AJW WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’89:
The Day the Music Died (06.05.1989)
-Now THIS show is a real relic. AJW’s peak is generally seen as the 1992-95 stretch, so this is long before that, with many of the biggest stars in Joshi history being… young rookies. According to the Live Watchers, this was a big of a weaksauce show, but what the hell? I can’t just review the GOOD stuff. This show notably features a double-ring for the purposes of a battle royal. And tests my abilities as a reviewer, because I have no idea how to grade matches that aren’t great. I mean, I can judge the virtues of a good match versus a great one and score stuff accordingly- certain great matches are better than others. A *** and a **** and a ***** classic are all different and easy to tell apart. But… what about a BAD match? A botchy one with some good stuff? A good match that’s too long? A match where all they have are the basics down, but is still okay? I’m lost at anything below ***, lol. It’s just random numbers of stars from that point!
“TL;DR” Version: Well, it’s not exactly GREAT. None of the matches go above ***. A lot of the performances are BEYOND horrible. If you’re unfamiliar with Joshi, then you’d really not get much out of it aside from seeing the oddity of GLOW girls mix it up with legitimately talented Joshi superstars. But if you ARE familiar with Joshi, it’s actually pretty fun- it’s like AJW’s version of Muppet Babies, watching rookie versions of who’d be big stars 4-6 years later. Plus GLOW is great “cringe comedy” in terms of awkwardness.
This one gets a bit long, primarily because I have to try and explain who everyone is. Everything in italics is skippable if you don’t care about the histories.
Haha, Baby Mima and Baby Manami as nervous, insecure rookies.
THE TOKYO SWEETHEARTS vs. DREAM ORCA:
* Speaking of which, here’s a quartet of future megastars and Main Eventers when they were opening match jobbers, with all four dressed like the contestants on “American Gladiators”. Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda are the Sweethearts, wearing matching black leggings under reeeeeeeeeaally dated 1980s Olivia Newton-John tights (Manami in pink, Mima in orange). Manami is at this point a few years from becoming possibly the greatest worker ever, and looks about sixteen here. Dream Orca is Toshiyo Yamada and Etsuko Mita, both wearing olive green tights over white leggings, and also looking like young children (in this case, both are very tomboyish, almost like G.I. Joe gymnasts). This is friggin’ hilarious. So this match is interesting because it’s basically two “Clone Buddy” tag teams (pretty, slender girls on one side; sporty, short-haired girls on the other), but everyone here found exponentially greater success by swapping partners- Shimoda & Mita became Las Cachorras Orientales, and Toyota & Yamada became AJW Main Eventers in some of wrestling’s best matches.
Haha, Dream Orca both have metal bracelets and belts on, looking like “He-Man” backgrounders, too. Everyone exchanges ’80s Jobber Offense to start, looking sooooooooo basic, but you can see Baby Manami being much more agile than Baby Mima (throwing in a flying armbar takeover among all the generic arm stuff). They work over Dream Orca’s arms for the most part, but Yamada catches Toyota going for another flying armbar and splats her- good “learning” psychology. Mita throws out her airplane spin, and Toyota does her “Bridging Kickout”, looking into the future. God, how many Irish Whip Dropkicks are they gonna throw? Everyone has such a limited offense that they repeat their big moves (like Yamada’s spinning backbreaker). The future LCO just don’t seem right when they’re not screaming like maniacs, either. I swear Toyota’s in the ring for 90% of this, too- she’s got both heat segments AND the majority of her team’s offense (Shimoda just does some basic stuff, and a fairly slow, over-choreographed flying headscissors). Oh, THEY KNEW. And just as I think that there’s too much move-repetition, Yamada attempts one too many Spinning Backbreakers, Manami lands on her feet, and she slips behind for a German Suplex Hold (10:27). Yamada loses her shit at being pinned, pounding the mat in frustration, in a great character bit.
Rating: **1/2 (Hard match to rate- it’s Jobber City out there, with all plain offense, very little heat, and they’re only doing the basics plus a couple unique moves each. But the basics are done WELL. More interesting from the historical perspective, but the psychology was there- learning from moves that worked and being ready for them)
KAORU MAEDA & MIKA TAKAHASHI (AJW) vs. TEXAS & TIFFANY (GLOW):
* Hahahahahaah OMG, it’s actually girls from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! Texas has the most “80s Southern Girl” hair ever, looking like a blonde poodle, and she’s wearing a yellow tassled outfit and twirling a lasso (clearly whacking it against the ground every time she swings it) with an exaggerated accent. Tiffany Mellon is another blonde with curly hair, and has some awful tiger print singlet thing on. She boasts about having a “black belt in shopping” (the production guys are obviously cracking up at this point) and evidently had only one take (“I’m six BLUHHHH, five-foot-six of CURVACEOUS power!”). I’ve never seen GLOW so I couldn’t tell you much about either, but Mellon apparently went into hardcore pornography, then bounty hunting, then reality TV, and is now a conservative radio host… is it weird that I don’t find that career progression the least bit surprising? Am I that cynical? Most GLOW girls were just wannabe actresses given a modicum of training and filmed doing simple stuff, but it became a pretty big fad for a year or two in the 1980s. Kaoru Maeda, sometimes KAORU, still wrestles and has done pretty well for herself (mostly in tags). Meanwhile, Mika has no profile that I can find. The AJW girls are in neon, with Maeda wearing yellow with purple leggings and Takahashi wearing orange with green leggings. Sooooooooo ’80s. Both also have that “Well Dunn” thing with the different-colored thong on the outside of colored shorts.
As you might imagine, the AJW are better in the ring. The GLOW girls at least know their role, scampering around the ring hitting hair-mares, knees to the back, awkward overhand shots, and headlocks. Then it descends into an awkward brawl and the GLOW girls start losing it, but an Assisted Legdrop from the AJW team looks okay. They all brawl outside the ring (Texas choking with a cable cord), but then Stereo Butterfly Suplexes, a Double Dropkick and a Double Backdrop Suplex put Tiffany down for the count (7:56).
Rating: 1/2* (pretty bad- just basic ’80s Moolah Offense from the GLOW girls, and things got awkward eventually)
DOUBLE JEOPARDY MATCHES:
(Both Running Simultaneously)
BULL NAKANO vs. YUMI OGURA/ITSUKI YAMAZAKI vs. NORIYO TATENO:
* This is… what? Two matches running at the same time? There’s probably a reason nobody’s ever tried that before or since- who are you supposed to time your stuff? Haha, all three non-Bull women have the same haircut (huge hair on top with long hair on the bottom, with the same bangs). Tateno and Yamazaki are better known as 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. Yamazaki retired in 1991, but Tateno didn’t call it quits until 2010! Tateno’s wearing a bright pink singlet, while Yamazaki is wearing a grey & white striped singlet. Ogura is wearing a blue singlet with black accents, and is a bit more thick and squat than the typical Joshi. She had a seven-year career, ending the year after this after some Tag Title reigns and a stint as the third-tier champion. Bull, of course, has twelve inches of blue hair sticking straight up. This time she’s wearing a black singlet with blue streaks and white writing on it, and is by this point an unstoppable megastar.
The bell rings and two simultaneous matches start, wisely with both hitting the floor at the same time. Bull smokes Ogura repeatedly with a giant garbage can. Haha, now the other two are chain wrestling (a good little match, actually) while Bull is hitting Ogura with a pipe. Bull later uses the nunchucks, but Ogura comes back with some flying stuff, though the ref is apparently a heel and won’t count sometimes. Tateno hits a flying splash while Bull does her running kicks. Bull gets hung upside-down in the ropes and hit with her own nunchucks while Yamazaki comes back against her former partner. Bull is busted open from something (maybe from outside the ring) and soon both matches have simultaneous Bridging Suplexes, with Tateno getting the pin with hers (12:00)! hah, neat bit. They spend a lot of time on Tateno taking her bows and getting her trophy, while Bull uses her nunchucks. Ogura gets a final hope spot with a Superplex, but the ref oversells getting his leg “grabbed” by one of Bull’s minions, and she hits a great Northern Light Suplex (13:48) for the pin, even though Ogura’s shoulders are up for part of it. Then… they just shake hands, and Bull gives Ogura the trophy? Weird.
Rating: **3/4 (kind of a fascinating little project, though you can’t seen enough of each match to rate- both seem around this level, though- one is more of a Catch-Wrestling thing where one finally gets caught, while Bull/Ogura is a brawl)
LEILANI KAI, BEASTIE THE ROAD WARRIOR & BIG BAD MAMA vs. REIBUN AMADA, SUZUKA MINAMI & YUMIKO HOTTA:
* Oh Jesus. More GLOW girls, but mixed in with AJW’s… this is nuts. Leilani Kai is of course a name even in American women’s wrestling, having faced the babyface Women’s Champion at both WrestleMania I & X, losing to Wendi Richter & Alundra Blayze. Trained by Moolah in 1975, she was established even by this point, and was WWF Women’s Tag Champ along with Judy Martin in the Glamor Girls the year before this, used to job to the Jumping Bomb Angels (as the GGs were good enough to take that futuristic offense). She’d even won gold in AJW, beating Chigusa Nagayo for the All Pacific Title, and more, so she was absolutely known to the Japanese audience. She’s wearing a singlet with a gold top and black bottom, and has her hair dyed blonde and is acting like she’s gorgeous, and keeps blowing kisses with the timing of Michael Scott’s collar-tugs while doing his Rodney Dangerfield impression. Beastie & Big Bad Mama are GLOW girls- Mama is a big fat woman dressed up like Peg Bundy with pieces of fur on a black singlet- she actually says “YOU WILL DIE- HAAHAHAHAHAHAH!”. Beastie has no Australian accent, but is said to be from Sydney- she’s a burly type with blue facepaint and torn-up tights of aquamarine (the universal color of badass). And… a black thong over top of that. Lovely. She manages to rhyme “here and now” with “here and now” in her promo, then does a Hellwig Snort and screams for no reason. God these are amazing.
Minami is a lesser-known star, debuting a bit before the biggest stars of the 1990s 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. At this point, she’s SUPER-young, but four years into the business. Her tights are yellow and black. Hotta’s a future big name, winning AJW’s top title in the late ’90s, but was an upper-midcarder in 1993- she’s basically a baby here. She’s got a red & black bodysuit on. I can’t find much about their partner, Amada. Apparently she was the AJW Champion two months after this (their third-tier title), relinquishing it when she retired this October. She’s in a pink singlet.
Oh my God, the American team comes out to Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”. Spectacular. Then it’s Beastie & Mama doing their ultra-basic “push people” stuff against some young girls who know good fundamentals, and it’s both awkward and kind of fascinating for that. I mean, Mama has NOTHING in the ring- she’s just tall (at least a head taller than many opponents), rotund and scary-looking, so Hotta & Amada have to run circles around her and bump like nuts to make her look credible. A total carry-job. A great bit sees the crowd slowly go “Oh, these are COMEDY wrestlers” and begin laughing at Mama’s horrendous “wrestling” as she stomps around the ring and growls- she runs like the nerdiest kid you ever met into an avalanche on all three AJW girls. Kai can run at the speed of a human being and actually work a match, so she’s in next, and hits a bridging Northern Lights-ish suplex. Mama in again for the world’s slowest airplane spin. Leilani does some other stuff, barks orders to Mama, and she hits two belly-first thumps and then the world’s worst splash on Amada for the pin (10:07).
Rating: 1/2* (Downright embarrassing at times, but fascinating watching people who can’t work AT ALL versus low-tier girls who can’t move them. Kai and the AJW girls looked okay, but still clumsy/nervous)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO’S RETIREMENT:
-So this next bunch of stuff is themed around Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement. She’d hit the mandatory retirement age of 26 (implemented for both cultural reasons and corporate ones- they wanted to target young girls, so wanted women out before they got too “adult”, and also were going by Japanese society’s focus on youth in women and the expectations that older ones get married). As part of the Crush Gals, she was a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge megastar in the 1980s, drawing the loudest reactions I’ve ever heard in wrestling (anti-WWF Meltzer brags that it’s bigger than Hulk Hogan ever got… but he’s actually right, I think) during their push as a pair of Idol Singers fighting Dump Matsumoto and her “Atrocious Alliance”. So now it’s time AJW said goodbye. This “Retire at 26” policy comes off pretty stupid to Americans, and was torn into on every joshi site I ever visited (as Chigusa here was at the peak of her fame, yet still had to quit), but I can see the point to a degree- it freshens up the main event (sort of like how ROH and other companies are occasionally helped by WWE poaching their top stars), allows them to make new stars (so the old guard can’t just refuse to job to newbies), and helps keep a young audience (Joshi leaning towards adults would eventually hurt their talent flow, as young girls no longer wanted to apply, so they didn’t have the kind of choice picks they used to have).
* Now it’s time for something odd- a series of short matches against other established AJW wrestlers. Manami Toyota retired the same way in 2017- some were just “jokes”.
THE CRUSH GALS vs. AKIRA HOKUTO & MITSUKO NISHIWAKI:
* The Crush Gals reunite! Here, Chigusa teams up with her old partner, Lioness Asuka. Chigusa looks rather boyish even at her peak, being somewhat sporty and squat compared to what you’d imagine a Japanese Idol Singer would look like. I suspect that’s part of her appeal- she was “The Heroine Who Could Be You!”- she certainly looks a lot more like her target audience than Manami Toyota ever did. She’s got a plain red singlet with white lines across it. Lioness Asuka is her legendary partner, and has a similar look. She’s wearing a black singlet with white lines on it. Their opponents are both pretty new to the business at this point- Akira Hokuto actually seems to be aping the Crush Gals in style, with a very short haircut (with dyed blonde bangs) and overall boyish look. She would of course become one of Joshi’s top acts of the ’90s and a legend in her own right (more well-known to Americans than either of the Gals, too). She’s got a red singlet with white strips on the sides with red stars in them. I can find very little info on Nishiwaki, who’s wearing a white two-piece with see-through fabric all over it. She was a two-time WWWA Tag Champion with Yumiko Hotta as the Fire Jets, and disappears after 1990.
Haha, not very Idol-like- the Gals work poor Mitsuko over like vets hazing a rookie- kicking the shit out of her. A VICIOUS Spinning Heel Kick to the face just wipes her out, too. Hokuto shows little of the scrappy fire she’d get known for, wrestling a very “Joshi Rookie” style, all technical-like. It isn’t until she gets hit with a judo armbar that she starts flailing around. They work that armbar for quite a few minutes, actually, then wipe out Mitsuko again. The crowd, obviously verrrrrrrrrry young, are constantly chanting “Chi-Gu-Sa!” or “Ah-Soo-Ka!”. Jesus, these girls are stiff, and pinning like arrogant LCO-like heels, too (one knee on Mitsuko). Hokuto comes in, but gets killed by a Double-Team Sandwich Clothesline. Another couple moves, and a Folding Powerbomb finishes off Mitsuko (9:13).
Rating: ** (just an extended squash, but fascinating for the BRUTAL kicks those two were throwing- completely the opposite kind of match I was expecting. Poor Mitsuko got murdered and was given NOTHING, and Hokuto barely got any more)
THE CRUSH GALS vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & SUZUKA MINAMI:
The younger girls attack immediately, before Chigusa’s even done walking back to her corner, throwing a ton of stiff kicks. But then Chigusa & Hotta engage in a series of them, Hotta takes the worst of it, and a Flying Clothesline from Asuka ends her (1:36).
Rating: DUD (nothing to it, though some nice kicks)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO’S RETIREMENT:
THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS, BULL NAKANO, YUMI OGURA
Oh damn! The Angels reunite! However, they’re out for blood immediately, and a Flying Knee from Yamazaki gets Chigusa pinned (0:39). Seconds later, Tateno gets a Flying Splash of her own and gets another pin (??). Then BULL NAKANO runs in, and swiftly beats Chigusa with a Bridging German Suplex. Yumi Ogura, in new tights this time, beats Chigusa with a Flying Shoulderblock. Then, finally, Lioness Asuka makes her way into the ring (with Bull, it was a Handicap Match; now, Asuka is the last one left). The two old friends do some short matwork, and then Lioness pins her… with a Giant Swing (3:05)? Seriously?
Chigusa ends her in-ring career (until 1993’s Dream Slam I) by taking her bows as a Crush Gals song plays, having “done the honors” for several opponents on the way out. The bell rings ten times, and she ends up receiving flowers from everyone in AJW, ending with Bull Nakano (a big rival) and Lioness Asuka (her longtime partner), then the heads of AJW themselves. After that, she gets carried away by the wrestlers- something I saw replicated with Etsuko Mita’s 2009 retirement, so I think this is a tradition.
Rating: NO RATING (It’s a bunch of seconds-long stuff, and one final mat-wrestling thing between friends. Not really “matches”)
26-WOMEN, 2 RING BATTLE ROYAL:
ALMOST EVERYONE WHO WRESTLED ALREADY, PLUS A BUNCH OF ROOKIES:
I can’t find a list of participants, so this is what I got. A lot of rookies are in there. Aja Kong, too! With a red mohawk! The GLOW girls are back as well. Unless they changed tights and I don’t recognize them, I don’t see the Sweethearts or Dream Orca, though (oh wait, there’s Yamada in new tights). I love Battle Royals more than anyone I know, but this one’s in two rings and features mostly people I don’t recognize. Six people dogpile some jobber, and she’s gone. Texas slides out and I guess that counts, because she’s gone. Someone (Maeda or Takahashi) tries a Rana on Aja and goes out. Five women team up on Big Bad Mama, putting submissions on all four limbs and her head, which is pretty funny.
Joshi is incredibly “Irish Whip”-based, with most reversals, transitions and many big moves come from that, so the style is a shockingly bad fit for Battle Royals, and you can spot it- several instances of people getting whipped and then having to awkwardly stop because there’s people in the way. Maeda or Takahashi goes out to something and leaves, disappointed. Funny bit as all the rookies pile together in fear of Aja, hoping to avoid her wrath, and then targeting Hotta, tossing her into the air and pinning her in a six-foot-high pile of joshi. Someone dropkicks Minami onto Ogura and both pin her. Beastie and an AJW girl appear to not only call spots, but have a full conversation on-camera, and then Aja gets tossed into the MUCH larger Mama, knocking her over and getting her pinned by a huge group. Beastie gets dumped by another group. The camera manages to miss a few other girls triple-team Big Bad Mama out of the ring. Leilani Kai, last remaining of the American girls, manages a pinfall on a girl in orange.
Bull’s team now has weapons- one of them starts fencing with Hokuto using sticks, but Hokuto Germans her for three… even though she’d clearly rolled over at one. What a mess. Yamada pins Minami, but gets pinned off-camera. Everyone forms an alliance… against Hokuto, who rolls up a Bomb Angel and everyone dogpiles on that for three, and then the refs gang up on an evil ref and eject him, because clearly not enough was going on. We end up with Bull & Leilani up against Hokuto and Mitsuko (her partner from before). Then Bull & Akira backstab their partners. Then Leilani backstabs Mitsuko. Bull holds Mitsuko for Akira… then pushes her out of the way, Akira splats, and they dogpile her out. The heels double-team Mitsuko… but she backdrops Leilani out! It’s Bull/Mitsuko for a bit, but the faces & heels keep helping out in the match, until Mitsuko gets held for a Flying Cross-Body and gets pinned (30:07), leaving Bull the winner!
Rating: **1/4 (just a complete mess and WAY too long, but got pretty fun in the end parts when they had space for actual angles and stories)
Only pic I could find of Madusa’s gloriously ’80s hair for this show.
WWWA WORLD TITLE:
LIONESS ASUKA (c) vs. MADUSA MICELLI
* So Lioness wrestles again this evening, and has to defend the WWWA World Title (the top belt in AJW) against Madusa, who’s known even to American fans. She was an AJW wrestler for much of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and moved on to the US, where she became a name in WCW and the WWF as Alundra Blayze, their signature star in a division that mostly consisted of her and one other opponent. She’s now most infamous for dumping the WWF Women’s Title in the trash on WCW Nitro, in a huge “Fuck You!” to Vince on behalf of Madusa & Eric… even though WCW’s women’s division was also short-lived. I’m so unfamiliar with her pre-WWF stuff that I heard her say her name and went “It’s pronounced Mi-CHELLY?”. Madusa’s extremely tall, busty and blonde- everything the Japanese are not, making this a true contest of international stereotypes. She’s got long, teased hair with multiple braids, and a gloriously-80s one-armed, one-legged outfit with black designs all over it. Asuka herself is just wearing a black singlet. NICK BOCKWINKEL of all people is the Guest Referee, representing the AWA, of which Madusa was a part at this time. The Japanese give him a lot of respect, owing to his matches in Japan against the likes of Jumbo Tsuruta & Giant Baba- the Gods of All Japan.
Madusa stalls like Zbyszko and wastes time for like five minutes, looking like a giant coward, squabbling with the ring girls and everything. Like a good heel, she uses cheap shots and dirty tricks to her advantage, despite having a huge size advantage over her opponent. It’s kept very slow and American-style at first, with a lot of submission work. It’s so AWA-style that they fight over a VERTICAL SUPLEX for a solid minute. Madusa uses the word “Jap!” repeatedly in her interview and during the match, like a good Evil Foreigner (“Slimy Jap!” she shouts, before being thrown on her face)- here’s hoping she doesn’t hit her finisher, then wait 45 seconds for the pin. The general story of the match is that Asuka is a superior wrestler and fighter, using tons of holds, while Madusa is stronger and meaner.
Asuka accidentally drops Madusa onto her own (Asuka’s) head while trying a German Suplex, allowing Madusa to go to work, slamming Asuka’s head repeatedly onto the mat. She bails after that, but when she comes back in, Madusa’s hidden a club and goes nuts on her with it. Bockwinkel actually slaps her on the ass for it! Madusa does some weak brawling (too slow and obviously slapping Asuka on the top of the head). They scramble a bit more, and Madusa hits a hideous German Suplex (barely flopping into her back) to the horror of the screaming crowd, then somehow trips on a 2nd-Rope Legdrop (her other leg points down at the ground, so she awkwardly hits it first, then flops on with the attacking leg). Madusa goes up, but Asuka throws her off and hits a Moonsault for the win (22:40).
I felt this one was a bit too long, a bit too stall-happy at first (both wrestlers did this), too reliant on a big Early Pointless Stretching-Fest, and then Madusa started fucking up all her big moves at the end. It had a good flow and played to the crowd well, though, so it still came off decently enough, despite being 22 minutes long.
Rating: *** (it felt like it was supposed to have been a great match, but too much stalling and sloppiness made it a bit dull, especially with the match length).
Tokyo Sweethearts (vs) Dream Orca- **1/2
Honey Wings (vs) Texas & Tiffany- 1/2*
Bull (vs) Ogura & Yamazaki (vs) Tateno- **3/4
GLOW Girls (vs) AJW Rookies- 1/2*
Crush Gals (vs) Hokuto/Nishikawa- **
Chigusa Nagayo’s Retirement Run- NO RATING
Battle Royal- **1/4
Asuka (vs) Madusa- ***
-So yeah, proof that I’m not just a Joshi Mark who’ll overrate everything, lol. This show kind of sucked out loud, with the best match being *** and being a bit too long and sloppy. It’s fun to watch for an historical perspective, at least, especially with the Baby Versions of future Main Eventers (like watching the Legion of Doom, Steve Austin & DDP having a rookie match together or something).