How's this for a company concept: Nobuhiko Takada, known for being one of the biggest stars of the prior 15-20 years, legendary practitioner of shoot style pro wrestling, and a legitimate shooter whose contest with Rickson Gracie was the impetus to form PRIDE (and who would go on to be the spokesperson for the 3rd generation version of PRIDE, RIZIN) thought "What if someone tried to run 1980s WWF shows in Japan?". And thus, HUSTLE was born. Completely eschewing the shoot style philosophy, which had sharply fallen off in Japan after the UWFI/NJPW feuds and Takada getting smashed by Rickson, Takada envisioned a full on cartoony sports entertainment company. Being owned by the same company as PRIDE, there were many crossovers with MMA, and the first show was in fact promoted on a PRIDE event that featured a pull apart brawl with between Goldberg and Ogawa. And to make the biggest splash possible, they ran their first event directly opposite of the NJPW 1/4 dome show.
Low Ki vs Jun Kasai vs King Adamo vs MIKAMI
Looooooool at these for guys coming out to a dance remix of the theme from Beverly Hills Cop. They all had to enter together. And it's to Axel F. Amazing start. Another amazing start is camera crews completely missing the first dive of the promotion. They didn't miss Low Ki's space flying tiger drop to Jun, nor did Ki miss the random ladder Mikami brought to ringside. There must have been an American broadcast or something, because I swear I hear Mauro Ranallo screaming shit at ringside. King Adamo is an "islander" type, complete with leopard print skirt and grass tassels. He's fat and does the stink face. Oh great, a tower of doom spot. And you get to see Adamo's ass crack. Jun falls off a ladder. Adamo teases doing a...moonsault?...from the ladder, but Ki pulls him off. After you see his ass again. This was a weird blend of junior high spots and comedy. A Ki Krusher to Kasai ends the match.
Ikuto Hidaka vs Zebraman
Based on the video package, Zebraman is a superhero crime fighter who has a magical headlight on his motorcycle. I can't tell who he is under the mask, but he's quite beefy. Wait a second. Is that Brian Christopher? I don't hear any squealing, but the size and some of the moves add up. Regardless of who it is, Zebraman won with a torture rack blue thunder bomb in a pretty short match that had zero heat. Some googling tells me it was Kazuhiko Ogasawara, who begin his career in Zero 1 in 2002.
TO THE BACK. Zebraman is followed to his dressing room, where he unmasks with his back to the camera. Elsewhere, Takada is eating chicken when Bill Goldberg walks in. "Bill, this is no good chicken!" "Bad chicken? Where is the good chicken?" "It's in the ring. Chicken is Ogawa." Lmao. DO THE HUSTLE.
TO THE MEAN GENE. Gene enters Ogawa's locker room to get a few words. Ogawa is reading a book. Hashimoto came in, and they laughed about it. Ogawa got annoyed and gave Gene an elbow to the ear. 3-2-1 HUSTLE HUSTLE!
Satoshi Kojima/Kaz Hayashi vs Dos Caras Jr./El Solar
Wasn't expecting to see Alberto Del Rio or that dude who got his ass beaten by Tiger Mask for daring to pull his shoulder out of socket during a match. Solar is like twice Kaz's age and still eats him up on the mat. Del Rio as an actual luchador is so weird. He seems so ill suited for it, both in size and personality. At some point, you're just too tall and lanky to be doing flips and dives and having it look good. It's kind of hard to believe that this is the guy WWE would push so hard so many times. He manages to dump Kojima right on his fucking head with a suplex, which sounded like it got an "OH SHIT" out of Kaz. This is a fucking weird match. The crowd isn't reacting to anything, Solar's breathing sounds like he's dying, ADR is awkward as shit, and there is no flow whatsoever. Del Rio is either blown up or trying to sandbag Kojima, because he just stops even pretending to try when not on offense at some point in the match. Kojima pins Solar with a lariat.
Masato Tankaa vs Shinjiro Otani vs Kevin Randleman/The Predator
If you were going to book a MMA fighter in Japan in 2004, Randleman had to be at the top of the list. Incredible look. Imagine him dropping dudes on their heads like he did to Fedor. The Predator does his bootleg Bruiser Brody shit, rampaging through the crowd, while Randleman basically jumps his way down the ramp and does a crazy vertical leap over the ropes. Also shout out to their entrance being Immigrant Song...with a saxophone doing the melody. Randleman and Otani begin and Randleman has an amazing kick counter and double leg to start out with. This dude is such a freak athlete. God bless Pride Juice. Then Otani beats him down in the corner. Lol. The Predator being such a shameless Brody knock off is kind of gross. A lot of tall guys can grow their hair and beard out. That doesn't mean you are Brody 2.0, you fuck. He's the actual pro wrestler, yet Randleman seems better at it than him. Better athlete, better look, better bumper, better seller. Emblem puts him through his paces as far as wrestling goes, but his athleticism gets him out of pretty much any situation. I would love to know the exact numbers on his vertical leap. Holy shit, FRANKENSTEINER OUTTA NOWHERE! Inoki done goofed getting lame ass MMA guys like Ron Waterman to kill his talent. Not Brody pinned Tanaka with a muscle buster. Man, Kevin Randleman was awesome.
Giant Silva vs Katsushia Fuji/Kohei Sato
Freak show handicap match! And this giant is also a shooter. 2 minute squash. It's kind of sad, though, because Silva can barely walk and looks to be in agony just standing. He had to lean on a security guard to walk to the back.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Vader
What a nice surprise. I would say this is Vader's last true big time match, as the previous 2 years had him mostly in midcard tags in NOAH, and the years after would have him doing lots of tiny indies and the occasional midcard nostalgia match in various Japanese companies. These two hadn't faced off since 1992, not since 1991 in a singles match. A lot has changed since then, but I definitely expect someone to get hit pretty hard a few times in this. Lol at the heat Vader got for not throwing his mask in the crowd. Vader looks...not good, to say the least. Like he's afraid to throw a shot, and afraid to take one. And is slow as shit. Hashimoto also doesn't look well, having looked like he's lost weight but not in a good way. He also looks like he really does not want to bump with his heavily taped shoulder, which I could have sworn was a worked injury from a Zero 1 show. This is pretty bad, sadly. Not that I was expecting a great match from near death Hashimoto and 50 year old Vader, but shit. Both guys look like they're just struggling to get through it. Hashimoto won by count out after a DDT on the floor. Takada's reaction after the match was hilarious. I'm not sure if it was part of the storyline with Hashimoto, or if he knew how bad it sucked. Hashimoto said something to him, and Takada walked out, so I assume it's part of a storyline where Takada is wanting to punish Hashimoto for...idk, the NJPW/UWFI feud?
TO THE DIVAS. Some breh introduces international divas, who are just hot non-Japanese broads that come out to the arena to dance...to Chyna's entrance music.
TO THE BACK. Takada holds the pads for Goldberg. "Oh, you monster!" The inflection from Takada was hilarious. I would love a whole show of Takada and Godlberg backstage being bros.
TO THE MEAN GENE. The interviewer presses his luck and tries to talk to Ogawa again. Ogawa is warming up by running in place on top of Takada pictures.
Dos Caras/Mil Mascaras/Sicodelico Jr. vs Dusty Rhodes/Steve Corino/Tom Howard
The fuck, Takada. The fuck. Dusty is in his trunks. That spindly legged old man. Corino had a prematch promo that he cut in Engrish for some reason. Dusty is covered in sweat before he even makes it to the ring. Japan has no qualms putting older dudes in the ring who shouldn't be in the ring anymore. They never have and they never will. 306 year old Dory Funk Jr. was doing bladejobs on AJPW shows in 2016. Dusty and Mil begin the match. Corino decides he should start instead. Corino's lack of any definition is amazing. How do you manage to be a pro wrestler for years, where you have to be strong enough to pick 200+ pound guys up, yet have what appears to be no muscles whatsoever? Mil must have the most incredible core strength after sucking in his stomach for 70 years. Mil completely embarrasses Corino on the mat. Dusty goes after the younger guy, and he's just as weird as ever. Corino again tags himself in before Dusty and Mil can lock up. Lol at Howard/Corino doing Hardy Boyz spots. Why is Howard doing the Jeff Hardy spots? Probably because Corino was a nonathletic shit. Corino does a lot of shit talking to the crowd in this, and to Hashimoto. And to Ogawa. Mil pins Corino with a cross body before Mil and Dusty can ever lock up. I'm sure Dusty got a nice pay day to throw a few chops and elbows and not have to take a single bump. Until after the match, when Corino SWERVED Dusty and busted him open with his own boot. Lmao, of course Dusty would blade. And it would be AFTER the match. He got fired up and busted Corino open, made all the weirder that the Paul McCartney song the Caras family came out to was still playing throughout the whole brawl. Low Ki, Tom Howard, and some other guys eventually have to keep them apart. The best part? Dusty and Corino wouldn't have a match until 4 months later. There's a show in between this one and the one they had their match on. Both were booked on it. Not against each other.
Toshiaki Kawada vs Mark Coleman
I feel like Kawada would get absolutely rekt in an actual shoot fight. Dude just seems like one of those tough guys who can beat up untrained guys, but get smashed by anyone with some training. Coleman's worked strikes and selling are so bad. It's amazing. While Inoki is having shoot fighters destroy the credibility of his talent by booking them in shoots they can't win, Takada is booking guys on his show to out strike and have better submissions than actual fighters. Kawada wins iwth a heel hook. The ref called for the bell becuase Coleman wouldn't give up.
Goldberg vs Naoya Ogawa
I would love to know how Takada had the stroke to get WWE contracted Goldberg on both a PRIDE show and his own wrestling event. Do you think there was a meeting with Vince and the yakuza to get this deal done? I feel like Goldberg in Japan for an extended amount of time could have been amazing. Especially in this era. This starts with some posturing with light headbutts, then Ogawa backing Goldberg into the corner and throwing shots that have no effect. Goldberg just laughs them off. That's how most of the match goes, really. Ogawa tries some shit, it barely phases Goldberg, Goldberg throws him, Ogawa comes back and tries something again until it works. Shout out to ref bumps. Ogawa rolls away from a spear and hits the STO. Can Ogawa shock the world? Another STO. Hold up. HOLD UP. GIANT SILVA INTERFERES ON GOLDBERG'S BEHALF! LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL. Godlberg comes to, hits a spear, then a jackhammer that drops Ogawa right on his shoulder for the win. Not a good match at all, but lol at all of this. This whole show. After the match, Hashimoto ran down and literally kicked Takada in the ass. They had some words, and I'm pretty sure Takada made fun of Hashimoto for being fat. Ogawa said some shit that got some laughs. Ogawa got pissed and beat Takada's ass, causing a big pull apart brawl that Goldberg got involved in even though I'm pretty sure he was not supposed to. "Hashimoto...you're next!" SWERVE: Goldberg never returned to Japan.
This is a show with luchadors, stars from the 1970s, American indie stars, MMA fighters, a superhero, random Nitro Girls like segment, and a WWE contracted star in the main event. And this is the most normal HUSTLE show. This is mostly pretty straight. Just wait until you get to Akebono getting born from Great Muta shooting mist into a dominatrix's vag.