Barbed Wire City: The Unauthorized Story of Extreme Championship Wrestling (2013, BWC Films)

Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) has been dead for well over a decade. People involved such as Paul Heyman, the cultish former owner, have moved on and seemingly distanced themselves from their one time passion, thus leaving multitudes of fans clamoring for something to whet their appetites. In a post-Benoit world, professional wrestling has sort of lost its way, alienating a lot of its former fans that kept it going in the late nineties. People have tried to replicate the magic of the extreme wrestling movement, but a lot of others have tried to merely capitalize on it. Since 2001, there have been many promotional imitations, direct to DVD lamentations, and even historical revisionism released to the masses. It seems that ECW is the “dead horse” that everyone has their clubs ready to beat the hell out of. When I saw that there was yet another ECW documentary in the works via Kickstarter, I was skeptical. I thought “what else can be said?” Boy was I wrong, Barbed Wire City: The Unauthorized Story of Extreme Championship Wrestling is exactly the sort of DVD that any wrestling fan should have on their shelf.

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I think my main problem with a lot of posthumously made ECW media, is that people have a tendency to use the whole thing as some sort of political device. WWE’s Rise and Fall of ECW, once thought of as the ultimate tribute of the company, reeks of a Vince McMahon victory lap over the failed venture. Another documentary, Forever Hardcore, was seen as a “counterpoint to WWE’s slightly revisionist offering, but was plagued by bitterness by those interviewed and suffered from a lack of actual ECW video footage. Possibly the most egregious misuse of ECW comes from a company that I am very fond of. TNA, the current number two wrestling federation in the United States, even did a “reunion show” called Hardcore Justice. While it had a solid card, they really had no business doing it as they were founded well after ECW’s demise and had no pony in the proverbial race. The whole thing seemed like a cashgrab.

The reason Barbed Wire City is different is that it comes from a different viewpoint; we’ve had the victorious billionaire, we’ve had the wounded former employees, and we’ve even had the copy-cats, now let’s hear from a fan. John Philapavage, the man behind the documentary, was like so many other rabid ECW fans: he lined up in long lines in the snow, huddled in crowded bingo halls, and got to meet some of his heroes. The thing that really set him apart from other fans is that he had the sense to record interviews of himself talking to the people involved. These interviews are combined with wrestling footage, and the odd Ken Burns-esque still photograph with a nifty 3D effect added in.

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I have to tip my hat to Mr. Philapavage on the quality of his interviews. Mostly taken around the time that ECW was on its last legs, these interviews are both entertaining and heartbreaking. Considering the decade worth of interviews here, there are some insights that many documentaries simply cannot hope to achieve. Sometimes you would see an interview from 2001 followed by a snippet of one made more recently to compare someone’s attitude change. Take, for example, Angel Medina in 2001: as he watched the company crumbling around himself with guys jumping ship left and right, he stayed positive. More recently he talks about why he stayed in there, and the mistakes he made by doing so. Balls Mahoney was another notable interview that really got to me. He goes from very optimistic in 2001, saying that there was no way the company could go under, to a very different man a decade later. He talks about some really dark times such as a bout with depression, an episode that nearly cost him his life.

It isn’t all sadness in modern times, as the film is bookended by clips of an upstart federation out of Philadelphia called Extreme Rising ran by ECW alumni Shane Douglas. From meager beginnings, the story of Extreme Rising seems to both mirror and be haunted by its connections to ECW right from the get go. By the end of the film we are left wondering if Douglas can really recapture the magic from a decade past. I liked seeing this stuff in here because it acts as the anchor to our modern world, and really shows how much the wrestling world has changed. While one is left with a little glimmer of hope that we really could see this style of professional wrestling come back, there is a lot of shadows there as well. What was once cutting edge and trendy almost seems depressing today.

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I commend the documentarians discussing the dark times when ECW was said to be “taking it too far”. They were on the cusp of being so big that the glamorized violence and dangerous stunts were causing problems, but too small to chance upsetting loyal fans by toning it down. Some ECW documentaries have a tendency to not talk about bad things aside from the occasional reference to Paul Heyman’s poor business decisions. By having wrestlers discuss their personal issues, and problems within the company, the documentary seems more “balanced”. Instead of having an agenda, John Philapavage has stayed fairly neutral. He discusses the good things, the bad things, and the downright ugly side of professional wrestling here.

My one real quibble with the film is that there was no footage of the “Mass Transit Incident”. This was a notorious controversy involving an untrained and underage wrestler that got hurt during a match, then tried to sue ECW out of existence. The man in question lied his way into filling a slot in a show and was “cut open like a stuck pig” when he allowed a wrestler named New Jack to cut him. One thing most casual wrestling fans don’t realize is that wrestlers used to have small strips of razor blades hidden either on their person or some other strategic spot to cut themselves open. This was done for dramatic effect, as the “fake” nature of the violence needed to sometimes be “spiced up” to tell a story. “Mass Transit” was not comfortable doing this himself, and asked New Jack to “help him”, which was a bad idea. This controversy was a main talking point towards the end of the film, and there was no footage, or even a stock photo of what happened. I felt that this was a missed opportunity, and could have confused someone that did not already know about it.

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On a technical standpoint, the DVD is a class act; it even has its own composed music. While I would have LOVED to see this in HD on my widescreen TV, the standard definition print is very professional and looks great. There were no stutters or other anomalies, something that can’t be said for other fan productions. There are extended interviews and deleted scenes in the special features tab including a series of clips involving Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Despite many appearances on many wrestling shows, fans don’t seem to realize how much of a wrestling fan Corgan is, to the point that he owns his own federation. This special feature was cool because you really got to see his passion for ECW, and how it got him into the business. One thing I would love to see is an eventual “Director’s Cut” edition of this film with more outtakes, deleted scenes, and maybe some more interviews. I bet the guys at BWC films are sitting on tons of footage for this, why not get it out there!

All in all, I loved this DVD. For years Beyond the Mat was seen as one of the few great wrestling documentaries out there; now we can add Barbed Wire City to the same level of prestige. The RF video footage, the interviews, and the 3D still images all mesh in such a way that I could really see BWC Films going somewhere in the world of independent filmmaking, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. So if you are even a small fan of ECW, do yourself a favor and watch this DVD, you won’t regret it.


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A Look at All the Cameos in Tiger Mask W

I’ve recently started watching the winter 2016/7 anime Tiger Mask W, a wrestling anime featuring stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling. New fans might think that all of the colorful characters are from the minds of producers alone, but I’m here to show that a handful of these grapplers are actual people! This has always been something cool when a wrestling anime comes out in Japan, as Jushin Thunder Liger had an anime show, and guys like Terry Funk appeared in Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E. I’ll eventually review Tiger Mask W, but for right now check out some characters you’ll get to see if you start watching this.


 

TIGER MASK

Naoto Azuma is the main protagonist of the anime series, which is actually a sequel to a 1968 manga and 1971 anime series. While Naoto is a fictional character made for this show, many people have actually portrayed the character in real life. There have been a handful of wrestling anime characters that have spilled over into the real world, and Tiger Mask is perhaps the longest running.

  • Tiger Mask I Satoru Sayama
  • Tiger Mask II Mitsuharu Misawa
  • Tiger Mask III Koji Kanemoto
  • Tiger Mask IV Yoshihiro Yamazaki
  • Tiger Mask V Ikuhisa Minowa
  • Tiger Mask W Kota Ibushi

TIGER THE DARK

Takuma Fujii is a new character in the anime called “Tiger the Dark”. He is basically this anime’s version of the Black Tiger who has always been a rival of the Tiger Mask character. A lot of famous foreign wrestlers have portrayed “Black Tiger” through the years, even the legendary Eddie Guerrero once held the title! There is currently a version of the actual character of “Tiger the Dark” currently in NJPW and is feuding with the real life Tiger Mask W.


SPRING TIGER

Haruna Takaoka aka Spring Tiger is the female protagonist of the series. Like the previous two, she is a made up character, but is not wholly based on fiction. A female Tiger Mask iteration, called Tiger Dream, was played by female wrestler Candy Okutsu in the mid-1990s. unfortunately, Okutsu being injury-prone and having to take several sabbaticals from the ring, the character was easily forgotten by the fans and eventually abandoned.


KAZUCHIKA OKADA

Kazuchika Okada is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Okada joins Naoto in his fight against GWM. In real life Okada is a very accomplished wrestler who has held the IWGP Heavyweight title on four occasions as well as a ton of other accomplishments. He did have a breif, and largely forgettable run in america in TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling.


HIROSHI TANAHASHI

Hiroshi Tanahashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. A wrestling ace who helps Naoto in training. In real life, he is a former seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, one-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, two-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and two-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. Tanahashi holds the record for most reigns as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, while his fifth reign holds the record for most successful defenses, with eleven.


YUJI NAGATA

Yuji Nagata is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Aside of wrestling, he’s also involved with the management of NJPW. Most American fans will recognize him for his tenure in World Championship Wrestling in 1997-8 during the height of the Monday Night Wars.


TOGI MAKABE

Togi Makabe is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. In the show, he has a sweet tooth and hosts a famous blog about sweets, being so obsessed with them that he can lack motivation without sweets. One cool tidbit – The character is voiced by the real Togi Makabe.


KIMIHIKO OZAKI

Kimihiko Ozaki is based on a real-life ring announcer in NJPW.


TOMOAKI HONMA

Tomoaki Honma is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. He is currently working for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He is a former one-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and a two-time World Tag League winner with Togi Makabe.


TOMOHIRO ISHII

Tomohiro Ishii is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name.Though pushed for most of his career as an undercarder without any major championship wins, Ishii gathered a cult following, until he was too popular to ignore. Since then he has gained tag championships, singles titles and even the ROH Television title.


YOSHI-HASHI

Yoshi-Hashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. While he was almost an enhancement talent of sorts in real life, he has slowly started to win occasional matches. a feat that earned him a PWI ranking of 314 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016.


BILLY THE KIDMAN

Billy the Kidman is a fictional character in Tiger Mask W, but it’s funny to not that there is a real-life wrestler from the late 90’s – 2000’s named Billy Kidman.


 

BULLET CLUB

Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale are real life members of the gaijin (foreigner) heel stable “The Bullet Club”. Also represented is Kenny Omega who is the current stable leader. Previous members of the group include WWE’s Anderson and Gallows, Finn Balor and AJ Styles.


QUEEN ELIZABETH AND PAYNE FOX

While not a direct cameo, Queen Elizabeth and Payne Fox are obviously modeled after WWE women’s champions Charlotte Flair (daughter of Ric Flair) and Becky Lynch.


TETSUYA NAITO

Tetsuya Naito is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Naito is currently in his first reign as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, while also being a former IWGP Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight Champion as well as IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with former partner Yujiro Takahashi, with whom he teamed as No Limit. In addition to those, Naito is also a one-time winner of NJPW’s premier singles tournament, the G1 Climax, having won it in 2013, and the New Japan Cup, winning it in 2016. In 2016, Tokyo Sports named Naito the wrestler of the year.


BLACKOUT

Blackout is a robot (sure why not) from the Tiger’s Den, he serves as the gatekeeper of the Hell in the Hole match being the last challenge to face. He bares more than a passing resemblance to WWE’s wrestler The Undertaker.


METAL BROTHERS

Metal Brothers I & II are a couple of masked wrestlers that make an appearance. They bare a resemblance to the WWE’s legends the Road Warriors.


FUKUWARA MASK

Fukuwara Mask isn’t a real character, but his “gimmick” is very similar to a number of clownish wrestlers from Osaka Pro like Ebessan, Kikutaro and Kuishinbo Kamen. He dresses with a Hyottoko mask and common clothes, giving him a ridiculous appearance. Fukuwara Mask’s focus is in providing laughs and serving as a comic-relief by deliberately acting like a fool in his matches, which the audience enjoys.


And More!

There are other references and mentions like Jushin Thunder Liger, Captain New Japan, Toru Yano, and members of Los Ingobernables de Japon such as Evil and Bushi. Here’s hoping they do more of this show, as I would love to see a lot of of the real life wrestlers from NJPW! Stay tuned for a full review of this show soon, I still need to finish it up and I’ll let you know what I thought!


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Throwback Thursday – That time my friends and I attended a TNA wrestling PPV in St. Louis and met Lucha Redneck.

If you guys don’t mind, a new thing I want to try every week is to tell a story of something that happened in the past, a story that might mean a lot to me, or maybe something I just find funny. Since the outlets I used to blog on like Livejournal and Myspace are long distant memories that I really don’t use anymore, resurrecting these old stories is fun since the majority of my readers might not know me personally or might not have heard any of these. I don’t really want to ONLY use this blog to review things and post news, I want to share stuff with you guys as well. This week is a road trip story, one that involves a trek across our state to an area we aren’t used to in order to watch some simulated fighting. I hope that even those who could not care one-half of a cat’s fart about wrestling will still get a chuckle out of this. I managed to resurrect things like crappy M.S. paint drawings of stuff that happened because this, while not an era before phone cameras, was an era when most folks still had flip-phones and iPhones were exorbitantly priced.

It was April of 2007, and my buddies and I saved up some cash to attend a wrestling Pay Per View in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s funny having to explain what a Pay Per View is, but the entire concept has basically gone out the window in the past five years. basically, wrestling feds would use their weekly television shows as a commercial of sorts for a BIG monthly show that cost a ton of money and usually had cooler stuff happen. Now people have Netflix and WWE Network, so folks are not willing to throw down that sort of cash on a monthly basis for three hours of entertainment. It also feels bizarre that this was more-or-less ten years ago, and I now feel very old. When I think “ten years ago” my mind jumps the the late nineties, which is in fact, nearly twenty years ago. The federation in question, TNA wrestling was sort of the alternative wrestling federation out there at the time, and Pay Per Views were usually big news and rarely came to our state at the time. This was before our Sprint Center opened allowing bigger shows to go on, and something about the death of Owen Heart in Kemper Arena seemed to keep WWE and other groups away for many years.

The day started with my friends Dave, Mike, Marco and I hauling up and driving the three and one-half hours to the PPV venue. Immediately, out of the gate, this trip was weird as we passed a dude that was legit wearing a white cloak, Quaker hat, and a walking staff and walking down the highway. I think most of us saw him, but we were all in shock and could not vocalize our feelings for a bit. Finally I broke the ice:

“Can we discuss the fact that we just drove past a god damned wizard back there!?”

“Holy Crap dude I know!”

During our long car ride, we created an entire backstory for this guy, his name was Mordecai and he was in fact some sort of Warlock now. Hey, it helped us pass the time I suppose.

In hindsight, this was likely a local person that was mentally unstable and claimed to be a time traveler. I recall seeing him try to warn everyone at a bank that the end of the world was coming when I was younger – all whilst carrying a huge wooden staff and a robe of some sort. The town I lived in sadly had a few guys like this after a homeless shelter shut down, all with varying degrees of instability.

We ended up there a tad bit early (around 2 o’clock) so we had some time to kill. Being in a rural area near a big city, we didn’t really want to drive so far, and went across the parking lot to a shopping center. We attempted to go to Bass Pro shop, not because any of us are outdoorsmen (although I do like to fish), but we didn’t want to drive too far away from the arena. The only thing we successfully did was scare the crap out of ourselves by walking past this abomination of a statue that was on display. I really wish we would have taken a picture of this thing, because it was like the Burger king and a deformed cigar Indian statue had a kid. This thing was so terrifying that it had a smile that would send chills down Chuck Norris’s Spine. I believe Chuck Norris was a period specific reference to use here, maybe something about voting for Pedro etc. We all joked that it would be in the car when we got back to it, and tons of other hypothetical horror movie starters that we could think of. Perhaps this thing was actually Mordecai, once again trying to warn us of impending doom? Realizing that none of us really needed any bear mace or razor tipped hunting arrows, we all drove back to the arena.

We decided to go ahead and get in line because a line was beginning to start, and sometimes people at the beginning of the line get to be on TV during the pre-shows. Once, in the line we struck up conversation with some guys from Houston TX, that were pretty cool, and generally just talked about what we felt was going to happen at the event. That’s when we saw him: the finest specimen of redneck-dom if I have ever seen one. This guy was a scrawny man with very few teeth wearing a TNA shirt for a tag team called “Team 3-D” or “The Dudley Boys”, which ironically used to have the gimmick of being inbred rednecks. I know what most of you are saying “That doesn’t sound that out of the ordinary…” Well on top of that this guy and his friend were both sporting bright ass red Luchador (Mexican wrestler) Masks. To top it off, he also had a mullet under the mask. After this realization, what we all had to endure was 2 hours of the most inane drunken cat calling and sheer insanity that we could handle. I didn’t want to make fun of this guy, but he was so bad that it was hard not to. He was either insanely drunk, or on the shallow end of the gene pool, and since he had no alcohol on him, i’d unfortunately say the second.

At one point they began taping the crowd for the pre-show that airs just prior to the Pay-per view. We felt that we all had a good chance of being on TV, because we were at the front of the line, but Lucha-Redneck was so annoying and vulgar that the camera stayed well away from our area. As wrestlers began to walk in he got really bad. At one point a female wrestler by the name of Gail Kim came walking out to cut a promo.

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(picture capture from the DVD)

This was a set up for a match that was essentially the first all-female steel cage match that the promotion has ever had. All of the sudden Lucha-Redneck starts shouting:

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The “you tell’er daddy” part was that this guy happened to have what I would assume was a wife and 2 kids, and he was always being encouraged by them to say more and more idiotic things. Don’t believe me? here is photographic proof of this guys existence. Supposedly, this guy went to the fanfest the day before and was trying to pick fights with wrestlers and acting very similar to the day of the event.

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Once we got inside were were all worried that this guy would be right beside us in the seats, thankfully he wasn’t but we did see that he brought some signs with him to the event, with hopes of being on TV. One that said “We Want Rats” (eingrats is a somewhat derogatory term for female wrestling fans, that implies all they are there to do is try to have sex with wrestlers), and another that simply said “who wants a rimjob?” (classy!) So yeah if you look up the word “redneck” in the dictionary, I bet this guys face is on there. I have family from Arkansas and I have NEVER EVER seen somebody as bad as this guy.

In the line, it was made very clear that there were basically two types of wrestling fans:

1) The Smart wrestling fan – this fan (like myself) is essentially a wrestling nerd. We watch matches for the athleticism more than anything. this type of fan has some knowledge of how the business of booking works, and will sometimes keep up with indy organizations. sometimes these fans are terrible as they think they know everything and that they are part of the show.

2) The Norms – These are the fans that to some degree think wrestling is real, they watch what is on TV and usually like trashy stuff like lingerie matches. This is the stereotypical fan that most think of when they imagine a wrestling fan.

Sadly we were around a lot of guys that were the bad side of both, including a guy that attempted to start a fight with the somewhat infamous wrestling writer and personality Vince Russo.

Fun Fact: The camera zoomed over us a few times, but since the house lights were lowered we seldom appeared on TV. The best I could find was this:

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Note: Lucha-redneck, thank god his sign didn’t show up.

The one thing that struck me about this PPV was the amount of fan interactivity that they offered to us. Right from the start the wrestlers were walking around in the audience and signing autographs before the show. Even the owner of the company at the time, Dixie Carter, was talking to people, a few of us shook her hand and told her that we really appreciated them coming to St. Louis (they normally tape in Orlando). The experience that I’ve had with a WWE show was that it was really distanced from the fans, and it seemed like we were all named “Franklin”,” Washington”, and “Lincoln” rather than fans. Since this show, I actually attended a few more TNA shows and each one was similar. I even have a book somewhere full of autographs of pretty close to the entire roster from a local show we went to a few years later. I’ve met guys like Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles, TNA knows how to make fans have a great time.

The Matches themselves were awesome, aside from one match that was too gimmicky (a blindfold match) and a match that could have been handled better for realism (an “electrified cage” match, never a good idea from the realism standpoint). The problem with the electrified cage match was that for something that everyone knows is fake, they could have done a better job to help us suspend disbelief. The premise was that these two tag teams were so at eachother’s throats that even a normal cage would not suffice. allegedly, if somebody was tossed into the metal of the cage they would receive some exaggerated shock from wires going into the metal. What actually happened was that the lights flickered and they piped a noise into the sound system. In Japan, they used to do matches like this where pyro would shoot off if somebody touched the ropes, something that looks equally fake and stupid. The cage itself looked like the electric fences from Jurassic Park, a fact that actually made it hard to see the show live. The wrestling itself in the match more than made up for it though, it could have been so much better without the goofy crap.

So there it is, watch out for redneck Luchadors and highway wizards folks, it’s scary out there!


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Broken Hardy Brothers leaving TNA – My Thoughts.

News broke earlier this week that there was a distinct possibility that Matt and Jeff Hardy, legendary tag team and singles wrestlers currently signed to TNA Impact Wrestling, were perhaps going to be leaving for their original stomping grounds – WWE. I gather Dave Meltzer broke the news, but a lot of his speculation gets posted as fact so I paid it no heed initially. Upon waking up, the cat was out of the bag, and it seems like it’s true.

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I have two minds in regards to this situation. On one hand, I would absolutely love seeing the Hardys wrestle at WrestleMania this year, but what version of the Hardy Boys will we be getting?

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Let’s take a trip back in time to a bit less than a year ago, Matt Hardy had just finished up a decent, albeit bland, run as an egotistical heel character and suffered a storyline injury from his brother Jeff. He returned sporting a streak of white hair on his head, a limp (from said fake injury) and a bizarre accent that sounded almost like a South African / Afrikaans accent by way of the deep south. For a few weeks, nobody knew what the hell was happening. Most fans shrugged it off as a terrible storyline, Matt Hardy was obviously being awful and they threatened to never watch TNA again like some annoying fans do 24/7 on the internet. It almost came across, taking into account the previous character, what an egotistical jerk would do to pretend he was now an evil mastermind and was trying to get attention.

Then it happened.

TNA gave the Hardys a camera and said – have at it.

 

What followed was week after week of the most insane nonsensical wrestling programming I have ever seen. It was a MST3K fans dream – a wrestling version of The Room or Manos: The Hands of Fate. This was a storyline involving a robot army, a sentient boat, faithful servants including Matt’s gardener and faithful scribe, seven deities that have imbued Matt with powers and a new way of life, a fight on an active volcano, and recently – time travel. Why does it work? Much like the Sharknado films, the fans are let in on the joke. This isn’t serious, it’s like some weird comicbook story come to life, and each week it gets sillier and sillier while the rest of any given episode of TNA stays normal.

Click here for a run-down of the Broken Saga with videos

For the first time in a while, I was eagerly awaiting each episode of TNA, to see what happened next. Honestly, I was waiting to see if it culminated with the Hardys fighting aliens or something – it was getting that ridiculous. Most importantly, I was getting into it because Matt Hardy – a man who lived in his brothers shadow nearly his entire career was not only relevant, but more “over” than he had ever been. He was no longer “The Jannetty” of this tag team, they were equals once again.

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With a “changing of the guard” at TNA, there seems to be sweeping changes on the horizon as Dutch Mantell and Jeff Jarrett are soon to be booking everything. I would speculate that they are not down with the “Broken Saga”. Is WWE going to be a good fit? My fear is that we are about to see the end of this new character and WWE will force Matt to switch to a more “classical” version of himself, like he took a dip in the fabled lake of Resurrection (part of this storyline). Gone will be Vamguard 1, Matt’s robot sidekick and we’ll never see Senior Benjamin again 😦 I could be wrong, WWE has surprised me before, and I hope they do it again. I want Broken Matt vs the Wyatts, New Day, and much more, not a nostalgia trip for guys being forced to act like they are 20 again.


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Kick Heart (2013) Short Film

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As promised, I’m going to review a newer anime today rather than sticking to the decade of my birth like my last few entries. This short film is one that many people have probably not heard of before, as it was created via a “crowd funding” project. About a year ago, I found a film called Kick Heart by Masaki Yuasa and Production I.G. on Kickstarter. Mr. Yuasa is of course the man behind the surreal (and pretty much awesome) short film Cat Soup, so I knew I just HAD to back the project. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also a huge pro wrestling fan either! It eventually made it’s required money, but missed it’s “stretch goals” which would have potentially moved the project into a feature length film, but what we got was pretty awesome none-the-less.

The story follows a man named Romeo Maki as he tries to get by with a fairly surprising dual life. Romeo works as both a masked professional wrestler and the CEO of a rundown orphanage. He funds with orphanage via proceeds from his night job, but things aren’t looking good. Lately the roof has been leaking non-stop, and it appears that a large snake has taken the children’s restroom as his home. In desperation, Romeo enters a $50,000 “winner takes all” contest against another masked wrestler named Lady S, but things get weird real quick. Lady S “gets off” by inflicting pain on her opponents, and Maskman M (Romeo) get’s the same pleasure from receiving pain. I know this sounds like the makings of an adult film, but don’t worry, Kick Heart is pretty much PG-13. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Lady S also works at the orphanage as a quiet young nun named Juliet, but Romeo doesn’t realize this.

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The animation in this film is pretty nice, and resembles those old Bill Plympton cartoons more than any anime I’ve ever seen. Everything is sort of “sketchy” and VERY brightly colored, which really helps this film have an “edgy” or “underground” feeling to it. It’s almost like something that would have aired on MTV’s ancient Liquid Television show really late at night. I enjoyed the fact that you never got to see Romeo’s face completely, this was mostly because he lived most of his life as a masked wrestler, and tradition generally goes that such performers are never to be seen in public without their masks on. Romeo, in businessman mode, always has a black censorship bar over his eyes, a little touch that gives this film something different that really makes it stand out.

The character designs are pretty awesome and some are even borderline grotesque. Lady S’s tag team partner, in particular, is a giant of a woman that is so large that she crushes a portion of the audience when she is defeated in one of their bouts. The cool thing is that because of this, no two characters look the same, and are “larger than life” just like how pro wrestling characters generally are.

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I love what Kickstarter and other crowd funding services could potentially bring to the anime market. Films like this or the recent Bubblegum Crisis Blu-Ray release are products that most likely would not have been produced in the current anime market, so pre-ordering these projects beforehand really lessen the risk of the project being unsuccessful, and guarantees the releases. Eventually I want to see more experimental films like this, and maybe older anime getting put up. It really could change the landscape of the whole industry.

Here is a trailer:

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