Joshi Spotlight- Wrestlemarinepiad ’91, ’96 & ’97

WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’91, ’96 & ’97:
-Okay, so the other Wrestlemarinepiads aren’t really available to watch online, unless you pay for stuff, which would give me nothing to link anyone to… plus I’m cheap. In any case, I found the last three bouts of WMP ’91 (it’s a five-match card, so that’s enough, really), one ’96 bout, and ’97’s awesome Main Event.

TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?: One match is good, there’s an amazing tag bout between future stars, and a hugely violent Cage Match War between four major stars, and it ends with a truly remarkable Tag Team match that’s one of the most legendary Joshi bouts post-1995. LCO versus the U*Tops is SERIOUSLY amazing.

WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’91:
(21.11.1991):

-1991 saw the third Wrestlemarinepiad take place, of which only the final three matches are available for free. We only seem to miss two “throw random groups into matches” matches, however. Apparently Bat Yoshinaga & Tomoko Watanabe beat Kauro Ito & Miori Kamiya in the opener (three are rookies; Kamiya graduated with Aja Kong- I would have expected her to win, but Bat got an insta-push because of her IRL toughness). Etsuko Mita, Sakie Hasegawa & Suzuka Minami (the vet) also defeated Mariko Yoshida, Mima Shimoda, and Yumiko Hotta (the vet).

AJW TITLE:
TAKAKO INOUE vs. DEBBIE MALENKO:
* The Takako/Debbie thing continues here, with young Takako already having been given a push to the AJW Title, three years into her career. To be fair, most rookies were given a run with that- Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe were given runs after a similar time in their runs. Debbie’s not gonna show up much in these, as she got a gross (“0.8 Sid” tier) leg injury that ended her career early- she’s a blonde, athletic-looking woman, today in a pink singlet with black sides. Takako’s wearing some goofy white singlet with the top looking like a frilly petticoat. Debbie has some choice cheesy ’80s rock for her theme, and Takako’s sounds like a BS ’80s TV show theme.

The two chain-wrestle to start, with Debbie actually deadlifting Takako waist-high out of a keylock, which is pretty cool. Debbie dominates that stuff, and it looks pretty good. One thing looks like a screw-up (Takako thumps into her instead of going up for a Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker), but they sell it like they’re fighting over the move, so it actually comes off well. Takako uses speed to come back, and shows that angry fire that’d come to dominate her style, but Debbie starts ripping her legs apart, leading to some great selling. Debbie only does a few suplexes to break most of that up, but Takako fires back with a Missile Dropkick- a Flying Kneedrop misses. Debbie hits a Northern Lights Suplex and a cool Flying Back Elbow, but goes up and Takako hits her Aurora Special (Waistlock Backdrop Hold), holding down a struggling Debbie for the three (13:13).

Hey, not bad! Debbie dominated almost the entire match, and her submission stuff looked terrific. Unfortunately Takako was nowhere near as seasoned, and struggled to hit a few moves. Still pretty good for Debbie’s stuff, which felt less like “Time-Filling Stretching” like in many Joshi matches, and was actually important. Takako came off kind of undeserving in victory; getting dominated most of the match and only hitting a few comebacks.

Rating: *** (decent technical bout for Debbie)

AKIRA HOKUTO & MANAMI TOYOTA vs. KYOKO INOUE & TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* !!!!!!!! God DAMN this is a great selection of talent. When friggin’ Yamada is by far the worst wrestler in a match, you know something’s about to be awesome. Yamada & Toyota are still kinda young, with Kyoko in the class after them- Hokuto is two years ahead of anyone else, and is the top dog, though Manami’s a “Worker to watch” at this point already. Toyota/Yamada later ended up a team, while Kyoko found success with Takako from earlier. In more weirdness, the latter team is wearing sombreros, while Hokuto still has her Rookie Mushroom Cut and is acting like a generic polite wrestler. Kyoko is much slimmer than I’m used to seeing, wearing a very tight red outfit with yellow bits. Yamada’s wearing stuff similar to her later gear- a tight shirt with baggy pants. Hokuto’s got a white singlet with blue lines bearing her name across it. Only Manami is 100% recognizable, wearing a black leotard.

They start off with some “feeling out” stuff, and then Manami goes into some insane arm-based work I’ve never seen before, like keylocking Kyoko’s arm with her LEG and then doing the back-bending arch to stretch it out. Then she hits the greatest flying arm-scissors I’ve ever seen, climbing up Kyoko, locking her leg around the arm, and flipping her forwards. Jesus, she’s amazing to watch. Akira ties Kyoko in knots, but then Yamada puts Manami in a Reverse Gory Stretch, Kyoko Flying Double-Axehandles her in the stomach while in that position, and Yamada releases it, dumping Manami on her head. JESUS. Then they pull off a pair of insane lucha-style submissions (a Double Bow & Arrow and a Double Swinging Stump Puller), which is awesome- who told them to knock that off? I never see that from ’92 on! Yamada knocks Hokuto all over the ring with kicks as her team continues to dominate, and Kyoko throws her in that Rocking Cradle submission (huh- so she was doing that in ’91, too).

Manami then tags in with the fastest dropkicks in history, hitting four variations, then a Rocket Launcher to the outside. SHOW-OFF. Asai Moonsault from the top rope kills Kyoko out there, and everyone regroups, which is a good idea- cooling things down from the crazy spots. Then Manami hits a Rolling Cradle so fast I have to check and see if YouTube isn’t fucking up somehow- that’s INSANE. And then Hokuto walks in and casually spikes Kyoko with the Northern Lights Bomb (High-Angle Head-Drop Powerslam). Yamada in for some kicks, a botched German (she dropped Hokuto onto her own body) and a headlock, slowing the pace, but then Hokuto/Toyota hit the Double Flipover backdrop on her! That’s normally a Toyota/Yamada move later on! Toyota Germans Yamada, but Kyoko hits a pair of Bridging Fallaway Slams on her in turn, then the Flying Back Elbow. But then her team starts botching stuff (Yamada’s tilt-a-whirl just leaves her dumping Manami on her head, then an assisted jump to the top sees Kyoko fall way short and awkwardly do a standing elbowdrop). Kyoko plays it off like “oh well”, drawing some laughs from the crowd.

Hokuto does some restholds to slow things down, but then Kyoko hits a Helicopter Slam on Toyota, and Hokuto & Kyoko start trading suplexes until Kyoko misses a second Run-Up Elbow- Backsplash Slingshot Elbow blasts Toyota, though. They work her over for a good while (two minutes straight of stretching, though at least it looks good since it’s Gumby, here), and Kyoko Giant Swings Hokuto after the hot tag. Kickspam from Yamada stuns her, too, but Toyota hits the Japanese Ocean Suplex and Kyoko has to do that sweet “sweep the leg out” break of the bridged leg. Kyoko powers through a double-dropkick and Backsplashes the both of them. 900 mph Manami Roll stops that flurry, and then they hit a Double Kneeling Powerbomb and Stereo Missile Dropkicks! Stereo Moonsaults (Hokuto’s is hilariously ugly), but both miss their targets! That kills Manami’s knee, leaving Hokuto alone to take a Doomsday Device Sit-Out Powerbomb/Flying Face Kick for the pin (32:07)!!

Man, that was an EPIC. The first 15-ish minutes were a **** match all by themselves, with Toyota hitting an increasing number of showy, insane moves that would defy reality today, much less in 1991. Super Asai Moonsaults, the fastest Rolling Cradle & Dropkicks ever, and more- this match was more or less a showcase of “This is the future, ‘kay? This is our new big star”, though Kyoko & Akira were required for the “meat” of the match, grounding it with good basics. Some notable Yamada botches in the middle didn’t help things, unfortunately. Oddly, most of the “best stuff” was in that first half, as they slowed things way down later, as they probably figured nobody could keep that pace. That led to a big of “long for the sake of long” syndrome with 2 minutes of stretching stuff, but at least that fit the story (“We’re gonna have to slow this broad down before she kills all of us”). The overall story seemed to be that Manami was a fountain of offense, but herself vulnerable and had to make frequent tags to gear up for the next flourish, while Kyoko was too tough to die. Finally Manami did one big move too many and it cost her, leaving her partner vulnerable.

Rating: ****3/4 (a classic tag match with some INSANE moves, especially in the first half)

STEEL CAGE TEXAS DEATH MATCH:
MONSTER RIPPER & BULL NAKANO vs. JUNGLE JACK (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura):
* Monster Ripper is of course Rhonda “Bertha Faye” Sing, in her most iconic role. Her era was a decade before this, which you can kind of tell by her horrible acting, random screaming, and “AHAHAHAAH” cartoonish laugh. Jungle Jack is Aja Kong & Bison Kimura, back when both were a dominant tag team, and Aja was slowly rising up the card. Aja’s wearing white clothes and has her hair piled up high and dyed yellow, while Bison is wearing torn-up denim. Ripper’s got black tights with torn bits on them, a big frizzy afro, and Demolition facepaint. Bull looks pretty well like she always does- sky-high hair and the black leotard. The rules are that you fight until someone can’t continue, I guess. The last two remaining fight it out for the 3WA Title.

I’ve never actually seen the “Monster Ripper” version of Rhonda Sing in action before. Turns out she’s a wild brawler, also hitting power stuff- the only wrestling moves of the first ten minutes feature her Powerbombing Kimura on her ass, and press-slamming her. Jungle Jack tend to dominate Bull at first, but Ripper dominates Kimura until she brings in a chain from one of her stable-mates and goes to down with it. Ripper gets the chain, but nails Bull by mistake, leading to Aja using her trademark oil can on both opponents. Ripper just makes her own comeback and hits Aja about 20 times with the chain- there’s a lot of that in this match; taking a weapon shot and simply hitting your opponent back and taking advantage again. Bull grabs the NUNCHUCKS~~ and manages to hit everyone (including Ripper, but accident) before Powerbombing Kimura. Bull hands Kimura her ass until Aja runs in with a pipe and kills her. Kimura then spams out Bison Chops, showing great fire with her screaming.

Ripper & Aja brawl using the chain, but Bull hits Ripper and Aja blasts away with her oil cans, culminating in FLYING HEADBUTTS OFF THE CAGE by Jungle Jack- Kimura hitting, but Aja (!!!) missing, selling it like a deep internal injury. Ripper continues to blast away until several officials fill the ring and drag Aja out of there kicking and screaming, leaving Bison alone about 19 minutes into it. They one-sidedly beat on her for several minutes until she makes her own comeback with a nightstick, but Ripper gobbles her up again, hitting a Release Powerbomb and drawing boos for being so unsporting. After more beatings, Bull hits a Guillotine Legdrop and Ripper kills Bison dead with a Flying Splash- unconscious, she’s declared unable to continue by the referee (27:05).

WWWA TITLE:
BULL NAKANO vs. MONSTER RIPPER:
-The follow-up match takes place as Bison’s being dragged out, with Ripper assaulting Bull immediately, pummeling her with the oil can and strangling the champ with the chain. Lonnnnnnnnnngggggg stretch of dominance for Ripper, using a pipe and the chain, finally hitting a Sit-Out Powerbomb. Another minute or two, and suddenly Bull hits a miracle German Suplex (not much lift, though), and then CLIMBS THE CAGE?? Oh jesus, again? Yes, she hits a Guillotine Legdrop off the friggin’ top of the cage a second year in a row, splattering Ripper’s skull and leaving her spread-eagled on the mat. Bull struggles to gather some weapons while the ref counts, finally reaching ten, awarding Bull the win via Knock-Out (7:38).

The first part of the bout was a good brawl extended to ten minutes more than it should have been, leaving it a bit of a bore, albeit with some great heat segments. For example, Bison was left alone for about eight minutes of slow, deliberate brawling, which seems excessive. Also, people getting beaten on until then just start flailing back to make their own comebacks got old after a while. The second match was a “Macho Man Is Feeling Lazy Tonight” Template bout, with Ripper holding 100% of the offense until Bull hit two moves for the comeback. I really don’t think I’m cut out for AJW-style old-school brawls. I mean, I don’t even like WAR GAMES matches as much as most fans do.

Rating: *** (some good spots, and lots of violence and weapons, but I’ll never watch THAT again. Shave ten minutes off of it and it’s probably ****-ish. More if you like brawls)

WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’96:
(05.11.1996)

I can’t find much of Wrestlemarinepiad ’96 online, but it seems to feature almost entirely squash matches, called “Junior Road Trial” bouts- Misae Genki, Yuka Shiina, Yoshiko Tamura, Saya Endo and others all in matches against established stars. And Aja Kong against RIE TAMADA? The only must-see on there seems to be Double Inoue vs. Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda. I reviewed a bout of theirs from a month later and gave it ****3/4, so I can imagine this one was pretty awesome, too.

YUMI FUKUWA vs. MARIKO YOSHIDA:
* Only thing on WMP ’96 I could find. Yoshida was still finding her place on the card after her injury, and Fukuwa was a newer girl (debuted in 1994). She’d have a pretty forgettable run, I think, retiring in 2001 with only a single Tag Title anywhere on her resume- she bailed for Arsion in 1997 with numerous other girls, but never won gold there. Yoshida’s wearing a beautifully-hideous yellow jacket with a big yellow fez on her head, and a yellow leotard. Fukuwa’s got a black leotard with cut-outs, and some giant ribbon sewn onto it, going all over the place.

Fukuwa wisely hits a Flying Splash to the outside immediately and takes over, but Yoshida quickly takes the lead with a vicious dropkick and a Cartwheel Back Elbow. She dismantles the rookie with simple offense, but wows the crowd with a vicious backdrop right onto her neck. Fukuwa actually rolls through a Springboard Cross-Body with a count so close even I was fooled, and I KNOW who wins this! Yoshida is temporarily befuddled, but soon comes back with her signature Cartwheel Evasion and wipes Fukuwa out with Missile Dropkicks and a DDT of the second rope for the win (6:45).

Rating: *1/2 (basically just a squash, though Yoshida’s stuff always looks great)

WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’97:
(21.09.1997)

Wrestlemarinepiad ’97 is also in disarray online, and also appears to start out with a lot of one-sided or rookie contests, representing an AJW that’d lost many of its biggest stars- Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto & Kyoko Inoue were elsewhere. The biggest two matches were Manami Toyota & Yumiko Hotta wrestling to a 30-minute draw, and the following:

STEEL CAGE MATCH (Escape Rules):
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES vs. THE U*TOPS:
(21.09.1997):
* This and the Aja/Kyoko brawl from the same year are probably the most famous matches LCO ever had- legendary brawls in the annals of Joshi history. 1997 is a much different time for all four of these women- LCO (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) have been upgraded to Main Eventers, but only as a duo, thanks to their own greatness, and Shimoda’s multiple WWWA Tag Title reigns with other wrestlers. It’s really fun seeing Main Event LCO versus the “midcarders rising up” LCO of 93-95. Much more deliberate, and more confident- Mita always seemed like she had something to prove in 1993, but by ’97, she acted like she’d already proven it. And being so devoted to cheating that they have their own specially-made steel chairs is a master-stroke. They’re wearing reverse-colored versions of each other’s gear- two-piece outfits in purple & white.

The U*Tops, formed specifically to destroy the dominant heels LCO, were Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe, who have notably become much bigger stars as well- ’97 saw AJW lose so much of its talent (30 wrestlers in all! Seriously!) that they were finally forced to upgrade these two- JTTS cannon fodder in literally every show I watch between 1991 & 1996- into big stars. Both would eventually hit the big time, but in a gutted promotion- as someone said about Ito, they’re perfectly fine wrestlers to be your #5 or #6 workers… but when they’re your #2 or #3… you’ve got problems. Both are now much larger than the last time I saw them- Ito in particular got very bulky as time went on, losing her “High Flyer” concept. Ito’s wearing a black singlet with white flames on it, and Tomoko’s wearing football pads over her gear, due to a bad shoulder injury, giving the match an instant visual “hook”.

LCO completely savage the U*Tops to start, bloodying them with blue & pink chairs, biting them, and using a chain. They stifle every attempt at a comeback, and Shimoda even tries to tear Tomoko’s football pads off! Then there’s stereo strangulation attempts with the chains. Ito finally reverses a Death Valley Driver to a German, and the faces start doing leg submissions- in a CAGE match! Nice psychology as Shimoda takes over on Tomoko, but hears Mita’s shrieks of pain while in a hold, and immediately walks over, chairshots Ito, then throws on the same hold that hurt Mita. Tomoko screams out in agony (TERRIFIC) while Mita plants Ito with a DVD. They torture Tomoko for a bit and try to bail, but Ito’s recovered by then and brings Shimoda down with a German off the frickin’ top rope and goes to town before Shimoda blasts her with a Tiger Superplex. Not much elevation (it was more of a drop from a seated position on the top rope), but nice all the same.

Mita drapes chairs over the U*Tops and Shimoda pulls a length of STEEL GUARDRAIL into the ring, stands it up in the corner, and jumps right off the top, throwing the railing onto them! Okay, that technically should hurt less because of the chairs (and she could have gone down WITH the rail), but that looked cool. The U*Tops recover right away, dragging LCO down from the cage and beating the shit out of them with chains, ending with Ito tearing a bloody wreck Shimoda’s arm apart with a hold while Mita takes Tomoko’s BRUTAL “Backdrop into One-Armed Powerbomb” move straight onto the back of her head. And in a great bit, Ito dramatically helps a one-armed Tomoko climb the cage and escape, but takes the hugest Super Electric Chair Drop ever, leaving her alone against LCO!

This seems one-sided, but Shimoda’s so fucked up from the arm stuff (great selling, just howling and bawling, but she never builds sympathy because it’s so inhuman-sounding) and chain shots that she can’t recover, and Ito reverses Mita’s DVD, then hits a Flying Stomp on her, then Shimoda! LCO stop her from escaping, but Tomoko sprays a fire extinguisher into the ring from the outside, stopping their assault- Mita escapes in the confusion, but that leaves Shimoda & Ito! Shimoda’s arm is shredded again, but Mita climbs back in… and takes the sickest bump ever, hitting the ropes with her legs and ending up going neck-first onto the mat! And then Ito, inspired by all the Cage Matches before her, climbs to the top of the cage, prays like Bull Nakano did against Aja Kong, and hits a FLYING DOUBLE-FOOT STOMP FROM THE TOP OF THE CAGE, crushing Mita, then escaping (26:03- 18-ish shown)!! A bawling, bloody-faced Shimoda has to be helped out of the ring by Mita while the winners are cared for outside- everyone’s just dead, selling the brutality of the match.

Image result for kaoru ito foot stomp cage

How LCO leave the ring- bloody and in tears. But not even remotely sympathetic. Now THAT’S heeling.

God damn, I LOVED this match! LCO dominates to start and beats on their injured opponents, but the U*Tops finally make their comeback after a few false starts, wreck Shimoda’s arm to prevent further damage, and hit some big moves to allow Tomoko to escape. Ito being left alone seems to doom her, but the smoke keeps her safe, and she’s able to crush Shimoda, then damage a vulnerable Mita with that ridiculous, how-is-that-not-literally-fatal Flying Stomp from the top. Shimoda & Tomoko both had terrific selling of their arms, being extremely vocal but one coming off like a heel, and the other a babyface. I liked this a lot more than the “let’s just trade punches for 30 minutes” Cage Matches in AJW, or even the NWA’s War Games stuff- they were brutalizing and bloodying each other, but there were big-time wrestling moves and even PSYCHOLOGY- doing enough damage to Shimoda’s arm repeatedly to prevent her from helping, repaying the damage to Tomoko… it was great.

Rating: ****3/4 (great piece of work- psychology in a CAGE MATCH? Great bumping and awesome spots)

Wrestlemarinepiad takes a two-year break before showing up again in 2000, with a “Soft on Demand Tournament” being the point of the show- a one-night tournament sees Manami Toyota defeat newer star Momoe Nakanishi in a tournament that also includes Takako Inoue, Reggie Bennett and Yumiko Hotta- some of the last big stars left in AJW.

Overall Scores:
Takako Inoue vs. Debbie Malenko: ***
Hokuto/Toyota vs. Yamada/Kyoko: ****3/4
Jungle Jack vs. Ripper/Bull & Ripper vs. Bull: ***
Mariko Yoshida vs. Yumi Fukuwa: *1/2
Las Cachorras Orientales vs. The U*Tops: ****3/4

-So what I found left was really good, especially two of the tag matches. If brawls are your thing, you’ll probably love that hugely-long cage match more than I did, too.

And that finally settles it for the Wrestlemarinepiads! The shows went from “AJW’s WrestleMania” to “Just some random stuff” sometimes, but almost every show has at least one ****+ match on it. Doing these all in a row was a fun look at AJW’s history, as Kyoko & Manami in particular grow into huge stars, Aja finally unseats Bull and is herself pushed down the card, and LCO come into their own by the end of it. The depth of AJW’s roster was really on point during this time period, only faltering later because they delayed the pushes of their rookies and then lost too many big stars.