The notion that wrestling is staged isn't a new one. Even hardcore WWE fans who lived in denial for years that their heroes were just part of a pre-determined storyline designed to yank on their emotions like a Franciscan monk ringing a church bell on Christmas have accepted that fact.
Kaiju Big Battel (sic) embraces this fact but they take it even more seriously and over the top to the point that it becomes even funnier and more entertaining than "traditional" wrestling. They put that fact in a giant dust bunny costume or dress it as a baked potato with legs, inject it with a heavy dose of neon-colored anabolic steroids and set it loose in the ring before a crowd of screaming fans.
"We have a company catchphrase that we say at every show," says Brentt Harshman who plays Kaiju's ringside announcer and network host Slice O'Reilly. "Monsters are real and danger can happen."
The Boston-born league pits insane, mutated monsters like a giant patriotic insect called the American Beetle and a Tabasco red simian called Hell Monkey against each other in a real wrestling ring filled with tiny skyscrapers that rarely survive the match. Just like other wrestling leagues, they have complex storylines, heroes and villains with shifting alliances and rivalries and wrestlers who know how to pull off an impressive flying piledriver from the top of a turnbuckle.
Tonight, Kaiju Big Battel is bringing its cast of high-flying, high-kicking combatants to Eddie Deen's Ranch on South Lamar Street for its "Content of Champions" showcase.
And no, this isn't an April Fools' joke.
Named after Japan's iconic genre of giant monster films, Kaiju started in the late '90s as an art project that mutated beyond its original form into a beast that could not be contained. Kaiju's founder and creator Randy Borden started the concept as a student at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where he spent an entire year making the first of many kaiju costumes to come.
"I'd been a big fan of Ultraman as a kid and this brought it all back," Borden said by email. "Creating the kaiju, it was immensely enjoyable, so I decided to make some more. I soon had three kaiju suits and Halloween was just around the corner. The Revolving Museum, a local gallery, was planning its annual Halloween fundraiser [and I] had connections there. Somehow, we ended up on stage, beating each other up amongst a hastily constructed city made out of cardboard. The crowd loved it."
Borden's school heard about the project and asked him and his wrestling cronies to stage a show as the department entertainment for a symposium. The show helped him further expand his league and turn the experience into a live-action wrestling showdown complete with a ring and a large roster of fighters.
"I cranked out several costumes with stuff I had lying around," Borden said. "A pair of scrubs, a child's wolverine mask, Bananas in Pyjamas heads I'd made for Halloween, a California Raisin costume and a bootleg Power Rangers mask quickly became Dr. Cube, American Beetle, the Plantain Twins, Silver Potato and Powa Ranjuru."
A year later, Borden took a trip to Japan where he got a rare opportunity to see the studio that made his favorite childhood hero thanks to a security guard who let him pass through the gate and the only American executive who took him around for a tour.
"He took me on a tour of the place while I made mental notes on how things were made, while snapping pics," Borden wrote. "I was close in my construction techniques but I learned more that day than I'd managed in the last four years of experimenting. The way I build the suits has changed very little since that time."
The goal of Kaiju Big Battel isn't to parody the concept of professional wrestling. Instead, they hijack the concept to create their own, unique form of wrestling entertainment.
"It's definitely a wrestling show," says Harshman. "The monsters wrestle and do flippy stuff and it definitely has the theatrics of wrestling too, but there's more emphasis on comedy and storytelling than athletics because the monster suits are pretty big and pretty heavy.
"I would say we're not trying to make fun of wrestling," Harshman adds. "We're not trying to parody wrestling because a lot of the guys we work with are professional wrestlers. So we're definitely not making fun of wrestling and if we are, it's more an elbow to the ribs."
The basic storyline revolves around a mad scientist called Dr. Cube who brings giant monsters to Earth that are hellbent on destroying the planet's major metropolises and the heroes who fight them to protect humanity. The heroes and Cube's minions mix it up with other sub-sects of the league like the Space Bugs, the rogues or "free agents" as Harshman describes them.
Tonight's match will feature appearances by fighters like the half-gerbil/half toucan Tucor, the hard fighting breakfast treat French Toast, the rogue soup entrée Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle and Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder who is "as his name suggests," says Harshman.
Each match is overseen by the Australian official Referee Dundee.
"I try to stay out of the way because they are huge monsters and destroying cities, but if I have to I'll put my foot down and get in the middle of it," Dundee says. "I'm the voice of order. I have to make sure things stay under control and within the rules of regulations of the Kaiju Commission."
Kaiju Big Battel also strives to give the crowd a clean show that kids can enjoy without causing them to come up with some awkward questions for their parents after each show.
"Last Saturday night, we had a show at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey and afterwards, I'm having little kids come up wanting to take pictures and give me a hug," Harshman says. "That's so rewarding, entertaining the kids."
Even though the combatants are dressed as giant monsters and stomping on cardboard buildings, Dundee says they also pride themselves on putting together a wrestling experience with a variety of entertainment elements that can fly just as high as any reckless stuntman who's willing to risk a spinal injury for the fans.
“I love working with the traditional professional wrestling," Dundee says. "This allows me to get every kind of element out of it I could possibly want because of how over-the-top it becomes. I get to be over-the-top with it … I just love being a part of this.”
Kaiju Big Battel's Content of Champions goes down at 11:55 p.m. tonight at Eddie Deen's Ranch, 944 S. Lamar St. Tickets are $25 at the door.