And now for the final part of my All Star Dream Slam review! Last time, we’d only had a couple of ****+ matches- here’s where the show gets GOOD.
Up next: probably the greatest stretch of great matches any show has ever had. This show (taking place on the 25th anniversary of AJW and intended to be a super-show as a result- thanks Manjimortal!) is one of wrestling’s legends for a reason.
“You dare be physically attractive in MY ring? Prepare to suffer.”
MAYUMI OZAKI & CUTIE SUZUKI (JWP) vs. DOUBLE INOUE (AJW):
* The aptly-named Cutie Suzuki is basically Japan’s “Kawaii Culture” as a person, looking like an adorable, tiny teenager in a flashy white & gold outfit with a tassled skirt. Ozaki herself would become one of Joshi’s top heels, and was at this point pretty much Toyota Lite, being herself phenomenal, despite being itty-bitty- she’s dressed like a tiny red Big Bird, here. Double Inoue are comprised of two unrelated women- Kyoko Inoue is the Ultimate Warrior if he was using AJPW moves, and Takako Inoue is in that weird zone where she wasn’t herself a top star, but was good enough to hang with anyone. Kyoko’s a high-spirited, bulky woman who wears tassles and Warrior-esque facepaint, while Takako is is a long-haired model-type (pretty much an “Ideal Japanese Woman”, being smiling, demure and wearing her hair long with “hime cut” bangs), wearing a white & blue two-piece outfit with big kneepads.
Both teams are at the peak of their promotion’s tag scenes (Double Inoue being nigh-unstoppable), so this one will be interesting. And full of all the tassles. Ozaki’s outfit is so bright on this low-quality tape it looks like she’s going Super Saiyan. The match starts out taunting and mean, and just gets uglier- Kyoko hits the world’s longest Giant Swing on Cutie- forty goddamn revolutions! She even gets tired halfway through before powering up for the last bunch! Cutie fights like an underdog (I mean, she was made for that), while Ozaki is oddly dominant for someone who’s 5’0″. Seeing someone named “Cutie Suzuki” using dirty tactics and hitting Bridging Dragon Suplexes has to be seen to be appreciated. Kyoko eats five Flying Double-Foot Stomps in a row and the teams just start trading bombs about ten minutes into it, hitting increasingly-crazy stuff (Sitout Powerbombs, Bridging Suplexes, etc.). Kyoko keeps failing to hit the Niagara Driver (Sitout Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb), so Takako Super Chokeslams Ozaki and then they basically “Doomsday Device” the two moves together, murdering Ozaki dead for the obvious pin (16:44). Jesus Christ that’s a devastating team move (called “The Midnight Hour”, I guess?).
The match was very good- I was oddly the least impressed in the Live Watch, but maybe it’s because Double Inoue seemed like they were just a little too dominant? The JWP team had some good stuff going, but it ended up with the AJW team hitting tons of death moves on them until they couldn’t answer. Still very, very good.
Rating: ****1/2 (Meltzer gave it the full monty)
Pictured: the most “Pro Wrestling” look of all time.
AJA KONG & BULL NAKANO (AJW) vs. HARLEY SAITO & EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW):
* Aja & Bull are the Monster Heels of Monster Heel Joshi, so this one is not exactly in doubt. Aja is squat, half-black, and wears facepaint, wrestling like a more awesome Vader. Bull Nakano has the greatest visual look of any woman in wrestling history, being a tall psychopath with blue veins drawn on her face, hair that’s sprayed to be twelve inches tall, and a bulky, strong-looking physique. Harley Saito is a short, skinny, sporty-looking type (you can tell because she has the “Mushroom Cut” template hair) with some of the ugliest clothes I’ve ever seen on a wrestler. Seriously, she looks like she should be rapping Mo & Mabel to the ring. Sawai is built much like the Monster Heel types (big & burly, though not as grossly made-up), and was a secondary LLPW star. She’s wearing a singlet with long sleeves and boots that make her look like the Queen of Hearts. Both her & Saito were LLPW Singles Champions when Kandori didn’t have the belt, having some really long reigns, actually.
The outcome is hardly in doubt here, but as if to make things even, Aja & Bull give a LOT of offense to their opponents, selling their asses off. That’s one thing that’s interesting about Joshi’s Monsters- they tend to get up and fly around like everyone else, even for little girl opponents. So there’s a vulnerability that’s lacking in guys like Andre the Giant or Earthquake- hell, even Bam Bam & Vader didn’t jump around like THIS. Aja & Eagle do some kick-ass “Power vs. Power” spots, too (Aja actually looks delighted at meeting an equally-powerful woman, in a great bit- all “hey, that’s awesome!”). In the spot of the match, Saito (playing “1-2-3 Kid” the whole match- strings of kicks, flying roundhouses, etc.) manages to take away Nakano’s Ubiquitous Nunchucks, revealing herself to be just as skilled with them! Bull completely sells the moment, jaw agape, but manages a slick disarming attempt right out of a kung-fu movie. And then Bull and Aja DO DIVES TO THE OUTSIDE?!? Where the hell did THAT come from?? Crowd completely loses their shit for Aja’s Tope Suicida, as they should.
The monsters are finally too much for the LLPW team, though, with a ton of backdrops, Aja hitting two Spinning Backfists on Saito, then Bull’s Guillotine Legdrop. Shockingly, Saito kicks out like a good underdog, but then Nakano pulls out her MDK finisher, a SOMERSAULT GUILLOTINE DOUBLE-LEGDROP, while Aja deals with Eagle, and that’s that (14:08). Absolutely great, short-ish tag match with terrific spots, making it almost as good as the prior one, to me. Added to when Eagle does the post-match interview alone as a Ring Girl carries Saito’s corpse away from ringside.
Rating: ****1/4 (When the Monster Heels go Lucha, and Aja Kong proves immune to her own weapon, you go above ****)
Seriously, one of the best things ever.
Can’t decide of her mirrored jacket is hideous or amazing. Both?
DYNAMITE KANSAI (JWP) vs. YUMIKO HOTTA (AJW):
* Kansai & Hotta both have very similar “looks” and styles- very androgynous, powerfully-built, short-haired women with lightning-fast, ultra-stiff kicks, so this is a natural pairing. Kansai’s wearing her trademark ridiculously-bright 1990s neon green shirt & pants, while Hotta’s wearing a singlet that looks like grape-swirl ice cream. Kansai is the Ace of JWP, and her gimmick is essentially that she’s O.P. as fuck- her kicks do more damage than anyone else’s, and her moves are super devastating. Hotta’s an upper-midcarder at this point, and wouldn’t peak for a few years, her style and concept essentially being “Kansai Lite”. So this is probably her being fed to the bigger star.
You ever see Macross? Where they throw out like 900 missiles for every attack? This match is like Macross. But instead of missiles, they use kicks to the brain. And in fact, this showcases the most incredible thing about Kansai- she is, I believe, the single greatest seller of strikes I’ve ever seen in wrestling. She takes a shot to the head from Hotta that looks as if it COMPLETELY fucked her up- she hits the mat glassy-eyed, nearly gets counted down in the ring, and staggers around ringside trying to shake off the stars. I mean, she looks absolutely gobsmacked by that shot. I’ve seen her do this before, too- it’s a great bit of business that puts Hotta, the lesser star, over like an absolute nightmare who caught the champ. Kansai’s comeback is great, because Hotta got cocky with a jumping move and got caught, then Kansai brawled with her outside to do some damage (like a veteran would, changing the momentum), and then murdered her with a devastating series of face kicks, Hotta doing the “in the opening stages of a concussion” selling too, mirroring the first part of the match.
And the two continue light each other up all over the place, until it’s finally time to hit the “Final Stretch” and do big moves. And more kicks to the head, in case you thought kicks to the head were done. The ending is INSANE, as Hotta hits a Cross-Armed Superplex and a Cross-Armed Powerbomb for what look like surefire wins on the nearly-KO’d champ (I mean, she crossed the arms! That makes it hurt more!), but Kansai is too O.P., so she dodges a Hotta kick, flips her up, and hits Splash Mountain (Sit-Out Razor’s Edge Powerbomb) for the big pin (16:43). Amazing ending that did both Finisher Escalation AND used the Kick Beamspam. Kansai’s so concussed she doesn’t even realize she’s won and has to ask the ref. In real life, both people would have died from their injuries, and that’s how you can tell it’s a great pro wrestling match.
Rating: ****1/2 (a bit slow since they milk 10-counts frequently, but with some of the best selling and strikes you’ll ever see)
Insane chick with a sword versus Rule 63 Inoki- who can win?
AKIRA HOKUTO (AJW) vs. SHINOBU KANDORI (LLPW):
* Akira Hokuto, a wild-haired madwoman beset by constant injuries (she once finished a match holding her broken neck in place with her hands), is a wrestling legend with a ton of accolades and Titles… and all of those accolades start with this match. She’s one of the Aces of AJW, and her katana & Noh performer ring-gear is the best in wrestling, ever. Shinobu Kandori is the Ace of LLPW- a legitimate judoka whose muscular physique, martial artist’s stance, huge jawline and Elvis hair make her look hilariously like a gender-swapped Antonio Inoki. And she looks TOUGH- like she could absolutely wipe out anyone. Even though she’s wearing a singlet with leaves, Jimmy Graffiti paint-splatter and neon yellow trim.
So the story of the match is that Kandori is stronger, faster, tougher, a better technician & grappler, and smarter than Hokuto. But Hokuto is crazy. Hokuto starts us right off by punching Kandori in the face and taunting her on the mic (apparently telling Kandori to stop fighting like a judoka), at which point Kandori beats the shit out of her. Then Hokuto does the greatest sell of a submission hold I’ve ever seen in my life- you would 100% believe that Kandori legitimately tore Hokuto’s shoulder right ouf of its socket, as Akira desperately claws at the ropes, tumbles out of the ring, and screams in agony as the ring attendants see to her. Amazing stuff, and we’re barely a minute in! Kandori keeps it up with a brawl outside, and then the legendary spot- a Tombstone Piledriver reversed ON A TABLE, turning Hokuto into a complete bloody wreck- the crack camera crew of course gets a choice close-up of the DENT Hokuto’s skull left in the table. Amazing. Hokuto is so messed up she can barely stand (you can see her deliberately dribble blood on the other ringside tables, though- what a pro), but through the Power Of Insanity, manages to bust Kandori open during the subsequent scrap.
Both girls are a mess as they hit the ring, with Hokuto a full Crimson Mask (her blonde hair turning red, too)- in more amazing stuff, she defends herself against the excellent judo holds by acting like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to sleep, squirming and thrashing maniacally instead of using her own (sub-Kandori) technical know-how- hairpulling, kicks, you name it. Rule63!Inoki gets so fired up she’s repeatedly goaded into brawls when her submissions don’t work (though that Swinging Crossface Chickenwing was BITCHING), and gets close to winning with a judo choke, but Hokuto does a better “Desperate Underdog” act than anyone in wrestling, and keeps pulling stuff. Most of said stuff comes off as last-ditch kicks, Rana reversals, or moves off the top. By the time both are selling like death and trading Escalating Finishers (Backdrop Driver Hold! Tiger Driver!), the crowd is going fucking bananas with crazy sustained heat. A dying, completely wrecked Akira reaching for her foe’s hair to try another move looks SO amazing.
Finally, Hokuto pisses Kandori enough to take a swing, reverses to a Backdrop Driver, and manages her finisher, the Northern Lights Bomb (Vertical Drop Brainbuster, but to the side, kind of). Then, when that fails, she does the standard thing and tries for another… but Kandori, with picture-perfect timing, blocks it, lifts Hokuto, and DOES HER OWN. Seriously, three or four years before the WWF would do Finisher Stealing, Kandori whips it out right here! Hokuto is FUCKED, but the crowd roars her name, and both girls are so done that all they have left is the ability to throw hands. And in my single most favorite finish in wrestling history, that’s the end of it- Hokuto knocks down Kandori, Kandori slugs down Hokuto and can’t capitalize, and the Dangerous Queen just rears back and blasts the LLPW Ace, knocking her over, and luckily manages to hit the mat close enough to cover (30:39).
The match was so devastating, and so full of insane moves, that a SINGLE PUNCH scored the fall. Some fools consider that anticlimactic, but it’s too perfect for words- it was all they had left in the tank, and the last one who could stand won. One of the wildest, bloodiest, fuckingest brawls in wrestling history- thirty minutes of perfection.
Rating: ***** (This is the kind of match Triple-H always thinks he has)
Yup- using that gif again.
COMBAT TOYODA & MEGUMI KUDO (FMW) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* Toyoda & Kudo are FMW’s top female stars at the time, with Kudo in particular being the division’s centerpiece, hand-picked by Atsushi Onita himself and made into the most incongruous superstar ever- of all the Deathmatch participants I’ve seen in my life, the cute, long-haired Kudo is perhaps the last person on Earth I would imagine to be engaging in No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Landmine Dry Ice matches and bleeding buckets. Toyoda’s a simple Monster Heel, by contrast- big, bulky and tall, with short hair and facepaint from 1987. AJW’s girls are their top-tier Superteam- Yamada is another one of those semi-androgynous Kicker-types, wearing a bitching “baggy pants & tight shirt” martial arts outfit with an eagle wraparound design. She’s the tough one to contrast Manami Toyota, who’s wearing the most beautiful, ridiculous outfit ever- a purple leotard with bright pink feathers. She looks like she just skinned one of She-Ra’s animal friends. Manami is a strong contender for Greatest Wrestler Ever- a crazy combination of amazing selling, lightning-fast dropkicks, great flying, impossible agility (one of her trademarks is to jump onto the top rope from a dead sprint, using no hands, then springboard back), and way stronger suplexes than you’d think. Her thing is that instead of vertebrae, she has core body strength muscles- her bridging pins and kickouts are the stuff of legend.
Like most Toyota tag team matches, it’s 90% her getting the living shit kicked out of her. As she’s possibly the greatest seller in history, it works- she’s so bendy and slender that every submission looks like it’s folding her in half (like holding her in an Inverted Sitout Powerbomb landing position, bending her backwards), and her facial expressions make everything look incredibly agonizing. And rather than thrashing around like Steamboat or Hennig, she just does this “No, I’m going to FIGHT THROUGH THIS!” thing that puts the opponent over ridiculously well, without ever turning into a flailing cartoon. And she eats a Spike Powerbomb & Spike Piledriver in succession. Kudo is surprisingly effective as a bitchy heel, here, frequently digging into Toyota. Her partner Combat does her role well, though obviously has a more limited set of offense. They pretzel the shit out of poor Toyota, but Yamada’s always there with kicks of salvation.
Interestingly, the story is that Manami can’t get anything going against the huge Combat (but she gets a multitude of those great “Fuck YOUUUUUUUU!” bridging kick-outs), but Yamada can. And once they get their rhythm going, the AJW girls start wrecking house on their larger opponent. Manami’s also so good she has multiple “taking damage” spots- showing her “missing a dropkick and sliding between the ropes to the outside” bump. Combat goes up for a Flying Crossbody to the outside (!!), but is tricked into hitting Kudo- a running theme becomes the FMW team not being as great at communication. Then Manami casually strolls up to the middle of the top rope and Asai Moonsaults off like it ain’t no thing. And then invents a 1.2 Jannetty Sell of a Combat clothesline, more or less doing a standing Shooting Star Press and landing face & chest first on the mat in a broken heap. Unbelievable.
Then Manami eats a Doomsday Device AND a Super Chokeslam/Powerbomb, but her foot’s in the ropes. Jesus. Then we get multiple Team Miscommunication spots or reversals of double-team moves, because these women know what’s coming next. Manami Moonsaults Kudo, but then eats her own partner’s Flying Kick to the face! Kudo hits a Bridging Northern Lights Suplex, but in a spectacular move, Yamada literally baseball slides across the ring, taking out one of her supporting legs. Another miscue leaves Kudo eating the AJW team’s finisher- a Backdrop Superplex that flips her onto her face. In a beautiful ending, all of those miscues set up for the finish- the champs goad an exhausted Combat into charging Yamada, who moves out of the way, resulting in Kudo getting booted right into wrestling’s most-awesome-looking finisher ever, Manami’s Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (a Cross-Armed Electric Chair Drop Into a Bridging Pin that is clearly physically impossible), on Kudo, for the win (28:13).
The match is a phenomenal showcase of the stars (Toyota is so good, and so generous with her selling, that every single person she fights comes out looking like a million bucks), and is only held back from a perfect score because Kudo & Toyoda just weren’t quite up to the epic level that makes Toyota & Yamada the tag team with the most perfect-score matches in history. They did their jobs well, but they’re no Aja, Bull, Kansai, or Ozaki, let’s say. Nearly perfect, and all it was missing was that extra “push”.
Rating: ****3/4 (damn near perfect, only missing a better “final stretch” from the FMW team)
Right after the bell rings, Team AJW’s opponents for next week, Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki, come out to talk shit. Meanwhile, a heartbroken, shattered Kudo weepily heads to her locker room. Manami is so emotionally spent that she wordlessly slumps against a wall in AJW’s room. Tremendous.
Fukukoa/Mariko (vs) Ito/Hasegawa- ***1/2
Nobue/Powers (vs) Tsuchiya/Maedomari- **
Tigrita/KAORU (vs) Shimoda/Watanabe- ***
Mita/Minami (vs) Handa/Kazama- ****1/4
Bat Yoshinaga (vs) Susan Howard- DUD
Chigusa Nagayo (vs) Devil Masami- ****1/4
Suzuki/Ozaki (vs) Double Inoue- ****1/2
Aja/Bull (vs) Eagle/Saito- ****1/4
Dynamite Kansai (vs) Yumiko Hotta- ****1/2
Akira Hokuto (vs) Shinobu Kandori- *****
Combat/Kudo (vs) Toyota/Yamada- ****3/4
This show is legendary for a reason- two Meltzer ***** match ratings (we rate the Main Event the same, too), six matches in total breaking at least **** (almost unheard of, even today), and all of the era’s biggest legends on the same show. And then, a week later, they have ANOTHER amazing show, with ANOTHER ***** match! One of wrestling’s all-time best, must-see events.