Joshi Spotlight- Dream Rush


-So for my Joshi reviews, I’m largely focused on the “interpromotional era”, as it’s generally seen (okay, Meltzer said it and others repeat it, but it looks true to me!) as the Golden Age of Joshi. And this appears to be the first big Interpromotional Joshi show (it was apparently all started with FMW, however, when Megumi Kudo & Combat Toyoda called out Akira Hokuto & Bull Nakano in June ’92). Now, you may be asking why I didn’t just review THIS one first, instead of the Dream Slams, which are a few months after it, and the answers are simple: 1) I got into Joshi through the Dream Slams, so I wanted to do the same for others; and 2) I had no idea this was first because RESEARCH IS HARD, DAMMIT!

TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?: The Main Event is *****, and we FINALLY see an end to the Aja/Bull feud in an epic final bout. Multiple matches on here establish what’s going to be the status quo in Joshi for years, too.

So in late 1992 comes “Dream Rush”, a name that was never re-used as far as I can tell- it’s a big show with a 5,500 gate and an amazing Las Vegas-style glitzy entrance for the wrestlers. And it’s got a healthy mix of stars from various companies, though primarily focuses on AJW internally. Some girls who don’t last through 1993 are on the show as well, giving it an odd feel compared to the ’93-94 stuff. This is also the culmination of the Aja/Bull feud that ran through three frickin’ Wrestlemarinepiads in a row, meaning it’s absolutely a huge show… though that one doesn’t even go on last! I guess if you want JWP to loan you it’s two biggest stars…

* LCO, Evil Demon Waifus that they are, are an up & coming team here, still subordinate to Akira Hokuto. Mita’s got her hair dyed blonde like her senpai Akira, which isn’t the best look. Wow, way different theme for LCO this time, too. Chikako is a rookie, and Kamiya graduated with Aja Kong but didn’t develop as fast, left from 1993-94, and had more success later as “Cooga”- she’s “Card Filler” in every Joshi show I’ve seen with her. Miori’s got shorter hair and a black singlet with yellow lines, while Chikako has a green singlet with white lines.

LCO have parts of their act down, like the snarling start and biting their opponents in submission holds, but aren’t as developed. They seem very “showy”, like they want to be noticed, though. Kamiya seems more or less on their level, using kicks and stretching, but every time Chikako tags in, she gets murdered. Kamiya takes back over with strikes and a Butterfly Suplex on Mita, but Chikako’s immediately flattened with an Airplane Spin, Electric Chair Drop & Flying Splash combo. Kamiya has to take over AGAIN, but she’s Superplexed by Shimoda thanks to Mita’s interference, and a unique Arm-Trap Perfect Plex by Mita gets her with a surprise pin at (10:56), with a questionable three-count. Wow, I could have sworn that Chikako was gonna do the job here. Interesting dynamic, with LCO effortlessly destroying the rookie, but Kamiya had both of their numbers, though ultimately fell to LCO’s teamwork. Kamiya’s stuff actually looked the best here, with everyone else more “scrappy” than “good”, but this was solid.

Rating: **1/2 (Perfectly fine, though never outstanding)

* The AJW Title is the third-tier belt, typically reserved for rookies. This means that the Class of ’89 girls, Ito, Watanabe & Sakie Hasegawa, end up trading it a bunch. Tomoko is a botch-heavy kid at this point, and wearing a LOT of makeup in addition to being much thinner than she’d be later, with a black & white top with her name on it… and red pants. Ito is thus for the only time in her career the SECOND-worst-dressed person in a match, as her bright yellow & blue singlet is merely clash-y instead of agonizing to look at. Neither was as well-thought-of as Sakie at this point, which means it’s probably a good idea they’re getting a solo title to compensate. Both get pretty weak reactions from the crowd.

Tomoko actually brawls to start, with Ito using wrestling and counters, and they fight outside the ring repeatedly after a Figure-Four spot goes nowhere (Ito doesn’t even sell the leg after). Ito uses her favorite things- Stomps and her ass- to take over. Tomoko does some nice judo throws, but her Slingshot attacks are ugly. They both trade their big moves (Flying Stomp misses, Tomoko’s Rana gets a near-fall), until Ito reverses a Rana to a Powerbomb, then throws out a great finishing series (Flying Stomp, Stomp, Somersault Senton, Splash & then another Flying Stomp) for the win (16:46). They started with Jobber Offense, did some aimless long submission holds for a bit, then brawled outside the ring, but it got pretty good by the end. You could see that both had some potential.

Rating: **3/4 (long, decent-ish match held back by 4-5 minutes of Figure Fours & Crab Holds)

* Oh shit, it’s WWF’s Tori again! She seemed to be gone RIGHT after the Dream Slams, so I never associate her with this era at all. Here she’s teaming with Takako, who’s somewhat of a “made” star but hit her stride the next year. Terri’s got an awful perm, a pink singlet and WAY more muscles than she had in the WWF. Takako’s in a more “Idol”-like outfit- a white leotard with a lot of cut-outs around the chest area. Hotta & Minami team up a bit in things I’ve seen, having a similar place on the upper-midcard, though Minami has stalled out as a “Gatekeeper”, and Hotta is rising. They’re wearing black & yellow singlets that don’t quite match, with Hotta’s being hilariously like a Killer Bees version.

Both girls start out abusing Minami, gatekeeping as always. I half-expect her to eat Takako’s finisher to put her over. Hotta wows the crowd immediately with her kicks, but Terri isn’t the best at selling them, as she’s still the “Lumbering Powerhouse” and doesn’t get the right head-snap sell that most Joshi are great at. And so the Joshi Bees working her over for a few minutes doesn’t really work- they get a lot more mileage later out of pummeling the pretty idol instead of the ripped bodybuilder. Terri actually hits a good legdrop and skins the cat to impress the crowd, though her Delayed Vertical Suplex is a bit awkward and lands funny. Her Lariats are merely “decent”, which isn’t what you want in a powerhouse. Takako eats Suzuka’s great Powerbomb and WICKED Senton Splash, but Hotta can’t score the fall with her Tiger Driver because of Terri. Terri skins the cat back in AGAIN, but Minami’s wise to it now and dumps her properly, which allows Hotta to finish Takako with a Backdrop Superplex (17:13).

Decent enough bout, though the pace was VERY… tepid. Like they were at half-speed most of the way, and not just because of Terri; Takako & Minami are both quick workers who were today doing a very deliberate style. The timing felt “off” on numerous moves, with a few mistimed spots and delays before a proper application- Takako in particular is a much better worker even six months later. There were a LOT of restholds, too- Crabs, Figure Fours, and even an Honest-To-Kami CHINLOCK to pad the time. It felt like more of a showcase for Takako, who was in for most of the match along with Minami (who I can imagine is a good “teaching up & comers the ropes” wrestler, being so good at the fundamentals). But all I can think of is how much better the match would be in 1993.

Rating: **3/4 (good enough, though a bit mis-timed and too slow)

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Hokuto and her enemies.

* Haha, now THIS will be good! Kyoko, Ultimate Warrior’d up as always (though her outfit seems straight out of Randy Savage’s closest, as it’s got tassles on the lower half and that “singlet top” look), comes out to “Panama”. Hokuto seems far beyond her at this point judging by later stuff I’d seen- she was Main Eventing the next year.

They actually play it like Hogan/Warrior to start, with dramatic shoving, getting in each other’s face, etc., starting slow and milking it, each bailing after big moves (Akira’s German and Kyoko’s Giant Swing). Very unusual for Joshi. Akira sells a TON for Kyoko’s offense, being stretched in her array of surfboards and that Rocking Cradle thing, and all her comebacks come from her trademark Flail-Fu and nastiness. The crowd is largely doing that “Quiet, respectful” thing before waiting for the bigger stuff. In this case, Hokuto fires off a pair of Roundhouse Kicks, then hits TWO Somersault Senton Planchas. She starts slowly dismantling Kyoko, drawing screams from the crowd, and so they love it when Kyoko pulls off a German and a Pop-Up Flying Back Elbow. And then their hearts break when the Slingshot Backsplash gets a dropkick put right into her spine- OUCH. Northern Lights Bomb (Head-Drop Side Powerslam) is reversed to a roll-up- Hokuto’s selling is so good that she always looks like like she’s second from losing an upset with every pin.

Hokuto gets a German, but a Flying Splash hits knees. Kyoko senses victory, but shamefully Repeats a Prior Successful Move, which is always death- her Flying Back Elbow ends up with Akira’s outstretched legs tearing her freaking head off at high speed. That nearly gets the pin, and the next move is the proper Northern Lights Bomb- goodnight at (22:17). New holder of the White Belt!! Hokuto immediately cuts a promo on Shinobu Kandori at ringside (in a Cosby sweater!), awing the crowd and drawing a bemused smirk from the LLPW Ace, who has Harley Saito cut a promo for her- this is, of course, leading to their legendary ***** match at the first Dream Slam, in a year that would define Hokuto’s career forever.

This was a fairly interesting match- it started off with 14 minutes of stretching, which would ordinarily be boring without innovative stuff or “catch-wrestling” fighting over holds being done, but they broke it up with some good stuff, and the selling was top-notch, leading to the big series of moves in the second half, with their selling justified from all the prior work. Kyoko kept doing the “punch-drunk” sell after both Akira’s moves and her own, while Akira is of course one of the best at “the next move might kill me” selling. And then they both started doing natural-looking reversals, dodging stuff, with Kyoko over-committing frequently and getting feet planted into the back of her head because all her stuff was high-risk. And Akira doesn’t need much to be able to punish you for your mistakes- her moves are razor-sharp and can hit in seconds with little build-up- the N.L. Bomb is devastating.

Rating: **** (feels like not as great as they potentially COULD go, but Akira was just higher on the card and Kyoko hadn’t even peaked yet)

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Pictured: Not what you expected a woman with “Bison” in her name to look like.

-So Bison Kimura, longtime partner of Aja Kong, is injured and has to call it quits for a time. She seemed pretty good in the matches I’ve seen, though seemed prone to “Scott Steiner-ism”, hitting the same move over and over again in her matches (an overhand “Bison Chop”, in this case). The unfortunate thing is that Bison thus misses out on this “Golden Period” for Joshi, and only returns a few years later, when the boom is over, and so she gets skipped over a lot by fans. The most interesting thing I’ve noticed as a fan is that Etsuko Mita seems to copy Bison’s visual AND in-ring style a lot, especially the make-up style and the chop.

Bison holds it together more than most of the Joshi I see in retirement, but tears up a little when Bull Nakano & Aja Kong come out as part of the retinue, giving her flowers (funny- can you imagine WrestleMania tossing out their Main Eventers halfway through for something like this?). She gives a simple, friendly-sounding interview at the end, possibly like an “I’ll come back; don’t you worry!” kind of thing.

* OH GOODY- going back in time means we get to watch more clumsy kickboxing contests featuring Bat. This is largely only notable to me because Kamazaki comes out to the fucking song for Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade.

So they trade weak-looking stuff for 10-ish minutes, Kyoko noticeably hitting light offense probably due to being tired early, until she finally lands a hard shot and IMMEDIATELY gets knocked the fuck down with a spinning backfist. She struggles but can’t answer the ten-count, either due to exhaustion or this being a work- I dunno. These fights are always dumb.

* This is one of two Interpromotional Matches tonight, this one featuring an FMW team. Sakie is the Class of ’89 Rookie with the most potential, while Debbie was trained by Bore-Us Malenko and has been getting a semi-decent push around this era (before she got a Sid-level injury)- they’re dressed hilariously like the Steiner Brothers once again (Sakie in blue & yellow; Debbie in purple & pink). Team FMW cut the most awkward interview ever, looking like they’d rather be anywhere else on Earth. They’ve both got facepaint on, and are a fairly mid-tier team at this point- they were in minor matches at the Dream Slams, and don’t show up on many other interpromotional shows. The future Shark Tsuchiya is in black & green, and Maedomari is in black & red- both have facepaint. So it’s like Joshi Steiners versus Joshi LOD.

Man, I was looking forward to this, but I forgot that the FMW team isn’t very good- they’re brawlers, but kind of have awkward timing and don’t move very smoothly. Like how Tsuchiya goes into a judo-flip before Debbie can properly set her up for it, and then does Ken Masters’ back throw on Sakie without planting her foot in the stomach properly, so Sakie kind of dumps over her. Or how Maedomari ducks a double-clothesline attempt… and everyone just kind of stands there for a second before tromping over and kicking Sakie awkwardly. Debbie wipes the floor with them in submissions, but Team FMW keep breaking up holds with interference, drawing boos from the hometown crowd. They start hammering Sakie with some good stuff (a “lariat” suddenly becomes a Chokeslam, impressing the crowd with the psyche-out, then Sakie’s hit by a Flying Shoulderblock, Hart Attack-style), though. Eventually the AJW girls get good & pissed off enough that it turns into a brawl, in and out of the ring, and then Sakie slaps on a Backlund-esque Crossface Chickenwing, refusing to break it even when Maedomari’s in the ropes! Holy SHIT! And then she nastily beats her down, waiting for her to get up before hitting a Solebutt, then a running kick, for the pin while she sits on her foe (15:45). Maedomari cuts a promo afterwards, Sakie kind of being unsure, but finally hollers a victory cry and the two shake on it.

Some of the sloppiest, stumbliest joshi you’ll ever see at this high a level, but it seemed oddly fitting (the brawling FMW girls going up against smooth-wrestling athletes), and the match flow was good, and I liked the overall story of the nasty brawlers repeatedly interfering until Sakie & Debbie completely lost their shit and started brawling with them, fighting just as dirty. Sakie refusing to break the Chickenwing, then coldly standing there while Maedomari slowly got up, was great storytelling and showed just how angry they were getting. Though Tsuchiya having to be held back for a solid minute was kind of weird match-planning.

Rating: ***1/2 (I was aiming at ** because of all the sloppiness until things got ugly and mean as hell; I love that shit)

During happier times, and during their epic blood feud.

* So the huge story for the entirety of 1990-1993 AJW seems to be the war between Bull Nakano & Aja Kong, both subordinates of the mighty Dump Matsumoto. And when Dump retired, along with the Crush Gals, it was Bull who became the new Ace. Unhappy about it was Aja, who began a bloody conflict that saw them main event several Wrestlemarinepiads, with Aja getting closer every single time. In fact, in their last bout (the April WMP), Aja took Bull to such a limit that she kicked out of her regular Guillotine Legdrop AND the Somersault version! This was the clue to everyone watching that the next time… this might be it.

oh God, Aja Kong’s omnipresent metal cans are now GOLDEN. Symbolism!! Bull of course looks like a huge superstar with her giant Villain Cape and blue hair. They start off throwing bombs immediately, with Bull getting the better of Aja, slapping on some torturous-looking stretches and shaking it up often to prevent them from looking like restholds. Bull actually dominates her way more than ever before in their bouts, even beating on her outside before Aja finally makes a comeback, sitting down on a Flying Sunset Flip attempt and braining her with entire stacks of chairs outside in turn. They really like that “they mirror each other’s spots” stuff in these bouts. Bull goes for the Guillotine too early and takes a shellacking for it, but comes back with a vicious swinging lariat, slingshot kick, and a frickin’ Plancha! She milks the count, then drills Aja with a Guillotine for real this time. That gets two, and she immediately hits the MDK variant- the Somersault Double-Leg Guillotine! And THAT gets two! People in the crowd are literally covering their faces before the death-move hits, but AGAIN this can’t get the win! Bull’s agonizing over it, too, so the move that won her the bout last time, the Moonsault, is called for! But it misses, because Aja has learned! Aja hits a Bridging German! Then an Uraken! Aja fires herself up, allowing Bull to rise before she ANNIHILATES her with another one, right in the face! That can’t get the win, and now AJA’s the one in shock. Aja calls out to Bison Kimura and uses her “Bison Chop” technique twice, then executes Bull with her OWN MOVE, hitting the Guillotine Legdrop for the win and the WWWA World Title (20:19)!!!

And then, in a terrific scene, the two bury the hatchet in the ring, crying together over their rivalry culminating with this one moment- Aja unseating Bull at last. Aja even does the “Full Japanese Formal Bow of Respect”! So mutual respect and admiration wins out, and the two titans embrace while the crowd goes nuts- the perfect ending of an era. The Ace is Dead; Long Live the Ace!

These two are awesome- every fight between them comes off like this huge War Between Gods- brutal strikes, painful-looking stretching (even a CHINLOCK looks devastating), MDK moves, and more. Though less “showy” than other Joshi of the time, and certainly less technical than the Main Events of the ’80s, it comes off how you want a Main Event to come off- like nobody else could beat these two. They aren’t in a rush, and instead slowly grind each other down with terribly-deadly strikes, brawling to the outside, and a slow, deliberate ante-upping with killer slams. Bull dominated to start, then Aja got a turn, then Bull decided to end things during her comeback- and that’s where everything went wrong. The psychology in the end was tremendous- Bull misses her first Guillotine, then hits the second, then the MDK variant, and then copies the move that conquered Aja in the match earlier in the year, but this time Aja was ready for it and dodged. And this left Bull vulnerable, as she was slowly cut down with huge strikes- Aja copies her retired partner’s moves, and finally does Finisher Stealing for the win.

AJW by this point never had repeat champions- Bull was largely put out to pasture as a result, brought in for exhibition and “Special Attraction” matches, but never getting another shot at the Big Red Belt. She was in great matches, and had a good place on the card, sure, but she was donezo as a Main Eventer and it seemed everyone knew it. Her blood feud with Aja had now turned them into respected co-workers, and they even teamed up to defend AJW’s honor on occasion. Aja was the new Ace, and held the Red Belt proudly for around three years, losing it only in 1995, winning it again, then dropping it a final time. Then it was HER turn to be the “Special Attraction”, but a couple years after that she bailed for Arsion and continues to wrestle to this very day. Bull retired in the ’90s.

Rating: ****1/2 (just a phenomenal war for the ages- even things like chinlocks looked like Main Event stuff, and the psychology was great)

Manami and her bizarre sense of submission holds at work.

* So the famous trilogy of matches that defined the Interpromotional Era begins here, as JWP’s top two wrestlers invade AJW territory to take on their top team. This getting the main event over the friggin’ end of Aja & Bull’s multi-year feud seems odd, but as someone mentioned, this is how you get JWP to donate their top two stars. Toyota’s wearing one of the plainest black leotards I’ve seen her wear- non-detailed and sporting just the arm and back cut-outs. Yamada’s in all purple, with the baggy pants look. Kansai’s wearing a tighter yellow & green bodysuit, while Ozaki’s red suit with cut-outs has more gold on it than I’ve seen elsewhere.

I must emphasize how rare it would be in late 1992 to see some of the top stars of two major promotions going at it like this- especially in a big Main Event setting, for a title. This was beyond “Special Occurence”. And it’s especially cool because Yamada & Kansai are both sporty/androgynous-looking kickers, while Toyota & Ozaki are smaller, slender high-fliers who work at top speeds.

Fall One: They start off at 100 mph immediately, actually appearing to botch a pair of Irish Whips, but everyone recovers so fast and so well that it even ENHANCES the match, as they divebomb the discombobulated-looking person who stumbled. Kansai & Yamada toss a ton of kicks at each other. Then Team JWP stretches out Toyota and kills her with kicks, because NOBODY puts over offense like Manami. JWP’s shitbag tactics are great heeling, because they’re interfering and smacking Yamada on the apron to the boos of the hometown crowd, and then Manami Pop-Up Dropkicks Kansai right in the face and Yamada spams kicks into her brain to pay it off immediately. Toyota tries to run wild, but is immediately caught and stretched like Gumby again. Yamada drills Ozaki with a backdrop right onto her head, then teases a dive, allowing Team JWP to hit stereo dives on the faked-out Team AJW! Tombstone & Stereo Flying Headbutts nearly finish Yamada, but Manami breaks it up, fends off two separate Powerbomb attempts, but misses a Moonsault. This lets Kansai turn her COMPLETELY inside-out with a 1.2 Jannetty sell from a huge lariat. Ozaki dropkicks her to prevent another comeback, and Kansai finally plants her with a Powerbomb onto her head for the three (14:38). Oh dear- Manami just took a BEATING in this one.

Fall Two: Team JWP senses blood, and so they divebomb a weakened Manami immediately, but she Manami Rolls out of a second Powerbomb attempt and tags in Yamada, who spams out Suplexes like crazy onto Kansai, then gets a big Flying Enzuigiri, followed by ACTUALLY HITTING HER FINISHER (a Reverse Gory Bomb, like an Electric Chair Drop/Vertebreaker thing with a bridging pin) for the win (16:22)! Hah! Crowd goes bonkers for that, having not expected such a quick fall.

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How many people in wrestling could ever do this?

Fall Three: Ozaki tears into Yamada’s arm to start, but soon gets face kicked and hit with Manami’s Dropkick Spam, and ohhhhhhhhh now she’s in a “showing off” mood finally. She hits a Head & Arm Bridging Suplex and then a Bridging Indian Deathlock/Bodylock that only she could pull off (literally nobody else in wrestling is that flexible) and that weird Snap Double-Underhook thing where she holds ’em in Pedigree position and then wraps her legs around her opponent’s (see the pic above the match headline). Kansai breaks up a Stump Puller and works over Yamada with great strikes & suplexes (LOVE her Northern Lights), then both partners take turns interfering during submissions. Oh, this is getting ugly and I love it. They all fight outside, then Yamada takes a Somersault Senton & Powerbomb from Ozaki and gets slowly tortured for a while (with Kansai even tossing a chair at her head) until Manami comes in… and ALSO takes a beating, eating a Spinning Splash from Ozaki before getting fired up with another dropkick reversal and a Moonsault Press.

Yamada DEMANDS Kansai, which… goes badly for her. Kansai wipes the floor with her, the ref starts counting her down, and Kansai strolls over and kicks her in the face to break it up! But she’s immediately paid back AGAIN when she misses a Roundhouse and kicks KickSpammed in the head. Manami does three Bridging Germans in a row, but Ozaki hits her with a Tiger Suplex & Sit-Out Powerbomb for two-counts. Ozaki busts up Toyota’s hands just to be EXTRA mean about it and draw some more crowd-hate. Toyota tries a jumping DDT from the corner, but gets caught in ANOTHER sweet Northern Lights Suplex from Kansai, then hits the Rolling Cradle to come back. Team JWP hit Stereo Germans for a near-fall, too! Ozaki’s Bridging Backdrop gets two on Yamada, but she earns a Belly-To-Belly Superplex in return, and Stereo Flying Headbutts pay her back from Fall One. Kansai helps, but her Dive hits Ozaki! And then Manami just strolls up to the top rope and hits an Asai Moonsault like this match hasn’t been forty minutes long or anything. Ozaki takes the Double Faceplant Backdrop and a Moonsault, but won’t die. Kansai comes in, but Ozaki’s second Spinning Splash misses (NEVER Repeat A Successful Move!) and Manami drills her with the Japanese Ocean Suplex (Double Hammerlock Bridging Suplex) for the win (40:24)!!

When a match is in four-star territory and there’s still twenty minutes left, it means either the match is ***** or they got self-indulgent and Triple-H’d it until it sucked. And believe me, these four can fill forty minutes of wrestling easily. Manami being murdered for the first fall, then coming back with flashy stuff for the third, was terrific, as was the increasing hostility between both teams, as Ozaki especially is great as a nasty, smug cheater. This paid off repeatedly, as every time they did something snotty, they got a dropkick to the face for it, and by the end, Team AJW is stuffing them with double-teams and JWP has no real answer. What’s terrifying is that the match is almost flawless, and may have the best “character” work of their series, but the other two bouts are far superior- the second beats it in raw MOVEZ and death-bombs (soooooo many Doomsday Moves), while the third is a more intricately-plotted and paced masterpiece that pays off the rest of their set. This one didn’t even feature three of the women’s finishers!! Only Yamada (who NEVER hits her move) got hers in! THAT’S how much they still had left in the tank after 40 minutes!

Rating: ***** (and this is THE WORST MATCH IN THE SERIES)

Overall Ratings:
LCO vs. Kamiya/Chikako: **1/2
Tomoko Watanabe vs. Kaoru Ito: **3/4
Minami/Hotta vs. Takako/Power: **3/4
Kyoko Inoue vs. Akira Hokuto: ****
Bat Yoshinga vs. Kyoko Kamazaki: N/A
Sakie/Debbie vs. Tsuchiya/Maedomari: ***1/2
Bull Nakano vs. Aja Kong: ****1/2
Toyota/Yamada vs. Kansai/Ozaki: *****

-Yeah, ending it with 4.5 and 5 star matches makes this one of the best shows around, which makes it all the crazier that Dream Rush gets surpassed by both Dream Slams, St. Battle and Big Egg. Apparently this Joshi thing is awesome, yo.