July 25, 2004
We’re in Yokohama, Japan. I probably haven’t mentioned before but HUSTLE ran Yokohama in the early days. HUSTLE-1 was in Saitama but HUSTLE-2/3/4 were all in Yokohama. If, like me, you can’t remember where anything is on a map then let me refresh your memory. Yokohama is just south of Tokyo so it’s not like HUSTLE was running some Podunk backwater shithole. They were just outside the big smoke.
It’s basically the same urban metropolis. Geography lesson over! We’re in the Yokohama Arena, which is pretty big and the crowd is 11,125. Considering the lack of big imports on this show (the biggest name from WWE fans perspective is probably Super Crazy) that’s a solid number.
The card fits the standard HUSTLE approach of the day. Ogawa & Choshu team up against evil foreigners in the main event, Sakata and Hashimoto both face evil foreigners in singles matches and Yokoi & Kawada team up against more evil foreigners. I’m probably more interested in the wacky early matches with Super Crazy wrestling “Hustle Kamen” and a six man hardcore rumble, which promises to be a laugh.
This is the first show I’ve watched since the passing of Larry Csonka. I can’t write anything without mentioning how Larry influenced me over the years, both in terms of his writing and his kind-hearted words behind the scenes. He was truly the best of us and will be sorely missed in professional wrestling circles and I miss him as a friend. RIP Larry.
Video Control welcomes us to the show and we see some of HUSTLE’s newest recruits from HUSTLE House Vol. 1 including the Flying Vampires, Psycho the Death, the reborn Monsieur de Barbarossa and An Jo. It was a wild show. An Jo tries to endear himself to the GM by bringing him dancing girls but he seems unimpressed.
Generalissimo Takada uses his crazy mind control powers to manipulate the GM into booking a card in his favour (*I think that’s what happened*). The suits continue to debate stuff and we’re 25 minutes in here!
Kaz Hayashi & Leonardo Spanky vs. Sonjay Dutt & Josh Daniels
Josh Daniels used to have a Benoit knock-off gimmick but he’s Elvis here, for Japanese reasons. The gimmick disappears as soon he starts wrestling. Everyone seems to have a really nice time here. I’m very much in the “Sonjay Dutt is underrated” camp. I probably underrated him myself around this time. He’s both fluid and exciting, which is everything you want from a great wrestler. He also has a tail, which is used for comedic effect and he reacts in animal noises throughout the match. Josh is clearly a bad fit for HUSTLE because he’s intense and technically solid. Nobody cares mate. Sonjay would come back regularly for HUSTLE in 2005, Josh was one and out. It probably goes without saying that Kaz and Spanky, the HUSTLE Heart Throbs, win here with a double team Sliced Bread #2. I’m sad the Dutt & Daniels team won’t be seen again. Josh getting more and more frustrated with Sonjay’s wacky antics would have been a solid plot over six months. Match was very good. One of the better matches in HUSTLE to this point.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Tomohiro Ishii is preparing for a Hardcore Royal Rumble!
Hardcore Royal Rumble
There are not 30 people in this, sadly. #1 is Kintaro Kanemura. His Offspring dancing still rules (it’s to “Come Out and Play” if you’re interested and not watching along). #2 is YOUNG Big Tom Ishii. He’s all business and looks somewhat out of his depth. #3 is Masato Tanaka. The more I think about Tanaka’s career the more I think he might be low key in my top ten of all time. He was good for 20 years, wrestling a ridiculous hardcore style and taking chair shots every night and he didn’t miss a beat. #4 is Flying Vampire #16. Cagematch have him listed as #Flying Vampire #7 but it clearly says #16 on the introduction. I don’t know who the Flying Vampire’s are but they rule. #16 is so good that he has to be someone famous. He gets powerbombed over the top rope through a table. #5 is Tomoaki Honma with a ladder. The crowd look like they’re having a fucking party out there. #6 is Steve Corino with a guitar. Ishii is taking sick bumps out there. At one point he gets superplexed through a pair of tables, at an angle, and it looks like he’s got a broken back.
Tanaka wins with a guitar shot, or should I say three guitar shots because it doesn’t break. You can see how annoyed Tanaka is at it not breaking. They did a lot of fun wacky shit in this. I loved it.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Hustle Kamen vs. Super Crazy
Hustle Kamen became a regular thing and the Red Kamen was SUGI. Am I saying this is SUGI? No. I think it’s more likely that Flying Vampire #16 is on this show. This guy has an American accent for starters. Crazy comes out with make up that says “I like Paul Stanley from KISS but I also like day of the dead”
It’s wild that Super Crazy was already past his best in 2004. He didn’t even sign for WWE until the following year. He burned bright and he burned quick. This match is not good. It’s mostly clumsy and sluggish with the odd very successful high spot. Crazy does a powerbomb into a quebrada at one point and looks crisp and smooth. He’s ON but then he makes a mess of a set up for the Code Red and it looks bad. It’s appropriate that Hustle Kamen Red wins with the Code Red I guess but they switched the guy out because whoever this was wasn’t it.
Final Rating: **3/4
Mark Coleman & Monsieur de Barbarossa vs. Ryouji Sai & Katsuhisa Fujii
Sai & Fujii enter to the James Bond theme for Japanese reasons. The natives have little hope here. They’re presented as completely inferior from the start. MDB is a monster and Coleman is established as a rival for the likes of Kawada. Coleman’s faults become very apparent during this. Without a strong opponent or a strong partner he’s reminds me of Eric Angle. MDB is fine as a killer but here he’s beating someone up for bit, tagging out and it’s all just an extended squash. The whole process makes him feel less special. I get very bored of the match long before the finish. The heels get into a laughable disagreement where MDB looks like a total bitch and then Coleman wins on his own. Hard pass.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Taichi points out Toshiaki Kawada on the poster for this show. Kawada gets annoyed with him for it and kicks him into some chairs. Man, I love Kawada. He’s so surly.
Giant Silva & Psycho the Death vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Hirotaka Yokoi
This is an improvement because Yokoi is a tough guy and Kawada is a legend so the monster heels are able to impose their will but the match doesn’t drag due to Fighting Spirit.
Kawada has taken to wearing his Bruce Lee tracksuit here, which is the first step towards a Wackier Kawada! He has a hard time dealing with big man Silva and if that wasn’t bad enough Psycho tries bashing him with his dolly. Kawada does show an understanding of the gimmick and he threatens to lob the dolly but instead puts it down carefully as Psycho has presented it as something that has value to him. Yokoi has a reasonable understanding of pro wrestling but he’s too keen on the ‘no sell’ and isn’t good at executing it. Psycho feels like he’s enjoying taking Kawada’s short kicks but he then botches a neckbreaker. Kawada wrestling Giant Silva gives us a glance at how most legendary Japanese wrestlers would have been booked by Vince McMahon. Psycho rolls Yokoi up for the pin while Kawada looks stupid trying to German suplex Silva.
Final Rating: **1/4
Gama King vs. Shinya Hashimoto
Gama King sounds like he should be really famous.
Nope, he’s a bloke with a frog’s head. He was in Zero1 right before this as King Dabada. He also wrestled in Puerto Rico as Alofa the Samoan Tank. He is, in fact, Samoan.
Hashimoto, along with Kawada, is now embracing the HUSTLE. He’s dressed as Elvis Presley doing karate and has a massive afro. He is now the HUSTLE King! Blinged out Hash has me chuckling for a few minutes. He has a gold belt on and wears a medallion. That’s pretty much where the entertainment stops. Gama King does a lot of nerve holds and such. We also have a heel ref (Guillotine LaGrande) who fast counts. Hash must be getting properly fucked off with having to kick out so fast. Gama on the other hand gets to lie around in every pin. He kicks out at about 13 at one point. Then he taps out to an armbar. Hash won’t let go and the ref has to call the match to save Gama King’s arm. This was quite bad. Bonus points for Hash looking awesome pre-match.
Final Rating: *1/4
Sidenote: This is sadly it for Shinya Hashimoto. He wouldn’t wrestle for HUSTLE again and died the following year. HUSTLE probably isn’t the best place to come for good Hashimoto matches (they’ve all been rotten) but if you want to see him in an afro wig, this is the place to come.
Video Control takes us backstage where Ogawa hypes up Wataru Sakata by slapping him on the back. Elsewhere Generalissimo Takada fires up Kevin Randleman, who is hyped.
Kevin Randleman vs. Wataru Sakata
Kevin has a blonde woman in his corner who belts Sakata with a big slap. She also yells support. “Make his mother cry” is my favourite. The match seems to revolve around her rather than Randleman, which is very typical of the WWE mockery they were trying for. The valet jumps in there and accidentally knocks out Randleman with a punch. I’m in bits here.
With Randleman knocked out in the corner Sakata is free to get his revenge with a spanking! Randleman is a lovely man for taking that spot but it fucking sucked. I’m still chuckling about it!
Sakata gets busted open and finishes with a double stomp. It would be fair to say they made amends to him here after treating him badly in the booking in the first few shows. He came across like a proper star, getting one over on the cheating heels and bleeding for his art. The match still wasn’t very good but hey.
Final Rating: *1/2
Dan Bobish & An Jo vs. Naoya Ogawa & Riki Choshu
An Jo has been a good personality for the Monster Army. He’s a good deal tougher than his persona suggests here and he was a regular for UWFi. Bobish has gained his own mask here. Ogawa is dubbed “Captain Hustle” here. Riki Choshu is just black trunks, taking this all deadly seriously still. Imagine building an entire promotion just to rib Riki Choshu. Everyone else pisses around in a truly dreadful main event but Choshu gives it his all, which doesn’t amount to much because he’s pretty long in the tooth. The faces double team for the win. Minor points for effort from Choshu but this didn’t feel like a main event at all.
Final Rating: *
Post Match: The Monster Army attacks but Hash and Kawada make the save.
Generalissimo Takada then turns up for his standard bit of abusing the babyfaces to end the show. This goes on for ages and nothing actually happens so let’s just skip it shall we. The only real note is that Kawada grabs a live mic in such a way that means BUSINESS.
There’s a theme emerging on these shows and it seems to be that HUSTLE throw out fun undercards with decent matches and wacky shit that I really enjoy. And then they do the same HUSTLE vs. Monster Army shit in the main events that WCW did with the New World Order ad nauseum. Will we ever get a good match at the top end? Time will tell. All of the top end matches on this show were basically the same but with a little dressing here and there.