Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A PIG DEVOURED WHOLE: Some Thoughts on GENOME 12 (Inoki Genome Federation, 5.9.2010).

Inoki Genome has the most professional looking presentation in wrestling today: cool looking rings, dimmed lights, and a fistful of (mostly if not entirely kayfabed) business acumen. They continue to draw crowds of 4,000-5,000, suggesting how much more over wrestling stars of the 80s and 90s were in Japan than the stars of today are in their primes. I say this not to rag on the New Japan of today, or suggest that Inoki’s the sagest of bookers. But it is cool to see a lot of the best workers in history thriving long after gravity took its toll on their physiques, particularly with a hodgepodge undercard of weird, available indie workers from around the world. Inoki’s vision of wrestling is nothing if not global and multicultural, so let’s see who’s banging their shoe on the desk of this proverbial United Nations.

Munenori Sawa vs. Akira Jo: The New Japan DVDVR set has me looking for the next rookie year version of Akira Nogami or Tetsuo Nakano: a trainee mopping Ribera vomit off the locker room floor who gets thrown a pair of black tights and told that it’s party time. My girlfriend is a photographer. She just got back from China. In Beijing she shot a roll of paunchy, poolside teenagers roasting a whole pig. They grimace for the camera, pig chunks clenched in their teeth, not bothering to suck their guts in over their Speedos. Akira Jo seems more timid than them. He’d suck it in. He’d fetch a plate for his pig, while the Nogamis and Nakanos bite the hog’s face, fang it raw and wave devil horns at the American girl. When Sawa went to the mat for him, the kid grabbed him flimsily by the waist and head, attempting no moves. It’s as if he was briefly miming matwork in the middle of relating a story. “We went like this, rolled around, you get the idea.” This is the curtain jerker in a modern Inoki fed, so it goes under four minutes. But then, so did a lot of matches on this card. Sawa wins with a slowly applied combination choke/grapevining of Jo’s arm. Post match, Sawa sports what looks like a right-eye shiner. Either Yuki Ishikawa went balls out in the dojo that week or it is leftover mascara from a Lingerie Muto gig, ‘cause Sawa’s face made no contact with anything here.

Alexander Otsuka vs. Iron Prings: Prings looks like the head of Buzz from Home Alone was put onto Tyson Tomko’s most roid-ridden physique. Throughout this show various guys are wearing light orange mouth guards that make them look like they have meth teeth. Prings is the guy on the show who you think is wearing the guard but may actually have stopped brushing his chompers after 9/11 hit him hard. He’s an MMA fighter trained by Lesnar who looks more like a guy who watched Tim Sylvia and decided that he also wants to get paid to bore people. While all of the announcers call him Iron Prings, it’s such an weird name that I’m assuming he’s from Iron Springs, Arizona, and that as a subtle dig at that state’s immigration reform, the Japanese gave him the Ellis Island treatment. He’s a big dude who throws some decent kangaroo headbutts early. He quickly proves to be every choad in Afflictionwear brooding through your gym. Inoki’s approach of fast matches with stars vs. scrubs is interesting in that you never know who of the new guys will be good or improving, or when a match will.end. The finish blows: Otsuka applies a sleeper, Prings gingerly falls back onto Otsuka, who releases the hold and takes a punt from Prings that looks more Randi Rhodes than Randy Orton. Otsuka sightings are too rare to be wasted on inventing this year’s “Strongman” Jon Andersen.

Masayoshi Kakutani vs. Hidekazu Karube [Kickboxing Match]: Tale of the tape has Kakutani at 6 foot 5, 115 kg (253 lbs). Karube, an amateur Shooto champ, stands 5’11’, 90 kg (198 lbs). In spite of these advantages, Kakutani is the Montezuma shits, throwing glorified windmill punches and footwork learned from Dance Dance Revolution. Karube in comparison seems a machine, if only by showing some focus and strikes that find their mark. Once round two hits, even with Karube bleeding out of a busted nose this is still on the Piper-Mr. T side of the worked shoot spectrum. After more dabbling punches Kakutani suddenly runs the ropes to throw a clumsy lariat, and for a moment you think it’s breakin’ down in Osaka, until the feeble fists keep flying. Karube completely outclasses Kakutani, then takes a weak-chinned dive after missing a spinning back fist and selling a KO right hook from Kakutani that doesn’t connect in the slightest. Three matches in and I’ve already had my fill of low grade shoot style.

Ultimo Dragon vs. Rocky Romero: It’s interesting to watch a mediocre or even bad performer who sustains moderate success for a long period of time. Comedy seems to have a lot of them, as stand-up and improv develop stubborn shells of resistance against heckling. Such hacks may then delude themselves into thinking their talent has been undiscovered, and perpetually believing that things are beginning to happen. We’re all scared that we are these people, which made me wonder watching this match if Rocky Romero knows who he is and why. If he is self-aware, wrestling adds another dimension to it, in that self-awareness and attempts to get creative aren’t everything. You also have to be naturally athletic and coordinated on some level. I don’t know if I’m suggesting Romero grow a shaggy mane and start carrying a fork in his tights exactly. But I do know that the warmed-over 90s New Japan juniors stuff that he does with utter malaise, mechanical rendition, and what often looks like a mind-distant contempt is awful. And I do wonder if he’s aware that he’s his chosen profession’s Kevin Meaney. I could give you the move-by-move rundown but it would be as tedious to read as it would be to write or perform. Ultimo Dragon wins with a stupid, arbitrary, illogical move. And yet there is an upside: Romero seems to have started growing out his hair.

The Predator vs. Taka Kunou: This opens with clips of a Predator-Takayama match I wish I’d seen. Predator heads to the ring doing the gaijin crowd flogging and bearing a real resemblance to present-day fatty Scott Hall in a fright wig. This fake Brody on the way gets his chain stuck around the guard rail, which I think might have happened to the real Brody in a shitty match with Inoki. This is a culture clash anomaly special wherein a Judoka wearing a gi fights a brute working a Mongol gimmick. What separates this and makes it actually interesting rather than “interesting” is that the Mongol is Sylvester Terkay, an NCAA champion on Kurt Angle’s level who had some good K1 wins and too clearly knows what he’s doing when it comes to chain wrestling. When they go to the mat, Kunou grows butterfingers while Terkay is giving him awesome Regal-style forearm face washes. He also hits a pretty decent muscle buster and an Alabama Jam. These are “wow” moments not because they’re great but because of who Terkay is, and Kunou looks pretty awkward when trying to work spots, but Predator’s performance and Necro Butcher’s upcoming outing proved the show’s highlights.

Bob Sapp vs. Necro Butcher: This is the match I most wanted to see on this show. Pre-match a video plays of Necro’s match with Minowaman, which I haven’t seen due to a Springtime wrestling hiatus but looks absolutely amazing, both dudes doused in blood while trading savage punch flurries. Necro coming out here to “Freebird” is pretty fun, and it’s a testament to how dead this crowd is that his juking and jiving gets zero reaction. Sapp enters with "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and a cheap version of a Flair robe. His giant baby head looks ready to pop off at any moment. The match begins with Necro almost instantly bleeding, seemingly off of a turnbuckle shot or jumping the gun on blading himself. He may just have one of those wrestling foreheads that instinctively starts bleeding as the bell sounds, like an automated bathroom machine dispensing soap or towels. Having not seen much Sapp I was surprised by how bad he was here, looking untrained despite having done this stuff off and on for years. Necro takes Sapp’s weak sauce leg drops and bear hugs and sells them magnificently. He’s like prime Hulk Hogan if portrayed by prime Stacy Keach. Which almost could have happened as they have the same baldness pattern and their peaks nearly crossed over. The strangest part of Sapp’s work here is his loud, weird moaning and grimacing. He actually seems to be straining to pick Necro up for basic spots, which is strange given how game the Butcher is to help: he gigs so hugely for a post shot that Sapp’s follow-up headbutts leave his own head doused in Necro’s blood. Necro finds a plastic bag and attempts asphyxiation, up for playing ’89 Funk in Sapp’s kooky Flair LARPing. The match, like each on the card save Terkay-Kunou, ends with a whimper. What’s that much more unfortunate about this one is that it gives fodder to the idea that Sapp is what racists dismiss Mark Henry, Bobby Lashley, and Nelson Frazier (or Ray Candy, Ernie Ladd, and Bearcat Wright before them) as: a big black oaf. What was wrong then and remains wrong now is to paint all of these guys with the same broad brush, confuse their pace for lethargy, or to dismiss Sapp’s celebrity in Japan and inimitable mic skills. None of that excuses a shitty performance with a worker as great as Necro, but it does make me want to see this guy doing schtick somewhere for somebody.

In between matches they show footage of Inoki and Hansen hopping out of a limo in tuxes. Hansen speaks to the crowd, and seems in good health. He looks and even sounds like what Jeff Jarrett will be at 70 if he can stay alive while continuing to bone other people’s wives. Inoki follows this by cutting a weird promo where he talks for several fast forwarded minutes, shows off his WWE Hall of Fame ring, paints some Japanese characters onto a big tablet, and has assistants show off the tablet to the crowd. He then picks up what looks like a gardening ho and smacks it against the canvas, laughing to himself. The lights then fade to a dim blue, a saxophonist enters, and Inoki begins crooning some morose jazz vocal I’ve never heard before. Can’t make this shit up. He’s about as good a singer as I would guess Vince McMahon is, which is to say, pretty damn terrible.

Tatsumi Fujinami/El Gran Hamada vs. Tiger Mask/Yoshiaki Fujiwara: This is billed as the Inoki 50th Anniversary Match, and after the aforementioned DVDVR set, these do feel like four guys recontexualized into New Japan mythology, even if Fujinami was the only one to do his best work there. I’m torn about Fujiwara being in this, in that while I love watching him work, there was more of an air of legitimacy to this promotion when he was Ogawa’s cornerman in matches with Mark Coleman than when he’s the spriest worker in your semi-main. I’m a huge advocate for old guys wrestling, but when your 60+ vets show up every new blood guy in the company, it’s tough to feel “of the moment”. But then, aside from BattlARTS the same is true of every promotion in Japan. Sayama comes out and early on destroys Fujinami with limb kicks, only to get Dragon Screwed. Once Fujiwara reluctantly gets in he lays a vicious bunch of slaps and chokes on Hamada, who unfortunately seems the one of these four who’s lost the most since his prime, but still proves an endearing Ricky Morton Complete with Spiked Mullet. The too brief Fujiwara-Fujinami interactions are fun, both still expert in their positioning and countering. Much of this is built around Sayama and Fujiwara as bickering partners, slapping each other upside the head with disapproval. The finish devolves into wacky, mildly amusing vaudeville. While we’ve seen much better performances from all of these guys in recent years, they’ve all more or less earned the right to fuck around and make the puroresu equivalent of Starbucks producing a late-career Elvis Costello bluegrass album.

Josh Barnett vs. Masked Ultimate: Pencil in some room on your year-end top ten list: Masked Ultimate has arrived. Just kidding, he’s a frightened d-bag who’s here because Iron Prings needed someone to carry his bags. Staggering how much Barnett’s let himself go since being popped for steroids. But the Baby Faced Assassin turned Baby Back Rib Faced Assassin should feel no shame in sporting some Maeda Belly, or for playing the story of this match just right. He’s disappointed that his Takayama match got cancelled, dismissive of the scrub he’s being put against, and takes a few surprising leg sweeps before tapping this goon out. I don’t recall every being so grateful to see a wrestler collecting an easy payday, which he totally earns by selling huge for this money mark’s sloppy brawling, then cobbling together a Magnum T.A. comeback of slams, suplexes and supremely gritted teeth. If the Strikeforce deal never pans out, he should consider collecting more money for nothing in TNA as Lacey Von Erich’s long lost Uncle Dieter.

Minoru Suzuki/Naomichi Marufuji vs. Naoya Ogawa/Atsushi Sawada: This is the first Marufuji I’ve watched in what feels refreshingly like years. Years in which foods tasted better, my libido rose, and the sun shined brighter in ways that may or may not correlate to this lounge act being out on the shelf. People get on Marufuji for a lot of things, but they always forget his pubed-out goatee, one of the worst facial hair choices around in an industry that truly innovates shitty beards. Sawada is an ex-Judo champ and Ogawa’s trainee who like Ogawa has worked for IGF almost exclusively since ’07. If they’re going in this direction they should buy up Akira Shoji, who looked awesome in a worked setting against Otsuka last year and is said to be nearing retirement. That’s a move not altogether surprising for a guy who’s said to clean his house and prepare his will before every fight he takes just in case he dies in the ring. The mindset of a guy like that is way more interesting than watching an adult infant trade slaps with the David Arquette of the East. More interesting than watching Ogawa, a guy capable of creating nuclear heat in any arena in the country, look like he wants to be anywhere but this match. More interesting than seeing Suzuki do his smarmy no-selling “naughty naughty” gimmick for the five thousandth time.

We still live in a world containing forests, dogs, espresso, power-pop, film noir, psychedelics, and fucking. I urge you to learn from my volunteered error in judgment, and enjoy any and all of those small wonders before surrendering to this hastily thrown together pony show, showcasing so many of Japan’s present wrestling shortcomings in a tepid, condensed pile.

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Blogger Ditch said...

This post is easily the best thing to be associated with IGF.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the template for dude with a liberal arts degree trying to hard to write cleverly about wrestling has two bad metaphors before the forced reference to one's girlfriend, but otherwise this was spot-on.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too hard, even

10:36 PM  

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