Joshi Spotlight- Mima Shimoda

Her AMAZING theme song, “The Sensation”

MIMA SHIMODA:

Stats:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’5 1/2″, 143 lbs.
Career Length: 1987-today (still active)
Trained By: Akira Hokuto

So during the Live Watches at night, I was made aware of the brilliance of Los Cachorras Orientales by one Lawrence Talbot, who was a huge fan. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience, as I’d seen the Dream Slams ages ago, but neither had stood out to me overly much, and neither is mentioned a lot in “Joshi Retrospectives” and articles I’d read during the course of my wrestling fandom. It was all “Toyota/Aja/Hokuto/Bull/Dump/Chigusa/etc.”- the big names and Main Eventers of the prime periods. LCO just kind of… got missed, I guess. Neither ended up a big singles star, so maybe that’s it.

But watching them was a revelation- here were two girls, in the ultra-competitive “Everyone is a ***+ Worker” joshi… fighting dirty like Tully Blanchard, torturing people for fun, and being giant bitches to absolutely everybody. I was more taken by Mita (because… reasons), but Shimoda seems to be just as good, and even more fun- a cackling, cruel wench who delights in the pain of others. The meanest High School girl you ever met mixed with a Canada Goose. While still throwing killer suplexes and flying moves.

She seemed to have all the tools- looks, a distinctive outfit (way skimpier than the norm for ’90s Joshi, too), great offense and fantastic character work in the ring. But she just never got a real shot at singles- one old article I read suggested that she didn’t draw fan interest during the time she held a more minor belt. Maybe the more “elite” generation refused to do jobs for her (a problem that eventually helped stifle Joshi’s growth)? Maybe she was just more comfortable in tags? It’s hard to say- she seemed good enough, but she was primarily a tag team wrestler, though LCO went from “Good Midcard Team” in 1993 to “Main Eventing Shows” by 1995-97, so they were way more successful on that front (most elite Joshi tag teams were made up of singles stars).

But yeah, I’m a big fan. Her stuff isn’t hit quite as smoothly as Toyota’s, and she lacks the credibility of the top-tier fighters, but I adore watching the little nutjob tear into people and smile as her opponents writhe in agony. And LCO’s match template is so good that I swear their baseline is ***1/2. I’ve seen them get that rating just by demolishing Jobbers To The Stars. I’m actually pretty sure they could get that against Jackie Gayda & Giant Gonzalez. They’re THAT GOOD.

Why She Rules (short version): Fun matches, tons of screaming, heeling for the sake of heeling, great angles, and a really fight-y wrestling style.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
Mima debuted in 1987, in an AJW training class that included Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada, which kind of meant that she got… overshadowed. She was teamed up with Toyota for a few years as the “Tokyo Sweethearts”, but would not have much success until teaming up with Etsuko Mita as part of Los Cachorras Orientales, “The Oriental Bitches”, allying with Akira Hokuto (who took both under her wing as students). By 1993, LCO were a good midcard tag team, but were noticeably on a lower tier, jobbing out at the Dream Slams and in other interpromotional matches- more often than not, she would take the fall if they lost, and Mita would score the fall if they won (typically with her Death Valley Driver), at least in the matches I’ve seen.

LCO began getting their big push around 1994-95- they would jump to JWP and run a great angle, acting like huge bitches who disrespected the company, its wrestlers, and its president, until finally being put in their place. The team split up in 1995, and Shimoda would be pushed to the top tag titles in AJW, first with Akira Hokuto (playing up an angle in which Akira would disrespect and disregard her younger, lesser partner, often forcing her to carry both tag titles), and then with her old teammate, Manami Toyota. This led to the closest thing to a major singles push for Shimoda, but for some reason, it never quite “took” and she was always in tags. By 1996, LCO had reunited, and were finally true “Main Eventers”, if only in this format- they headlined shows against most of the top stars in Japan, and finally won AJW’s WWWA Tag Titles by themselves in 1997. Two more reigns would follow in the 2000s, with the girls being permanently linked in the consciousness of fans- when Mita retired in 2009, she had special thanks for her partner.

Following AJW’s bankruptcy in 1997, LCO jumped to NEO Ladies, LLPW, JD’, Gaea Japan, and Arsion, doing the rounds in every weird splinter promotion that’d popped up in that mess (the mess that would help diminish Joshi badly). In one of the more unexpected turns for a joshi star, Shimoda actually moved to Mexico in 2006, where she’s remained ever since, as a CMLL regular. Her career hasn’t led to a lot of singles gold (the AJW Title was her peak- a third-tier belt).

MOVESET:
Falling Clothesline, Choking While Smiling, Clawing, Sticking Fingers in Face-Holes, Beating Someone Outside the Ring, Chairshot, Chair Projectile, Bitch Pose, Pinning While Posing Like a Bitch, Slam Upside-Down in the Corner, Piledriver, Front Missile Dropkick, Flying Headscissors to Victory Roll Pin (jumping from behind opponent), Flying Splash (w/ Mita Electric Chair Drop), Assisted Springboard Plancha (w/ Mita), Tiger Suplex (near-finisher), Death Lake Driver (Underhook/Waistlock German Superplex- MDK Finisher)

ASSORTED MATCHES:

MANAMI TOYOTA vs. MIMA SHIMODA (AJW Japan Grand Prix- Round Robin, 23.07.1995)
* This is an interesting one, timeline-wise, as Manami is the top-tier girl at AJW at this point, and pretty much a living legend of Joshi (as what was generally accepted as the best worker), while Shimoda, who was a midcard tag team player in 1993, has now elevated herself to a higher level. Both have a history- they were a tag team coming up in the late 1980s before Toyota had better success with the sportier Toshiyo Yamada. Shimoda’s cheating will be an interesting counterpoint to Toyota’s hyper-graceful style. Their pre-match interviews show both women in good spirits- Manami looks so serious most of the time, but here she’s smiling a ton and laughing along with the interviewer. Hey, both these ladies aren’t bad looking- has anyone else noticed this? And HOLY GOD, Manami’s pre-match outfit- this giant, flowing white qipao dress with enormous, fluffy feathered sleeves. Now THAT is style. Manami’s in her black leotard with the arm cutouts, while Shimoda’s still in her black & red two-piece with all the yellow tassles.

Manami jumps Shimoda right at the bell, piledriving her on the floor and even tries to put her through a table! Um, I guess the “Tokyo Sweethearts EXPLODE!” gag is apropos here. Shimoda gets the better of her out there (I mean, LCO has +2 to melee & ranged attacks outside the ring), and even does the Bitch Pose in the corner, to the appreciation of Korakuen Hall. Then they have a literal hairpulling slapfight while trying submissions on each other- amazing, especially when Manami forms a nice ponytail in Shimoda’s hair just to make it easier to slap her in the face. Then uses some graceful martial-arts stuff to toss her around by it. THEN does a Bitch Pose of her very own- +1/4* just for using hairpulling as legitimate offensive moves. She hits her fantastic No-Hands Running Springboard Moonsault thing, kicks the shit out of Shimoda, and stretches her for a while, including the ol’ “pig-nose” stretch.

Shimoda comes back (putting a Boston Crab on so deeply that she literally rolls backwards over Toyota’s HEAD, to the horror of the crowd. And me. How is that even possible?), and like a pro, pulls Manami’s four feet of hair out of her face so she can properly stretch her nostrils and lips out while making kissy-faces at the crowd. MY GIRL. A Butterfly Superplex wows the crowd (they’re both standing right on the top turnbuckle!), but Toyota hits a Rolling Cradle, and makes it a LONG one because she’s still pissed off- Shimoda yelps with every revolution. Toyota hits a No-Hands Springboard Plancha, but Shimoda comes back with some murder on the floor- one backdrop suplex to each side of the ring. The big grin on her face the whole time just sells it. Manami “botches” her trademark “Roll up their body and sunset flip them” spot and just SPLATTERS herself on the mat, and Shimoda tastes blood. The crowd, sensing an upset, is clearly chanting “Shi-Mo-Da!”. And Mima, delighted at the Ace’s pain, just plops down in front of her, sitting cross-legged with the most amused smile ever while Manami writhes in agony. Perfection.

Haha- Shimoda throws a shit-fit when her Tiger Suplex (with beautiful bridge!) gets 2, slapping the ref and whining. And they keep reversing each other’s finishers (Manami tries three Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplexes, getting German’d twice and Victory Rolled for a GREAT near-fall another time; Death Lake Driver is also reversed), leaving the crowd going nuts! Every time they reverse something, somebody gets German’d! SUPER Backdrop Driver! How can Toyota even WALK these days? But she still pulls off the Bridging Kickout! And then does a Running No-Hands Springboard Somersault Senton! HOW THE FUCK DID SHE PULL THAT OFF?!?! IT’S 29 MINUTES IN!! Then she hits two Cross-Armed Suplexes (wisely choosing not to settle for just one- you can actually see the wheels turn in her head as she goes “no- one more is needed”), and goes up, but Shimoda hits a Superplex… and time is over (30:00)! Shimoda whining at the bell ringing, then STILL going for a pin and desperately begging for the ref to count, is such great heeling. And then she takes Toyota’s outstretched hand at the end… and slaps her in the face, stomping off with her arms raised triumphantly.

Holy shit- what a war. I was an absolutely hateful scrap from beginning till end, with even the REST HOLDS being great (both repeatedly kick the other every time they have a limb free), Manami going all Elphaba Thropp by hitting an insane THREE Springboard moves, and once she hit her head and Shimoda sensed victory, it’s Escalating Finishers and reversals (each ending in a head-drop suplex hold) until you wonder how either woman is still alive today. The act of bringing the Ace to a 30:00 draw is an epic achievement for the up & coming Shimoda, and should have set her off on a superstar push. But she definitely delivered here- great character bits to contrast Manami getting all her shit in and being unstoppably good in her prime.

Rating: ***** (easily Shimoda’s best match ever- nearly unseating the Ace. So much great nastiness and hate behind all the reversals)

Image result for etsuko mita

I couldn’t find the YouTube video anymore, so here’s a picture of Etsuko Mita instead!

Edit: Hey look- found the video! Thanks, Lawrence Talbot! (It’s the fifth video in the playlist)

LOS CACHARROS ORIENTALES EXPLODE!!
MIMA SHIMODA vs. ETSUKO MITA (Wrestlemarinepiad ’95, 08.11.95):
* ugh, I can’t find the YouTube video for this for some reason. But this is an interesting curiosity- it’s between runs of LCO, as the Oriental Bitches have split up, and Shimoda is now doing a “NOTICE ME SENPAI!” act with dominant Akira Hokuto. The two are WWWA Tag Champions, but Hokuto is disrespecting her “kouhai”, making her carry both tag belts and never acknowledging her presence. The push seems destined to lead to some more stuff for Shimoda, who they seem interested in pushing, but she was back in LCO within a year or two. Shimoda’s in her usual gear (the red & black bikini thing with the tassles), while Mita’s in something I’ve never seen before- a one-piece white & black thing with cutouts at the belly & back. The pre-match interviews show that funny contrast, where Shimoda seems like this peppy, excitable girl, and Mita is ridiculously quiet and normal… and then they go out there and it’s a projectile war using chairs.

As expected, this gets BRUTAL immediately, as both girls start whipping chairs at each other, brawling on the outside, and more! Mita bleeds off of a thrown chair, and Shimoda bites the cut and hits piledrivers! Mita comes back by hitting Cammy’s anti-air Roundhouse Kick from Street Fighter (seriously, look at it!), and then dents a goddamn table by piledriving Shimoda onto it. And that gets what looks like hardway blood from the top of Shimoda’s hairline, making her a complete wreck for the rest of the match- Mita tosses chairs and brutalizes her further. I LOVE watching Mita move around the ring and do moves- not just for the obvious reason, but just that… distinct WAY she moves. Her perceived height (long legs and wide gait), deliberate movements, and extreme confidence make her look like this jungle predator. There’s a great bit where Shimoda aims a crossbody out of the corner, and Mita actually moves forward, slides down and ducks to avoid it, and pops right back up, in one single motion.

Mita bites the cut and does her awesome “choke her while smiling” thing, but Shimoda comes back outside and starts choking her with an electrical cable like a good psychopath. Then she nails four backdrops, tries to strangle her ex-partner and then claw her eyes out, but things Mita just dumps her from a Fireman’s (a LOT of Mita’s offense takes place from that position, honestly), then hits a tope suicida and a superplex. The girls take turns extricating themselves from finishers in some good psychology- Shimoda finally hits a Tiger Suplex on the third attempt, but the Death Valley Driver of Mita’s always gets slipped through (it’s like Jake’s DDT- I’ve never seen it fail to score a pin). Mita hits a NICE Northern Lights Suplex (that body type is perfect for that move), Running Chest Slap, and Super Electric Chair Drop, running through her escalating moves, but a third & fourth attempt at the DVD also fail, and Shimoda hits a beautiful Flying Headscissors from the top for a dramatic two count! Mita’s fifth DVD attempt earns her a German Suplex instead, and when she tries to stop Shimoda’s flying attack, she ends up getting slipped behind… and Shimoda hits her MDK finisher, the Death Lake Driver, for the three (18:29)!!

Frickin’ AMAZING match, made better when Akira Hokuto makes her way down and puts BOTH Tag Titles around a bloodied, exhausted Shimoda’s waist, as if to say “HERE you go! Senpai has noticed you! You’re tough as fuck!” and then heads to the back. A great, vicious brawl full of blood, biting and weapon shots, tons of finisher teases (five DVD attempts, two Tigers, and one attempt at the DLD before it finally hits) and more- you really felt like you were seeing a blood feud between two people who knew each other VERY well.

Rating: ****1/2 (probably Mita’s best singles match, and Shimoda’s best except for the Toyota one, I think)

3WA TAG TEAM TITLES:
2 OUT OF 3 FALLS:
THE TOKYO SWEETHEARTS vs. DOUBLE INOUE (22.06.96):
* The Tokyo Sweethearts are a reunited ’80s team- Manami Toyota and Mima Shimoda oddly getting back together for a tag run. Mima is just off of a very incredible 1995 as we saw from those other matches- it seemed like she was getting a solid push and time in a lot of angles, but ultimately she was back in LCO before too long. The Sweethearts are wearing their typical solo gear- Manami’s black leotard (though with a lot of white lines on it now) and Mima’s tassled two-piece. Double Inoue are of course one of the most dominant teams of the era, with Kyoko also being a top-level singles competitor, and Takako being a combination of “Pretty Girl” and “Upper-Card JTTS”, being ultra-competitive but never getting a major push. Takako’s wearing some weird latex/ribbon thing out of Mayumi Ozaki’s closet, while Kyoko has combined Macho Man & Ultimate Warrior’s “Mega Maniacs” gear together into one look.

FIRST FALL: Manami “botches” her Running Springboard thing, but it’s impossible to tell with her- it weaves right into the story of the match, as Double Inoue dominate on the outside. I swear they just pre-plan for “okay, just in case I slip on the ropes this time…” or something. Shimoda takes some damage and then comes back with her sweet Flying Headscissors. Manami misses a dropkick and eats a Giant Swing, but D.I. tosses her into the ropes… and she springboards off right into a Sunset Flip on Takako for the first fall (3:30)! Clever! Set up the botch first so that we don’t see it the second time!

SECOND FALL: You don’t need to ASK Takako to be a nasty piece of work, so she’s out for blood in this fall. Double DDT, then Kyoko’s Fireman’s Toss & Inverted Fireman’s to Backbreaker. Then it’s Fold Manami in Twain time. Takako must be delivering some epic smack talk, because the crowd is going “OOOHHHHH!” and clapping every time she does it. They trade tags a bit (Kyoko seems to get the better of Mima every time), and Manami gets cocky, twice getting blasted while trying her Taunt & Moonsault trick- Takako even hits an incredible Backdrop Driver on her after, then a Super Chokeslam. Jeeeeeeeeeesus, those bumps. Manami rules. And Takako is showing fire! Kyoko hits a huge Powerbomb, a Pop-Up Super Belly-to-Belly, and a gigantic Lariat that Toyota somehow 1.5 Jannettys and THAT finally puts a stop her her at (15:28). Yikes- Manami was a bump machine beyond measure in there.

THIRD FALL: Crowd chants for the charismatic “KYO-ko!” on cue, but Manami wins them over with her sympathy-building selling. She gets stretched for a while, but finally gets Shimoda in… then hits the most beautiful Superfly Splash I’ve ever seen on Takako while she’s trapped in Mima’s Figure-Four. Tremendous. LONG bunch of Figure-Fours from Mima, who shows some fantastic facial expressions (a combination of desperation/hate/taunting) while Takako wails in an almost uncomfortably realistic way, clutching a taped up leg. Kyoko finally gets in, hits an All Japan-esque Release German, and then stretches Mima. Interesting how the third fall is the one with all the stretching.

The Sweethearts hit dives, but Stereo Flying Headbutts miss. Mima still hits a Butterfly Superplex, then stops Kyoko’s Bouncing Back Elbow… with the Death Lake Driver!! Kyoko BARELY gets her shoulder up after 2. Damn, her kickouts are good. Tiger Suplex gets 2- Takako saves. Manami ends up taking a Super Powerslam, but manages the “Fuck YOU!” Bridge! Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Sit-Out Powerbomb) gets two! Chokeslam/Niagara Driver results in Mima saving! The Sweethearts come back… and it’s a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex!! But Kyoko KICKS OUT?? Holy shit! The timing on that was beyond great- Kyoko hitting one last burst of energy to pump an arm out. DOOMSDAY OCEAN CYLCONE SUPLEX… and Takako saves! Mima & Takako brawl outside, and an exhausted Manami can only heft Kyoko onto the top rope… allowing her to get in an easier (ie. non-lifting) position for one last Cyclone Suplex, and THAT finally gets the pin at (17:32).

Jesus- I saw the participants and figured it’d be good, but I wasn’t expecting to watch Manami get murdered for fifteen minutes, then THREE Ocean Cyclone Suplexes in the Escalating Finishers portion! The bumping by Toyota, and her incredible moves, was pretty much the showcase here, though Takako had great character bits, and Kyoko’s All Japan offense was on great display (Lariats, Powerslams, Release Germans, etc.). Turned into a hell of a match immediately and only got slow in the third fall’s first half.

Rating: ****3/4 (a classic tag team match and total war; only thing keeping it back was some slow stuff that went nowhere)

Here’s some random bout from Mexico in recent years, which isn’t really any good, but shows that she’s still active and in shape… I mean, how many 45+ women do you know can run around in shorts and a belly-shirt and look like that?

IN SUMMATION: Mima Shimoda rules, and deserves to be more of a “name” people talk about when they refer to great Joshi. I feel like her obscurity is a real crime… even though her “Best Of” is half “The Best of Manami Toyota”. Expect… more of that, by the way. She’s, um, pretty good.