Wrestling: Fighting Opera HUSTLE
(also known as Fighting Opera HUSTLE
) was a Japanese Professional Wrestling
promotion founded by Nobuhiko Takada
in 2004. He started it under the banner Dream Stage Entertainment, a corporation dedicated to the Mixed Martial Arts
which owned PRIDE Fighting Championship at the time, but the premise was very different from the MMA or Japanese wrestling from its era. HUSTLE was filled with weird storylines
, over-the-top gimmicks and Anime
reminiscences, and worked with renowned wrestling veterans
, freelancers and even tarentos and TV personalities to create a scenic terrain labelled as "Fighting Opera".
The main plot involved the evil Generalissimo Takada attempting to destroy the professional wrestling on behalf of the mixed martial arts, leading his villanous Takada Monster Army against the good side represented by Naoya Ogawa and his wrestling allies from the HUSTLE Army. The story had his growths in the MMA-like wrestling company which Takada founded, UWF International
, which was destroyed by traditional pro wrestling and led to his founder to seek revenge (in kayfabe
, but not completely; see YMMV for more) against it. HUSTLE's plot brought all kinds of figures and characters, like Yinling the Erotic Terrorist and the renowned Hard Gay
, who saw the start of the promotion's most succesful era, and it finally ended in 2009 with the "death" of Takada against an one night enemy called King RIKI. The promotion started a fast decline and closed doors the same year, having outlasted both DSE and PRIDE.
HUSTLE figures as one of the fanciest Japanese wrestling companies ever, standing toe-to-toe with New Japan Pro Wrestling
at its pike, and was known for its long run in big arenas despite its frequently difficult profitability (as it's popularly said that all the money DSE earned with PRIDE was spent with HUSTLE). A controversial promotion towards pro wrestling in general, HUSTLE had a solid fanbase both out and in Japan, and is fondly remembered by many Western puroresu fans.
Tropes associated with HUSTLE:
- Action Girl: Karate Girl.
- Afro Asskicker: Shinya Hashimoto sported a massive afro during his fat Elvis gimmick. Also, Hustle Kamen Green sported a yellow afro hair.
- All American Face: Mr. USA (Ryan Wilson), who was a parody of Hulk Hogan's Mr. America.
- Amazon Brigade: The Amazoness Army, a Monster Army female division led by Yinling.
- Artificial Human: The Esperanza, a wrestling cyborg created by Generalissimo Takada in his image and likeness.
- Ass Kicks You: Hard Gay and Shiro Koshinaka signature move.
- Big Bad: Generalissimo Takada.
- Big Good: Initially Naoya Ogawa, later arguably Magnum TOKYO.
- Brainwashed: HUSTLE loved the trope, most probably as a way to work around the wrestlers's changes of alineation without tap into the classic pro wrestling Three Month Rule (which would have been incoherent in a promotion so focused in storylines).
- Naoya Ogawa was brainwashed by Takada and repacked as "Monster Celeb" Naoya Ogawa.
- Hard Gay was inadvertently brainwashed by the Dr. Nakamatsu and turned into the sadistic Monster HG, until Real Gay managed to free him.
- TAJIRI was hypnotised by Yinling, but snapped after a time when he was attacked by the also brainwashed ACHICHI.
- Shinjiro Otani was turned into "Fire Monster" ACHICHI.
- Butt Monkey: Wataru Sakata, TAJIRI and Real Gay tended to be in the shorter end of the stick in storylines and matches.
- The Chessmaster: Arguably Generalissimo Takada.
- Cool Old Guy: Shiro Koshinaka.
- Delayed Reaction: Himalayan Big Foot was a Monster Army mook whose main characteristic was moving very slowly if he was not surrounded by ice.
- The Dragon: Commander An Jo.
- Emoticon: Banzai Chie's name was written \(^o^)/ Chie. Really.
- Evil Costume Switch: Subverted with HUSTLE Kamen Yellow. When he was brainwashed and turned Monster Kamen Yellow, he only changed his shirt.
- Faceless Goons: The Monster Soldiers.
- Monster C is an individual example.
- Fan Disservice: The third HUSTLE event featured Joe Son (yes, that Joe Son, the future convict and MMA adventurer) singing and dancing a slow rap while wearing his signature thong and makeup. His performance had some melancholic beauty, but otherwise it was freaking creepy.
- Funny Animal: The Monster Army had several animal-themed mooks, like tortoises, catfishes and more.
- Fun with Acronyms: New Jersey Powerful Warrior, mocking New Japan Pro Wrestling.
- The Giant: Giant Silva.
- The Hero: Wataru Sakata took the mantle over time.
- Hero Killer: The Esperanza. He was so powerful than not even the legendary Great Muta could defeat him.
- Insult Backfire: Mick Foley and Toshiaki Kawada played this before their Triple Crown Championship match, while recalling their old tenures in AJPW. Foley said he remembered Kawada as a lazy wrestler. Then Kawada replied he didn't remember Foley.
- Kayfabe: HUSTLE lived it.
- Living Weapon: During the "Dynamite Hardcore HUSTLE Weapons Match" in 2004, in which different (and improbable) weapons were introduced by raffle, Giant Silva was introduced as a literal living weapon to aid Kintaro Kanemura's team.
- Martial Arts Headband: Shinya Hashimoto.
- Masked Luchador: Loads and loads.
- Mighty Glacier: Giant Silva, Bono-chan, HUSTLE Rikishi and others.
- Mundane Made Awesome
- Parts Unknown: HUSTLE Kamen Rangers, from "HUSTLE Nebula"
- The Power of Friendship: Was used by Real Gay to bring Monster HG back to his true self.
- The Power of Love: Used by Wataru Sakata's wife Eiko Koke to defeat The Esperanza.
- Psycho Rangers: The Monster Kamen Rangers.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: A long story.
- During the PRIDE rise, there were negotiations to stipulate a fight between Nobuhiko Takada and Naoya Ogawa, but Ogawa refused and the bout never had place. Takada retired from MMA and stayed as a Dream Stage Entertainment executive, while Ogawa left the business to work full time in Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE. Shortly after, DSE and ZERO-ONE joined forces and created HUSTLE, whose theme was the feud between Takada and Ogawa, albeit with renovated motivations.
- In 2007, Ogawa turned heel and became "Monster Celeb", with Takada explaining that the judoka had been bribed with Monster Dollars to bring him to his side. This storyline was created to explain Ogawa's departure, as he was leaving HUSTLE for Inoki Genome Federation looking for a bigger pay.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Magnum TOKYO.
- Ring Oldies: Abdullah the Butcher, Tiger Jeet Singh
- Sadist Teacher: Toshiaki Kawada towards his protegee Taichi Ishikari. Kawada's shenanigans often saw kicking him and beating the crap out of him whenever poor Taichi was off-guard.
- Scary Black Man: Bob Sapp.
- Shoot the Messenger: Wataru Sakata did the rare heroic example when Private Shimada attempted to recruit him for the Monster Army in a ZERO-ONE show. Sakata's response was giving him a tombstone piledriver and pledging loyalty to the HUSTLE Army.
- Sinister Shades: Generalissimo Takada wears shades as part of his costume.
- Stout Strength: Monster Bono, Erika, Margaret, Bubba Ray Dudley.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Parodied with Small Gama Daio, a very small wrestler that replaced the much larger Gama Daio.
- Tag Team Twins: The Neo Devil Pierroths, real names Shu and Kei Sato.
- Those Two Guys: An evil example in Commander An Jo and Private Shimada.
- Took a Level in Badass: In 2009, Real Gay swore to free Hard Gay from his brainwashing and started to make his best efforts in the ring against the Monster Army mooks to get it. He finally got it.
- Wrestling Monster: What, you think the word monster is being thrown around on this page just for show? HUSTLE had guys who made The Undertaker look mundane. The Esperanza was perhaps the standout example.