Sorry I haven’t been updating Panda Power-Plex recently. There just haven’t been many new matches to review. I was considering reviewing a bunch of older Singapore Pro Wrestling matches just to keep things moving, but since the National Wrasslin’ League has been producing so much content, I’ve been pretty busy keeping up with it at Hook the Leg, Man! and haven’t had as much time for PP-P.
There have been some significant developments in Chinese wrestling, however, and perhaps the most notable has been the split between the China Wrestling Federation and their champion and co-founder, Gao Yuan. A couple months ago, Gao took his Fighting Spirit Championship belt and left the company, bringing a few other wrestlers with him. He set up shop in Shenyang in northeast China and started a new group called We Love Wrestling (WLW). Luckily for me, Shenyang happens to be my homebase these days, so when I heard the news, I knew I’d get to see some wrestling sooner or later…
We Love Wrestling in Shenyang (May 20, 2017)
WLW held three shows in Shenyang last weekend, and I was able to attend the second one. It was held in the Red Star Macalline furniture mall on Saturday evening, and I was able to head over there after work (though I underestimated the time it would take and ended up being a few minutes late). I had to walk halfway around the building to find the right entrance; the rest of the place looked like it was closed. But when I came across a whole bunch of exercise bikes surrounded by flashing lights and loud music, a girl came up to me, handed me a flier (seen above), and told me the matches were happening right inside, so I headed in.
The set-up was pretty cool. The ring was right at the bottom of a pair of escalators in a big open space, and while most of the spectators stood around ringside, several people preferred to watch from the first floor. The video screens above the ring made it easier for them to see the action clearly, I’m sure. The wrestlers didn’t enter from the escalators (as they have in some other mall shows I’ve seen online) but from a low stage on the opposite side that looked kind of like it should be used for weddings. Some audience members sat there, too, so wrestlers had to walk around them to get out.
The first match (unless I missed one by being late) saw Liu Xing (Shooting Star) take on Lenbai. Lenbai worked as the aggressor and controlled a lot of the match. They fought on the floor a little. I don’t really remember a lot besides what’s in the video below. Liu Xing kicked out of Lenbai’s turning fisherman’s buster. Lenbai missed a move off the top but rolled through, then avoided a shiranui, but not long later, they did pretty much the exact same sequence, and Liu Xing hit the shiranui to get the pin. They shook hands afterwards. Solid stuff.
Next was a tag team match with Englishmen Big Sam and Rupert Holmes against America’s Ash Silva and China’s Qin Yi. Early on, Holmes was calling Sam “Baba,” which is Mandarin for “Dad,” and throughout the match, he acted fairly childish. He pointed out how smart and naughty he was when he cheated, and he kept trying (and failing) to copy big moves. Sam was a mostly immovable giant whom the babyfaces needed to team up on to topple. Ash was the Ricky Morton taking most of the beating until he was able to dodge Holmes’s axe handle, dropkick both heels down, and make the hot tag. Qin Yi showed some fancy striking and flying-ability, but then he almost hurt himself on a suicide dive (Sam barely caught him; check it out in the video below). Holmes wanted to try a dive, too, but Ash crotched him on the top rope, and then the good guys hit him with a Hart attack. But then Sam came back in a dropped Ash with a jackknife powerbomb to get the win. He had to carry a limp Holmes to the back, though. There were a couple awkward points, but due to the character work and the coherent story, I think this was my favorite match of the night.
The main event was a title match. Fighting Spirit Champion Gao Yuan defended against Hong Kong Wrestling Federation regular Bitman. This one went back and forth and was a bit more hard-hitting at times. By traditional standards, Gao would be considered the heel since he was more aggressive and did some choking in the ropes, but the way he played to the crowd and the positive response they gave actually made him more of a babyface. Bitman didn’t hardly play to the crowd at all, so despite having some good offense besides those German suplexes where he just dropped Gao onto one shoulder), he came across to me as just a guy for Gao to beat. Gao beat him up on the floor in front of me and smiled into my camera, but unfortunately, I was experimenting with different features at the time and didn’t end up getting a good shot. Gao retained his title in the end with a sitout powerbomb.
So there were only three matches (which I don’t think is uncommon for this type of event), but it was a fun time. One thing that really became apparent to me as early as the first match was how little the crowd reacted to strikes and chops. In the U.S., the U.K., Canada, etc., chops tend to elicit woos from the crowd, and strike exchanges might get gasps or alternating boos and yays. Here, they got nothing unless they were loud and blunt (like Gao’s running dropkick). Similarly, whenever a babyface would pound the mat to try to get the crowd clapping, he’d maybe get a smattering of applause rather than the rallying claps that he’d want. It’s certainly going to be a challenge for Chinese wrestlers going forward to train audiences to react in certain ways, especially at these public mall shows where a lot of the people are just passerby.
After the last match ended, I got to meet Big Sam, Rupert Holmes, Ash, and Lenbai. Being my primary contact in the world of Chinese wrestling, Sam was the one who’d told me about the WLW shows in the first place, so it was nice to finally meet him in person. Ash was also nice enough to not beat me up for giving some of his matches negative reviews in the past, so I consider him an upstanding gentleman. We even took a couple photos so everyone could see just how freaking skinny I am compared to the wrestlers.
The first and third shows of the weekend were both held in the same bar, and the fact that they were both held so late at night prevented me from attending them. Word is that the ring at the bar was really short, though, so I’m glad I got to see the show with the normal-looking ring. Hopefully the next time they come around, it’ll be on a weekend I’m off work and I can go to everything. But the three matches I saw were well worth the trip across town. Thanks, WLW!
Here are the best clips I took from the show edited into one video:
Unfortunately, I missed the finish of the tag match, but here’s the powerbomb from Big Sam’s Instagram.
If you have access to China’s YouTube knock-off, YouKu, you can watch some higher quality highlights from the whole weekend here.