Joshi Spotlight- Random Grab-Bag (LCO & Toyota!)

So here’s a random assortment of matches I’ve found- some of the most fun to be had on YouTube Joshi searches isn’t with spotlighting only one wrestler or one show, but by jumping all over the place, finding interesting little things here and there. Some of the best workers of the early ’90s were paired up in all sorts of interesting ways.

But don’t worry if you don’t like it- the next batch will be more focused- the first two Wrestlemarinepiads, a Grand Prix thing from 1993, and maybe a history of a few Joshi promotions.

AKIRA HOKUTO vs. SUZUKA MINAMI (AJW Japan Grand Prix- Round Robin, 04.07.1993)
* Hokuto is of course famous enough that even many American wrestling fans have heard of her- she was one of the top-tier joshi in AJW during its peak, won a ton of titles over there, and was treated as a dominant force. She had one of the most legendary joshi bouts ever- a bloodbath against Shinobi Kandori- months before this. She was WCW’s first Women’s Champion, but soon retired in the late ’90s (correction: 2002), injuries messing up her body, and she was married by then anyhow. Suzuka “Friend’s Mom You Had a Crush On” Minami is a lesser-known star, debuting a bit before the biggest stars of the time and retiring much earlier. Winning some belts around 1991 or so, she was largely seen as an upper-midcarder- often challenging well, but never beating the top names after a point, and was typically the “lesser partner” in Main Event tag bouts.

Minami WANTS THIS, as she divebombs Akira before the bell even rings (she’s got all her pre-match stuff on! Thankfully Minami waited for her to put away the sword…), hitting her with a dive, and then Powerbombing her on the floor! Akira comes back with brawling, a piledriver, and then tortures Minami with submissions, stretching various body parts. Minami takes a LONG time to come back, hitting her specialty (the spinning backbreaker), then a samoan drop- this kind of showcases her general moveset and style- The Basics Done Well. Nothing really fancy or mind-blowing, but solid, reliable stuff- it lets you know immediately why she never became a star, but also why she was good to toss out there in stuff like this.

Minami uses a LOT of bailing and keepaway to hold Akira off, eats a suplex to the outside, but manages to hit a trio of Powerbombs- another specialty! Her offense is very smooth and tight- contrasting Hokuto’s wild, “self-taught”-looking maniacal style. Akira hits a Tiger Suplex, but both girls eat piledrivers on the outside, and Minami looks close to finish a couple of times, before Akira catches her coming off the ropes with a brutal Northern Lights Bomb (head-spike brainbuster to the side) for an easy three count (16:20). A nice little match, kept competitive largely through the pyschology of Minami playing it desperately smart, though Akira was never really THAT much in danger, being such a bigger star at the time.

Rating: ***1/2

LCO’s antics in the pre-match bit here are classic.

* So the story here is pretty great. It turns out that AJW’s midcard team has finally upgraded to the top-tier, as LCO are now elite wrestlers, acting like crazy heels, and have suddenly entered the JWP promotion and won their Tag Team Titles (which I reviewed on Etsuko Mita’s bio last Friday), holding them for nine months up to this point. In so doing, they began talking shit about absolutely everyone in the promotion, making fun of the talent, the titles (Naito-ing them before Naito was a thing), and even JWP’s President, thus shattering every rule of social tact Japan has (a woman speaking to a male in such terms is highly objectionable, much less her boss!). The JWP stars, pissed off over LCO’s lack of decorum and their shaming of JWP’s talent roster, has declared war, and tried (and failed) to take the JWP Tag Titles back. Fukuoka and Ozaki, two of their top-ranked superstars, have taken shots with other tag partners, but both have failed. So after one loss, Ozaki came out and asked Fukuoka to team with her for one last shot. So this one is about more than gold- it’s about pride, shame, and putting two nasty bitches in their places.

They show clips of LCO winning the JWP Tag Titles, wearing shirts that bear their own faces on them, beating a few challengers, and teasing the JWP President, who frequently loses his composure and starts yelling at them. Mita swipes the script he’s reading from, and Shimoda sarcastically holds her arm out for a handshake, then flips him off when he slaps it away. Oh, this is going to be tremendous. Shimoda’s wearing a less skimpy two-piece than usual, black with white tassles all over. Mita has reversed colors on her standard two-piece outfit- black with white lines, and a lot of straps on the top. Ozaki’s wearing a black two-piece with a lot of red, and long, puffy sleeves. Fukuoka’s dressed up in a red & black striped leotard with a lot of cut-outs on the shoulders, stomach and thighs, along with a red tutu. STYLE.

LCO get the best of Fukuoka to start, with Chest Slaps, choking, and the almighty Bitch Pose in the corner! And then Ozaki’s in for a slapfest with Shimoda! Ozaki takes over on her, but soon it’s a brawl to the outside and LCO dominates again. It looks very strange to see Ozaki booked as such a dominant fighter- she doesn’t even really fight like a tiny person; she just hits clotheslines, Powerbombs and stretches people the same way as everyone else does. Though the gigantic Mita uses the eight-inch height difference to great effect, swatting her down like King Kong from a dropkick. Lots of stretching and submissions in the middle portion.

LCO’s double-teams lead the match at first, but soon Team JWP recovers and does some of their own, though a Missile Dropkick/Flying Bulldog has an overshot on Ozaki’s part that even has the announcer using “Chotto” to describe it- thankfully Mita knows to stumble forward when taking it, instead of Jackie Gayda-ing up. Great Hurricanrana by Fukuoka on Mita- watching carefully, you actually see Mita leaning in and standing bow-legged on purpose so that Fukuoka can reach her gargantuan 5’8″ height, but moves as if she’s trying to just toss her, so it doesn’t look like assistance. VERY nice. Then it’s the LCO Dives- Assisted Plancha & Tope Suicida! Electric Chair Drop/Splash! Shimoda gets a Tiger Suplex, but the Death Lake Driver is reversed! Fukuoka hits a GREAT Moonsault, then she & Ozaki do Stereo Flying Knee-Stomps, another Moonsault hits feet, and Ozaki helps Fukuoka hit a pair of Moonsault Stomps (which caused a debate during a live watch, because it looks like she just hit her feet and kneed Shimoda, though her move is called a “Moonsault Stomp”) for the win (19:54). The JWP President gives them a full 90-degree bow (the ultimate sign of respect and gratitude) and everyone’s super happy- LCO hug each other and bow to the crowd a bit in defeat.

A very good match that didn’t quite blow my mind, as it started quite slow, and the Finishing Stretch didn’t quite get as epic as I’d hoped (Mita honestly took very little damage, and kind of just got dumped out of the ring for the end bit), but Team JWP finally meshing as one and getting their double-teams in together made it work, and it was a solid story. Fukuoka was actually the most impressive one of the match, hitting almost everything perfectly, doing four Moonsault-like moves, and hitting the “Mid ’90s Cruiserweight” offense as well as anyone. The baseline LCO match is ***1/2, and this one was a fair bit better than that.

Rating: ****

Tateno Noriyo is a fat but good woman. The big ass is also the strength of women.
-Google Translation of one of the YouTube comments. Personally I thought Tateno was perfectly lovely- kind of a “housewife who wrestles on the side” kind of thing.

* So this looks interesting- set five months after the Dream Slams, we have most people in similar positions. Hotta is a powerful upper-midcarder with great kicks, wearing a black & yellow singlet which looks alright… and Bruce Lee’s haircut from the 1970s. Minami is an uppercard JJTS-sort who does very well-applied moves, but never really gets a push. She’s wearing a blue spray-painted singlet. LCO are Etsuko Mita in her SWEET white variant two-piece (I mark out for that like I do when Ted DiBiase wears HIS white gear) and Mima Shimoda in a black & red tassled thing- they’re screaming maniacs, as always- still in the midcard, but with some cred. Numacchi is Saemi Numata, a terrible rookie at the Dream Slam, who is now doing a comedy “Construction Worker” gimmick, with a hard-hat, shovel, pail, and a green singlet with pajama pants. Looks, um… out of place. Though Mima is clearly corpsing during her act, and Minami has that “delighted mother” look to her. Mita’s no-selling it like “WTF is this?”.

Eagle Sawai was a #2 star in LLPW, and a total monster (about 5’8″ and THICK), with Harley Saito as a 1-2-3 Kid-esque kicker/flier, and on a level below her. Saito’s at least better dressed than at Dream Slam, wearing merely an ugly, multi-colored Mortal Kombat outfit. Noriyo Tateno is better known as one half of the JUMPING BOMB ANGELS, the Joshi tag team that dropped jaws in the WWF in 1988, doing crazy shit that we wouldn’t see in the West again until 1995 or so. She joined LLPW in 1992 (retired by AJW’s “quit at 26” rule), and stayed there until she retired in 2010! Here, she’s looking a bit thicker than her Angel days, but wearing a SWEET purple, white & black singlet. Yasha Kurenai debuted in 1989 and retired in 1999, winning only the All Pacific Title (AJW’s #2 belt) as singles gold in 1998 aside from some tag stuff- she’s wearing a white shirt and baggy red pants, looking like something out of the Attitude Era… five years early. Mizuki Endo actually still wrestles, going by “Aiger”, and has won largely tag gold over the years, and is wearing the jobberiest blue singlet ever. The last two seem like the Young Girls on the team.

The rules are Elimination Tag, which is like the Survivor Series, but with less people getting beaten from clotheslines. The time on eliminations doesn’t match what I’m seeing on YouTube, so I’m thinking some clipping was involved. I’m not much of a “noticing clipping” guy, and the crowd noise was consistent, but I can see some camera cuts here and there that might’ve been it.

LOL, the hard camera makes this look like a high school gymnasium, as the ring is almost backed up to the wall, but wider shots show a 4,500-person arena. The teams take turns beating on each other’s jobbers (god help me, Numacchi’s screaming and her plastic helmet being used as a weapon is funny), with LCO doing their Bitch Pose on Endo, and Hotta shaming her shitty strikes before murdering her with a Backdrop Driver. She manages a tag, but Kurenai gets similarly annihilated, eating the LCO Electric Chair Drop/Splash, then Powerbombed & German Suplexed by Minami for the pin (5:11). Jesus, already? Girl barely got in a few punches against Numacchi! That arm-tape must have been guarding a serious injury. OH MY GOD MITA’S DRINKING A BEER AT RINGSIDE AGAIN! Okay, so that’s probably water, but she’s the only person I see do that so openly. Numacchi gets murdered by the LLPW team for a bit, but Mita gets in… and Saito deflects her Chest Slap with a kick! That was pretty fucking cool! Shimoda in against Endo, and she whups the rookie with a Tiger Superplex (not a Death Lake Driver- both arms were hooked), killing her (9:43). Now it’s 5-on-3.

Shimoda & Tateno in, and they take turns biting each other’s wrists during submissions. Then everyone runs in and the match breaks down, but Minami takes Stereo Flying Headbutts from Tateno & Saito, and is done (12:10). Huh- didn’t think she’d take the first fall. Saito misses a kick and hits Tateno by accident, and Hotta uses that to hit her with a Sit-Out Cross-Armed Powerbomb (crossing the arms makes moves hurt more!) for the pin (13:10). I like the “team psychology” in these things- you notice during the falls that teams are actually physically blocking opponents from entering the ring, since Joshi is so based around partner-assisted kickouts. It’s 4-on-2 now, but Saito & Sawai are pretty fresh. Mita takes Eagle’s Vader Bomb off the top, but kicks out! LCO tries to double-team Eagle, but she bullrushes them over by reversing a double-clothesline (man, Joshi LOVES that spot). LCO hit dives to the outside, but then Numacchi ends up flattening her whole team. Hee. That lets Saito hit a Slingshot Pescado, and then EAGLE does her own dive off the top, impressing the crowd. Jesus.

Hotta sets Eagle up for FOUR Missile Dropkicks from LCO, but then Numacchi runs in with the goddamn shovel and ends up smoking Hotta, who gets pinned (16:43). Hotta’s like “Can you believe this shit?”, almost amused, and Shimoda runs in and is immediately Bossman Slammed and pinned after a Powerbomb (17:06). Did someone hit the “Go Home” signal? And then Mita runs in, slaps Eagle, and gets clotheslined… and Eagle just folds her over and pins her (17:19). Oh my God, it IS the Survivor Series!! So Numacchi wraps a Headband Of Some Japanese Thing I Don’t Know About around her forehead, jumps down, stumbles, and is just pushed over for one last pin (17:39). The time on the screen says “26:49”, so we’re missing nine minutes, I guess.

Kind of a dumb, fun match, no major stakes, and people jobbing to basic shit like it’s the actual Survivor Series. Pretty much a “filler house show” event, especially with the comedy character in there, and one of AJW’s top up & comers getting pinned by her shovel attack by mistake.

Ratings: ***1/4 (good enough, fast enough, and with some decent-looking moves. Not a classic, obviously)

MANAMI TOYOTA (c) vs. TAKAKO INOUE (22.10.1994):
* Manami is a legendary worker of course, and is wearing a standard black leotard, but this one’s all covered in silver sparkles and has a symbol on the chest. Takako, our “Idol Wrestler” but nonetheless packing legit skills, is wearing a hideous white leopard-print outfit with a bed skirt sewn onto it. She really has some of the most terrible gear at times- was she trying to play off her looks or something?

Takako attacks before the bell, and Manami misses her No-Hands Springboard attack AND her “slide between the ropes” dropkick spot. Takako then preens, then CHOKESLAMS HER OFF THE APRON. Yikes- good thing it’s early and finisher’s don’t count yet. Manami gets stretched for like five minutes with that usual insane relish Takako puts into things (often smirking or taunting the crowd), and even chokeslams Manami onto her knee, which is something I haven’t seen before. Toyota comes back with hair-pulling and shows off her bridging all over the place, both while being stretched, and while doing stretching (that Indian Deathlock/Bridging Body Hold thing is something nobody else in wrestling could do). Takako reverses to a Tombstone and does another thing I’ve never seen before, walking around with Manami in the upside-down position so she can knee her in the face with each step. JESUS. Then punches Manami in the corner and flips off the entire audience. Dude, what IS it with this chick?

Takako just brawls for a while, stomping on Manami’s head a bunch, but Toyota finally makes the comeback by chasing Takako back inside the ring and doing some strikes of her own. She takes a Tombstone outside the ring, but a Toyota Roll nearly gets a fall, but Takako puts a stop to that with a Super Chokeslam, Manami taking one of those HUGE bumps on the back of her neck that make you wonder how she’s not crippled. And she STILL manages the bridging kickout with a scream! And that signals our Escalating Finishers portion… and Manami hits FOUR DIVES on the outside! Who is she, Teddy Hart? Of course one is the “casually stroll up the ropes even though it’s 20 minutes in” Moonsault, and the other’s a No-Hands Springboard, because Manami. Takako fires back with a Flying Knee to the head, but misses the second and eats a Cross-Armed Suplex. Takako’s facial reactions at the near-falls are GREAT- just this look of utter disbelief and annoyance. Manami finally hits a Moonsault on her third try, but Takako gets out of a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex and Manami has to settle for a German for a VERY near fall. Takako properly subdued, a last attempt gets the Cyclone Suplex off, and she wins (24:00).

Very good match- Takako is more limited than the other top-flight workers in AJW, but can definitely hold her own. The “stretching/brawling” portion of the match was at least twice as long as was normal (probably for her benefit), but the character bits in it, like Takako’s nasty torturing of her foe, made it work as more than just “filler”, and once Manami started hitting the big stuff, we had a good bunch of Escalating Finishers. Not as many as you’d get for the “tippy-top” main events or tags, though, so it fails to really hit the upper echelons- Takako really only hit a couple of things that looked like they could finish, and we usually get 2-3 more Suplex Trade-Offs before the end of a match THIS long. I thought I might be underrating it, but Meltzer has it only a 1/4* higher. I think that makes me more correct.

Rating: **** (Takako can hang with anyone and hold her own. Arguably the bottom-tier level for a Toyota singles match, too, which is insane)

And that’s it for this edition! I dunno- got about 3000 words just off of random stuff, and it’s a good cross-section of what was good about early ’90s Joshi- an assortment of distinct workers, people moving up and down the card, and matches with great portions of finishers. And I get to stick random LCO & Toyota matches in wherever I can, because they’re the best.