DDS ace photographer Gregory Davis was on hand for this year’s edition of CHIKARA‘s annual, massive, King of Trios weekend. 2012’s KOT was all about the Queens though, as seven Joshi came to CHIKARA and demolished preconceptions, gender barriers and, most enjoyably, Matt Classic. Tsubasa Kuragaki told me she’s looking forward to returning to America again soon. Until then you can enjoy Greg’s shots of three days of wrestling excellence. You can also order the shows via SmartMarkVideo.com.
Each night of CHIKARA‘s JoshiMania raised the bar. As good as Philly was, Boston was that much better and as good as that was, New York easily ranks among the best wrestling shows in the US in the past several years. The wrestling, the crowd, the atmosphere all contributed to an unforgettable night in Manhattan.
The build for JoshiMania began with a promo by Aja Kong claiming that CHIKARA made a grave error in presenting Manami Toyota as the representative of Japanese women’s wrestling. Last Sunday the good friends and bitter rivals were given a chance to settle the issue in Manhattan. Likewise Sara Del Rey and Ayako Hamada were scheduled to face each other in a rematch of what many consider the greatest SHIMMER match of all time. Take that, then consider this was the last chance for all the visiting women to astonish US crowds and it’s no wonder JoshiMania ended with a standing ovation.
CHIKARA JoshiMania Night Three
December 4th, 2011
Highline Ballroom – New York City, NY
Los Ice Creams defeated Dasher Hatfield & Saturyne
GAMI defeated Portia Perez with a Fisherman Buster
Brodie Lee defeated Ultramantis Black with a Lyger Bomb
Toshie Uematsu & The Batiri [Obaryon, Kodama,Kobold] defeated Cherry & The Colony [Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, Green Ant] with a Top Rope Splash from Uematsu to Cherry
Mayumi Ozaki defeated Kaori Yoneyama with an Running Enzuigiri in 10:22
Aja Kong, Tsubasa Kuragaki, & Mio Shirai defeated Manami Toyota, Sawako Shimono & Hanako Nakamori with the Metal Wing by Tsubasa on Nakamori
Sara Del Rey defeated Ayako Hamada with a Piledriver
The card was filled with legends and established stars, but began with the debut of someone brand new to Pro Wrestling. Saturyne. She took the took the place of the absent Sugar Dunkerton and teamed with Dasher Hatfield against Los Ice Creams in her CHIKARA debut. The rookie flipped circles around the soft serve goons with a level of athleticism rarely seen. Given more experience the US could have a masked high-flyer of the same caliber as Japan’s Ray. She was very, very impressive in the losing effort.
GAMI found a way to go 3-0 this weekend. Even without her noisemaker she bested Portia Perez with a Fisherman’s Buster. Portia was likely still reeling from the previous night’s match with Toyota (Portia told us it was the hardest she’s ever been hit in her life). Advantage GAMI!
Brodie Lee delivered what was, I’m sure, the hardest Powerbomb in the history of the CHIKARA ring (it sunk at least a foot on impact), when he soundly defeated Ultramantis Black. After the match Brodie signaled that he wanted a shot at the CHIKARA Grand Championship. Current Champ Eddie Kingston will need to continue to channel the spirit of Aja Kong if he wants to hold on to that belt. Lee looked unstoppable.
Toshie Uematsu, in her final US appearance, wore the face paint of The Dark Army. In her full her Demonic Empress form, she lead her minions to victory over The Colony and Cherry (who definitely should have been given a Pink Ant mask).
Mayumi Ozaki, founder of Oz Academy, took on former JWP Open-Weight Champion Kaori Yoneyama in a rather significant cross-promotion singles match. It meant all the more knowing that, like Uematsu, this would be Yoneyama’s final match in the United States before her retirement. Kaori looked as fantastic as she had at every JoshiMania night. America was fortunate to have her even for this short time. Ozaki won without using her signature chain. Ozaki really showed she still had more good years left in her illustrious career and didn’t have to relly on the usual entourage and weapons she has in Japan.
Then, Tsubasa Kuragaki destroyed New York.
The six woman tag match seemed like it would be about Toyota and Kong going at it one more time. Instead, it was about all six
putting on a 30 minute epic. Far too mucfaceh went on to capture accurately in detail. Everyone in the match gave their all. The young Hanoko Nakamori and younger Sawako Shimono had their best JoshiMania performances. There were no other options as Kong and Toyota battled like it was 1995, stage diving, piledriving, and avalanching each other as if they were back in the Tokyo Dome. Mio Shirai was as “Dangerous, Cheeky, and Foxy,” as her T-Shirt advertised. Again, a total star.
At the end, though, it was Tsubasa Kuragaki who stood alone on top the pile of broken bodies and smoldering ashes that used to be the Highline Ballroom. The crowd gave her a standing ovation and begged her to return to CHIKARA once again. If Tsubasa wasn’t an elite level Joshi when she came to America, she is now1. The woman is totally amazing, and it’s probably safe to expect her back in the US at some point.
The 6 Woman Tag was not the main event though. Any normal wrestlers would have had an impossible task in following it. No worries for Ayako Hamada and Sara Del Rey, with their combined 23 years of experience, most of which they’ve spent as the go to main-eventer in their respective countries. The two had another glorious and vicious fight that kept the crowd high on adrenaline. Each used nearly everything in their arsenal: Hama-chan cutters, Del Reyzors, Axe Kicks, AP Crosses, Royal Butterflies and more had to be deployed before this could end. Sara narrowly gained her second win over Hamada with a cringing Piledriver, propelling herself to 3-0 on JoshiMania weekend. The Queen Reigned Supreme.
After the match, fans rose and thanked Hamada for her efforts. She invited all the other women at ringside and in the back to join her as fans chanted, “Joshi! Joshi!,” and “Arigatou!” to the women who made this amazing event possible. That included former Jumping Bomb Angel Itsuki Yamazaki, whom Mike Quackenbush has credited for being the brains behind the JoshiMania. A tremendous moment to end a tremendous weekend for Professional Wrestling.
JoshiMania exceeded all expectations. It delivered shows that impressed neophytes and veteran followers of Japanese women’s wrestling alike. The New York audience especially had several audience members who weren’t regular wrestling fans at all, but came because they knew of the cultural importance of an event featuring the likes of Manami Toyota and Aja Kong.
That’s something special. Joshi Puroresu is something special. We talk about it a lot here on DDS because the athletes deserve it, for giving us decades of fantastic, innovative, entertaining, and relevant wrestling to enjoy. Joshi is filled with some of the nicest, kindest, and most interesting people in the sport and we are happy to do our small part to support them.. We love Joshi Puroresu and couldn’t be happier that more and more people are starting to feel the same way. We give our thanks to the entire crew at CHIKARA, as well as Itsuki Yamazaki and our friends Shiori and Yama from M-Drop.com for helping to make this special event happen.
July 23rd, 2011
Heirloom Arts Theatre – Danbury, CT
Availible on LookMaNoFans.com for $9-$12.
Super Smash Bros. (Player Uno & Player Dos) vs. Aeroform (Flip Kendrick & Louis Lyndon)
Leon St. Giovanni w/ vs. “The Juice” JT Dunn
Aaron Epic vs. Amber
Academy of Anatomy (Nick Talent & Mark Angel) vs. Team TREMENDOUS (Dan Barry & Ken Scampi) vs. D.U.I. (Anthony Stone & William Thorne) vs. Connecticut Superstars (Dave Cole & J-Busta)
RD Evans vs. Jarek 1:20
Throwbacks (Sugar Dunkerton & Dasher Hatfield) vs. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (Darius Carter & TJ Marconi)
Cockstrong Carnival – Participants Include: Cecil Nyx, Tuck Hanson, GLAAD Badd, Veda Scott, Stan Styles, Addy Star, Steve “Turtle” Weiner, Josh Thor, Fredo Majors
Mat Fitchett vs. Jonny Mangue
Team Cockstrong (Johnny Cockstrong, Corvis Fear, Chase Burnett, Zane Silver) vs. The Submission Squad (Davey Vega, Gary Jay, Pierre Abernathy, Evan Gelistico)
It was only a matter of time. Beyond Wrestling’s post-modernist, no-fans-in-the-audience, wrestling-by-wrestlers-for-wrestlers philosophy created so much buzz that, ironically, a growing number of fans wanted a chance to experience a show live. There was some question as to whether Beyond’s specific formula could be brought to the public in a genuine way. After all, the raucous crowd made up entirely of other wrestlers was part of what made Beyond unique. Likewise, the contrast between HD visuals with the underground, “Fight Club” style environment was something that would be difficult to capture in a traditional venue. Beyond also had a number of concepts, characters, and traditions that an uninitiated fan would have a hard time sorting through live. Some feared the aspects that made Beyond stand out would need to be changed or minimized in order to make a successful transition from its private enclosed gyms to an open public theatre.
However, any such fears were allayed roughly 15 seconds after the cameras started to roll. Flip Kendrick and Louis Lyndon, Aeroform, made their way to the ring and are given a typical Beyond greeting by wrestlers around ringside. You see Corvis Fear, Pinkie Sanchez, and TJ Marconi singing, dancing, and Houston hopping to Lil Flip’s “Game Over” as the high-flying brothers entered. As stated on commentary, this show was done to bring the two communities, Beyond fans and Beyond wrestlers, together. So the Beyond locker room was ringside behaving as ridiculously as it would be at any other Beyond taping. The only difference this time was that fans were lucky enough to be in the mix dancing, chanting, catching diving wrestlers etc., all right along with the Beyond roster. In order to ensure home viewers got a similarly engaging experience, Beyond eschewed the traditional hard camera and only used two HD handhelds. This succeeded in capturing the personal feel of earlier Beyond DVDs in the new, larger venue.
With the atmosphere settled, the card itself retained authenticity as well as it was filled with a number of “Only in Beyond” matchups. Two tag team bouts, Aeroform versus The Super Smash Brothers and CHIKARA’s Throwbacks versus Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous highlighted this. Each team looked good, but it was the lesser known team of Marconi and Carter that stood out, showing star potential with both their wrestling ability and charisma (no easy feat when across from someone like Sugar Dunkerton).
Fresh faces JT Dunn and Leon St. Giovanni had a solid, smooth bout. Giovanni looked like a natural, which his manager, talker extraordinaire Jon Harder, made sure to let everyone know. ACW’s Young Lion Mat Fitchett faced Beyond’s home-grown super athlete Jonny Mangue. Both demonstrated why they’ve garnered so much confidence from the promotions that are grooming them to be the next big things.
The Four Team tag match was, expectedly, insane. At one point it looked like someone had emptied a dump truck filled with sweaty, unconscious wrestlers onto the floor of the Danbury Heirloom Arts Theatre. In a similar vein, the “Cockstrong Carnival” was entertaining from beginning to end. The purpose was to showcase wrestlers who, like its namesake Johnny Cockstrong, liked to have a bit of fun while they’re wrestling. It was generally a good, fun time…until Inter-Species Wrestling’s cute and cuddly psychopath Addy Star showed up. She stole the show with a brief but impactful appearance, delivering the sickest Sliding D this side of Masato Tanaka to Stan Styles (after Cock-slamming, suplexing, and force-feeding him). It was an unforgettable moment, as was Josh Thor decapitating poor Steve Weiner, the crowd chanting for GLAAD Badd to do something terrible to Veda Scott, and Thor slugging it out with the decidedly un-fun Fredo Majors. Good stuff all around.
The Match of the Night battle is a three-way between ACW/ROH/CHIKARA/Everywhere standout RD Evans taking on Beyond’s Man of Illusion Jarek 1:20, an inter-gender brawl between WSU’s Amber and Aaron “Kanye” Epic, and a Captain’s Fall Elimination match between ACW’s Submission Squad and Team Cockstrong.
RD Evans did what he always does. He disarmed everyone with his humor and wacked charm, before blowing them away with his skill and frightening intensity. Jarek comes from much the same mold, and matching these two up was genius. Evans has already conquered much of the United States 2011. Here’s hoping Jarek brings his one-of-a-kind style to more fans in the 2012.
Beyond is known for its hard-hitting intergender matches and the brawl between “The Encore” Aaron Epic and Amber may have been the most brutal yet. You can probably blame Dunkerton who started a “Whoop dat trick!” chant as things got under way. Amber gave the crowd what they wanted and immediately cracked Aaron with a vicious elbow strike, and then another. Epic recovered and countered with an elbow of his own and a kick right to Amber’s grill. Things just got madder from there.
Amber is one of the more imposing women on the scene and she had no trouble throwing Epic, in between back chopping him or trying to kick his teeth out. Epic’s known for his knockout power and he needed every bit of it in this phenomenal battle. I’ve always enjoyed Amber’s work, but this was the best she’s ever been. The crowd, fans and wrestlers alike, helped make the match as they were hot for it from beginning to end. This was another case where Beyond tried something different and it paid off ten-fold.
The main event saw Beyond’s heroes Justice League, Cockstrong, Fear, Novak, Burnett, and Silver take on of its top villain, Davey Vega, and his Secret Society of Super-Villains, The Submission Squad. It was a Captain’s Fall 8 Man Tag Team Match, as Vega and Cockstrong are in a heated race to be points Champion in Beyond. A potentially infinite number of pinfals, therefore points, could be scored until either of the team captains was pinned. Early on Vega’s crew, looking more like the Suicide Squad, gave up a number of falls until Vega stepped in and things really got going.
Earning his @StiffRoboGinger Twitter handle, Gary Jay laid into his opponents whenever Vega wasn’t beheading them with discus lariats. Cockstrong, as always, courageously used his incurable case of priapism1 to his advantage. Novak busted out his Super Ultra Combo of Destruction. Vega somehow managed to survive having his finisher stolen and done to him on the top turnbuckle, and so on. Everyone was on point, except the dead tired ref who was forced to keep up with all of it.
There’s no need to spoil the end of this epic clash of super teams, but it does have a shocking twist that ACW followers especially will want to see.
As usual, all the action on the show can be viewed with or without commentary. While Denver Colorado is informative as always, you should definitely try the live audio option at least once. It, coupled with the lack of hard camera, delivers an extremely visceral experience. You’ll feel like you were at the show, minus having to deal with the triple digit temperature.
Altogether, About Time featured 9 matches with 41 wrestlers. The quantity was much less important than the variety. Here was a cross-cut of the current crop of young talent wrestling in the US. The diverse mix lead to lots of good matches, and three really good ones. However the show overall felt better, and more important, than even the sum of its parts. About Time came across a lot like the early days of Ring of Honor. The time when you would see unknown young wrestlers from across the country come together to put on groundbreaking events that redefined wrestling for a generation. There’s even a group of guys from a Texas promotion trying to steal stealing the spotlight like TWA’s Danielson, Spanky, and London used to2. Beyond invited this favorable comparison even more with its second live taping, Back in Flesh, where Davey Richards and Johnny Gargano faced Jonny Mangue in a Round Robin Challenge.
Yes, big things are happening for this small, but rapidly growing company. This show brought Beyond to a new environment but everything that made the promotion intriguing and unique remained. We recommend this DVD to all wrestling fans (Amber lovers and ACW Fanarchists especially should give it a look). But you don’t have to take our word for it. Beyond has provided tons of media from this event to preview. Below is a playlist of clips from several of the matches. Enjoy!
DDS was provided with a review copy of this release. It is available for purchase at LookMaNoFans.com for $12.
Priapism is a potentially harmful and painful medical condition in which the erect penis or clitoris does not return to its flaccid state, despite the absence of both physical and psychological stimulation. ↩
Of course The Submission Squad and Mat Fitchett are based in St. Louis and RD Evans has moved to the East Coast, but Anarchy defies geography. ↩