May 8, 2004
This took place a week after NJPW’s big Nexess event in the Tokyo Dome. The main event of which was Bob Sapp vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. HUSTLE, effectively a parody of WWE, would have been an ideal setting for Sapp to have his big Japanese run. Which in turn would have allowed NJPW to put actual wrestlers in their main events. A miss for both companies in my opinion.
We’re in Yokohama at the Yokohama Arena. 12,000+ in attendance. Here we get the Dusty vs. Corino pay off plus the debut of HUSTLE stalwart Wataru Sakata. Ogawa & Hashimoto team up against Nash & Hall and Kawada defends the AJPW Triple Crown against Mick Foley! HUSTLE-3, ladies and gentlemen.
Kaz Hayashi & Leonardo Spanky vs. Low Ki & TAKA Michinoku
The exploitation of Spanky as a sex symbol is pretty incredible compared to his treatment in the west. He’s pulling girls out of the crowd here! TAKA has his bad ass sweary entrance music. “TAKA is coming motherfucker”. They ran this exact same match at HUSTLE-2 but with Homicide in the TAKA role. TAKA, WWF superstar, works heel to give the match a better structure. Spanky’s popularity is the most startling aspect of looking back on this and he’ll be around until HUSTLE-11 so we can see how that pans out. He tries to get cute with Low Ki and that, predictably, ends badly for him. I would love to see a singles match with Spanky being a big goof and Ki murdering him. Ki is sensational here. He looks more energized than at HUSTLE-2. For the finish Spanky is able to subdue Ki enough for Kaz to pin TAKA.
MY HEART WILL GO ON AND OOOOONNNNN
Final Rating: ***1/4
Oscar Sevilla, Cynthia Moreno, Mascarita Sagrada & Pimpinela Escarlata vs. Gran Apache, Faby Apache, Mini Abismo Negro & Polvo de Estrellas
This is a wacky concept where each team has a luchadore, a women’s wrestler, a mini and someone with an out there, wacky gimmick. You get all of Mexico in one match. Commentary makes reference to Danshoku Dino to my amusement. The crowd just wants wacky lucha stuff so they dutifully deliver. It’s a shame because Gran Apache has some tremendous strikes but the crowd don’t react to them. Escarlata vs. Polvo gets a lot of chuckles from the crowd but it’s bad. The best action comes from the minis. Sagrada does this insane dive into a rana where he clears the guardrail. The second best performance comes from Cynthia Moreno vs. Gran Apache. Moreno providing thrills and spills, Apache offering apologies for every time he punches her. The match starts out rough but they have so many fun spots in the stretch with various competitors interacting that the start is forgotten. Sagrada pins Gran Apache at the finish and everyone has a lovely time.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us backstage for hilarious interactions between Generalissimo Takada and Mick Foley. “We are monster, we are monster, we are monster, do the hustle, BANG BANG!”
Elsewhere Toshiaki Kawada warms up for his match by kicking Taichi in the legs.
Steve Corino vs. Dusty Rhodes
This is the pay off for the issue that developed between team mates Corino and Big Dust at HUSTLE-1. Corino’s pre-match promo, in broken English and presumably broken Japanese, accuses Dusty of being “not real pro wrestler” on account of his fat boy physique. The match is basically nothing, on account of Dusty’s almost non-existent 2004 conditioning. They both blade on the floor, Corino on camera. Corino tries to endear himself with the fans by yelling “Hashimoto baka” and proceeding to hit a terrible DDT. If you’re watching along with me Corino is pretty much on every HUSTLE show until mid-2006 so I hope you like his act. Dusty waffles him with his own boot and pins him with a bionic elbow. This was ass. Dusty was finished at this point (for some time beforehand too) and Corino played it for comedy.
Final Rating: *
Video Control gives us clips of Zebraman, someone they massively overprotected on HUSTLE-1, jobbed out on HUSTLE-2 and decide to turn into a joke here.
Hashimoto suggests he go and find suitable opponents in the animal kingdom so Zebraman goes to the zoo!
Naturally he finds an attachment to the zebra. He then offers to fight a panda. That’s not the true enemy of the zebra though but rather the noble tiger. So Zebraman decides he needs to fight a tiger. Tiger Jeet Singh that is!
Zebraman vs. Tiger Jeet Singh
Tiger Jeet Singh, legendary heel in Japan, and legendarily rotten professional wrestler. Tiger had been retired since 1997 so this is a bit of a surprise. He’d been focused on his son Tiger Ali Singh and his WWF career (which tanked because he, like his dad, was shit at pro wrestling). I’m sad that Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, was released after HUSTLE was defunct so they couldn’t bring back Zebraman for a second run. This is a terrible match, because Tiger is awful and retired, but thankfully its fairly short. Zebraman gets squashed.
Final Rating: DUD
Post Match: Dusty and Corino, who have bonded over bloodshed, save Zebraman from being double teamed by Tiger and Sabu. This leads to Dusty & Corino vs. Tiger & Sabu right? Wrong. It leads to Tiger & An Jo vs. Shamoji Fujii & Wataru Sakata ya big silly. I assume Dusty couldn’t come to terms on that match as he never wrestled for HUSTLE again. He signed for TNA so I assume that’s the reasoning for it never happening.
Riki Choshu vs. Adamonster
Choshu has been identified by Generalissimo Takada as a potential threat to the dominance of the Monster Army so has selected him for termination by King Adamo. Choshu squashes him in two minutes and he’d never wrestle for HUSTLE again (Adamo, not Choshu). The best part of these Choshu matches in HUSTLE is him taking them deadly seriously and everyone else having a good laugh at him beating up scrubs. Everyone knows it’s a comedy match…apart from Riki.
Final Rating: Squash!
Video Control gives us our latest Takada interaction; the Outsiders are here. Kevin Nash does an incredible sell job on the translator (I think it’s Yuji Shimada) calling Ogawa and Hashimoto “pork and chicken”. Enormous fake belly laugh from Big Kev.
Dan Bobish & Mark Coleman vs. Shinjiro Otani & Wataru Sakata
And here starts one of the strangest pushes of all time. The HUSTLE obsession that Wataru Sakata was The Guy for them. Sakata was a karate student turned MMA fighter who competed for RINGS and later Pride. He has an MMA record of 11-13. Prior to this he’d signed for Zero1 and was offered a spot in the Monster Army but refused and instead debuted as Otani’s partner here. The gaijin are both guys who dabbled in wrestling a bit. Bobish looked like he was going career for a few years but Coleman just dipped in and out. Sakata looks decent here, which might explain HUSTLE’s forthcoming obsession of his abilities. He attempts the boot scrapes and that doesn’t go well. Otani has to carry the match. Considering the lack of experience around him it turns out ok. Sakata gets isolated and Coleman submits him. A bizarre way to push your new hot babyface.
Final Rating: **1/2
The divas of HUSTLE return here. They are helped down the steps so nobody falls on their arse this time. Nice to hear Geri Halliwell getting so much HUSTLE airplay.
After that we get Joe Son singing in a thong. Where do you even start with this guy? Joe Son was a notoriously tough MMA fighter who got his balls punched repeatedly by Keith Hackney at UFC 4 (I remember vividly seeing that and being absolutely horrified). He was the Oddjob knock-off character in Austin Powers. Then there’s the darker side of Joe Son. He was convicted of taking part in a gang rape and torturing a woman after he was arrested for something else. While in jail he murdered his cell mate and is currently serving life. Him dancing in a thong was quite funny at the time but given his crimes…less so now.
Masato Tanaka, Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Tomoaki Honma vs. Kintaro Kanemura, Sabu & The Gladiator
Kanemura comes out to the Offspring and has a dance routine. Sabu and Mike Awesome come out to the ECW theme, which is fucking ridiculous considering both of them left ECW under acrimonious circumstances. Seeing a young mobile Honma is quite jarring. He hits a rana from the top rope to the floor in this, with poor bastard Kanemura landing spine first on the end of a table. There is a bunch of plunder here and everyone dies horrible Japanese table related deaths. The match has an attached gimmick where the Thunderbirds countdown music kicks in and the teams receive additional weapons. Those are the rules of a Dynamite Hardcore Hustle trios match baby! First such weapon is a guitar. The old acoustic equalizer. Tanaka bashes Awesome over the head with it.
Sidenote: if you’ve never seen Tanaka vs. Awesome in any of its wild ass forms go and watch some of those matches. They all fucking rule.
Weapon #2 is a bicycle. Did Sanshiro Takagi book this? Anyone who tries to use the bike gets clotheslined off it because it’s a totally ineffective weapon. Weapon #3 is a trashcan. It’s not as effective as the chair Sabu is chucking around. He smashes it right into Honma’s face, who is falling out of a submission at the time and cannot protect himself at all. Weapon #4 is Giant Silva. This is where the match goes off the rails as Silva just attacks everyone. Honma nearly dies when he falls out of Awesome’s clutches on the top rope for the finish. Kanemura has to lift him back up and Awesome powerbombs him onto a table for the win. This was pretty wild.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Generalissimo Takada comes out here to brag of his achievements and talk shit. At one point he thanks the fans for booing him.
AJPW Triple Crown
Toshiaki Kawada (c) vs. Mick Foley
This should be an absolute banger. Foley came out of retirement in 2004 and had that incredible match with Randy Orton a few weeks before this. Kawada is still in good shape and can still go. It’s set for something special. However they just don’t click. Foley called Kawada “lazy” and Kawada was very dismissive of Foley’s contributions to wrestling. Kawada has historically disliked garbage wrestling. They had this interaction at a presser where Kawada said he didn’t recall Foley from his All Japan run (1991 including Champion Carnival. Kawada beat Foley in 7 minutes). Jack lost every match.
They immediately have issues due to Foley trying WWE storytelling and saying he doesn’t need weapons, he’ll beat Kawada in a straight up match and proceeding to get kicked a lot for five minutes. I remember trying to make excuses at the time but the match just didn’t work. Kawada completely ignores Foley at one point when he’s yelling “you come, you come” across the ring. Kawada just standing stoically, refusing to cooperate. Foley gives up and grabs his barbwire bat and uses it on Taichi. They should have booked Foley vs. Taichi.
There’s a lot of barbwire bat stuff and then, when you think he can’t piss Kawada off any more, out comes Mr Socko. Mick was certainly trying in this match but they are never on the same page. Not even for a minute. Kawada just about tolerates the Mandible Claw for about a second and punts Foley for the win.
I’m sure Mick was more disappointed in how this panned out than Kawada because he tried to tell a story of how he respected Kawada enough to fight him fairly but then got frustrated and resorted to cheap tricks. Kawada hated every moment of this.
Final Rating: ***
The Outsiders vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Naoya Ogawa
Both of the Outsiders are well past their peak here and have developed reputations are mercenaries who’ll do anything for money. Their enthusiasm in cutting daft promos is not reflected in the ring. Ogawa debuts a new robe and gear here and what appears to be a HUSTLE championship belt.
It’s not and the company never had a big singles title in their history. The Outsiders both clown around a lot here. Lots of goofy facials and deliberate heel mannerisms. Like they’re acting out a play for a kindergarten class. They have a heel referee who is heavily favouring the Outsiders. The counts are so fast that Hash has trouble kicking out in time. Hash & Ogawa should know better than to attempt some of the things they try here. Including a double team STO on Nash involving a leg sweep. That’s not going to happen lads. They try a lariat/German suplex on Hall too and that’s just as bad. It’s also the finish.
Final Rating: ½*
When HUSTLE was getting hype in the West it was, by and large, because of this show and booking big Western names to take part in these shows. That initial exposure didn’t result in continued support for the promotion but it gave them a platform to learn from. I stopped watching after HUSTLE-4 so maybe they got it wrong. I’ll get the chance to see if I was wrong to jump off so early.