Three Countries: The Main Styles of Japan, Mexico, and England

Since I am spending a good bit of my time at the moment trying very hard to convince one “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush to deign to give this blog another interview I figure that now is as good a time as any to discuss my fondness for a particular style that he has shown an ever-increasing aptitude in, and that’s the British Lancashire style. This week on TMW…. British Wrestling. Pip Pip, Cheerio, and all that crap. We go across the pond.

Internationally Known: The various styles inherent in Pro Wrestling, and why British Lancashire needs to be revived.

As it goes, there are the three main styles that most American fans are familiar with: Mexican Lucha Libre, Japanese Puroresu, and the amalgam of both styles that is American pro-wrestling. Considering that most of what you see in American wrestling is a mix of the best of the two styles here I’m not going to give you the American listing. In addition, inside those two other macro styles there are various and sundry sub-styles. I will separate them for you now by country and give you the best matches to show you the form.

The traditional style of New Japan called Strong Style. It tends to place high emphasis on matwork, submissions, and stiff strikes. Despite changes over time, it is always called 'strong style’. This is not the same thing as the imitators that have sprung up throughout the United States, the foremost of which is American independent promotion Ring of Honor followed closely by IWA Mid South. They are practicing what is referred to commonly as American Strong Style. Best Example: I’d say…. Takada v. Koshinaka from New Japan in 1986. A high-end contest for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, a belt that would rise to new prominence with the arrival of the “Holy Influx” of juniors in the 1990’s led by this man: http://themajestyofwrestling.blogspot.com/2008/08/japanese-thunder-parable-of-liger.html

All-Japan and Noah’s contribution to this list is in the King’s Road style, a layered approach based on the escalation of maneuvers, lengthy striking duels, and fighting spirit in abundance. Incidentally, the stars of the era’s matches build one on top of another, each encounter requiring the winner to come up with some new attack to keep the loser off of him. For pure drama, there are few styles that convey as much as King’s Road. Best Match: Misawa-Kawada 6-3-94. The graceful, cerebral, and smooth Misawa, who already had a good run as the second Tiger Mask, against the hard-hitting and rough-hewn Kawada, nicknamed “Hard Luck” by the fans for his inability to catch a break.

Dragon Gate and Toryumon, and their stylistic ancestor Michinoku Pro, bring to us lucharesu. A fast-paced blend of the best of Japanese junior heavyweight and Mexican Lucha Libre (and we will get to them later.) The best way to describe the lucharesu style is to imagine blindingly quick mat work and insane aerial tricks, mix them up in a package, and out comes lucharesu. Best Match: 10-10-96. Kaientai DX (Taka Michinoku, Dick Togo, Funaki, Terry Boy, Shiryu 2) v. Gran Hamada, Super Delfin, Gran Naniwa, Yakushiji, and Tiger Mask IV. A 10-man tag from a show called “These Days”. You think a 10-man tag is hard to follow? With this one it moves quick, with non-stop spots and a breathtaking pace still awe-inspiring 12 years after the fact.

UWF, UWF-I, RINGS, and so on. Theirs is a shoot style. More matwork than even Strong Style does, and lots of submissions. Crazy submissions that prompt you to say “Ow Fuckity Ow” like you were Juno McGuff. Best Match: With this, there isn’t a best match. More of a guy whose work you need to seek out. Volk Han.

Lucha Libre:
This is a bit harder to do because of the nature of what Lucha is, sort of a free-form art based entirely around timing. However, we wouldn’t be a blog called the Majesty of Wrestling if we didn’t try so here we go.

Lucha-core. A strange amalgam of traditional junior heavyweight daredevil spots, hardcore brawling, and dashes of the traditional Lucha style. It’s more commonly the style performed by the AAA luchadors. Best Match: Mexican Powers v. Las Hermandad v. Familia de Tijuana v. Teddy Hart\Jack Evans from the most recent triplemania.

Llave-Style. Think holds circled into holds in interesting way. It is maybe the hardest style to master, but the most aesthetically pleasing to this writer’s eye. A heavy influence on what would later be the T2P promotion in Japan. Best Match: Anything Skayde did in CMLL. Seriously go look that guy up. His work is awesome. If you cannot find any of his stuff in Mexico or in Japan, where he was the trainer for Toryumon and Dragon Gate then find his matches against Mike Quackenbush in the states.

Now then to the fun one. The British Lancashire (Or World Of Sport as it is more commonly referred to) style practiced extensively in Europe is in a lot of ways more closely resembling amateur wrestling than anything you will find with the possible exception of the UWF and RINGS stuff. It is entirely based upon wrestling skill and technique in applying a variety of holds, pinning combinations, and locks. Striking is at a minimum, and there are very few “gimmicks”. Out sized personalities do exist, in the awesome heel work of Jim Breaks and the babyface skills of Johnny Saint, but by and large it is about the skill inherent in the men who choose to compete in it. There are five 5-minute rounds in non-title matches with victory being achieved by one person who can get 2 falls by pin, 3 submissions, or 1 knockout. In the title matches there are 10 rounds of 5 minutes each and the same basic rules apply. Any participant who is knocked down to the mat has a 10-count to rise back to his feet and continue the battle.

Another interesting distinction is that the referee does not audibly count the pin falls, meaning that the crowd and the viewing audience is fully expected to figure out on their own steam that the 3-count is occurring.

Largely this style has been consigned to the mists of history and DVD’s, with only a few stars left from the era still capable of performing it. However, the current generation of American independent workers has mastered many of the spots, men like Mike Quackenbush, Chris Hero, Alex Shelley, and the Best Wrestler in the World, Bryan Danielson. If you wondered where Hero’s cravate came from, for instance, it’s in the time he spent studying under the British style.

I hope this has been as fun for you to read as it has been for me to write. Thank you for reading

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