It's Thanksgiving, and I wanted to do something a little bit different from our usual straight MMA news stuff. Seeing as how HUSTLE is all over MMA websites these days with the upcoming NYE show ("Pride lives!" scream the fanboys) I figured I'd do my best to give a bit of background on what exactly it IS. I am a bit of a pro wrestling fan, growing up watching it and moving too much as a kid to keep any real friends, I relied on old WWF tapes from a box in my bedroom closet and the nearest video store to keep me entertained. I don't follow current American wrestling anymore but I do tend to watch the occasional DVD of Japanese goodness as there are usually some great "DAAAAAMN!" type moments.
As most everyone knows, Pro Wrestling is serious business in Japan. Basically, professional wrestling and MMA are thought of as sort of twin brothers. Puro (short for Puroresu...which is in turn short for Purofesshonaru Resuringu) is a type of wrestling that is very big on realism and honor. The elaborate storylines and "gimmick" personalities often seen in American wrestling and Mexican Lucha Libre are rarely, if ever, seen in puro.
HUSTLE is the exact opposite of this "sport based" model. They rely on very "out there" gimmicks and over the top characters. Possibly the most well known of these 'gimmicks' is Hard Gay HG (also known as Razor Ramon HG among several other names). His character is, as the name implies, a very over the top homosexual.
In one of his most memorable matches was a supposed "retirement match" against Nobuhiko Takada (playing his heel Generalissimo Takada) character. Takada won the match with a piledriver on the entrance ramp which resulted in HG going through some "erectile dysfunction."
This is turning into a bit too much of a Hard Gay article, my intention is more to show how bizarre the promotion can be at times. Don't get me wrong though, they do have a good chunk of very talented workers who can put on a hell of a show.
Takada runs the heel (bad guy) faction called, appropriately enough, the Monster Army (or Team Takada Monster...I'm not sure which is the right phrasing anymore) who are opposed by the Hustle Army. It's a very basic set-up and one that has carried the promotion for years. In addition it isn't unheard of to see MMA stars such as Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and Dan Bobish on their shows. Many of the early shows featured a bit of an underlying wrestler vs. shootfighter theme.
Many of the true HUSTLE lovers will tell you that it isn't pro-wrestling, it is a "fighting opera." And that the people who don't get it are just taking it too seriously, forgetting to make wrestling "entertainment first."
Actually, in the process of working on this article and doing some fact checking I came across this blog article which covers the early history through mid-2005 much better than I can. Including explaining the whole Ogawa "I'm Chicken" trunks thing that people have asked a lot back in the Pride days. Check it out for a good background on HUSTLE.
History of HUSTLE video after the jump...