HUSTLE was a Japanese professional wrestling promotion managed by Nobuhiko Takada. HUSTLE can be described as an industry experiment to market the sports entertainment style of professional wrestling in Japan.
Booked primarily by Nobuhiko Takada and Yuji Shimada, the promotion's basic premise pits the babyface, or good guy, HUSTLE faction whose goal is to “defend the industry”, against Generalissimo Takada's heel, or bad guy, Monster Faction, whose mission is to destroy the sport. Unlike the traditional puroresu, the company emphasizes melodrama and caricatures over realism and athleticism. The group once maintained a close affiliation with mixed martial arts promoters PRIDE Fighting Championships when both were owned by Dream Stage Entertainment, or DSE.
Fans in the U.S. consider HUSTLE to be an answer to Takada's original wrestling style, the serious shoot style, having lost its popularity in Japan as a result of the UWFi vs. NJPW feud and the rise of PRIDE and K-1.
As of 04/24/07, Hustle's ownership group (made up of former DSE employees) became "Hustle Entertainment" and former Kami no Puroresu editor Noboru Yamaguchi (who was part of the original Hustle brain trust) became President of the new organization. The group is still running their business at the old Dream Stage Entertainment offices, which became the PRIDE Worldwide Holding offices.
Earlier in 2007, HUSTLE ran a storyline where General Takada bought out HUSTLE for 1 billion Monster dollars and that everyone within the HUSTLE army became part of the Takada Monster Army. Some wrestlers received new gimmicks, like Naoya Ogawa turning into "Celeb" Ogawa, where he acted like a celebrity. The storyline was in response to DSE's bleak future due to financial troubles caused by yakuza scandals; DSE would eventually close doors after PRIDE Fighting Championships was officially bought out by Zuffa (the organization that owns UFC).
In July 2009, the leader of the Monster Army, Generalissimo Takada was "killed" when a new enemy by the name of "King RIKI" (played by actor/singer Riki Takeuchi) showed up at the "HUSTLE AID 2009" event and repelled one of Takada's lasers, sending it back towards him and wounding him. The following show the Monster Army was disbanded, as the direction of the company started to change.
In August 2009, President Noburo Yamaguchi stated that HUSTLE would be entering a new era. Straying away from the over the top storylines & gimmick-oriented "Fighting Opera" style that made them popular, to a more traditional wrestling "Professional Fighting" style.
Hustle president Nobuo Yamaguchi announced on October 28 that the promotion was folding. He made the announcement that they were out of money, and could no longer pay the staff and the wrestlers. He said that the scheduled 10/29 show at Korakuen Hall was canceled, as are all the rest of the shows on the schedule. Since Nobuhiko Takada left the promotion as the top heel, interest had gone way down. Many of the shows were before small crowds, and most of those crowds were papered. While nobody would say so publicly, they were behind on paying a lot of the wrestlers, and the demise of the promotion has been expected for the last couple of months. Yamaguchi said his goal was to eventually bring the promotion back.
In the beginning of 2010 some of Hustle's biggest names announced that they would be forming a new promotion, SMASH, intended to replace the dead promotion. SMASH held its first show on March 26, 2010. After a six-month hiatus, HUSTLE held two shows on April 30 and May 30, 2010. After another four-month break, the promotion held two more shows in October.
Smash was founded in December 2009 following the folding of Hustle. In the fall of 2009 HUSTLE ran into financial problems that led to several show cancellations. After a planned restructuring and restarting of the promotion failed, a number of officials and wrestlers decided to start a new project. SMASH held its first show on March 26, 2010. SMASH tries to chart a different course. There are three brenches: Pro-Wrestling, Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing. The Pro-Wrestling is led by Yoshihiro Tajiri while Akira Shoji is responsible for the MMA branch. Yuji Shimada leads the overall supervision of the whole project. From the once great HUSTLE squad, meanwhile, not much is left. Only Hajime Ohara, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Akira Shoji and KG ("Karate Girl"), which competes now under the named Shuri, were present at the press conference, was presented at the SMASH of the public.
Since 2010 SMASH has had an active exchange of wrestlers with the Finnish Fight Club Finland promotion.
|Hustle Hardcore Hero Championship||Tadao Yasuda|
|Hustle Super Tag Team Championship|| Team 3D|
(Brother Ray and Brother Devon)