Joshi Spotlight- St. Battle Final (Part One)


So this takes place merely two months after AJW Wrestlemarinepiad ’93, which is fitting, as it pays off the various angles in play, many of which started at Dream Slam, and some even before THAT. Christ, 1993 Joshi was loaded with stuff. The whole ’93-95 rush is nuts, but this seems like a particularly busy year- big show after big show after big show. And this just might be the best of them all, and I LOVE the Dream Slams (tons of great matches, plus nostalgia- it’s how I got into Joshi).

TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?: Because it’s got an even shot at being the greatest wrestling show of all time. Six matches break **** for me, and I’m pickier than any of the other Joshi fans on here, I think. It also culminates the stories of the 1992-93 stretch of Interpromotional Matches, especially the Hokuto/Kandori feud and the AJW/JWP Tag feud!

Once again, it’s Interpromotional Mania, with nearly every match being a big war between one of the Big Three Joshi feds- AJW (the establishment, with the biggest stars and the regular TV slot), JWP (the upstarts and forcibly retired vets from AJW; very popular), and LLPW (less popular, but very “shoot-y” and credible). And also some from FMW. Politically it’s interesting, as once again someone’s gotta job, and even though AJW holds all the cards (they have regular TV and arena deals), they need their rivals to come back, so they can’t just gobble them up. The biggest matches here are Dream Slam rematches- one between AJW’s top team (Toyota & Yamada) against JWP’s top team (Kansai & Ozaki), who managed to unseat them and steal away their World Tag Titles last time! The other features a big rematch between LLPW’s Ace, Shinobu Kandori, and AJW’s Akira Hokuto, who wrestled in a bloody ***** brawl last time.

The opening ceremony starts us off, and is kind of like the other ones. Each promotion seems to send out their “Pretty Girl/Idol” (Kudo, Cutie, Miki, Takako) as the pitch-woman, which is kind of weird. I do like the clips of people working out in the ring- Aja can apparently do the “full sit-ups” while hanging UPSIDE-DOWN, which is terrifying and impressive. LCO practicing their “assisted leap” is always fun in these. Ya gotta test out the ring ropes for stretchiness first!

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Joshi has a lot of tag teams with this kind of visual dynamic. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada being so successful really put an end to the “Clone Team” concept.

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Utako Hozumi, who never looked older than sixteen in any of the stuff I saw. Did Jerry Lawler do LLPW’s recruiting or something?

* Again, this is Rookiemania to start us off. Watanabe is gaining credibility but is still the “new girl who usually jobs”, but would go on to have a heck of a career. She’s wearing the usual- hideous shiny green shirt with purple & orange pants. Truly atrocious. Shiratori is beneath her by a bit, is a “Pretty Girl” wrestler, and wears a pink & white singlet designed like your mom’s swimsuit in the 1990s. I haven’t seen Kitamura since Dream Slam, but she retired in 1995 due to injury, never making much of herself- there’s not a lot of info out there regarding her. She’s a sporty-looking type with the Mushroom Cut Template, and a cool red singlet with white & black angular designs on it. Hozumi was LLPW’s “Pretty Girl” wrestler, and is itty-bitty, looking like a nervous baby in a black Jobber Singlet. She also retired not long after this show.

So this is clearly “Sporty Girl + Pretty Girl” on both teams, making this a fitting opener to give people more exposure & experience. It’s actually a very short match compared to the usual things here, with a lot of quick tags and rapid-fire running about instead of submissions. The epitome of “The Basics, Done Well” that’s emblematic of Japanese rookies. Tomoko seems to get the better of Hozumi with her Slingshot stuff, and everyone hits things well, with only Shiratori stumbling on a reversal once. MUCH better than the Dream Slam performance for Tomoko/Hozumi. Hozumi Ranas Tomoko, but she hits a Slingshot Crossbody on both LLPW girls, and Shiratori hits a SWEET pair of Missile Dropkicks on Hozumi. Tomoko accidentally Moonsaults her, though, and she’s Double Bulldogged. Tomoko hits her Slow-Motion Hurricanrana and a GREAT Backdrop that scoops Kitamura and drops her right on her head, though. But then Shiratori knocks Tomoko off the apron by accident and gets two Backdrop Suplexes in a row- the second one an okay-looking bridging one by Hozumi, and that pins her at (9:36).

Huh, was not expecting Tomoko’s team to lose, as she was on her way up, but Shiratori’s rookie enough to job out, I guess. They kept it short and sweet, which is good because the crowd didn’t care, though some of the moves left something to be desired. Perfectly okay opener, though!

Rating: **1/2 (decent enough stuff for a first match)

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Yep- not making this one up. Many of the big shows have one of these after a point.

* I… what? A match between DWARFS? MALE DWARFS? Really? They finally ditched the stupid-ass “Martial Arts” stuff at the big shows and they give us THIS? And now I don’t wanna give any physical descriptions because now it just comes off as mean. Little Frankie has a big afro, but is Japanese, and wears a pretty ugly singlet made out of different-colored squares. He was actually the biggest “Midget” wrestler in… a MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP? In AJW- the Joshi company. So weird. He died in 2002, the belt being retired with him, so they kept this thing going for TEN YEARS. Buddhaman (called “Mister” here) is a chubby guy with his head shaved down and wearing a singlet out of the Steiners’ closet if they were into floral patterns. Buddhaman is at LEAST a head taller than Frankie, making this look one-sided.

So it’s clearly played for comedy, and even the ref is a dwarf. Buddhaman knocks Frankie around, but runs into the post and gets put in an STF! haha, it’s so quick to do it, because their limbs are so short! And then Frankie pulls out a FUCKING 619!?! And then tries a Figure-Four, but their legs are too short (the ref has to help, but even then it doesn’t work). Then it’s hip-swiveling comedy, and Frankie does a TOPE SUICIDA over the bottom rope. And a Flying Plancha. Flying Splash (with a quick count) gets the pin at (5:19). Neither gets the dignity of a pre or post-match interview.

Rating: 1/4* (just a comedy match that’s all “LOOK! MIDGETS!” and not worth rating, but hey- full points for a 1993 version of a 619, a Tope & a Plancha)

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One fun thing about these shows is that you get to see the greener rookies at work in the early card, and figure out where they ended up.

* And now it’s a match between Baby Rookies!! ASARI is AJW’s tiny rookie with phenomenal high-flying, and is now the AJW Junior Champion- a belt meant for youngsters. She’s a ways away from the Super Lightweight Title being made just for her. She’s back in that hideous yellow outfit with the silver puffy shoulders & hip bits. Okutsu is essentially her JWP Opposite Number, being a tiny 5’1″ girl who debuted just the year prior. She eventually became a female Tiger Mask called “Tiger Dream”, and won a few Junior Titles in the ’90s, retiring in 2001 in ARSION after leaving JWP in the late ’90s. Here, she’s got a non-standard haircut (short, but neck-length instead of “Mushroom Cut”) and a blue leotard with white and dark blue designs on it. A bit like the LLPW outfits, actually.

Haha, the AJW Junior Title has a really ugly backing- like “1950s appliance green”, all shiny and puffy and stuff. I’ve never seen Okutsu before, so this will be interesting. They trade Superfluous Submissions for a good while, like EIGHT MINUTES, until Candy springs up to the top rope and Crossbodies ASARI. This sets them up for their REAL showcase stuff, and ASARI soon hits her pair of Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks, impressing the crowd. Standing Moonsault gets two (that looks cool, but she generates zero force with it). Candy dumps her off the top and hits a DDT and a Flying Side Kick for two, but ASARI flies off outside and hits her in turn. ASARI looks to end it with the Sky Twister Press (Flying Corkscrew/Spinning Senton), but lands RIGHT ON HER FUCKING HEAD, bouncing it off the mat mid-spin. EE-YOW, that looked like it hurt. Candy’s German Suplex Hold gets an academic three count (12:16). New AJW Junior Champion!!! Chaparita doesn’t look that upset in the post-match interviews, oddly.

This was an interesting deal, in that Candy would hold that belt for 475 days before ASARI would get it back- AJW giving their third-tier belt (meant for rookies) to JWP for more than a year was pretty odd and a gesture of good faith, I guess. The match was a good little “Rookie Match”, trading some interesting-looking, if superfluous, submission holds to “pad” the match for time until they started the REAL stuff later on. A bit too much of it, but I dug all their flying around. They came off as rookies with a ton of potential.

Rating: **1/2 (just fine wrestling)

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Yasha Kurenai, looking delightful as always.

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Haha, I love that stuff like this is associated with Joshi. This is Sakie Hasegawa at the end of her career.

* ROOKIEMANIA CONTINUES!!! Okay, so AJW’s team are the “These are the girls who are going to be pushed in the future” pair, and both have put up solid showings against mid-level competition. Ito continues her “Hideous Gear” reputation with a one-shouldered baggy toga thing. Sakie’s in her usual singlet style, this one being tie-dyed. 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. Her whole thing is that she’s this nasty weapon-using trashy girl, wearing too much makeup and acting tough while brawling. Her shoulder is really wrapped up here. Miki Handa barely has any gold at all through her career- she looks like the typical “everyday girl” sort… but oh my god, her outfit matches Ito’s in ugliness. It’s a black one-legged singlet with yellow, red & blue floral print and road signs all over it- like your mom’s wallpaper and the “Black Hart” Owen Hart. SO BAD.

HAH! The AJW girls divebomb Kurenai right while she’s doing her bows in the introductions. Everyone pairs off in succession (Handa & Sakie engage in an NJPW-like chop-fest to start) until they work over Kurenai with crab-holds and back stuff instead of arm stuff- the arm must legitimately be hurt. She comes back with an X-Factor and a hanging choke on Ito in the corner- I love that in Joshi. They trade a lot of basic, but appropriate stuff, not hanging onto any one hold for too long. Handa’s stuff looks fine- she seems very “Generic Joshi”, which means capable of all things and very quick. There’s a neat Solebutt/X-Factor/Solebutt reversal exchange before everyone misses stuff and Sakie comes flying in with a Bodypress to both opponents.

Looks like they really put this together well, because another bunch of reversals (Kaoru REALLY likes the Victory Roll/Flipover Rollup concept) leads to a Doomsday Device Chokeslam from Team LLPW. Kurenai attempts a regular Chokeslam, but Sakie Solebutts her RIGHT in the fuckin’ head. SOLEBUTT SPAM! Then Rolling Butterfly Suplexes while Ito stomps with each revolution. Uranage/Flying Stomp combo, but they don’t go for the pin- Kurenai rolls Sakie up when she goes for another Uranage. Handa runs in with a German (assisted by Kurenai’s kick), a Flying Thing and another German, and a Chokeslam/German Suplex combo finally pins Sakie at (15:27)! LLPW wins AJW’s Tag Titles!!

Hey, good match! It was feeling “Fine, But Generic- ***” until they started doing all these cool, choreographed double-teams, largely with AJW’s team whupping on Kurenai (Handa came off like a much more green rookie, barely in the match)- I liked the bit where all their cool stuff availed them not, and Handa interfering turned the tide.

Rating: ***1/2 (very good little tag team match! Best performance I’ve seen from Kurenai, too)

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Toyoda is easily the most “Eighties”-looking wrestler in these shows. She looks like she never dropped the “weird makeup/punker haircut” look that was so common back then.

* Oh, now THIS is interesting. I’ve never seen a Toyoda solo match before, and Minami matches have a lot of intrigue in them for me, because she’s an Uppercard JTTS/Gatekeeper kind of wrestler, who maintains credibility but can offer up a star their first big win. I… anticipate her jobbing in this one, though, especially as FMW’s other entry, Kudo, is facing the mighty Aja Kong. Minami’s wearing a red two-piece tied together by criss-crossing orange lines, and yellow feathers all over it. That’s, um, something. Toyoda’s again the big bulky chick in a black bodysuit with red bits on it, her red, tiger-striped hair sticking straight up with some harsh “Atrocious Alliance” makeup. Minami is, in fact, the taller of the two- I guess she IS 5’8″.

Minami jumps Combat to start, and they brawl outside. Minami tries a roll-up, but yanks Combat’s belt and stretches is out by accident, causing a ton of laughter from the audience. Oh, that has to suck, haha. AJW’s girl manages to dominate at first with technical stuff, but Combat comes back with her Aja-Lite offense (like the charge into the corner on a Tree-of-Woe’d opponent). More I see of Minami, the more I appreciate what she brings to the table- her style here is way different from the way she fights the smaller Harley Saito- here, she’s playing for speed, reversals (a recurring theme is hitting a sit-down thing out of a Powerbomb) and stuff to stifle a stronger opponent. She fights TACTICALLY- like Bret Hart. Combat’s PRETTY good, and can go up for stuff, but I’m seeing a lack of smoothness- she hits a pretty ugly Snap Powerslam (more of an Awkward Grab & Spin Powerslam). Suzuka hits a German, but can’t get the Powerbomb, and her Senton later misses after she reverses another Powerbomb. FINALLY Combat hits a Sit-Out Powerbomb, and it gets a really close two. Then she hits two Backdrops and a BIG Super Backdrop for even closer twos- shocked, she hits the Flying Splash, picks Suzuka up immediately, and drops her with an awkward lift that’s like a Shoulder Piggyback into a Backdrop Suplex for the three (13:54).

Very nice, solid “Power vs. Skill” match, with Minami fighting tactically and with reversals and clever stuff against Combat’s more aggressive, bullheaded power- it actually stifled her for a good while, with Minami controlling the first half until Combat finally started getting her stuff together. And Minami looked great in the loss, kicking out against an increasing number of power moves until there was just nothing left she could do- Combat looked pretty dominant, and AJW’s resident high-tier JTTS gatekeeps yet again.

Rating: ***3/4 (smart, strategic wrestling. Combat was a bit clumsy and lacked the authenticity of other power wrestlers, though)

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It is a known fact that LCO are the greatest.

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Plum Mariko nearly always wore purple.

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Meanwhile, Fukuoka was often in Tarzan gear.

* Oh crap. This one actually carries with it a lot of mystery, as though Bull’s top-tier, LCO (My Girls and yours, Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda- nasty, disrespectful, insane heels) are definitely not at this point, and so they’re quite beatable by JWP’s “Cute Girl Trio”- all three are high-flying types pushed for both looks AND in-ring skill. Cutie Suzuki is highest-level and most credible. Plum (sad face) is next-highest. Hikari is the “Sakie Hasegawa” of JWP, getting pushed as an underdog who is slowly rising up. They’re wearing… exactly the same outfits they always do in 1993. Does JWP have a small budget for costumes, or what? Hikari’s wearing that godawful brown thing with all the fur sewn onto it, Plum’s got the purple & blue leotard with hordes of blue lace all over it, and Cutie’s in her white & gold ballerina outfit. Mima’s wearing the rarely-seen pink & white tassled variant of her usual two-piece, while Mita’s wearing her SWEET “Late 1993 Gear” of the white variant of her two-piece from this time period. Bull is dressed… weirdly, with her trademark black one-piece being covered by a baggy torn-up… purple, green & orange shirt with yellow sleeves. It’s horribly weird, and way different from the bad-ass “90s rock band” shirts she usually wears.

Team JWP attacks before the bell to start, LCO fights Hikari for a bit, and then Cutie demands BULL! All three girls attack her, but she avoids a Triple Dropkick and then decapitates them all with Lariats to the joy of the crowd. Haha, this match rules already. Bull lariats her again, throws on that wicked Standing Sharpshooter thing, and then LCO hits DOUBLE DEMOLITION DECAPITATION out of that! Quit doing shit I’ve never seen before three minutes into a match! I’ll never enjoy male wrestling again! They trade off on each other for a while (with Bull taking a bunch of offense- she really knew how to “give back” after her run as Ace was up), with two LCO “Bitch Poses” over beaten-up opponents. Bull takes ANOTHER shellacking by Team JWP, taking two corner attacks, a Handspring attack from Hikari, two Missile Dropkicks, and a Flying Splash. But then she gets right back up and kills Hikari, so NOPE.

Mita, then Shimoda, each take a ton of German Suplexes (both have a different “sell” of it- Mita lifts her arms, while Shimoda spins hers in a circle), Shimoda bumping onto her head- how the hell is she still wrestling today? POPEYE PUNCH!! God I love Hikari’s goofy-ass punch. It doesn’t even wind up in the right direction of the punch! An awkwardly-timed “fight outside” spot is ineffective (LCO would get MUCH better at those once they learned to use chairs as ranged weapons), then both teams miss double-team attacks, and then Hikari hits the Rolling Cradle and a SWEET Moonsault on Mita. Shimoda saves, Bull drills Cutie when she misses a Flying Stomp, and LCO hits the Electric Chair/Flying Splash combo. Cutie reverses Shimoda into a Dragon Suplex. I never really dig Cutie’s Bridging Suplexes- she never gets people up high, nor bridges well enough. Stereo Planchas to the outside by Team JWP! Plum hits the High Thesz Press on Shimoda from both her partners’ shoulders! Plum’s German & Triple Dropkick hammer her, but Bull just executes all three with a Double Lariat again. LCO set up all of them for a Double Guillotine Legdrop (!!), but Bull tragically misses. All three with Flying Stomps on her! Bull Suplexes two of them, then nearly kills Hikari with a Powerbomb. Mita does a Super Electric Chair Drop, Bull hits the Guillotine, and Shimoda hits a Flying Splash, but it’s broken up. Damn, Hikari’s taking a beating. Tiger Suplex FINALLY finishes her at (20:35)

Double Demolition Decapitation!

Goddamn, this match kicked ass. Some great double-teams, people trying great stuff just attempting to hold others down, etc. LCO were being targeted and nearly finished a couple of times, but only Hikari could land her big moves. This match ended up being a big showcase for Fukuoka, I think, who’s impressing more in the late ’93 stuff I’ve seen. LCO hadn’t QUITE hit their final form yet, and Bull was in her “Post-Ace” form (credible, yet showing a lot of ass and weaker), but you saw everyone trying really hard (though Plum was rarely in the ring much).

Rating: ****1/4 (great, long multi-person tag with a lot of great spots and only a little bit of awkwardness here and there)

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Kyoko Inoue- dresses like the Ultimate Warrior, wrestles like All Japan!

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Eagle Sawai- Monster Babyface.

* Man, this show just keeps on rocking. Interestingly, this is set up as “Elite Powerhouse, Kicker & Pretty Idol” on both sides. Harley & Yumiko even have the same mushroom cut. Hotta is AJW’s version of Dynamite Kansai- a kick-themed martial artist with a big finisher. She’s gaining increased credibility in every ’90s show I see her in- it’s clear she’s gonna be big. Even though she’s wearing the most plain white singlet ever. Double Inoue are one of AJW’s top teams, made up of Kyoko (Ultimate Warrior with white-meat Babyface charisma & All Japan offense) and Takako (glamorous “idol” but hits big moves and is secretly crazy as SHIT)- unrelated big stars. Kyoko’s wearing a bright pink outfit covered in tassles and ALL THE COLORS as trim, while Takako has on something I’ve never seen before- a blue & light blue-colored two-piece connected at the waist by some randomly-placed strips of fabric… and puffy sleeves. Oh, that’s not good.

Eagle Sawai is LLPW’s #2 girl and would win their title a LOT during the late ’90s- she’s a big, thick monster, but a classic babyface dressed like someone from Ever After Hi– I mean, some manly thing that I know all about. Harley Saito is a boyish-looking girl in hideous clothes who wrestles like Sean Waltman would (especially the kick combo), and is #3 in LLPW, slowly moving up. Love the GIANT-shouldered, pastel blue outfit with green rhinestones all over it. Her in-ring gear is hilariously bad- I can barely describe it. Like… someone took a blue kimono and turned it into a ninja costume, but… just drew the white inner shirt part (with black outlines!) onto the front. I haven’t seen Rumi since the Dream Slam- looking all of 4’10”, she’s done quite well for herself, peaking in the late ’90s in LLPW. Haha, OMG her ring gear is insane- a Kato mask, Nazi officer’s hat, and a glittering red jacket. Though her wrestling gear is EPIC- a hyper-detailed, hot pink/purple & black combo, looking like Bret Hart as an S&M Power Ranger. Or Rey Mysterio’s “bodysuit” look. With Freddie Mercury’s epaulettes on the shoulders, and her hair now in a buzzcut thanks to losing to Akira Hokuto in a Hair (vs) Hair Match a while before.

Team AJW beats on Eagle to start, hitting three corner attacks in a row, but she DDTs Double Inoue simultaneously and then Team LLPW dives in on Kyoko in the same manner. Rumi has that Mayumi Ozaki thing where she’s Kristin Chenoweth-sized, but is treated like a dire threat- though only Takako sells for her kicks and submissions, as Hotta ignores them and hits some “head kicks” that clearly miss on the hard camera. But then everyone starts throwing out signature stuff (Takako’s Tombstones, Eagle’s Body Attacks, Kyoko’s 30+ Revolution Giant Swing), and Hotta wows the crowd by hitting a Tiger Driver on Eagle that nearly turns into a head-spike variant. Takako hits her Aurora Special (Waist-Hold Backdrop Suplex) to Saito outside the ring while Hotta flattens Kazama with a FLYING Rolling Koppou Kick, then hits a goddamn Straightjacket SUPERPLEX, dropping her right on the back of her neck from the top rope! Jesus, Hotta!

Kazama manages a miracle reversal into a German on Takako, then does a great “stumble tag” to Saito, who wipes AJW’s idol out with a Roundhouse Kick. A few more kicks and she makes the fatal mistake of attempting a Superplex, forgetting that Takako’s MDK finisher is the Super Chokeslam, which wipes Saito into the mat (in other words, YOU CAN’T SUPERPLEX TAKAKO). God, I love that thing- the Japanese “Nodowa Otoshi” is more of a driving slam instead of the lazy “lift and flat-back bump” it is in the West, so it tends to dump people onto the back of their neck, especially from that height. She of course throws a fit when Saito kicks out, then takes a Roundhouse- Eagle then flattens Kyoko and hits a Super Vader Bomb for two, then a big Powerbomb. And then Kyoko reverses to a fucking All Japan-esque head-drop Release German on Eagle! JESUS. Saito in for a Tiger Suplex on Kyoko, but she takes the Pop-Up Flying Back Elbow in turn. Niagara Driver (Sit-Out Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb) FINALLY ends that massacre at (15:37). Kyoko rocking out to her own theme song cracks up the audience, and of course Takako… who then swats at Eagle like the ultimate poor winner and hides behind Hotta with this “innocent” look on her face. Damn, Takako, you crazy.

Holy GOD. This was like the opposite of the other 6-Women matches all show, where they attempted a match flow with great double-teams. This was more in the “MOVEZ” variety, where they started off throwing bombs at each other, and just relentlessly dogpiled them on all match, figuring that they’re all top acts and that the nature of multi-person matches means they can kick out more handily. Though I’m a fan of AJW’s girls & Saito, I was never much taken with Eagle, but her bumping here was extraordinary, taking head-drops and spikes that should kill most people. Kazama’s stuff looked good, but oddly she barely factored into the second half of the match, with Eagle & Saito doing all of the work (though she DID get murdered by that superplex). Just as impressive as the prior matches, though it was more one-sided in favor of AJW, and more based around death moves than match flow.

Rating: ****1/4 (almost a spotfest in terms of people just trying to kill each other right away, but in multi-person matches, that’s more acceptable, and most of the moves flowed well from one thing to the next)

And we’ll leave off here, as this cuts my review nearly in half. The only annoying thing about doing this is I end up putting all the “Rookie Matches” up front, so the “Part One” review ends up being of a subpar-looking show. At least they were throwing out great matches by the end of it! I threw in one more match, leaving three for the next article. Those matches are… pretty special.