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Falls Count Anywhere

06/27/2011

Let us call it excessively dilatory.

Welcome to Falls Count Anywhere! My name is Chris and this one's even later…

Alison Danger is a name that'll be familiar pretty much only to fans of Ring of Honor, Shimmer and the related feds out there. She's not yet a household name despite being one of the better US-based women wrestlers. She's wrestled around the world; I've seen a couple of her matches from Europe and one of them from Japan and I'd argue that with the possible exception of Beth Phoenix and Sareena Deeb, she's the best woman wrestler to rise up through the indies instead of being pushed through the WWE's system in the last decade. She's also the sister of Steve Corino (and I was always hoping they'd do a Dune-themed gimmick as House Corino, but that might be a little too conceptual.)

Alison posted a very interesting blog this weekend. It's up here. Go and take a look, I'll wait here.

OK, now let's start with what women's wrestling has been. Terrible is a start. Those of us who can remember The Fabulous Moolah and her girls will know that they were not very good. Sadly, that was the basis for much of the most visible woman's wrestling in the US. Yes, there were some excellent female wrestlers in the US. Joyce Grable, Penny Banner, Mae Young, Cora Combs: they all had some talent in the ring. Moolah? Not so much.

Working ability never meant too much in women's wrestling in the US, and many of the most talented American women wrestlers went to Japan. Some came back, like Medusa Micelli, and a few Japanese wrestlers were out here and had some impact, like the Jumping Bomb Angels.

The Crush Gals
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japan saw an explosion in the popularity of women's wrestling. Joshi, as it's called out that way, became tremendously popular and produced some of the greatest matches in history. The Crush Gals were huge stars and very good workers. The young girls who had worshipped them as both pop stars and wrestlers became exceptionally good wrestlers. Names like Minami Toyota, Megumi Kudo, Dynamite Kensai, Mayumi Ozaki, Akira Hukuto and Aja Kong all became incredible workers after idolizing the Crush Gals.

I recently bought a DVD from Highspots.com that featured some of their classics. Watching the DVD after reading Alison's blog entry really drove something home. Women's Wrestling needs to shape up!

The match that I'm going ot focus on is Minami Toyota and Yamada, the All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling tag team stars, facing Ozaki and Kensai in a two out of three falls match. This might be the greatest Japanese wrestling match I've ever seen. Better than Kobashi vs. Misawa in 2003, or Kobashi/Misawa vs. Taue/Kawada from 95. Better even than the Michinoku Pro ten man tag that was the Mother of All Spotfests.

It's an incredible match with near-falls, amazing storytelling, big move after big move. I don't think I saw a single resthold and only one blown spot, a kick that didn't connect.

And the crowd. This was the biggest thing to why it worked so well. The crowd cared, and not just because they were hot women wrestling, but because they were working hard and telling a good story and the people cared because they were always telling good stories and working hard. They had a great formula.

Even when there's a great woman's match in TNA, I'm thinking the Mickie James vs. Tara brawl, the crowd does not respond that big because of all the times they've seen gorgeous women in the ring just going through the motions. They've been programmed not to care.

Unchain my heart...
The funny thing that a lot of folks ignore is that a lot of Japanese women wrestlers were sex symbols. In fact, some even did porn both before and during their run as wrestlers (I think Ozaki did, for example) and that was a big part of some of them drawing. The fact that they some were heavily pushed because of their looks is less important than the fact that they were all highly competent athletes and had amazing matches.

That's the one part of Alison's rant that I don't agree with. Looks are very important, and if you think it only applies to women, then why were so many men risking their lives (sometimes losing them) to do steroids? It's a major part of the business appearance, and right or wrong, it has made the difference between an excellent wrestler getting a chance (Chris Benoit never got his go until after he obviously started heavily juicing) and a poor wrestler being given the ball to run with (an early John Cena, for example). Looks do matter, to fans, and disproportionally to management.

One thing that I totally agree with her on is that no matter why someone gets the job, they need to do the job and do it well. There are too many floaters who just get the job and don't work at it.

Trish Stratus could have easily been one of those women, just given up on trying to be a decent worker and kited on her looks. She didn't. She worked hard, had some very good matches, and always seemed like she was working hard, even when she was in with those who didn't put out the effort.

A figure who has been largely forgotten from Diva History, Tori had the work ethic and had some great matches. She was also smokin' hot, after her return from an injury in 1999 or so she was almost certainly the sexiest Diva of all time. She had already had a good career as Teri Power in the US and Japan and while she wasn't the best in-ring woman wrestler, she was always good. But she had the looks and worked at it. That's an important part of the entire equation.

One fine day in the Emerald City...
Of the current crop of women wrestlers, there are a few stand-outs. Beth Phoenix is one and from the first time I saw her in Shimmer, I knew she had what it took to be a star. Sadly, injuries and booking have done her no favors.

There's Sarena Deeb, the former member of the Straight Edge Society who was supposedly fired for not living out her Straight Edge lifestyle outside the ring. She's always been one of my faves, and if I were building a women's division, I'd have her as the lead face. She knows how to work a crowd, which is an important thing. I'm dying to see her NWA France Woman's Title match against Daffney, though I haven't found it anywhere.

There are many others. Sara Del Rey, Awesome Kong (Kharma), Jennifer Blake and others are great, but the big problem is that no one will give them a chance. I wish someone with a ton of disposable income would start a ladies fed, pay competitive contracts and have the guts to fire those women who don't work hard.

One of the reasons why All Japan Pro had such great women wrestlers was that their training required girls, usually 15 to 16 year olds, to compete for the their slots and most didn't make it all the way through the training. SO many girls wanted to be a part of AJW that they could be selective.

That's what makes the difference. Having people who are driven, who really want to be there. That's the key.

The problem with bringing in models is that so many of them are only there for the exposure. There are other Beth Phoenixs out there. There are other Toris. They're the ones that the audience can still drool over and can put on great matches.

Finding them ain't easy, but in the long run, it's worth it.

Chris Garcia

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