Tag Archives: Tag Team

NJPW will feature women wrestlers at Wrestling Dontaku 2015

For the first time in 13 years, women are going to compete in a NJPW ring.  Maria Kanellis, Matt Taven, and Mike Bennett (the Kingdom) have been booked to wrestle Amber O’Neal Gallows, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson (the Bullet Club) at Wrestling Dontaku 2015 on May 3. This comes after the Bullet Club suffered the devastating loss of their IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships to the Kingdom, due in part to Karl Anderson’s obsession with Maria (same, Karl, same) and also Maria’s excellent distraction skills.

The last time a woman was featured in NJPW matches was in 2002, when Chyna competed against much of the roster in tag and singles matches.

Sunday’s match is described as a “six person tag team match” but I don’t know whether it’s mixed-tag (the women can only fight each other and a man must tag out to his woman partner if the opposing woman is tagged in) or intergender (men and women can fight each other) rules. We’ll find out for sure come Sunday, but as everyone saw at War of the Worlds last year, even NJPW’s good guy heartthrob ace once in a century talent and most decorated IWGP champion in history  Hiroshi Tanahashi doesn’t hesitate to engage Maria in combat if she enters the ring. 

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This match could either be pretty good and a step toward getting women featured on NJPW programming in a capacity that is more than “look at all the beautiful parts of this very beautiful woman please” or it could be a bunch of Bullet Club shenanigans. I’ll check back in afterward and let you know!  But I have to say, after all the talk about how the Kingdom’s accolades in NJPW are really due to Maria, it’s nice to see her getting a chance to compete for some herself.

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Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows now have profiles up on the NJPW roster page.

Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II

At WrestleMania 31 this weekend, the entire Divas division will be compressed into a single tag match with no payoff or forward motion for any of its competitors. This bag of crumbs callously offered to long-suffering believers in women’s wrestling in America will purposely underwhelm in the undercard, making assured shit show stoppers Sting vs Triple H and Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns seem like a stumbling attempt to provide an earnest near-miss of what the WWE audiences actually want.

WWE has gotten hip to the social media, but the overwrought hashtags belie veritable tears in the veneer modernity.

A combined age of 167 in your upper card is not progress. Putting 6 of your 8 wrestlers of color on the pre-show is not progress. Shoehorning women into a tag match whose booking goes contrary to the storylines of the wrestlers involved is not a victory lap for diversity and “reaching the people”. It is a stumbling, begrudged forced march into the dark ages of tone deafness that has sunk the industry again and again.

In 1993, one week after Hulk Hogan won the then-WWF title in a main event he wasn’t booked in, Manami Toyota, Toshiyo Yamada, Mayumi Ozaki, and Dynamite Kansai put on a women’s tag match in Osaka that broke the gender barrier like a shoot kick to the face behind the referee’s back, earning the first Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year for women in the sport.

When brought up, the match is often weighed down by hobbyist wrestling historians as an example of how far wrestling had fallen in that time. And, for real: WWF had shit every bed at the Sleep Train with their non-televised title changes, mismanaged younger talent, and letting Hogan job to a fireball.

But this was the same year that Shane Douglas won and then rebuked the NWA Heavyweight Championship to announce the formation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. AAA put on their first TripleMania and NJPW’s Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome brought in 63,500 attendees.

A bleach-proof blemish in WWE’s history, 1993 was nonetheless a formative year for professional wrestling across the world.

This match is not the low hanging fruit of an industry in decline. It is, even without the benefit of understanding the commentary, one of the greatest matches in the history of the sport. Full stop; fight me.

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To Set the Scene

This match was the second of a trilogy of contests between AJW’s Toyota/Yamada and JWP’s Ozaki/Kansai. While WWF spent the mid 90’s (and really, the whole of their ouevre as an organization) pilfering talent, no matter how useless, from their competitors, fans of joshi puroresu (primarily women) witnessed rival promotions kick and scream through a series of wrestling clinics that cinched Japan’s fourth consecutive Match of the Year award.

David McLane struggles to keep a women’s promotion open in America–there are 12 listed-as-active women’s promotions in Japan, notwithstanding women who appear on the more mainstream “men’s” promotions. The competition in Japan is mayhaps more collectivist than individualist–but it is yet, as Dynamite Kansai’s face will attest, strong style stiff.

Continue reading Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II

Who’s That Girl? Sensational Sherri Martel

A career like Sherri Martel’s would disrupt the otherwise deftly meticulous managing of women’s talent and identity that has become a trademark of the WWE. The first name only gimmicks and over promoting of an underwhelming Divas reality show allows WWE to effectively own the identities and careers of their talent. Should they tire of their five minute snack break matches, WWE can hold the door open to the inhospitable future that lays before them–where else do you think you’ll go? You aren’t properly trained. You don’t even have a full name like a real person. This is where you belong.

Sherri has a career that defies tethering to a brand identity. A 3 time AWA Women’s Champion and one-time WWF Women’s Champion, she has sassed and sashayed her way onto every major American wrestling promotion, even appearing on TNA before her death a year later. She was the standard bearer for wicked feminine wile in the Federation years, managing Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, and Ted DiBiase, her deviousness accentuated by exaggerated makeup meant to mask her effervescent beauty and entice the marks to  heap hate and judgment on her.

Even the Heenan family would blush at her career-wide retinue–Harlem Heat, Ric Flair, Shane Douglas, Eddie Guerrero, Art Barr.

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Sherri’s mad mat grappling chops are undeniable, but her ring psychology outshines some of her male contemporaries. Triple H once intimidated a referee into reversing a title change. That sort of heelery seems half hearted hackery when compared to Sherri berating the referee, without ever acknowledging the opponent she is wearing down with illegal holds. “Are you happy now!?” she screams, breaking the hold and giving her opponent a chance for a comeback. Sherri knew, for better or worse (usually worse) how to manipulate what men found aggravating or even offensive about her.

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Laying a foundation for women to be fierce in and out of the ring, a formula followed for decades by other valets/grapplers, may have also cost Martel her staying power. She wasn’t tied to a single wrestler (like Miss Elizabeth) and didn’t dramatically change her name or persona when coming into a new promotion (like almost anybody who isn’t a main event star who can leverage their star power against a booking committee’s whim). She was often jobbed out or paired with wrestlers doomed to dodder into obscurity (Tatanka, Marty Jannetty). No one could own her identity. This was before WWE Creative would give you a list of acceptable names, including your real name switched around, that didn’t have the name you’ve used your whole career. This was before WWE set up a whole “starter league” to put established wrestlers through curtain-jerking purgatory to remind them of their new place. Thus Sherri was not always treated sensationally by the business she devoted herself to.

She coached champion tag teams. She took bumps from Hulk Hogan. She brawled in the audience on the independent circuit.

Sherri Martel was tried-and-true journeywoman glue, helping keep the sport together, even while her male counterparts nearly tore the industry apart because they didn’t want to share the spotlight with younger, fresher talent.

A queen if we ever deserved one.