Joshi Spotlight- AJW Wrestling Queendom- VICTORY

Bull Nakano & Kyoko Inoue in the best match ever wrestled for the WWF Women’s Title.

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM- VICTORY (1995):
(26.03.1995)

-Four months after the biggest show in Joshi history, Big Egg Wrestling Universe, comes the next Wrestling Queendom event- Akira Hokuto was triumphant at Big Egg, but kind of went to Mexico for a while and kinda/maybe won’t come back. But that’s okay, because Manami Toyota, the flashiest worker in wrestling, is being elevated, and is now in our Main Event, taking on the Ace of AJW, Aja Kong! Bull Nakano is still WWF Women’s Champion, and is defending tonight. Plus we have a bunch of wrestlers who came out of retirement between 1993 and here, taking up spots on the card. And a few wrestlers are being elevated up the card, while others are sort of in interesting positions- Takako, Yamada, Bennett and others are floating around the upper-midcard, and who knows where they’ll land? So there’s a lot of drama and mystery about tonight’s big card.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: This show contains, I swear to God, FIVE matches at **** or higher, with one of the craziest MMA-style fights I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring, the best WWF Women’s Title Match ever, and a Main Event that’s even better than THAT.

KUMIKO MAEKAWA vs. RIE TAMADA:
* A battle of the rookies, with the very tall Maekawa (seen at Big Egg in a kickboxing match) wrestling the slightly-more-experienced diminutive Tamada. Kumiko has on the most ’90s outfit ever, consisting of wild patterns and hot pink sports top & shorts, while Tamada is wearing a red & white leotard with lots of areas cut out. Tamada was a serviceable Journeyman (…woman) for years, while Maekawa actually became AJW’s top star at one point!

The match is typically Rookieriffic, with lots of basic trainee offense, Rie looking the most polished. Kumiko comes back with some good side kicks, and they actually chain-wrestle for a bit, which I appreciate, given how much of Joshi ends up in “slap on a submission, then crawl the the ropes; repeat” if they’re just looking to fill time. THEN we get a time-killing crab-hold, and Kumiko throws on a pair of Argentine Backbreaker submission attempts, tossing Rie down each time when it doesn’t work. Straight kick to the face from Kumiko gets a close two, impressing the crowd. They keep trying various rollups and pinning combinations, and Tamada finally hits a running Helicopter Cross-Body (where they hit one then spin in a circle while the opponent falls) for the pin at (10:36).

Not bad, but a bit long for a “Rookie Match”, especially as Maekawa is a bit gawky and hesitant, given her experience level. She has one of those awkward “stuttering gaits” you see in rookies, and they didn’t have the offense to last the whole while.

Rating: ** (perfectly okay, but obvious card filler with rookies)

AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
CANDY OKUTSU (JWP) vs. CHAPARITA ASARI (AJW):
* Okay, so Candy has held the AJW Junior Title (usually for newbies) for over a YEAR by this point, having beaten ASARI in November of 1993. This is billed as a return match for ASARI on YouTube, though she wasn’t hurt at Big Egg, so I don’t know what it’s for. ASARI’s wearing some sort of Blue Power Ranger/Band Leader uniform thing and it rules. Okutsu’s in a black & white leotard.

Candy slaps away ASARI’s hand to start, so she takes a German and now they’re screaming and scrapping like mad. Candy takes the advantage, but YOU CAN’T SLINGSHOT ASARI and she hits her cross-body. It’s all crabs & chinlocks, but ASARI keeps grabbing the hair because rivalries between companies are rad. ASARI tosses Candy into the corner, but she hops up really slick-like, spins around on a dime, and dropkicks her RIGHT in the face. ASARI gets bent in half with a crab for a couple of minutes, then comes back with a flip, a dropkick, and her running knees, but Candy hops over the ropes in a neat bit and hits ANOTHER Missile Dropkick. Another Run-Up move (a Cross-Body) hits, but a splash hits feet- she sells for a long-ass time outside, and then ASARI hits her with the Handspring Mule Kicks. Sky Twister is teased, but Candy disappoints the crowd and hits a German for two, then a Run-Up Cross-Body Suicida, just spamming that concept out. ASARI hits her own move to the outside (damn near losing her balance and making the crowd freak out), then a pair of Missile Dropkicks, and that be that- the Sky Twister Press gets the win at (15:34). AJW gets their Junior Title back! The two itty-bitties shake hands at the end and ASARI gets crowned.

Typical match between these two- high-speed, tons of cool stuff, and maybe a tiny hint of a big of amateurism with them going to the same moves over and over again (five “Run-Up” moves by Candy, and repeated Missile Dropkicks throughout). That Sky Twister is AWESOME, though- you can build tons of match endings just out of the possibility of seeing that, because it’s so over, yet so easy to reverse (the crowd’s into it every time ASARI heads up while her opponent’s on the mat).

Rating: ***1/2 (high-speed, high-impact and very high-flying)

KICKBOXING MATCH:
KAORU ITO vs. NORIKO TSUNODA:
* I can’t find this one on YouTube. Oh DARN. DARN IT ALL. I was looking SO FORWARD to what was apparently a five-round draw. My apologies to those who’ve had their reading experience ruined by this obviously incomplete review.

BEST TWO OF THREE FALLS:
LADY APACHE (CMLL) & JAGUAR YOKOTA (AJW) vs. MARIKO YOSHIDA (AJW) & LA FELINA (CMLL):
* Lady Apache (then-wife of Gran Apache) is out there in this 2/3 falls match, allying with ’80s legend (and trainer of most of the best workers on this show) Jaguar Yokota. And across from them is the still-freshly-back-from-injury Yoshida (still treated like a rookie), and Apache’s partner from last week. So this’d be Joshi/Lucha team-ups on both sides. Yokota’s in a purple leotard, Apache’s in a black & red tassled two-piece, Yoshida’s in a white leotard with some gold designs on it, and Felina is dressed like a white tiger with a demonic face on her chest, and a big white wig.

Apache & Felina do that kind of super-fake Lucha thing (a Razor’s Edge crucifix treated as a submission hold?), and the crowd mostly sits on their hands for it. Then Jaguar & Mariko run in and drop jaws with rapid-fire throws, bridge-outs and a pair of cartwheel dodges, pausing for the ovation (in 1995!). The Lucha girls do another slow-moving hyper-choreographed bit, then the Joshi do a very quick counter-wrestling bit, leading to Jaguar doing a great headlock/headscissors takeover on Yoshida & Felina simultaneously! Jaguar then does her devastating Head-Drop Pedigree to Felina, and tags back out- Apache does a super-elaborate armdrag to Yoshida that takes about fifteen steps (using Felina for a boost twice), but the crowd doesn’t care. Handpring Elbow by Yoshida on Jaguar, who flips her out with a headscissors, and Felina falls WAY short on a Somersault Senton- Jaguar smartly selling it like she “dodged”, but nobody is fooled and even the commentators are chuckling. Apache & Felina HORRIBLY botch a rollup spot and have to awkwardly stand there while the Joshi finish their planned bit, and then everyone’s diving- Yoshida hitting a Run-Up Plancha to all three other women. Apache hits a Super Armdrag on Felina for the first fall (16:36). Apache uses a Surfboard & a Rana on Yoshida, but she reverses the pin for three (17:23). She nearly pins Jaguar (!!) with a Powerbomb reversal of a Rana for two, but when she hits her Run-Up Cross-Body, Jaguar bridges out, locks hands, and spins Yoshida around for the Straightjacket Suplex (18:02) for the third fall.

Yeah, so, uh, this made Lucha Libre look like shit. I mean, it’s normally faster and better choreographed than this, but these two clumsied it up like crazy, and then you had JAGUAR YOKOTA in there by contrast? Pretty much everyone’s offense looks worse than her tight, well-run stuff. Then you get into that weirdness with Lucha/Joshi matches I’ve seen where they hit all this stuff for fifteen minutes and then all three falls happen within minutes of each other- is this normal?

Rating: **1/4 (Jaguar & Yoshida’s stuff looked great, almost all the Lucha looked like slow, fake trash. Hard to rate overall)

LCO, still in the upper-midcard tag ranks.

UWA WORLD TAG TITLES:
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. SUZUKA MINAMI & TOMOKO WATANABE:
* LCO’s mid-tier tag run continues, as the veteran Minami (in her last few months in the business) teams up with up & comer Tomoko for a shot at their gold. LCO are in unusual pink & white gear, not reversing each other’s colors for once. Minami’s in some blue & yellow lined singlet, and Tomoko’s in all-white tassled gear.

Stereotypical Joshi Opening, with a running dropkick, a big move, screaming, rapid-fire offense and a Tope all within sixty seconds of the bell. Shimoda takes the worst of it, and gets sandwiched with lariats, and brings Mita in after a beating- Mita tosses Tomoko around and takes over, but Minami uses holds to get the advantage (though she makes the mistake of putting her hands right next to Mita’s mouth in a Camel Clutch). Shimoda takes her down with a clotheslines, but Minami hits a pair of Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreakers, and Tomoko does her great judo flip. Tomoko spams out another couple, and DAMN is Shimoda amazing at taking these bumps, flipping onto her ass/thighs with high velocity. She takes a couple of flying moves, but escapes to tag Mita, who Blazing Chops Minami down and starts choking away with glee. Hangman’s Choke in the corner, and Shimoda adds her foot for an extra Bitch Pose in the match!

Tomoko tries her Slingshot move, but Mita just charges in and dumps her, then it’s the Assisted Splash/Dive combo on both, then the Electric Chair Drop/Flying Splash combo for two on Tomoko! Once they get those moves, these matches ALWAYS turn out good. Minami interferes, letting Tomoko hit her Hurricanrana, but the Moonsault misses and Shimoda hits a PERFECT Tiger Suplex (bridging right on the tip-toes!) for two. She lariats out, but Minami takes a Butterfly Superplex. Mita’s DVD gets reversed to a German, and Minami hits a Powerbomb on her third try, nearly getting her! An ugly bit where they lose track of what they’re doing leads to a bulldog, then ANOTHER Powerbomb- Shimoda saves. Mita keeps having her DVDs reversed, but Minami only has one big move left to try- and her Flying Senton misses! She scoots out of another DVD, but comes off the ropes and meets ANOTHER one- Death Valley Driver!!! That gets the pin at (19:01).

Another great “LCO Template” match, where they bump like crazy for their opponents, Minami’s great offense carries the day, and they end up trading big moves until the end. Minami’s Powerbombs couldn’t quite get the job done, and Mita going for the Death Valley Driver until it finally hits (the crowd FREAKING every time, as that shit seems to have DDT-level overness as a finish in Joshi) pays off in the end. Even Tomoko did her job adequately, with her slams and lariats hitting stiffly.

Rating: **** (The “LCO Template” rarely fails)

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Bison Kimura, obviously a big influence on Etsuko Mita (from the prior match).

BISON KIMURA vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA:
* Now THIS is an interesting one- Kimura’s a returned vet, and typically beats rookies, but Sakie’s in the “getting a push” zone (appearing last week as Blizzard Yuki- Toyota’s tag team partner), and Bison’s got the least credibility of the Raijin Army. Bison’s got an orange leopard-pring one-legged singlet on… and is carrying a pair of tonfa rods for some reason, while Sakie’s in a white & purple singlet of her usual cut.

Bison attacks right as Sakie hits the ring, then tries to blast her with the tonfa rod, but Sakie Solebutts it right into her head, and then whips her jacket at her! Haha, NICE! They slug it out, and when Bison bites her in a bodyscissors, Sakie does this great rookie “I’m not taking any of your SHIT!” thing, slapping her back and forth. She defies the vet with chops, but gets lured into an STF. Bison beats on the leg, but Sakie won’t sit still and keeps going for comebacks. She dumps Bison in a huff and then USES THE TONFA ROD, but that proves unwise, as Bison loses her shit and lays waste to the kid with it. Sakie gets her ass kicked (even getting a row of chairs dumped on her), but dodges the Bison Chop in the ring- Savate Kick is stuffed and she gets beaten again. Flying Bison Chop- but Sakie Savate Kicks her wrist to stop it! She does a cool hop-up leap off the top, but Bison Chops her down from mid-air on the outside. Flying Headbutt gets two. She sets up the Bison Chop to finish… URANAGE! Great reversal! Two more gets a two count! Dramatic Bison Chop stops her dead from a run, but she barely kicks out. Another pair are reversed, Uranage’s reversed, the Kick misses and she finally tags her with the foot after another go-around, but Bison kicks out and Chops her again! Another misses and Sakie sails in for ANOTHER Kick, desperately holding down Bison for the surprise three (10:05)!

Kickass little match- I love Sakie’s work, and Bison held up her end as a striking powerhouse- she spams those Bison Chops to the point of self-parody (it’s her only move in the latter half of most matches), but the timing was great and it made for a perfect underdog story, as Sakie spams her only two finishers for a big win over the vet.

Rating: ***1/2 (one of the better Bison matches I’ve seen, in fact- I’m a mark for a good Veteran/Kid fight)

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Reggie Bennett, obviously booked as a powerhouse wrestler.

IWA WORLD TITLE:
TRIANGLE MATCH:
TAKAKO INOUE vs. REGGIE BENNETT vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* So the rules for this match are that the first two competitors fight, and then the winner has to immediately fight the third person! And then that person fights the last one. Reggie Bennett had at this point defeated Manami Toyota for the IWA Title and went over Takako VERY strongly in one tag team match, stretching her with the Torture Rack- in short, she’s got cred as a monster. Here, she’s dressed up in a black singlet with pink sides. Yamada is in singles now that Toyota, her partner, is focusing on the top title scene, and her own credibility lets her hang in the Sub-Main ranks like this. She’s wearing a blue & silver singlet with “YAMADA” across the front- I kind of dig her later gear, but it’s a bit similar to Yumiko Hotta’s for my liking. Takako is actually in one of the most fanservicey things I’ve seen her wear- a black leotard with a lot of cut-outs and a skirt attached to it.

Fall One (Takako/Yamada): They immediately start trying for falls, Takako hitting her Super Chokeslam inside of sixty seconds (Old Man Mode: what is this, NXT?). Since it’s so early, Yamada reverses a thing and just starts pounding away with kicks and stuff. She manages some Snap DDTs and her Stump Puller, and Takako’s Backdrop Suplex Hold is one of her few reversals, as Yamada dominates. Joshi Irish Whip of Transitioning leads to Takako’s Aurora Special (Waist-Hold Backdrop Suplex), but Yamada’s right back with a Rolling Front Kick. Her Flying Front Kick gets deflected (though it’s imperceptibly different from a hit given how fast it went and Takako barely getting her arms up), and an Angle-style Ankle Lock gets a pretty frantic rope-break. Takako Chokeslams her outside the ring, but keeps missing her Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) until another Aurora Special sets it up properly, and she holds down a frantically-thrashing Yamada for the pin (9:01). Short, abridged match, but all action.

Fall Two (Takako/Bennett): Takako rushes in immediately, but eats a quick Torture Rack and then a Samoan Drop (one of the faster, flippier versions I’ve seen). HUGE Splash gets two, but Reggie goes up, takes the Waistlock Backdrop, then attempts to stop a Flying Thing, and takes the Super Chokeslam right out of that. Takako*Panic misses, and she eats a Lariat. Second-Rope Splash, and she whips Takako up into the Torture Rack… and GETS THE WIN (2:20)!! Haha, holy crap! Since Takako’d just fought, and Reggie was strong, that’s a bit believable.

Fall Three (Bennett/Yamada): Yamada in again, and she misses her Flying Front Kick right away. Man, Bennett has some great-looking power moves (a lot of heft to them, and her flailing actually makes it work), but she needs to stop running in matches- it looks funny as she’s not graceful and a bit, um, chesty to be trying that. A second Corner Splash is countered with a straight kick to the face (haha- damn, Yamada!), and then she FINALLY hits her Flying Front Kick! Alas, The Finisher That Never Hits fails twice before Bennett flips her over (the crowd was WAY excited for the lift, but appeared deflated by the two just ending up in a heap). They reverse each other’s finishers a couple of times before Yamada ends up clumsily rolling her up at (4:02). That means we have to have a deciding match!

Fall Four (Takako/Yamada): Takako, with a fresh start, has a bit of an advantage, having done only eleven minutes of wrestling, but eats a German immediately, and another suplex later. The Finisher That Never Hits is reversed to a Victory Roll, and Takako later tears into Yamada’s leg on the outside. Then she drops Takako*Panic ON THE LEG, and hooks a submission. Damn, Yamada’s good at selling. Backdrop and another Flying Knee gets reversed with a kick, but Takako reverses the finisher AGAIN, this time with the same leg submission, before getting hit with a swiping kick to the head, and then Yamada’s finisher (a Bridging Electric Chair Drop with the opponent hanging perpendicular to Yamada) FINALLY FUCKING HITS at (5:18), scoring the win!

Well that was an interesting bout, full of fast action and almost no time-wasting at all. Almost TOO fast, as the wrestlers were firing out Finishers in seconds, when that normally wouldn’t work, but it’s hard to hate a match that’s 20 minutes long with almost zero resting and has great psychology. Takako kept going for her Knee thing, reversing stuff with leg submissions, and more, while Yamada kept going for her finisher until it FINALLY hit. Yamada’s selling in the submissions was fantastic, and Takako bumped like nuts, often going head & shoulders-first with suplexes. Reggie held her own, being as good as she needed to be in her role (ie. the one who stands there and hits powerhouse moves, but can still be vulnerable).

Rating: **** (overall, just a fun bout that had rapid momentum shifts, solid psychology, and a lot of good finishing moves thrown out. Meltzer even went 1/2* higher!)

Every wanna see two women beat the SHIT out of each other, but still technically be a worked match?

MMA-STYLE LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH:
LIONESS ASUKA vs. YUMIKO HOTTA:
* Well now, THIS is an interesting bout! Asuka is another member of the Raijin Army, and both her & Hotta have a reputation for no-selling and gobbling up offense from “lessers”. Asuka’s in her “RIDEEN Array” purple outfit, while Hotta’s in something I’ve never seen before- a red & white hyper-detailed outfit. This match has them both wearing big, puffy martial arts-style gloves. So it’s a FIGHT, but heavily worked. Something totally unknown to the West at this point, but Japan had already sported a bunch of “Fake Real Fight” promotions already, like UWF International.

They each hit a “ground & pound” spot right away, letting you know it’s a work when Asuka lands about 40 unanswered punches and Hotta’s not deceased. LOL, if UFC had more of these big wind-up haymakers, I’d watch more of it. That said, Hotta’s bleeding from the nose and they’re clearly being stiff as fuck out there- Hotta teases being KO’d, then hits a lethal kick to Asuka’s head. They circle each other for drama and then it’s stretching time, but… oh shit- rope breaks AREN’T A THING? Hotta’s hanging off the apron in a leg-bar! Shit, rope breaks even work in violent death matches with thumbtacks and used needles! What barbarism is THIS? They trade kicks back in the ring, Hotta kneeing Asuka down and getting a count before breaking it to do more damage. Asuka stuffs a Powerbomb attempt in a realistic manner (you just… drop down), then fight for holds on the mat, which I always like- struggling for a minute to put on a hold is more exciting to me than “lie in a crab-hold and slowly fight to the ropes” filler. Hotta lands some vicious headbutts from a mount, Asuka’s face is noticeably bruised, and Hotta’s bleeding all over the place like they forgot it was fake halfway through or something.

Asuka works the legholds for several minutes, Hotta getting a brief comeback in the middle before finally hitting a dramatic Enzuigiri to break. Then after three tries she hits a fucking TIGER DRIVER, which is seriously weird in a match so “shoot”-y. Hotta tries again, but they punch each other for a Double K.O. spot. The crowd is INTO this. Asuka’s up first and hits a pair of rolling kicks for close counts, then a Powerbomb. She pulls Hotta up and gets killed for it, and Hotta hits the Pyramid Driver (Straightjacket Powerbomb)! Because there’s no pins, she pulls Asuka to her feet, but the veteran pops up with an uppercut so good I swear I saw Dan Forden’s head pop up from the bottom of the screen. But she gets a roundhouse kick blocked and takes a vicious kick RIGHT TO THE FACE, slumping over. And then, with picture-perfect timing, she fights up to her feet at “9”… and slumps back onto her ass for the TKO (22:54). Yumiko Hotta wins in a BRUTAL slugfest!

This is one of those things that really mystifies me as a reviewer- how to rate this? You could go anywhere from *** (“the leg submissions meant nothing!”) to ***** (“best brawl EVER!”) and I’d be like “yeah, I can see that”. It’s totally different than anything I’ve ever seen in Joshi before. I’ve seen stiff brawls, but nothing like “Faux-MMA” where they cause real damage with their strikes but still work the match. A bit of standard-issue “stretching”, but also some fighting for moves (an Asuka trademark). The “holding” part went a bit too long for my taste (in particular because the six-ish minutes of leg work meant NOTHING because Hotta was kicking just fine later), but this was completely insane, ultra-stiff death brawling, with a lot of momentum shifts owing to someone using “Puncher’s Luck” or something. Interesting how the Powerbombs were fought for, but ultimately meaningless in the context of a fight beyond “knocking the opponent over”. Meltzer went a full 4.75 with this, being a UFC/UWF mark who probably loved the crossover.

Rating: ****1/4 (I’m not sure I’d want to see a whole promotion of this, but this was vicious and awesome for most of it, and I loved it, save for the filler and no-selling. Best match I’ve seen from “90s Asuka”)

WWF WOMEN’S TITLE:
BULL NAKANO vs. KYOKO INOUE:
* Yes, they’re defending the WWF Women’s Title on an AJW show- this era’s nuts. I guess Bull, as Champion, was allowed to go in and defend it over there. It’s a bit weird to see, though, as Kyoko is a huge rising star in the company, and Bull was largely pushed aside once she lost the WWWA Title years before.

Bull hits a pair of great lariats right away, then takes a TERRIFYING bump to the outside, as both tumble off the top but Kyoko merely hits the apron- Bull goes straight down to the floor! Bull somehow gets up first and whips Kyoko to the guardrail… but she leaps onto it and springs back with her Backsplash attack! She then runs all the way down the aisle for a lariat- Jesus, can you imagine if they had this match on WWF TV? They slow things down with a surfboard, and Bull lariats her down and uses her Standing Sharpshooter. Then it’s restholds and Bull drops a lot of legs- twice in a row, Kyoko slingshots off the ropes in response to The Joshi Irish Whip of Transitions, but Bull is smart and catches her in a sleeper on the second. She sits Kyoko on the top, sticks her ankles under the middle rope, and hits some lariats that make Kyoko bounce like a boxing dummy, then ax-kicks her in the face on the apron! Powerbomb Pin gets two in the ring, as does a facebuster off the middle rope. Kyoko comes back with a lariat against the ropes, but Bull reverses to her own as they’re just BLASTING each other with those things! Draping DDT from the top rope! Guillotine Legdrop hits to everyone’s surprise, but Kyoko’s up at ONE, getting fired up! Bull’s in disbelief, but goes up, and Kyoko runs up and launches her off with a Belly-To-Belly! That and the Run-Up Back Elbow get two each, as Kyoko tries to finish- Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb) fails, but a German hits. NIAGARA DRIVER!! That gets two, and Kyoko’s got no other big moves- she tries for another, but Bull drops down- headscissors takeover on her gets two. Another attempt sees Bull reverse to Bull’s Poseidon (dropping down while they’re draped behind her for a head-drop). She dumps Kyoko, dives out on her, then hits another Guillotine Legdrop for two! Kyoko won’t die, so Bull hits a Powerbomb and goes up, but Kyoko meets her up there- Bull ultimately has to lariat her off into position, then hits her MDK- the Somersault Double Guillotine Legdrop!! That FINALLY gets the pin at (17:05)- Bull retains. She & Kyoko have one of those patented “cheerful, teary-eyed coming to terms” moments, and Tomoko Watanabe is so moved outside the ring that they bring her in for some props. Only in Joshi, man.

I keep wondering what this match would have seemed like to WWF audiences in 1995? We had Bret, Shawn and others having great matches, but bumps straight off the top to the floor, aisle-run lariats and springing off the guardrails? In the first five minutes? Then immediately going to the Surfboard, Standing Sharpshooter and Kyoko’s “Rock The Cradle” submission? This would have seemed INSANELY advanced for the time, and if it’d aired on TV, fans would never have forgotten it. Like the ’80s fans remembering the Jumping Bomb Angels times ten. But alas, it’s the penultimate match on a much bigger show overall, and most fans never saw it. It wasn’t ALL action- there was plenty of aimless leg-stretching, but this was a great showcasing of the AJW Main Event Style (Big Moves, Stretching, Escalating Big Moves, MDK for the Pin), and probably Bull’s best solo match after 1992- she pulled out almost EVERYTHING, they had a bunch of false finishes, and she never looked as slow or weak as she sometimes did in the WWF. Hell, this is probably the best match ever wrestled for the WWF Women’s Title.

Rating: ****1/2 (a really awesome AJW Main Event Style bout- almost the perfect example, in fact)

WWWA WORLD TITLE:
AJA KONG vs. MANAMI TOYOTA:
* This is it- Manami FINALLY gets a 3WA Title shot after being such a big part of the shows for the past few years- her tag adventures Main Evented almost all of the big shows between 1992 and 1995, but Aja was still the “Ace” and Manami lost every time they fought. A big factor was that while Manami was faster and could reverse anything, she could never get Aja up for her finisher, the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Straightjacket Electric Chair Drop Suplex w/ Bridge)- Aja’s just too heavy, especially late in a match when she’s vulnerable to it- Manami’s too tired. So can she do it here, or will Aja’s legendary, unstoppable run continue?

They start out at full speed immediately, Toyota getting backdropped but hitting a Missile Dropkick, then getting rammed into the corner and avalanched by a screaming Aja (“TOYOTTAAAAAAAAA!!!). Brutal headbutt and she just kicks the shit out of her, then methodically tears her down with stretching, punches, garroting her on the ropes, etc. An agonized Manami screaming at the ref for having the nerve to ask if she gives up is great (“NO GIVE UP, BAKAYERO!!!”). Nasty-looking release Powerbombs, and Aja keeps dropping headbutts to the back- she is REALLY taking her time, but her stuff looks positively brutal. Piledriver and a spinning Package Piledriver get two each. Manami’s first move in SEVERAL minutes is a Manami Roll off the ropes, but a front suplex & 2nd-Rope Splash end that- “Fuck YOU!” Bridge shows that she still has some life left, though. Manami unwisely tries a Rolling Cradle and gets thrown, then her flying cross-body gets her Powerslammed. She FINALLY manages something when she reverses a backdrop and hits the Rolling Cradle, but the Moonsault misses and she has to settle for a Bridging German. Aja gets the knees up on a second Moonsault attempt.

Aja signals the end, but climbs and gets booted straight off, Manami following with a Missile Dropkick the full length of the ring! She tries the table splash from their last bout, but hits knees- PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE TABLE ON THE FLOOR!! Jesus that looked brutal. Aja rolls her corpse into the ring, but the crowd begins chanting for “To-yo-ta!”, irking her. Aja flips them off and hits a Backdrop for two. Two more get two each, but she hits knees on the 2nd-Rope Splash! Manami goes for her finisher, but Aja reverses to an Uraken- BLOCKED, and she takes the Japanese Ocean (Bridging Double-Hammerlock) Suplex for two! I really have no idea how Manami manages a full bridge on someone Aja’s size and shape. Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex attempt, but Aja pushes her into the corner and reverses a Manami Roll to a VICIOUS Powerbomb for two! Manami attempts the No-Hands Springboard off a whip, but Aja simply blocks it- she follows it with a Super Mountain Bomb attempt, but Manami attempts a Sunset Flip Powerbomb, like in their previous match… but Aja doesn’t budge and ANNIHILATES her with a full-on Banzai Drop with zero protection! Holy FUCK that looks awful to take. Manami can only grab the ropes to break.

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Is there a move more “Holy SHIT!” than the Victory Star Drop?

Aja goes up for a move, but Manami jumps up… VICTORY STAR DROP!!! The move she only ever tries on Aja- hooking her feet under the shoulders and backflipping them both off in a suicidal death bump. Manami desperately tries for pinfalls, but Aja’s too into the ropes, and finally just puts her foot on them to break the count. Great use of an MDK- Aja is badly hurt, but at best it’s just evened the playing field. Manami runs in- but Aja Urakens her right in the fucking face for two! Both are selling like death, with a shaky-legged Aja up first, but her backdrop is reversed for two. Manami goes up, but gets hit with a Powerslam off the top for another close one, and Aja drops her from a Victory Roll for two. Sensing the end, she throws Manami on the top and hits an Uraken there, but the Super Mountain Bomb is AGAIN avoided, Manami leapfrogging her, smacking her in the ass, and then going for a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex OFF THE TOP, but they struggle and Manami settles for a Super Electric Chair Drop. And that’s the end of it- Manami hauls Aja up to the top and hits the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex from there while her feet are on the floor, negating the weight advantage and nailing it for the pinfall and the 3WA World Title (23:22)!!! Manami wins!!! GREAT bit as she leaps to her feet, triumphantly jumps to the top in victory… and then slumps over dead and needs to be revived.

Very interesting dynamic here, akin to the 3WA Title matches of the early ’90s- one wrestler dominating for a 10-minute stretch until the other gets an advantage. This was way different from the ***** V*Top match in ’94, which was 6 minutes shorter and had an insane pace full of reversals and big moves (Manami hitting a ton of death moves, but when they don’t work, attempts them all again and gets killed every time by a wisened Aja), whereas this was Aja taking Manami apart save the occasional burst. Manami’s selling was tremendous throughout, looking as if she’d been killed, and she never hit “full agility” after the beating- she instead struggled to her feet and was constantly holding her head. I’ve seen numerous reviews of this bout on YouTube & Cagematch assert that this was “sloppy” and that there were “botches”, but I didn’t see any of that- moves don’t have to hit flush, and certainly not after 18+ minutes. If there were botches, they covered them so well that it actually enhanced the match, and I doubt the Sunset/Banzai reversal wasn’t planned. The finish MIGHT have been a Super J.O.C.S., but it seems pretty clear that it wasn’t gonna happen- Aja never crossed the arms until it was too late, and controlled her fall much too strongly- there was no way Manami was pulling that off. Maybe they changed their minds partway through? Or maybe it was always a set-up move? Either way, it fits- the whole “story” of the match was that Aja was murdering her, but Toyota persevered and kept reversing and reversing and REVERSING until Aja was finally beaten down- several head-spikes in quick succession and that final reversal set her up for the finisher, and Manami triumphs over the giant. I liked the false finishes, too- legit, but nobody was overdoing it- rope-breaks and stuff were more common, and nobody was hitting MDKs and failing to score pins repeatedly- Aja never hit EITHER of her big finishers flush, nor did she use the Steiner Screwdriver-ish move that won in ’94.

Rating: ***** (a remarkable Big vs. Little match- Vader/Sting but with better moves from everybody)

Match Ratings:
Kumiko Maekawa vs. Rie Tamada: **
Candy Okutsu vs. Chaparita ASARI: ***1/2
Kickboxing: Kaoru Ito vs. Noriko Tsunada: N/A
Apache/Jaguar vs. Yoshida/Felina: **1/4
LCO vs. Minami/Tomoko: ****
Bison Kimura vs. Sakie Hasegawa: ***1/2
Takako vs. Bennett vs. Yamada: ****
Lioness Asuka vs. Yumiko Hotta: ****1/4
Bull Nakano vs. Kyoko Inoue: ****1/2
Aja Kong vs. Manami Toyota: *****

-Okay, so these shows continuously surprise me. I mean, I’m expecting good stuff with AJW, and I knew these shows had replaced the Wrestlemarinepiads as the biggest events in Joshi, but FIVE matches at **** or higher? I was seriously not expecting that. But it looks like with the “tiers” in flux, everyone was bringing their “A” game, trying to impress at all costs. This has probably the best match of Bull’s “later years”, perfect AJW Main Event Style and LCO Template bouts, and an interesting three-way match, then throws in that bizarre, deadly-looking UWF-style fight. It’s a crazy, varied show, with no two matches seeming alike.