Aside from solid wrestling, two ways to get my attention are superior graphics and a well booked tournament, and having it be womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrestling certainly adds its own appeal.
Chickfight is a San Francisco based operation run by Jason Deadrich, and has recently run events in the UK. It features some of the top women wrestlers in the country, and the world for that matter, but the glory of the promotion is a regular tournament that pits eight top womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrestlers in a grueling competition.
In the latest DVD installment, Chickfight V, wrestlers from Neo Ladies Pro Wrestling (Japan) join the fray, including Yoshiko Tamura, Tanny Mouse and Sumie Sakai. Tamura is holder of both the NEO Singles title and the NWA Pacific Title; Mouse is a solid veteran; and Sakai is a baby-face looking hardcore dynamo.
Filling out the tournament seeds are ECW great Jazz, the ubiquitous Allison Danger, West Coast standout Cheerleader Melissa, Chickfight IV winner MsChif and one time TNA star Simply Luscious.
The first thing that stands out is the awesome DVD production values. It simply cannot compare to any other promotion on any level. Augmenting that is the background and statistical information that is often lost in other products. We get a stylized ring entrance for each wrestler, with hometown, vital statistics and even training background.
The graphics nicely set up the matches, and the announce team of Jason Deadrich and Shane Stoli are exactly what is necessary: intelligent, low key and insightful, providing no distractions and lots of interesting commentary. Unlike so many products, it is impossible to watch Chickfight without coming out of it knowing the names of the participants and a wealth of background
The tournament is set up nicely by the graphics, as well as the solid booking.
Since few tournaments in the US hold up to high standards (or low ones, at that!) Chickfight comes across as unique and worthwhile. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m always a sucker for a great tournament: it forces finishes, it provides a great Ã¢â‚¬Å“measuring stickÃ¢â‚¬Â and it demands rematches down the road.
From the basis of watching only one Chickfight tournament, I can see that the promotion excels at the presentation.
Eight fighters is a solid seeding for the tournament, with four first round matches, two semi finals and the championship match.
It was beyond simply interesting how the announce team set up the Ã¢â‚¬Å“uniqueÃ¢â‚¬Â styles of several of the first round matches. The Japanese women had some quirks, and a wide range of reputations. It seems as though the announcing was acknowledging the disparities in talent when talking about someoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“uniqueÃ¢â‚¬Â style. That was apparent with Tanny Mouse, and most notably with Simply Luscious.
The Mouse took on Cheerleader Melissa, the latter having participated in all the first five Chickfight tournaments, but having won none of them. That was a not so subtle hype job. All things considered, this was close to a squash as the promotion is going to put on, as Cheerleader Melissa got to display her talents, aggression and interesting finishing hold Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Curb Stomp Ã¢â‚¬â€œ where she lifts the prone gal up by both arms, and stomps the back of her head.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a lot of margin of error on that one.
The next match featuring that Ã¢â‚¬Å“uniqueÃ¢â‚¬Â style highlights the wrestling talent of ECW/WWEÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jazz. Actually, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take that sarcastically, although most anyone in the ring with Simply Luscious, on that night, would be taken at the world class level just to get a good match going. The announcers had a field day with Luscious, and there must be more to the story. (At one point Luscious looks for a breather, but Jazz drags her back in the ring for more.)
[Another perspective comes from the bonus tag team match, pitting Luscious and Allison Danger against the Japanes duo of Sakai and Mouse. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that great of a match, but it put Simply Luscious in a spotlight as being far more annoying than Allison Danger, and for that, I simply remain amazed.]
Jazz pulled out the victory with the STF, which is both a rarity for her to use a submission hold, and a rarity anymore for Masahiro ChonoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s masterpiece of a submission hold to actually score the win instead of just looking nifty.
Yoshiko Tamura is touted as one of the best womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrestlers in the world, and she gets to shine with Allison Danger.
[Danger, I learned from this DVD, is originally from Canada, which explains her strange Can/Am/Japan T-shirt image and saying. I always thought she was simply from the less hospitable side of Pennsylvania. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love to further reference the Ã¢â‚¬Å“evilÃ¢â‚¬Â Canadian theory that goes back to the Rougeaus, but it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem appropriate at this time.]
Reputations are lived up to in this match.
Tamura works a stiff, aggressive and technically sound style. She has a particularly devastating knee attack, where she rushes the corner and strikes her opponentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head multiple time with her knee. (sort of like DeliriousÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clothesline assault.) Everything Tamura does builds to the match, sets up psychology and comes across utterly believable, dangerous and hard hitting.
Danger, as always to me, has that certain something where she manages to do something inexplicable Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not bad, not crazy, but instills just that sort of Ã¢â‚¬Å“huhÃ¢â‚¬Â type reaction in me. Sometimes its leading the crowd in clapping when sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be better off circling her opponent, sometimes its overselling instead of interacting, other times its just a cloying display of personality.
But Danger does tend to live up to the talent of her opponent, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a match that builds the reputation of the Chickfight tournament.
Which can also be said of the final first round tourney match.
Sumie Sakai is the perennial underdog, due to size and appearance, but as the announcers hype, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a hardcore style wrestler. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty much what you might expect of MsChif, but here she shows another facet of her talent. She plays up the overconfidence of being the defending Chickfight Tournament winner (from iteration 4.0) and sells much of the match, selling the point that Sakai came here to prove herself, and took advantage of someone expecting to sail through to the Semis.
Eventually, and likely at the point where Sakai does her traditional kiss of the opponent, Mschif does wake up and show her stuff. Well, she shows that she can batter her opponent and make her tap out in weird contortionist positioning. Here, Mschif grabs one arm in a hammerlock and the other in a crossface position and ties Sakai up in a pretzel.
What I love about the Tournament format is that is presents an opportunity for pacing, for match-ups and for speculation. Chickfight takes advantage of those opportunities to the fullest: while the first set of matches are merely interesting and worthwhile, they strongly set up the second round, having already established certain storylines, match-ups and expectations.
The semi final round is thus set up for big things, and it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fail to produce.
These arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just matches, they are wars.
Like I said, the opening matches set up the second round, and the second round sets the final match up as even bigger. The pairings are Jazz against MsChif, and Melissa against Yoshiko; the former being a battle of the powerhouse against the last tournament champion, the latter pairing up the most decorated of the contestants against the most rounded wrestler
(who happens to have been in all the tournaments to this point, without winning itÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.)
Jazz vs. MsChif is a well anticipated matchup. Jazz is all about power Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but in the first match she showed she can hang with the faster paced, submission oriented current style of wrestling. The announcers tout her ECW background, and all that plays well against MsChif, who by reputation, move set and attitude has taken those expectations of an ECW wrestler and hyped them up beyond belief.
It comes across as an epic battle, the powerful force against the bendable Ã¢â‚¬â€œbut unbeatable body. This is the kind of give-and-take that makes a great match, and the believability factor is in full effect. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also the kind of match youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d expect in a high profile tournament, where everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s giving it all.
The other semifinal is the hometown favorite, Cheerleader Melissa, against the top of the Japanese food chain in Yoshiko Tamura.
This is another classic, far more technical but no less brutal than the other semi. The big picture is the story, the story of Cheerleader Melissa overcoming odds to make her way to the finals and the tournament championship. The cover alone paints the picture, with Melissa stretched out, reaching for the victory.
But the long term and tournament booking are also flawless and compelling. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wonderful when the matchmaking and the individual efforts line up Ã¢â‚¬Å“correctlyÃ¢â‚¬Â and make the whole more than just a sum of the parts. Each match builds up the tournament, and each round sets up the next.
Melissa overcomes the Ã¢â‚¬Å“best wrestlerÃ¢â‚¬Â in the field, then is pitted against the most powerful and the Ã¢â‚¬Å“biggest nameÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The bonus match, just to digress a moment, is the Ã¢â‚¬Å“consolationÃ¢â‚¬Â match, between Tamura and MsChif, and a great bonus it is. Ten minutes of solid and hard hitting action. In a sense, MsChif has a lot to prove in this match. She works it a little less stiff, a little slower and a lot more technical than IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen of her.
She also pulls out the standing moonsault, and highlights her uncanny flexibility in a series of near-falls, crazy submission attempts and a great ability to take punishment.
It was an Ã¢â‚¬Å“old schoolÃ¢â‚¬Â feel from the opening announcements, and even in what appears to be a huge hangar with few fans, the atmosphere can barely contain the passion.
Of the seven tournament matches and the consolation, the final four are without doubt some of the best wrestling around.
The final match is the culmination and cannot be looked at without watching the entirety of the tournament. Not that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m dissing it, but its what you would expect after seeing some hard-fought matches leading up to this championship match. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a little slower, a little more methodical than the semis, but hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two women who are pounding the heck out of each other, and are telling a match with the utmost of respect for the craft of pro wrestling.
My only criticism is that the finish seemed to come too cheaply, but again, after a long day of wrestling, just winning the match is an effort beyond all efforts, and an accomplishment well worthy of respect.
If I were to choose an Ã¢â‚¬Å“MVPÃ¢â‚¬Â of the tourney, it would be Jazz. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to cast aside the reputation of the WWE and not expect much from a name level talent slogging away at the indy level, but Jazz stepped up and delivered, working a hard pace in three straight matches, carrying someone in the first, and not losing a beat to two of the top gals in the sport today, and two with whom she matched up well with, in terms of style and expectation.
If you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t figure out who won, well, then thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all the more reason to go out and buy the DVD.
Chickfight has a growing reputation and a great roster, as well as the connections to Japan and elsewhere to highlight the best wrestlers in the world. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s booking is top notch, the amount of nonsense is absolutely nil, and the packaging and presentation of the product is something that needs to be emulated by a lot of other indy promotions.
By the way, ChickFight also has a toll-free number for info: The 24-hour toll-free number is 1-888-337-5103
Joe Babinsack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget to bug your comic book shop about Headlocked: Work of Art. Next up is some ROH and potentially an opinion piece on the nature of pro wrestling.
Source: Wrestling Observer