Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom I


Wrestling Queendom is the name of the new “biggest show in Joshi”, effectively replacing Wrestlemarinepiad after a point as the top-tier AJW event. At this point, however, it seems to mostly be standard-issue “Dream Bouts” and not “Main Eventer vs. Main Eventer” stuff.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch It?”: This is a FANTASTIC night of wrestling, with several matches at ***3/4 or better, one of the greatest Survivor-type bouts ever, and most importantly, every match feels completely different from every other match- a Big vs. Little bout, a Power Match, a Toyota-Style MOVEZ Match, Rookie Mayhem, two hateful tag bouts (one of which is an Attitude Era brawl), and more.

WQ I (like WrestleMania, the number was added retroactively since there were more) came right in the midst of the new Joshi Boom, with Aja Kong having won the WWWA World Title the year before from Bull Nakano, having become the new Ace, and JWP, FMW & LLPW were all making headlines as well- these interpromotional shows were doing big business, as fans could now see matches never before seen- LLPW’s #2 star, Eagle Sawai, wrestling Aja! LLPW’s Ace, Shinobu Kandori, in a tag bout against AJW upper-midcarders! A HUGE eight-woman tag featuring Akira Hokuto & Dynamite Kansai, top-tier stars both, as the dominant member of rival teams! This stuff was incredibly fresh and exciting, especially as it was only 1993- only eight months or so since the two Dream Slam events.

This show drew 9,600 to Osaka Jo Hall, and is a paltry four hours and twenty minutes long.

* Tomoko, here in her green & purple hideodious outfit, is a total JTTS up & comer for AJW, but is going to KILL the rookie Okutsu, here looking to be ten years old and wearing the Greek flag as her Jobber Singlet.

Candy shows some INTERPROMOTIONAL DISRESPECT to start, slapping Tomoko, who runs her over with a kick in response. Then she gets to a-torturin’, bending Okutsu all over the ring in some pretty great stuff, actually (Indian Deathlock/Rings of Saturn thing? Yikes). Candy comes back after five minutes of abuse with a kick-ass Plucky Rookie Surge, impressing the crowd with her high-tempo, well-applied stuff. Bodyscissors sleeper, but Tomoko eventually powers out and drops her- she plays “bullying veteran” with a really long crab-hold and other stuff. Slingshot Cross-Body, but Candy comes back with a slick Run-Up Missile Dropkick! Tomoko takes a good Bridging German, and Candy lands two more good ones- a fourth sends Tomoko bailing to recover. She blows about a minute out there, but Candy catches her on the way in and hits a Plancha, gearing up to end it… but all she has for offense is MOAR GERMANS, and so Tomoko ruins her day with a brutal lariat instead. She misses a Moonsault and rolls through on a cross-body for 2, but ends up in a rollup after missing a Slingshot Elbow. She’s whipped into the ropes, but hits the Hurricanrana, then on a second try, manages her Screwdriver (Backdrop to One-Handed Powerbomb) for the three (12:30).

Very nice little match! Tomoko played it like she was a dominating vet, taking her time, but Candy was given plenty of offense, and looked great when doing it- I’d have guessed her as having the most potential here. Candy kept gearing up with amazing stuff, but in a “rookie move”, over-relied on the German (the one match-ender common to ALL Joshi), so Tomoko eventually got her number, and that was that.

Rating: ***1/4 (a bit too much “laying around in restholds”, but they geared up with some nice reversals and stuff by the end- I’m a mark for reversal-themed matches)

* Shiratori, getting a “Pretty Girl” push, is a rookie up against LLPW’s #3, so this isn’t really going anywhere for her. Shiratori, long-haired and in full makeup with a singlet covered in flower designs, could not be more different than the tomboy-haired, bags-under-her-eyes, Power Ranger-pajama-wearing Saito.

WELL THEN, this video is only six minutes on YouTube- SPOILERS! Shiratori controls early on with Standard Joshi Opening Match Offense (ie. yelling, screaming, and Dropkick Spam), including a good Front Missile Dropkick, Toyota-style, but Harley finally settles her down with a sailing Waltman-style Roundhouse Kick. Another one, and she pulls her up at two. Crowd goes “ooh”, and she signals for another one, and that one gets the easy pin at (2:07). LOL, yeah, that’s probably the shortest Joshi match I’ve ever seen. Harley gave up a ton, but was just like “yeah, never mind” and finished her with ease.

Rating: 1/2* (pretty much nothing to it)

* So I reviewed this one a couple of weeks ago for my ASARI Spotlight: It’s a truly amazing rookie match, working at a ridiculous pace, with Endo making the best of her “Rookie Offense”, and actually deftly covering for ASARI’s botches and making it look like regular offense. I went ***3/4 on it.

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Kyoko Inoue, decked out in her Warrior-esque gear.

* !?!? Who the frig is Nabeno? Hm, super-short, six-year career, trained by Megumi Kudo. She won FMW’s top women’s belt for 106 days, but seemed to largely be a bridge between “Kudo/Monster Runs”. Here she’s up against one of AJW’s top up & comers. She’s kind of a pudgy tomboy-looking girl with her hair slicked upwards. Kyoko’s in her pink tassled look, but with weird ’90s designs on it, while Nabeno has a total Jobber Singlet thing going on with her red & white gear, but adds gym shorts to it. She’s a fair bit shorter than Kyoko, but with a similar physique.

Kyoko has the crowd doing her “clapclapclap- KYO-KOH!” chant before the introductions, but they ironically switch to “Nabeno!” afterwards, causing her to take exception- hee. They play it like Hogan/Warrior to start, locking up dramatically and running into each other, which is tremendous. Nabeno bounces off of her repeatedly before running the ropes TWICE for another charge, dropping her (PHYSICS!). Then NABENO uses the Chops- ooh! Kyoko regroups herself and starts the stretching and her mid-tier offense for several minutes. Nabeno keeps going for the pin after hitting a back elbow in a nice bit, but her offense is falling apart while she’s a bit bagged, I think. Kyoko keeps having to settle her down with restholds and hits the Slingshot Backsplash Elbow, but Nabeno lures Kyoko to the outside, hitting a Plancha. Missile Dropkick and a Flying… Hug? Ugly Bridging German (Kyoko lands on Nabeno’s face) gets two. Kyoko gets a Superplex, but takes a few of those match-ending armbars and scrambles for the ropes, but makes an easy comeback with a lariat and Flying Back Elbow for the win (12:28).

Well, I liked the cut of Nabeno’s jib- kind of a Pissed-Off Rookie Mid-Tier Brawler thing going on. But MAN her cardio fell apart near the five-minute mark, as even after tons of restholds and bailing outside, she was stumbling around and running awkwardly out of holds. By the end, I felt like Kyoko was desperately holding the very-long match together, slowing down and letting Nabeno hit comebacks and forcing herself to wrestle at 1/3 speed. Not a great bout, sadly.

Rating: ** (marred by restholds and blown cardio despite an excellent start)

* Oh damn! Kurenai in a COMPETITIVE match for once! This should be interesting! She’s LLPW’s nasty, weapon-using trashy chick, while Futagami is a rookie at this point, appearing as a “#2” on many teams during this period. She’s in a very detailed black & blue singlet, while Kurenai’s in black pants and a white top, with her shoulder taped up. Ito & Hasegawa are up & coming rookies, with Sakie having the most promise. Oh god, but they’re wearing their WORST GEAR- Ito’s yellow Peter Pan look and Sakie’s pineapple-covered Jobber Singlet. This is awful.

Sakie attacks right at the bell, trying to look intimidating while dressed like the backdrops in Spongebob Squarepants, but Kurenai grabs her damn short staff immediately and starts blasting away at her. They never really sell these shots as a major thing, though- Sakie sells them like regular strikes, and then they start bouncing her head off the mat about fifty times. She makes her own comeback anyhow, and they hit a KILLER Double Dropkick on Futagami, knocking her across the ring to the crowd’s amazement. Kurenai comes back on Ito, even using a friggin’ Bossman Sliding Punch, but the Chokeslam gets reversed and Team AJW works over her injured arm. Gami doesn’t fare much better, as Ito stuffs her comeback and tortures her (jesus- wouldn’t wanna be a rookie wrestling HER) while Sakie & Yasha do some good “Interpromotional Hate” stuff, slapping each other- then Sakie SPITS on her- to a pop! Jesus, these crowds are into that.

Sakie slaps Gami right in the face, but Yasha’s in and they do more “head off the mat” stuff until Sakie just comes back again and throws her around the ring with the Rolling Butterfly Suplexes- man, LLPW are getting NOTHING out here! Ito uses the ass and hits a Rolling Senton before they work on stretching for a few minutes, but she manages a Plancha… before they start working over Gami again. Yasha eats a ridiculously long string of Double-Stomp Spam from Ito, then a wicked Flying version (she lands flush, too), but Gami Superplexes her and hits a Backdrop-to-Side-Suplex thing for two. Thunderfire Powerbomb, and Yasha uses her Hangman’s Choke in the corner, while Gami hits Sakie with one, too! Doomsday Device Chokeslam on Ito! Sakie only BARELY breaks that up, but takes a Super Chokeslam herself, and Ito saves. Regular version is reversed to Sakie’s Uranage, and a Solebutt gets two. Then it’s time to murder Kurenai, as Sakie hits an Uranage to set up a Flying Stomp from Ito, and then Sakie immediately plants her with ANOTHER Uranage, getting the three while sitting on her chest like she’s been doing for most of these mid-tier tag bouts (16:45).

Wow, this was a REALLY extended squash at first- the AJW girls seemed like they plain didn’t feel like selling much at all, threw constant disrespect, ignored offense and used their own. The LLPW team didn’t have more than two minutes of dominance combined for the whole match until the final minutes, when they got heat on Ito and started hitting finishers, looking like they could have won. The ending stretch was quite good, though, with the girls all throwing out their best stuff, and I liked the attitude in the early 3/4, even if it was one-sided. Ito & Hasegawa defended the Japanese Tag Belts against all comers from different promotions until the next month, when they lost to Kurenai, now teaming up with Miki Handa- they’d hold the belts for nearly a year and the AJW rookies would never see them again, as they were getting prepped for another level.

Rating: ***1/2 (good, if one-sided)

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Pictured- not an even contest.

* !!!! Well THIS looks interesting! Bull was Ace only a year ago, but is now more of a “Special Attraction”, while Hikari has “Future Ace” written all over her… but is as of yet a midcarder with great potential. Bull still looks ridiculously dominant with her giant hair and facepaint, with Manami-Lite in her Tarzan gear.

Hikari uses her speed to start, but Bull no-sells but gets overconfident, taking a huge German. She does the “TIMBERRRRRRRR!” sell of a Flying Kick, but no-sells a hairtoss in humorous fashion (she’s bigger, so she just stands there), then tosses Hikari around the ring before hitting a series of Dragon Sleepers that look like death, but are sold as “slow stretching”. Hikari bungles a run into the corner, so Bull smartly hauls her down and works her over for a while more- it’s the usual stretching period, but both sell it MUCH better than the usual, and Bull hits the Standing Sharpshooter. Hikari actually comes back on the outside, hits a DDT, and begins working the arm for a few minutes, trying to find ANYTHING to really hold the advantage, but it’s more like holding back the flood. And sure enough, after 2.5 minutes, Bull crushes her with a pair of lariats (using the other arm).

Hikari does her neat Cartwheel Dodge, but she keeps unwisely going for her Rolling Cradle on a fresh giant, who flips her out of it repeatedly. This causes Hikari to lose her mind to stupid pride, and she starts BRAWLING- oh, Hikari. Bull casually Tysons her down, flattening the poor girl. But when it happens AGAIN, Hikari’s ready for it, and the reversal lets her finally hit the Cradle- haha! Then she does the freaking POPEYE PUNCHES, and keeps knocking Bull on her ass! OMG! Cartwheel Elbow into the corner, but Bull actually FLIPS out of something, then hits a Northern Lights Suplex for two! She goes up, but takes a Powerslam off the top, and Hikari lands her Moonsault finisher! Two count! Plancha hits air, and Bull murders her with a crowd-pleasing dive. And that’s that- Jacknife Powerbomb sets up Hikari’s execution via the Guillotine Legdrop, and we’re done (13:49). This was only going one way, but Hikari made the veteran EARN IT.

I REALLY liked the story here- the idea was that Bull was OF COURSE going to win (Past Ace versus Future Ace), but Hikari had a lot of speed and courage, and was able to hold the advantage while Bull could only slowly wear her down. This made the “Stretching” stuff have real impact, because Hikari kept trying arm stuff, shaking it up and switching holds every time Bull shifted out of one- so the limb was consistent, AND it felt more like the rookie trying for any advantage she could find. The brawling spot was sweet- Hikari came off like a rookie too full of piss & vinegar, but she turned it to her advantage. And so Hikari’s goofy-ass Popeye Punches came off as this awesome Rookie Comeback, paid off by all of Bull’s no-selling and brawling dominance, they tease an upset with Hikari’s big comeback finisher, and only then can Bull reverse something and kill her with a series of things.

Rating: ***3/4 (really, really fun “Monster versus Rookie” match. I love that shit, and Bull sold her ass off to make it work)

* Now THIS is interesting- this was set up by various interpromotional tag matches, where Aja & Eagle kept sparring, Aja being noticeably impressed by Eagle hanging with her in the power department. Eagle is the solid #2 of LLPW, and would take part in the V*Top Tournament, but I wouldn’t imagine anyone thought she was gonna win here, hence the midcard position. Eagle’s dressed like the Queen of Hearts again, while Aja’s in her blue & white gear, spraying red mist to start the match. Cagematch says this is for Aja’s WWWA World Title, but it’s not- she doesn’t have her belt, and there’s no ceremony after the match.

The two engage in slow lockups to start, really milking the moment, and then suddenly it’s a pullapart brawl outside, Aja screaming “EAGGGGLE-OOO!!” like a true monster- nice stuff. Then it’s a GREAT bit, as they collide, Aja demands Eagle try again, then EAGLE does the same, and finally they both charge into each other to no avail, then drop each other with big strikes and pose! I LOVE “Big Man Standoff” stuff in Western wrestling- it’s like Yokuzuna & Mabel, but with Joshi! And better workers! They milk a goddamn TEST OF STRENGTH for over a minute, which is crazy in the Land of Manami. Things slow way down while Aja slowly works Eagle over for four solid minutes, then Eagle hits a one-minute chinlock, but Aja wows the crowd by hoisting Eagle into Powerbomb position and running her into the corner. She actually goes for a dive (!!), but Eagle dodges and takes advantage. A flash Uraken (Spinning Backfist) hits… but Eagle’s still standing! She blocks another and thunders Aja down with a lariat to the back of the head. Slam off the top and a 2nd-rope dropkick get two, but Aja gets a pair of Dangerous Backdrop Drivers after avoiding a Vader Bomb. Second-rope splash, but both then eat mat trying their big top rope moves. Aja finally staggers Eagle with another Uraken, then drops her with two more, calling for the finish with a Super Mountain Bomb for the decisive pinfall (18:02).

Nice little bout to start- they had a TON of time, but Eagle’s not as great as most of the other 3WA contenders, so instead they played it slow and steady, doing the “Power Wrestler” stuff, bouncing off of each other and fighting for everything, which made it very different from the other bouts of the evening. The middle portion was WAY too slow for my liking, however, as they mostly laid around in generic holds to save cardio (probably for Eagle’s benefit), then Aja would only take a bit of offense before coming back- she rarely looked to be in trouble, never got hit by a real finisher, and ended up casually winning. That said, Eagle wouldn’t even FALL DOWN to Urakens, so that alone put over her raw physical toughness. Ultimately, not that great, but good in parts.

Rating: **3/4 (just a bit too slow for way too long, but the beginning and end were very good)

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Akira Hokuto, surprisingly NOT the captain of her team.

* This one is rather famous from our Selfish Joshi Livewatches, as we’ve watched it about twice beforehand, though I tend to fade in and out of those things at times- this’ll be my first shot watching it all the way through. The deal here is that the Team Captain being pinned ends the match flat-out, while others can be eliminated- Hokuto NOT being the Captain seems to to calling the finish straight away, though. Here, we see Hokuto and her two junior stablemates in the full form of LCO (they later sprung off as a team on their own, largely ignoring her on most shows), along with Hokuto’s former Marine Wolves tag partner, Minami, as the Captain. Kansai is JWP’s Ace, Ozaki is her top-tier partner in beating AJW’s top team at the second Dream Slam, Masami is a former Ace and a legend with power-wrestling abilities, and Mariko is a solid 2nd-tier wrestler. So this is a REALLY star-studded match, though JWP outweighs them in raw star-power. The wild colors involved here have to be seen to be believed, too- everyone’s either in black, white, red, or neon.

They start off in five-minute matches, pairing off against each other. Up first is Devil & Minami, who slug it out to an excited crowd, and Minami flips out of a Powerbomb and does one of her own! Devil powers right out of a crab and launches her with an Overthrow Powerbomb. DDT, Surfboard and other deliberate stuff works Minami over- Devil’s power stuff is so cool. She MURDERS Minami with a pair of Powerbombs for a close two, then drops her with a Gorilla Press as time runs out. Ozaki & Shimoda next as they throw each other around- a snarling Shimoda hits a Tiger Suplex straight away, but Ozaki returns the favor. Injured and annoyed, they scrap like banshees for the next few minutes until time runs out, making sure to bite each other repeatedly while in submissions- Shimoda gets the biggest reaction for taking a bite out of Ozaki’s tummy (see, that’s why you don’t show so much skin when fighting LCO).

Mita & Plum are next… and Plum walks straight into a Powerbomb. But she immediately hits her Thesz Presses to the face, only to eat an Electric Chair Drop. Mita tosses Plum around for a while, then, in my favorite thing ever, sarcastically bobs her head to the referee’s five-count for hairpulling, then switches her hand right before the “5”. Repeatedly. But then Plum’s trademark, the “snap submission hold” reversal, leads to Mita shrieking in that Goldberg Leglock thing. Great Rana & Bridging German shows off just how good Plum’s offense is (and Mita’s bumping is), and Mita hits a Northern Lights Suplex shortly before time is over. Both of these two looked fantastic in there. And now it’s HOKUTO & KANSAI, and the crowd freaking erupts- this is a TRUE Dream Match in every sense of the term- JWP’s Ace versus AJW’s #2 star. And they expertly milk the moment for all it’s worth, until Kansai kicks Hokuto so much she literally falls out of the ring. Akira milks the count and then they scramble in her unique way in the ring. Kansai hits more kicks and then we’re done- it’s the Hokuto special: Not that much, but it says a lot. Kansai makes sure to hit SPLASH MOUNTAIN (Sit-Out Razor’s Edge) right at the end to make a statement, and now everyone’s in the ring.

The match proper starts now, with everyone brawling and it’s a QUADRUPLE SUPLERPLEX to Team AJW right out of the gate. Fucking hell Joshi is awesome. Shimoda takes a beating (the crowd loves Devil bullrushing her over), and Plum hits a Doomsday Thesz Press on her! She ragdolls all over the ring for Plum’s Germans, but she keeps getting saved. Mita powers Ozaki around, but Kansai smashes her, then Minami dodges a triple-dropkick but gets Rana’d by Plum for a dramatic two-count. Minami splats LCO by mistake on a cross-body, but a BIG Ligerbomb puts Plum down for the three (6:02). Jesus Christ this is a face pace. Devil skooshes her, then hits a Dragon Sleeper to slow things down before a LETHAL chop to the chest. Kansai hits a Dragon Sleeper of her own, but Shimoda comes in to interfere with her nasty little kicks… so Devil comes in and Overthrow Powerbombs her ONTO Minami! Ozaki whiffs on her Turning Splash (more of a headbutt) and Minami comes back, but Devil flattens both her & Mita. Damn, both girls are 5’8″ but they just seem so… puny compared to Devil. She just has that aura about her.

Mita dumps Devil, allowing AJW to hit a bunch of dives onto JWP’s team, but Hokuto & Minami miss Stereo Missile Dropkicks on Devil. Everyone lariats Hokuto, and Kansai/Devil SANDWICH her with a pair, but Devil misses the Guillotine Legdrop… and gets rolled up at (11:29)! Ah, see- Hokuto always takes a shitkicking, but absolutely no one in Joshi can end you quicker. The 3WA Tag Champs are thus alone against four women. Ozaki takes a beating, including LCO’s Bitch Pose and the Electric Chair Drop/Flying Splash combo. She tags out, but Kansai gets locked up… and they do a FOUR-WOMAN POSE (which would get used in a King of Fighters game as one of Angel’s Supers called “Cachorras”, believe it or not), dramatically pointing Kansai at JWP’s President to get the most out of it- beautiful heeling. QUADRUPLE FLYING HEADBUTTS, but Kansai kicks out. She fights, but takes a Dangerous Queen Bomb! Ozaki saves, and hits a Ligerbomb! Shimoda saves, but in a reflection of their 5-minute bout, they tear around the ring and a lariat is reversed to a bridging suplex… but it’s Ozaki’s Tequila Sunrise (German/Tiger combo)! Shimoda’s done (16:16)!

Ozaki gets tossed into the corner, but comes back on Hokuto with a Slingshot Senton, then it’s Stereo Flying Headbutts from JWP! Mita interferes and Ozaki takes a pair of brutal Powerbombs from Minami, barely kicking out- her selling is just top-notch here. Super Electric Chair Drop from Mita, and the crowd’s way behind Ozaki’s resilience. Devil interferes from outside, allowing a tag out, and Kansai kills Mita & Minami with lariats, drilling Mita with a huge Dangerous Backdrop for the three (20:07), and OH SHIT, Hokuto gets dumped to the outside, and that lets them hit the Doomsday Device Splash Mountain, the move that won them the 3WA Tag Titles, on Team Captain Minami for the three (20:33)!! Team JWP wins!

This was SO MUCH COOL SHIT, with the pace moving at a million miles an hour and everyone showing off their best stuff. This is one of the “Gateway Matches” the late-night crews have been spreading around to introduce others to Joshi’s style- it’s more inherently crowd-pleasing and shows off the widest variety of styles. The bout follows the trend of “AJW Multi-Person Tags”, in that they score a lot of early wins, but them suddenly fold right near the end of the bout. The five-minute bouts were fun and kept very different (Shimoda/Ozaki was a sloppy scrap, Mita & Plum were very smooth, and Hokuto/Kansai was dramatic and moment-milking), and they paid off later with Ozaki repeating their whip/lariat reversal, but hitting her finisher for the win! And then they started pulling out all this REALLY awesome stuff- a four woman LCO-style Bitch Pose (to JWP’s owner!), QUADRUPLE SUPERPLEXES & HEADBUTTS, and more! Things kept getting paid off from before, and most everyone got their shit it (though Hokuto left a lot in the tank). The only bad thing is that the rules called out the finish (it was obviously designed so that JWP could win, but Hokuto wouldn’t have to do a job).

Rating: ***** (phenomenal match through and through- 20 minutes of pure action and great double-teams. I’d go 4.75, but then they had to do the Cachorras pose right at JWP’s President)

* Oh Jesus, now it’s LLPW’s Ace teaming with a midcarder up against the upper-midcard due of Takako & Hotta. Takako’s brawled with Kandori off and on on a few shows, watching Sakie get killed by her in a tag match elsewhere, and getting into it with Kandori after she beat Hotta at Nagoya Super Storm a couple months before this one. Kandori’s been on the warpath ever since she lost to Akira Hokuto at the Dream Slam, so there’s some hype here, with actual gold on the line. Interestingly, Kandori is by far the most “elite” person here, but Handa is the lowest, creating a lot of potential situations. Kandori’s in rare all-white gear, while Handa’s in purple & black. Takako’s got blue & light blue on, and Hotta’s in white. Aja Kong is on commentary.

Everyone lips each other off to start, and Kandori grabs one of the tag belts from the ref and tosses it aside like a piece of garbage- oh my god I love this angle so much. An ugly brawl breaks out while they’re all still in their ring gear, and Takako uses Hotta’s kicks to lock on a leghold, requiring a shitload of ring girls to pull them apart- now HANDA is pissed off, and she attacks Takako as the bell finally rings. Kandori’s all like “Nah, I don’t even want to wrestle you” and throws Takako to Hotta’s corner for a tag, then beats her up when she comes back in. Everyone brawls WAY into the stands, and for several minutes you can’t see shit but two douchebag fans disco-dancing on camera. Kandori drags a bloodied Takako in by her hair and starts her “disrespectful ass” thing, casually shoving her around with her feet. Her taunting the crowd from the apron is more entertaining than Handa’s generic chinlockery inside, as they work the idol over- Takako’s selling is so great, flopping around like a dying fish and howling in pain. The LLPW team taunt Hotta repeatedly, but Takako finally rushes over for the tag when a double-team goes wrong. Hotta beats the shit out of Handa and taunts Kandori, and Takako’s in after a couple minutes for some revenge beating, smashing Handa’s face into the apron about thirty times then doing ANOTHER brawl outside, grinding Handa’s face into a table for several minutes.

After an eternity of torturing Handa (now also bleeding), Takako misses the Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) and eats a pair of Germans as Handa comes back- she FINALLY bringing in Kandori, who hits a Folding Powerbomb for two. More uncoordinated brawling leads to Takako armdragging Handa off the top, but Hotta gets German’d and now she & Kandori are fighting for their Powerbomb finishers. Rolling Koppou Kick by Hotta! Kandori comes back, but it’s a Takako*Panic sneak-job and Hotta Tiger Drivers her for two! Flying Koppou Kick is BLOCKED, and Kandori slaps on the leglock that beat Hotta in Nagoya! The crowd goes nuts, but Takako immediately saves. Handa’s ready to be killed, but she keeps getting miracle roll-ups for close calls until Hotta SPIKES her with a Straightjacket Superplex onto her shoulder. LAST second save from Kandori, and so Takako hits another Takako*Panic and Hotta actually traps her in the TREE OF WOE, setting up a final neckbreaking Assisted Pyramid Driver (Aja SHRIEKS on commentary with that) with Takako flying off the top for extra impact!! That finally gets the win (21:47)- Jesus, they KILLED poor Handa out there! That was such a high angle that they had to adjust her into a pinning combination! Kandori stomps off in disgust while the UWA Tag Champs get their ceremony.

This was barely even a match- it was a FIGHT. And while brawling isn’t my favorite style, the angle and all the clear hatred going on here made it a lot of fun, even though 1/3 of the match took place in Attitude Era-style crowd brawls. All that time-wasting led to some fairly uncoordinated stuff and a few too many minutes of “they kick and stomp Handa”, but the final surge of big moves made up for it, as the two legit martial artists had largely sat on the apron all match, and so were fresh and could kill each other. Ultimately, Handa was the weak link, as expected, and Kandori couldn’t save her- Handa’s stuff was fine, but hopelessly generic (I think her only actual wrestling moves were roll-ups and Germans). She bumped for a dozen, though, with Hotta’s two Straightjacket moves at the end there looking fatal.

Rating: ***1/2 (probably TOO much brawling, and the top stars left a lot in the tank, but it was still a lot of fun)

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Yamada- somewhat forgotten in favor of her partner Toyota, but considered by many to be just as good, if not better.

* Interestingly, the top team in AJW are wrestling each other for the secondary White Belt, which is vacant at this time. Manami’s in black and Yamada’s in white, emphasizing how opposite both are. Though beloved partners and best friends, they’re also great rivals, having wrestled to a million 30-minute draws, and one legendary Hair vs. Hair match.

Hilariously, Manami somehow finds a way to take a huge All Japan bump off of an attempted armscissors a minute into the match. She successfully counters Yamada’s kicks, but walks straight into an amazing judo toss and a snap suplex- damn, Yamada’s good. She works the arm for a while (Toyota gets a NICE bridge on a jujigatame), then the leg after they botch something (Toyota went for her “Manami Roll” but Yamada was bending down so she just flopped to the mat)- they kick each other down there, keeping it from being “filler”, but Manami’s all “limb selling? What’s that?” and hits her damn Running No Hands Springboard Cross-Body. INSANE bridge on a vertical suplex- right on the tippy-toes- and she goes to the leg with an inverted Figure-Four and some brutal legdrops. Yamada comes back with a straight kick to the face and ENZUIGIRI SPAM of all things. Her wicked Stump Puller has Manami doing a death-scream, and the crowd is awed once she hauls her up and starts spinning around while STILL HOLDING IT. Manami Roll & Octopus Stretch come back, and then she hits that crazy arm-trap bridging suplex and her Bridging Deathlock/Double-Arm thing, because spines are for wimps.

Some kick dodges (a bit sloppy, but fitting) lead to Yamada working the back for a while, so now I think literally every part of Manami’s body has now been bent into an unnatural position. A straight kick to the face draws an “ooh” reaction, and she slows the pace way down for a deliberate beat-down. They hit a chinlock spot for a full TWO MINUTES, but then it’s “Toyota Mode”, as she revs up with Dropkick Spam like a crazy person, thankfully at only half her usual speed, either selling the beating or just being tired- either fits. Yamada comes back, but gets Rolling Cradled for two. Some cool “we know each other” reversals lead to Manami hitting an Arm-Capture Suplex while Yamada’s on the top rope, but the Moonsault hits feet. Straightjacket Suplex still hits, but she does her “Missed Dropkick” spot, disappearing through the ropes. Yamada tries to capitalize, but Toyota the Lunatic just climbs onto the top with her and dropkicks her from there! She gets shoved off of an Asai Moonsault attempt, but hits a Missile Dropkick Suicida, then lands that Moonsault- she protests the two, but goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, gets reversed to a rollup, rolls through THAT to another attempt, but finally gets backdropped and kicked in the face! Both do the All Japan Sell, and Yamada hits something like eight backdrops in a row for CLOSE two. She goes up, gets tossed, but runs back for a Belly-To-Belly Superplex… and Manami BRIDGES OUT! 27 minutes in! Yamada’s dropkicked off the top, but kicks Manami in the face out of a Plancha, then hits the Diving Brain Kick back in the ring for two! Both are just BAGGED, flopping down when trying stuff, so Yamada settles for a lariat, then another Diving Brain Kick- Manami has to use the ropes to break- no bridging NOW. Two attempts at The Finisher That Never Hits get reversed, but an Enzuigiri lands, but Toyota AGAIN reverses the finisher, this time to a Japanese Ocean (Double-Hammerlock) Sulpex for the narrowest two-count EVER. She FREAKS at the lack of three, but the Ocean Cyclone attempt only garrotes Yamada across the top. Whip… but Yamada stuns her with a kick to the head! THE FINISHER HITS!! REVERSE GORY BOMB GETS THE THREE (30:53)!!! Yamada is the new All Pacific Champion!!! Cute- they always go to a 30-minute draw, so this match was JUST over that. Manami stays in the ring for the whole ceremony, and the two partners bow to each other out of respect and hug it out to end the show.

Very good, different kind of match from these two- a very, VERY slow, deliberate pace by their usual standards (probz why Meltzer only went ****), owing to going thirty minutes, with holds taking up the majority of the first half (because ain’t nobody sprinting through that). That could easily be boring, but Manami’s screeching sell of death, combined with them shaking it up and often doing very inventive, agonizing-looking holds, kept it good, especially since they’d speed up once in a while. People who dismiss Toyota as “sloppy” will have a lot of ammunition here, with a LOT of her flips and flops kind of barely hitting or resulting in a tangle of limbs, but like Hokuto, I’ve always found it kinda fitting with her- in a “real match”, stuff isn’t always gonna hit “flush”, ya know? And her frenetic pace kind of invites stuff like that. Though you could see them stumble a bit when spots didn’t go right, but by the end, it comes off as fatigue, as they both slump down constantly during the moves. The deliberate pace paid off with them selling like crazy by the end, and their Escalating Finishers are always remarkable, as these are two of the best ever at that sort of thing. I was learning towards “kinda slow- ****” until they did the “Toyota Match Special” near the end, and that was that.

Rating: ****1/2 (came off as a total, exhausting war, with both trying everything they could. A very slow pace for the middle 15 minutes, but insane everywhere else)

Match Ratings:
Candy Okutsu vs. Tomoko Watanabe: ***1/4
Chikako Shiratori vs. Harley Saito: 1/2*
Mizuki Endo vs. Chaparita ASARI: ***3/4
Kyoko Inoue vs. Yukie Nabeno: **
Ito/Hasegawa vs. Futagami/Kurenai: ***1/2
Bull Nakano vs. Hikari Fukuoka: ***3/4
Aja Kong vs. Eagle Sawai: **3/4
Minami/Hokuto/LCO vs. Kansai/Masami/Ozaki/Mariko: ****3/4
Takako/Hotta vs. Kandori/Handa: ***1/2
Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada: ****1/2

Well THAT was certainly an epic night of wrestling. One squash, two “okay” matches, and then everything else went from “very good” to “excellent”, with two matches about four stars, and even rookies like Endo/ASARI pulling out crazy feats. And just as important- EVERY MATCH WAS DIFFERENT. You had the “Toyota-Style Match” in the main, a crazy Survivor-type match, a wild brawl in the penultimate bout, Aja’s power-wrestling feat, a vicious interpromotional bout from the mid-tier wrestlers, and even a great Big vs. Little match with Bull & Fukuoka! So even though “only” two bouts went over **** to me, the whole night ended up fantastic.