The Wrestling 101 – Match #5
KO-D Tag Team Title Match: Danshoku Dino & Yoshihiko vs. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi ©
May 4, 2009
Okay, so I didn’t really care for this. The premise of the match is that the fast-rising high-flyers Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are defending their tag-team titles against Danshoku Dino, a goofy-looking guy whose attack is centered around trying to kiss and molest his opponents, and Yoshihiko, a male blow-up doll. Yoshihiko is accompanied to the ring by his trainer, a live adult who moves and manipulates the doll at times when the other performers are too far away from Yoshihiko to do so. It’s supposed to be funny, but the humor didn’t really land with me.
In its best moments, the match invites the live audience to take pleasure in one of the great joys of attending wrestling in person: our collective suspension of disbelief. In a world filled with cynicism and isolation, there really is something immensely satisfying about joining a room full of strangers to not just accept the reality of the fictional performance in front of us, but to build that reality in collaboration with the performers and our fellow audience members.
Other, more straight-laced wrestling moves the audience to buy into the show’s reality. We get caught up in the story and lost in the moment, and suddenly we are screaming as loud as our lungs will allow us, straining our vocal cords to give our faves the strength they need to win the big one or exact revenge on a hated foe. By contrast, this match is so self-consciously absurd that it does not quite compel the audience at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall to suspend its disbelief; rather, it very pointedly asks the fans if they’d like to join the performers in a game of make-believe.
I found the match most captivating in the moments where the audience gleefully accepts the invitation to react earnestly to a performance they know to be ridiculously unreal. For instance, they lustily boo Omega for dropkicking Yoshihiko, the blow-up doll, while Yoshihiko was standing on the ring apron minding his own business. In another moment, the crowd claps along as Yoshihiko’s trainer pushes and pulls the doll’s limbs to emulate the stomps that Shawn Michaels used to do to prepare the audience for his Sweet Chin Music superkick. Where pro wrestling once sought to deceive its audience into believing it was legitimate sport, this crowd delights in being in on the joke.
With that said, the match is more interesting conceptually than in its execution. Sure, it’s genuinely impressive that Ibushi and Omega were capable of throwing themselves and the doll around in such a way that some sequences really did feel like an actual pro wrestling match. And certainly, the Golden Lovers are two of the most athletic wrestlers of their generation, and their feats of speed and strength are always a fun little treat.
But the use of the trainer to manipulate the Yoshihiko doll felt like a cop-out that could have been handled more creatively, and it undermined my desire to play along as a viewer. Meanwhile, Dino’s whole schtick (“What if a pro wrestler did damage by making homosexual advances on his straight, male opponents?”) is boring, lowest-common-dominator stuff, even by pro wrestling standards. If your whole character is that you’re horny and gay, you have to at least actually make out with the other guy, instead of very obviously putting your hand between your lips and his! If you can’t be bothered to fully commit to the bit as a performer, why should I commit to it as a viewer?
The match’s conclusion—in which Yoshihiko “dies” and returns as a doll version of The Undertaker—struck me as the sort of humor that is “random” but not quite “absurd.” I wanted I Think You Should Leave, but they gave me Family Guy.
Anyway, I’ll give the caveat that I typically like comedy wrestling less than I like non-comedy wrestling, and the additional caveat that pro wrestling comedy always plays better live than on video. Still, I think the collective suspension of disbelief and audience participation that make this match interesting have been done better elsewhere, such as in Game Changer Wrestling’s Invisible Man matches or Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s slow-motion sequences.
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