Early 2019 Chinese Pro Wrestling News Round-Up #3

Oriental Wrestling Entertainment

– After the recently announced international talent search by OWE,  the first performer to be venturing to China has been confirmed to be Buffa. Buffa has a track record in Xhina, having performed initially for king of Pro Wrestling (KOPW,) he went on to also work matches for Gao Yuan’s We Love Wrestling (WLW,) and Middle Kingdom Wrestling (MKW.) He will arrive in China a few days before his March 16th debut, and I will  have further updates on his time in China as it develops.

Buffa has a track record working for Pro Wrestling Zero-1 in Japan and was a strong player in the foundational years of modern US indie wrestling under the name K-Pusha, in the tag team “All Money Is Legal.” He will bring a wealth of experience and charisma with him to OWE. Of particular interest, to me, is the fact that Buffa will be, by my count, the foreigner to have worked for the most Chinese Pro Wrestling companies in the scene’s short existence thus far.

– Additional information has come to light about OWE’s “Road to Double or Nothing” after their March 3rd 2019 event in Shanghai. In an article published on their official WeChat page, they detailed many of the events of the night, including many of the match outcomes. What stood out the most, however, is the use of a fan voting system being implemented.

This system, run via a dedicated OWE  mini-program inside the app, looks to rank the talent via paid fan support to help determine how the trials will progress in key ways. These trials, thus far, in story have  been handled as single-elimination, randomly selected tag-team matches to qualify for a round robin tournament. The first inkling of how the fan votes will impact the end result of the proceedings can be found in things such as determining which eliminated competitor gets to come back to team with “Hyperstreak” Gregiry Sharpe in future matches after he won a multi-man scramble match to qualify for the trials.

For approximately one cent in RMB fans can purchase a support ticket. They then use the OWE social media application to give that ticket to one of the eliminated wrestlers. After approximately 5 weeks, according to my sources, the wrestler with the most support tickets will get a second shot at competing to go to Double or Nothing, by joining Sharpe in the Round Robin. The rankings will be updated , as I understand it, on Friday afternoons.

This kind of fan ranking system, as you may recall from my previous articles, is derived from OWE’s idol culture influence and aims to take advantage of China’s high level of online engagement. Exactly how much influence it will have on the end results of OWE’s “Road to Double or Nothing” story is, presently, unknowable. It will certainly be exciting to watch this uniquely Chinese adaptation of both idol culture and pro wrestling shape events over the next three months in the lead up to All Elite Wrestling’s May 25th debut event in Las Vegas.

The randomly paired teams who were not eliminated will move on to a round Robin tournament where the highest ranked team will earn spots at Double or Nothing. This would account for two of the 4 mentioned spots. The only round robin match date announced so far is set for March 9th.

– Episodes of this storyline will air to the west  on platforms such as NEO-TV, Powerslam TV, and Twitch. OWE aims to have all of them come out to western audiences with enough time to be caught up on their storylines by the time fans are attending Double or Nothing.

 

 

SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT

If you wish to avoid spoilers please hit Ctrl+F and search for MKW to skip down to news about that company. Otherwise read on for a list of who has stayed in the contest and who has been eliminated. I’d like to preface this section by indicating that I am certain of most of this information being accurate, but that a small set of details remains unclear to me at this time regarding who, exactly, is in the eliminated pool. I’ve decided to publish it nonetheless and will work to correct any errors as I determine them.

 

– The wrestlers who survived elimination in this opening salvo were (listed in order of team placement in the round robin chart found below)

“T-Cool” Tang Huaqi and “Monkey King” Wang Jin, “The Bull” Xiong Zhiyu and “Mongolian Warrior” Wulijimuren, Rekka (from NTW) and “Scorpio XX” Liu Xinxi, “Wild Wolf” Fan Hewei and “Lightning Leopard” Cheng Xiangke, “The Captain” A-Ben and “Commando” Duan Yingnan, Zhao Junjie and Zhao Yilong, “Hyperstreak” Gregory Sharpe with his partner TBD.

-The wrestlers I can confirm as presently eliminated are:  Duan Dihang, Shuai Shuai, Tornado (blue pants) and Ren Yuhang, Xuan Xuan and Gao Jingjia. There are some names I’m.not certain of correct translations for and I’m working on getting that sorted out.

OWE-WHo-Will-In-AEW-Double-or-Nothing-round-robin

I’m personally very happy to see OWE running this storyline as their first ever round robin tournament, and I’m happy to see that the Japanese influence is very much at play. Western companies rarely, if ever, run round robins but they do so very much for the talent and audience.

 

Middle Kingdom Wrestling 

As I had mentioned in my previous news round-up, MKW’s next event will be held on March 10th 2019. Since then, several interesting bits of news have come to light.

– MKW Champion Big Sam will not be able to compete at the March 10th event, as he required emergency surgery. His surgery went smoothly and hopefully his recovery goes smoothly too and he can continue blazing a trail in Chinese Pro Wrestling in the near future.

Unfortunately this leaves the former main event annulled, and brilliant rookie Michael Su without a flagship title match on the card. From what I have been told, American wrestler “Hyperstreak” Gregory Sharpe will be taking Big Sam’s spot across the ring from “Masterclass” Michael Su. This is significant because it was also framed to me as possibly the first step towards an OWE vs. MKW event, as OWE is Sharpe’s home promotion in China.

Jason Cheng, also know as Cheng YuXiang, one of the WWE’s Chinese talent recruits, will be performing on the card in a match against Uncle Money, of MKW’s dominant heel faction The Stable. This is fairly significant as it will be an injection of fresh blood, trained at a prestige facility, to the fledgling scene. It’s hard to say how well the returning hero will fare, with his NXT career being exclusively on the mostly unfilmed Largo Loop, but he is sure to generate buzz with his WWE association. With Ho Ho Lun also working the same card it will also mark, as far as I am aware, the first event to feature this many former WWE Chinese talents in China. MKW have even dedicated an entire article to his return home to China.

– MKW also appear to be seeking new recruits to their ever improving training program, as illustrated by this article from WeChat. MKW’s efforts to bring new talent into the fold have, thus far, yielded some strong results with graduate Michael Su making my Top 5 Chinese Wrestlers Outside of OWE list within his first year of competition.

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#TorontoWrestling at #NXTToronto

On September 9th 2017 NXT made a house-show styled stop in Toronto, and tailored the event specifically towards the local market by having both Tye Dillinger and Bobby Roode make their final NXT appearances at the show. A lot more seats went unsold than I had anticipated, potentially speaking to the dwindling flame of interest in NXT since TakeOver Toronto almost a year prior packed out a much larger venue. Nevertheless, my night was quite fun and I took notes and blurry photos furiously. Here is my review of the matches that occurred:

 

Match 1 – Tye Dillinger vs. Kona Reeves

The crowd was, as expected, hot for a home-town hero (at a Wrestling show, if you’re from anywhere in Canada, you’re in-front of a hometown audience.) Poor Kona Reeves came out and was met with nowhere near the enthusiasm of his opponent’s arrival. That mattered little as he put in a really strong performance, playing the heel nicely even from the very early moments of the match. Early-on in the match Kona acts the overconfident heel, celebrating tiny moments like he had won the match and escaping from harm by breaking the rules, but quickly Tye makes him look a joke with a series of deep armdrags.

Tye Dillinger’s easy to understand and chantable gimmick gave way to his opponent receiving “1” chants from the audience whenever he gained an advantage, berating the young man for attempting to stand up to the returning hero. Tye is granted a chorus of “10” chants all match long and the audience, in general, was very engaged with the match but I was bored. There was far too much pandering and waiting and by far not enough actual wrestling. This is, regrettably, the core problem with the E in general, and it is regrettable that NXT, which once showed signs of being better than that, seems to have been infected. The match ends with a flurry of action and Tye hits Kona with the Tyebreaker for an undisputable win in this solidly worked, kind of boring match.

Grade: B-

 

Match 2 – Aaliyah and Ember Moon vs. Mandy Rose and Vanessa Borne

Mandy and Aaliyah start off for their respective teams and immediately they give Mandy a chance to impress, as she cartwheels out of a modified headscissors attempt. Prior to this the crowd had been sour on her, hyped for Aaliyah as the hometown hero herein. However, with this feat of fluid athleticism, suddenly the audience liked Mandy. It was a simple, effective moment.

The faces look impressive for a while, both putting on a good performance and looking strong until Vanessa Borne gets a handful of Aaliyah’s hair and turns the tide. The heels use standard babyface-frustrating quick tags to isolate the Canadian. In this flurry of action Mandy Rose came out with some nice throws and looked very dominant against Aaliyah, ostensibly the hometown hero. Mandy stays strong looking, getting a submission hold and nice impact off of a clothesline, before tagging in Vanessa. It is with Vanessa in the ring that the crowd begins to chant for Aaliyah to make a comeback. Even with the crowd chanting for Aaliyah, I swear the biggest sounds were still Mandy’s strikes.

As the match builds to a conclusion we see Aaliyah make a hot tag to Ember Moon, who hits a bunch of nice looking spots, even taking out both opponents at once. During the fracas Vanessa Borne and Aaliyah get tagged in for their respective teams and Aaliyah scores a Northern Lights Suplex hold for the three count on Borne. I had known from the beginning of the match that Borne would eat the pinfall herein, and it was the outcome that made the most sense for the builds these women are all at in their careers. Genuinely surprising me, however, was how well Mandy Rose performed. I’d even say she was too good. She has a lot of potential to make a splash in the scene.

Grade: B

 

Match 3 – Johnny Gargano vs. Killian Dain

Gargano starts off the underdog, as is to be expected of most people who would book men of this size disparity against each other. Dain is, simply, too big for Johnny Wrestling’s usual tricks to down people. Eventually, as this match-up type usually goes, Gargano tries for a backpack sleeper, but it too is no good. They tease a comeback with Gargano getting in a flurry of action, but Dain squashes him back down and abuses him. The large man stands on and splashes Gargano’s back and dips deep into the well of big man vs. little guy spots.

Eventually, after enough time for my mind to wander onto other subjects, a telltale mark of boredom, Gargano mounts his comeback with strikes and spear and tope suicida. This comeback builds into a sequence where the two men go back and forth, punctuated by some nice big moments such as Gargano hitting Dain with an Avalanche Hurracanrana. The flow relies of Killian Dain looking unbeatably strong, so he powers out of submission attempts and, in the end, eats a superkick to be put down.

Grade: B

 

Match 4 – Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black

I won’t lie, this was the match I was most excited to see heading in to the event. It was unclear whether or not my long-time favourite NOAH star, KENTA, now known as Hideo Itami, would be making an appearance at this event but I had most-certainly bought my ticket in the hopes I’d finally get to see him wrestle in person. While it wasn’t all I had hoped it to be, it was meaningful nonetheless. It was also one of the better matches of the night.

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I’m a terrible shot, but this was a super cool moment for me!

Itami lays on his new heelish antics from the onset, frustrating Black by bailing on the ring. This nets him the upper hand to start, and he uncorks some strikes on Black. They have a good grappling exchange and Itami lays on the heel cockiness only to be faked out by Black who catches him in a hold. The clear, easily read though physical actions alone, characterization these men put forth goes to show that they know damn well how to work in the ring.

Itami takes control with lots of kicks and ground work, and adds insult to injury by mocking Black’s poses. Itami dominates the match for a very long time, using well executed kicks and submissions, At one point Aleister Black has a terrible landing on Itami’s head off of a springboard moonsault. Itami doesn’t lose pace though and busts out a flurry of action, capped off by a Fisherman’s Suplex, but he can’t secure the win. They tease a comeback by Black, which item suppresses until Black scores a huge running knee.

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This picture is much more in focus, but of course he’s facing away!

Frustrated, Itami shoves Black into the referee and sticks him with a solid DDT for another two count. Frustrated he heads outside and gets a kendo stick from under the ring and goes to wail on Black with it. Unfortunately for Itami the referee yanks the weapon away from him and, in his moment of distraction, Aleister Black hits him with the Black Mass and puts him down for the three count.

For some reason the crowd never bought into this match, even though it featured solid in-ring athletics and psychology. The end result was a bit predictable from early on, but it was expertly executed.

Grade: B+

 

Match 5 – The Velveteen Dream vs. Bobby Roode

The Velveteen dream shouldn’t work so well, but for some reason I found it to be a very fun gimmick in a live environment. Patrick Clark, back on Tough Enough, certainly exhibited a passion for the history of wrestling and, more explicitly, the WWF. It seems terribly fitting that he wound up with such a gimmick driven, retro-inspired character. A character whose gimmick is reinforced by careful choices made about his in-ring performance. Also, because I can’t help but notice it, The Velveteen dream’s initials are VD. Childish humour. Hyuk-hyuk.

While Roode left NXT as a villain, here, in Canada and returning to the brand he debuted on, he has been emboldened and made a hero anew in his final appearance with NXT. Roode shows off his amateur wrestling skills and looks dominant to begin with, making Velveteen dream look like a joke. Somehow the Dream turns the situation around after some mess in the ropes and gets himself some big heel heat by teasing a top-rope dive to the outside, only to hop down and do a low double axehandle off of the apron instead.

When the two are back in the ring the Dream starts wrestling like someone out of the 80s or early 90s, doing a side Russian leg sweep, middle rope leg and elbow drops. He even puts Roode in a camel clutch, the ultimate old school heel submission hold. Once Roode starts going on the offensive again, with suplexes and throws all over the ring, the crowd gets more into it. The Velveteen dream does a good flipping Death Valley Driver, landing on his feet afterwards, but when he chooses next to fly at Roode he gets countered into a sharpshooter for the obligatory Canadian-wrestling-in-Canada-Bret-Hart-Tribute spot. Realistically he could have milked the Sharpshooter for far longer. As the match moves to its final moments the Velveteen dream is left looking really good as he escapes two attempts by Roode to hit the Glorious DDT and goes down to the third attempt for the three count.

After the match was over I was left with a very clear image of The Velveteen Dream. His aesthetic, both in attire and move selection, is decidedly and explicitly retro. His promo work before the show exuded a tinge of Golddust, with a hearty dose of the 80s. He excels at getting heel heat from the moment he walks through the curtains dressed like a cross between Prince and Hendrix all the way through the match as he talks smack and disappoints fan excitement. On top of all of that excellent potential, Bobby Roode made him look good.

Grade: B+

 

Match 6 – Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss vs. Sanity (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe) (c) – NXT Tag team title Match

Before the match Tino and Riddick talk smack and, for their sin against Sanity, are dumped out of the ring. The disheveled rebels Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young take the self-aggrandizing jocks on a tour of the building, introducing them to all the sights and surfaces of the arena.

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Blurry again, but the E at least knows how to let you see during a brawl!

Once the match was actually contained in a ring it seemed the structure bolstered Tino and Riddick’s efforts, as they successfully isolate Alexander Wolfe, keeping the demented mastermind Eric Young out of things. This lasts a good long while, and when Young finally gets the tag he comes in and wrecks both of his opponents. This leads into a sweet sequence that ends with a diving elbow drop on Tino for a two count. There’s a little more back and forth action. Sabatelli and Moss are given a chance to hit a cool Gory Special/Facebuster combo move but can’t put Eric Young down before he tags in Wolfe. Together Young and Wolfe hit a tandem move for the win.

NXT-Toronto-Eric-Young-Sanity-Tino-Sabatelli-September-9-2017.jpg

Good old crazy EY! It’s been crazy watching his career!

Usually I find wild brawls outside of the ring to be boring because of the inability to see the action in a small venue through a sea of people. The E, however, in this larger venue with spotlights, made it work much better. Sabatelli and Moss didn’t make me want to watch more of them, but they didn’t bomb on their half of the match either. Quite fun.

Grade: B
Match 7 – Lacey Evans vs. Nikki Cross

This was a simple, quality outing. Lace put on a good show, holding her own for most of the match with strikes and submission work. She demonstrated particularly entertaining ring mobility as she manoeuvred around the posts and ropes with unique kicks and elbows. The crowd booed her solely because she repped the American flag. Cross made the comeback w/ lariats and a spinning fisherman buster for the win. Really, Lacey was doing just fine and the win was very fast and almost out of nowhere.

Grade: B-

 

Match 8 – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (c) – NXT Championship Title match

This match started with Almas being a brilliant heel, attacking McIntyre while the Champ was down on one knee and still wearing his entrance coat. . Almas shows his brilliance early on in how he uses the ropes to evade his pursuer and, simultaneously, aide him in targeting the larger mans arm. Almas is a smooth worker, making it all look good, as he controls the situation.

McIntyre is no slouch though, as early on when Almas has him down, he bridges out of a pin in a way you would expect a man half his size more likely to do. They demonstrate this with the two men working a nice reversal sequence which McIntyre capped off with a brilliant display of muscle power as he hoisted Almas over with a beautiful vertical suplex. Sometimes it’s the simple things that you really pop for. Then again, sometimes it’s things like McIntyre catching Almas out of the air for an Air Raid Crash that you pop for. Take your pick. McIntyre’s got things in spades.

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McIntyre, the champion, is an imposing presence!

Almas does make an incremental comeback, building up towards nice, strong Tornado DDT. This leads into them really taking it to each other and Almas taking some mighty big hits from McIntyre. Almas works the arm again to weaken up the much bigger Scotsman. McIntyre powers out of a Fujiwara Armbar and plays up his sore  arm but nonetheless gets the kill with a Futureshock DDT and the Claymore kick in sequence.

It’s of particular importance to note that Almas kicked out of many big, hard hitting moves during this match and was made to look like a real contender. This being published after he faced  McIntyre again, this time on a TakeOver special, makes me excited to see the true spotlight, high-stakes version of this match. See, the one downside to this match that kept me from truly buying in was that, in it, the winner was too obvious.

Grade: A-
Conclusion:

While I may not be fond of the presentation  the E is known for. the NXT brand has a certain charm and edge to it. They present their product, and their stars, in a different light. It still has the high gloss and sheen in terms of set-up and production values but there is something inherently exciting about seeing how they are prepping talent for the big time and building new stars. The Velveteen Dream made one hell of an impression at this show and I have heard that, as of this writing, he has just impressed many more people. The future for these talents, and the WWE as a whole, is bright if they don’t get in their own way.

#DiscoveringWrestling #015 – 5 Reasons you should give IMPACT WRESTLING some bloody respect.

With their troubled history it is easy to lump blame and negativity miles high, like giant pillars of owl dung, upon IMPACT WRESTLING, but to openly wish for their failure and to take up the rallying cry of “Fuck TNA!” shows a fundamental lack of respect for the company’s high points, and what their legacy is. I’m not certain that I can convince everybody to give them some respect, but I hope to make some strong attempts to do so. So, in no particular order, here are 5 good reasons that you should give TNA some respect.

Honourable Mentions: It’s another place for the boys to get work and it disappearing would mean a lot of talented people looking for new work for one. Then there is the often brought up X-Division and how phenomenal it really was at its peak (and I’d argue the talent has always been stellar).

1) AJ Styles. For eleven years of his absolutely brilliant career, AJ Styles called Total Nonstop Action home. In TNA he held the vaunted NWA World Heavyweight Championship and Tag Team championship, the TNA X-Division championship, the TNA Tag-Team championship, the TNA World Heavyweight championship, and pretty much every other accolade the company could concoct. You’d be surprised to note that they never tried having him cross-dress for the KnockOuts titles. He moved all over the card, competing in all sorts of matches. Through TNA’s foreign partnerships, he wrestled in AAA, CMLL, NJPW, and Wrestle-1. The point is, he did everything the company had to offer.

Certainly not all of it was the best. Some of it was total shit. But some of it was brilliant, and all of it was AJ Styles putting his heart, soul, and body, into becoming the best performer he could be in any given booking circumstances. You can’t spend eleven years working in one place, and doing everything that can be done there, and not have you come out the other end undeniably affected by it. AJ Styles has certainly proved that he is self-motivated and insanely talented since he left TNA, but for those who were watching him develop in that company, there was never any doubt that he truly was The Phenomenal One. Without TNA giving AJ Styles all of that time, on air and in front of a television audience, for him to hone his craft, it is doubtful that he would be in the same position he is in now.

2) It was the first major point of exposure for a lot talent. The rosters of WWE NXT, RAW, and SmackDown! are now replete with talent that got their first major break with TNA. Samoa Joe,  Austin Aries,  and Bobby Roode all put on career defining matches and spent many years with a company that, at one point, was considered the upstart that might challenge the E one day. Sadly TNA had an addiction to insane booking and faded stars. Nevertheless,  countless other incredible talent all called the company home. To this day they continue to do so, more recently giving Grado a huge potential audience out of pretty much nowhere.

Even if we expect that IMPACT WRESTLING can never rise to that speculative challenger height again, as a company with high production values and fifteen years of establishing itself a fanbase, however degraded it may be from its heights, they can, and will, have an important role to play in many future stars careers. They’ve done it before and can, certainly, do it again. Just look at the names these two entries contain for evidence.

3) It was a place where people could reinvent themselves. I fondly remember seeing Christian Cage debut in TNA. I had grown frustrated with the WWE in how they were treating him, and his start in TNA was great. He was given an opportunity and proved himself to be what he had never been allowed to be before: the guy. Over the course of its ups and down, IMPACT WRESTLING even provided perennial tag team wrestler Bubba Ray Dudley/Brother Ray the opportunity to invent the Bully Ray character, one that gave him a solid storyline built around himself and a place in the spotlight as a world champion. Even unto today, with their post-separation actions inciting jeers and hatred from the wrestling community, this oft maligned company provided Matt and Jeff hardy the creative freedom and platform to create the #BROKEN gimmick that has launched them into a brilliant career renaissance. I am confident that if they had never left the WWE, there would never have been chants of DELETE! echoing across wrestling venues throughout North America, indie and WWE, at this time.

4) International Exposure. International cross-promotional events and talent exchanges dot the landscape of TNA’s rocky history. I first watched Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestle on a TNA pay-per-view, in 2006, against AJ Styles, a full eight years before the two would meet again in New Japan. The first NJPW full show I watched was Wrestle Kingdom III, which featured heavy involvement from TNA who were advertising it as Global Impact. I tried to find it online for a price I could afford at the time and came across the complete unedited version on a DVD sellers site and bought that. It was a bootleg burned DVD, but it was a launching point for me headfirst into Puroresu, right alongside the Fight Network’s English-announcing dub of Pro-Wrestling NOAH. It’s funny how things come full circle with Anthem now owning all of my original gateway drugs for Japanese Pro-Wrestling.

Their annual World X Cup tournament exposed me to wrestlers from AAA, CMLL, AJPW, and Dragon Gate. Their announce team was never shy to tell you who they were, where they came from, and what they had done in their careers outside of TNA. This stood in direct opposition, and for the most part still stands that way today, to how the WWE handle international talent. I loved Abismo Negro. I bought a CMLL show with a Team TNA vs Team CMLL match from that same DVD seller. I discovered Mistico and Averno. My tastes diversified and I fell in love with how Pro-Wrestling transforms across cultural contexts. I can genuinely say that if TNA had never existed, I likely never would have become the fan I am today. The fan who had the trip of a lifetime in Tokyo fueld by my desire to attend Wrestle Kingdom, the fan who has made friends with performers and other fans alike, the fan who wants to contribute something back to the art I love. Maybe I’m an extreme example, but I cannot be the only one whose spark was kindled in this way by TNA.

They had the prescience to blaze a trail into India. In securing themselves TV deals in the highly populated foreign market, scouting talent from the country to bring onboard to make the product attractive to said population, and having a hand in setting up the short lived Indian Ring-Ka-King promotion, they assured that they are an indellible part of the face of Pro-Wrestling to this massive market, right next to Dalip Singh and the WWE.

Now, in 2017, under new management, they have a talent exchange with NOAH. Based on the March twelfth GREAT VOYAGE in YOKOHAMA showing, it looks promising, at the least for the quality matches it has generated in Japan and giving more international exposure to potential breakout stars like Moose. Considering the absolute tear that Pro-Wrestling NOAH has been on under the NOAH the REBORN moniker, it certainly couldn’t hurt either company to put their best people together to generate interest in both brands and to forge a new reputation for IMPACT WRESTLING, one that highlights impactfuland internationally influenced wrestling and sheds the bad habits of its heritage. But, we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

5) Women’s wrestling. Before NXT and the Women’s Revolution was even a twinkle in Paul Levesque’s eye, TNA was putting on some serious women’s wrestling matches. The company dedicated far more air time to women’s wrestling than contemporaneous WWE did and it let its female talent go at it just as hard as the men. Gail Kim excelled in TNA. Her tenure in the WWE before heading to TNA had made me curious about her, but in TNA’s Knockouts division she truly shone her brightest and excelled far beyond what she had ever accomplished in the E.

Indeed, there was a general attitude in the way TNA treated its women that was a step up from the WWE at the time. In an era where the WWE would phase the Women’s Championship into the Diva’s belt, emblazoned with a delicate butterfly, TNA had both the KnockOuts Tag and singles titles and women routinely, to this day, compete in hardcore matches. They were ahead of the curve, by a long shot. It wasn’t always perfect, but it generally outclassed what the WWE was offering contemporaneously. Like everything with TNA, it went through its ups and downs, but it fueled and helped shape in me a desire to see more intense women’s wrestling. It was around that same time that I would first start to look into Joshi wrestling.

I also find it useful to remember that TNA didn’t come up with an angle making fun of the beautiful Mickie James for being overweight and calling her Piggie James on national television. So there’s also that. Yeah…

Look, I get it. TNA dropped the ball. They dropped it so hard that they lost it in the crust of the Earth. But somehow, amongst all that mess, they still managed to do some incredible good. The story of TNA and IMPACT WRESTLING is one of peaks and valleys. But no one ever seems to remember or care about the peaks, preferring to mock and throw verbal rocks at the company. They have done a lot for the industry, for the talent, and for me. Yeah, I stopped watching them when they got really bad, and every now and then I would check in to see how they were doing. It really wasn’t all bad, and learning to acknowledge and respect it for what it did right, well, it could go a long way towards helping them recover. Anthem is gonna need all the help it can get to rehabilitate this damaged brand, and they have a lot of cool talent and great archive footage to forge a new path with. Give them some credit. Tell them what you want to see more of, and leave the hate out of it.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #013 – The Problem with the Paige Leaks

Fuck it! I’ve been trying to figure out a way to be clever or fanciful about how I write this entry, but I just can’t do it. I’m going to be direct and lay it all out there.

So, let’s get some simple facts out of the way. On Friday, March 17th, someone stole, and released to the general public, private photo and video files from devices owned by WWE performer Paige. These files were of a sexual nature and also contained footage of other people, namely Xavier Woods of the popular WWE team The New Day, and former WWE employee Brad Maddox.

It struck me as inhumane that, knowing these files were stolen, people were so voraciously consuming and redistributing them. Maybe I have been lucky in choosing the groups I hang out in and the people I follow, for I had never seen this much misogyny and lack of basic human decency in the Pro-Wrestling fans I had spent my time engaging with or becoming friends with. When I attempted to engage with these people about the wrongdoings they were making themselves a part of, I ran up against the same old arguments I had seen elsewhere, and everywhere, whenever an issue even remotely similar to this one came up. What follows is a series of arguments that people used to try to justify their repugnant behaviour, and why they are wrong.

“People are terrible, get over it.”

Uhm, no.

If this is the depth of your argument then your actions are transparent. All you are doing is trying to soften how you feel about your own behaviour and involvement with the situation. This is simply an admission of guilt coated in dismissal. It has no value.

“If she didn’t want them to be seen then why did she record the video/take the picture?”

Of course she wanted them to be seen, by herself, and the individuals participating in the making of these videos, and whomsoever they fucking CHOOSE to share it with. Just because it exists does not mean you are granted special entitlement to see it. Is every photo you have ever taken, every word you’ve ever written, meant for consumption by the general public? If you can honestly answer yes, I still don’t believe you, and it still doesn’t justify your over-reaching sense of entitlement, or your inability to consider whether or not this is ethically acceptable.

“She shouldn’t have had these on a device connected to the internet” and “She should have deleted them”

Yeah, we could all do with better internet and privacy security. If she had put these on an external hard drive not routinely connected to the internet, or had deleted the files, this would not have happened. That’s certainly true. Indeed, maybe people with any level of fame or public visibility should be more diligent about securing their private photos, videos, and communications. Simply as a precaution due to their perceived increased risk. Nevertheless, this line of argument entirely ignores the fact that these private files were hacked off of a device and distributed without her consent. She didn’t accidentally sync her files to some file sharing website and regret it. The level of security she employed has literally no bearing on whether or not it was right for her files to be distributed online, or for her to be harassed, or for you to masturbate to her private moments. All this argument does is show that those using it are trying to, as always seems to be the case, shift blame onto the woman who was bold enough to film herself enjoying sex for her personal amusement or fulfillment.

“Lawl, we just like her titties and ass, what’s your problem snowflake faggot”

Being sexually attracted to a person and wanting to see them naked is wonderful, across all the spectrums of sexuality there are. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see someone naked, or having sexual thoughts about a person. Yes, even a person you have never met. Paige is a beautiful woman, and I can understand why you would want to see her naked, and if she had chosen, willingly and of her own volition, to release these photos and videos then your argument would be valid and I, in fact, would be in the wrong for telling you anything that contravened your ability to, right to, or enjoyment of looking at these images. However, as has been made abundantly clear, Paige did not choose to release these and, as far as I have been able to determine, nor did Brad Maddox nor Xavier Woods. In essence you have willingly violated the privacy and rights of three individuals. You have taken advantage of this to gratify yourself, and, yes, you should be ashamed.

“Her career is over!” and “The WWE have to fire her now!”

Notice, first and foremost, that the people saying these things never level such accusations at the male talent still employed by the E. Paige’s career is over, the WWE have to fire her, but Xavier Woods should face no repercussions. Approximately 99% of the people arguing this point are simply applying misogynistic double standards towards sexual activity and enjoyment of varied sexual acts. Paige is a “freak” for engaging in these sex acts, and is a blemish on the WWE for it, but Xavier is a hero because he got to have sex with someone you’ve wanted to. It’s ridiculous levels of bullshit. They were all consenting adults engaging in activities together which they mutually decided to film. Their level of depravity and heroicness are equal, and their right to privacy in their acts is also equal.

The only argument I have heard for the WWE having to fire Paige that wasn’t explicitly based on this wellspring of misogyny and double standards was centered around the fact that, in one of the videos, the NXT Women’s Championship belt is ejaculated upon. The argument hinges upon the fact that there is WWE branding being treated in a way that the publicly traded corporation could not condone nor be seen to approve of, even by inaction or omission. As the company now portrays itself as a PG product, and the McMahon family is expressly republican, with Linda McMahon involved to some degree in the present governance of the United States, this puts them in a potentially volatile position where their hand may be forced to act against Paige, whether or not they would have otherwise. Family values, save the children, all that nonsense. Nevertheless, this stance is predicated upon the notion that people should find sex acts shameful and disgusting, and that some ejaculate getting onto something decreases its value permanently.

Thus far, everything I have covered is familiar to pretty much every woman who has ever had photos that were meant for private, select audiences distributed widely by assholes on the internet. This kind of misogyny needs to be stamped out and is certainly not exclusive to the Pro-Wrestling fandom, online or off. This is truly a societal, wide reaching problem. What has happened with Paige here is simply an expression of this insidious, familiar societal blight in the fandom I write about the most.

So, let’s take a moment to talk about the actions that were exclusively in the domain of the Pro-Wrestling fan.

There iss the cynical and self-gratifying attitude of fans who decided to try to get the WWE to have Brad Maddox be the General Manager of RAW after Mick Foley’s departure. No one gave a fuck about Brad Maddox coming back to the WWE until this leak happened. Maddox was, for the most part, a forgotten and unimportant former element of WWE television, but now the online community have turned him, partially jokingly and partially seriously, into this sexual champion whom they want to see back on their TV simply because he had sex with Paige. They want the WWE to hire back the man who ejaculated on the NXT Women’s Championship to be hired back while also saying that Paige is a disgrace. The hypocrisy is explosively and violently apparent. For his part, Maddox has ghosted himself.

Why is it that, as fans of the art form and, supposedly, of those who work their asses off to make the art we enjoy, so many feel the need to make the people who have been wronged suffer for our amusement? A sex tape is not an armbar, and these people have real lives that are affected by how we treat them. It disappoints me that in an era when the major players in the Pro-Wrestling world are just starting to get women’s wrestling to work without predicating every story line on a misogynistic trope, the fans erupt with irreverent glee over a situation wherein needless and cruelly victimizing a woman is the centerpiece. I’m disappointed.

I wish I had some grand strategy on how to go about making the general attitude of society change. It almost feels disrespectful to the situation’s severity for me to not propose a solution. Maybe calling it out enough will help, I don’t know. All I do know is that it is wrong in so many ways and it needs to be changed, in Wrestling and in Society as a whole. We should be striving to be more open, caring, decent human beings. I won’t presume to lead the charge here, a lot of women are far more important to this fight than I will ever be, but I can call bullshit when I see it.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here. As this subject has been sensitive in nature, and I am well aware of my flaws in perception and understanding as someone who has never been the target of misogyny, I would particularly love to engage in open dialogue about what the Pro-Wrestling fandom, in particular, and people in general can do to really move us forward and beyond this terrible trait of ours.

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#CrowdPleasers #003 – CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling on IndieGoGo

Admittedly this campaign almost slipped by me entirely. Thankfully it came back into my focus with enough time left for us to break down the campaign and see what it’s doing right and, just maybe, what it is doing wrong. At the time of writing this article CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling (a terribly generic name) sits at just 48% of its stated goal with eighteen days left in its fundraising cycle. Obviously, there’s something to look at here.

emotionheader

It’sa solid logo. Nice job there.

Now, if my #DiscoveringWrestling articles haven’t tipped you off already, I’m going to say it outright: I LOVE PRO-WRESTLING! Above and beyond that, I particularly love CHIKARA. They are innovative, different, exciting, and fresh. More importantly, they’ve been all of those things since they first hit the scene in 2002. The first time I ever went on a road trip to see a wrestling show was for a CHIKARA show in Ottawa, and they have only gotten more impressive each year. Their annual King of Trios tournament is an under-recognized highlight of every year’s Pro-Wrestling content. If there is ANY cast of characters in Pro-Wrestling who deserves to have a video game made featuring them, it is CHIKARA’s colorful and charismatic roster. It is hard to describe, in any brief manner, how different CHIKARA are from other wrestling promotions, so I’ll just leave this match here for the uninitiated.

With at least a cursory knowledge of the awesomeness of CHIKARA, we can all dive in to the campaign and start rooting around in its innermost chambers. As usual, the video package is where we’re going to start. Unfortunately, unlike the other recent entries in the #CrowdPleasers series, i don’t have much nice to say about the video. The package consists primarily of two components, some early alpha build footage and a “backstage promo” from The Estonian Thunderfrog and the game developer David Horn. While Thunderfrog, as a professional wrestler, delivers his parts with relative ease, the developer sounds uncertain of what he is doing. I can understand nerves getting the better of you, but the hype video is no place to put that front and centre. It lends no confidence to the viewer that the project is secure in these hands. This is particularly emphasized by the fact that the clear, well-enunciated and confident Mike Quackenbush immediately precedes Horn’s segment. It would have likely been better for Quack to have more involvement in the hype video.

The early alpha footage is heavily on the “meh” side of things but is, thankfully, easily forgotten as the campaign’s original video package is immediately followed by more video content. This further video content not only answers important questions about the game (a shame that they only released it halfway through the campaign) but also highlights some higher quality renders and animations. Again, the further video content showcases developer David Horn who is so anti-charismatic that it fails to sell me on the project, even when – from a detached and objective standpoint – the game’s controls sound fairly well thought out and intuitive. The developer’s have chosen to streamline the game to as few as two action buttons, with pushing both action buttons at the same time generating additional effects. They have even factored in the fact that some players would want to map the combined button press to a third button. It all sounds pretty solid and the video does highlight these facts. It is, therefore, even more of a shame that the developer himself brings my passion from a fire to a spark. Even the awesome nod towards mechanics from the timeless Fire Pro Wrestling franchise can only go so far to counteract an otherwise boring presentation of very crucial and potentially exciting information.

With the lack of salesmanship in mind, it seems very smart that the game’s developers chose to use IndieGoGo’s flexible funding option, which allows them to keep all of the money invested in the project ― whether or not they hit their initial goal. This is particularly true in light of what happened with CHIKARA’s previous attempt at crowd-funding a video game with Rudo Resurrection. Rudo Resurrection’s campaign failed to meet its $50,000 goal, hitting only just barely over $18,000, and even then it still delivered a more competent presentation and out-paced this current campaign by, at this time, approximately $8000. While CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling’s developers have made a commitment that no matter how much money they raise the game will be released, they have done nothing to create the sense of urgency that drives a lot of people to fund campaigns in larger sums (of both people and money). As usual, the flexible funding option is a double-edged sword. In this type of situation you have to rely far more heavily on your campaign selling the need to invest early instead of waiting for the game to come out.

This actually leads nicely into the topic of the lack of any game content. Until it becomes a standard practice for crowd-funding, I’m going to bring this up at every opportunity. This campaign has no demo for the game. In fact, as mentioned earlier, it launched with only meh-inducing early alpha footage and next to no information on how the game mechanics would function was provided until the midway point. This is no way to inspire confidence in the ability of the developers to deliver a fun, functional game worth investing your hard earned money into. Sure, if you select certain perks you can get early beta access, but that’s just not good enough. Maybe I am being too idealistic, maybe the developers couldn’t reach a playable state without additional funding, but the lack of a playable demo to entice the investor with a tangible understanding of the project does nothing but lower my expectations.

In that same vein, without a demo to figure things out in, the audience is limited to the campaign’s explanations of gameplay, and the video packages released, to get a solid grasp on what they can expect to see in a final release of the game. In this regard I was left with some pretty big unanswered questions. Why were there no moves involving the corner turnbuckles? Why were there no top rope moves and no dives through the ropes? CHIKARA has built itself up as superheroic Lucha Libre and I’d expect that to be recreated and, particularly in a game billing itself as Arcade style, made a central part of the game. these are the flashiest looking parts of any match and they are completely absent from any of the information this campaign presents.

Then, with all of this uncertainty in place, the campaign recently released a video for their “Wrestle Factory” feature, the game’s “Create-A-Wrestler” mode, where the tone comes off all kinds of wrong. They seem to be proud of and bragging about the inclusion of CAW features that are, honestly speaking, standard practice and commonplace amongst Pro-Wrestling games since ―at the very least ―the Playstation 2 era. I cannot fathom how they thought that basic body-morphing options would impress their audience ― who have likely owned pretty much a minimum of one or two wrestling games for every console generation, if not more. It really feels as if the developers have their priorities all backwards when it comes to the campaign.

Immediately following all of these different video packages they go into a diatribe on why they wanted to make an Arcade styled wrestling game instead of a Simulation game (though, let’s be honest, no wrestling game has really been a simulation of the actual industry other than Grey Dog Software’s Total Extreme Wrestling games). Now, they do provide some decent logic for their Arcade aesthetic and gameplay but I don’t feel that these really jive with some of the odder elements of the gameplay footage they displayed, like the fireballs and energy beams being used. CHIKARA has had a long history of interesting non-standard wrestling moves, such as Ophidian and Amasis using hypnosis on their opponents, or Ultimate Spider Jr’s invisible web shooting abilities and, my favourite, Chuck Taylor’s invisible grenade. These would have made handsome additions to the game and would have actually felt at home in CHIKARA’s world. But then, maybe that’s all part of the problem CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling is facing…

After this brief explanation from the developers on their gameplay choices, they have a section promising to provide more details. Problematically, instead of providing the details themselves in the campaign page they only include an excerpt from an article from some website I have never heard of before today. This then forces the reader to make the decision on whether or not they want to dive down that rabbit hole. From my perspective, all relevant information should be included in the campaign page itself and I’d personally be interested to see the number of click-throughs  versus the number of visits to the IndieGoGo campaign page itself.

At this point, for research’s sake, i went down the rabbit hole myself. It is a dangerous prospect to lead someone away from your campaign mid-pitch, they could easily find themselves never coming back. But I wanted to get a full set of information to write this article. At this point, through the link and Google searches, we find out that this is actually the third game in the Action Arcade Wrestling series developed by Mr. Horn,  this is just the first time he has had a licensed property to work with. The other games don’t look bad, from a gameplay perspective, but the graphics are just… ugh. Obviously, and thankfully, this CHIKARA edition of Action Arcade Wrestling is using the wonderful Unreal 4 engine and looks much better, both for its licensed character designs and the better, stronger engine. More important than the graphical progress is the fact that these videos for the older entries in the franchise answer some of the questions I had about the campaign itself. Such as how interactions with the turnbuckles and top rope moves might look, as well as affirming their likely presence in the game. Furthermore, these games advertise themselves as priced in the $1.00 to $3.00 range, indicating that they cannot be all that expensive or difficult to produce. Granted, the Unreal 4 engine is bound to up the costs, but at the least this news helps to reassure the potential investor that the game will come to fruition. It is a far cry from an actual playable proof-of-concept, but it goes some ways to changing how I felt about the viability of the game. While the staff credits at the very end of the campaign do mention this fact,  it should have been made much clearer in the body of the campaign at this very point, instead of sending me off to other sites and Google searches. I needn’t have left this page to get this information.

While the information on it is mind-bogglingly minimal, the campaign does say that the game will be available both through Steam and on consoles. Which consoles, however, is never mentioned. Lack of information in this matter is bad and makes the campaign carry an additional burden it needn’t have to. Even speculative information such as “likely Playstation 4 and XBox One” would be better than literally nothing.

Another informational downside to the campaign is having to infer the game’s roster from the video packages. It’s pretty lame. I can see the benefit in not revealing the entire roster until the game is closer to release. It certainly could change based upon who has signed contracts with CHIKARA for their likenesses, but having no one confirmed is a criminal shame. Some, really any, promotional roster art would go a long way towards making the campaign not seem amateurish. Along these exact same lines lies the fact that the risks and challenges section is also not very well defined.

This campaign’s rewards are limited in scope, but at least that makes it easy to analyze and critique them. Almost every one of the rewards is a digital reward. This makes their shipping and handling fees a likely minimal worry. Even then, based on their funding breakdown, I would be assuming that all of the physical rewards are being fulfilled by CHIKARA directly and that they will be eating the costs to encourage the game to hit completion unhindered by these worries. I cannot be certain, but it’s what i suspect.

The minimum donation level at $10 dollars nets you a one month access coupon to Chikaratopia, CHIKARA’s streaming service ―normally $7.99 per month. Thus, for marginally more, you get to support the game being made and get the streaming service you never knew you needed (seriously, if this is your first interaction with something bearing the CHIKARA name, do yourself a favour and check out their matches. The promotion is brilliant.) But I could never recommend a level that does not include getting the game afterwards, so that’s where we go next at $25. At this level of expenditure you get the game and the Chikaratopia for one month. As you move up the perks you get more and more time on Chikaratopia and some early access to beta features of the game, such as beta CAW at $60. Physical perks only kick in for $75 and above, with a t-shirt, an Ultramantis Black mask, and a signed poster kicking in as you go up.

The $100 tier is, from some rudimentary calculations, probably the most bang for your buck, with a mask (probably about $30 on its own, based on costs I’ve seen at shows), a t-shirt ($15), a year of Chikaratopia ($96), the game with all early beta access (approximately a $15-30 value, I’d bet) all together. This really isn’t all that bad of a value if you are a dyed in the wool CHIKARA fan.

I WOULD SPEND: $0-$100

This is a first for me. I find myself remarkably divided on how I feel about this campaign. On the one hand, the game could be great and I love CHIKARA. On the other, the campaign felt amateurish and underwhelming the whole way through. It all boiled down to one particular question for me: If this weren’t a CHIKARA game, would I care? Likely the answer would be “No.” The unfortunate fact is that this campaign does not sell me on the investment on its own. It relies too heavily upon the licensed property to catch my interest. At best, even with a licensed property I care deeply for, the campaign is middling to above-average quality. I backed Rudo Ressurection on KickStarter and I want CHIKARA to have a videogame, for I think they are the perfect property to turn into an exciting game, but sadly I’m not 100% sold on this.

#DiscoveringWrestling #001 – 5000 Years of Chinese History (MKW: Middle Kingdom Wrestling) Part 1

For a long while now, I’ve wanted to add my voice to the world of professional wrestling commentary, but I’ve never before understood what I had to offer, or what I wanted to talk about. There are millions of voices out there chronicling the big leagues with fervor and unquestionable talent. I’m no Dave Meltzer, and don’t think I ever could be, and I could never dare compete with the comedic styling of Adam Blampied over on WhatCulture. I am, however, a passionate fan of this most unique of all performing arts, and my passions skew a little to the left of most of the mainstream coverage. So, I’m going to try and find the things that excite me the most and talk about that, and when necessary we’ll have to slide back up to the WWE for a moment or two.

Easily my favourite thing about pro-wrestling is how versatile it is as a medium, and how this has lead to various regions of the world honing and crafting unique interpretations of the art. These interpretations have gone on to influence each other, going through resurgences and disappearances, and hopped all over the globe creating new offshoots and hybrids as they interact with each other. In Japan you have the lauded Strong Style, known worldwide and heralded as the brainchild of Antonio Inoki, but alongside it you have Giant Baba’s King’s Road, Ultimo Dragon’s Lucharesu lineage (as the name implies, a Japanese derivative of Lucha Libre, Mexico’s vaunted addition to Pro-Wrestling), the Death Match scene, the revolutionary Joshi styles, and much, much more. Japan is a tiny country, and yet their output is so varied and innovative, because Pro-Wrestling is limitless. This diversity is found everywhere the art goes, and as time marches ever onward, so does Pro-Wrestling, finding itself in new areas it has never been before.

Even before the WWE’s #CWC (Cruiserweight Classic) announced its list of competitors, I had been on a hunt for information on what Pro-Wrestling was like in places that have yet to hit the global scene, and had come across the name of Hoho Lun, and a mainland Chinese organization he had done work for by the name of Middle Kingdom Wrestling. Pro-Wrestling in China is a hatchling, barely existing, and, in the future, MKW could be standing at the forefront of a national style, like NJPW in Japan. With the power of the internet we have an invaluable opportunity to get in on the ground floor and watch it happen, because they’ve made the exciting decision to put it all up on YouTube (the logistics of this are interesting, considering they operate out of mainland China).  Now, there are distinct Pros and Cons to their decision to get Chinese wrestling onto YouTube ASAP, and I’ll run down the Cons before we move on, because I’d like to focus on the Pros.

The camera work and production values are unique. This one will actually show up in the Pros as well, but it can be a Con. It’s not the smooth work you want, and it’s often many steps below the recordings done by North American indie shows, but between season one and season two, the quality improves a good deal. I’d wager that the biggest contributors to the poor quality are the cameras they are using. Numerous times when the action is in motion and the wrestlers and cameramen are moving about, the camera will go out of focus. This is obviously unintended, as I cannot imagine any wrestling promotion thinking, “Yes, let’s make it more difficult for our viewers to see what’s going on“.  It’s rough but overall this is forgivable. On literally their first show they filmed it and put it online. There are bound to be hiccups, and while they’re unavoidable, it didn’t at any point knock me completely out of enjoying the show.

The commentary is on the weird side, with “characters” rotating in and out between “episodes“. These “characters“, unless I am terribly mistaken, are all voiced by the same two people, and I could certainly do without that. Stability in the announcing team would be best, in my opinion, to add to the atmosphere of the shows. Some of the moves are called right, some aren’t. This is something that even the WWE can’t escape, unless Mauro Ranallo is on the mic (because he’s pretty much flawless). There’s room to grow on their commentary team. I didn’t hate them, like some commentators, but they just felt off. We’ll see how they go as more episodes air.

Y’know, the more I think of it, these Cons are all part of one problem in particular, and this is a problem that literally only doing more shows will cure: They’re green. The company is very young and, based on publicised data, nobody involved has a huge amount of experience in performing in their roles. It can’t be helped, and, most importantly, I can see the potential underneath it all. Some of their spots look awkward or overly telegraphed. It’s natural. I’ve seen that at small indie shows in North America all the time. Their booking is not particularly inspired, but they neither have the history of long-standing feuds nor the depth of roster needed for truly great wrestling booking. In their first season they put their brand-new belt on an American whom I’d never heard of before named Dalton Bragg, and it bothered me at first that they hadn’t put the belt on a native Chinese wrestler. Again, I can’t fault them for this decision. The local talent aren’t as experienced and when they are experienced, they were on loan from somewhere else. Furthermore, it seems Dalton has made MKW his home. He seems, rather surprisingly to me, to have a connection with the attendees. I expect that the numbers in attendance should grow as the shows continue. Hopefully they can get up to a regular touring schedule and draw a steady audience, cementing themselves as the premiere Chinese Pro-Wrestling group.

Now, from a position wherein I recognize that not everything they do will be great immediately, let’s talk about where the shows succeed, and where I see potential underneath the roughness. Remember that unique camera work I talked about? Well, here’s what’s good about it:  the camera seems to routinely luck its way into some really dramatic shots, such as when the massive King Michael is standing across the ring from his opponent, The Slam,  and the camera moves up from behind him to give the viewer a shot of his opponent that highlights their size difference (You can watch that video here ). Now, with the equipment and skill level involved, the effect is dampened a bit, but when I first watched it I knew that this could be done again and to great effect in the future, with more practice and better cameras.

While the image quality isn’t the best, and the production values are amateur, they do this nice slow-motion effect on the end of a match that really spices up their otherwise unremarkable presentation. It’s a little cheesy, and certainly wouldn’t be possible in a live broadcast, but it adds a unique flavour to their shows that I can’t say I have ever seen done before. Sure, some companies will do slow-mo replays, but these guys work that shit right into the match!

The talent in the ring varies, with some performers being rather special considering how recently they had started off in the business. Such as The Selfie King, whom I can honestly say has a great gimmick that represents a distinct portion of the Chinese zeitgeist. He plays up his gimmick throughout his matches, stopping to take selfies on the outside, exuding true heelish arrogance, and at one point he even lays down next to his defeated opponent and takes a selfie with him, staying true to his moniker. He shows some good development between the two seasons, bulking up, growing his hair out a bit, and getting some better ring gear. Then there’s a more veteran Chinese wrestler on the shows: The Slam, a man with one of the greatest ring names ever. The Slam is something like an energetic slightly-doughy Asian Goldberg who keeps a frenetic pace and looks crisp in every moment except for one, and that’s when it appeared he didn’t have all the muscle needed to deal with slamming the massive King Michael. I’d love to see The Slam put on some additional muscle-mass/definition and really look as great as I think he can. But he’s not really an MKW guy, as the announcers will routinely let you know. He’s a champ elsewhere (in reality, the champ of the group that MKW are partnering with to have access to a ring and put on these shows, a group which, if my facts are straight, was founded by The Slam). But I gotta say, the guy who hooked my attention the most, was a Taiwanese wrestler named LenBai, who feels like he understands the Strong Style concept very well, and finishes his matches with a move I can only describe as a Fisherman’s Death Valley Driver. He displayed a vicious streak out of nowhere during the first season, and a half-painted face that really connected with me and makes me want to see more of him. He draws on the mystique of characters like The Great Muta, and exhibits a solid understanding of the psychology involved in properly executing his gimmick.

wrestlers3-768x902Image originally from “Sino Smackdown” article on pigchina.com, link can be found at the bottom of the article.

This is, momentarily, where I’ll talk about the WWE. This year they have arranged for a showcase of global talent in the #CWC, Cruiserweight Classic, that is stunning to say the least. As I watched these matches and I listened to the commentary I began to understand something about the world of wrestling. It is ever evolving and parts of the world are being opened up to it by impassioned people who are seizing the opportunity to put their stamp, their own personal and national identity, on the Pro-Wrestling stage. Hoho Lun, who won his first round match in that esteemed tournament held by the big guys, founded the Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling Federation, and has been in both seasons of MKW TV on YouTube thus far. This young man brought Pro-Wrestling to his home. We in North America live in a part of the world with some of the deepest and richest roots for the industry, leading it in one very big, loud, shiny direction for a long while now as a new style percolates on the indie scene, with uncountable options to meet our needs and an established market for the medium. We cannot really fathom what it would be like to be part of the birth of it, but boy have I always wanted to see what it was like.

No matter what my, or your, concerns are with the quality of these shows, there is an undeniably interesting opportunity and a wealth of underlying potential  to Middle Kingdom Wrestling. Getting in at the beginning of an entire country, the most populous country in the world, discovering and engaging with Pro-Wrestling, authoring its own narrative in the grand history of this art, is an exciting prospect. Where will this go? What will Five-Thousand years of Chinese History do to Pro-Wrestling?

These are questions that I could never begin to guess at the answers to. I’ve studied Chinese history, both in school and in my leisure time, and have found myself lost in countless stories and cultural myths. Their pop culture has maintained strong roots to this history and mythology, with cinema genres that are uniquely Chinese captivating my attention for much of my life (Wuxia cinema is entrancing), and I can certainly see how I, as a western fan of their culture, would try to respectfully adapt their cultural uniqueness to Pro-Wrestling. However, it isn’t my place to do so and I am far more excited to see what their history, mythology, martial arts traditions, and unique perspectives on arts and entertainment will add to Pro-Wrestling when authored by their own hands, from their own minds. I’d wager that in the early years they will hew closely to styles and ideas imported from Japan and “the west” until they find their footing in the art form and then we will see them truly flourish, developing their own styles that are uniquely Chinese expressions of Pro-Wrestling. That is what I am looking forward to, and that is why we should all be keeping an eye on the Chinese Pro-Wrestling scene and Middle Kingdom Wrestling.

Come back next week for Part 2 of my coverage of Middle Kingdom Wrestling. I had the unique and exciting opportunity to interview Adrian Gomez, the man who founded MKW. .

If you’d like to watch all the MKW matches, head over and subscribe to their YouTube channel here, and for more information on the nascent state of Pro-Wrestling in China, there are some good articles from Forbes here and PIG China here. Middle Kingdom Wrestling’s website can be found here.