I usually draw the pictures for this weekly publication, but this week they’ve asked me to write something instead. That means today’s article is about costumed, masked wrestling — specifically “Kaiju Big Battel.” For the uninitiated, “Kaiju-Eiga” is a film genre centered around gigantic monsters. It started in Japan with the film “Gojira” in 1954 and its title character Godzilla; although it can be applied to a fairly wide variety of city-crushing monster films.
“But Alex, you inglorious bastard,” you may wonder, “what does this have to do with masked wrestling?” Well, hypothetical segue-prone questioner, I’m glad you asked.
“Kaiju Big Battel” is a blend of luchador-style masked-wrestling mixed with the kaiju aesthetic. Originally the product of a Boston-based performance group back in 1996, the act developed a cult following and spun off into a series of recurring events with matches being held around the East Coast. The fights themselves are held in rings adorned with styrofoam props that imitate buildings and skyscrapers giving the fighters the suitably gigantic stature fitting of kaiju creatures. And then there are the wrestlers themselves.
A large component of wrestling is the history and mythos behind the characters. Especially in Lucha Libre, the masks and personas they embody are one of the fundamental tenants of the sport — so much so that the Internet assures me that removal of an opponent’s mask during a match can constitute grounds for disqualification. There is a very similar iconography among kaiju creatures. Monsters like Godzilla and Rodan that become fan favorites will appear over multiple films, sometimes as enemies and others as allies. The flavor of the characters is everything and kaiju brings that in spades.
The kaiju rogues gallery is split among four major factions, with a fifth being retired characters. The main antagonists are the monsters of “Dr. Cube’s Posse”; this includes (but is not limited to) a sentient pile of sludge and toxic waste, a large demonic red monkey, an interdimensional Nazi space-slug and an individual who appears to be half-tree. Cube himself is a disfigured surgeon who wears a cubic mask with a disgruntled face painted on the front. Polar opposite to Cube’s army are the heroes, such as “Silver Potato” (fairly close to what it sounds like), “American Beetle” (a boxer in a bug mask with American Flag trunks), a cardboard box robot and a giant dust bunny. Besides these there is a group of insect-themed wrestlers aptly called “Team Space Bug,” and a series of rogue unaligned fighters which include several sea urchin-like monsters, a can of chicken noodle soup that wields a butcher’s knife and something called “Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder.”
I managed to convince a friend to attend one of these events a few years ago. The venue was right off of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, N.Y. We got there a bit early and were wandering around when a man in an anthropomorphic plantain suit came up and gave us stickers. The highlights of the afternoon included a wrestler in a vaguely hornet-themed costume hitting a mutant toucan over the head with a box of honeycomb-shaped cereal bits and a woman with a silver dress, butterfly wings and a red Power Ranger-type helmet whacking a zombie plantain with a cartoonishly large sledgehammer. There was also a point when a cyclopean octopus monster dove off of the top of the caged ring onto a prone disco spaceman. That was a thing that happened.
“But Alex you colossus of counterculture,” you might interject, “why should I care about all of this?” Well, disembodied voice in the reader’s head, that is a good point you raise. As unsatisfying as this will sound, the answer is you might not. “Kaiju Big Battel” has a weird niche appeal. It’s a community that spawned out of a love of giant monster movies and cheesy science-fiction. It’s all about implicit rivalries, ridiculous costumes, poor translations and the desire to stomp around like a tyrannosaurus. I grew up on a steady TV diet of “Mystery Science Theatre”; satirized costumed monster brawling is my national pastime. If the phrase “space bug of liquid fire” doesn’t stir some sort of primordial cogs in your brain, then there’s little I can do to help you, but for everyone else, there’s kaiju.
Kurland is a member of the class of 2013.