Pros: A solid lineup of matches, with several really impressive bouts
Cons: No real familiar faces for most wrestling fans
With the majority of the attention in the wrestling world paid to the "entertainment" products of the major wrestling federation, I find it relieving that the DVD age has allowed for a substantial amount of independent wrestling to see the light of day. While major federations have been reduced to soap operas where fist fights settle all the disputes, the independent wrestling promotions often focus on solid technical wrestling and hard-hitting action, and because they often have performers - and promoters - willing to take a few risks, the nature of the wrestling they participate in is a little more violent and brutal than much of the mainstream.
Japanese wrestling is a perfect example of this trend. Up until a few years ago, Japanese promotions were incredibly difficult to find; about the only way to see this action was to pick up a bootleg tape. The first Japanese wrestling I happened to see was courtesy of the Insane Clown Posse, in their Stranglemania bootleg compilation. More recently however, Japanese wrestling has become increasingly more available and accessible to fans, with the release of a good amount of material from a variety of Japanese federations.
The Japanese Hardcore Wrestling series from WK Media and Red Static releasing chronicles action from a variety of Japanese wrestling organizations, and the action contained in the series is often marked by violent death match wrestling that most domestic wrestling organizations (especially those in the mainstream) don't even attempt.
Volume seven in the series is slightly more even than the previous two (the series seems to inexplicably jump around numerically - the series jumped from volume one to volume three, and now volume seven). The matches contained in this edition are pretty solid overall, and there really isn't a dud match.
The DVD starts off with a match from the Big Japan Promotion: Abdullah the Kobayashi vs. Numasawa. Both these competitors are more or less hardcore wrestling icons in Japan, and this match is billed as a "Fans bring the weapons Death Match." Yes, there's a huge pile of "weapons" brought in by the fans and used by the wrestlers in the match. Anything from dolls, to LPs, to computer keyboards is used as a weapon in this one, so the match is pretty wild, bloody and violent, but somewhat slower paced. I'll give this first bout three stars out of five.
Next up is another match from Big Japan as Honma takes on Shadow WX. This is an especially brutal and hard-hitting contest with barbed wire boards placed in the ring. Both the participants end up roaming around the arena, battling in the bleachers, and taking some nasty bumps on the concrete floor. Honma starts bleeding like a faucet early on, and continues to pour blood throughout the match. In this match, it's the wrestling and not the barbed wire that is the most extreme. I give this pretty impressive and solid match four stars.
The action shifts to upstart Japanese promotion DDT, Dynamic Dream Team Wrestling, for the third match as the tag team of Sanshiro and Ibushi take on Hero and Kudo. This match is very fast paced, and a really nice display of technical wrestling ability. The pacing of a match like this is a nice indication of the level of ability that these wrestlers possess; not every performer can move around like this and continue to do so while taken physical punishment. While not really the usual "extreme" or "hardcore" match, this is a very fine demonstration of superior tag team wrestling action, with the action see-sawing back and forth. I'll give this match four stars out of five as well.
Women's wrestling from the JPW promotion takes center stage next in a six woman tag team match, as the team of Hyuga, Kuragaki and Watanabe take on Commando Bolishoi, Haruyama and Yoneyama. This match is a surprise, featuring some really impressive and fast turnaround wrestling action. One sequence where Commando Bolishoi pulls several reversals while clutching her opponent's back is pretty unbelievable. This women's action really delivers in the action department, offering wrestling that most U.S. fans probably rarely see. Four stars out of five.
A match for the DDT championship follows, as Poison Sawada defends the title against Mikami. Sawada uses a pretty interesting gimmick; he evokes "the power of the snake" to fight his opponent. This may make or break the match for some people, but is indicative of the nature of the sport in Japan. Mikami brings his trademark ladder into the match, using it as a weapon, and there are some pretty brutal spots. Overall, though, a pretty solid matchup, although not quite up to the level of the previous couple of matches. I'll give this contest three and a half stars since it was pretty entertaining.
The final match on volume seven is a six man death match from Big Japan Pro as Ito, Kanemura and MEN'S Teio battle Kasai, Hido and Sasaki. This match is full of legendary hardcore brawlers, and the results are what you'd expect, with the use of barbed wire, fluorescent light tubes, thumbtacks and more. This one is really violent and bloody, and there are some really nasty looking maneuvers, but the technical display here is rather lackluster. I'll give it three stars for the spectacle and hardcore action.
Commentary on this volume is provided by internet wrestling writers Buck Woodward and Eric Gargiulo. The commentary is pretty informative and well done, with Woodward doing the play by play and Gargiulo providing the "heel," or bad guy, commentary. Gargiulo wasn't quite as funny in this volume as in number three where I was cracking up at some of his commentary, but overall, the announcing was pretty good.
Volume seven is definitely an improvement over the previous two entries in the series, with a consistently good card of wrestling, and provides six matches. This entry really delivers in all aspects: really solid singles contests, action-filled tag team bouts, and the violent hardcore matches Japan is know for. I'd recommend this volume to wrestling fans. Even though most of the wrestlers here are not household names by any stretch, they know how to put on good matches, and I think the action will speak for itself.