Bradcat’s Place Focus… Pro Wrestling Bar Count 2.99

The referee’s hand comes down to the mat. “One!” the audience shouts, “Two!” they move to the edge of their seats, “Thr… Ohhh!” The three count is cut short as the wrestler on the screen kicks out in the nick of time.

I wrote an article last year about my love for professional wrestling, especially Japanese wrestling. But for anyone who enjoys televised sports, you’ll know there’s nothing better than watching with friends. There’s also nothing better than watching said sports with a drink in your hand too. Today I introduce you to “Pro Wrestling Bar Count 2.99” which combines the hobbies of drinking and professional wrestling.

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Located in the heart of Osaka in Minami (between Nipponbashi and Shinsaibashi) Count 2.99 is a cozy bar (adorned with plastic figures of wrestling legends) which can seat about 8 people, and a few tables which can seat a further 12. There’s also an “Announcer table” which is designed for just two people to fulfil their desire to be a commentary team during live events. For special events, some of the tables are removed and more chairs are brought in allowing for around 30 people in total.

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The main screen behind the bar

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The rest of the bar is strewn with wrestling memorabilia, wrestling belts, standees, and posters for historic and upcoming events. The owner (Koji) has spent many years adding unique pieces to his bar, creating a one of a kind space. Even the entrance to the bar is sectioned off with guard rails just like a real wrestling event.

Aside from just being a bar, Count 2.99 also supplies tickets to events in Osaka from NJPW to smaller indie shows. For those people who hate the ticket ordering system in Japan, you can simply purchase your tickets from the bar, they are usually better seats than you’d probably expect too.

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On the right side, there is the polaroid wall. This features thousands of wrestlers who have visited over the years, with each one having been signed and dated. Some of the wrestlers have since retired, whilst others continue to wrestle to a world-wide audience including…

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asuka-triple-h.jpgWWE’s current NXT Women’s champion Asuka (Formally known as Kana)

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The bar has also hosted many special events for these wrestlers including birthday parties which fans are allowed to attend too. Usually when a wrestling promotion visits Osaka, most of the wrestlers stop by for a drink. Only the other week I was sat at the bar after finishing work, and Rina Yamashita (Who wrestles for Pro Wave, Ice Ribbon, OZ academy, REINA, and a host of other companies) walked in, and pulled up a stool just next to me. She had no idea that I was a fan of female professional wrestling, so she was surprised when she realised I knew who she was!

img_1396There are copies of Weekly Pro-Wrestling for people to pick up and talk about too.

Soft drinks start from ¥600 and cocktails are around ¥800. Snacks are available assorted nuts will set you back ¥600 and some soft noodles are just ¥900 (Prices were correct at the time of writing) You can check their website for a full list of food and drinks. Be aware that like most Japanese bars, there is a seating charge! Many foreigners aren’t used to this concept.

Overall, Koji has created an amazingly fun bar, which every professional wrestling fan needs to visit if they come to Osaka. The best part is, I’m going to be helping Koji to learn English as he’s expressed that he wants more western fans to visit. So please visit the bar and exchange wrestling stories with him!

Links:
Count 2.99 Website
Count 2.99 Twitter

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Japanese Pro Wrestling

If there’s one thing the Japanese people are known for, it’s their all or nothing attitude. Every Japanese person I’ve met strives to be the best at what they do. I’m a huge fan of professional wrestling, and of all the companies and promotions out there, nothing is more impressive than the product that comes from Japan because of this mentality.

For those not too savvy with wrestling, I’m sure you all have some sort of distant memory of watching a wrestling match “back in the day”, probably staring Hulk Hogan or The Rock. The flamboyant entrances, the huge stadiums, the roaring crowds and the huge swinging punches. Japanese pro wrestling feels like an entirely different world from what you imagine pro wrestling in America to be like. Let’s take a look at some of those differences…

The Crowd

All too often on televised American wrestling you’ll hear a crowd erupt when the entrance music of their favourite wrestler hits, followed by a chant in unison for that superstar. Throughout the match, there will be chants for the wrestler, or chants for their finishing move. In Japan however, this doesn’t really happen.

The Japanese crowds are infamous for being deathly silent as they get absorbed into the match. The only times they’ll break that silence is during the entrances, and during a chain of moves(Chain wrestling being a sequence of back and forth traditional moves such as chin locks, reversals, take downs e.t.c.) This is usually followed by a sharp round of applause before snapping rapidly back into silence.

Take a look at this amazing compelation of moves by Kota Ibushi

The Style

First, take a look at this short clip of KENTA (Now known as Hideo Itami in WWE) going to town on Bobby Fish

Looks painful, right? Well, you’re right. In Japan, this is known as “Strong Style” whereby the kicks and punches are done with force, for that high impact sound, and realism. Yes, they’re really hitting each other. Obviously exchanges like this can’t happen too frequently, otherwise both men would be broken by the end of the match. However throughout the match, in-between the high flying moves and big suplexes, moments like this help make the match ups more believable.

There’s a large focus on traditional Greco-Roman wrestling too, with many bouts between the older wrestlers having a very strong grappling undertone to them. The submission holds are loose enough as to not seriously injure their opponent, yet at the same time done with some force to make it look painful. In America (especially on WWE programming) these traditional holds are held very loosely, and it’s up to the opponent receiving the hold to “sell” the move as best as possible.

This strong style is the reason why Japanese wrestlers are heralded as being some of the toughest men and women in the industry. Mainly because they can take one hell of a beating.

The Chops

Kobashi and his infamous chops

The open hand chop is synonymous with wrestling legend Ric Flair. Whenever a wrestler lashes an open palm chop across his opponent’s chest, it’s usually met with a unison “Whoooooo!” from the fans (Flair’s signature taunt) However in Japan, the chop has somewhat of an initiation ceremony feel to it. As you saw in the video above, Kobashi and Kojima barely exchange any other wrestling move, than the open hand chop. It’s almost a test of endurance and follows on from the other point I touched on with the strong style. You only have to look at the athletes chest after the match to see there’s nothing “fake” about being blasted across the chest with a tree trunk palm.

The Stipulations

Japanese wrestling has slightly different rules to those seen in the west. It’s common on American TV wrestling to see a wrestler thrown to the outside area, and being given to the count of 10 to get back into the ring, or risk being counted out and losing the match. In Japan, these counts last up to 20 as they add more tension, and also give the wrestlers time to perform huge diving moves from the ring to the outside.

Similarly, a lot of wrestling promotions have time limits, with wrestling matches ending in a draw. This is practically unheard of in the west, where there normally has to be a clear winner. In this indie wrestling match from “Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling” (founded by one of my favourite female wrestlers, Emi Sakura) we see the match end in a draw. However things take a comedic twist as the referee decides to pick a winner via a game of Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors) luckily my other favourite female wrestler Riho comes out on top!

On the flip side of this very cute exchange, there’s the infamous Japanese “Death Match”. These are normally absolutely barbaric and sometimes difficult to watch. They can consist of the ropes being replaced with barbed wire, and weapons are usually legal. Sometimes thumbtacks are used and scattered across the ring, or tables are wrapped in barbed wire and set on fire. It’s almost like watching a “Saw” movie.

Look at this Piranha Death Match from 1996

Or this Japanese Death Match which featured on American TV with Sabu and Terry Funk

The Theatrics

Forgetting the extreme matches mentioned previously, the focus here is wrestling. Not sports entertainment, or returning to the ring to promote a new movie. Pure wrestling at it’s finest. The only theatrics you’ll see in Japanese professional wrestling will be the pyrotechnics during some of the big superstar’s entrances. Even then, they are minimal, with some Japanese legends having nothing but their entrance music playing. The wrestlers let their “fighting spirit” tell the story, rather than silly gimmicks, or ridiculous Jerry Springer-esque storylines.

That’s not to say that Japanese wrestling doesn’t have it’s ridiculous moments from time to time. As western wrestlers have slowly started to make more of an impact in Japan, we’re starting to see gimmicks claw their way into the matches, which take away some of the purity of the sport. This makes for the western wrestlers to become the perfect heels (the bad guys) as the Japanese see them “infecting” the sport with their outside interferences and use of weapons when the referee is distracted.

However it does also allow for ridiculous match ups like the following two which feature one of my favourite athletes from Canada who is making waves in the Japanese wrestling world, Kenny Omega. Here we see him take on 9 year-old Haruka (who is luckily saved by the 3 minute time limit before Omega hits his finishing move)

Respect

At the heart of these brutal chops, barbed wire matches, strong style kicks, and ridiculous matches with dolls lies the important factor of respect. Being able to take multiple chops to the chest is an initiation, coming out of a barbed wire match gives you battle scars for the rest of your life, taking a strong kick shows your toughness, and wrestling an inanimate object shows that you can carry a match by yourself and STILL look fantastic.

That’s what Japanese wrestling is about. Being the best at what you do, and always trying to better yourself to make it to the grand stage of Japanese wrestling; Wrestle Kingdom…

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Japanese Pro Wrestling – Emi Sakura

For those that know me, you will know I’m a big fan of pro wrestling. A few months ago at a local Alternative Wrestling World event, I was witness to female Japanese wrestling star Emi Sakura take on “Portugal’s Perfect Athlete” Shanna.

An amazing performance from both women which still holds my “match of the year” title. The bout was a last minute addition to the card, as one female wrestler had to pull out. Luckily Emi Sakura was in the middle of a UK tour and was free on that date. The match was totally unexpected and was incredible to watch. Later in the night, former WWE and TNA star Brian Kendrick would headline the event, but it seems people were still hyped up by this women’s match. I was able to meet Emi after her performance, and speak to her in my terrible broken Japanese.



Emi’s debut match was in August, 1995 at the age of 18 when she was accepted into the International Wrestling Association of Japan. She went on to win her first championship, the AWF’s World Women’s Championship against Luna Vachon. Since then, she’s gone on to win countless women’s titles, tag-team titles, and intercontinental titles from wrestling federations as AJW, IWA, JWP, NEO, and EVE. She currently lives in Thailand and has launched her own women’s wrestling school. You can follow Emi Sakura on Twitter, here.

Check out the video below, and have a look for other matches featuring Emi Sakura on YouTube.


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Update:

Emi Sakura was kind enough to repost this blog post on her Twitter account. It seems as though she is happy with what I wrote. (^_^)