Joshi Spotlight- Etsuko Mita

Etsuko

Mita’s primal roar is a force of nature.

ETSUKO MITA:
Stats:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’8″ 183 lbs.
Career Length: 1987-2009
Trained By: Akira Hokuto

Mita’s theme, “Skyscrapower”.

Since I did a bio for Mima Shimoda, it was suggested I do one for Etsuko Mita, whose career has largely been spent alongside Mima. Like with Mima, I hadn’t really noticed her during my early watching of the Dream Slams, but the members of Las Cachorras Orientales have really impressed me during live-watches and random YouTube bouts. They way they both love to choke people with the most delighted smiles on their face brings me more happiness than the most flippy-floppy of MOVEZ-based matches.

Mita is a very different sort of Joshi- I’ve never seen anything quite like it. See, 5’8″ is INCREDIBLY tall for a Japanese woman. The average height there is 5’2″, and Joshi are typically only a little taller than that. So despite being two inches shorter than Madusa Micelli, Chyna, Charlotte Flair and Stacy Keibler, she comes off as a Barry Windham-style giant her various companies, towering over everyone. But unlike most of the Monster Heels in Joshi, who are typically also quite tall (Bull Nakano is 5’7″, and Combat Toyoda and others seem to be near Mita’s height), Mita is more slender, especially back in 1993-95. So instead of wrestling like a big, burly, power wrestler, she stalks about and hits precision strikes (an overhand chop and a face kick) and a few “launch the opponent” moves, typically from a fireman’s carry position.

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Mita’s predatory stare.

I really love the way she moved around the ring- while both Las Cachorras Orientales members scream and cackle during matches, Shimoda fights with a flurry- like a cornered animal. Mita moves like an animal that’s cornered YOU- confident, smooth and precise in her movements. She stalks around the ring and more carefully picks her spots. It’s a fun contrast in teammates. Mita has more “big moves” than Shimoda, but a less flashy style- you start to pick up on her patterns very quickly, as her first Hot Tag typically features the “Blazing Chop”, and their momentum builds to the Assisted Plancha/Dive combo, then the Electric Chair Drop/Splash combo. Mita’s a great seller, and is underrated in her ability to go up for big moves, as her long limbs could otherwise make the German Suplexes and Powerbombs look very awkward against shorter foes. She’s overall less good than Shimoda, I think- more ideal for “hot tag” portions and shorter matches, as her long ones tend to involve a lot of resting, and Shimoda is better at selling and has a more well-rounded offense. I think there’s a reason Shimoda seemed to have a bit more success outside of LCO.

Her biggest claim to fame in wrestling is actually for having created that favorite move of ’90s MOVEZ-loving wrestlers, the Death Valley Driver (or “Death Valley Bomb”, as it’s called on commentary). Picking opponents up and just SPIKING them using her own shoulder, it looks absolutely vicious, and I don’t think anyone else has ever done it better. It hits with such an impact, and looks so smooth (often going right into a pinning combination)- way better than the more clumsy ECW guys doing the move when they copied it a few years later.

Mita never really attained success in singles that I can see- there’s a few key wins here and there, but she was eventually eclipsed by her partner. Singles matches are hard to find (the highest-rated Meltzer one is shown here), with the Shimoda one being the best (****1/2-ish), so a lot of this showcase is of tags. I became a huge fan with the prompting of others, and was wildly entertained by her “Nasty Giraffe Goddess” thing, and the way she’d cackle and smirk at people’s misfortunes (also, she’s so tallllllllllllll). Oddly, she seems very soft-spoken and charming in interviews- while Shimoda broadcasts “I think I’m awesome” evil in the pre-match bits, Etsuko always seems very shy and has a tiny voice. Which is a huge contrast to her screaming like a maniac once the bell rings.

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It’s like a school yearbook picture!

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
Mita debuted in 1987, in an AJW training class that included Manami Toyota and her eventual partner, Mima Shimoda. Very tall, she had a bowl-haircut and no makeup, and was in a team with the similar Toshiyo Yamada called “Dream Orca” for a couple of years. Eventually, however, the two swapped partners (and Mita glammed up- first with makeup, then getting a dark tan), and the team with Shimoda became much more popular. In 1992, they hooked up with Akira Hokuto to form Los Cachorras Orientales, “The Oriental Bitches”. 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, Shimoda 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, with Shimoda getting a push with both Hokuto and Toyota, winning the AJW’s top Tag Titles without Mita. 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 small splinter promotion that’d popped up in that mess (the mess that would help diminish Joshi badly). While Shimoda still wrestles, Mita has never returned to the ring.

MOVESET:
Choking While Smiling, Body-Scissors, Beating Someone Outside the Ring, Chairshot, Chair Projectile, Bitch Pose, Tope Suicida, Running Kick to the Face, Fireman’s Carry Toss (Attitude Adjustment/F-U), Airplane Spin, Blazing Chop (Screaming Double-Arm Chest Slap), Electric Chair Drop, Super Electric Chair Drop, Northern Lights Suplex, Tope Suicida, Death Valley Driver/Bomb (Finisher/MDK)

About 54 minutes in.

SUZUKA MINAMI vs. ETSUKO MITA (AJW Grand Prix ’93):
* Minami and Mita are kind of in flux, here- Minami exists on the periphery of the upper-card, usually losing in tag matches, but being above the mid-tier for sure- she beat Harley Saito at Dream Slam II, and Harley was a real name in LLPW. Mita is part of Los Cachorras Orientales, who’ve been dominating the midcard, but have yet to receive major pushes at this point. Mita’s in her “1993 two-piece” set-up, with the halter top and the high-waisted trunks, this time all in red (she also has black & white variants). Suzuka’s in her 1993-era singlet, this one black with yellow trim (she also has lime green with black trim).

Wow, Minami just hands Etsuko her ass to start, easily outwrestling her, working the leg, and even going “LCO” on her outside, smashing her with chairs! Someone lit a fire under her ass! The crowd is REALLY silent to start, probably because of the slow going, but once Mita’s taking bigger moves, they get more into it. She even sells the leg when doing a bridging kickout. Boston Crab, but Mita actually BITES THE FOOT to escape, which is amazing, and then she sells a leg-lock by screaming like the fucking Gummy Bear in that “Robot Chicken” episode. And after TEN MINUTES of this leg stuff, Mita lights a fire and starts screaming her head off like the wrestler I recognize, tosses Minami for a while (mandatory chair-tossing ensues), and then starts biting her while holding a front facelock (she gives this sheepish “oops, sorry” smile to the ref when he admonishes her). She does her dive out of the ring and some other stuff (thank god Joshi usually don’t have to sell submissions for long! Mita even uses a body-scissors with the same leg!), but gets caught with a German, barely surviving and getting her own. Then Minami reverses the DVD, dumps her, dives onto her, then hits two Powerbombs, looking to finish! She goes up for the Senton Bomb that beat Saito at DSII, but Mita moves! Minami STILL outwrestles her, however, but Mita gets lucky and hits the Electric Chair Drop out of the corner when Minami climbs again! And this second attempt at her finisher, a SWEET Death Valley Driver, hits for the pin (19:42)!! I’ve never seen someone hold the DVD right into a pinning combination like that.

Wow, very interesting match. I mean, it was 80% Minami at least. She demolished the younger Mita for ten straight minutes of leg stuff (to a mostly silent crowd), with Mita getting only the occasional flurry afterwards- it was technically solid and the psychology was there… but it was without much fire or character. But overall, I really liked the story- Minami outwrestled Mita and reversed things… but then there’s the story on how her over-reliance on the Flying moves cost her- Minami has such a low-tier offense (a Powerbomb just doesn’t cut it, amazingly) that she needs to go high-risk to finish, and both times, Mita reversed. And Mita’s DVD is a MurderDeathKill move- the first attempt got rolled through, but when she hit the second, that was that- she absolutely SPIKED Minami here. A huge win for Mita, who has now beaten an uppercard wrestler while LCO are still a midcard tag team. The crowd definitely sold it like a big surprise.

Rating: ***3/4 (I’m a Mita mark, but the first ten minutes was REALLY slow and didn’t factor into the finish, either. It was like a **** match’s ending tacked onto a **1/2 match. Nothing was botched, all the moves looked good, and it had the “standard Minami Match” thing going for it)

One of the all-time great tag bouts.

JWP TAG TEAM TITLES:
MAYUMI OZAKI & CUTIE SUZUKI (c) vs. LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Wrestling Queendom II, 27.03.1994):
* Cutie & Mayumi were both given “Pretty Girl” pushes (photoshoots and what-not), but were also treated like serious wrestlers- Ozaki is like an itty-bitty Manami Toyota, still using standard joshi offense at 5’0″. Cutie is about third-tier in the company, with credibility but few huge wins. Cutie’s wearing a black leotard with white lining and no back, while Ozaki is wearing a bright pink leotard with green ruffles. Quite the color combination, Ozaki. LCO are being cruel, nasty womenfolk to everyone in Joshi around this time, and slowly climbing up the card- they’re wearing gold variants of their standard costumes this time- Mita is wearing a two piece made of shiny gold, while Shimoda is wearing her standard black two-piece with the gold tassles all over it.

Haha, both teams immediately cheat by grabbing the opponent as they try to run the ropes, then refusing to let go- this is going to be good. Mita, using one hand, launches Cutie around the ring by her hair. She looks like a true giant, here. Then LCO poses on Cutie’s head, and Mita starts choking her with that joyful smile on her face. Shimoda does the same hair-launch move, then taunts “Ozaki!” before crab-holding Cutie. Mayumi in with a Powerbomb on Mita, and people fight outside- one of those weird differences between Japan and the West pops up with Mayumi takes a Piledriver on the FLOOR… and just pops up and lightly rubs her head with a “How dare you!” offended look. Bizarre how piledrivers mean so little over there. Haha, and now the JWP team mimics the Bitch Pose, and take turns torturing Shimoda, who does her great “growly animal” sell. But Mita takes Ozaki apart, tossing her around, hitting the Chest Slaps, and then LCO take turns strangling her in various ways (like a hangman thing off the second rope). Cutie gets blasted by various clotheslines, but she manages an Octopus Hold on Mita that looks like a child trying to climb a tree.

Ozaki gets beaten on by Mita again (the giantess has her number, always), but she flips to the apron, takes out Shimoda, and both girls do Stereo Planchas to LCO, then Stereo Flying Headbutts to Shimoda for 2! Run-ins break things down, and Shimoda gets a great little “MEH!” kick to the air behind Ozaki- such a funny touch. Then Mita swats Cutie’s dropkick out of the air, all King Kong again. I notice that every time one team gains momentum, the other switches it back a bit later- Ozaki hits knees on a Moonsault, and gets Tiger Suplexed, for example. She comes back with her own Tiger & a Powerbomb, but then LCO reverses things and hits their trademark Assisted Plancha & Dive combo. Then it’s the Electric Chair Drop/Splash, but now SHIMODA hits knees! And Mita takes a Cross-Armed Suplex, a Flying Stomp, and a Double Flying Stomp! Mita’s in trouble, but Shimoda’s at the ready for a tag and a Flying Chokeslam Takedown to both, and a German for Cutie! Superplex gets a VERY close 2! Cutie reverses a lariat to a Dragon Suplex, but the Flying Knee misses! Mita’s in, and they start rolling each other up repeatedly, and Mita takes a Doomsday Device! Dragon Suplex only barely gets tipped over by Shimoda! And so a frustrated Cutie climbs up to finish… but jumps right onto Mita’s shoulders! Oh shit- DEATH VALLEY DRIVER!! And Shimoda grabs Ozaki, allowing Mita to hit another DVD, holding onto Cutie for the pin (20:35)!! They’re awarded the JWP Tag Titles and given trophies, but Shimoda talks shit to the JWP President and rips on him so bad he literally tosses the trophies at them and stomps off in a huff over their disrespect! Hah!

Holy cow, what a final stretch! The last ten minutes is essentially all action, and even the slower parts of the match had a lot of character (Shimoda kicking and screaming at people). In the end, momentum shifted so many times that you couldn’t really keep track of who was “winning”- it wasn’t a matter of “JWP dominates, then LCO does”, it was “someone hits a Tiger and a Splash, but then misses and gets hit with two other moves”, and then things shift again and again. Everyone’s stuff looked great, with Mima hitting her scrappy suplexes while Etsuko threw out those big strikes and her great DVD.

Rating: ****3/4 (never slowed down after a point, with constant big moves and desperate stretches)

TAG LEAGUE THE BEST (08.06.1994):
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & TAKAKO INOUE:
* I’m pretty sure that’s when this was- the timeline and result fits, and it’s clearly 1994-ish owing to Mita’s high-waisted outfit. She’s got the black & gold variant of the two-piece, while Shimoda’s in black & red with gold tassles. Takako’s wearing a very frilly white & black spackled thing, while Manami’s in the usual black leotard with cut-outs, and a silver front. Both women typically have other partners, so this is odd.

LCO tries to beat up Takako at first, but Manami flies in with a Missile Dropkick on both of them, then does another one to the outside! Then Takako holds Shimoda in Tombstone position and bumps her into the corners before hanging her in the Tree of Woe and casually flipping off Mita in her own corner. oh, Takako. But LCO gets them back, hurting Manami and doing multiple poses while strangling her on the ropes. Hangman choke in the corner, then the “Choke & Smile” bit from Mita, but Manami keeps coming back with those great, desperate claw-swipes. Mita then hits THREE Chest Slaps in a row, then a Northern Lights Suplex. Manami does the Pop-Up Dropkick to come back, but Takako gets hit with a release Backdrop toss immediately. She comes back by tossing Mita off the top, and boy, if there’s one person who can match LCO’s attitude in the ring, it’s HER, because she’s soon choking away and taunting, including flipping off the crowd with what looks like a sarcastic “I’m just being cheeky” wink. And after some stretching and Toyota Dropkick Spam, she’s in there taunting an Octopus Stretched Shimoda. I wish I understood Japanese, because the whole crowd visibly cracks up at some of her shit-talk.

Mita wows the crowd by folding Manami in half backwards with a camel clutch, but then Manami hits the No-Hands Springboard Crossbody on Shimoda and Takako takes over, but LCO keep finding ways to reverse stuff- Takako makes the mistake of pointing to her head after dodging a Shimoda move, then gets her backdrop attempt reversed to a near-fall as a result. And Toyota hits the Rolling Cradle, but Mita pulls her off the top and dumps both girls, setting up the Assisted Plancha/Tope combo. Manami takes a HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE bump off of a Super Electric Chair Drop, barely sliding out after 2. Jesus, she went right onto her neck and folded over. But she STILL manages a sunset flip from a Powerbomb attempt, then a No-Hands Springboard to BOTH LCO members! Doomsday Device Dropkick, but they screw up which one was legal, and that allows Mita to avoid a Moonsault, then Shimoda reverses the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex to a Tiger Suplex for a near-fall. Mita in, but the DVD is reversed to a German, and she takes a Moonsault for a near-fall! Takako in for a Backdrop Hold and a Super Chokeslam for more close calls! Poor Etsuko is taking a BEATING! Slick timing as Mita dodges a Flying Knee from Takako, but takes a Missile Dropkick from off-camera Manami, but the No-Hands Springboard Plancha only hits Takako! That sets up the Electric Chair/Splash combo on her! The DVD is teased again (the crowd loses their shit every time someone ends up on Mita’s shoulders), Manami runs in, and finally Shimoda’s able to hold her back long enough (and German Suplexes Takako in the meantime) to allow Mita free reign- DEATH VALLEY DRIVER!!! And that’s good enough for the three (22:10).

hahaha, holy CRAP- I was leaning towards “yeah, this is probably gonna be **** just because of the participants and nice moves”, and the clever ways LCO kept finding their way back from any momentum shift, but then the last five minutes was non-stop bombs as they desperately tried for whatever they could- Manami hitting TWO Springboard moves, that Tiger Suplex reversal, the multiple double-teams and huge moves to Etsuko Mita, and she FINALLY hits the DVD after numerous teases- that move sets up so much drama in these bouts, and Mita really took a pounding like a champ in this one, selling her ass off and going up for everything. Great showcase for her and her offense, as well as her durability. Taking a Springboard Crossbody, Doomsday Device Dropkick, German, Moonsault, Backdrop Hold & Super Chokeslam all in succession is some grade-A badass shit.

Rating: ****3/4 (expected to be great because of the participants, and it STILL surprised me!)

And a bonus match, though not really a competitive bout:

One of the biggest size differences you’ll ever see in joshi. Not every day you see a 5’8″ woman look like Kevin Nash out there. The hair’s not quite as beautiful, but it’s close.

LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES & TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. CHAPARITA ASARI, RIE TAMADA & YUMI FUKAWA (06.10.1996):
* Hahahahahaha oh my god- the seniors look like GIANTS compared to the little team. Asari, Tamada & Fukawa are all about five feet or under, while every member of the opposing team is at least 5’6″. Mita in particular is ENORMOUS. Yamada’s wearing a purple & white singlet, dropping the martial arts shirt & pants. Mita is in her “post-1995” look, which consists of much longer hair, a deep tan (really unusual in Japan), and a two-piece outfit with a skirt (light blue this time). Shimoda’s wearing a red two-piece with white trim. Asari is the most famous person on her team, and would get a “Super Tiny Underdog” push, with her own title (the WWWA Super Lightweight) to showcase her. She’s dressed like the Red Power Ranger, but has long black hair. Rie Tamada had some success, moving on from AJW to other companies, but was never a huge star. She’s wearing a red two-piece with white trim. Fukawa wrestled for eight years, but didn’t win much gold. She got a “Pretty Girl” push, judging by what just typing her name into Google showed me. She’s wearing a white two-piece with a see-through tutu skirt. The latter two were jobbers here, so the outcome isn’t really in doubt.

Smart booking, as right away the three girls are up against Etsuko Gonzalez, who just starts ignoring all their shots and throwing the babies around by their hair. She casually grabs one out of a cross-body, hair-tosses Asari with one hand, and even takes a TRIPLE DROPKICK and stomps forward like it was nothing. All three elders start killing Fukawa, who yelps with each move. Oh god, and they Triple Dropkick her- that’s just mean. Mita wrestles more Giant-like than I’ve ever seen before, hitting a delayed bodyslam, doing a one-knee pin, and even ignoring the others’ kicks while Boston Crab-bing Fukawa. Eventually they get sent away, and Mita’s not even holding the crab anymore; she’s just sitting on a squealing Fukawa’s ass. Fukawa elbows her in the ass on the way up, which is funny, but her punches do nothing, and Mita just hits a VICIOUS slap and one-handed tosses her across the ring.

Fukawa gets tossed into her own corner, and now Mita taunts Asari by holding her hand up for a test of strength- the ten-inch height difference makes that one-sided (Asari can’t even reach by jumping). But then Mita gets punished for her hubris, as Asari wipes out her leg, puts on a Figure-Four, and her teammates alternate flying in with splashes! But Mita just rises up, laughs, and turns the Figure-Four over! Jesus, that’s amazing. Asari desperately bites the foot to keep the move on, but Mita casually unthreads their legs through sheer reach, then bites ASARI’s foot with this big cartoonish flourish. Shimoda in, but Asari does a great flip-out reversal of a slingshot and Team Small takes over on her, then Yamada, though nobody is in much danger. Mita actually sells like a champ eventually, being thrown over for a ton of Sunset Flips & assorted roll-ups- given the height difference, she has to show a lot of athleticism and careful limb placement to not make that look like shit.

Asari hits a great Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kick to Shimoda, and we get a lot of fun stuff to show Team Small using their size to advantage, getting out of the way of things, breaking up falls by outrunning the big girls, and going for quick team attacks. Super Rana gets a VERY call! Death Lake Driver is countered to a cross-body, but a Tiger Suplex is only barely tipped over, so her teammates just muscle down the other girls, leaving Shimoda alone. So she gets a Tiger Superplex, and oh FUCK did that look like it hurt. The pinfall is just a formality at (14:49). Poor girl landed right on her shoulder and head. Yikes.

Really, really fun squash, where the juvenile team had no chance, but kept doing a lot of smart tactical stuff with their speed (often just outrunning LCO & Yamada to break up pins, or luring them into dropkicks), and we got to see some unusual bully/power tactics from wrestlers who are normally more scrappy and fight-y because they’re fighting equals. Mita in particular was AMAZING as this cruel, no-selling giantess, but I won’t even pretend to not be biased there. Yamada is a fun bully, and Shimoda’s a psycho, as always.

Rating: ***3/4 (probably the highest you’ll ever see me rate a glorified squash match, but it was fun. But I’m biased)

In Summation: I’m a huge Mita fan. Great-looking offense, fun character work, and more. She brings a lot to tag matches, and is one of the more fun people to watch in that context, even if her singles stuff is sparse.