Joshi Spotlight- Wrestlemarinepiad ’90

AJW WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’90-

-So with the success of the first Wrestlemarinepiad, comes the second one! It’s called “Wrestlemarinepiad II” in a lot of places online, but it clearly just has “90” written after it in the opening screen… which shows some of the finishes. GOD, JAPAN! This is like how the episode where Frieza dies is called “Frieza Dies in this episode! Goku’s heart is contentment!” or some shit.

All the wrestlers come out in their workout clothes to start the show, and it’s hilarious how I can still spot Etsuko Mita giraffing around the ring even with her boyish haircut and no makeup, because at 5’8″ she TOWERS over everybody- even the men! Manami Toyota looks like herself now that she’s wearing makeup. And there’s some really fat male luchadores in there, too. There’s some thing where Kyoko Inoue & Manami go out to do something with the AJW President, with Kyoko doing the “prostrated full bow of begging forgiveness” while impetuous Manami grabs his arm and argues with him. Then the AJW heads all get to talk. Jaguar Yokota in her thirties is… wow.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch It?”- If you watch anything, you MUST watch the Main Event. The Cage Match is absolutely bonkers, and a fine example of the brutality of the Japanese style. Overall, though, it’s actually a fairly solid show, though it has a few stinkers in it. Aside from the Cage Match, the Tag Title bout is also very, very good.

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Shortest version: Watch it for this.

As always, this is a long review, primarily because of the descriptions in italics. Feel free to skip those if they’re not your speed. Eventually I may just assume everyone knows everybody and I can drop them!

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The Honey Wings. I’m a mark for tag teams in matching gear.

AJW TAG TEAM TITLES:
THE HONEY WINGS (c) vs. MIMA SHIMODA & ETSUKO MITA:
* hahaha daaaaaammmmmmnnnnn it’s the Pre-LCO LCO! Mita and Shimoda are mere rookies at this point, with Mita doing the “Sporty Girl” look still, with a plain white singlet and no makeup, which makes her only barely recognizable. Shimoda looks pretty much like she would later, though she’s wearing a pink frilly leotard with a jacket made out of Glad bags for her pre-match gear. Seeing the future Las Cachorras Orientales wearing shitty gear is strange and sad. The Honey Wings were on last year’s show, but now have a team name (and therefore, a push). Kaoru Maeda, sometimes KAORU, still wrestles and has done pretty well for herself (mostly in tags). Meanwhile, Mika Takahashi has no profile that I can find. Their outfits are neon again- Takahashi has yellow leggings and an orange top, while Kaoru has pink leggings and a yellow top. Both also have that “Well Dunn” thing with the different-colored thong on the outside of colored shorts. It’s weird how the teams do pre-match interviews literally seconds apart, with one team walking off just as the other walks in.

Oh Jesus Christ, this match has a Mima, a Mita, and a Mika in it. This is a recapper’s nightmare- time to exclusively use their other names! The Honey Wings dominate Shimoda to start, and Kaoru hits an honest-to-God JACKHAMMER- in 1990! Some good submissions stuff, and Etsuko has to come in to save, doing better than her partner. Hearing LCO only scream a little bit, and fight fairly… it’s so weird. You can see them improving over last year’s show, but it’s so awkward and half-formed. Like they hadn’t learned to go all the way yet. Their flipping double clothesline looks weird (the momentum’s all screwy and it doesn’t look impactful)- they’d dump that. Some of the moves are pretty sloppy, but I love Etsuko repeatedly swiping out girls’ legs whenever they do bridging suplexes- it looks so smooth and cool. Maeda hits a full Rana (again, it’s 1990- wasn’t it 1995 before we saw that regularly in North America?) and Stereo Flying Elbows, but Etsuko keeps breaking up the pins. This finally gets the Honey Wings SO pissed off that they assault her in the corner, Superplex her, and try their finisher again… but Etsuko DODGES, Shimoda grabs Takahashi’s foot, and Etsuko hits a perfect Northern Lights Suplex for the win and their first AJW Tag Titles (13:20)!! Oh man, that was SO slick- the Wings lost their tempers and it cost them the titles.

Rating: ***1/2 (really solid little tag match, though I don’t see Meltzer hitting ****… except this looked like it was five years in the future, the way some of the moves were going. A bit too sloppy in parts, though)

SHOOT FIGHT-
BAT YOSHINAGA vs. KAORU ITO:
* Oh goody, another one of these. Kauro Ito, famous for her horrible ring gear and outfits, hit her peak in the late ’90s in AJW, and got pretty big. Here she’s a total rookie (she was in opening matches even three years later!). Bat’s wearing “Heel Makeup” and has a punk-rock hairstyle, as opposed to her “barrel-shaped androgynous ass-kicker” look from the ’93 Dream Slams.

This starts out energetic, then both girls get gassed, and then nobody can do squat until times is called almost 20 minutes later. It’s a draw.

Rating: DUD (boring- I hate this stuff being on these shows)

ELMINATION 8-WOMAN TAG TEAM MATCH:
NORIYO TATENO, XOCHITL HAMADA, ESTHER MORENO & TAKAKO INOUE vs. MIORI KAMIYA, HYPER CAT, LA DIABOLICA & MAYUMI YAMAMOTO:
* Oh God I barely know anybody here. Tateno was one of the Jumping Bomb Angels, and was very successful, retiring in 2010. Here she’s wearing a plain white singlet. Xochitl Hamada is the daughter of Gran Hamada (and older sister of Ayako), and was a reasonably big star in Mexico, holding top titles for 200+ days in some instances. She was once married to Silver King (where his deceptively-stocky physique hid his extremely athletic lovemaking skills), and is currently married to Pentagon Black. She’s a biracial woman with curly hair, a lot of height, and an outfit out of the Fabulous Moolah’s closet- a plain black singlet with no back. Moreno was “La Tigrita” in the Dream Slam, and was pulling some Super Calo-level botches. She’s an itty-bitty lucha star, and part of a lucha family in Mexico, and today wears a hideous black & pink bodysuit. Takako Inoue is here just a baby, and hired to be a “Pretty Girl” Idol wrestler, later showing a lot of fire and competence in singles matches- sort of like how Davey Boy Smith was hired for look but was also great in the ring. She’s got a red outfit with white lace skirt-bits. La Diabolica is a huge female star in Mexico, with multiple 400+ day reigns as CMLL Women’s Champion, and still wrestles into her fifties. She’s got a black outfit with red fire on it. Oh, “Hyper Cat” is Yumi Ogura, who wrestled on the last WMP show. This is only one month before her retirement, in fact. She’s wearing a blue & white suit with a black cat mask with weird red lips on it. Mayumi Yamamoto is a complete cipher- even WrestlingData doesn’t have anything on her. She’s a boyish type in a Blue Jobber Singlet, so is probably a young rookie. Miori Kamiya looks much the same, but with a black singlet with yellow lining. She wrestled for a couple of years, disappeared from 1993-94, then continued again in a splinter promotion until 1999, winning only a couple of tag belts in that time.

Yamamoto starts, and immediately gets beaten on by everybody after some token Jobber Offense. She goes out at (1:43) with Baby Takako’s Butterfly Suplex drop. Haha, Takako was doing her armdrags even then. The Mexican girls wow the crowd with a Moreno backflip off the ropes and stereo dives- she’s flippy, but kind of… awkward about it. No smoothness to the flips. Some generic stuff, and then Moreno pins Hyper Cat with a Bridging Double-Underhook Suplex (4:26). Diabolica beats Takako with an electric chair drop and a bridging pin (5:49). The Mexicans all pull some decent-looking, if basic, Lucha stuff, and then there’s an odd bit as Tateno and Hamada do stereo Victory Rolls, but Kamiya reverses on Hamada with the “Owen Hart at Wrestlemania X” pin, and it’s two simultaneous pins at (8:54), because I guess both count, even though neither pinner was legal. Kamiya does a solid Flying Knee and a Backdrop Driver, holding Moreno down at (9:39), evening the odds at 1-1. Tateno, who’s looked like ten times the star everyone else is all match (she just moves more smoothly and seems to have “it”), has a pin-swapping exhibition with Kamiya, though it seems a bit more awkward, seemingly due to Tateno’s fault (her German Suplex is too low-angled, for instance), and Kamiya finally does a forward roll out of a waistlock, holding down a struggling Tateno for the surprise pin (11:52), picking up the win for her team! Kind of a shock- I guess they had plans for Kamiya, taking out two opponents in a row like that.

Rating: **1/2 (not a bad match in the end, though the rapid-fire pinfalls and occasional stumbly, sloppy bits weren’t great)

YUMIKO HOTTA & MARIKO YOSHIDA vs. MADUSA MICELLI & BISON KIMURA:
* Hotta’s a future big name, winning AJW’s top title in the late ’90s, but was an upper-midcarder in 1993- she’s still in her early stages here, wearing a dark blue Jobber Singlet with pink sides. Mariko Yoshida was Wolverine’s girlfriend for like ten years until they callously killed her off at the hands of Matsu’o Tsurayab… no wait. This is a rookie version of the woman who’d become one of Joshi’s top names in the late ’90s and would get one of the most bitching gear upgrades of all time in the 2000s, and is still wrestling. Here, she’s got a boyish haircut and is wearing a blue & yellow Jobber Singlet. Madusa Main Evented last year’s show, and is a complete nutjob. Now she’s wearing baggy, white tiger-striped Zubaz sweatpants and a torn up white shirt. Bison Kimura is of course… an attractive woman with a curvy, athletic figure? Really? Weird. She was a part of “Jungle Jack” with Kong as a dominant Tag Championship duo, but didn’t do as much in singles- she’s one of those odd ones who missed the “peak era” of Joshi (1993-94), so she’s way more obscure to Joshi fans than she should be. She’s wearing something out of “Saved By The Bell”- a bodysuit with gold bottoms, a diagonal black stripe, and a spotted top.

Madusa shouts “We… are invincible! We… are defeatable!” We sure her last name isn’t Eudy? The heels play “Torture the Newbie” a while with Yoshida, throwing her all over the place. They’re actually a proto-LCO in here, with Bison doing Mita’s “use power for overhand strikes, scream constantly, then bite people” bit. Actually, it’s so close that I would swear that Mita just started aping Bison’s act and added MDK Moves, too. Wow, this goes on WAY too long, though, with no real moves beyond just punching, choking, and using a nightstick. The rookies finally get some offense going (a nice Flying Elbow from Yoshida, for instance), but Hotta gets grabbed out of a Double Clothesline by Madusa, and Kimura just overhand slaps Yoshida on the chest… for the three (10:55)? Really? A single-handed slap got a fall? Okay, that’s her Strike finisher, the “Bison Chop”. But it looks weak.

Rating: **1/4 (pretty much just a long squash match, albeit with some nice rookie offense in the last two minutes. Just brawling from the heels, though nothing was sloppy)

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FAT GUY LUCHA LIBRE!

UWA WORLD TRIOS TITLE MATCH:
LOS BRAZOS (c) vs. GRAN HAMADA, YOSHIHIRO ASAI & KENDO:
* WHAT THE FUCK ARE *MEN* DOING ON A JOSHI CARD!?!?! Sooooooooo lame. I know… some of these names. I don’t know shit about Lucha, unfortunately, so I don’t know who’s actually good, but this is “Old Men in Diapers” Lucha, not the “State of the Art High-Flying” kind we get in the States. Los Brazos are Brazo do Oro, Brazo de Plata & El Brazo, a family of wrestling brothers (Golden Arm, Silver Arm & The Arm, respectively). They all lost their masks in a big match against some Villanos a couple of years ago. Brazo (wearing yellow/grey) died in 2014, and Oro (wearing a piss-yellow mask and tights) died in 2017. Plata (wearing grey) is morbidly obese, and was once “Super Porky”, a name I recognize. Finally, an entire team of people with worse physiques than mine.

Gran Hamada is the father of Xochitl and Ayako Hamada, and wrestled a lot in Mexico, where he had more success than in Japan (he was too small and acrobatic for the martial arts-inspired NJPW style of his day). His Universal Lucha Libre promotion folded a couple years after this, and he moved on to Michinoku Pro, then All Japan. He’s wearing blue trunks and has kind of a DILF thing going o– I mean, I’m not attracted to him. Yoshihiro Asai is of course more famous as Ultimo Dragon, ace Junior of the WAR promotion not too long after this, merging lucha and NJPW styles together excellently enough that he inspired and trained a new generation of guys. He was also a bit of a name in Nitro-era WCW, though ultimately kind of got overshadowed by their murderer’s row of talent and a weak feud with a young Yuji Nagata. Here, he looks like a young rookie decked out like Ricky Steamboat with a bandana and stuff, and is wearing a monochromatic red bodysuit. Kendo, who’s gone by a million names, also specializes in Mexican wrestling, spending his time in UWA and later CMLL. I’ve never heard of him. He’s got a silvery mask and black tights on.

Holy fuck, the Brazos have HORRIBLE physiques. They’ve only been wrestling for ten-ish years by this point! Oh god, and they start with Memphis-Style Stalling and pitifully-plain armbar stuff. Sooooooo out of place for this show. Asai wows some people with his state-of-the-art reversals and flips, and Hamada even lands on his feet from a backdrop! Ugh, then it slows down again- these Brazos move like molasses. Over-choreographed horseshit commences, but Asai pulls out an Asai Moonsault… that is sold like a casual punch and Fat Brazo just rolls out of the ring from it. It’s so weird watching all these superfluous flips from the Japanese guys while the Mexicans are idling about like a parody of elderly luchadores. Like, the Brazos are “accidentally” clotheslining each other slower than most power-walkers can move. Fat Brazo falls on his brother and gets slapped, then walks away crying, and they stall more until El Brazo apologizes. After a couple minutes of the lightest wrestling I’ve ever seen (you could drive a bus between some of the strikes), Kendo hits a nice Tope Suicida over the ropes, leading to everyone hitting planchas and topes. Even the FAT ONE! Okay, that was pretty fun. Eventually he catches Kendo trying a sunset flip by just sitting down, and finishes him with a Flying Splash (14:20). Jesus, almost fifteen minutes of no-contact wrestling and some acrobatics by the Japanese guys.

Rating: * (INDIE FLIPPY-FLOP BULLSHIT mixed with ancient-looking fat guys going in slow-mo. Way, WAY too long.)

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Suzuka Minami on the left- kind of an underappreciated talent on a lot of these shows. Not a big personality, but sticks around past 1993 in an uppercard role. Hokuto’s on the right, looking barely recognizable.

WWWA TAG TEAM TITLES:
2/3 FALLS:
THE MARINE WOLVES vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & KYOKO INOUE:
* Okay, now THIS is more like it. Three of joshi’s all-time biggest stars in one match. The Marine Wolves are ’90s legend Akira Hokuto and Suzuka Minami. Hokuto is still as a boyish wrestler with hair like my friend Jordan had in the mid-90s. Minami, still a long-haired type who I can’t decide is a “Pretty Girl” wrestler or not, would later become an “Uppercard JTTS” of sorts, but is an up & comer here. They’re wearing matching Tag Team Gear, which I always love to see- colorful ninja garb with fake shurikens sewn onto the front- Akira’s in blue, and Suzuka’s in red. Both have long socks with the toes exposed, which looks odd. Toyota is of course Meltzer’s fave and mine, and would become a legend by 1995, but is still very young and slooowwwwwwlly moving up the card here. She has “delinquent hair” here, but is packing the length she’d get known for, AND her black leotard! So weird seeing her dressed like anything else. Kyoko Inoue would become another joshi megastar and top name in the early ’90s. She looks 30 lbs. lighter than her “standard” ’90s look here, and wears a checkerboard yellow & red outfit, like those terrible Space Marine color schemes I’ve seen Games Workshop use sometimes.

FALL 1: Kyoko gets worked over by the Wolves after shoving Toyota into their corner (I wish I knew the angle going on here; there was also some deal with ref selection), but Toyota has much better luck. She’s formed into the Manami we’d know and recognize today, doing Front Dropkicks like crazy, but isn’t as loud yet. Kyoko nails a good German & Perfect Plex- you can really tell that everyone here is elevated above the “norm”- they’re much smoother and their timing is better. Akira his a German on Kyoko (who won’t tag out), but gets hit with a Giant Swing (with her leg hooked in a figure-four position and a splash actually gets her down for the pin at (8:33), even though Hokuto got her shoulder up. Akira kind of sells it with confusion, and even Kyoko acts surprised. Pretty sure that’s all deliberate, given the ref thing.

FALL 2: Toyota & Suzuka do some good stuff, but the Double-Hammerlock Suplex gets released too soon I think, so it’s a jumble. But then she runs Suzuka into the corner and Kyoko accidentally blasts her own partner with a chair, causing Toyota to take a Powerbomb, Stereo Missile Dropkicks and a Moonsault for the three (10:25). Very quick fall, with some good booking- Fall Two never really has much drama to it, and now we see some more tag team dissension. The crowd was really quiet for all this so far- I think the challengers hadn’t really been “made” yet.

FALL 3: Everyone does dives after a bit with the challengers getting into a scrap over the last fall, but Kyoko starts taking a beating before coming back with her “Wheelbarrow Lock” hold and a Helicopter Slam. Toyota hits a German with an INSANE bridge on it, showing her future self a bit- it’s really fascinating watching her & Kyoko’s incomplete versions, as Suzuka is actually more well-rounded at this point (though she keeps spamming tilt-a-whirl backbreakers and Powerbombs… which in 1990 are moves the West would find huge). Hokuto is hitting some sharp strikes and good moves, too- different from the “Dangerous Queen” persona’s more manic, crazed stuff. Toyota gets folded in half like she’d get famous for, building sympathy as the Marine Wolves stretch her out. Okay, the bend in the camel clutch is just NUTS, with Hokuto sitting on the knees and folding her head back at a crazy angle. Kyoko gets in, but team miscommunication gets her Missile Dropkicked in the head, and a Rocket Launcher almost gets her. Toyota is finally clotheslined off the apron by Hokuto, setting Kyoko up for the Northern Lights Bomb (vertical-drop sit-out bodyslam/DDT), which gets an easy three (22:46).

A well-booked little match, though oddly “disappointing” because I’m used to all four being better wrestlers than they were here, which might taint my appreciation for this match. Toyota sold like crazy, but didn’t hit her most awesome moves (because she wasn’t using them yet), Kyoko wasn’t quite in her “All Japan Movez” mode yet, etc. So instead it was a merely very good tag team match, with the Wolves using competent double-teaming and remaining calm, while the eager young rookies fired on all cylinders but couldn’t work together properly, and got punished repeatedly for it. Great story overall, with some well-applied moves.

Rating: **** (very, very good. Maybe held back only by my appreciation of their later stuff, and a lack of “Big Moves” for the final stretch- I expect Escalating Finishers now, dammit!)

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Our participants, seen here during happier times.

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See Aja’s notable arm scar? She got it in this match. From a pair of scissors.

STEEL CAGE MATCH:
WWWA TITLE:
BULL NAKANO vs. AJA KONG:
* Oh Jesus. This is during Bull Nakano’s huge three-year reign as WWWA Champion (the top title in AJW), and her epic feud with Aja Kong, at that point an up & coming fearsome monster. Bull, of course, is decked out in her 12″ high blue hair with blue veins/lightning marked on her face, wearing a black leotard with a heavy metal shirt over it- she looks like a goddamn superstar. She’s probably at her heaviest here. Aja has the same “Ultimate Warrior” facepaint as always, but was slimmer in 1990 than she later became. She’s got a heavy metal graffiti t-shirt on, a blonde mohawk, and white jeans. Some lunatic decides they need a preamble with the two doing the interview at the same time- as expected, they immediately cut promos on each other and get into a pull-apart brawl. This match is Escape Rules, aka “Beat them to death and then you can leave”.

So this isn’t so much a match as it is two wild animals thrown into a cage and made to hit each other until one couldn’t get up. I mean, it STARTS OFF with Aja stabbing Bull with scissors, in the aisle, because they hate each other so much that they couldn’t have even waited until they got in the ring. The match… is pretty much just punching. A few kicks. Weapons. And slamming people into the cage walls. Not many MOVEZ in sight worthy of recap (I actually counted five wrestling moves in total for the entire match); it’s just Bull hammering on Aja, and then Aja hammering on Bull- their idea of a transition is to grab a new weapon and come out swinging. I mean, I might actually have to whip out “Good back and forth action” for this one.

Aja starts throwing out Uraken Spam, backfisting Bull all over the place. Is she using a Game Genie or something? Aja dominates this way for literally two minutes straight and starts to climb, at which point Bull pulls out a MOTHERFUCKING FLAIL and starts using it as a weapon? Where in the Christ did she get THAT? Is there some shop in Akihabara where some old dude is chaining metal poles together, working away next to a booth with no sign, where someone is selling batteries for watches they don’t make anymore? Shit, Japan is crazy. She only hits Aja thrice with it, and then it’s some STIFF clotheslines and a kick, and she seems mostly okay from the 700 Urakens, despite the bloody face. Six minutes in, we see our first wrestling move- a Pedigree, sorta. Someone throws in Aja’s metal box (you have no idea how much I want to call that the METAL BOX OF DOOM, but that’s aping Scott’s style too much), but Bull grabs it. Aja’s really good at “selling like a Monster”- she feels the pain, tries to overcome it, and slowly falls. It puts over the opponent AND her own toughness.

Bull seems like she’s gonna climb, but… nope, paired nunchucks. And scissors. And you know those ugly scars on Aja’s arm, that she has in the 1993 Dream Slams? And the 1997 LCO tag match? And in the AEW show this year? Those are the marks from this match right here. Now, I think it’s a bit nutty to 100% real-life stab your opponent with a bladed weapon, scarring them permanently, but them I’m a mere mortal. Aja staring down at her arm in pure shock, all her venom being drained out of her for the time being, is a great moment. The ring girls on the outside are fighting as we see dozens more shots from flails, scissors, etc. Now Bull’s getting hanged by a giant chain. Then Aja. Bull’s leg gets worked over by multiple weapons, which is shockingly good psychology for a match that’s so far been “choose weapons at random”. Then Aja gets a seven-foot length of pipe, but has it taken away by one of Bull’s allies, and thus gets thrown off the top and Ganso Bombed (ie. dropped from Powerbomb position onto her frickin’ head), allowing Bull to climb the cage… and DO A MOTHERFUCKING GUILLOTINE LEGDROP OFF THE TOP OF THE CAGE!!!!! JESUS GODDAMN CHRIST!!!

Holy fuck, that was one of the greatest spots I’ve ever seen, and the gutsiest bump in forever. I know she’s thicc and all, but I can’t believe she did that without ending up crippled, much less bouncing up from the impact without harm and easily booking an exit out to win the match (20:59). What an absolute, titanic war. Crazy violence, great weapon shots (some legit), and Bull looked like she EARNED it. Aja was made to look frightening (dominating more than half the match), with maiming and asphyxiation being required to halt her, plus one of the biggest “Holy Shit!” spots of all time. That really puts that Superfly Splash into perspective.

Rating: ****3/4 (I mean, I counted like five wrestling moves. The rest is all weapon shots and punching. Simple reversals, and the leg work went nowhere since a leg move actually WON the match. But as a fascinating, devastating brawl between two titans, it was pretty awesome)

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Again, this is Bull Nakano today.

Match Ratings:
Honey Wings vs. Mita/Shimoda: ***1/2
Bat Yoshinaga vs. Kaoru Ito: DUD
Tateno/Hamada/Moreno/Takako vs. Kamiya/Hyper Cat/Diabolica/Yamamoto: **1/2
Micelli/Kimura vs. Hotta/Yoshida: **1/4
Los Brazos vs. Hamada/Asai/Kendo: *
Marine Wolves vs. Toyota/Kyoko: ****
Bull Nakano vs. Aja Kong: ****3/4

Overall: It’s as much better show than last year’s, especially as you can watch and see the “Future Generation” at work- very few dudes out of the crew they’re building up. A bit too much “Token Lucha” (because of working with Hamada’s promotion), and I’m not nearly as taken with the “Brawling” style of ’80s Joshi as I am with what the style became, but the final tag match and the Steel Cage match are both terrific. Bull/Aja is of course a must-see for anyone who likes bloody brawls full of weapons, and Bull pulling off one of the greatest spots of all time.

Next up… I’ll review Wrestlemarinepiad ’92 (since ’91 is impossible for me to find)! And then some big shows of 1993!