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Divergent Timelines – historical watcher diaries series

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1987 => 1997 => 2007: THE DISPUTED KINGS?


Hello everybody! After a very long break I've decided to once more try and do some simming and historiography, and see if anyone is interested. This time, we'll be looking at The Disputed Kings save simmed another 10 years forward, to arrive in January 2007. I guess Genadi didn't really make his mod with such a scenario in mind, but the game world is still interesting and worth describing. And where better to begin the describing than with the USA?


Overview - part 1: United States - The Wind of Change?


WWE – The Disputed King?


Calling WWE “disputed” might be seen as a bit of a stretch. While they have been unable to find any purchase in Mexico and Japan, they have cemented their position in Europe both continental and British (where they are even more popular than the locals) and in Australia. However, compared to even ten years ago, WWE’s position in USA has declined, with the company no longer being such a mainstream hit [from 96 pop in Great Lakes and 87 in most of the US to 86 and 83 respectively, and this is an improvement from last year when they were around 81]. For example, the last three Wrestlemanias gathered less than 50.000 people each (compared, say, to the Wrestlemanias at the Pontiac Silverdome that took place in late 90s, with over 90.000 people in attendance, and even the 80.000 one in 2003). The numbers WWE gets are still unreachable for any other company in the world, but the decline is clearly noticeable. Vince McMahon has acknowledged this trend, and he’s answered by spending the 2000s poaching the best and most successful talent from other big American companies and from the British ASW, trying to promote new mainstream superstars in the wake of Ric Flair’s downfall, Roddy Piper’s retirement and Hulk Hogan’s continued superstardom and dickery at 53. As a result, not counting the powerhouse that is Steve Austin and the very recent sensation Christy Hemme (who really, really can't wrestle at all, but that's not always the important part), the top of WWE’s roster is populated by either ageing but still popular old-timers – Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, British Bulldog, Von Erich brothers, Rick Rude – or people WWE only acquired in the last few years – Art Barr, Adam Copeland/Edge, Goldust, Mayumi Ozaki and Dwayne Johnson. Especially Johnson, who came over from Europe mere three years ago, has been on an incredible roll, with a brush with mainstream superstardom of Hogan/Piper calibre and a coveted TEW Wrestler of the Year award this year.


And even more new talent are already waiting for their chance. Just in 2006, WWE got WCW’s extremely reliable Scott Levy and hugely underused prospect Nelson Knight, ASW’s superstar Scot Hall (whom they already burdened with a midcard “Razor Ramone” gimmick) as well as WCWA’s eleven-time champion Yokuzuna, entertaining rapper-jobber Violent J, extremely promising Chris Jericho and the current WCWA Texas Heavyweight champion Bryan Danielson. With WWE’s soft, workrate-light, story-focused style sprinkled with family-friendly comedy, it may be seen as almost a relaxing reward for the wrestlers grinding down their bodies in much more physically demanding companies. On the other hand, WWE is infamous for fumbling the careers of many of its talent, which means that people transferring there either are confident that they’ve been noticed and will be utilized, want to wind down their careers in a less threatening environment, or are desperate for a big break on the grandest stage of all.


However, all this bashing on WWE may distort the real image. We are talking about a company that’s recently won TEW Company of the Year and has promoted some of the greatest stars in wrestling; a company that puts out a Card of the Year more often than not and that has monopolized all Match of the Year votes since the late 80s (even if this has become more of a popularity contest than a measure of artistic performance); and a company that is co-responsible for the Women’s Revolution that has seen female wrestlers finally become stars on par with their male counterparts (even though the current female roster is mostly pretty and green as grass girls that Mayumi Ozaki has to pretend to lose to sometimes). You can be pissed off that they have wasted at least a dozen great careers (we may have a special issue about that down the line) or that they re-signed Hogan after a 2002-2005 break and are having him wrestle all the time despite him barely being able to move nowadays. But they also gave us stuff like Mayumi Ozaki as world’s sixth most popular wrestling star of any gender, Art Barr as a title contender churning out wonderful matches against the champs, Davey Boy Smith’s year-and-a-half-long Heavyweight reign, Kerry Von Erich versus Dwayne Johnson in the 2006 King of the Ring final, Roddy Piper as the most entertaining manager in the continental States, and the period of 1998-2000 when Steve Austin was probably the hottest thing in wrestling. So while WWE seems to be a lot less certain of its first spot in the wrestling world, the crown still


WCW – The Prince Hath Risen


WCW has just finished its best year in a decade, that much is certain. Much of it is due to the strong main title picture – while the aging Rick Steiner should probably be taken down a notch, Dude Love proved to be a very good champion, and with Ray González, Vampiro, CM Punk, Chris Benoit and Shinobi all in the mix, the WCW main event may be the most exciting place in the USA for fans of quality wrestling. WCW’s style combining in-ring realism with a lot of space for character work is also proving to be great for the younger generation of wrestling stars – not only CM Punk, but also Christian Cage, Colt Cabana, Jeff Hardy and Victor Frye [generated worker, protégé of Boris Malenko, an unspectacular technician but among the best performance skills on the planet] all have found at least a decent amount of spotlight here, with some other promising people waiting for their turn in the lower card [including some generated workers]. The great in-ring work is supplemented by stellar mic work by the colour commentator Larry Zbyszko and the famous managers Paul Heyman and Johnny Valiant, while Gary Hart watches over everything as one of the better road agents in the business. While WCW’s attendances (about 10.00 people on PPVs), TV broadcast numbers (around 3.2-3.4) and PPV buyrates (around 0.2) are still not comparable to WWE numbers, they’re a huge improvement over just a few years ago, and with all the young talent available WCW may be able to challenge WWE in about a decade.


WCWA – The Extravagant Prince


WCWA is probably the strangest among the Top Three of US wrestling. A company focused on intense, realistic, pure traditional wrestling, yet the only one in the big leagues that uses T&A on air. A company famous for hosting some of the best wrestling in the US that let an aged Ricky Morton hold its main belt since 2003 (with a short break due to Chris Jericho winning the title and losing it back to Ricky on the next PPV). A company that gives space and opportunity to some exceptional talent – we’ve mentioned Chris Jericho, Yokuzuna and Bryan Danielson, but there’s also Paul Wight, Samoa Joe, Matt Hardy, Chris Kanyon, Terra Ryzing [aka Jean-Paul Levesque], young MMA star Brock Lesnar and of course Steve Huey [generated worker, a Killer Kowalski school alumnus with 100 Star Quality and 94 Athleticism despite being a Light Heavyweight]; yet the head booker Jim Cornette promotes 51-year-old Terry Taylor, 47-year-old Tommy Rogers and 50-years-old Ricky Morton as a huge part of the main event scene (thankfully Jim Neidhart isn’t physically able to get into the ring and he gets to be a great manager instead, even though he has to compete with magnificent Percy Pringle). They could have had America’s best commentary with Jim Ross and Jim Cornette, but for a reason nobody can understand they put Blake Norton in the third chair and ruined everything. One month their PPV may follow up a wonderful Team Thunder [Chris Jericho & Mark Canterbury] victory over Janetty & Vincent and an awesome Danielson vs Yokuzuna title match with a stinking turd of Terry Taylor versus Tommy Rogers. A month later the last three matches will be a stunning Samoa Joe versus Paul Wright slugfest, Chris Jericho lifting Terry Taylor to a good match and in the main event Danielson defending his title against Steve Huey in a MOTY contender [96]. Of course now, without Danielson, Yokuzuna or Jericho, they are bound to suffer a dive in quality… Or maybe the lower midcard of Brian Christopher, Terra Ryzing, Shane Ballard, Matt Hardy and others will actually step up and fill their shoes? Time will tell.


The Counts and the Barons


The 2000s were a hard time for the smaller promotions. We saw Chikara, CZW, Full Impact Pro, JAPW, Power Pro, PWG, Pro Wrestling IRON, SHIMMER, Ultimate Pro Wrestling, Women of Wrestling and Xtreme Pro Wrestling all wither and die. Most of those, however, were small and young projects that died after a few years of glory. Meanwhile, some of the old territories are still alive and well.


Continental Wrestling Association (American), owned by Jerry Jarret and booked by Jerry Lawler, is still standing tall as a NWA cornerstone and an important South Eastern territory. While far from their early 90s glory days, they now have a roster of extremely promising rookies including Carly Colon, Chase Stevens, Claudio Castagnoli, Matt Sydal, Mike Mizanin, Alex Shelley, Andy Douglas, John Moxley, Randy Orton, Ray Gordy and Tyler Black. In a few years’ time they will either be a renewed force or the source of next decade’s superstars. They also have America’s best announcing team in Jerry Lawler and Joey Styles.


California’s Universal Wrestling Federation, owned by Herb Adams and booked by Dusty Rhodes himself, is also a shade of its early 90s self, but is also seeing a slow stabilization as one of the top lower-tier promotions, with Kurt Angle, John Cena and Adam Pearce doing most of the hard lifting while Mike Von Erich (one of the best storytellers in the history of wrestling, fresh off his WWE contract) and Tank Abbott provide what counts as star power in the indies. They also have some promising rookies, such as Alex Koslov, Billy Kim, B-Boy, Ryan Drago and Joey Ryan, who are keen to learn the very traditional style under the watchful eye of Dusty, Mike and some other respected veterans, including Robert Thompson, Leo Burke and Bobby Duncum Jr.


Todd Gordon’s Eastern Championship Wrestling, one half of the North American Wrestling League, is in a bit of trouble. Until recently, its mainstay, best worker and champion was Cody Funk [generated character], one of the best young brawlers in America. Now he’s gone to WCWA and the company is left without a leader. But between Homicide, Ian Rotten, Shane Douglas, Stevie Richards and Tommy Dreamer, the main event scene of the brutal East Coasters seems to be strong enough to survive that loss, and with a midcard containing Trent Acid, Rhino, Reckless Youth and The Briscoes, your future is relatively safe. Especially when you have Paul Ellering, Leo Burke and Stan Lane to manage them, and Jose Estrada Sr. to teach them.


IWA Puerto Rico is probably the smallest NWA affiliate (virtually unknown outside their home island) and also the most brutal. Yet they remain an interesting place for anybody brave enough to visit, with 10 time manager of the year Victor Quinones, Kevin Nash as booker and Hardcore Champ and a roster containing both Puerto Rican vets (most notably the Headhunters) and some promising youngsters such as AJ Styles, Low Ki, Shelton Benjamin, Carlito Cool and the Colon brothers.


Major League Wrestling, an ironic name for a tiny promotion, have opened in mid-2002 and stayed afloat for more than four years due to a daring combination of all styles, with a focus on high-flying, risky stuff and risqué, edgy and somewhat T&A-filled angles (which are not too surprising with ex-porn director Rob Black as the booker). Their varied roster includes a phenomenal high-flier Air Paris, a man of great look and constant losses Dave Batista, super ripped and entertaining brawler Frederick Lebowski [generated character, School of Hard Knocks alumnus], well-travelled Jeremy Lopez, indie veteran Jerry Lynn, Olympian turned indie wrestler Kurt Angle and the supersportsman Shelton Benjamin. An important part of their show is also the pair of veteran manager, Jimmy Garvin and Tommy Lane.


Ring of Honor was a part of the same indie boom as MLW, but went in a slightly different direction, with a style less hybrid, more focused on ultra-fast, ultra-risky action, and with a separate Women’s Division. With the popular badass brawler Amy Lee, extremely promising young monster Amazing Kong and the greatest forgotten diamond in the history of women’s wrestling Debbie Malenko. Their male roster is also interesting, with some great fliers including Chris Hero, Archadia, Aden Chambers, Billy Kim, Jack Evans, PUMA, Trent Acid and Jay Briscoe, with some non-fliers such as Homicide filling in the ranks.


The third of the surviving mid-2002 indies and the final American NWA affiliate, Dixie Carter’s Total Nonstop Action, is even more flying- and danger-focused and with a dose of T&A in their Women’s Division, as the name would suggest. Their roster includes a whole lot of promising talent, such as Shark Boy, Adam Jacobs, Matt Sydal, Claudio Castagnoli, Billy Kidman, Billy Reil, Jeremy Lopez, Shannon Moore and Sonjay Dutt, and a dose of veterans in Glen Jacobs, Mike Von Erich and Curry Man. The result of this dynamic roster is some of the most exciting independent wrestling in the USA, especially when the X-Division champion Matt Sydal is in the ring – perhaps trying to compensate for his much more grounded CWA style, he really flies off the handle in TNA, showing some of the best modern-style wrestling in the world. The Women’s Division is unfortunately in a way worse shape with many of its main workers – MsChief, Jacqueline, Cheerleader Melissa and Ariel – recently leaving the company. This means that Amy Dumas and Malia Hosaka are now left to work with a roster of attractive and promising rookies that can’t quite produce matches on the level that TNA audiences got accustomed to.


The last indie promotion left to be described, X Wrestling Federation, is perhaps the biggest oddball. A very mainstream, workrate-light comedic style with a huge T&A factor provided by no-name scantily clad hostesses, done in Texas, home of hard hitting rasslin, somehow works, due to the booking of Eric Bishoff and the great match psychology shown by a indie-star-studded roster including Adam Jacobs, Air Paris, Billy Kidman, Frederick Lebowski, Mikey Whipwreck, D’lo Brown, Ice Train, Mike Mizanin, Shark Boy, Raul Badell, Randy Orton, Jamie Noble, Jon Moxley and Tyler Black. Great managers Tommy Lane and Bruno Lauer, and Bill Behrens’ mind for the business, also help.

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Japan – An Empire in Turmoil


Compared to ten years ago, Japanese wrestling has changed drastically. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling is no more – the impossible combination of hardcore, daredevil stunts, comedy and best Japanese, Western and Mexican wrestlers finally ran its course in 2003. With it, the last “name” company in Japan promoting women’s matches is gone, and the awesome intermingling of world’s best talents is no more. All Japan Pro-Wrestling is still the emperor of Japanese puroresu and the company has stabilized in recent years in terms of popularity and money, but their booking decisions mean that their shows don’t reach their old highs. And a new alliance has emerged, aiming to bring a real alternative into Japanese wrestling


AJPW – The Ageing Emperor


After a financially rocky period in 1999, Shinya Koshika was removed as a CEO of AJPW. Some behind-the-scenes manoeuvres led to a takeover by a group of external investors, headed by a video game creative genius, millionaire and wrestling fan Shigeru Miyamoto, who entrusted the role of head booker to the legendary Antonio Inoki. He led AJPW into an era of relative stability, relying on the tried realistic, very intense matches styled as a genuine sport contest, but a decrease of match quality and attendances in the last few years has become noticeable and it is still an open question whether Miyamoto and his group will decide to relieve Inoki of his duty.


It isn’t that AJPW wrestlers don’t can’t still wrestle great matches [although still after all those years and with WWF/E churning them out left and right, AJPW never ever had a 100 rated match…]. It’s that AJPW’s top wrestlers are starting to age, and Inoki’s conservative attitude means that he doesn’t really take that into account as much as he perhaps should. Perhaps the reason for that oversight is Tatsumi Fujinami – the man won TEW Wrestler of the Year at 49, and now at 53 his body is battered and hurts, but he is somehow still the best technical wrestler alive, he’s the most reliable and precise man competing in a ring today, and still can pull off feats of athleticism that put most men half his age to shame. [seriously. Mat wrestling 100, Submissions 96, Athleticism 89, Stamina 94. Basics, Safet & Consistency 100. Aged 53.] However, other AJPW veterans haven’t fared so well. Genichiro Tenryu – currently holding two tag titles (PWF World Tag Team title with Masahiro Chono and NWA International Tag Team title with Satoshi Kojima) – is the prime example: 56 years old, battered and barely mobile at his worse days, Tenryu still has enough of an aura and psychology to be carried to a decent match by young opponents in prime condition, but is in an extremely bad condition and honestly should have stopped wrestling a few years ago, no matter how popular he is and how much the fans lose their minds at the sight of him. Toshiaki Kawada is in a similar position despite only being 43 – with three concussions in his career and two ankle injuries in the last three years, he’s been deteriorating fast, perhaps not retiring only because he still feels he needs to prove himself as singles wrestler after his tag partner Hiromichi Fuyuki retired. Giving him an NWA International Heavyweight reign right now is Inoki’s most baffling decision as of late. Hiroshi Hase, the great star that never managed to truly shine, is also quite clearly losing his fight against time, as is Kazuo Yamazaki, who was bafflingly a Junior Heavyweight champion for much of 2006, Kensuke Sasaki who holds the All-Asia Tag Team championship with Kenzo Suzuki, and other upper-midcarders still pushed as dangerous, such as Akira Taue and Takashi Iizuka. Even Nobuhiko Takada, Akira Maeda’s partner in the best tag team of the turn of the century and one of the greatest stars in Japan, is clearly not in his prime anymore, although in his case it is less noticeable for now; and although Keiji Mutoh aka The Great Muta is still unaffected by age, his body has suffered enough to affect the quality of his matches.


Not all is lost, however. Quite a few of AJPW top veterans are still in good shape. Masahiro Chono has somehow managed to keep himself in a workable condition, and while his performance basics were never as great as his peers, at 43 he’s still a great hitter, one of the best mat wrestlers in the business, a volcano of charisma and an athletic specimen, although his wear-and-tear does make his athletics a little less reliable. His series of matches against Kenta Kobashi on TV and tour shows was one of the highlights of 2006. Kenta himself, despite slowing down a bit, is still the closest AJPW has seen to a full package, the most popular wrestler in Japan after Tenryu and an absolute beast if he gets a chance to shine. Yuji Nagata, the wrestler against which AJPW’s best can truly shine, has had a bit of a slower year but is still as reliable as ever. Dr. Wagner Jr. and Octagon, two Mexican stars of the Juniors division (a testament both to FMW-derived connections between Japan and Mexico and to AJPW’s contacts via NWA), while not as spry as in their youth are still carrying the division quite well, with the help of Jushin Thunder Liger, the masked persona of legendary Keiichi Yamada, one of the best wrestlers in the history of Great Britain, and Masakatsu Funaki, a long-time European and FMW star known to be a master at telling a story via locks and submissions. And of course there’s the next generation, spearheaded by the PWF World Heavyweight Champion Osamu Nishimura (who graduated from a gruelling and health-destroying decade in FMW, UWFi and IWA:J to being one of the top technical grapplers of the promotion), Satishi Kojima (the energetic master of hard hitting and one of the current NWA International Tag champs) and Jun Akiyama (Haru Sonoda’s old tag partner and now one of the most magnetic acts in the upper midcard of AJPW). And then there’s the youngsters that will be the backbone of the promotion in the next decade or two, such as Shuji Kondo (another FMW alumnus, a great wrestler in all styles that can talk the talk, walk the walk and ooze starpower from every orfice), Suwama (a late adopter to wrestling, already very tough, great hitter and a charismatic bastard), Homicide (a regular touring member of the roster, who makes up for his average technical skills [for Japanese standards] with a great grasp of psychology and tons of starpower), or Kenta Kobayashi (an extremely promising young graduate of the AJPW dojo). Even the opener roster is full of bright youngsters ready to prove their worth. Only time will tell if they will get the chance.


Japanese Wrestling Federation: A Kingslaying Alliance


Japanese Wrestling Federation is a two-year-old alliance between some of the best independent feds in Japan, aiming to provide an alternative to the AJPW behemoth – both in terms of a variety of styles, as well as different business models and providing an alternate set of superstars. They even promote their federational title belts. The JWF Championship was first held by a decorated indie veteran Rikishi Fatu, and now is in the hands of the solid, great-looking Shinjiro Otani (incidentally, the booker of Zero-One and the person who first imagined JWF), while the Tag Team championship, after a short stint with Gran Naniwa and Koji Nakagawa, is now defended by the extremely talented Minoru Tanaka and his great partner, Ikuto Hidaka. However, while these titles are getting some recognition, they are not yet as important as what happens on the home turf of each of those promotions.


Based off Chugoku and open since 2004, Dragon Gate is probably the biggest of the three Federation members, although they are virtually unknown in the crucial Kanto region. They utilize an interesting style that combines the realistic trappings and a lot of traditional storytelling that AJPW has deemphasised with a huge dose of fast, flying and pure hard-hitting action and with elements of MMA style. This exhausting product combined with a touring schedule may exhaust their workers, and as a result even their big events can be quite hit-and-miss [from D to C/C+], with the misses about as good as you’d expect from a small indie and the hits surprisingly good. With a touring schedule, many of their workers only come and go for a short amount of time, which has allowed them to feature many great mercenaries from across the world, including such names as Aguila, Air Paris, AJ Styles, Alex Shelley, Averno, Curry Man (aka Christopher Daniels), Dos Caras Jr., El Generico, Excalibur, Jay & Mark Briscoe, Jeremy Lopez, Juventud Guerrera, Mikey Henderson, Minoru Tanaka, TJ Perkins, Trent Acid, Yaichiro Odaka, Ultimo Guerrero and Ultimo Dragon. If this list means nothing to you, you haven’t been following independent wrestling (or mainstream Mexican wrestling). But their main roster is also nothing to sneeze at [and full of generated workers], including Shuji Nosaka, perhaps the strongest wrestler in the world, capable of impossible feats of athleticism and at the same time one of the best sellers in the business; BxB Hulk, a youngster with some great press around him; Kaz Hayashi, a wonderful flier; Masato Tanaka, a FMW veteran and a great brawler; Shingo Takagi, who after only two years already shows great promise as a puro wrestler and master grappler; TAKA Michinoku, one of the best middle-aged fliers on the indie scene, or another great-looking young aerial ace, Taiji Ishimori.


International Wrestling Association: Japan is quite a strange organisation. Mixing the traditional wrestling storytelling of old with the garbage hardcore they and FMW pioneered in the 90s, they have been on the rise in the last few years, providing a perfect location in the prestigious Kanto region for promising wrestlers to destroy their bodies for the enjoyment of the crowd. Some of the mainstays of Dragon Gate and Japanese indie scene in general can be found here – the superstar tough bastard Hiroyoshi Tenzan, the gigantic Shoji Sekigawa, very promising young upstart Yoshito Sasaki, extremely legit shoot fighter Kazuyuki Fujita and the best Japanese prospect today Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as already described indie stars such as Fatu, Takagi, Otani Hayashi, Nosaka or Tanaka.


Pro Wrestling Zero-One is without doubt the biggest company of the JWF (managing to get crowds of 4-5 thousand people in their Kanto base, compared to 3 thousand for DG and 2.5 thousand for IWA:J). It is a brainchild of Shinjiro Otani, a posthumous child of NJPW (having graduated their still-active school a year after the promotional part of the company folded), a veteran of IWA:J since its inception, a solid Junior worker with a lot of upside and the man who imagined a revolution in Japanese indie wrestling in the form of the Japanese Wrestling Federation. Before JWF, in 2001 he started Zero-One, making Shoji Sekigawa, the Super Heavyweight, his booker, and hiring Giant Baba himself and joshi legend Jackie Sato as road agents. Together they forged a product similar to the old NJPW style, with (perhaps surprisingly) less modern Junior flying evolutions but with the same mix of high realism, a pure wrestling focus and elements of traditional face/heel dynamics. They are notorious for being the previous employers of many AJPW stars (Shuji Kondo, Milano Collection AT, Masakatsu Funaki, Koji Kanemoto, Kenzo Suzuki, Kazuo Yamazaki…), for hiring the glorious Bull Nakano to be their main personality and interviewer (with terrifying and hilarious results) and for delivering some of the better wrestling in Japan today. With a hard-hitting and joint-bending main event consisting of the MMA star Don Frye, tough badass Hiroyoshi Tenzan, ring general veteran Rikishi Fatu and AJPW veteran and puro specialist Yaichiro Odaka, they can satisfy the need for a product even more hard-hitting and uncompromising than AJPW. Their midcard adds a lot of variety, as besides the gigantic booker and the talented star owner they have one of the better young lions in the business Yoshito Sasaki, brilliant Junior veteran and one of the few brilliant fliers in the company Great Sasuke, hyperconsistent all-rounder Kamikaze, talented bloody brawler Masashi Honda, in-ring master Minoru Tanaka, ultra-tough bastard and MMA veteran Yoshihiro Takayama, and many other talents. With such a talented roster and a different take on Japan’s favourite wrestling type, they can deliver matches that would not feel out of place at AJPW PPVs [reaching B-/B quite consistently despite having workers without that much overness] and they are a growing presence on Kanto’s scene.


Kaientai Dojo: The Odd One Out


Kaientai Dojo is something of an oddity. Opened in 2002, during the world’s great indies boom, with the underappreciated legend Great Sasuke at the helm and Duke Sado behind the book, they are in some ways a “training” promotion (hence the “Dojo” name), and in some ways a throwback to old times, to a American-influenced traditional style with elements of current WWE mainstream storytelling and more realistic trappings. Most of their best wrestlers, from the extremely talented youngsters roster of Shinsuke Nakamura, Daisuke Sekimoto, Shingo Takagi and Hiroshi Tanahashi to veterans Tiger Mask IV, Yoshihiro Takayama, Don Frye and Rikishi Fatu are also contracted by the Federation companies – or, as in the case of the best high flier in Japan Dragon Kid, switch between those companies based on a whim. However, a different environment focused less on intense physical battles and more on storytelling and character work lets them show off a different side. What is more, K-Dojo is highly regarded by some Japanese smarks, because – perhaps due to the influence of their road agent Kunimatsu Matsunaga, once a joshi mogul – it employs some veteran joshi personalities: Akira Hokuto, a legend in Great Britain and ASW Hall of Famer; Hikari Fukuoka, a charismatic figure who never got a chance after a two year career in LLPW; and the AJW icon Mimi Hagiwara. All of these retired wrestlers are still doing great business as managers and personalities, bringing variety to the shows and at the same time having an opportunity to make ends meet despite the fall of joshi industry.

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Canada – The Land of Three Kings (Or Is It Two?)


Compared to the cutthroat, high-stakes rivalries between the Big Three in the States, and to the dominating rule of AJPW in Japan, Canada seems to be a relatively unremarkable market, with three regional promotions, none of which seems to be able (or willing) to expand too much. This is a deceiving image, however – with two of the companies located in British Columbia and the third just around the corner in Alberta, all three are locked in an intense struggle, as they constantly compete for the fans’ money and attention. As a result, the local companies do everything in their power to put on a good show, and even with wrestling decidedly unpopular among the masses, they each manage to gather around 2000 people monthly.


All Star Wrestling: The Other ASW


The sole established wrestling promotion in Alberta, ASW functions in the Internet Wrestling Community primarily as “that other ASW”, one you find by accident while googling for the British ASW. In its home area, however, ASW maintains a solid position and is the biggest of the three Canadian promotions, even if in the last year or two it has been losing some ground to the competition. For the last few years, the booker and owner of the company has been the retired WCW and WWF midcarder ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis, continuing late Al Tomko’s combination of traditional Canadian style with a hefty dose of comedy, and incorporating some ideas from the company’s colour commentator, the Eric Bischoff himself (co-casting with none other than Mauro Ranallo). The company’s main stars (some of them shared with the competition in what seems to be a Canadian tradition) include the wonderful young Bobby Roode, the safest semi-hardcore worker on Earth Moondog Manson, dashing Steve Corino as Mr. Wrestling 3, Al Tomko’s aging son Rick Davis, Dory Funk’s trainee Andrew Test Martin, and one of the brightest prospects in wrestling today Harry Smith, British Bulldog’s son. They also have a criminally women’s division, including such prospects as Gali Kim, LuFisto and Vanessa Kraven.


The Curious Tale of Two Stampedes


Stampede Wrestling Calgary has a long history, spanning almost 60 years and three generations of the Hart family. Its most convoluted chapter, however, begun in 1998 with Bruce Hart’s unfortunate passing. As a result of a behind-the-scenes intrigue that we still have no idea about, the ownership of the company did not pass to other members of the Hart family (with Ross being the most probable choice), but to another local promoter, Chuck Fender, who appointed industry veteran Dutch Savage as the booker, with both men earning Ross Hart’s ire. Savage’s controversial booking and Fender’s rumoured problems with the law hurt SWC so much, that in 2000 Ross quit the company in anger and started a new promotion, “Stampede Wrestling” without the Calgary part, aiming to prove once and for all that only a Hart can book good wrestling in British Columbia. However, just a year later Fender’s reign ended when his co-owners, creditors and the Hart family coordinated to oust him. With Ross not wanting to give up his own thing, young insider Gabe Sapolsky was shipped in to run and book Stampede Wrestling Calgary. Meanwhile, incensed Fender tried to get his revenge by starting Border City Wrestling in Ontario, but despite featuring some hot young talent the company folded after just a year.


SWC and SW are now in fierce competition, although they are not officially at war and actually share some talent. They are also slightly different, with Ross aiming at retaining the classic Calgary style and Gabe incorporating some MMA-style hyperrealistic elements. SWC has also maintained its position as a NWA affiliate, while SW has formed a relationship with ECW under the umbrella of “North American Wrestling League”. As of the last few years, Gabe’s Stampede is doing much better, despite Ross hiring the legendary Kevin Sullivan as a (great) personality and (not so great) booker. Both companies share one of their main stars, a solid and flashy New Zealander Adam Firestorm, as well as the controversial brawler Michelle Starr the promising youngsters Eric Young (also touring with AJPW), Rene Dupree and Kevin Steen, and some lower card workers. SW also shares ASW’s Bobby Roode, Moondog Manson and Harry Smith. Ross’s ace in the hole is his nephew, Teddy Hart, an absolute superstar in the making, but also a royal pain in the ass if you believe the rumours. SCW also seems to share most of its main roster with the competition, but what sets them apart, aside from the more MMA-ish style, is the presence of some unique young talent – El Generico (current holder of their mid-tier belt), TJ Wilson, Scotty Mac, Petey Williams, Kyle O’Reilly, Ice… It’s clear that Sapolsky is set on developing a new batch of Canadian superstars, and he even recently reached out via NWA to loan Mike Von Erich himself, one of the best specialists on wrestling psychology in the sport, so that his boys get to learn from him.

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<div style="text-align:center;"><p><span style="font-size:14px;">Mexico – A Kingdom Unchanged?</span></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;">

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At first glance, Mexican lucha scene hasn’t changed much in the last ten years. Same three companies, same pecking order, same situation where no single promotion can truly be called a national phenomenon. Yet under this surface, some things have changed.</p><p> </p><p>

<strong><span style="text-decoration:underline;">CMLL – The Wounded King</span></strong></p><p> </p><p>

Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre is still the biggest promotion in Mexico and one of the most important NWA affiliates. However, 10 years ago their TV tapings could get up to 10,000 people in attendance and ratings over 8.00 (after getting moved to a prime spot at Televisa, earlier that year they were getting 3.50), and their PPVs had 20,000 people live and 0.50 buyrates. Nowadays, Superstellas ratings don’t even reach 2.50 with ~5000 people in the audience, and the audiences for the monthly events have similarly halved. Part of the problem is the generally poor state of the wrestling business, another part is the fact that CMLL programming simply doesn’t reach the heights it used to do. While 1997 saw CMLL lift the previous rule of not hiring new talents [which was due to a database bug I only noticed after simming for 10 years], El Dandy and Rayo de Jalisco Jr. remained the foundation on which the company was built, both through their legendary feud and working with newer luchadores. However, both of them are now way into their 40s and they both haven’t been ageing well. Fuerza Guerrera, another crucial worker who came into CMLL in 1998 after years of solid work in Japan, is 53 now and showing it. Rey Misterio, one of the most popular Mexican workers snatched from the competition in 1998, was amazing until he was 44-45, but he’s now 48 and in decline. Atlantis, a man who after leaving EMLL in 1989 won 9 titles in the other Mexican companies as well as working overseas before coming back to a great CMLL career (including an almost 3 year reign as the Mexican National Light Heavyweight Champion), is only just now starting to slow down at 44, but the signs are not looking good. Blue Demon Jr. at only 40 is looking much worse and quietly slipping down the ladder. Among the top echelons of CMLL, only Silver King (who has risen to the top 25 of world’s wrestlers in recent years with some legendary tag reigns) and Heavy Metal stand tall against the ravages of age. While there are some promising luchadores in the upper midcard of the promotion, from amazingly flashy Black Warrior to amazing-looking Rey Bucanero and the young sensation Perro Aguayo Jr, they’d need much more build to replace the ageing legends, and seeing how many 50-year-olds can be found in the midcard of CMLL, it seems that Paco Alonso isn’t too keen on drastic changes like that. That’s a particular shame for the women’s division, as Lola Gonzalez (31 years in the business and still as jaw-droppingly amazing as ever), Lioness Asuka (still one of the best female wrestlers in history) and Manami Toyota (who came to CMLL in 2004 after earning three title reigns and two Female Wrestler of the Year titles in the UK) could easily become an equally important part of the product as the male stars, if only they were given the chance.</p><p> </p><p>

Those things are clearly contributing to CMLL’s problems. But perhaps the most important factor is that in February 2006, some of the company’s main financial backers were linked to organized crime. Millions of dollars were confiscated, all the broadcasting deals were cancelled by the companies trying to avoid blame by association, and CMLL’s prestige took a huge blow. As a result, the company had to take painful cost-cutting measures, letting go a large number of people, mostly long-adored veterans, including such crucial names as Jerry Estrada (once numbered among Four Corners of CMLL and still in top 10 most popular workers in Mexico) or Mil Mascaras. This shocking turn of events left a wound that the Kings (Emperors?) of Mexico are bearing to this day.</p><p> </p><p>

<strong><span style="text-decoration:underline;">The Would-be Kings</span></strong></p><p> </p><p>

The policy change that CMLL enacted in 1997 meant that UWA and WWA were no longer safe, and that their brightest stars started to get snatched from their skies by the number one promotion. WWA was especially hurt, as their late 90’s peak was built in huge part by Silver King, Heavy Metal, Perro Aguayo Jr and Atlantis. However, WWA still manage to provide a very good wrestling product with Dr. Wagner Jr., the best non-CMLL luchador on the planet, as well as a roster of up-and-comers from great wrestling families such as Ray Misterio Jr., Juventud Guerrera, Dos Caras Jr., Hijo Del Fantasma or Lizmark Jr., and future greats like Aguila and Tarzan Boy. UWA, making use of a very similar talent pool, has stayed ahead of them, by updating their product to a much more modern, daredevil style, employing some exclusive stars in Universo 2000 , Mascara Ano 2000 and especially Octagon (pulling triple duty as the AJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion, UWA World Trios Champion and UWA World Light Heavyweight Champion, all of this at 45 and not slowing down), as well as providing some diversity with a women’s division (not on CMLL’s level, but still respectable). UWA’s managed to become more popular in West and Central Mexico than CMLL themselves, but they still haven’t managed to expand to the rest of the country. Will their mix of youngsters, veterans and super-fast action finally manage to secure a good broadcasting deal, or are they destined to forever be the runner-ups? Time will tell.</p>

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<p><em>//So yeah, after half a year of silence, with two updates in one month I guess I am sort of back? I had a break from TEW, but now I am getting the itch again, so I hope I will be posting a bit more. But, you know how those things go.</em></p><p><em> </em></p><p><em>

I have almost 0 idea about Mexican wrestling, I'd really appreciate any input on how different/bizzare/predictable is the curent state of lucha in this save.</em></p>

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