Justin Knipper writes about CIMA, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman wrestling for DEFY. It’s #StrongHearts all over the world.
They spent the first half of January wrestling almost every day in Japan. A week or so later, they traveled from Tokyo to Mexico and spent a few days working with IWRG. By the time they had made it to DEFY Wrestling in Seattle, WA last Friday, it was the end of the month and #StrongHearts had wrestled on three continents.
“Tonight is Seattle, and then tomorrow is Philly, then Denver.” Before rushing back to the merchandise table after the main event, CIMA and T-Hawk explained to me their zigzagging 2020 across North America.
“We love this crowd because of the energy. They’re always so hot!” CIMA was enthusiastic as he described his experiences wrestling for DEFY. He and his mentees, T-Hawk and El Lindaman, had only minutes prior wrapped their semi-main event bout, a six-man tag against AEW’s Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt alongside West Coast luchador, Super Panda.
The match itself was a bit short, possibly because of an audible called due to an unexpected Super Panda knee injury midway through, but it was clearly tons of fun for fans at a very-sold-out Washington Hall.
Hey guys, so last week one of my best friends @realsuperpanda tore his quad while wrestling in Seattle and is going to require surgery. Wrestling and stunts are his life!!! Let’s help our brother out so he can get surgery ASAP!!! ❤️🐼https://t.co/c1jruj2ibp
— Wera Loca (@TheTayaValkyrie) February 4, 2020
Even before the bout, Seattle fans were sold on #StrongHearts. Noticeable is CIMA’s in-ring charisma — it’s inherent, and industry-educated crowds like “the Defyance” as they’re called, pick up on those intangibles immediately. And it’s something special he and few others have that only seems to come with experience.
It was after the dissolution of UWA when CIMA visited Mexico to train seriously. “Actually, I started in 1994, with Dos Caras.” It’s been 26 years since CIMA began training in Mexico with legendary luchador, Dos Caras. “Alberto [el Patron] was there, too.”
Much of what CIMA learned in Mexico early on defines who he is today, who we see onscreen. In 1999, it was in Toryumon, Ultimo Dragon’s hybrid lucha libre-meets-puroresu dojo, where CIMA began to blossom into an international superstar. It was there where fans worldwide began to notice he and the original Toryumon crew, who at the time were putting on what were then mind-blowing performances, often with CIMA’s Crazy MAX stable as perpetual show-stealers. At this point, Dragon had become so confident in CIMA’s ability that he got CIMA booked on a few preliminary spots in WCW in 1998.
CIMA’s experience is paying off now in that he taught himself how to work anywhere in the world, in any style, and he excels in it. He described what it’s like working in other countries, on how to behave in the ring when, say, most of the audience is drunk, or some just aren’t reacting to a match. CIMA has learned how to get over wherever he goes, on his terms, and the loose philosophy he imparts on his #StrongHearts kouhai, T-Hawk and El Lindaman.
T-Hawk and Lindaman have adopted the same work ethic and willingness to show the world their vision of pro wrestling. With pop star looks and the ability to transition from style to style with ease makes T-Hawk a top prospect for any major company going forward, on any continent. He’s is a careful listener, always adjusting to the crowd, never forcing his act on them, which allows him to adapt to almost any situation, regardless of how outrageous it might seem on paper. He and Marko Stunt’s work together early in the six-man was some of the best stuff in the match.
The 25-year-old El Lindaman, only five years into his career, is also another serious player to keep an eye on, not just because of his technical skill at such a young age—I’d argue he could tear the house down with any of NJPW’s current crop of Young Lions—but because of his passion for pro wrestling. I was told how excited he was buying wrestling shirts at the merchandise tables before the show. Despite the brutal travel schedule and the hard-hitting style #StrongHearts employ, El Lindaman is far from jaded, and with such an oversaturated market right now, it speaks to the strength of his character.
“We want to show the world #StrongHearts’ wrestling style, as much as possible.”
On goals for 2020, #StrongHearts seem like they’ll continue on their breakneck schedule across continents. T-Hawk and El Lindaman are hungry for more dates and experience while CIMA works alongside them as much as he can outside of his AEW dates, which he explained takes precedent over other independent shows due to the nature of his AEW contract.
Their flight to Philadelphia for MLW’s Fightland event was soon. Once the interview wrapped, #StrongHearts were back to the grind and at the merchandise table in the back of the venue, typical of the grassroots handshake-style selling approach often seen at Japanese wrestling events. Not bothered, nor looking very tired, the three exited with smiles and confidence in jobs well done.