By Bayani Domingo, Columnist
What a time to be an Asian wrestling fan in America!! I mean, technically it’s even better to be a Japanese wrestling fan in America. Well, to be fair, it’s actually the best to be a Japanese fan of Japanese wrestling in America, but that’s just splitting hairs. History was made at the Royal Rumble when not ONE, but TWO Japanese born wrestlers won the Royal Rumble and are on their way to Wrestlemania. I’ll allow those of you who are thinking Yokozuna was actually either born in Japanese, or is even Japanese a moment to rethink all of your life choices.
There was a sizable contingent of fans that thought Shinsuke had no chance whatsoever to win the match, however Asuka was seen as one of the favorites on the women’s side. This represents quite a change in the tone of the WWE in recent years because neither of these two can give a decently coherent promo. To be fair, Asuka doesn’t even attempt to speak English, but her rapid fire Japanese sounds pretty damn cool on its own so we give her a pass. Well, that and the fact that the women haven’t had to be Dusty Rhodes or Ric Flair on the mic to hold the strap. Shinsuke on the other hand is barely comprehensible. That’s not a knock on his English, he just seems to have odd, almost rambling promos that don’t even last long enough to be considered a real “ramble”.
So why push Asuka and Shinsuke at the RR when they can’t help you sell your brand on the mic? I think this goes to the “Globalization of Wrestling”. I just hope good ol’ 45 (IQ) doesn’t hear about his good friends the McMahons embracing Globalization with such ferocity and vigor. They’ve stalled on the European front unfortunately; however, they are really mining Japan for talent. It makes sense too, wrestling is an industry of trends and tastes. You must strike while the iron is hot or risk falling behind, or worse, losing talent to a rival. NJPW is probably one of the fastest rising companies in wrestling and may have just taken over as the 2nd most popular wrestling company among American wrestling fans. Tapping into that market by pushing Asuka and Shinsuke are a quick way to try and spike some Network subscriptions and merch sales.
Recently we saw DX giving a bit of a Rub to the Balor Club, aka Bullet Club OGs, which had recently been reformed in order to capture some of that popularity from NJPW. They don’t seem to know what they want to do with BC yet, but a move to a Heel turn might just be what the doctor ordered. Hideo Itami has yet to take off on 205 Live, but NXT is ripe with talent that took the next step thanks to their time in Japan like Ricochet, Kairi Sane, TM61, and War Machine. They also tried like hell to sign Kota Ibushi and almost signed Io Shirai, if she had passed her medical exam. In fact, those of you NJPW fans enjoying the Create-A-Wrestler mode on WWE 2K18 might notice a few moves and taunts that look mighty familiar.
The WWE is making a full on blitz to capitalize off the success and popularity of Japanese wrestling. In fact, IMPACT has done the same, they’ve also taken it a step further by signing some Indian talent as well in hopes of making further inroads into that market, especially now that Jinder Mahal has been shoved back down to the mid-card in the E. WWE isn’t doing anything any other entertainment company wouldn’t do, seize on a hot trend and try to milk it for everything it is worth. One can only hope once the shine wears off Asuka and Shinsuke that they still manage to take advantage of their talents and continue to push them at, or near, the top of the card. Because there are a number of Japanese wrestlers that can attest to the fickle nature of Vince McMahon, just ask the comically crooning Kenzo Suzuki, or those guy who kept threatening to “Choppy your pee pee”. But in the meantime, just because these two are destined to be fed to the John Cena and Ronda Rousey machine eventually, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy their moment in the Rising Sun.
- Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega will meet at RoH’s Supercard of Honor in Nawlins’ in April. No announcement yet as to whether this will be a “Steel Cajun” match.
- Gargano vs Andrade garnered a coveted 5 stars from Dave Meltzer. Which is still below his more coveted 6 star rating. At this point Meltzer is going to either end up giving out 10 stars, or will need a new rating system. Omega vs Rhodes in NJPW might end up getting 5 Stars, 4 clovers, and 6 purple horseshoes.
- Recently NJPW applied for a trademark of “Strong Style” for the purposes of clothing merchandising, presentation of live show performances, and XL ribbed condoms. Ok, that last part might not be true. I think Roddy already applied for it. “Messiah of the Backbreaker” indeed…
- Also, was anyone else confused initially by what the “Mixed” Tag Challenge was? I assumed it meant only teams like Benjamin and Gable, R-Truth and Goldust, or …Jason Jordan by himself could enter.
- I’m saving all my Bullet Club breakup jokes for next week. Although…does Omega and Cody get the Youngbucks on alternating weekends? Or do they just get one each? It’s gotta be awkward when they meet in the parking lot of the Dairy Queen on Sunday afternoons for the drop off, right?
- “Switchblade” has come in and taken NJPW by storm. The guy has been there, what, a month? I haven’t seen a push that hard and sudden since Nikki Bella asked John Cena what “2 blue lines meant” on the stick at the top of the stairs of his mansion.
Dudley Boyz are being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. With all the sensitivity around the #metoo movement, let’s hope they leave out the part where they would put women through tables when they do their induction speech. “We’ve laid wood to more women then Bill Cosby after a Roofi-colada”.
- Rumor has it that not only will Paul Heyman be helping Ronda Rousey with her transition to the ring, but he may actually be her “Advocate” early on. I hope he can come up with something snazzy like “The Major of Suplex City” for Rousey. Because the “Owner of the Armbar and Grill” doesn’t really pop.
- Rockstar Spud is now “Drake Maverick” …Drake….Maverick. There must be an App that the WWE uses to come up with these names. Like that old “Wu Tang Clan Name Generator” they used to have. I’m just waiting for Ricochet to debut as “Old Filthy Broken Condom”.
- EC3 looks to be debuting in NXT soon. I’m glad they are sticking with a name that fans already know because he’s turned himself into a recognizable star now. I was worried they’d simply saddle him with his own name upon return, but…I guess they just didn’t take the bait, man.
- Fortunately, all charges against Rich Swann has been dismissed. Meaning Rich Swann can go back to his job whenever the WWE chooses. I’m sorry, I meant, Rich Swann can go back to BEING jobbed whenever the WWE chooses. Swann had been previously charged with false imprisonment/kidnapping, and misdemeanor battery. Testifying on his behalf was “The Higher Power” who took all the blame. #5%ers.
- I just don’t get the angle where Moss and Sabbatelli are both somehow rich, but are stuck in NXT. It makes no sense for 2 guys with money to decide to toil being wrestlers. I mean, you wouldn’t see Donald Jr and Eric Trump wrestling for NXT because they wanted to show off and have fun, would you? I mean they COULD, they’d just need to keep them off RAW until we all forget Eric is stealing Luke Gallow’s old gimmick.
- It’s SUUUUUPER creepy that they are teasing some kind of romantic situation with Braun and Bliss during the Mixed Tag Challenge. I really didn’t want to have picture the kind of brutality that Alexa might endure at the hands of Strowman. He’d basically handle her like a Fleshlight. “Get these Hands” indeed…