This was fighting opera. Afterwards, all the Hustle Army members come to help Sakata. The Esperanza comes to and crawls into a smoking hole on the ramp. Sakata goes to his wife and helps her to the ring as snow falls all around them. Then we have the typical Hustle ending, where the Monster Army appears at the entrance and Takada talks about what will happen next. Then the Hustle Army addresses the crowd, before giving the final “3…2…1…Hustle! Hustle!” pose. This time, they add “Love and Hustle!”
Final Thoughts: Of all the Hustle shows and matches I’ve seen, this has to be the best overall presentation. It had some good wrestling, crazy storylines, goofy characters, and lots of drama. The only downside was a dull hardcore match, but seeing Mark Hunt at the end mostly made up for it. If you’re a fan of the Hustle style of sports entertainment, this is a must-see. If you’ve never seen Hustle, but you’re interested, this is a good place to start. If you only like Baba-era All Japan, then look elsewhere.
You can email me at Dedwyre@msn.com