Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom- HIGHEST WARS

Another of those annoying ones- this channel has it all, but split up into multiple portions under 10 minutes. Look up “Highest Wars” to find the matches.


-Joshi had changed tremendously in 1995- the Interpromotional Wars have largely subsided, leaving the companies mostly on their own (with cards looking somewhat… diminished, as a result). Manami Toyota won, then lost, then won the WWWA Title again! She currently stands as the promotion’s top star, but career-long rival Kyoko Inoue has risen up just behind her, and challenges her tonight- it’s their first match in years. Takako Inoue & Mima Shimoda are getting upper-midcard pushes, too, and everyone’s kind of… jostling for place, in this new era, now that Aja Kong has been unseated and they can’t just sit there in stasis while feuding with JWP or whomever. Unfortunately, business as a whole is down owing to multiple factors- the Japanese economy is faltering, the wrestling boom has faded a bit, and the aforementioned card-diminishment. However, tickets were apparently much better for this Queendom than ’95’s, probably owing to the strong Kyoko push and some interpromotional stuff tonight.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Well, the last match is one of those bouts where you put two of the best workers on Earth and let them go crazy for 20+ minutes.

* Rookie mayhem! The tall Genki I know- she was NEO’s Ace in the 2000s. Endo’s a tomboyish rookie in yellow & green, and went on to freelance after 1997, never winning much gold. Tamura’s a baby in pink & silver (she mostly wrestled for NEO). The JWP girls are EXACTLY the same height and build, with similar hair- thank God they’re in different gear. Kuzumi (aka Azumi Hyuga- a future JWP Ace during the 2000s! Her combined JWP Title run is like 5 years!) is in black with holes cut out, Miyaguchi (aka Ran YuYu, another huge star in the 2000s, with a list of tag titles as long as my arm) is in red & black, and Miyazaki (won assorted NEO Tag Titles) is in ’90s Joshi Floral Gear. Wow, so uh, the latter team has a ton of future stars in it.

They all attack and do the Typical Joshi Opening to start, using rookie offense as AJW starts cheating nastily as they beat down Miyaguchi for a good while. EVERYONE does running attacks as they all trade off frequently. Genki actually gets a pair of theatrical atomic drops as part of her offense. Kuzumi does a Missile Dropkick and a pair of low-jumping Springboard Dropkicks, marking her as the “good one”, I guess. She takes a triple dropkick from AJW and finally tags out, with Miyazaki hitting a slingshot ass attack on Tamura. and Ass attack spam does well, but Tamura flies out of the corner with a sunset flip. Multiple dropkicks on Genki look to wear her down, but Miyaguchi somehow messes up a FIREMAN’S CARRY, and has to pick Genki back up for an Airplane Spin for the finish (11:39)- JWP wins! It turns into a huge brawl after the bell, with ring girls having to break it up.

Holy shit, does anyone who says Joshi has too many running dropkicks have a lot of ammunition with this match- I swear to God I’ve never seen more of them in my entire life. With the time and the number of wrestlers, there was no time for many holds, so they sprinted the whole way. Which was fun, but holy crap, that move spam was something else. Then they messed up the finish, too.

Rating: ** (high-tempo Rookie Match, but everyone using the exact same moves and a blown finish hurt it)

* More rookies! This one actually involves Jaguar Yokota’s splinter promotion, as she took some talent with her. Shiratori, in blue & black, was a “Pretty Girl” wrestler but never seemed to get any good in AJW, and usually jobs out on big shows- she went to Jd’, perhaps for a better push. And she’s dressed EXACTLY like 95% of the Joshi in Stardom do today (skimpy two-piece/lots of flare on the shorts) and it’s messing with my mind. Bloody Phoenix I’ve never heard of, and is dressed in a Japanese-style lucha mask with red wings on it- she won Jd’s tag belts frequently. Flor (in black with a green flower logo) is from CMLL in Mexico, and wrestled there her whole career- she’s got a Molly Holly-type physique. Shiina (red & white) wrestled all the way to 2006 apparently, but only won NEO’s tag belts. Tanny Mouse (grey pajamas) became a constant sight in the 2000s as a comedy wrestler. Maekawa (white & stripes), of course, stuck with AJW till the bitter end, being rewarded with all their belts to become highly-decorated as the Ace.

Jd’s team beats up Tanny Mouse for a while, with her looking awkward and pretty terrible. Shiina stiffs Flor with a dropkick, reminding me of Gaijin talking about Japanese wrestlers always brutalizing them to start, and sure enough, she’s trained well- she stiffs her right back. Flor’s stuff actually looks really tight and good, while the rest are using Jobber Offense. Tanny uses a bunch of the lightest running headbutts in history on her, which seem to be her schtick. Phoenix does some Rookie Lucha, but Maekawa has the credibility on her team and lands some good kicks. Shiratori looks… alright, but still very basic. Two shitty DDTs get two. Maekawa Superkicks her and hits a Perfect Plex for two. Triple Dropkick and she’s saved by her team. Shiina throws Missile Dropkicks and facebusters, and the bell rings accidentally, then Flor tries a dive… and slips and falls back, then falls way short on the second try, hitting only Tanny Mouse. Jesus, they better end this soon. Shiratori & Shiina trade near-falls with bridges before FINALLY Shiratori hits a Bridging German for the pin (12:56).

This was an okay Rookie Match at first, but totally fell apart eventually. Tanny Mouse looked like she’d barely been trained, Shiina & Phoenix were bog-standard rookies, and Shiratori was ridiculously uncoordinated and poor for her experience level (she was at Queendom *1994*!! In a match with name talent!). Flor looked good for a 30-second bit but botched her big move, and only Maekawa looked particularly okay. Shiratori was probably supposed to look the best, but WOW.

Rating: *3/4 (some okay stuff in the beginning and middle, but the ending was like watching Stephanie McMahon try to smile for four minutes straight)

* Dream Orca EXPLODES! These two got their start on a “Sporty Girl” team in 1989, but had more success by partnering with “Pretty Girl” wrestlers instead. Yamada is in an odd zone at this point, being in the Upper-Midcard but having been left behind by her old partner (Manami Toyota). And Mita’s LCO team has split up as well, with Shimoda getting an attempt at a push. Both are wearing dorky marching band uniforms to the ring for some reason. Mita’s in a yellow skirt/halter top combo, which is a LOT of skin for this company. She looks REALLY nervous out there, unless that’s her “jobbing face”. Yamada’s in a black & white singlet, and her “late ’80s anime opening” theme is WONDERFUL.

Mita takes advantage outside to start, and works the arm, but Yamada kicks her in the face out of the Blazing Chop, then hair-whips her around- a taste of her own medicine. They trade leg-work and the crowd is just DEAD for this- Mita dumps Yamada and hits her with a dive, barely waking them up a little. She keeps going for the Electric Chair Drop, but Yamada always leaps back, finally hitting a German on her- great bump by Mita, folding over. Yamada goes up, but Mita gets a SUPER Electric Chair Drop from there for two, then teases the Death Valley Driver a couple of times. Some clumsy rollups, and Yamada lands a Flying Cross-Body, but Mita rolls through. Mita goes up, but gets armdragged off, and Victory Rolls out of the Finisher That (Rarely) Hits, then SCREAMS before hitting her Blazing Chop, and that’s what finally wakes up the crowd! Another Super Electric Chair, and she signals the DVD- Yamada reverses to her finisher, Mita full nelsons her to reverse, Yamada rolls her up, and that finally leads to a Rolling Front Kick by Yamada, setting up her finisher AGAIN, and the Reverse Gory Special Bomb finally hits for the pin at (10:27).

Wow, neither of them was really into their “character” here, and they had a really truncated match, too- this would usually be about 4-6 minutes longer. They teased their finishers a lot, but they came off like they were just going through the motions. Mita in particularly looked a lot clumsier than usual (her great height meant she usually had to be EXTRA careful with her limbs while exchanging roll-ups), often awkwardly stumbling into pins. She was in kind of an odd zone in 1996- with Shimoda getting a push, she was put on the backburner as a big-time JTTS. Though she changed her look entirely (dropping the makeup and bob-cut for a dark tan and longer hair, more emblematic of a ruffian at that point), she was kind of going nowhere until they reunited Las Cachorras Orientales afterwards.

Rating: **3/4 (seemed okay, and had solid psychology with the finishers, but they really came off like they didn’t care very much)

* It’s the belts typically held by the Rookie Teams, and now it’s Tamada’s turn, alongside Fukawa, who retired in 2000 after only having won these belts. Interesting to see someone FINALLY moving up- she’s in pink & black. Fukawa’s in some early-90s gear with a black leotard covered in pink tutu material. Yagi is Best Rookie Ever, kicking ass in multiple bouts where I’ve seen her. I’ve never seen Motoya before. She’s a year into the business at this point, and retired in 2001, only winning tag gold once. Yagi’s in a black two-piece, and Motoya, much taller, is in pink & black.

Yagi has now upgraded into a bullying martial artist, beating on Tamada and hitting a Flying Double Foot Stomp right out of the gate! The rookies go at it for a bit with their jobber offense, but then Tamada DESTROYS Yagi with a huge running dropkick to the face! Crowd pops like nuts for that. Motoya, looking hilariously tall out there despite being 5’5″, manages a dive to the outside, but Yagi Germans Tamada, then hits that great Super Judo Flip, but the armlock is broken up by Fukawa. A pair of Flying Splashes hit Yagi, but Fukuwa dives right into a Cross-Armbreaker, impressing the crowd before she slides right out of it, which is weird. And then Motoya does a trio of… running shoves while headbanging? The crowd kinda laughs at that. Tamada actually rolls through Yagi’s Super Judo Flip, which is cool to see, then Germans Motoya for two. Yagi nails her own partner off the top and is dragged away by Fukawa, allowing Tamada and Motoya to trade rollups until Tamada blocks a lariat with a Dragon Suplex for the pin (12:07).

So we were clearly dealing with two skilled pros in Rie & Hiromi, and two rookies as their partners, so the match dynamics were a bit odd, as typically you’d only see vet/vet and rookie/rookie against each other like it was a Mixed Tag. The crowd was way more into this than the last match, probably because the girls actually wrestled like they really wanted to win, screaming and trying hard against each other. Much of the offense was amateur-hour, and Yagi withheld a lot compared to her solo bouts, but it was still pretty decent.

Rating: **3/4 (a try-hard rookie bout, albeit with a lot of Jobber Offense and the occasional good flash of stuff from Yagi & Tamada)

* I literally just did this one last week- it features Hasegawa retiring in a *** bout that sees her take a HUGE ass-kicking until Ito turns on her partners to form a squad with her stable-mate, and then they wrestle until Tomoko finally hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for the win. Sakie retires in a half-hour ceremony that sees all of AJW come out to see her off.

* Okay, so THIS is weird- Ishimoto is the woman given the 3WA Martial Arts Title once Bat retired a couple years back, but now Bat makes a one-night return. These were usually the worst matches on each card anyhow, but Bat kept it going- Ishimoto appears to be less popular, as this is the only time I’ve ever seen her, and Bat gets a noticeably larger reaction. She’s very short and wearing more traditional Joshi gear- a black & pink singlet.

They trade a lot of punches for a while, but by the end of the first round they’re tossing out garbage because they’re wiped. The rest of the fight is just wimpy punches and clinching, though Ishimoto lands a couple good shots, which is probably why she wins by decision.

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She looks like if Scott Norton and Caroline Rhea had a baby, and they put her up against CHAPARITA ASARI?

* Okay, ASARI versus BENNETT? Those two women could literally not be more different and still be the same species- Reggie’s literally twice the body weight of ASARI. Azteca is Esther Moreno, back in AJW in one of her random tours there, and wearing the most amazing feathered headdress EVER. Bennett, in a black singlet, seems far higher up the card than anyone else here, and especially dominant towards these tiny girls. Yoshida is now finally moving up the card a tad, as part of Manami’s stable, and wearing a flowery purple singlet.

Reggie ends up lariating both women down to start, then tosses Azteca onto them to the outside in a fun bit. They do some lucha stuff with Azteca that looks pretty good, but Reggie hits a delayed suplex on Yoshida and Azteca adds a standing Moonsault. Yoshida’s monkey flip oddly draws a much bigger reaction than her Cartwheel Body Attack when she comes back. Crowd wants ASARI/Bennett, but Azteca Missile Dropkicks the lil’ one after Reggie’s lariat. Some theatrics lead to a German for Azteca, and then Reggie DESTROYS Chaparita with a splash- HOLY FUCK- crowd popped, too. That looked like ASARI’s head should have shot off across the ring. Side Suplex and Vader Bomb have the crowd “ooh”-ing with every shot like it’s Triple-H working over Shawn Michaels in his return bout. Second Rope Splash, but Yoshida stops a Superplex, allowing ASARI to make the comeback- FLYING HURRICANRANA TO BENNETT! Fuck you, physics!

Yoshida comes in, but Reggie does her “Suplex both of them when they try a double suplex” spot, then Azteca does a bunch of great flips and kicks before taking a Dominator, hits ASARI with a Moonsault, and then takes two Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks, as we’re running through the spots with quick comebacks after brief selling. They miss the timing BADLY on an Azteca Moonsault, as Reggie decides to pick ASARI up while Azteca is doing a blind flip. Well at least you can blame that on “legit” reasons. ASARI hits the Sky Twister Press out of that, but Reggie breaks up the pin, thus giving away the finish- no way is ASARI’s team winning if that doesn’t end it. Reggie flattens Yoshida with a Powerslam and slowly works on her, but gets dumped- Yoshida’s dive is blocked by Azteca, but she runs up the ropes for a Plancha! ASARI dives, then Azteca does a Tope Con Hilo. Then REGGIE attempts a dive (!), but she’s dragged out by Yoshida (the crowd is agonized at that), ASARI splats Yoshida by mistake, and Azteca does a Moonsault to them out there. And then Reggie actually DOES HER FREAKING DIVE, throwing her BBW frame through the ropes onto the tiny opposition! God DAMN! The crowd goes absolutely nuts for that, as they should. ASARI bounces off Reggie in a funny bit, but Yoshida cartwheels through her move, then hits a German Suplex Hold, really impressing. She rolls Reggie up from a German attempt, but signals the end and gets caught- a HUGE Ligerbomb finishes her at (13:58).

Well there was a lot of great-looking stuff here, but the match was somewhat disjointed, probably because one side didn’t speak the language and Reggie in particular isn’t really good at timing, transitions, or match-plotting. So we ended up with the Sky Twister Press halfway through, then things slowed down, then everyone did TWO sets of dives, etc. And then Reggie kind of goes through her usual moves again because why not? But in the end, the match was a lot of fun- sometimes throwing in great, unique bits (Reggie DIVING blew the roof off) makes up for poorly threading it all together. Hell, the crowd popped more for this than any other match so far!

Rating: ***1/4 (a match that’s not great “artistically”, but really hard to hate)

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Takako pretty much wears this same look here, and never drops it. 

* Huh. So the split in LCO is leading to a singles push for Shimoda, who has now shown great potential, though she’s mostly in teams, having won the 3WA Tag belts with Akira Hokuto. Takako is now holding Toyota’s former trophy belt and is as good an upper-midcard “Gatekeeper” as you’re going to get, so this has some real drama to me. Shimoda’s in all red, while Takako’s wearing the look she keeps to this very day, with a black skirt outfit, knee-high leather boots with metal studs (which she shows off to the interviewer), and makeup style. I feel like the raw, concentrated, “for the lulz” combined evil of these two women is a threat to the universe.

They slap each other around to start, then Takako grinds on Mima’s head as the bell rings, smiling with delight. It naturally devolves from there into hair-pulling, choking, preening and more, until they realize it’s a wrestling match a few minutes in and start executing holds. Takako tortures Shimoda (who keeps selling the side of her face) for a while until she comes back with clotheslines and dumps her outside. Takako DESTROYS her with DDTS in the ring, however- Mima’s whiny-ass selling is fantastic, and she ends murdered with a Super Chokeslam, rolling over onto her neck. Jesus, Takako is just gobbling her up out here. Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) misses, but Shimoda’s dive does too, and Takako drags her outside, grinds her face into a chair with those magnificent studded boots, and then tries to smother her with a fan’s paper bag like a goddamn psycho. She hits Shimoda with a friggin’ BACKPACK and then casually drags her back to the ring, but Shimoda gets a snap backdrop suplex out there, runs around the ring to celebrate, and finally hits her dive!

Shimoda takes over in the ring with four low-angle Tiger Suplex Holds in a row, but when she tries to copy the Super Chokeslam, Takako reverses to a Cross-Armbreaker in mid-move! Mima gets a German, but Takako comes back with a Backdrop Hold. They scrap on the top rope, Shimoda finally hitting a Flying Headscissors Victory Roll for two, getting the crowd into it. She calls for the finish, but a pair of Tiger Suplexes only gets two each. She goes for the Death Lake Driver (Tiger Superplex), but Takako knocks her off and finally nails her with Takako*Panic after a bit of a delay. FANTASTIC sell by Shimoda, who lurches over with Takako’s knee, making it look like it hit flush instead of glancing off like how most sell it. That only gets two, so Takako calls for one more- this misses, Mima dives in, but Takako reverses to her OWN Tiger Suplex- a beautiful one- for two! The crowd chants for Shimoda, but it’s all for naught, as Takako*Panic hits again for the pin (13:35).

This was a weird one, with Takako utterly dominating to start, to the point of looking selfish, but she gave up much of the second half to Shimoda, who seems to be elevated. Mima’s Bridging Suplexes looked TERRIBLE, though, with low bridges and loose application frequently sending Takako off to the side, though checking it out, Takako’s not getting much “lift” in her jumps, almost sandbagging her. Mima spamming them out like it was her only move wasn’t really helping… but the crowd was into her, seemingly wanting an upset the whole time, which probably helped get her that big Tag Title push in this year. Ultimately, I liked all the brawling, especially with Takako in “ECW Mode” using the fans’ personal belongings as weapons, and how the underdog aspects came off, though Mima’s offense wasn’t really well-rounded at this point yet.

Rating: ***1/2 (more of a violent scrap with a lot of hate than a well-rounded wrestling match, but good for what it was. I mean, somebody used a schoolgirl’s backpack to beat the shit out of someone- that’s great)

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FMW’s “Deathmatch Queen” and her biggest rival are both surprisingly members of the same training class as Aja Kong.

* Now this is a really awesome idea for a match- literally everyone in here debuted in AJW’s Class of ’86! Took me a second to figure it out, because I didn’t realize KAORU & Cooga debuted then, too. Aja & Bison were best buds and dominated AJW as heels, Aja becoming Ace while Bison retired for a while until joining the veteran-happy Jd’ promotion. Kudo & Toyoda of course left AJW, but formed up the basis of FMW’s women’s division as rivals (Combat is retiring shortly- this is a last hurrah). Cooga (… is it supposed to be “Cougar”?) wrestled only a short while as Miori Kamiya before leaving for a bit, joining Jd’ and lasting until 1999 there. Lucha-inspired KAORU had some lame matches in the early ’90s, but got better and still wrestles to this very day, largely as a freelancer after some time in Oz Academy. Aja’s in white, Combat’s in red & black, and Cooga’s in blue & aquamarine with a generic lucha mask. Kudo’s in pink, Bison’s in white tiger stripes, and KAORU’s in red & black (and doesn’t have a mask anymore).

Bison Chops Combat right out of the gate to a big pop, then KAORU adds a Springboard Elbow, but she lariats them both down and demands Kudo- and now both FMW Aces are in an AJW ring against each other. They play Sting/Vader for a bit, then Aja comes in and cross-bodies all three opponents at once because she’s awesome. Combat of all people flies off the top to the outside, and then AJA dives, so I think they’re just having a blast out here. Aja squashes Megumi in the corner (“KUDOHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”), and they beat on her for a bit, but then Jungle Jack explodes in a fun piece of business, with Aja beating Bison’s ass, Bison firing back and getting the crowd into it, then Aja Bison Chopping her down. Bison, KAORU & Cooga exchange some slow stuff for a while, and holy crap does the crowd audibly die every time KAORU or Cooga’s in there. Cooga hits two decent Ranas, but humorously goes back to pin Bison… who’s already sat up, so it looks dumb. Aja methodically beats on KAORU, adding a delayed Piledriver, but she accidentally nails Combat with her metal box, leading to KAORU taking it… but Aja’s all “Do you think I’d use a weapon that worked on ME?” and no-sells it. Combat does a slow “spinning Argentine Backbreaker w/ release” to Bison, who “Fuck YOU!” bridges out of it. KAORU in, but she brains herself trying a rollup out of the corner on Combat, and the match grinds to a halt as she slumps over and they dump her so everyone can brawl on the floor while she recovers, starfished out on the mats.

Kudo’s now in there (with no tag) against the monsters, but an ass attack puts Aja down to finally wake up the crowd. Tornado DDT hits, and Bison throws her Chop right off the top rope, hits two Uranages, and does another Bison Chop for two. Now everyone’s in, and Aja takes a Missile Dropkick while Kudo & KAORU hold her up! TRIPLE FLYING HEADBUTT! Oh shit, now we’re into things- Aja’s partners save, but then Bison goes up for a Moonsault (a good one, too!), then a recovered KAORU hits her own for two. KAORU absolutely PLANTS Aja with a Brainbuster, then hits a Springboard Moonsault and Aja needs to be saved again. Kudo signals the Kudo Driver (Vertebreaker), but Aja reverses and goes up… and Kudo drives her down with a Super Frankensteiner! Aja reverses a Tiger Driver to an Uraken (Spinning Backfist), but that misses and she has to German Kudo out of an ass attack in a fun bit, then KAORU missile dropkicks Cooga into a backslide for two. Combat interferes and Rocket Launches Cooga onto Bison, and then they decide to murder her- Aja 2nd rope splash, Combat TOP rope splash (!), and then Aja Superplexes Cooga ONTO Bison for two- her partners save. Everyone goes outside (Bison Chop off the top to Cooga on the floor!), then it’s Bison/Cooga in the ring, leading to some awkward bits while they position for the finish… which turns out to be Aja tearing in with an Uraken to Bison, knocking her into Cooga’s Straightjacket Suplex for the pin (23:05)! Aja’s team wins! Aja cuts a big promo after the match as they all hug (poor KAORU still looks fucked up), holding hands for the fans one last time.

The match ended up being better in concept than execution for a while, possibly because many of them were beaten up by this point of their careers (the FMW girls were both done soon), but then turned AWESOME for the whole second half! Bison, KAORU & Cooga didn’t look any good out there- uncoordinated and slow, and KAORU appeared to hurt herself legit… but then a couple minutes later she’s fine and hitting stuff BETTER, and has some of the best shit in the match. It’s weird. But by the time they were ready for a finishing series, it was terrific- Aja sold like a CHAMP, and oddly they had her for the heat sequence, and then everyone started trying their best stuff, making sure that people were breaking up tags so that big moves were kept strong. So it was a **1/2 bout that was rescued into a great match by the end- terrific effort out there.

Rating: **** (completely rescued from being a throwaway “House Show Match” by upgrading it to “Finisher Series” by the end)

* So now it’s ANOTHER shoot fight, this one with AJW star Hotta versus someone I’ve never heard of and Google says doesn’t exist. She looks multiracial and has a pretty strong-looking physique. Hotta’s in her longer-haired later years, wearing an all-white outfit.

They punch and kick it out to start, with Olinci’s stuff looking tighter and more controlled, but her guard is pretty bad and she gets punched in the face a lot. They end up in a tangle, with Hotta getting the mount, then Olinci trying a choke, and then both get tired so they lie around and the ref has to stand them up. Hotta actually hits a real-life Uraken, then gets a side-mount, but Olinci escapes, then they end up in a “tired tangle” until Hotta slickly rolls her out and pulls the arm out- the ref jumps in and calls it off the second she clinches a Jujigatame, declaring Hotta the winner (9:15).

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Kyoko Inoue- her mega-push started months ago, and now she’s READY. Can she beat the new Ace?

* So with a new Wrestling Queendom, we have a new contender: Kyoko Inoue has finally been upgraded to the “Main Event” tier, and spent much of 1995 beating various high-level opponents (Hotta, Asuka and even AJA KONG!), getting her ready to challenge here. Manami’s in a black & gold leotard with cut-outs, while Kyoko is actually wearing PINK, purple & white now- same design as her usual gear.

You know it’s Joshi because it starts with a running dropkick, screaming, then a Giant Swing. HUGE height on that, too, but Manami slaps on the Rolling Cradle in revenge. This shocks them into settling down, and so they play it cool- that ends up with Manami reversing to a dropkick, but Kyoko hits her Slingshot Backsplash move in response. Kyoko thus leads the stretching (with her Dancing Deathlock), then does a Torture Rack right into a backbreaker with ZERO protection to guide Manami down- OUCH. Kyoko dominates in that fashion, but Manami eventually reverses to her Bridging Deathlock Bodyhold thing, hilariously mimicking Kyoko’s dance before locking it on. Kyoko bails, then hits a DDT out of the corner, but Manami lands two Missile Dropkicks before getting launched off the top by a running Kyoko. But her Run-Up Back Elbow is countered by the age-old tactic of “shove them off the top to the floor”, but Manami does a Running No-Hands Springboard Tope Con Hilo… and MISSES! Oh FUCK that looked like it hurt! Eight minutes in and both are already insane.

Kyoko lariats Manami out there, but they end up fighting it out on the top before Manami lands a Missile Dropkick to the back of her head. This leads to a Moonsault… and instead of covering, she hits ANOTHER one for two. She goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Bridging Straightjacket Electric Chair Drop), but Kyoko slips out, Germans her, then reverses a Manami Roll for a HUGE Powerbomb for two! She signals her OWN finisher, the Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb), but this time Manami gets the Roll for the reversal. Kyoko headscissors her off the top rope, then Missile Dropkicks her in the spine. Their selling here is just tremendous- they’re not spamming finishers out; they’re staggering between spots and being really slow to make covers. Deathlock Camel Clutch (NOT a resthold- she’s beaten Yamada with this hold) gets the fans into it- when Manami’s almost in the ropes, she WRENCHES it on for a crowd pop, too! Manami won’t let go of the ropes for a German, so Kyoko tries her Backsplash again, so Manami kicks her in the ass and Missile Dropkicks her on the floor. And then she rips off Kyoko’s “Run the Full Length of the Aisle” lariat!! Haha, this is great! She gets too cute and tries it again, and Kyoko hits a snap fallaway slam to teach her a lesson. Then does her OWN lariat down the aisle!

Back in the ring, Manami reverses a whip to the Japanese Ocean (Bridging Double-Hammerlock) Suplex, but Kyoko get a foot in the ropes. Ocean CYCLONE Suplex, but she flops over on the landing and Kyoko’s able to kick out! She tries the Aja-killing rope-assisted version, but Kyoko escapes then LAUNCHES her off the ropes with a release German. Both are selling death, but Kyoko roars to life dramatically and lariats the shit out of her, getting her to hit 1.2 Jannetty on a sell- NIAGARA DRIVER!! Manami kicks out of a seriously fast count- crowd totally bought that as the finish. Manami fights out of a second Niagara Driver and they struggle with rear-waistlocks until Kyoko tries her Backsplash again… and gets ANOTHER dropkick to the spine! Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex… kick-out! Two in one match?!? And so Manami’s left with no other option but a NEWER MDK finisher- she underhooks Kyoko’s arms in a reverse-full nelson and hoists her up for a high-angle Ligerbomb… Japanese Ocean Bomb!! And THAT finally gets the three at (21:23). Manami wins!

This was really different than their usual stuff- the MOVEZiest of Joshi’s wrestlers actually doing the “slow & steady build” instead of tossing everything they could at each other right away. So we had submissions & stuff for eight minutes until we saw some crazy bumps, then some “quick recovery” stuff until the impact of those moves hit them, and then they were actually doing extended selling rather than just getting their shit in, making every move COUNT. Each reversing finishers, then reversing moves that’d worked earlier, painted them as learning equals. Copying each other’s moves and kicking out of each other’s biggest stuff like a true Main Event as well. And here we see a reflection of the Bull/Aja feud, where the big finishers fail, requiring a BIGGER move to finally end things- a sign of how impressive Kyoko has become, and how much tougher their next match will be. And the kickouts never quite felt excessive- each kicked out of exactly one full finisher (the first J.O.C.S. was a weaker one), and Manami’s finisher led right into the match-ending Powerbomb.

Rating: ***** (hard to find flaws with it- I loved the psychology and selling)

Match Ratings:
Genki/Endo/Tamura vs. Kuzumi/Miyaguchi/Miyazaki: **
Shiratori/Phoenix/Metallica vs. Maekawa/Tanny/Shiina: *3/4
Etsuko Mita vs. Toshiyo Yamada: **3/4
Tamada/Fukawa vs. Yagi/Motoya: **3/4
Sakie Hasegawa vs. Ito/Tomoko/Nagashima: ***
Martial Arts- Ishimoto vs. Yoshinaga: N/A
ASARI/Yoshida vs. Bennett/Azteca: ***1/4
Takako Inoue vs. Mima Shimoda: ***1/2
Kong/Combat/Cooga vs. Bison/KAORU/Kudo: ****
Vale Tudo- Hotta vs. Olinci: N/A
Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue: *****

-An interesting thing is occurring here, as I’m seeing worse ratings across the board compared to last year’s Wrestling Queendom, primarily because the midcard and upper-mid are disappointing by contrast… but then the Main Event pulls it out in spades. This was an interesting night of wrestling, in that there’s two shoot matches on the card, and most of the bouts are kept MUCH shorter than normal- the previous year and most others, every bout would hit 16-ish minutes, and now they’re down to 12. I wonder what the factors are- they’re just too beat up to keep up that pace? Too many matches on the card? Business is down, so why kill themselves? Who knows, but Joshi as a whole would downpace match length pretty quickly, I think.

And you can sort of see how things are going to fail, too- Sakie Hasegawa, the obvious Future Ace, retires young. Interpromotional stuff is fading, making the cards seem “diminished”. LCO are in the midcard, but not really being pushed effectively. Kyoko Inoue’s being pushed to the Main Event… but oddly despite being AJW’s most over babyface, that doesn’t translate to ticket sales and she’s a bomb on top. FMW’s top two women retiring, and AJW’s bankruptcy the next year capped off the downswing and more or less annihilated joshi as the “in” thing for… well, the rest of time.