Joshi Spotlight- Joshi in the WWF (1990s Edition!)

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JOSHI IN THE WWF (1990s Edition):
-Six years after the Jumping Bomb Angels left the WWF, Joshi returned to the company in 1994, when Alundra Blayze was a bit of a lame-duck WWF Women’s Champion- the company had reintroduced the belt in 1993, using the former Madusa Micelli (a star in Japan & America) as the center of the division, which consisted mostly of just her. She won a tournament against a bunch of nobodies, defeated Leilani Kai (who wrestled at the FIRST WrestleMania!) at WrestleMania X in an utter throwaway bout, and was engaged in a feud with the heel Luna Vachon, but they didn’t wrestle much on TV. During a tour of Japan in mid-1994, Alundra called in on her old AJW (All Japan Women’s) partners to provide her some opponents, resulting in Sakie Hasegawa, Kyoko Inoue, and others losing to her on the tour. And one of these opponents (our own Bayless reviewed the bout just a week ago!) would actually join full-time, with BULL NAKANO, right out of AJW, becoming Alundra’s new opponent!

Led by a vengeful Luna Vachon, Bull was… well, something else. One of AJW’s biggest stars in the late ’80s and early ’90s, she was the Ace for a three-year title reign before being unseated by Aja Kong in late 1992. She spent the remainder of her time in AJW on a “Retirement Tour” of sorts, as it was common for champions to spend their last year or so doing random entertaining bouts, but never really competing for gold again- she’s seen teaming with Aja on a few shows, fighting Devil Masami, and doing other “Dream Matches”, but she’s way out of the main event. She’s not a Jobber (in fact, I can’t even recall her taking any pinfalls in all the shows I’ve seen aside from when she lost the Red Belt!), but she’s highly de-emphasized. But despite this, she was still very tall (5’7″- enormous for a Japanese woman), strong-looking, and had that superstar look that promoters dream of. A naturally frightening heel, she was PERFECT as a Foreign Monster Heel for the WWF.

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Seriously, how is this NOT the greatest wrestler look of all time?

Bull’s shocking looks (“vein” facepaint and bright blue hair standing straight up, about a foot off her head) made her an instant person to watch, and her big-time Joshi moves opened eyes as well- her Guillotine Legdrop is a top-ten finisher in ’93 WWF, for sure. Blayze, with AJW training in the late ’80s, could take the moves as well (an issue with Joshi vs. American girls is that USA training was too “Moolah-esque” and they couldn’t hang or even comprehend the offense). And so Bull was managed by Luna (herself the manager of Bam Bam Bigelow), and went against Alundra, wrestling in more WWF-style bouts (usually going less than ten minutes- twice that is common in AJW for big matches).

Their biggest match in the US was at SummerSlam, where Alundra dodged the Guillotine and retained the title. This was a bit of an odd result, given that they just kept the feud going, but they switched the WWF Women’s Title to her in late 1994, on an *AJW SHOW* of all things, having Bull crush Alundra at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, the biggest Joshi super-show of all time. Of course, in Japan that was the piss-break match before the Main Event, and it was more of an extended squash for Bull, but what the hell- looked good on WWF TV to see this monstrous stadium shot of their match! Bull remained champion for five months, with Alundra supposed to be getting going away for surgery (getting her nose and boobs done), but she got caught with cocaine on her and was fired right after losing the title back. I never really heard anything else about her and drugs, but she went back to Japan, floated around for a couple of years (ending up in some random WCW bouts when they tried a women’s division for a few months), and then retired in 1997, before randomly popping up looking like an entirely different person- extremely thin and looking like someone’s nice mom.

That was nearly it for Joshi in the WWF… until Alundra had run out of trained women to feud with (Bertha Faye, herself AJW trained as “Monster Ripper”, had already jobbed to her enough times), and so AJA KONG, herself a former “Red Belt” holder, was called in to be the next big opponent. And then, in a very bizarre situation, six Joshi were called up to America to wrestle in the 1995 Survivor Series! Alundra would team with three babyface-type AJW girls, while Faye & Aja would be joined by two more heelish-looking ones. This would lead to a throwaway bout, hilariously featuring a woman with more ***** WON rated matches than Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart combined get pinned after less than 45 seconds in the ring. Alundra’s team would get demolished one after another by the brutal Aja Kong, leading to Aja versus Chaparita ASARI on RAW. … How’d that one go again?

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Oh yeah. Alundra would fight Lioness Asuka in a couple of combinations… and then all at once, Aja was sent back to Japan (possibly because she legitimately broke ASARI’s nose with an INSANELY violent Uraken- spinning backfist), and Alundra left the WWF following them failing to renew her contract in November, and did so by appearing live on WCW Monday Nitro and famously tossing the WWF Women’s Title in the trash, seeing it as worthless.

“Spin” at the time was that Alundra was “afraid” of Aja, but this was likely B.S. A Reddit thing summing up the Observer stated:

“Micelli’s WWF contract expired last week and they chose not to renew it. A planned Blayze vs. Aja Kong match at Royal Rumble was cancelled the week before. WWF had been planning to send Blayze to All Japan Women and let her work there full time while periodically showing up in WWF but then scrapped that plan when they decided to abandon the women’s division altogether. It was known that Blayze was negotiating with WCW but not that she had signed. Vince McMahon didn’t find out about Blayze appearing in WCW with the women’s belt until it happened on Nitro (at the same time Vince was doing commentary on Raw) and he was told about it during the show, which is why many said he seemed distracted on commentary for the rest of the night.”

(WWF Japan Mania, 09.05.1994)
* Oh shit, I didn’t think I’d find this. It’s AWFUL fan-cam footage of an event in Japan. The footage is so bad I can’t even tell what COLORS they’re wearing, but let’s check it out!

They do some high-speed counter-wrestling, and then IMMEDIATELY go into Sakie’s Rolling Butterfly Suplexes (I love how she spits on her hands to set it up), hitting four before Alundra snaps on the Rana. Damn, they’re WORKING tonight! And as I type that, they hit a chinlock and work slow stretching for a bit, though they slap each other around and Sakie uses Bryan Danielson’s Cattle Mutilation of all things, and it looks BETTER than his, owing to the high bridge she’s using! Alundra reverses out and dropkicks her, then works an armbar/bow & arrow for a while. The crowd is DEAD silent at parts, save for the occasional shout, but Sakie gets them cheering before she hits Solebutt Spam to end the stretching portion… and then works a crab-hold for a minute. Alundra bullies her with standing knees and punches, but Sakie kicks out of a backslide and hits a backdrop suplex, then blows the advantage by hitting knees on a splash. She comes back with a rollup, gets clotheslined out after blocking the German, but tosses Alundra off the top- lots of fun reversals here, with nobody maintaining the advantage. Sakie goes up herself, but misses the dive, but manages to necksnap Alundra off the ropes to set up another Solebutt for a close call. The crowd reacts, but a follow-up is ducked, and leads right to a GREAT Bridging German for the pin (10:37).

Actually a really good bout- they started out really fast, then did some really advanced technical stuff for 1994 WWF (a CATTLE MUTILATION?), reversed like 20 moves in the span of a couple of minutes (I’m a huge mark for counter-wrestling), then set up the final offensive moves. Sakie over-relying on the Solebutt played off well, though, as did her failed flying- rookie moves, all.

Rating: ***1/2 (actually really good- the technical stuff looked awesome, they counter-wrestled well, and the move application looked PERFECT- I don’t think Alundra ever hit a better German)

(WWF SummerSlam, 29.08.1994)
* Bull OF COURSE comes out to the Orient Express theme music, which is a mark-out for me- I absolutely adore that every single Japanese person in the WWF comes out to that theme. Bull looks nervous walking down the aisle, but is all smiles in the ring, while Alundra has some SWEET gear- this bodysuit with red, orange, then yellow flames, ending in a white top.

Bull whips Alundra around the ring to start, impressing the crowd with those “360-Degree Joshi Hairwhips”, drops a leg and then hits a chinlock that goes on WAY too long considering it’s only been two minutes so far. Bull ends up getting Hurricanrana’d back when that was a VERY rare sight on WWF TV, but comes back after a Spinning Heel Kick with some choking, more slow stuff, and finally that super-impressive “Standing Sharpshooter” Bull’s Angelito (where she deathlocks the legs but hits a double-chickenwing at the same time), wowing the crowd, and Vince on commentary. Bull hits a great lariat but takes a backslide, then hits a HUGE Kneeling Powerbomb when Alundra attempts another Rana- good psychology. She goes up too early for the Guillotine Legdrop, however, and lands flat on her ass, leaving her vulnerable to Alundra’s Bridging German Suplex finisher (8:10). This ending was a bit curious, given how Bull was brought in to feud with Alundra for a while, but she would have better luck later.

Rating: **3/4 (wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy too slow given they only had eight minutes, but they did some great stuff right in the last two)

(Big Egg Wrestling Universe, Tokyo Dome- 20.11.1994)
* This is one of the very few times you’ll ever see an active WWF Title defended on another company’s show, as the WWF lent their biggest feud to the biggest super-show in Joshi history- the Big Egg Wrestling Universe at the Tokyo Dome. And they actually put them on right before the Main Event, as roughly the 900,000th match on this insanely huge card. This is actually a bit brilliant, as it makes the bout a “piss-break/cooldown” match before the Main if you don’t care about a foreign country’s Title. Alundra’s entrance is AMAZING, with a full retinue of a dozen bikers, while she rides down on the back of a “hog” (as the parlance goes) while waving an American flag to a 42,000-ish audience of people in the Tokyo Dome. Poor Bull has to walk down the 90-mile ramp. As Bull isn’t a heel in Japan, she’s all smiles, and they even handshake to start!

Bull thumps Alundra to start, taking her apart with lariats, a legdrop, and stretching. Alundra comes back for all of five seconds before she eats Booker T’s Spinebuster and the Standing Sharpshooter. Vicious Hanging DDT, then a huge Elevated version, but Bull misses the Guillotine Legdrop and takes Alundra’s Bridging German, sliding out after two pretty handily. Alundra botches a slingshot kick pretty badly, hitting Bull’s knee (commentator says “chotto”, as usual), but a kick combo and Standing Moonsault hit more impressively. Bull reverses another German and hits BULL’S POSEIDON for the first time I’ve seen it (hanging someone behind her like the aforementioned Spinebuster, but just dropping down- Alundra sells it with her body splayed out parallel to the mat, but shorter wrestlers do a full vertical head-drop). And THAT’s enough to set up the Guillotine Legdrop properly, and Bull wins the Women’s Title at (9:40).

This match ended up being a lot different than you might expect, given how long Joshi matches go for, but as it’s a WWF match, and the pre-Main Event, it goes less than ten minutes, and is a borderline extended squash for Bull, who takes the WWF Women’s Title back to America. Alundra got only two or three offensive flurries all match, and Bull just ate her alive, easily taking her apart and reversing stuff. Hard to give it a high rating, but Bull looked super dominant- there’s a reason the YouTube “Top Moves” compilation of Bull mostly uses clips from this bout.

Rating: **1/2 (about right for a really good Extended Squash)

(WWF RAW, 03.04.1995)
* Bull’s been champion since the previous November, and now Alundra gets another shot at the gold the night after WrestleMania XI, the show where Sid turned on Shawn, who went babyface as a result. Bull is announced at 255 lbs, which is INSANELY over the top. Vince McMahon & Jim Cornette are on commentary.

They work a super fast pace to start, with Alundra whipping Bull off the top with her ankles and Bull getting a HUGE pair of hair-whips that send Alundra going a full 360 degrees. Alundra comes back with some running head-slams, but takes the Standing Sharpshooter and a Piledriver. She dropkicks Bull off the top and planchas out from the top, but gets Powerbombed out of a rana attempt. AMAZING Guillotine Legdrop… but it gets two! Is this AJW!?! Alundra comes back with a German for two. Another gets two! (“It’s hard enough to hold a 250-lb. woman! You should know that- I know YOU’VE tried enough!” Cornette to McMahon). Cornette brags that the day Bull won the belt, “nobody got on the subway that day!” in celebration- this was a couple weeks after the sarin gas terrorist attacks, lol. Bull boots Alundra off the top, but misses a Tope, then takes the German ON THE FLOOR. She comes back in the ring, but misses a Moonsault, and Alundra hits a fourth Bridging German for the win and the title (6:40). Alundra celebrates, but she’s attacked by a mystery assailant- actually Rhonda Sing in her “Monster Ripper” gear, before she got the full “Bertha Faye” look.

Entertaining little match, but the quick pace left zero time for selling- they’d hit their FINISHERS on each other, then just come back like nothing happened. Alundra also had to “Scott Steiner” her way through with a shitload of those Germans and little else, but it was a solid spectacle. I loved it less than Scott did- he went ***1/2- but it was fun.

Rating: **1/2 (super-short, but well-wrestled, if lacking in any selling)

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Lioness Asuka, dressed like Nightwing, hits a Giant Swing on the diminutive Chaparita ASARI while Alundra, Kyoko & Sakie look on.

(WWF Survivor Series, 23.11.1994)
* One of the most fascinating throwaway matches in WWF history- this one features Alundra & Bertha, who were just ending their feud at the time, with the NEW heel of the division, Aja Kong, making her WWF debut. And the rest of the workers are all AJW pros- Kyoko Inoue was just then one of the WWWA Tag Champions, and one of the joshi I’d give the best shot at “making it” in the WWF without English. Sakie Hasegawa was an “Heir Apparent” rising star with a great look. ASARI was a JTTS, but hit some the flashiest moves in the business at the time.

Bertha had AJW training, but was never really “good”, while Aja Kong was fading away in AJW and was thus perfect as a new Monster Heel for the women’s division. Lioness Asuka was a Grumpy Veteran, returning from retirement after being one of the top stars of the 1980s in Japan (she was the credible, tough Crush Gal compared to Chigusa, who came off as approachable and feminine by contrast). Tomoko was mere JTTS/Jobber fodder, but was slowly building credibility as well. Alundra’s in her white gear, Kyoko’s in something even more colorful and tassley than usual, Hasegawa’s in some odd white singlet with polka-dotted leggings, and ASARI’s dressed in her Power Ranger gear. Bertha’s in a big pink frilly tutu outfit, Aja’s in her bad-ass red gear, Lioness is in all black, and Tomoko’s in a black & grey singlet.

Alundra’s team comes out underneath a neon “Alundra” sign with sparklers in “BLAYZE” which is so podunk on a major show like this that it’s hilarious. Asuka starts with ASARI and blasts her right in the face with a spin-kick- poor kid got stiffed left and right in her American tour. Alundra sets up ASARI debuting the mind-blowing Sky Twister Press (called as such by JR) on American TV, drawing a big reaction… but ASARI just tags out instead of covering, and Asuka’s fighting like normal again. Alundra gets the German Suplex to finish her at (1:21). Tomoko comes in, but she immediately (and BADLY) misses a Moonsault and takes some terrific Rolling Butterfly Suplexes from Sakie (god we missed out on her hitting it big). Haha, some old lady in the crowd actually jumps up and starts clapping for her! Tomoko comes back with some Thesz Presses to the face, but Aja comes in and promptly takes a Solebutt and two HUGE Uranages! Aja kicks her on the way off the top and hits a Dangerous Backdrop to eliminate her (3:35). Jesus, taking those monster bumps is odd for someone who’s supposed to be a Monster Heel, but Joshi traits die hard.

ASARI comes in and bounces off on a cross-body attempt (that poor old lady just holds her head!), then can’t get up from a 2nd-Rope Splash despite the lady’s urgings and takes the pin (4:03). Kyoko hits a pair of clotheslines, but Aja sits on her from a sunset flip and… gets the pin (4:42)! The body language of Kyoko suggests that was NOT the plan, as hilariously, a wrestler who’s been in at almost a dozen ***** Meltzer-rated matches in her lifetime has been flown from Japan just to job in less than forty seconds to a basic reversal. Alundra is thus completely alone against three heels, who all attack. Alundra singles Tomoko out and Piledrives her (6:09), after nearly dropping her with a Ganso Bomb. Bertha in for some leg kicks, but she and Aja run into each other, leading to the worst German Suplex in human history getting the pin at (6:49). To be fair, Bertha was HUGE. Aja beats on Alundra, hitting a Superplex, but Alundra comes back with a Rana for two (“Shucks!” the old lady pumps her fist in disappointment). Standing Moonsault (!) for two, but she’s knocked off the top and Aja hits two Running Body Attacks and the Uraken for the win (9:40). That poor old lady. Crowd’s a bit silent for the finish, given how they’ve no reason to assume that a spinning backfist is a top-tier move, as strikes aren’t typically devastating in American wrestling.

Suuuuuuuuuper disappointing given the talent level of those involved, with some great workers going down in mere seconds to an annotated “greatest hits” of each others’ best moves, but it was quick-paced until the end, when it got a bit plodding and basic. Aja simply demolishing Alundra for the win came off well, as she’d beaten all four of the opposing team, yet Alundra was 3-on-1, so she looked like she overcame a bit (especially since Bertha was squashed so quickly). But the thing with Kyoko (which still looked like an error to me), some clumsy moves from Alundra, and more, held it back.

Rating: *** (still not bad, given the time. Sakie in particular looked GREAT)

(WWE RAW, 27.11.1995)
* Ah, what the hell? This is an immediate follow-up to the Survivor Series, airing the night after I believe. Lawler immediately asks if Kyoko broke up the Beatles, while Vince doubts Aja’s Olympic elegibility, by virtue of “a few X Chromosomes or so…”.

The heels attack to start, and Aja no-sells Kyoko’s Mongolian chops and flattens her repeatedly, but Tomoko misses her Slingshot Cross-Body and gets surfboarded. Aja kicks away at Kyoko, but we take a break and Kyoko starts clotheslining everybody. Kyoko impresses with her Run-Up Back Elbow, but only gets as far as Tomoko’s thigh. Tomoko finally hits her Cross-Body, but a Pop-Up Belly-To-Belly blasts her, wowing the crowd. Aja interferes, but takes a great Enzuigiri from Alundra. Dropkick Spam, but Aja Samoa Joe’s out of it and misses a slpash. Kyoko ducks an Uraken, but takes a VICIOUS Backdrop Driver. Vince starts going on about safe sex and a Norwegian condom company (is this their attempt to be “with it” on current events?) as Aja slaps Kyoko awake and annihilates her with an Uraken (6:03), with Alundra being too slow to get into the ring. Short but good! Alundra was in it for maybe a minute.

Rating: **1/2 (too short to be much of anything, but all their moves looked good)

(WWF Superstars, 05.12.1995)
* Here’s one I barely knew existed. Shortly after Survivor Series, Alundra was put against her old Wrestlemarinepiad (god DAMMIT, I thought I was DONE typing that word out) opponent, Lioness Asuka. She comes out with SEVERE “Jobbing Face” on, which indicates to me that she knew her time in the WWF was numbered by this point. Asuka, tall and slender, is billed at *220 lbs.*, which is absurd even for the WWF- she barely looks larger than the 145-lb. Alundra! She also has her face painted like she has Nightwing’s mask on, which is funny.

No commentary, which is weird. They trade spin-kicks to start, then Asuka controls with slow heeling stuff while growling. Asuka takes an oddly huge bump out of being tossed off the “punches in the corner” spot, but Alundra misses a dive to the outside, and Asuka hits her loose Sharpshooter, but just releases it when Alundra won’t give up. The crowd is just DEAD for this, and Asuka appears to have had her bell legit rung by that bump, because she keeps bailing, even tripping as she does so, drawing laughs from the crowd. She backdrops Alundra out of a Piledriver attempt, but gets headscissored off the top turnbuckle, dropkicked from the second rope, and then they fight over a German before Alundra hits a REALLY poor one, with a weak bridge, for the pin (7:37). Not a great performance, though Alundra’s stuff looked smooth and good- there was just no heat for this non-established wrestler, and her stuff didn’t look elite enough to justify any sort of reaction- some big suplexes or huge kicks would have done wonders.

Rating: ** (okay enough; acceptable filler match)