I felt like I owed this one to John Watanabe.
You see, in an earlier FMW review I penned, I liberally made fun of Watanabe and his broadcast partner, some goof named Eric Geller.
Watanabe, who was also an announcer for the Urban Wrestling Alliance, emailed me to say that in the original series of FMW DVD's, he and Geller were given a script to read from that was concocted by "Hollywood scriptwriters". It certainly makes sense; no one would voluntarily say half the shit these guys came up with in the original series.
That said, FMW (which stands for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling) came out with a second series of DVD's that had Watanabe and Live Audio Wrestling's Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski -- whom I'm a huge fan of -- calling the action straight, without the aid of ridiculous storylines and unnecessary sexual innuendo.
This particular DVD takes place in late-1999 in between two FMW pay-per-view events. It features ECW talent taking on FMW wrestlers in a series of hardcore matches and the birth of something known as "ECW Japan". I should also point that the Japanese promotion touts itself as the innovator of hardcore wrestling, and much like its American counterpart, has since gone belly-up.
Production Values: Very good. The camera doesn't miss much, despite a lot of action taking place outside of the ring... The arenas are well-lit and the video quality is probably on par with something like NWA TNA… The show starts a recap of their previous "Judgment Day" pay-per-view that has ECW guys like Raven, Tommy Dreamer; an electrified steel cage match; and Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. Damn! I wish I could have found THAT event on DVD…
There are also video packages to introduce some of the feuds, instant replays and voiceover introductions by the commentators. Very, very professional.
Commentary: By playing it straight, Watanabe is much, much better than he was in the first series. Lovranski (who actually plays in a Toronto band called "Bruiser Brody"; how cool is that?) makes for a tremendous announcer, mainly because he comes across like a fan enjoying the action, while describing the moves and psychology to viewers at home.
The only thing I'm not crazy about is when they argue with each other from time to time, just because it sounds incredibly worked to me.
The Action: It varies. The matches involving ECW talent such as Balls Mahoney and Axel Rotten (spelled "Axel Ratton" on the DVD) aren't anything spectacular. There's one match featuring Rotten, er… Ratton, Mahoney, Tajiri and Super Crazy against four FMW stars, which is brief but fun.
The final two matches -- Masato Tanaka & Tetsuhiro Kuroda vs. Mr. Ganusoke and H, and then Tanaka vs. Kuroda -- are fast-paced and mix American-style wrestling with the hardcore flavor FMW is known for.
The Extras: There are several interviews throughout the DVD that do not appear to be scripted. In fact, they are being interviewed by reporters in the locker room about current angles and storylines, which really doesn't happen here in North America. You also have two bonus matches, neither of which are bad at all.
Finally, you have to check out the future releases by FMW distributor Tokyo Pop Video, which features movies such as "Street Fury Gold" and "J Idols". I'm not sure what either film is about, per se, beyond featuring half-dressed women set to music.
Would I buy another FMW video? Possibly. I already have four in my collection (two with the Watanabe-Geller commentary team and two with Watanabe and Lovranski) so I'm not sure how much more Japanese garbage wrestling I need.
But at least this particular volume showed me that they can play it straight and make an entertaining video that doesn't have me fuming by the end of it.
FMW War of Attrition