Puroresu Pulse, issue 71

Section 1- Results

New Japan: Kakihara had his retirement match on Sunday, in a 5 minute affair with Kanemoto. Super Juniors tournament is underway, with the juniors getting higher-than-average card placement this year.

Section 2- News

All Japan: They’ll be getting Rosey.

Dragon Gate: Horiguchi gets a title shot against Yoshino on the 11th. CIMA vs Magnitude was added to the 7/2 Kobe card, along with the return match of K-Ness.

New Japan: There’s some controversy surrounding two under-used belts. Tanahashi is talking about vacating the U-30 title, which is no shock, but Chono & Tenzan are saying the same about the tag straps due to a lack of challengers. The Dudleys have stepped up (without a clear New Japan deal yet), along with some suspect midcard teams. New Japan has announced a Hashimoto tribute show for 7/9, with interpromotional participation likely. Prince Devitt, the first gaijin to train at the NJ dojo in a decade, tore a hamstring shortly after his debut and will be out a while. Bad break, he seems to have a lot of potential. Finally, get ready for the interpromotional dream team of Nakanishi & Omori! Or don’t.

NOAH: Morishima & Yone retained the tag titles in the UK against Doug Williams & Nigel McGuinness, and will defend them again on Sunday against Kobashi & Honda. Low Ki leaves for TNA after this tour. Lastly, for an interesting peek into the situation with NOAH’s super-weak 4/23 card, the dropped Kobashi vs Sapp feud and more, take a gander at this.

Section 3- HUSTLE

It doesn’t tour. In terms of ticket sales its yearly total is almost certainly less than, say, Dragon Gate. Yet it boasts one of the highest amounts of media coverage, public awareness, and it has the ability to draw 5000+ on what seem to be incredibly weak cards. What the hell?

A little background for those unfamiliar with the subject: HUSTLE is run by Dreamstage Entertainment, or DSE, which in turn is better known as shootfighting promotion PRIDE. HUSTLE’s roster occasionally uses PRIDE fighters, but more often relies on standard wrestlers. Its roster ranges from Zero-One mainstays (ie. Ohtani, Tanaka, Kohei Sato, Wataru Sakata) to female wrestlers (Aja Kong, Amazing Kong, Ayako Hamada) to ex-WWE employees (Tajiri, Kenzo Suzuki, Matt Morgan) to icons (Kawada, Naoya Ogawa, Tenryu, Takada as figurehead) to pop culture figures (Razor Ramon HG & RG). It’s a tongue-in-cheek ‘sports entertainment’ promotion, with things like backstage skits, outlandish gimmicks and lengthy promo battles.

Geez, if you wanted that you can just go to WWE, right? That’s why I don’t hype any of the shows or cover their news, because as a traditional wrestling product it isn’t up to snuff. However there are reasons why I think some of their recent shows are worth checking out, especially if you can find them for free on a torrent site.

-They don’t take themselves seriously. So many WWE storylines fall flat because it’s rehashed feuds with boring wrestlers, or overwrought ‘wrestler vs evil executive’ angles, or gimmicks Vince thinks are funny and really aren’t. HUSTLE gimmicks are things like masked superheroes and Godzilla-esque ‘monsters’. Aja Kong in a dress acting girly. Takada dressed up like M Bison from Street Fighter and using psychic powers. It’s bizarre and confusing, to say nothing of the language barrier, but it has that sense of joviality so often lacking stateside. I mean just take a look at the roster of the Takada Monster Army over the years and tell me you can stay away: http://www.hustlehustle.com/free/fighters/list.html?view=monster

-The promos, especially show-enders. Takada’s mix of baritone, charisma, and snappy insults to hecklers is something one wouldn’t expect from a guy who in the past broke Vader’s arm and headlined sold-out Tokyo Dome shows. Tajiri is a speed-talker the likes of which I’ve never seen in wrestling. There’s a certain mesmerizing quality to it all.

Yinling. Homina homina homina.

-Hard Gay/HG. A Shawn Michaels mark and life-long wrestling fan, turned pop idol thanks to a gay comedy act, turned shockingly competent and hugely popular wrestler. Those unfamiliar with him can go to YouTube and do some searching. Those familiar with him but not with his wrestling will be shocked by his ability to do in-ring basics, stemming from his teenage years doing quasi-backyard wrestling with the likes of Tanahashi. HG going at it with Kawada works on so many levels, in no small part because both of them sell in exactly the right quantity. Perhaps I take too much pleasure from HG’s hip-thrusting ways, but heck, if a straightlaced culture like Japan can embrace him, why not a stolid right-winger in the US?

-The actual wrestling ranges from funny, to fun, to actually good, to bad-but-fast. Nothing that’s soul-drainingly long and dull. Want to see Kawada and Tajiri going at it? This is the only place it will ever happen.

Granted, there are other priorities. You’re better off with the best shows of All Japan, Dragon Gate, NOAH, New Japan or Zero-One than the best of HUSTLE. At the same time if you’re already getting a fair amount of puro and want a little more variety, you can do much worse than HUSTLE.