By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Great Sasuke vs Satan the Santa 12/24/04
Wrestling fans are spoilt for choice when it comes to the different types of wrestling they are able to see. There truly feels like there is a style out there for every fan, whether it be hard hitting All Japan heavyweights in the mid-90s, lucha with sports entertainment offerings of AAA, indy stars going balls to the wall in PWG, and numerous others too plentiful to count. Wrestling is akin to music, with every genre or style having its own offshoots that choose to take the core features of the style in a different direction, spiralling away into myriad new concepts in the process. A promotion could take the standard tenets of wrestling, sports entertainment, lucha or puro and head off in any number of wildly different ways.
Take HUSTLE, for example.
A short lived promotion in Japan, HUSTLE took the ‘soap opera for men’ creed so often spouted as a means to defend wrestling and rocketed it towards its natural conclusion. With Nobuhiko Takada in the role of an M Bison-type overlord – as well as the booker – hell bent on crushing the sport of wrestling, HUSTLE played up on the melodrama and characters even beyond that which we usually associate with sports entertainment style promotions. It, to put it frankly, was batshit insane.
One of the events run by HUSTLE during its first year of operation was a two day Hustle House Christmas Special that ran over both the 23rd and 24th of December. The main event of the first show helps to clarify how weird HUSTLE was as a promotion – Monster C (Steve Corino) and the New Jersey Power Warrior (who would wrestle the second night as Russian 54) would defeat Naoya Ogawa and Toshiaki Kawada. With Giant Silva, Dan Bobish, Kaz Hayashi and Flying Vampires #16 and #23 on the card, it was mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, with little in between.
On the second night, Toshiaki Kawada would at least get his revenge over Monster C in a singles match, but the most interesting looking match on paper was The Great Sasuke taking on Satan the Santa. A legitimate puro legend, whose career has been elongated by his desire to do ridiculous things in the age of gifs and the internet, battled a huge man dressed as Santa who doesn’t even warrant a bio on any popular wrestling websites. The opening handshake out of respect would quickly have Sasuke writing around in agony as the much bigger man took the opportunity to squeeze the limb in the process.
Some throws and a big slam had Sasuke backing away, before a press slam with ease showcased the raw power of Satan/Santa as he deposited Sasuke to the canvas with ease. Sasuke’s plight would earn some sympathy from the crowd as the match headed to ringside, but Satan wasn’t far behind and continued to pummel his opponent with punches and a whip into the guardrail. A claw hold once more had Sasuke rolling around on the mat in agony, but Satan decided to release the hold in order to slap on a nerve hold instead. This was also released in fairly quick order as the heel seemed content to torment Sasuke.
A kick combination had the monster reeling for the first time, only for Sasuke to run into a sitout choke bomb that earned Satan a two count. However, it was the first sign of weakness and Sasuke’s fire grew off of the back of it. A dodge near the ropes saw Satan go over the top rope and Sasuke take to the sky, hitting a baseball slide followed by a rolling senton off the top turnbuckle. Another attempt to use his speed looked like it had failed when Satan caught a crossbody attempt, yet Sasuke would sneak out the back in an attempted sunset flip. Sasuke was unable to get the big man over but avoided a punch and used a modified cradle for the three count instead.
It is a shame that HUSTLE didn’t last for as long as some promotions. It was incredibly niche, however, and the market for wrestling continues to get increasingly saturated around the world. What is pleasing is that there still continues to be outposts for this blend of melodrama and wrestling with CHIKARA in the US in particular not a million miles spiritually away from HUSTLE and their ilk. There is always something different out there if you just look hard enough to find it.