Yesterday, as many of you sat around a table with family and gave thanks before stuffing yourselves full of high caloric garbage and parking your asses on the couch to watch “pro football” to kill time before you could go and trample your fellow man at big box stores that evening for the latest overpriced bauble, yours truly was studying as always. You don’t get to be the smartest man in wrestling by resting on your laurels. No, my task is to learn. To assimilate information. To make myself more knowledgable than everyone else.
Sure, I’m already smarter than most (probably you), but that doesn’t mean I can shirk my responsibility to educate the wrestling public on the finer points of the sport by showcasing fantastic contests.
Such is the case tonight. While everyone looks for a one-of-a-kind deal on this day, I present to you–FREE OF CHARGE–the 2003 Match of the Year: Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa. These two won Match of the Year honors in 1997 and 1998 for their singles bouts in All Japan Pro Wrestling. This third encounter would be contested under Misawa’s Pro Wrestling NOAH promotion.
To understand how crazy these two men were in performing the array of moves you’ll see below, consider this: at the time of this match, Kobashi is 35 and his knees are shot; Misawa is 40 and his back and neck are in a bad way.
The next time you’re hanging out with your buddies and downing beers, and one of those knuckleheads looks at wrestling on the TV and says, “that ain’t too hard,” pull up this match and let them see what these men do to each other. Man’s game, folks. Man’s game.
This Saturday marks the third annual King of Cable Tournament, the first to be held at the historic South Broadway Athletic Club in Soulard.
Eight men will compete in one-on-one matches under single elimination rules to determine the fittest, best wrestler in the St. Louis area. The winner will receive a guaranteed title shot against the MMWA Champion at any time of the challenger’s choosing. The previous two winners of the tournament–Brandon Espinosa and Dave Osborne–went on to win the title when “cashing in” their opportunity, so the stakes are incredibly high.
Let’s look at the bracket, shall we?
No seeds here; every man’s name went into a hat and was drawn at random. Any of these men would make a fine King of Cable. The Television Champion A.J. Williams will meet Battle Royal Champion Lynn Mephisto in the opening round, Jr. Heavyweight Champion Andrew Wilder faces Ace Hawkins, Da’Marius Jones squares off against the 2012 King of Cable ‘Big’ Dave Osborne, and two longtime rivals butt heads yet again as Brian James battles Jimmy D.
Also on the card: MMWA Champion Brandon Espinosa will defend his title against Gary Jackson and the Lumberjacks will be in tag team action.
I had to scroll through all the categories not twice but thrice to make certain: Best Cheap Thrill, Best All Ages Venue, Best Place to People Watch, Best Sports Broadcast Personality, and Best Sports Bargain.
The brain trust at Riverfront Times apparently thinks the St. Louis Rams are a better bargain than the MMWA at South Broadway Athletic Club. You’re telling me an $8 adult ticket and $4 child ticket for three hours of wrestling is not up to par with an atrocious football team that can’t even give tickets away? Pish-posh, I say!
How is the South Broadway Athletic Club not the best place for people watching in the St. Louis metro area? Good Lord, man, all walks of life are showing up month in and month out. I’ve said it before on commentary and I’ll say it again here: it smells like Red Bull and teen pregnancy. Now you tell me that that’s not a tremendous selling point…
Some of the guys have even confessed their dissatisfaction with the lack of a ‘Best Wrestler’ category. The Midwest is a bastion for pro wrestling and St. Louis remains the Mecca. Surely, the fine folks at RFT are not so obtuse as to ignore such talent still putting on top-notch events? This has got to be an oversight…
But most galling is the lack of respect shown my way in the ‘Best Sports Broadcast Personality’ category. To borrow a phrase, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink” on the MMWA television program. Oh sure, Tim Miller and Ben Simon are nice enough guys and do a job best described as “fair to moderate,” but I’m raising the bar, people. I’m educating the plebeians with my glut of wrestling acumen, and I’m losing out to Darren Pang? A pox on your house, Riverfront Times! A pox on your house!
“Hey Sean, who’s your favorite wrestler ever?” is a question I’m often asked during down time at our MMWA events at the South Broadway Athletic Club (next card on Saturday, September 14–hint, hint). My mind is flooded with possible answers, but more often than not, I focus on one man: Dean Malenko.
The Iceman. The Man of A Thousand Holds. Whatever clever nickname you wish to ascribe him, Dean Malenko was just friggin’ great at the pro graps. He could stretch you, out wrestle you, counter you, overpower you, or use his quickness to confuse you. He was not a tall man (5’8″), nor built like some cruiserweights (all cardio and flips, little strength), but the man could flat out go.
So many modern wrestlers want to get on the mic and blah blah blah. I don’t care what you’re saying; you’re boring me! Dean Malenko? He almost never talked. Watch his entrances. The dude was like a walking statue coming to the ring. Sometimes the only thing he’d do is grab at his wrists. Man was all business before, during, and after a match.
When historians write about the great cruiserweights of the 90s and early 2000s, I have a fear they’ll forget Dean Malenko because he: a) never wore a mask (well except for that ONE TIME), b) rarely–if ever–got on the microphone, and c) was never LOUD. He was a quiet warrior of the ring.
Companies may talk about how they want a nice looking guy who gets on the microphone and yada yada yada the fans, but wrestling companies need guys like Dean Malenko.
Here he is near the height of his “powers,” taking on Ultimo Dragon (another all-time great cruiserweight) at WCW Starrcade 1996.
A sad fact for me (and probably many of you reading): this match is now old enough to have a driver license and nearly old enough to vote. It’s probably trying to grow a mustache but it looks like dirt on its upper lip in the mirror.
Folks, wrestling returns to the South Broadway Athletic Club on Saturday, September 14! MMWA Heavyweight Champion Brandon Espinosa will be in action, as well as Jackson Whitechapel, Da’Marius Jones and Gary Jackson, among others. We’ve got 1 match already confirmed: Andrew Wilder defends his MMWA Jr. Heavyweight Title against Ace Hawkins.
We caught up with Andrew Wilder to learn a little more about MMWA’s lightest competitor. A transcript of the interview is below (BOLD print is yours truly):
How did you get the nickname “Wild One”?
Okay, first off it’s “The Wolf” not “The Wild One.” I don’t know who thought of that other one, but it’s not my style.
I got my nickname by doing what I have been doing for the past year and a half: kicking up the intensity every time I return, win or lose.
You saw it in that triple threat two months ago against A.J. Williams and J-mal Swagg. I got a busted nose, went crazy, finished the match and didn’t back out like a punk. I didn’t win but I didn’t lose either.
Isn’t losing the opposite of winning?
How about I fishhook you? You know what I meant, dork.
Moving along…so how’d you get “The Wolf” nickname?
I connect with a wolf the most because people think that a wolf without a pack isn’t dangerous. WRONG. I have and will keep proving that. Just because I don’t have allies doesn’t mean this lone wolf isn’t a threat or dangerous.
Cool. You know, when I was on the high school wrestling team I was nicknamed “The Animal.”
Where have you been training and for how long?
I’ve been training for about two years at South Broadway. It was close to home and I wanted to keep it that way. But I was always training in my mind since I was like 8. Every match I saw and every chance I got, I would rewind the tapes and see how to do some moves and learn ring awareness.
What was your favorite wrestling match while growing up?
I would have to say Jericho vs. Michaels at WrestleMania XIX. The feud itself was great. Just personal, as far as wanting to beat a man you looked up to and being like, “I waited for this moment to prove I’m better than you” and truly a fight to see who could steal the show. Very athletic and intense.
And who’s your favorite wrestler?
The Rock. No question about that.
Why The Rock?
Two reasons. The charisma: it flowed through him. Love him, hate him, it didn’t matter; people were drawn to him. Now, I’m not saying I’m more charismatic than The Rock, but people cannot deny that no matter if it’s in the ring or just in public, something draws their attention to me, always has since I was young. Whether it’s because they think I’m crazy, I’m doing something random or weird, people stop to look.
The second thing I love about The Rock: the smack talking. I love the verbal attacks as much as the physical. Going toe-to-toe on the mic means you can think on your feet. I aim for that.
But as far as in-ring style and tactics: Rick Rude, hands down. Just dirty and rough; right to the point.
You’re the lightest competitor in the MMWA. How do you respond to guys in the back or fans in the crowd who think it’s laughable to see you in the ring?
Laugh all you want, it’s not like they haven’t been doing that since I first showed up. All my life people told me, “You will never make it into pro wrestling.”
Check. Did that.
“Well, you won’t win a title.”
Check. Did that, too. Anyone else want to doubt me?
See, I make a living off of proving people around me wrong. I get a sense of satisfaction from doing it, too. They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s true. So to anyone: fans, boys in the back, or the bum down the street, you want to laugh and think you can beat me because I am the lightest competitor. Go ahead and doubt me. David took down Goliath, and so can I.
I might not be the biggest or the strongest, but I can fight. I got heart and a drive that won’t quit. Plus I love to see the look on people’s faces when I show them a wolf is still dangerous, no matter how small it is and even though it’s alone, he still has the same survival and fight instincts as the big ones. I have yet to truly show how viciousI can really get!
What is your go-to move when you’re trying to end a match?
Call of the Wild. It’s my swinging cutter. I snap it off quick enough so my opponent’s face takes the full impact on the canvas.
What’s your immediate goal? Where do you want to be in 12 months?
I want to be traveling the USA for more experience and more matches; but overall, I will still be here, at the place where I started. South Broadway was the only–and I mean only–place that gave me a chance to prove myself. I love staying at the stomping grounds because even though I hate these people and fans, I love the place I call home: St. Louis.
Where can people find you on Twitter?
Twitter. HA! Try Facebook. But in seriousness, maybe in a few months or years, or never. I just don’t know. Because why would I want some loser tweeting at me every hour of the day. I have a life, so you should get one too.
I was at the South Broadway Athletic Club’s training facility yesterday and engaged in a brief chat with some of the guys while they were working out and honing their craft, when I heard one man there say one of the most egregiously awful things I’ve heard in years.
I was discussing Japanese wrestlers and touting the combined flash and effect their maneuvers had on opponents. I cited the Great Muta’s elbow drop as one example, only to have hot shot rookie Da’Marius Jones pipe up with, “Who’s that?”
Confused, I responded, “Great Muta. Face paint. The mist. Greatest practitioner of the shining wizard. Japanese legend. Muta?”
“Nope. Never heard of him.”
After they revived me at ringside, I sought out to find videos demonstrating just why the Great Muta is arguably the best wrestler to emerge from Japan. And that is a very short list: Muta, Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Jushin Liger, KENTA, and that’s about it. I’m not an old fart, people. Far from it. And it’s not like Da’Marius Jones is all that young. I could maybe forgive him if he was, say, eight or nine years old. That’d just be a case of poor parenting. But to make it this far in life and to be a professional wrestler and have no clue who the Great Muta is…I mean…uh…GAAAAAH!
I’m calm. I promise.
Look, here are some videos to enjoy:
1. The Great Muta’s debut in the NWA/WCW (by the way, Gary Hart belongs on any Mt. Rushmore of greatest managers)
2. In 1992, Muta had a bout with longtime nemesis Hiroshi Hase for New Japan that would become legendary in tape trading circles and give birth to the term the “Muta Scale,” which measures the amount of blood a man loses in a match.
3. Here’s Muta in October 1996 wrestling the seemingly immortal Jushin Liger (dude moves like he doesn’t age):
4. Muta channels his inner Jack Sparrow with his entrance attire in this match, which took place in August 2007:
5. And lastly, here’s a match from January 2012, in which Muta wrestles in a 6-man tag bout:
So to those of you who don’t know about the Great Muta (and I’m looking in your direction, Da’Marius) I have only one thing to say: GET. YOUR. HEAD. RIGHT.