Lots of stuff happened at Wrestlecon, most of which you can buy on iPPV at WWNLive.com and you can already download the CHIKARA show here at Smartmarkvideo. Greg was on-hand for plenty of it. Here are his pics from SHIMMER and CHIKARA, featuring the returns of Serena Deeb, Madison Eagles, and Amazing Kong, Ayumi Kurihara’s final US match, and Cheerleader Melissa taking back what’s hers. Oh, and a bit of Jyushin “Thunder” Lyger.
Here’s our final gallery from the most recent SHIMMER tapings. This was the one where Allysin Kay, as she long ago prophesized, got in the ring with The World Famous Kana (although rumor has it she’s still looking forward to a one-on-one confrontation). Also, Athena continued making her case that she is the best by taking on the best in Ayako Hamada. All this, and lots of ninjas. Enjoy!
SHIMMER Volume 50 saw the cross-generational Joshi dream match of Kana versus Ayako Hamada come to American soil, in what is now largely considered, “the best fucking match ever.” There was also the welcome return of SHIMMER original Lexie Fyfe, who looked fantasticin the main event elimination match. Please enjoy our photos, volume 51 and 52 are coming soon!
Greg, boss that he is, attended yet another three day international wrestling summit with the AAW/SHIMMER Weekend. Here’s his wonderful photos from the first of the four SHIMMER shows. This was the one where Athena found herself in the main event, Courtney Rush lost herself in the past, and, delivering on months of trash talk, Portia Perez actually, finally, for real beat Kana. Enjoy!
When established Japanese Puroresu news outlets Tokyo Sports and Weekly Puroresu named Stardom’s Yuzuki Aikawa as the top Joshi in 2011, many foreign followers of the sport were a bit surprised. While Yuzupon gained lots of mainstream attention in Japan and helped make Stardom’s debut year a smashing success, looking purely at in-ring accomplishments there was a woman who stood head and shoulders above every other female wrestler in Japan in 2011. She won and defended multiple titles and multiple tournaments. She dominated her home promotion and conquered a growing list of outside companies. She had numerous great matches and was involved in some of the best feuds in recent Joshi Puroresu memory. She even made a highly successful excursion to the United States. This woman is, of course, Hailey Hatred. Or Kana, depending on who you ask.
Both Kana and Hailey have legitimate claims to being the best Joshi wrestler of 2011 (and the best wrestler in the world, period). 2012 begins with both eyeing more fame, more success, and more gold. It’s obvious and inevitable: these two women need to meet in the ring. In spite of wrestling in the same countries, and companies at times, Hailey and Kana haven’t crossed paths since 2009. As Aikawa enjoys her #1 trophies given to her by journalists, we hope to see #1a and #1b fight it out in the ring.
While Hailey Hatred is generally thought of as a power wrestler, in reality she’s always had a technical, multi-discipline martial arts basis. While in Japan she’s spent her time training extensively in one of the top MMA dojos in the world. Of course Kana has done much the same and her Fujiwara/BattlArts/Combat Sambo mash-up style is a most beautiful form of violence. When these two met back in August of 2009 on Vader Time 4, they stole the show with a 10 minute, non-stop, high-speed Strike/Suplex/Submission battle. Their technique made for a great bout then, but now both are harder, better, faster, and stronger.
What stands out most in that match is the constant aggression Kana and Hailey unleash upon one another. It wasn’t personal. They tried to end each other, for no other reason than the spirit of Joshi Puroresu competition. Since that time both Kana and Hailey have stated their respect for each others’ ability, and their desire to wrestle. However, recent events may have turned that professional admiration into some serious personal animosity.
Last December when Kaori Yoneyama chose to retract her retirement mid-ceremony, it caused quite a bit of controversy in the wrestling scene. Of course “controversy” plus “Joshi” meant that Kana would be involved. Kana used her weapon of choice, the keyboard, and wailed on both Yoneyama and JWP, going so far as to say actions like theirs are the reason she’s become the “Anti-Joshi.”
Besides being Triple-Crown Champion tag partners, Hailey and Yoneyama are extremely close outside of the ring. It’s safe to assume that Hailey did not take kindly to Kana’s harsh words for the woman she’s called her best friend, regardless of the reasoning. Even prior to that, Kana’s Triple Tails faction staged a brief, but successful, invasion of JWP while Hailey was champion. This did not go unnoticed. Although she’s technically a freelancer, there’s likely no person on the JWP roster with more motivation to defend the company’s honor from the Queen of Poison than Hailey.
Luke Matsuki is the world’s greatest Kana fan. Her worldwide fame is due in no small part due to his consistently beautiful documentation of many of her matches and events. We’ve all seen the countless great shots he’s taken of our Queen of Poison, so we decided to ask him to pick a few of his personal favorites and share with us. We also asked this top flight photographer a few questions about his work. Enjoy!
How long have you been a Kana fan?
I knew her as a trainee from before she debuted. I saw her debut on June 16th, 2006 and immediately became a fan. I was sad when she retired once, and am very thankful she returned.
How many Kana shows have you seen?
I have not counted exactly, until last year I watched about 70 games a year. I have seen little less this year, as the number of her local city matches has increased. Still I’ve seen about 45 games to date, more than half of her matches this year.
What camera do you use?
Have your pictures appeared in magazines?
No, but they have been used several times in small ads and posters.
What makes Kana such a special wrestler?
It is a very difficult question, as she defies comparison. While taking photos or watching her matches, she touches your heart.
When you see her matches you can’t be satisfied with other wrestlers.
For me, there is not another wrestler that compares to her. Whether it’s looks, fighting style, speech, ability to act, and everything else.
Another month, another edition of SMASH bringing variety and color to the wrestling world. This edition featured the crowning of the first ever SMASH men’s Champion, a #1 contender’s match to determine the first challenger for Kana’s Women’s title, and the next chapters in the love/hate stories of Kito/Mio and Kovac/Bairon.
October 28th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
World Tryout Match: AKIRA defeated Sugar Dunkerton with the Musasabi Press at 7:29
YO-HEY defeated HajimeOhara with the Dragon Fly at 4:31
Handicap Tag Match: Keizo Matsuda & Katsumi Hirano defeated Takuya Kito with a Lariat from Matsuda at 5:11
4 Way #1 Contender Elimination Match: Tomoka Nakagawa defated Syuri, Ray, and Makoto for a shot at the SMASH Women’s Title at 5:24
Genichiro Tenryu & Yusuke Kodama defeated Michael Kovac and Rob Raw with Diving Crossbody from Kodama to Raw at 8:21
Tatsumi Fujinami & Ultimo Dragon defeated Yoshiaki Yago & Kengo Mashimo with a Backslide from Fujinami to Yago at 12:45
Kana defeated Aki Shizuku with the Kana Lock at 8:06
SMASH Title Tournament Final: Starbuck defeated TAJIRI with a Piledriver to become first SMASH Men’s Champion
Yes, FCF founder Starbuck bested SMASH founder TAJIRI to become the first ever SMASH Champion. As people who read our SMASH.21 recap know, this is not the first time a title has changed hands between the two. Previously it was Starbuck bringing the FCF belt back to Finland after TAJIRI had captured it. No doubt TAJIRI will look for the first opportunity to bring his promotions’ top prize back to Japan, but before he has a chance,Starbuck faces a huge challenge from another European competitor.
Michael Kovac had been dropping hints1 about the “God of European Wrestling” coming to SMASH. Starbuck had already sent the God of Mexico, VENENO, packing. He’ll no doubt have a bit more trouble with Dave “Fit” Finlay. Yes, the Belfast Bruiser is coming to SMASH and will be the first challenger for the title on November 24th’s SMASH.23. This will surely be a phenomenal match and a tough challenge for Starbuck. It will also keep the SMASH roster from holding their own title for at least another two months.
Sugar Dunkerton finally made his SMASH debut, and managed to get his basketball through customs without raising suspicion. He may have wont he tip off, but SMASH ace AKIRA pulled out the clutch jumping splash to win in the 4th Quarter. Somehow, some way, Hajime Ohara lost to YO-HEY, continuing his skid. Soon, hopefully, he’ll retrieve that swagger he had when he pinned KUSHIDA before his departure to New Japan.
Kito’s latest ploy to win Mio Shirai’s cold, black heart failed miserably. He put himself in a tag match, sans partner, hoping that Mio would run from the commentary booth to his aid. No such luck. Pro-Tip Kito: She has Sadistic in the name of her faction. She’s not capable of empathy. She enjoys both watching and making you suffer. Sort it out.
The death of love continued. Lin “I got your ‘bitch’ right here!” Bairon made her shocking return, low-blowing her former lover Michael Kovac, costing him a match. Kovac and Lin have quite a history and while Kovac hoped to reconcile (after attacking her and driving her away from SMASH for several months), Lin was having none of it. In fact she seemed back to her old, pre-Kovac, pre-bitch self, and was no longer under the suave Austrian’s sway. She wants revenge.
In an, apparently, ultra-high-speed elimination match, Tomoka Nakagawa secured the first shot at Kana’s title by turning back Syuri, Makoto, and Ray. TAJIRI has said that he feels Tomoka is the Best in the World, and I’m sure he’s giddy about the possibility of her taking the title away from his best frienemy. Makoto came out with some cosplay maids, probably from the Maid Cafe she moonlighted at on her birthday. Oh! And Bull Nakanowas ringside to promote her upcoming retirement show on January 8th.
And finally Aki Shizuku made her jump from the backyard to the big league’s in what was reportedly a great non-title match with SMASH Women’s Champion Kana. This was a huge opportunity for Aki since, as we talked about in our exclusive interview with her. she is a relative unknown even to dedicated Joshi followers. To go from obscurity to the semi-main event in Korakuen Hall is a rare opportunity. She made the most of it.
As you can see in the photos the amateur stand-out tossed the champ around with ease in the early going. Even though Kana handpicked Aki as an opponent, she still seem surprised by Aki’s strength and technique. Aki put up a great, impressive fight but could not avoid the inevitable as Kana put her out with the Kana Lock.
This was a non-title match but still an important one for Kana, and especially Aki. It was great of SMASH and Kana to give her this opportunity to showcase her talent to a wide audience. SMASH should be commended for their constant effort to bring fresh blood into the promotion, and Aki deserves a hand for delivering in such a high-pressure situation. Kana even showed Aki an extremely rare post-match sign of respect. As TAJIRI tweeted, “SMASH is where dreams come true,” and Aki’s dream of being one of the top Joshi has officially begun.
And that was SMASH. Enjoy the pictures below the cut, see you next month! And, after that, we’ll be reporting live from SMASH.24 on December 30th at Korakuen Hall. Peace!
Aki Shizuku is not a name widely known to pro-wrestling fans in Japan, and almost completely unknown to even dedicated fans outside the country. That meant that it a came as a surprise when she was named the opponent for Kana on SMASH’s October 28th show. Kana handpicked Shizuku as an opponent, no doubt due to her outstanding history in amateur wrestling, unique physical ability, and keen mind. Known as the “Intelligent Monster” this hidden gem of Japan will have a huge opportunity to showcase her skills and reveal why her pro future is just as bright as her amateur past. We invite all our readers to learn more about the talented Aki Shizuku.
Please tell us when you made your debut, and against whom.
My first opponent was Midori on October 13, 2007.
I took a hiatus from pro wrestling in 2007, and returned in 2009. I have been wrestling professionally for 3 years.
Who trained you?
I trained at Ito-Dojo until my debut. After returning, I was trained in ground technique by Yuuki Ishikawa of BattlArts and had wrestling practice in Gaku-puro. [Gaku-puro is Japanese backyard pro-wrestling.]
You have a great track record in amateur wrestling, and were an All Japan Student Championship Finalist in 2009. Why did you choose to become a professional wrestler?
At first, I became a joshi puroresu fan, seeing AJW’s ATHENA TV show when I was a junior high school student. I wanted to become a pro wrestler. I told my mother and she said, “You should wrestle amateur, and learn the severity of winning and losing”, and I was tossed into the world of wrestling.
After your debut, you started wrestling in Gaku-puro. What did you learn by doing that? What is the difference between Gaku-puro and professional wrestling?
Gaku-puro wrestlers are not a professional and are not athletes. Their physical ability and strength is at the level of ordinary students. Therefore, it is most important that they use ingenuity and make characters that utilizing their own unique abilities. They are university students, so they have an academic approach to puroresu. “The first phase of puroresu is to introduce myself to the audience”, was the advice from a member of Temple Puroresu that affected me the most. I had experience in women’s professional wrestling organization and similar basic skills, but I had no skills to tell audience about my unique advantage. After getting that advice, I actively incorporated certain moves, leading to my own style now. If there was no encounter with Gaku-puro, the present version of myself would not exist.
You are a representative of the ”Temple Puroresu” promotion. Please tell us about it.
When Temple Puroresu puts on an event, instead of selling tickets, we solicit donations. The fundraising activities primarily contribute to an orphanage, but we also do volunteer events for the disabled, and we are giving support and guidance for a professional wrestling organization run by the hearing-impaired.
On October 28th at SMASH.22, you face the first SMASH Women’s Champion Kana. Why do you feel Kana chose you as an opponent? Please tell us about your feelings on this match.
In the past year I have gotten emails from many fans saying “Please fight against Kana.” There was also an organization which said, “Please fight against Kana,” before SMASH did, although it did not happen.
During this past year, when I did professional wrestling, the name of Kana was always mentioned. Kana and I both studied under Yuuki Ishikawa, president of BattlARTS. I think that there is a professional wrestling match which only Kana and I can express.
Do you have a more chance of fighting well? Is there anyone who you would want to face, Japan or abroad? And what are your goals in your wrestling career?
I would like to fight with all woman wrestlers of SMASH. A trainee of SMASH is in Temple Puroresu. I would like to fight him when he debuts.
My greatest target is Hailey Hatred. I would like to fight with her again. She is a wrestler whom I respect.
I never want to lose to other wrestlers. I want to be the strongest among those with this same career.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Joshi Puroresu?
Based on my experiences in Gaku-pro, we should focus on unifying wrestlers’ individuality. Individuality and character is not about personality nor appearance. It is a skill which each person is trying to gain and use. I love Joshi Puroresu. There is Puroresu which only women can do and we should have the spirit of inquiry.
Please give us your brief thoughts on the following wrestlers.
Serena Deeb – I am not acquainted with Serena, I’ve only watched her fights. She has a great body. Just watch her entrance and you can see that she is very strong
Hailey Hatred – She is my goal wrestler. I respect her as a player. I am training kicks, therefore, I do not fear her kicks. I was beaten by her in a singles match recently, but I have confidence that my ground wrestling skills in first phase of the match was better than hers. I studied it, and I would like to beat Hailey some day.
Syuri – Uses great kicks. She has something I don’t have, so I have a natural interest in her. We would have an MMA style fight. My style is based in amateur wrestling, Syuri’s is based in kicks. They seem similar, but they are surprisingly opposite styles. That is why she is also the best person for me to fight.
Makoto – I’m now involved in SMASH and I think she is an absolutely essential wrestler. I don’t want to be defeated by her.
Ray – Ray is good at the high flying style, a style that won’t by any means be done by me, so I think it’s fantastic. She does everything brilliantly, and is a beautiful wrestler. She previously participated in Joou-Bati* so I have interest in her. [Joou-Bati (女王バチ) means Women's BattlARTS/shoot style, as seen in Queen Bee.]
Hiroyo Matsumoto – I am interested in her as young heavy weight class wrestler. I would like to fight with her someday.
Is there anything else you would like to say to your current and future fans?
Proceeds of the merchandise sold in my shop will be donated to an orphanage.
Yes! You can also contribute to society by coming to see my fights! Laugh together through Puroresu. Let’s wish for people’s happiness together through Puroresu. Be happy together through Puroresu!
Learn more about Aki Shizuku by following her on Twitter (@shizukuaki0702) . See her in action in this epic open training session where she puts 8 guys through the ringer.