Joshi Spotlight- St. Battle Final (Part Two)

AJW ST. BATTLE FINAL
(09.12.1993):

Part One

And we’re back! The previous part had six matches on it, while this one, of equal length, only features four. But HOLY CRAP are they incredible.

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!

I actually split this with the final three matches being along, because HOLY SHIT this is probably the best ending to a card any show has ever had.

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Guess which one of these two is the experienced Deathmatch worker?

WWWA WORLD TITLE:
AJA KONG (AJW) vs. MEGUMI KUDO (FMW):
* What the SHIT? The top dog of AJW faces the primary star of FMW’s women’s division? Holy crap, this is nuts. Aja is still the WWWA Champion, and the Ace of AJW, largely unstoppable in singles. But Kudo is a big star of an extraordinarily violent, brawl-happy promotion, and no stranger to bleeding, weapons, or brutal fighting- if anything, she’s got more experience than Aja at it. And another wrinkle to this match: Megumi Kudo and Erika Shishido are from the same Graduating Class of AJW trainees- the 1986 class. Kudo wrestled for only a few years before “retiring/was released”, before being handpicked among ex-wrestlers by Atsushi Onita for FMW’s forming women’s division. But Erika stuck around, became “Aja Kong” and the rest is history. So these two DEFINITELY know each other.

Aja is wearing an awesome white & gold variant of her “AJA” tights, with baggy pants and a tight shirt, plus her trademark facepaint. Megumi’s in her usual one-legged pink & white Power Ranger outfit. Megumi’s whole thing is being the unexpected Hardcore Warrior- a pretty girl with delicate features who slays dragons. But Aja is one fuck of a dragon.

The match actually starts out way more like men’s matches- slow, deliberate, and with chain wrestling, each not over-committing. Aja slowly beats on her for a bit, but Kudo can match her on the ground, surprisingly, working over Aja’s arm and actually getting the crowd into it- Aja actually bails to recover! Oh god, a front roll-up ends up smearing Aja’s facepaint into a brown smudge in the worst possible spot on Megumi’s white costume. Oh that looks bad- all Psycho Sid in this joint. And Kudo KEEPS GOING TO THE ARM! Aja’s almost at a loss (she notes to throw punches with the other arm, and when she “forgets”, she sells it like it hurts), and Kudo’s able to reverse almost everything to it! Aja fights back using raw strength, Vader Attacks, and the mother of all Corner Charges- with a FANTASTIC camera angle as she tears in at full speed, with an enraged, psychotic look on her face. Piledriver hits, but three Urakens (Spinning Backfist) in a row miss, Aja bails, and a TOPE SUICIDA nails her! Damn, Kudo’s controlling the pace and frickin’ dominating!

And now everything Aja tries sees it reversed- Kudo DDTs her out of a sunset flip, Germans her, then reverses a lariat into a great submission that traps the neck and BOTH arms, wowing the crowd. But then a Flying Crossbody takes out the ref, and he misses the count on her Super Frankensteiner! Holy shit, I haven’t seen a ref bump in ANY ’90s joshi stuff before! And there’s our “saving face” moment. Tornado DDT gets two, but Aja finally takes over with a chokeslam and a pair of devastating Backdrop Suplexes onto Kudo’s head. She tries another reversal, but it’s an URAKEN! Then another, Aja still selling the arm (I think only two Joshi bother to sell limbwork after five minutes: Aja & Hokuto). Kudo staggers up, but eats three more, Aja toying with her prey (and probably realizing her move’s been weakened). She tries to lift Kudo, but then the ref intercedes and starts counting her down!

Aja, furious, slaps Kudo to wake her, then gets on the mic and DEMANDS she gets up, because fuck you, Aja wants to WIN THE RIGHT WAY, DAMMIT! She tries her Super Mountain Bomb (falling backdrop off the top with opponent draped behind her), but Kudo slips out for a Sunset Flip Powerbomb!! Holy fuck! VERY close near-fall, and the ref counts both down! They SLOWLY get up at 8, and Kudo grabs for her Tiger Driver ’91 (Double-Underhook Vertical Drop Powerbomb) finisher… but Aja slips out! URAKENNNNNNN!!!! And this time, in a beautiful moment, she DESPERATELY holds down Kudo for the three count, finally realizing the true threat (22:33). When they finally recover, Aja hugs her- one of my favorite “Aja Things” is how much she respects and admires toughness in others. Megumi’s clear heartbreak at realizing she lost? That’s why she’s the Ace of FMW.

Kudo works the arm all match long, throwing Aja’s usual match plan into disarray.

Haha, AWESOME!! Kudo did the literal exact opposite match anyone could have been expecting- no weapons, no cheating, no nothing! She wore down Aja with TECHNICAL HOLDS, and damn near beat her thanks to all the state of the art arm stuff she was pulling. Aja, used to just bullrushing people over or taking tons of MOVEZ, didn’t have anything to counter that, and it even weakened her Uraken! Fantastic psychology as Kudo can and will reverse anything, Toyota-style, and Aja starts to become desperate, especially once a big finish gets reversed and nearly costs her the match. That final Uraken, and Aja’s “NO STAY DOWWNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” pinfall, was perfectly timed and way into character. This match was actually more story than moves, but the moves were still awesome.

Rating: ****3/4 (can’t believe Meltzer only gave this ***3/4, but then he’s always been kind of a “MOVEZ” guy)

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This move won Team AJW the middle fall in their last match. Can it win them their titles back?

WWWA TAG TEAM TITLES:
DYNAMITE KANSAI & MAYUMI OZAKI (JWP) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA (AJW):
* And now we come to the final match of the three these two teams fought- the first saw the AJW team win, and the second was the Main Event of Dream Slam II- a ***** affair that won “Match of the Year” via Meltzer and saw JWP’s team walk away with AJW’s top Tag Titles! And two months before this, at Wrestlemarinepiad ’93, we saw Toyota beat Ozaki, and Kansai beat Yamada! So there’s TONS of history here for the ultimate “rubber match”. Team AJW is out of their Dream Slam gear, sadly robbing us of Manami dressing up like a giant blue swan again- she’s in her black leotard look, this time with metallic bits on it. Yamada’s wearing a purple & black singlet with “YAMADA” on it, dropping her “baggy pants” look for good. Team JWP is in their Dream Slam looks- Kansai in yellow & green baggy Power Ranger gear, and Yamada’s in her red suit with bits cut out all over the limbs and back… and a giant rose on the chest.

Amazingly, the opening of this one feeds off of their last match, as Team JWP divebombs them before the bell rings, hoping to score a surprise win. But now Team AJW is ready, Manami dropkicking Kansai over when she tries Splash Mountain (Sit-Out Razor’s Edge Powerbomb). The crowd even marks out for it. But Manami gets Doomsday Device’d anyways. Only in Joshi do you get the LOD’s finisher fifteen seconds into the match. Running No-Hands Springboard Crossbody from Manami, and then Ozaki takes their Double Team Backdrop and the Spinning Stump Puller from Yamada- oh god, this match is already a Greatest Hits of their last bout. They FINALLY settle down and play a game of “Torture Toyota” instead, working her over (but add in a Senton Bomb & Powerbomb just cuz). Manami tries Dropkick Spam on Kansai, but she “Samoa Joes” out of the way of one (in 1993!), brutalizing her with kicks again, but Ozaki’s Senton hits Kansai and Manami FINALLY wises up and tags out. Yamada beats on Ozaki with some terrific stuff (Running Superkick, Snap DDT & Legdrop using the opposite leg than is normal), then squares off in a kicking contest with Kansai… and wins! She pulls off some amazing reversals (diving over a sweep kick) before being taken down with stretching. They do the double-team kick thing in the camel clutch, but then Yamada orders Toyota to do the same- KICK SPAM!! Kansai gets drilled in the chest about five times in a row in revenge!

Toyota in, and she of course gets reversed on, as Kansai catches her coming off the ropes and swings her immediately into a PERFECT Northern Lights Suplex. Manami reverses a Backdrop Superplex to a Moonsault, then reverses Splash Mountain and hits a Rolling Cradle on Ozaki! Ozaki flips out of their Double Backdrop and Kansai IMMEDIATELY clotheslines both AJW girls- shit, this is like Savage/Steamboat. Insane choreography and constant action. Ozaki Powerbombs Toyota and Kansai Backdrops her straight onto her neck, but Yamada stops Splash Mountain. Flying Stomp, but the ribwork avails her not, because Manami “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! FINALLY Splash Mountain hits… but Yamada’s in with a side kick after being taken out! Crowd begins chanting “TO-YO-TA!”. DOOMSDAY BULLDO– no, Manami uses the momentum to Victory Roll Kansai for a clossssssssssse call! Ozaki interferes, but Kansai’s Super Backdrop is reversed, then Ozaki flips over the ropes from a whip and takes out Yamada, leaving Toyota alone! They prepare the DOOMSDAY SPLASH MOUNTAIN that won them the Titles last match, but Toyota instead kicks Ozaki off the top once she’s flipped over Kansai’s shoulders!

Yamada’s Enzuigiri’s blocked, but the second connects- a beauty, too. Backdrop Spam leads to a Flying Enzuigiri for the nearest fall yet! Her Finisher That Never Hits fails to connect, but Toyota flies in from OFF-CAMERA with lightning speed, appearing to take the crowd by surprise, too! That camera angle was perfect- it looked like teleportation. Doomsday Face Kick, but Ozaki saves, and then pays for it when a Flying Thing is reversed with a kick to the chest and Stereo Flying Headbutts! But a Moonsault misses, Kansai Lariats Toyota, and Ozaki hits the Tequila Sunrise (Half-Nelson/Hammerlock Suplex) for two! Turning Splash lands RIGHT on Manami’s outstretched feet (that’s how Manami beat her last month!). Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suple– no, Victory Roll from Ozaki! Near-fall! She lifts Toyota, but Manami boots Kansai right off the top, then Moonsaults her outside! Team AJW throws down their Team Finisher- the Double Flipover Backdrop Superplex, but Kansai breaks the count! Japanase Ocean Cyclone Suplex- same result! That was the best one I’ve ever seen, too- PERFECT bridge! They get so fucking sick of interference that Manami Missile Dropkicks Kansai on the floor… and then hits the most insane thing ever on Ozaki- a Straightjacket Alabama Slam right into a pinfall, completely trapping her!! THREE COUNT (25:32)!!! Toyota & Yamada win the AJW Tag Titles back!! Warriors’ Handshakes abound, as the teams end their feud once and for all.

Holy goddamn SHIT that was a performance. Completely different from the 2/3 Falls match, this one was instead a tightly-scripted, perfectly-choreographed performance that took all their prior bouts into consideration, with callbacks throughout. The “Quick Pin” of the second match and the Doomsday Splash Mountain finale were both reversed by Team AJW in this one, for example. Yamada in particular looked amazing in everything she did, but everyone played their parts perfectly- Kansai as the lethal kicker who was nonetheless vulnerable, Ozaki as the giant bitch who was a precision attacker who would do anything to win, and Toyota as the Reversal Queen, always selling her ass off. This was one of those matches where they’re 18 minutes in and you’re like “this is ***** already” and they JUST KEEP GOING for another seven, because they haven’t even started Escalating Finishers yet.

How does it compare to the Match of the Year at DS II? They’re very different “types” of matches- this one eschews the “Stretching Portions” almost entirely in favor of Savage/Steamboat-esque match flow and reversals. Literally four times I said “oh SHIT” or “oh JESUS” at a reversal (the Doomsday Splash Mountain reversal, Toyota’s Teleporting Dropkick, the Turning Splash reversal, and the J.O.C.S. failing to score a fall), and they had me at least three or four times with the near-falls at the end (and that’s me knowing who won ahead of time). This is on the short list of greatest matches of all time for me- top five at least, and has an even shot at Best Ever.

Rating: ***** (this even beat out their prior one for my favorite match of the trio).

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When a match STARTS this way, you know it’s going to be bitching.

AKIRA HOKUTO (AJW) vs. SHINOBU KANDORI:
* awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww shit, here comes the rematch. So at Dream Slam I earlier in the year, these two fought in what I called “the fuckingest brawl ever”, as Hokuto baited the Judo-trained Kandori into repeated slugfests, many of which Hokuto was primed to win, being a more savage, manic fighter than Kandori’s cold, confident, well-trained type. So all of Kandori’s physical dominance (being stronger, physically more resilient, better at grappling, etc.) meant less, and Hokuto’s natural insanity could win out. In the end, Akira defeated her opponent with a single punch, after both women were too wiped out to stand. It’s considered one of the greatest matches of all time, and definitely Akira’s best- the start of her legend, really. And this is the rematch- an aggressive, vengeance-obsessed Kandori had slaughtered her arm the following week in a tag match, but this is a right proper final bout. And Hokuto has implied that she might retire/fuck off to CMLL if she loses, giving this an extra level of importance.

Kandori has really morphed into a confident, shades-wearing asshole bullying heel by this point, and I love it. One-sentence answers to interviewers and she walks off. LIKE A BOSS. And they start off the match by punching each other until they both fall over- tremendous. But Kandori’s up first, then raises her fist- uh-oh. She EXPECTED this- she’s prepared now. Akira’s got a bloodily-gory mouth injury, too. She manages to take the advantage with some desperation kicks and Powerbombs, but Kandori judo-tosses and slaps her. Then demands to get one in return. Oh, man, it’s the New Japan “Can You Take This?” spot. But Kandori turns the second slap into an armbar! And then lets go, wagging her finger all “oh no; not yet”. Jesus Christ. It turns into a long, extended beatdown, Kandori taking her time- too much, as Hokuto comes back repeatedly with her own attacks on three separate occasions, finally hitting Missile Dropkicks and then a Northern Lights Bomb ON THE FUCKING FLOOR! Akira wisely uses that time to regroup in the ring while the ref ensures that Kandori isn’t deceased.

Akira makes the mistake of taunting and gets that lethal neck choke, but manages a Stunner to reverse- but Kandori hits a Super Double-Underhook Powerbomb when she goes up! The ref counts them down as the crowd SCREAMS for Akira, and she’s finally alive. Apparently just being conscious is enough for these guys. Akira’s comebacks now all come from pro wrestling instead of brawling- a Senton Suicida, a German, etc. And now… it’s a slugfest again! Echoes of their last bout! Hokuto’s dead on her feet but still fighting-

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And then we see Etsuko Mita and Mima Shimoda- her trainees and fellow LCO members, BEGGING AND CRYING in the aisle! With Aja, Minami and others behind them! Minami is stoic, but Aja has a wonderful look of dreaded concern for a respected rival. Camera catches a major whiff of an uppercut that’s sold, and Mita has to be physically restrained from getting into the ring and helping her mentor!

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… and finally Kandori uppercuts Akira’s soul out of her body to score the three (21:15).

The story here was perfect- Kandori wasn’t out to have a MATCH- this was revenge, pure and simple. Letting go of holds early, taking her time with each strike- she was trying to physically destroy her opponent. And that desire for revenge started to cost her, as she turned away a handful of chances for victory to do more damage, until it was too late and Hokuto’s reversals has done their damage. There was a bit too much slowness and lying around in submissions, as much as they served the story, and there wasn’t that great visual of two bloodied warriors, as this was way more one-sided, but I still loved it. The shot of LCO having to be prevented from entering the ring to save their mentor was an amazing hook (yet it’s the look of agonized sorrow on Aja’s face that has stuck with me for weeks- that woman belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling), and Kandori finally getting her pound of flesh by killing Hokuto with strikes was perfect.

Rating: ****3/4 (great storytelling and emotion. I raised it an extra 1/4* just for LCO & Aja’s look of horror. In terms of pure story it’s an easy five-star encounter)

Overall Scores:
Watanabe/Shiratori (vs) Kitamura/Hozumi: **1/2
Little Frankie (vs) Mr. Buddhaman: 1/4*
Chaparita ASARI (vs) Candy Okutsu: **1/2
Hasegawa/Ito (vs) Kurenai/Handa: ***1/2
Suzuka Minami (vs) Combat Toyoda: ***3/4
Bull Nakano/LCO (vs) Cutie/Plum/Fukuoka: ****1/4
Hotta/Double Inoue (vs) Eagle/Saito/Kazama: ****1/4
Aja Kong (vs) Megumi Kudo: ****3/4
Kansai/Ozaki (vs) Toyota/Yamada: *****
Akira Hokuto (vs) Shinobu Kandori: ****3/4

-Hm, so yeah, ending the show with FIVE ****+ matches in a row is enough to put it into the plus category, I would think. Hell, this may be the single greatest show of wrestling I’ve ever seen- it has your token throwaways and Rookie Bouts, but Dream Slam I & II had duds on them as well, and this was non-stop high-level stuff after a point, with one of my favorite matches of all time surrounded by two ****3/4 affairs. You could land four five-star matches in a row and I wouldn’t argue too much with your review. Joshi is INSANE, and if you wanna show it off to a newbie to the form, show them the Dream Slams and this monster of a show.