And now it’s the final part of the “Dream Slam” reviews, culminating with soem of the best matches fo the shows!
SUZUKA MINAMI (AJW) vs. HARLEY SAITO (LLPW):
* Huh- I’ll be damned. This is basically… an Upper Midcarder Singles Match? Suzuka “Friend’s Mom You Had a Crush On” Minami, as I said last week, was a solid hand and won some gold, but a bit earlier than this- by this point, she was two years from retirement, and an upper midcard JTTS at this point- she & Mita lost against LLPW’s midcard team last week). A good worker, though. Here, she’s wearing a black leotard with some “Black Hart” Owen Hart yellow lines on it. Harley Saito is a skinny, sporty type with the 1-2-3 Kid’s wrestling style, and was on the losing end against Bull Nakano & Aja Kong last week, getting flattened despite looking pretty good with her kicks and swiping Bull’s nunchucks. Actually, she became a pretty big name in LLPW after this, holding their top singles title twice, and retired in 2012! And… she’s dressed like Oscar again. Well, I understand her words about as much as I did his.
Man, watching Saito’s kicks, I get the same feeling as when I first saw the Dynamite Kid wrestle, having been familiar with Chris Benoit already- it’s THAT close to Sean Waltman. Did he pick up some LLPW tapes and go “That’s it- that’s how someone my size needs to wrestle”? The match is “Kicks vs. Back Stuff” to start (Minami’s offense revolves around Backbreakers and Samoan Drops), with the crowd being very quiet for all but the flashier moves. Both do the basics very well, though, and it’s well-wrestled, if not exactly mind-blowing. A LOT of moves are reversed into Germans or Enzuigiris, both girls do dives to the outside and a couple flying moves, and more- Minami in particular comes off as “Generic Joshi”, as her style hits all the basics (German/Tope/Powerbomb), and her personality is very “standard smiling Japanese woman”. But… it works. You kind of need types like that- she’s the “Lance Storm” of Japan, I guess. Minami does a nice reversal of a backdrop, kicking off the ropes and twisting lighting-quick into a crossbody position, while Saito throws a Rana reversal, two killer Germans & a Tiger Suplex with full bridges. A Flying Headbutt misses, and Minami plants her with two Powerbombs, setting up a SWEET Flying Senton for the win (13:31).
Hey, not bad- the crowd barely cared (this ain’t why they bought tickets, and neither girl has a big personality), but everything was crisp and the reversals were solid. I’m kind of surprised Minami took it- Saito coulda used some cred after being murdered last week.
Rating: ***3/4 (not a bad little match- mostly “The Basics, But Done Well” for the most part, but they were slick and well-applied for the whole thing)
Pictured: WWE’s Asuka, and the exact opposite of what you thought Bull Nakano was gonna look like in her fifties.
CHIGUSA NAGAYO (AJW) vs. BULL NAKANO (AJW):
* Oh dear. This is another match in the “Chigusa Returns!” push, as Nagayo, one of the biggest stars of the 1980s, comes out of retirement to take on old enemies. Last week, she lost to Devil Masami (a top name in JWP at this time), and this week, she takes on her arch-nemesis Dump Matsumoto’s successor, Bull Nakano! Bull was the top-tier Ace of AJW for three years just before this, and Chigusa’s still doing that “Ring Rust” thing the Japanese always do, so I’m not liking her chances. Chigusa’s black & red singlet is soooooooo ’80s, but her Tomboy Samurai pre-match get-up is SWEET. Bull wears Jerry Seinfeld’s “Puffy Sweater” if it were all puff and a dress instead of a sweater. But her Bam Bam Bigelow fire-tights and arm-wraps make her look like a fuckin’ superstar, as always.
This is set up like a War of the Gods already, with stiff chest-slaps being exchanged, some kicks, and then a brawl to the outside, where Chigusa gets bludgeoned with omnipresent nunchucks and opposing strikes with FIGHTING SPIRIT, like a good top-tier Ace. This is so old-school they have tests of strength and an extended sleeper spot, and then we go into some LONG segments of submission attempts- each get a turn in a Sharpshooter, and both get stretched otherwise, too. They throw some bombs for a bit, and then, in a thing I’ve never seen before or since, Chigusa DEMANDS Bull hit her finisher! Like, she hollers stuff, lies down, and willingly takes the Guillotine Legdrop! She kicks out to Bull’s shock, and makes a comeback shortly after- it was like this was a personal test for her, seeing if she’s actually ready. Confused the shit out of 20-year-old me, but now I get it, and it’s great.
Some nice suplexes- a Belly-To-Belly and a German, show Chigusa’s real skills- she’s not as flashy as the current joshi, but had some good high-strength moves. Her selling’s terrific, too- coming off as exhausted and beaten down well, sweating like Shane McMahon after opening a bag of chips. Bull whips out the nunchucks again, but is quickly disarmed! She hits a Bridging German and a Folding Powerbomb, though, and that’s about it- Guillotine Legdrop gets the pinfall (15:08). The two old enemies bow to each other and hug out of a shared history at the end. Aw, I’d have laughed in Bull had gone Michelangelo on her again.
Very… interesting match. I mean, it was too slow for me for the most part- they spent like five minutes in slow, arduous “Slowly make your way to the ropes” submission moves as soon as they got into the ring, rather than later, when those had potential to win. The strikes and power moves looked good, though, and came off as an “Epic War” despite being slower than the other joshi matches. Bull was a tad too dominant, as per the “story” of the match- I feel like a less rusty Chigusa in a more competitive bout would hit **** easy.
Rating: ***1/4 (I feel like people who know the characters and their history more might rate it higher- I’m AWARE of their feud, but I didn’t FEEL it, you know?)
Kandori & Hokuto devolved into pure hate at this point.
AKIRA HOKUTO & AJA KONG (AJW) vs. SHINOBU KANDORI & EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW):
* Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh shit. Hokuto & Kandori engaged in one of the most legendary women’s matches of all time (hell, probably THE most legendary to people who have only sort of seen Joshi- even THEY know that one!) just last week, and the hate probably still flows. I can’t believe Hokuto can still fight, but they don’t call her the Dangerous Queen for nothing. So now, it’s Hokuto & Kong- two of AJW’s top-tier Aces- Hokuto as the crazed brawler/technician, with Kong as the Monster (and the current WWWA Champion- the top of the promotion). Last week, Kong & Bull took out Eagle & Saito fairly handily. Now she’s opposed by Eagle once more. Kandori & Eagle were LLPW’s top two characters- Kandori as the Ace- a legitimate “Shooter” with a judo background, who was booked as being unstoppable. Eagle, being big, bulky and tall, was a Monster Babyface, sort of, seen as the #2 star.
Akira & Shinobu are out for blood right from the get-go, the match breaking down at every opportunity. The crowd freaks when they finally get in the ring against each other, with Hokuto immediately countering a judo choke with a Stunner, then copying Shinobu’s Spinning Chokehold- oh damn! Team LLPW works the cut on Akira’s forehead, and the stitches open up, and generally put the pressure on her. Kandori & Aja have a wicked headbutt contest to see who’s toughest, and Aja teases her tope suicida from last week, but Kandori’s wise and moves aside. Akira takes a Spike Powerbomb to the floor, but roars back with a Missile Dropkick while Kandori’s trying to grapple with Aja, and Eagle returns the favor! Kandori then eats an Uraken backfist and Akira’s Splash, but Eagle then takes a Super Powerslam, and Aja Superplexes Akira ONTO her! Yeah, there’s some hate here.
Akira takes an Eagle Powerbomb, though, then two HUGE ones from Kandori, Aja dramatically saving. So Eagle blocks Aja outside while Kandori delivers a Tiger Driver, but Akira thrashes herself out at two! Kandori is pissed, and gears up for a clothesline- the same mistake she made last match, and Akira snaps on a Judo Armbar! Holy shit! Kandori gets out for her own, but Aja interferes. Akira goes for a Dragon Suplex out of a double clothesline, but this time Kandori sees it coming, locking on a LETHAL Armbar (brilliantly pointing to Aja, then at Akira, saying “This is you!” or “Fuck YOU!”), this one causing the referee to stop the match and check on Akira’s condition. He awards the match to Kandori & Eagle while Hokuto writhes in agony on the ground, surrounded by Ring Girls (20:43). A furious Aja brawls with the LLPW team at the end, cutting agnry promos afterwards.
A really interesting, brutal war, though not quite like the brawl from last week’s show. It feels like we could have had another five minutes of “Finisher Escalation”, but that’s not really Kandori’s style as a judo-themed wrestler, I guess. The character bits made sense, Eagle did okay (she doesn’t seem GREAT, but she’s okay and not a hindrance), and you really felt the venom between the women. Overall, I liked it, though it felt more like the start of something rather than the climax- made me want to see Aja/Kandori and a Kandori/Hokuto rematch (one would come in December, with both girls having more to prove).
Rating: ****1/4 (almost more for the angles than the action or the Ref Stop ending)
The first and final portions of Toyota’s insane Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. She’s the only one capable of doing the move like this, and almost nobody else even tries- it’s too untouchable. PS I adore her feathered outfit.
WWWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPSIONSHIP:
2/3 FALLS MATCH:
MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA (AJW- Champions) vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI & MAYUMI OZAKI (JWP):
* And here’s our Main Event of the evening- AJW’s top-tier team is comprised of the legendary Flying Angel- another Ace in Manami Toyota- and the bad-ass, sporty, androgynous martial artist Yamada. Toyota’s now got a color-swapped version of last week’s swan look- a blue leotard with a WHITE feather fring, which is somehow even more fabulous and gaudily brilliant, especially as now the WRISTS are fringed with feathers, too. Yamada matches her color scheme with her baggy pants and tight shirt. Their opponents are the two biggest stars of JWP Project- Kansai is a powerful kicker who’s even tougher and more Overpowered than Yamada is, having defeated Hotta last week in an amazing kick-to-the-brain-themed match. Soooooooo many kicks. So Kansai’s thing is that she’s tough and will kill you. Ozaki is the Zhou Yu to Toyota’s Zhuge Liang (seriously kids, READ A BOOK!)- similar looks and styles, and would otherwise have been in the top three “Greatest of All Time”… had Toyota never existed. But she did, and so Ozaki had to settle for being merely a great legend and amazing trainer (her “Oz Academy” promotion was quite legit). Both teams fought a legendary match the year before, with the AJW team winning. Spoiler Alert: This is 1993’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter “Match Of The Year”, and is still probably in my top five.
FALL 1: LOL, in the greatest opening fall ever, the JWP girls just divebomb Toyota & Yamada, Ozaki pinning a desperate Manami against the ropes, while Kansai hits Yamada with the Splash Mountain (Sit-Out Razor’s Edge Powerbomb) for the pin (0:12)! Hahahahaaah, that is SO good- everyone alive knows these are always gonna go for three, so why wait to build drama for the first one? Crowd’s just like “oh, SHIT” to that one, as the entire game has changed immediately.
FALL 2: So now the drama rests on whether or not the AJW girls can beat their opponents, top-tier wrestlers, twice in a row when they’ve taken zero accumulated damage. The crowd is going fucking bonkers for Kansai’s victory lap, too. Yamada is barely alive at the start of the fall (you have to have the same people in the ring from the last one), but tags out to Toyota, who lets out all her frustration over the first pin out on Kansai, hitting those amazing running front dropkicks (with the mandatory screaming). Kansai eats seven dropkicks to the face, but dodges the Moonsault, so Yamada interferes and lets Manami hit the second one- her moonsaults, as you might imagine, are perfect (she does this thing where she swings her hips like a fulcrum, bringing up each leg at different intervals, making her flips look better). Her outfit was REALLY well-chosen- white feathers fly off almost every time she does or TAKES a move, making everything look ten times more explosive. Team JWP settles things down with every Joshi’s favorite game- Fold Manami Toyota in Half, Backwards (a Dragon Sleeper/STF is a great submission hold to invent on the spot, but who ELSE you gonna do that to?). Each team takes a turn having their Kicker boot the other one’s High-Flier in the chest with a brutal shot.
Then we get the expected kick war between Kansai & Yamada, ending with Yamada doing the “possibly KTFO” sell. Hilariously, Kansai’s taunting follow-up kicks actually wake her up, resulting in a kick flurry and an epic Superkick to the face. JWP cheats a lot, but Manami pulls off several submissions I’ve never seen before (sitting on Kansai’s back while she’s bent over, pulling her arms up and back? Holding a double-underhook on Ozaki, folding her and pinning Ozaki’s legs with her own?)- Kansai runs in for a clothesline and then it’s Stereo JWP Dives. Stereo Flying Headbutts on Manami! But then she’s thrown into the corner and instead just dropkicks Ozaki off of the top, then hits an Asai Moonsault… from the inside of the ring to the outside? Like, standing on the inside middle rope and backflipping outside. Insane. Double Inverted Brainbuster (their Team Move) on Ozaki, but Kansai interferes and Toyota eats a German. Then Kansai takes her own after missing a lariat! Then YAMADA gets one after missing a kick! Yamada teases her own, but it’s broken up… until she rolls out of another Splash Mountain and THEN she hits one. Ladies, now you’re just showing off. Crowd is ROARING as Team AJW hits a Double Powerbomb on Kansai for a dramatic two-count, but then Manami hits the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Cross-Armed Electric Chair Drop Suplex With Bridge) for the pin (14:55)! End the match NOW and it’s ****1/2.
FALL 3: A pissed off Toyota hits a Bridging German on Kansai immediately, and then Yamada nails a SWEET spin kick and roars as the crowd goes nuts. KICK BEAMSPAM!! Flying Elbow for 2! Hanging Stretch Muffler and then Manami hits two Front Missile Dropkicks before Ozaki blasts her to the outside. Superplex & Corkscrew Splash on Manami draws a “Fuck YOU!” Bridge, and then she hits her No Hands Running Springboard Cross-Body to wow everyone. Team JWP recovers and Kansai wails on Yamada, hits a great Northern Lights Suplex, and they stretch her until Yamada Snap DDTs Ozaki’s brains out. Twice. Manami hits a pair of Springboard Cross-Bodies and then the greatest N.L. Suplex ever (with a bridge so arched she looks like a triangle) for two. Kansai accidentally lariats Ozaki, allowing Manami to casually stroll up to the top rope for a Springboard Moonsault for two. A quartet of Yamada Enzuigiris (one from the top!) and a German get two, Manami dropkicks Kansai off the apron to cut off a tag, and it’s Stereo Flying Headbutts for HER now!
Ozaki reverses more stuff, but eats a Super Double Flipover Backdrop (another Team Move), then a Cross-Armed German, but Kansai saves. A slow (it’s late; even Manami is human) Rolling Cradle actually gets a close 2, as does a Tiger Suplex, but Kansai’s in! Kick storm! Razor’s Edge for Manami! Lariats for both AJW girls! DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Manami takes it on her HEAD, too! DOOMSDAY DEVICE RAZOR’S EDGE!! Kansai holds down Yamada while Ozaki gets the three (16:04)!!! New WWWA Tag Team Champions!!
Holy SHIT- what a match. All of the girls threw out their best stuff, got all their shit in, and had an epic match. JWP dominated the second fall, while AJW dominated the third, working over the smaller fighter in both cases, but ultimately getting things turned around by spamming bombs left and right until they got a groove going. Everything was hit perfectly, the strikes looked deadly, and you could see about twenty “I would have bought that” finishes. Tag matches are SO good for the desperate, last-second saves. It’s 30+ minutes that never slows down for more than twenty seconds, with four of the best performers in the business.
Rating: ***** (one of the best matches ever)
Hikari Fukukoa (vs) Sakie Hasegawa- ***1/2
Watanabe/Numata/Ito (vs) Kitamura/Futagami/Hozumi- **1/4
Yoshinaga/Power (vs) Kazama/Handa- **1/4
LCO (vs) Combat/Kudo- ****
Cutie/Plum/Bolshoi (vs) Double Inoue/Hotta- ****1/4
Suzuka Minami (vs) Harley Saito- ***3/4
Chigusa Nagayo (vs) Bull Nakano- ***1/4
Hokuto/Kong (vs) Eagle/Kandori- ****1/4
Kansai/Ozaki (vs) Toyota/Yamada- *****
-Another fantastic show- where else but in ’90s Joshi do you go “Well they ONLY went above **** four times, so it’s not as good as LAST week’s show”? The Main Event is one of the best tag matches of all time, and two other tags ruled, but I felt like many of the lower-tier matches didn’t deliver that well, and felt like “filler”. Putting out the rookies, an injuried Future WWF Diva, and people who left everything they had on the mat the week before? I think it was inevitable that Dream Slam II wouldn’t quite live up to the first all-time classic Interpromotional Show… but that main event probably saves its reputation all by itself. An absolute must-see.
The show was interesting politically, as AJW was putting on the show, but wanted all the other promotions to come back, so they couldn’t just be gobbled up. And so they were rather magnanimous with these shows- the first show is mostly other companies beating AJW’s midcarders until the main bouts, which see AJW win the important stuff. And then the next show comes along and LLPW beats Hokuto/Kong, and JWP’s top stars win AJW’s top Tag Team Titles! So AJW has the cred of having Akira beat LLPW’s Ace, but then she loses next week, and AJW is good enough to lose the final Main Event, and their own gold. This continued the “Golden Age” of interpromotional matches, with stars on all sides having their best showings, until the Economic Downturn of 1995 killed a lot of what was good about women’s wrestling, the main stars got too entrenched, and forward momentum halted amidst Japanese Splinter Promotion Nonsense.