Joshi Spotlight- Chaparita ASARI

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Real Name: Masami Watanabe
Billed Height & Weight: 5’0″ 123 lbs. (she doesn’t look any more than 100 lbs., though)
Career Length: 1992-2003
Trained By: Unknown

-I think Chaparita ASARI (sometimes its capitalized; sometimes it isn’t) may be one of the most well-known lower-tier Joshi out there. I feel like her name is more commonly brought up than many more notable, top-tier figures like Shinobu Kandori, Dynamite Kansai, Harley Saito and others, largely because her style of flashy high-flying was so popular in the West during the dawn of the mass Internet Wrestling Community- someone whipping out a Sky Twister Press was going to draw a lot of attention, no matter what her position on the card was!

ASARI could be considered a bit of a spot-themed wrestler, if not a spotfest one- her bouts were largely impressive thanks to her great gymnastics being built around her opponents controlling the match-flow. But that’s perfectly fine, and still allows her to be a good wrestler- not the most well-rounded or the best at 20-minute classics or whatever, but good in the sense that the main goal of wrestling is to make the audiences happy, and if someone’s throwing out flashy offense, then the crowd will love it, and that’s perfectly fine. Though ASARI was also a great seller, making her much better at the “David vs. Goliath” stuff that she usually got stuck doing- it’s easy to draw much-needed sympathy when you’re the size of a toddler. Seriously, she looks so young that even Jerry Lawler would wait a couple of years.

A neat thing is that a lot of her offense and style is based around being so small- she can flip and roll better than anyone, so a signature move is a YOU CAN’T POWERBOMB KIDMAN-style forward roll out of a catapalt (ie. every wrestler tries to catapalt her, regardless of whether or not that’s a regular part of their offense). She’s too little to hit hard, so her Mule Kick and finisher both involve lots of extra rotations to build up momentum (SCIENCE!), putting her whole body into it. She’s so tiny that a cross-body isn’t super-believable, so hers is sold as more of a move that slowly causes the other person to fall backwards into a pin, rather than the snap-bang-pinning combination everyone else’s is. She even regularly uses the “Jobber Move” of the standing back body drop, using it to put an opponent on the mat. She even has a signature “sell”- hitting a Boston Crab and immediately having the opponent power out of it, dumping ASARI on her face! A fun little trick to indicate just how far underneath she’s fighting from.

Overall, I’m finding her “peak” around the ***3/4-**** level, which is… well, VERY good. Only issue was that joshi had plenty of people who peaked even higher during the 1990s, and they were BIGGER, too!

The Sky Twister Press:
ASARI’s Sky Twister Press was one of the big eye-opening “WOW!” moves of the ’90s, and even today looks pretty insane- most men, being so hefty by comparison, could never hope to maintain that kind of spin- her gymnastics training allowed ASARI to whip around with an incredible corkscrew effect, moonsaulting through the air as she did so. The move hardly ever hit “flush”, as you might expect, but was rarely “Starship Pained” into missing entirely. It even made WWF television a few times in 1995, but hilariously was only ever used to pop the crowd before ASARI was killed by her opponents. But the move was incredibly over- you could tell that the big “draw” of any ASARI match was like the draw of a Jake Roberts match- people wanted to see that finisher. They CLAMORED for it- in the match against Mizuki Endo I review below, ASARI goes through all her set-up moves, and the sight of her climbing the ropes is enough to send a murmur through the audience. And then there’s an audible groan of disappointement when Endo gets up and throws her off the top! ASARI had been in the business ONE YEAR and was drawing that kind of a reaction for her finisher!

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ASARI with her own personal trophy belt- the 3WA Super Lightweight Championship.

-ASARI started out as a rookie under her real name in 1992, but soon Masami Watanabe became “Chaparita ASARI” (not using ALL CAPS for heelishness, like most do), and began wearing an outfit that was a combinating of Jushin Thunder Liger and Jason Lee Scott- a detailed red & white bodysuit, complete with weird puffy bits sticking off the hips, shoulders and chest. Being super itty-bitty (most Joshi of the ’90s were rather tall for Japanese women, being taken from various fields of athletics with only the best chosen- ASARI was more typically-sized and was thus completely dwarfed), she was an ideal jobber for the time, and most of the big shows I’ve seen from 1993-1995 feature her in one of the show’s earliest matches, always pulling out her big two flashy spots (the Sky Twister, and a Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kick into the corner), only defeating other tiny rookies.

ASARI won the AJW Junior Title in her second year, but held it for only eight days, being defeated by JWP’s Candy Okutsu in an interpromotional match at late ’93’s “St. Battle Final” show, losing the fall after a sick bump on her head from missing a Sky Twister Press. Okutsu would hold the belt for over a year before ASARI won it back! She would win the Japanese Tag Titles with Kumiko Maekawa in 1995, and was brought into the WWF for a couple of shows in 1995 (debuting the Sky Twister to American audiences in the process… and getting her nose broken by Aja Kong’s horrifying Uraken), but wouldn’t get a concentrated push until 1996, when May saw her crowned the inaugural WWWA Super Lightweight Champion. And here it seems we have the gist of her career- too small to realistically compete with monsters like Aja Kong, and a full six inches shorter than girls like Manami Toyota or Toshiyo Yamada, ASARI wasn’t ever going to get a big push… but her style was so fascinating and audience-pleasing that she was given her very own title as a showcase for her!

She held the Super Lightweight Title for 379 days, losing it in 1999 (apparently it was vacant?) before winning it back for a couple of months until she left to become the Sky High of ARSION Champion. Her AJW career ran from 1992 to 1997, after which she went to Kyoko Inoue’s NEO Ladies promotion, then spent a few years bouncing around all the various companies (AJW, JWP, etc.), before heading back to NEO to end her career. She would spend the early 2000s as WWWA Super Lightweight Champ again, and even end her career in 2003 having won the title a final time for a single day, the title actually retiring with her! There were only six total reigns for that belt, with Ai Fujita & Momoe Nakanishi being the only two other champions, so this was pretty much the equivalent of a vanity belt.

Looking at Cagematch’s listing of her matches, I see that 1996 was around her busiest year, and every one after that consists of fairly few bouts, especially around the vacancy of her title- I’m assuming injuries had a lot of effect on her career. How a 120-lb. 5-footer who specializes in insane flips and mid-air spinning got injured so badly is beyond me. Though Cagematch often leaves out important matches

Jumping Knee, Running Dropkick, Wheelbarrow/Surfboard Hold, Running Cross-Body (opponent falls back slowly), Standing Back Body Drop, Opponent Powering Out of Boston Crab, Forward-Flip Out of Throws, Backflip Kick in the Corner, Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kick into the corner (typically done twice in a row), Standing Moonsault, Corkscrew Moonsault, Sky Twister Press (Corkscrew Senton- Finisher)


(AJW Wrestling Queendom ’93, 28.11.1993)
* So this is an interpromotional bout, with Endo being one of LLPW’s more-respected rookies- just about the only one I ever saw on big shows. This is way back when ASARI was wearing all yellow. Mizuki has a bit of a “standard tomboyish rookie” look, but a lot more of an “amateur wrestling” physique. She was the AJW Junior Champion, having defeated AJW’s Numacchi on an earlier show.

ASARI attacks to start, but Endo grabs her right out of a cross-body attempt and PLANTS her across the knee, impressing the crowd. They work at really high speeds to start, ASARI repeatedly bridging out of pins from Endo’s slams, until she forward-flips out of a catapalt and spams out dropkicks. Endo actually powers out of a BOSTON CRAB, showing the power differential here. Endo works the leg for all of thirty seconds before they’re back to high-speed stuff, ASARI dropkicking Endo off the top, but being unable to follow it up with a dive because Endo moves. ASARI fails to properly stick the landing from a “lands on her feet out of a backdrop” spot, so Endo immediately boots her down to cover for it- clever move that’s SUCH a Joshi thing. ASARI’s so tiny she actually necksnaps herself just by getting tossed the ropes- not sure if that was planned, but it looked agonizing. She finally comes back with her Mule Kicks after flip-kicking Endo in the corner, then hits a Standing Moonsault for two. The crowd is audibly disappointed when the Sky Twister is broken up- now THAT’S a sign your move is over! Endo’s own Super Vader Bomb is also broken up, but she comes back with Reverse Fallaway Slams and a cool waistlock-powerslam. Her finisher again fails, hitting knees, and ASARI nails her with a Missile Dropkick, finally setting up the Sky Twister Press for the win (13:00)! New AJW Junior Champion! The belt is HILARIOUSLY big on her, too, taking up nearly her entire torso like a huge girdle. The belt’s end sticks off by like a foot!

Very awesome rookie match! The pace was unbelievable (no wonder Meltzer went **** on it- he LOVES workrate-style “always fast” matches), and Endo actually cleverly wrestled, despite her offense largely consisting of body slams, crab-holds, and other Rookie Offense. And she really impressed me with her instincts here- only a year into the business herself, she was able to make several of ASARI’s botches look like a regular part of the match simply by diving in with kicks or “reversing” something instead of Jackie Gayda-ing around like most rookies would. ASARI came off as really resilient, taking all this offense while still doing the power-bridge kick-outs. The build-up to the finishes was terrific, as they had an almost WWF-like “set-up moves, then finisher” approach, both going through those motions until Endo failed and ASARI finally landed hers.

Rating: ***3/4 (one of hte better rookie matches you’ll ever see; rarely slowed down and had great build to the finishes)

(AJW Wrestling Queendom ’94, 27.03.1994)
* So now it’s ASARI versus Hikari Fukuoka, who was more or less openly considered the “Future Ace”. This, um, makes the outcome in here pretty clear. The interviewer and announcer both call it “Space Flying Gymnastics” for some reason. Hikari’s wearing some kind of rose-gold leotard, while ASARI’s now in pink. And incredibly, injured wrestler Mariko Yoshida being announced as the referee draws a bigger pop than either girl’s introduction!

ASARI attacks to start, but Hikari plants a Handspring Back Elbow into her. ASARI impressively flips out of an armbar, so Hikari spitefully does the same- not as smoothly, but hey, point made. She stretches the kid for a while while you can hear random people calling out in the audience, but soon speed it up with ASARI’s dropkicks and “Slingshot Spot”, but as soon as ASARI puts on a Boston Crab, some guy keeps spouting stuff off and cracking up the audience. ASARI’s jumping knees and cross-body nail the older girl, and they work more holds. Hikari starts fighting like Kevin Nash or Sid (two-handed choke slam and big boots), which is amusing, but then they’re right back to holds and that loses the audience. It’s well-wrestled stuff, they break it up with impact moves, and I like how they actually catch-wrestle into ASARI’s wheelbarrow surfboard thing from Hikari’s bodyscissors, and later puts on a Liontamer-like crab, but the crowd is thoroughly dead. People finally wake up when Hikari does her backflip out of the corner and ASARI hits the backflip off Hikari’s body, but Hikari moves from the Joshi Irish Whip of Transitions into… fucking up the Rolling Cradle and giving up? Or just changed her mind and decided to hurt ASARI with a German. She misses the Moonsault, leading to ASARI’s big plancha and the Mule Kicks, and finally the crowd’s with them. Standing backdrop & Moonsault combo get two, setting up the Sky Twister Press… which misses, and she FACEPLANTS in a huge bump- Hikari’s Moonsault is academic at (14:31).

This was a very well-wrestled match, doing a “Grumpy Bigger Powerhouse versus Tiny Spunky Kid” thing, but it drew utter silence for the most part- much like the Blizzard Yuki debut match at Big Egg later in the year, I suspect it’s because of how obvious the outcome was seen as being. Everyone watching knew that ASARI was being trotted out there to job to the higher-tier girl getting a push, so they sat on their hands despite all the hard work the girls were putting in. I think starting off the match between two high-flyers with slow stretching didn’t help, as anyone wanting a lot of high-flying was clearly not gonna get it- they’d probably have been better off flying around for 2-3 minutes first instead of sitting around in holds for the first ten minutes of a 15-minute bout. Like… I get it, you can’t fill that time with non-stop MOVEZ, but I think the crowds realize that nobody is going to submit to a crab or body-scissors, so turning the entire match into a back & forth around that just didn’t work. They did their good stuff in the end, but the crowd was gone by then. Still, the match deserved more than the fans gave it.

Rating: ***1/2 (still good, and the grappling was actually sold well, but it went on for a bit too long in the end, leading to a fun last four minutes)

* ASARI now has her trophy belt with her, a hilariously tiny belt-buckle-sized thing because she’s so very smol. Nochi is a newbie from JWP who’s also toddler-sized, and retired in ’96, presumably due to injury. She’s wearing blue, while ASARI now has more streamlined gear- this really great red & gold look.

Nochi attacks to start and they roll around in chinlocks for three minutes until ASARI comes back with the usual- springing out of a catapalt and hitting a crossbody & running knees. She works the back, while Nochi comes back with a Saito Suplex and arm stuff. ASARI hits the crossbody, but Nochi dodges the next one, then hits a bridging vertical suplex for two. She gets the worst of a double-dropkick spot, then eats a Mule Kick before reversing the next to a facecrusher. Another facecrusher sets up a Superplex, but ANOTHER second try at a move leads to ASARI landing on her instead. Some acrobatic rollups get two apiece. Nochi planchas her after a Sky Twister attempt gets shoved off, then hits a pair of Missile Dropkicks leading to a bridge-out. Senton misses, and now ASARI throws out a plancha- she goes for the Sky Twister, but MISSES, which usually leads to the finish- a bridging German gets a VERY close two count! NICE Diving Senton gets another two! A frustrated Nochi tries something else, but takes a Northern Lights Suplex. ASARI goes up again, but this time Nochi hits a Saito Suplex FROM THE TOP, still only getting two! She freaks out and panics, letting ASARI catch her with a BEAUTIFUL Super Frankensteiner for two! Jesus, they’re throwing out all kinds of stuff! ASARI gets pissed off, and finally just wraps Nochi up in some cool sliding cradle (starting like a Majistral before rolling back like a Rolling Cradle with all the limbs trapped) for the three (14:35).

Holy crap- I was like “well this match seems long and from ASARI’s peak era; I might as well watch this to see what comes of it” and BOOM- they start slow, but soon elevate their game until they’re doing this great bit of one-upsmanship. Kinda neat how they did this thing where they would keep succeeding with moves, but the second one would get reversed. Then in the latter half they’re just trading huge bombs back and forth, reversing moves like nuts- a Saito Superplex followed by a Super FRANKENSTEINER? Nochi impressed in my first time seeing her, and I liked how it was a reversal-themed bout. And after all those crazy top-rope moves couldn’t get the pin, they had a Bret Hart-like “ends on a rollup” finish.

Rating: **** (I mark out hard for reversals, Avalanche-style moves off the top, suplexes and Escalating Finishers, as well as “Ending on a flash pin”)

(CMLL, 02.02.1997)
* So this is from Mexico, with two women who’ve been around since the mid ’80s, winning a TON of gold in CMLL. Moreno’s in black, and Apache’s in red. ASARI’s in her red & black gear, and Yoshida’s in white. This is filmed with a really skinny screen for some reason, like someone used a cellphone. Obviously that’s unlikely in 1997.

They work Lucha-style for obvious reasons, with a lot of armbars, pinning combinations, and jumping around to start, with Apache being a tad deliberate and slow with what I normally see done at breakneck speeds. Yoshida hits a running “slingshot off the ropes” knee in the corner, impressing. Moreno does a slow forward-flip into the ring, takes an ASARI knee, then does the “Tateno Bridge-Out” (at half-speed, but still- impressive) and takes the cross-body. Double-dropkick from the joshi, but Moreno impresses the crowd by forward-flipping over their double-lariat. Her flips are so odd- they have, like, IMPACT, with her thunderously slamming into the mat instead of lightly landing on it like most gymnast-style wrestlers do. Team CMLL’s dives are like that, too- they REALLY look like they hurt, even as it looks like they’re almost botching them. Moreno works the back of Yoshida for a few minutes and talks trash to the delight of the crowd, but Yoshida cartwheels out to come back, and then ASARI takes a beating. Apache hits this crazy Rolling Surfboard Hold, taking ASARI all over the ring with it.

ASARI finally comes back with her Mule Kicks, then Yoshida hits a Handspring Elbow on Apache and drops her with a Pedigree-style Dominator, but Apache comes back with Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreakers and Moreno hits THREE Moonsaults… for two. Stereo Flying Headbutts get two, and Yoshida should be dead… but instead pops up and the joshi come back with stereo planchas. Apache drags Moreno out of a double-team and hits a great dive, then Moreno gets a SWEET Asai Moonsault. Moreno gets a good rolling pin and a Victory Roll out of a Doomsday Cross-Body attempt, but a second try (after a German) gets two. Yoshida tosses Moreno into the corner… but she pops right up to the top and hits an AMAZING Super Frankensteiner on ASARI! Holy shit! Moreno reverses a rollup for a three count (14:25). A couple flying moves smash Yoshida, but Apache Missile Dropkicks Moreno by mistake, and Moreno takes La Majistral for a three (15:41). Yoshida Germans Apache off the top while standing on the mat, then hits a Perfect Plex for two. She goes up, but Apache armdrags her off the top and puts her in a Delfin Clutch-like move for the third fall (17:44). Lack of bells ringing confused me for the falls (especially as I didn’t know it was 2/3 falls until the second three-count- I assumed they were fucking them up).

I’m not the best at reviewing Lucha, but this was great, if a bit no-selly and full of “they come back by ignoring all the previous moves and simply doing their own”. Also, hitting shitloads of awesome moves then ending all three falls with rollups is so weird to me. Moreno in particular hit some EXTREMELY amazing moves, especially that Super Frankensteiner and Asai Moonsault- her flipping is quite distinct, looking almost clumsy but also horribly painful, sort of like if you wanted to make Lucha look like UFC. Though ASARI was in it for maybe two minutes and didn’t even do the Sky Twister Press, so this is the opposite of a showcase for her, lol. RESEARCH IS HARD, DAMMIT!!! The Mexican team came off like heels, but the crowd was behind them because of nationalism (they kept screaming “VIVA MEXICO!”), though Yoshida’s spunky comebacks and selling made her a favorite, too.

Rating: ***3/4 (very impressive, especially from Moreno! Held back only by the random “selling isn’t a thing” and the odd way pinfalls are done. Maybe a lucha thing)

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(Junior All-Star Show, 18.05.1996)
* So now it’s GAEA Japan’s turn at sending one of their itty-bitties to fight for the 3WA SLWgt. Title. Uematsu’s part of the original graduating class of Chigusa’s promotion, and wrestled all the way until 2012. She was actually the first WCW Women’s Cruiserweight Champion, taking it back to Japan, and won GAEA’s tag belts numerous times with Ran Yu-Yu. Here, she’s got long hair and a fairly serious look, being less flashy in a green singlet.

haha, now THIS is what you expect from tiny wrestlers- they immediately start out at top speeds, Uematsu backflipping off of ASARI with a run-up-the-ropes kick straight away, and ASARI doing a similar move when Uematsu’s follow-up Popeye Punch misses, and a pair of front flips get the “Awkward ECW Clapping Moment”. They start some nifty catch-wrestling, threading one submission into another, but then get pissed off at it turns into a slapfest, which is great. Uematsu works the leg & back for a while, but ASARI flips out of the catapalt and hits the crossbody & jumping knee, then a Missile Dropkick. She Moonsaults her right on the face, then does stretching of her own, leading to them flipping around the ring again with some fun stuff, including a great jumping headscissors from Toshie. ASARI’s plancha leads to the Mule Kicks, but Toshie kicks her in the ass to stop the second one, then dropkicks her off the top and planchas her in turn. Then they hit my favorite reversal spot- the MID-AIR DROPKICK TO A FLYING OPPONENT~~, as ASARI gets blasted. Toshie then cranks out a trio of Missile Dropkicks (one RIGHT to the face) and a Flying Cross-Body for two. ASARI comes back with a Rana reversal and they work reversals out of that and other things, trying to get flash pins repeatedly. Toshie stops a Sky Twister with a Victory Star Drop off the first rope (more like that reverse jacknife hold pin from there), but a follow-up earns her a Super Frankensteiner! A bit over-choreographed and stall-y, but DAMN! And THAT easily sets up the Sky Twister Press, which hits PERFECTLY in a Moonsault landing, earning the pin (14:36).

This was a well-put-together match- they flew around to start to please the crowd, then did some cool chain-wrestling, THEN settled into the slow stretching to buy time and help their cardio. After which they impressed with flips again, and did the “to the outside” moves to draw out the match-time without wasting it (since you realistically have to sell planchas for a while), and THEN they started the finishing surge, Toshie doing a bunch of impressive stuff until she just got caught.

Rating: ***3/4 (really fun stuff! Toshie was so new, yet didn’t look it at all)