March 7, 2004
Back in the day I never saw HUSTLE-2. It was generally looked down on as being an inferior product compared to the shows around it where they used former WWE wrestlers. Maybe it’s because they set up a bunch of feuds at HUSTLE-1 and follow through on none of them at HUSTLE-2. Dusty Rhodes vs. Steve Corino doesn’t happen. Corino is thrown in with former ECW running buddy CW Anderson while Dusty tags with his son in a different match. Goldberg isn’t here so the Hashimoto match doesn’t happen. Giant Silva, who cost Ogawa his Goldberg match, isn’t on the show while Ogawa wrestles Matt Ghaffari.
The booking takes a change of pace here with Takada introducing the concept of the Monster Army. He’s switched from a suit wearing authority figure to Generalissimo Takada. “Are you Monster?” “We are Monster, we are Monster, we are Monster, do the Hustle”.
Kaz Hayashi & Leonardo Spanky vs. Low Ki & Homicide
Spanky, the baby-faced Brian Kendrick, looked a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio so they called him Leonardo Spanky in Japan. This was during an off-year where Spanky left WWE but would return in 2005. This is a really solid pro wrestling match between four really solid pro wrestlers. Nobody is really into it though and Ki doesn’t exhibit the same energy and drive he had at HUSTLE-1. I suspect its supposed to be the WCW/WWE style hot opener where they do a bunch of wacky shit but instead it’s a straight up tag with minimal effort. It looks like Homicide got blamed for the poor showing because he was never booked by HUSTLE again. All three of the others had the exact same match at HUSTLE-3 with TAKA Michinoku replacing Homicide. Spanky does a great job of being face in peril. Not just aimlessly kicking out of shit but slipping out of the most dangerous holds like Homicide’s Cop Killer. He even eeks out the upset pin on Homicide. This was rock solid stuff but I doubt its what the promotion wanted to open the show.
Final Rating: ***
CW Anderson vs. Steve Corino
CW was tagging with Corino for Zero1 but he’d also been in the same stable as Corino in ROH and in MLW as the Extreme Horsemen. Corino is over here because he speaks Japanese and the aim of the contest is to give him a win to give him extra credibility ahead of the Dusty match.
It’s a really goofy match with Corino trying desperately to illicit crowd response and them both calling shots that the other man then executes. CW no sells the Choshu lariat that Corino had been after for a couple of minutes but the Old School Bomb finishes. They tried here but it didn’t land.
Final Rating: **1/4
Dusty Rhodes & Dusty Rhodes Jr vs. Satoshi Kojima & Shinjiro Otani
Rhodes Jr is Dustin aka Goldust. He has the Texas flag on his face in lieu of the standard Goldust get up. It’s an attempt to recreate the plucky pre-Goldust big old white meat babyface Dustin.
Credit to Kojima and Otani here for massively overselling Bionic Elbows to make a mostly immobile Dusty look like a threat. Dustin, when he’s in charge, is incredibly boring without the Goldust gimmick. It’s like he’s simply forgotten how to put a match together without theatrics.
In Dustin’s defence he’d barely wrestled since the middle of 2003 and his WWE release. Kojima lariats Dustin in the back of the head and Otani rolls him up for the win. This felt really long. It’s weird that Corino got a win to set up his Dusty match but Dusty lost! Kojima & Otani deserved the win to be fair.
Final Rating: **
Riki Choshu & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Zebraman
Hoshikawa was a Michinoku Pro guy and former rugby player who was working for Zero1 at the time and hence got this match. This is his only HUSTLE match and he’d be forced into retirement later in the year after taking a nasty powerbomb off a cage against Tatsuhito Takaiwa. It put him in a coma! Zebraman, who’d been hyped as a big deal the previous show, is an afterthought here. The focus is solely on Riki Choshu. The crowd treat him with the utmost respect and everything he does is greeted with big crowd reactions.
Ishii is interesting to watch here as he does a few things you’d recognize but he’s nowhere near the finished product. He wouldn’t get actually good for another decade. His selling is awesome here though so there was potential. Ishii tags out to Choshu and he makes short work of the Zebraman with a lariat. Seeing as they’d got Zebraman over in the first appearance it is bizarre to me that they just jobbed him out here. HUSTLE turned him into a comedy side character from here.
Final Rating: ***
Sabu, The Gladiator & Justin Credible vs. Masato Tanaka, Kintaro Kanemaru & Tetsuhiro Kuroda
This is basically ECW vs. FMW. Mike Awesome (The Gladiator) is on the books for All Japan at this point although would defect to NOAH later in the year. Credible is in the midst of his hopeless ROH run. All of the former FMW boys are on the books with Zero1. As you would probably expect this is a hardcore mess. The only major highlights coming from Awesome. Like his slingshot into the ring shoulderblock or a murderous powerbomb on Kanemaru into two JAPANESE tables. Sabu hits his highlight reels stuff and Credible is surprisingly competent (mostly). There are still awful moments. At one point Tanaka has Credible hooked for a DDT and looks around for Sabu who’s part of the spot. He’s not there. Cue awkward stalling for what feels like an eternity before he eventually turns up to take a Cutter. Credible also botches the finish set up although they recover nicely and Tanaka drills him with the Rolling Elbow for the pin. This was really good fun but also technically dreadful! It would have looked significantly better as a highlights package video where all the crap gets cut out.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Kanemaru is mad and this leads to a Tanaka & Kuroda abandoning him and a trios match at HUSTLE-3 pitting Kanemaru, Sabu & Awesome vs. Tanaka, Kuroda & Honma. I’m excited!
*INTERMISSION*. Geri Halliwell strikes again! The divas of HUSTLE parade around in their underwear. It is not as sexy as it sounds. Especially as one of them takes a pisser descending the steps to the arena floor. Remember this is the version that was edited for TV broadcast! They left that in on purpose.
Video Control takes us backstage where Ogawa and Hashimoto debate tactics against the Monster Army. Ogawa is wearing a t-shirt that reads “I’m chicken”.
Dan Bobish vs. The Predator
Sylvester Terkay’s push continues. Bobish, like everyone from this era, is an MMA fighter. He’s 9-6 at this point but would retire three years later with a more impressive 17-9 career. He’s had less than 30 pro wrestling matches and it shows. Terkay, as I’ve mentioned before, isn’t particularly good. There is a slim chance that he can carry the match by just calling it in the ring and controlling Bobish’s positioning. Unlike Terkay’s previous outing they at least keep it basic so there are no mistakes but it’s just dull. Terkay wins and everyone can go on about their lives.
Final Rating: *3/4
Kevin Randleman & Mark Coleman vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Toshiaki Kawada
Tosh & Hash! The ultimate crossover dream team.
If you go to Cagematch and look up the HUSTLE match guide there is one solitary match in it; this one! Meltzer went ***1/2 on it. The ‘when world’s collide’ element of the set up (NJPW & AJPW vs. MMA) must have been too intriguing for Meltzer to stay away back in the day. Hashimoto’s mentality in this is a joy to behold. He’s so surly and irritable. Everything Mark Coleman does seem to wind him up. Kawada on the other hand is ready for war and ready to trade as he needs to. His heart isn’t in it like Hash’s. Both shooters encounter issues with calling it in the ring and hesitate during strike exchanges. Hash doesn’t help, threatening to get into a scrap with Coleman, but never following through. It leaves the match feeling hollow. Once the novelty factor has worn off the holes start to show. Kawada is the exception. When he switches through the gears he’s still really special. His strikes feel important and him booting Coleman square in the face gets a big reaction. The sequences of Kawada striking it out with Coleman are easily the best thing about the match. Especially as he digs deep and kicks his way to prominence. The Hashimoto sequences are less good and focused on the heels working over his injured shoulder. There is a super lame finish where Randleman is laying knees into Hashimoto’s shoulder and the ref stops it. The Kawada-Coleman sequences in this were fucking incredible. More Kawada please!
Final Rating: ***1/2
Naoya Ogawa vs. Matt Ghaffari
Do you think perhaps they tried to book someone else for this show and it fell through? I find it hard to believe that first choice was Iranian born US Olympian Matt Ghaffari. They do have a history as Ogawa inflicted Ghaffari’s only MMA loss (he was 0-1 career). So here’s Ghaffari, so hell bent on revenge, he’s in HUSTLE to challenge Ogawa. Ghaffari went to the same Olympic Games as Kurt Angle, at a different weight class, and won a silver. He does have a pedigree but he’s not a pro wrestler. He wrestled for Zero1 (naturally) the previous year but he’s not experienced enough to be in a main event.
Luckily Takada thinks Ghaffari isn’t ready too and derails the whole thing with a big old promo. The entire Monster Army attacks Ogawa, who he fends off with STOs, until the weight of numbers is too much. Specifically Silva’s weight. Ghaffari hits a splash and that’s it. Ghaffari, who only had to do one thing, could barely do that and never wrestled again.
Final Rating: -**
HUSTLE-2 is the auteur’s difficult second movie. The concept switches gears and suffers for it. They are still aping WWE but at this point are aping the Corporate Ministry and I don’t have time for that.
So this whole business leads to Ogawa vs Silva right? Nope; Ogawa & Hashimoto vs. Kevin Nash & Scott Hall. Which makes me think they couldn’t get their big star foreigner here. Mick Foley vs. Toshiaki Kawada on HUSTLE-3 too, so already all is forgiven for this unfortunate mis-hit.
In defence of HUSTLE-2 most of the undercard is ok and the more Kawada I get to experience the better. Kawada would be a regular feature on HUSTLE shows until almost the end. I am excited to see him work.