Last week, I speculated on the nature of Wrestling Dontaku’s six-person tag featuring Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows alongside their respective husbands and their husbands’ tag team partners. Now that the event has come and gone, let’s look at it.
The backstory is silly, and very pro wrestling: Karl Anderson was obsessed with Maria, and his obsession had led to the loss of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for him & Gallows. As a result, Gallows brought in his wrestler wife Amber to try and keep Maria under control in the grudge match. It’s funny that Maria, a professional temptress, gets into so much trouble when she does her job well. Maybe she should tone down her siren song or something.
Let’s take a minute here to examine the dynamic of Maria Kanellis in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Her boys are the champs. Maria has her own t-shirt. Her tag champs don’t. This is in the pre-match video package:
This is Amber’s entrance:
This is Maria’s entrance:
This is Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance, just as a point of comparison:
The depictions of Maria & Amber are nearly night and day, though they’re both beautiful women. To be fair, they zoomed in on Amber’s chest a bit as she walked to the ring, but her ring-announced in-ring intro was flashy and athletic. I’m not sure whether Japanese wrestling fans and/or NJPW are so obsessed with Maria that they’d legitimately prefer to film the whole show with a picture-in-picture of her ass, or if the gimmick of Maria-in-Japan has reached some apex of self-parody that they’re just pushing every time they get her on TV. In any case, Maria’s depiction in NJPW doesn’t make me uncomfortable as a female fan — I think it’s hilarious, if a little much. The ass zooming shots went on for a minute or more, when thirty seconds would have been more than sufficient for both lusty and parody purposes.
The match itself was fairly standard. The rules were mixed-tag — when Maria was tagged in, Amber had to be tagged in. The highlight of the entire situation was Karl Anderson daydreaming so hard about Maria that he forgot to do his signature machine gun taunt in his entrance. I was actually shocked, and so were Amber & Doc. So was referee Tiger Hattori.
The wrestling match was a wrestling match sprinkled with shenanigans. The women hit some nice moves on each other and it looked like Amber wanted to murder Maria. The culmination, as you might have anticipated, was Maria hitting a low blow on Karl Anderson to get the advantage for her team, and then rolling up Amber for a surprise win. Amber went into full-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West meltdown mode, which was another highlight.
Post-match, Doc and Amber still want to murder Maria, but Karl Anderson protects her. That is, until he SURPRISE turns on Maria, and he and Doc hit the Magickiller on her.
- This wasn’t an intergender match, so Maria was not competing against the men — they’re bad men who just assaulted her post-match (at Amber’s urging) outside the bounds of competition because they were mad that she got the win.
- It’s reasonable that a bad girl like Amber would sic her men on Maria when she herself couldn’t get the job done.
- It’s oddly refreshing in entertainment when bad guys are beating up a woman because they’re mad at the woman rather than using the woman to get at the woman’s husband/boyfriend/otherwise associated man.
- I’m not even sure Gallows & Anderson care about Taven & Bennett at all. Maria’s match, Maria’s belts, Maria’s feud, Maria’s win, Maria’s post-match consequences.
- I don’t know where this leaves the feud. Reasonably, Amber could want to get her win back. Taven & Bennett could want to beat up Anderson & Gallows for beating up Maria. Or it could just be over for now.
For it being the first time women are featured as wrestlers in NJPW in thirteen years, we’re off to a decent start. Let’s hope this opens up the door for future storylines with women and even more talent.