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Wrestling / Fighting Opera HUSTLE

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HUSTLE (also known as Fighting Opera HUSTLE) was a Japanese Professional Wrestling promotion founded by Nobuhiko Takada and others in 2004. It was produced under the banner of Pro Wrestling ZERO1 and Dream Stage Entertainment, the mother company that owned Mixed Martial Arts promotion PRIDE Fighting Championship at the time, but the premise was completely different from either MMA or Japanese wrestling from its era. HUSTLE took WWE's "sports entertainment" and turned it up to eleven, filling its arenas with weird storylines, over-the-top gimmicks and Anime reminiscences, and was populated by renowned wrestling veterans, freelancers and even tarentos and TV personalities. The result was a scenic concept named "Fighting Opera", which gave the promotion its subtitle.

HUSTLE's main plot involved the evil Generalissimo Takada attempting to destroy Japanese professional wrestling on behalf of the mixed martial arts world, leading his villanous Takada Monster Army against a group of heroic wrestling purists led by Naoya Ogawa under the collective name of HUSTLE Army. The story sank his roots in the MMA-like wrestling company where Takada built his career, UWF International, which was destroyed by traditional pro wrestling and led to his founder to seek revenge against it. This storyline brought all kinds of figures and characters both in and out of pro wrestling, like Yinling the Erotic Terrorist and the renowned Hard Gay, who saw the start of the promotion's most succesful era, and finally ended in 2009 with an armistice (as well as the "death" of Takada against a new enemy called King RIKI). The promotion, which was in a decline due to the end of its fad and some money scandal, closed doors the same year, having outlasted both DSE and PRIDE.

The spiritual sequel to the short-lived Fantasy Fight WRESTLE-1, HUSTLE remains 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 difficult profitability (it's rumored, though far from proven, that a big chunk the money DSE earned with PRIDE was spent with HUSTLE). It targetted mainly audiences who had become tired of regular puroresu after the MMA boom, and arguably had success at this, as it 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. (She'd go on to have a good run in Ice Ribbon)
  • Acrofatic: Adamonster (King Adamo) was a fat superheavyweight, but he could do the worm with some ease.
  • 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's signature move.
  • Bad Santa: Satan The Santa, a version of Santa Claus who make a Deal with the Devil. Fortunately he was no match for The Great Sasuke. Unfortunately he didn't let that loss stop him from coming back.
  • Big Bad: Generalissimo Takada.
  • Big Good: Initially Naoya Ogawa, later Magnum TOKYO.
  • Brainwashed: HUSTLE loved the trope, most probably as a way to work around the wrestlers' changes of alineation without tapping 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.
  • Blatant Lies: After the fall of ZERO-ONE, An Jo and Shimada taunted its director Kantoku Nakamura, saying that it was natural his company fell when he spent all his time doing cosplay in HUSTLE rather than managing it. Nakamura replied that he wasn't the ZERO-ONE director Yoshiyuki Nakamura, but a different person with the same surname.
  • Butt-Monkey: Wataru Sakata, TAJIRI and Real Gay tended to be in the shorter end of the stick in storylines and matches.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Takada, but also Commander An Jo.
    An Jo: [comes out] No booing? [people start booing] Nice booing, yes.
  • The Chessmaster: Generalissimo Takada.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Ogawa's apprentice Shamoji Fujii got offended at Commander An Jo selecting Taichi Ishikari as a team captain over him, seemingly forgetting that An Jo had chosen Ishikari because he would be easy to defeat.
  • Cool Old Guy: Shiro Koshinaka.
  • Covert Pervert: Former NJPW Masakazu Kusama turned out to be one, as he was lured to the ring by some Monster girls.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: RIKISHI, who danced with either wrestlers or fans after winning.
  • Darkest Africa: KATAKARI and his people were African hunters brought to hunt down Hashimoto and company.
  • 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 for the Monster Army.
  • Elite Four: The HUSTLE Quartet, formed by Ogawa, Hashimoto, Kawada and Choshu.
  • 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 did have some melancholic beauty, but otherwise it was freaking creepy.
  • Fish People: The Piranha Monsters.
  • 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 wrestling volleyball/basketball player from Brazil.
  • Good Counterpart: Hikaru, an actress turned wrestler, was brought by the HUSTLE Army to counter Yinling, who had a similar background.
  • 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.
  • Horned Humanoid: \(^o^)/ Chie, red horns but she's one of the good guys
  • 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 at all.
  • Keet: Kevin Randleman did one of his famous high jumps in happiness when he was indicted into the HUSTLE Army as HUSTLE Kong.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Spanky and Kaz Hayashi formed a tag team whose theme was basically being handsome, appropriately named Ikemen. This later expanded to other good-looking male cruiserweights.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The HUSTLE Diva International, a model segment celebrated from time to time in HUSTLE, and whose purpose was solely eye candy.
  • Otaku: Psycho the Death was explained to be an Akiba Kei gone insane. He was obssessed with his doll and attacked everybody who touched it.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The aptly named Flying Vampires, a team of high-flying vampire wrestlers. They still had a weaknesses against crosses, so moves like the cross chop were very harmful to them, to the point they even attempted to make the referee ban them.
  • Overly Long Gag: Kantoku and Shimada's Falls Count Anywhere match from HUSTLE-8. They eventually got out of the arena and brawled in a parking lot, then in a restaurant, where Shimada stole chanko and beer, and then in the arena again. It was so long that Yuko Aoki was kidnapped by the Monster Army in its course.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Takada rarely lost his poise, while Kawada and Ogawa were both Hot-Blooded, and it only became worse with HG and company.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Shimada immediately came to suck up to the new general manager, Keiichi Sasahara, who wasn't amused.
  • 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, baby face example.
  • The Scrooge: RG, but also Kintaro Kanemura, who wanted to him the HUSTLE Hardcore title solely to auction it on Yahoo!.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out/Take That!: After All Japan Pro Wrestling decided to push the limits of puroresu traditionalism by putting female wrestler Akira Hokuto in an intergender match and even allowing her to win after a ref bump, HUSTLE decided to take a step forward and put a model-turned-wrestler to defeat a world judo champion. Yinling's pinfall over Ogawa was heard around Japan.
  • Sinister Shades: Generalissimo Takada wears shades as part of his costume.
  • Spin-Off: Wataru Sakata's short-lived HUSTLE Man's World, and arguably Yoshihiro Tajiri's Smash promotion.
  • Stout Strength: Monster Bono, Erika, Margaret, Bubba Ray Dudley.
  • Sumo Wrestling: RIKISHI hosted a sumo contest against fans, although he typically let them win.
  • 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.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Something that several pointed out when it was revealed Hikaru was the kayfabe daughter of Kantoku Nakamura.
  • 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.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Did this to Dan Bobish, who had been defeated by Sylvester Terkay.

Alternative Title(s): HUSTLE