American Excess

[Well, it’s a good title: why not use it more than once?]

A name like ‘Trash City’ means some video labels look down on you, and won’t give you the time of day. But to others, you’re the target audience, and when you’re talking about Quantum Leap and their nine volumes of LPWA women’s wresting…no sooner said, than a large cardboard box was sitting on the floor here at TC Towers. Not to be confused with the LPGA (which has more lesbians), the Ladies Professional Wrestling Association dates back to 1989, but is undergoing something of a renaissance recently, as these nine tapes – and hopes for an upcoming program of promotions – show. Since you can buy them in HMV, you can’t plead obscurity as an excuse, and nor is incomprehensibility a viable defence, since they’re all in English. Er, well, American, anyway…

Super Ladies’ Showdown contains the only United States pay-per-view women’s wrestling event, a 1992 Rochester, Minnesota show, featuring a contest to determine the “Japanese ladies champion”. The J-stars featured, Eagle Sawai and Harley Saito, aren’t the creme de la creme; decent enough journeymen, mind, but in footballing terms, the equivalent of Wimbledon and Middlesborough. Despite this, at 120 mins, it’s good value for money, and the contrast in styles is interesting. The Americans, relying on strength, are clearly fazed by the Japanese aerial assaults and high kicks; they have problems adapting, and look sluggish in comparison. The audience, however, are impressed: after initial boos, Saito becomes the fan favourite, even over local girl Denise Storm. Outside the tournament, the other bouts are less memorable. The Terri Power/Lady X title bout, however, has spark and life, with Power perhaps close to the level of the Japanese. Aside from the usual grey sources i.e. other fans and the Internet, this tape is probably your best chance of seeing some of the Japanese women in action.

Super Ladies Showdown 2 is actually not really connected to the first one at all, save one bout, Desiree Petersen vs Shinobu Kandori, which looks like an unused portion of the PPV. It’s probably the best bout too – I’d say Kandori is one of the top five in Japan, and it shows in her skill and aggression. Indeed, a recurring theme through the tapes is that the best wrestlers have a Japanese connection. Now, whether this is because the good ones go to Japan, or because they get good over there, I don’t know. The LPWA is certainly international, with Petersen apparently being Danish – not that this stops the audience chanting “USA! USA!” – and Australia, Mexico and Italy are also represented. Add some decent tag action with Team America (Heidi Lee Morgan and Misty Blue Simms) taking on the Nasty Girls, and overall it’s not too far short of its predecessor, despite lacking any structure.

Power Slam is another compilation; the problem with these is a tendency for the commentators to refer to previous bouts which, through the glory of editing, turn up later on, or indeed, on an entirely different tape! However, the enthusiastically opinionated Jim Cornette is great fun to listen to, always going off with loud-mouthed wit. Inside the ring, the highlight sees Reggie Bennett team up with Terri Power: in April 93, the latter was part of Dreamslam, a cross-promotion event widely regarded as the best  ever in Japanese women’s wrestling. They’re a formidable pairing, and an Italian girl, Madusa Miceli, is another good find on this tape. It climaxes in a chaotic and confused Battle Royale, with no less than twenty-four women in the ring simultaneously.

The Main Event provides a good showcase for Reggie Bennett, one of the veterans of women’s pro wrestling. She was part of the abomination (admittedly an amusing one) that was Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and, despite being 37 years old, spent the early part of this year out East, in Aja Kong’s ARSION group, and did very well from what I saw. Bennett started off as a body-builder and has also had a minor movie career – you can see her in Stallone’s arm-wrestling film, ‘Over the Top’, and ‘Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone’. Elsewhere, Madusa Miceli demolishes her opponent with disturbing efficiency (yet again, I suspect a result of Japan-based seasoning), and the Lady X/Bambi title fight is also a pretty good contest. The work-rate on view there is impressive, with both women clearly giving their all, and the result is in doubt right up until the end.

Wacky World is different in that the matches have a vague theme i.e. they’re more or less off-the-wall. For “less”, read a wrestler casually smashing a cream pie into a commentator’s face on the way to the ring; for “more”, try a tag-match, the Glamor Girls versus ‘The Beast’ and Reggie Bennett, over possession of a large toy rabbit called Harvey. That one is as stupid as it sounds – it’s the sort of thing GLOW would do – but actually works because it’s pitched perfectly, balanced between deadly serious and very tongue-in-cheek. However, I should point out that the ‘Glamor Girls’ are neither glamorous nor girls – I suppose calling themselves the Bloated Post-Menopausals wouldn’t prove as catchy. Most of the other battles are merely slightly quirky, though the Desire Petersen/Lady X fight is robust almost to troublesome levels, with Petersen flying into the audience and off the top rope. The tape also lets you see commentator Jim Cornette – and he looks disturbingly like Jeffrey Combs…

Super Challenge starts brightly, with Malia Hosaka + Bambi brawling against the Nasty Girls – like all the tapes, it’s an ‘E’ certificate, though I’m not quite sure this is what the rating was intended for! Malia Hosaka is also in the other top bout, against Madusa Miceli: a nice contrast, Japanese-born against Japanese-experienced. After, oh, some nine hours or so, I’m beginning to get the hang of calling these, and in most of the bouts you can kinda tell who’s likely to win: extraneous interference aside, good tends to triumph over evil more often than not. And it’s not until the title bout between long-time LPWA champion, Australian Susan Sexton, and The Beast – 60 matches in all – that we get the first submission.

Once you see the likes of Toyota and Kansai in action, it may be hard to go back, and for the hardened fan, American women’s wrestling could seem more a curio than anything else. However, such comparisons are probably unfair, while the Japanese brand remains such an underground cult. For the novice, these tapes are an entertaining appetiser, especially for those unwilling to handle incomprehensible Japanese footage. Super Ladies’ Showdown is the best, and makes a good starting point for anyone interested in the spectacle.

Others available include:
Double Trouble!
Grudge Matches!
Wild Women
Super Ladies Showdown 3
All titles £13.99.
Credit card telesales: 01480 455125
or by cheque, payable to Quantum Leap, to:
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