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Live at HCW's Battle Hawaii 
July 23, 2004

by Rocky Swift


What does a wrestling show say about its audience? Which side mirrors the other: the spectacle in the ring, or the teaming, squishy masses in the seats?

I’ve been to a lot of live wrestling events –mainly in the South and a couple in Japan— and I’ve noticed in most of them a type of mass bonding through culture and conventions. There’s the perfunctory action in the ring, but it’s the little details of action and gear that really resonate with the crowd. And these messages aren’t subtle. I’ve seen a wrestler in Japan swing around a katana, and I’ve seen many in the states whipping around the Confederate battle flag.

And though the little shows lack the star power, their wrestlers frequently ape the big names to ring the same Pavlovian bells entrenched by extensive exposure to the televised phenomena.

“He did the People’s Elbow.” = “I’m actually watching the Rock!”

“That guy was just powerbombed through a table.” = “Just like ECW!”

“That tag team came out to a Mettallica song!” = “Metallica rulz!”

The recent July 21 HCW Battle Hawaii show was a little show, aspiring to be a big show, but ultimately settled for being a homage to wrestling memories gone by. That wasn’t such a surprise, really, but what caught me were the cultural cues that emerged throughout the show. It nicely encapsulated my year here and what I’ve learned about Hawaii, myself and macaroni salad.

I showed up with my Japanese consort at about 6 p.m., giving us time to eat, drink and mill about for a 7 p.m. “gong” time. Yeah, right. One of the first things you learn on the islands is the concept of “Hawaiian time.” The good-natured view of it is that the people here are too happy and relaxed to let Father Time hustle them along. Then there is the view that they are just fucking lazy.

While we sat and watched the masses pile in “early” at 7:20, another interesting reality bore itself: the island people sure love their food. It was like watching Macy’s parade: huge balloons in garish color bobbing to-and-fro as they progressed. There was in fact a special row set aside for the truly heavy hitters, another peculiarly Hawaiian touch.

Interestingly, there were also a lot of infirmed people at the show. The line of wheelchaired attendees was surprisingly long given the sparse crowd. I’ve noticed this elsewhere too; that some of the most passionate fans of pro wrestling are the handicapped. Perhaps they get a contact buzz from the show of strength, speed and flash.

And now ‘cause I think I’ve already stretched a weak premise too thin, I’ll just run through the card and tell you what happened.

Heel Commissioner Don Murrocco came out with Kamehameha Heritage Champion Sasaki Kensuke and rattled on about how Kensuke’s great, yadda, yadda. Then out comes Kona Crush Brian Adams(!) He says he’s been made co-commissioner for the night, and that Kensuke will have to wrestle twice (!!), once in a tag match and then in a title defense. Crush leaves and we never see him again.

Michinoku TAKA vs. Nightmare
Nightmare looks a little like Kendo Kashin. Take beats him with the Michinoku Driver.

Kaneala vs. Iceman
The former is an endomorphic Hawaiian with an unpronounceable name, which pretty much describes all of HCW. The latter –as one astute fan pointed out—looks like Virgil. Very kicky-kicky. Virgil wins…with the kicks!

Around this time I finished my first beer –served in the big novelty yard-long glasses, so I told my Japanese companion to go get me another.

“Kiss my ass,” she said.
So I insisted.
“When monkey’s fly out of my butt.”
And again.
“Eat a bag of shit.”

I have to stop teaching her useful English.

The Family of Fitness vs. Big Daddy Frank and Disco Inferno
The Family of Fitness are billed at around 315 lbs. or about as much as Big Daddy Frank. The gimmick here –and again, a purely Hawaiian thing—is that the Family are heels because they are too skinny. They hammed it up through the match while the crowd jeered at them to eat more. Disco comes out to his WCW music and promises the “Village People’s Elbow” but never delivers. In the end, Big Daddy squashes the Fitness guys.

Kenshin vs. Kaz Hayashi
Kenshin looks like a fat Kensuke. Kaz wins it with…the kicks!

J.T Wolfen and Tonga Kid vs. D-Lo Brown and Bull Buchanan vs. Kea Taiyo and Jamal vs. Kensuke and Kenjiro Katahira
Wolfen looks like the Motor City Madman if he’d eaten Paul E. Dangerously. Tonga looks to be following the Rikishi diet. An entertaining four-way that played out a lot like that gimmick battle royal; everyone bales at the same time to play pinochle at ringside leaving Wolfen to be brainbustered and pinned by Kensuke. Apparently this was for some tag straps too. Yay.

End of yard-long beer number too.

Kojima Satoshi and DDP vs. Great Muta and Sting
This was supposed to have the Outsiders involved, but Nash bailed for some reason. You’d think he’d want to come to a place were being fat and lazy were virtues. Hall was on the ticket right up till show time. I guess a Hawaiian vacation just isn’t the same without Big Kev. So DDP stepped in, and except for looking even more sun damaged, he wasn’t in bad shape. Sting looked OK, but Muta’s getting porky. Kojima is probably the biggest viable star this show had. He seemed to realize that he can get heat by cursing at the crowd in Japanese as opposed to all the other Japanese heels who manage to bleat out “Fuck you” or “Fuck Hawaii.”

End comes when Kojima and Muta took a power on the outside while DDP ate the Scorpion Death Drop. Sting looked surprisingly good.

Kris Kavanaugh and Cholo vs. Rikishi
The tag team are purple jobbers. Rikishi came out to the biggest and most sustained cheers of the night. He may have gotten the Titan pink slip, but he’s still got the dancin’ Rikishi music and the faux-sumo garb. The crowd ate it up.

It looked to be a handicap match, but wait. Here comes Grand Master Sexay! And so the little Lawler came down to his Too Cool music, and the typical comedy squash ensued, ending with a Rikishi Bonzai Drop.

Post match, some local wanna-be girl group got in the ring with Rikishi and Lawler and did the dance and the worm and all that. It went on for a while, and it was actually kind of awkward, because without commercials or a director, nobody seemed to know when it was going to end.

Main Event: Kensuke vs. Kaimana
Kensuke wore a big samurai outfit and walked with a big entourage to the ring. Kensuke’s a pretty big star in Japan, so one wonders why he’s been slumming it in HCW for so long. I think it’s part of a strategy to move him from being a vanilla power guy to a more charismatic character. Seems to be working; there was a horde of Japanese press at ringside. Fairly long match wherein Kensuke bloodies the Hawaiian and then finishes him with a kind of T-bone driver thing. Then Kensuke poses with his cronies and belts for that victory shot the Japanese seem to love.

Then it was over. And perhaps the lingering question is: How could a tiny fed like HCW draw so many stars? Answer: It’s fucking Hawaii. It’s a vacation. They assembled and put on a safe, comfortable show. The fans had old memories quickened; the stars got sunshine and room service. God bless America!

Epilogue: The only wrestler who really interacted with the fans was Taka Michinoku (well, Rikishi did too, if you bought a picture for $10). I got a couple pictures of Taka, one with me and one where his son appears to be poking him in the eye. Evil!


Rocky Swift is a columnist for www.CitizenScholar.net, and a teacher of English in Japan.

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