Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom 1997

The main event, between Kyoko Inoue & Aja Kong. All the bouts are on this channel- just type in “Unified” or find out the names in Japanese and search that way.

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1997:
(23.03.1997)

-Aaaaaaaaaaaaand now we’re into the depressing year. 1997 is where it all fully went wrong for Joshi as a whole, but AJW wasn’t quite bankrupt here. What we now had was a very different company in a changing business, though, as the Joshi boom had hit big and then just DIED by this point. Admittedly it was kind of a “fad” thing and fads die out, but various other factors played into things. Kyoko Inoue was now the WWWA Champion, having defeated Manami Toyota to become the new top star… and sadly her reign was a complete box office failure. Perhaps because of that, this show is doing an interpromotional thing with Chigusa Nagayo’s GAEA Japan, but only with her rookies. So a lot of the undercard has GAEA girls on it. Otherwise, much of the card has people rapidly being pushed on it- the 3WA Tag Champs are Tomoko Watanabe and KUMIKO MAEKAWA of all people- a midcarder and a rookie as of last year! Kaoru Ito’s getting shoved into the Main Event spot, too- it’s like even with most of the old guard still around, they were desperate for people to fill the top spots.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: If you’re gonna love something, you should be there when it dies (ugh, I just compared a wrestling show to a dog being put down). And this is like watching the last hurrah of a company as it slowly falters and takes an eight-year lurch towards the grave. Okay, and the final three matches are all around ****.

This is at the same arena the past shows were at, but now has only 5,000 seated in it, as opposed to 9-12,000 for previous shows. And we’re Joined In Progress for most of the earlier matches, though I’m not sure how much was missing beforehand- the match-times jibe with what WrestlingData & CageMatch show, but clearly there was other stuff. Another website indicated the full match times.

AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
MOMOE NAKANISHI vs. NANAE TAKAHASHI:
* Rookiemania! This is for the vacant rookie belt. These names pop up constantly in title lineages, so both girls became heavily-pushed later. They are TINY, though. Momoe’s a head shorter than the interviewer, and is wearing a sky-blue singlet. Nanae is in a black & red singlet.

They trade ridiculously basic stuff for a while, with Momoe treating dropkicks like Scott Steiner treated the overhead belly-to-belly. After only two minutes of fighting, Momoe bodyslams Nanae and holds her down… for the pin (4:35; 2:02 shown)? Wow- never seen THAT before. Nanae looked like she had bridged out, though, but the ref still counted her down. They were green as grass, but usually those girls are given at least 6-8 minutes.

Rating: DUD (it was a few backbreakers and 20 dropkicks and we were done)

Emi Sakura shows up as a rookie here!

EMI MOTOKAWA (IWA Japan) & YUKA SHIINA (AJW) vs. TANNY MOUSE & YOSHIKO TAMURA (AJW):
* More rookies! Emi is now better known as “Emi Sakura”, and performs in EVE, AEW, and something called Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling (a… Thai-based comedy promotion?). And OH MY GOD, her outfit is atrocious. This is like something Kaoru Ito would throw out for being too ugly. It’s a bright orange leotard with green sides and a light green flower stuck to the front, and a ruffled green skirt. It’s AWFUL. Tamura’s a baby in red & black (she mostly wrestled for NEO). Tanny Mouse (in red… with a mouse-like tail attached to it) became a constant sight in the 2000s as a comedy wrestler. Shiina (pink tank top & white shorts) wrestled all the way to 2006 apparently, but only won NEO’s tag belts. Other than Emi, they were all seen in opening matches at the previous Queendom.

We’re JIP with Shiina getting worked over, Tanny hitting her doofy running headbutt but getting chinlocked while Emi goes all the way up, then casually hops down and does a short dropkick as a comedy spot. Tamura traps Emi and does some interesting throws, rolling over her body and using the momentum to launch her. A bunch of running attacks are treated as comedy spots via repetition. They all tease dives and foil them repeatedly, but finally manage a couple, then Tanny spams headbutts on Emi. Emi cross-bodies Tamura off the top, but Tamura rolls through (despite hitting the mat pretty hard) and whupping her with Dropkick Spam off the second ropes. Northern Lights Suplex for two. Tanny hits Tamura by mistake and then stands by awkwardly while Emi hits La Majistral before breaking it up. Tamura Germans both girls, and they hit a Doomsday Device Flying Headbutt on Emi- the pin’s broken up. Wow that was heatless- the match is just too long. Emi trips up Tanny on a whip and ties her up in La Majistral, getting the pin at (14:09; 11:32 shown).

enhhhh- comedy jobber stuff with rookie wrestlers who don’t have the best move application anyways. It was awkwardly-paced and planned out, with people standing around waiting to do stuff, AND also went way too long for what they had, so that a frickin’ Doomsday Device had people sitting on their hands in the crowd. Amateur-hour, really.

Rating: *3/4 (too long to be of much good as a Rookie Jobber Match)

JAPANESE TAG TEAM TITLES:
CHIKAYO NAGASHIMA & SUGAR SATO (GAEA Japan) vs. MISAE GENKI & SAYA ENDO (AJW):
* Interpromotional wrestling time! Chikayo was largely trained in Chigusa Nagayo’s GAEA promotion, moved on to Oz Academy (becoming their top wrestler for a while), and mostly wrestles everywhere, having debuted in 1994. Sugar Sato lasted the full length of GAEA, giving it up when it died. She appears to have mostly been a tag wrestler. The GAEA team, members of Mayumi Ozaki’s “Oz Academy” stable (before it was a promotion) had just recently won AJW’s junior tag belts, in a latter-era bit of the JWP/AJW rivalry- something that still happened periodically. Chikayo is tiny and wearing lemon & lime, while Sato’s in white & grey. Genki & Endo are usually seen on this era’s AJW cards, both still in training. Genki’s in pink & Endo’s in green & yellow, like a young Kaoru Ito.

They trade basic stuff to start (JIP as usual), with Chikayo pulling out a pretty impressive reversal series on the tall Genki for two. Endo missile dropkicks her partner by mistake, leading to the GAEA girls doing stereo versions to her. A weird (and brutal) Rocket Launcher Stomp variant on Endo wows the crowd, but Chikayo ends up leaping right into a Ligerbomb for two. Chikayo Ranas Endo for two, and Sato tries stuff but gets Germaned. Then AJW’s girls copy LCO’s moves with a Genki Electric Chair Drop from the corner leading to an Endo Guillotine Legdrop for two. Sato takes a Powerslam, but comes back with a Run-up Back Elbow, which misses, and a Bridging German gets two- her partner saves. Everyone starts interfering, and a GAEA Rocket Launcher misses, and Endo Germans Sato in response. Sato keeps going for Dragon Screws on Endo, however, and her partner grabs Genki as she hits a third one the slaps on a Figure-Four Leglock for the win (10:49; 7:59 shown). GAEA retains! Genki & Sato get into it, trading slaps after the bell, but GAEA’s team would hold those belts all the way till September, when they became vacant.

Well Chigusa must be a hell of a trainer, because the green Chikayo really impressed in the time they had, with lightning speed. Endo was quite good, too, hitting moves flush. Sato was merely “pretty decent” and Genki seemed a bit awkward, but the timing and moves were very good overall. The match had some good moves and pacing, but felt like they lacked the emotional connection or much of the work you do BEFORE you start doing your bigger moves. Possibly a victim of cutting for time.

Rating: **1/4 (not bad for rookies- Chikayo in particular looked good)

RIE TAMADA & YUMI FUKAWA (AJW) vs. CHIHIRO NAKANO & MAKIE NUMAO (GAEA Japan):
* Man, Rie STILL isn’t getting a push? Poor kid’s been undercarding it for ages. No wonder she quit for ARSION this year. She & Fukawa were Japanese Tag Champs just a while ago- Fukawa’s in some goofy-ass blue leotard with a maid costume over it, and Tamada’s in *checks Wikipedia’s list of colors* mint green. And MAN everyone in here is tiny- the interviewer is a head taller than all four. The GAEA girls are the same height and have identical haircuts & “martial artist” looks- Numao’s in black & Chihiro’s in blue & yellow. Both appear to have washed out of the business by 2000.

JIP as GAEA beats on Fukawa, but they come back with a Double Superplex on Numao. GAEA uses kicks, but kick each other’s legs and end up taking poor Stereo Germans before Fukawa uses a Perfect Plex for two. Tamada takes a double-team before getting her head kicked off by a flying Numao for two. GAEA kinda dominate, but AJW comes back with Cross-Body Suicidas and a Double Missile Dropkick on Chihiro. Chihiro comes back, but a Flying Thing misses and she’s shoved into Rie’s Missile Dropkick, then gets Perfect Plexed for a near-fall. She comes back with a Flying Knee on Rie for two, but a double-team leads to Numao getting kicked off the top, and Fukawa Missile Dropkicks Chihiro into Rie’s Bridging Front Arm-Trap Suplex for two. Numao flies in again, and Chihiro sets up a big finishing kick, but walks right into a Head & Arm Capture Suplex, Rie getting the pin (17:09; 7:40 shown).

They cut out more than half of this, rendering it a hard verdict, but it looked like they were doing a solid “Underdog Story” with the mean, kicky GAEA girls beating up on the skirt-wearing, nice, fast girls. Way too much spamming of Missile Dropkicks though, even for Joshi.

Rating: **1/2 (what I saw looked good- coulda been ***1/2 easy for the full thing)

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LCO- too bad-ass to stick to one color scheme.

LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA & YUMIKO HOTTA:
* So with 1996 over, LCO has reunited- Mita had become a JTTS, and Shimoda’s singles push faded away, so here we are with the team reformed. However, with two 3WA Tag Title reigns to her name, Shimoda was big enough to turn LCO into a Main Eventer tag team! Their pre-match gear has to be seen to be believed- Mita’s a sky-blue pirate queen and Shimoda’s got a carousel of red in her hair. Shimoda’s in black & red gear, while Mita’s in orange. Hotta & Yamada are seemingly in the same spot as always- Upper-Midcard Kickers. Hotta’s in black, and Yamada’s in red.

Unfortunately, we’re joined in progress, with Hotta grappling a screaming Shimoda’s arm, but Mima snaps off a good German after making the ropes. Mita slides in a chair for her partner, and when Hotta comes flying off the top with a roundhouse kick, Shimoda BLASTS her leg with it, then slaps on a leghold while Hotta yells in agony. She breaks to do more damage, but the ref calls for the bell with a No Contest (given time is *19:15*, which seems insane). Man, they ran a fuck finish at QUEENDOM? I guess they wanted to keep Hotta strong while making sure LCO didn’t lose.

Rating: DUD (not enough seen to rate. It didn’t seem like they’d gotten too far into the match by the time they ended it, but I guess they were)

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Kaoru Ito underwent a rapid-fire “we gotta push her, FAST!” run in 1997. She gains some weight and dresses like Bam Bam Bigelow, both things to give her credibility.

WWWA TITLE RANKING MATCH:
MANAMI TOYOTA vs. KAORU ITO:
* So this being 1997, Ito is finally getting a push- one that might have been supposed to go to Sakie Hasegawa by this point- in fact, Ito’s now gone from an undercard worker to “We want her to be a Main Eventer” in the course of only 5 months, as she wrestled all the main stars of the company in a short period! She’s got longer hair now, and is wearing a black outfit with red & pink flames on it. Manami’s in her black & gold leotard from 1996- did they finally run out of clothes to make her new gear? I swear I almost never see her in the same gear. The two are members of the Freedom Force stable, so there’s some drama here, with Ito attacking her mentor.

Ito waffles the shit out of Manami with a German before the bell, and throws out Stomp Spam, to which Manami responds with a plancha and hitting a Running No-Hands Springboard Tope Con Hilo onto a table, because Joshi. Ito then knocks her off the top and hits a SUPER Flying Stomp to the outside, then does the same, Springboard-style, onto the same table! The damn thing separates the wooden panel from the armature holding it up, too! Manami sells just long enough to hit ANOTHER damn No-Hands move- a springboard cross-body. Ito stops the flurry and FINALLY we slow things down with holds. Manami comes back with flying stuff and an Octopus Hold & Figure-Four, but Ito fires back with a Slingshot Senton and more half-crabs. Soooooo many half-crabs. Ito stuffs Manami’s comeback by dodging a third No-Hands Springboard and Manami hits the rail with her leg, injuring it and thus setting off the story of the match.

Poor Toyota is practically unable to walk (the “Savage sell”, hopping around), and Ito throws a table at her and crushes her with a monstrous leap off the top into a DDT, spiking her on the mat! Toyota’s foot’s in the ropes, but the Manami Roll is countered with a weak Powerbomb (Ito needed to stall to catch her balance). Manami comes back, but limps to the top so slowly that Ito flattens her with a SUPER Samoan Drop. Flying Double-Stomp gets two! Manami’s put up top, but she Missile Dropkicks Ito from there- going up again leads to Ito dragging her off with a German. Manami defiantly hits her own, then a Moonsault for two. She goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Bridging Electric Chair Drop Hold), but Ito Germans her, leading to Manami bailing for some medical attention- her ankle is wrapped up by the doctor as they kill a couple of minutes out there. Her “selling face” is agonizingly great. Ito destroys the leg when Manami re-enters, then puts her through three minutes of leg-holds, though they at least shake things up a bit and Manami keeps trying to fight out. I notice her old partner, Yamada, out there cheering her on as a Ring Girl and guiding her to the ropes to break holds, which is nice to see.

Rolling Cradle comes back for Toyota, but a second Moonsault misses. Flying Double-Stomp TO THE SPINE, but Ito hits the half-crab again until Manami comes back again by doing Ito’s “German off the turnbuckles” bit from before- Missile Dropkick misses. Stomp Spam, but Manami lands a German on the FLOOR, and follows with a Missile Dropkick, slipping on the first attempt (from the leg-damage… or she really slipped). A dropkick on the apron leads to her “Falling Through The Ropes” bump, and her Manami Roll is reversed to a BIG Powerbomb. Manami reverses a whip to the Japanese Ocean (Double-Hammerlock) Suplex for two, and goes for THREE Moonsaults, hitting knees on the third. Ito hits a Flying Double-Stomp (shouting “Shi-ne!”, aka “DIE!”), but a second turns into Manami doing a Sunset Flip Powerbomb off the top! That only gets two, as does a weak Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. Running move (!) is reversed to an Uranage, and two Flying Stomps hit- a third Manami Roll is reversed to a third Powerbomb. SUPER Perfect Plex only gets two, so Ito lifts a glassy-eyed Toyota into her Backdrop-To-Kneeling-Powerbomb- the Screwdriver!!! And that gets the pin at (29:29). KAORU ITO. Beat MANAMI TOYOTA. Well, ya gotta make stars where you can. The two bow to each other out of respect at the end, I guess coming to terms.

This was a hard match to rate, as it was INSANELY fast at first, with so many big moves and table spots spammed out that it was kind of ridiculous, and none was sold for long. And then they lie around in crab-holds for ten minutes or something, filling time because Ito’s moveset isn’t that deep- at least Manami was selling that like crazy to put it over. But then she’d still throw out a million Missile Dropkicks, running moves, and Moonsaults- she’d still sell the damage, but someone with a busted ankle shouldn’t be doing ANY of that, much less spamming it out. It’s not quite Hardy Boyz-level “Act pained, then hit an agile move, then act pained again”, but it’s in the wheelhouse, made worse because this wasn’t your everyday “stretching means nothing” stuff being done to it- she was limping the whole way, then would break into a run (in short, don’t try to have MANAMI TOYOTA sell leg injuries; her offense won’t allow for it). Ito spending 50% of the match with a crab-hold on the leg wasn’t helping, nor was the endless repeated spots (THREE Manami Roll-to-Powerbombs, tons of Dropkicks & Stomps). Some matches need to go 30 minutes to tell their story, but this really wasn’t one of them (they’d have a much better match five years later of the same length, with better pacing).

And yet… I dunno- lots of really great moves (Sunset Powerbomb, Super Perfect Plex & Screwdriver) really put it into the plus category regardless of all those things that annoy me. So it pissed me off repeatedly, but fuck it, four stars, I dunno! Reviewing is hard!

Rating: **** (for your standard Good Toyota Stuff and some wicked moves by Ito, but sooooooooooo many crab-holds, repeated moves, and questionable aerial offense held it back to me. Like they were aiming for 5, but got 4)

WWWA TAG TITLES:
BEST TWO OF THREE FALLS:
THE U*TOPS (Tomoko Watanabe & Kumiko Maekawa) vs. TAKAKO INOUE & MARIKO YOSHIDA:
* Huh- so Yoshida is FINALLY getting a bigger push, oddly with her classmate (who wasn’t hurt, and thus got rocketed to the upper-midcard tier quickly), Takako. Takako’s in her black gear, while Yoshida’s debuting something close to the look she’d keep for years- a superhero-esque set of tights, in this case, red. The champs are actually Tomoko (herself now given a much bigger push), and Maekawa, who was barely a midcarder last year, either. Maekawa’s in a black & pink two-piece, while Tomoko comes to the ring dressed like The Shredder, and wears a uniform made of white & black tassles.

First Fall: The challengers attack early and do stereo dives, then Takako boots Maekawa around until she kips up and levels her with a Roundhouse Kick- ah, I see she’s got the “Shoot-Kicker” concept going on. A pretty cool set of reversals sees Yoshida cartwheel through Maekawa’s stuff, dodge a kick, but get lariated down by Tomoko, then manages a Run-Up Plancha on the U*Tops with Takako’s help. Doomsday Device AND a Super Floatover DDT each get two, which is crazy. I mean, it’s early, but Jesus. Yoshida goes for the Air Raid Crash (a popular move in the U.S. indies- she invented it, like Mita invented the DVD), but Maekawa kicks the snot out of her for two. Yoshida hits a backdrop suplex to come back, but gets caught in a Doomsday Device Dropkick and finally Maekawa pierces her skull with a vertical Ax Kick and that gets the fall (4:57). Maekawa takes a bunch of super moves and is fine, but Yoshida takes two and is dead? Oh well- that kick looked like murder.

Second Fall: Maekawa murders a staggered Yoshida with kicks AGAIN, and kicks her out of a Run-Up Thing, but Yoshida reverses another Ax Kick to the Air Raid Crash (kind of an… inverted DDT while cradling them behind your body?). Takako runs wild- Super Chokeslam gets two. DOUBLE POWERBOMB gets two as well. Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) misses and Maekawa levels her with a Superkick & Ax Kick, and Tomoko levels her with a lariat. Blue Thunder Powerbomb gets two. Yoshida interference leads to Takako*Panic hitting for two. Double Powerbomb AGAIN gets two, and a pair of Takako*Panics finish her at (10:37).

Third Fall: Oh thank god they finally stopped doing nothing but finishers- Yoshida actually does the “grapplefuckery” style that she’d later refine in ARSION, but Tomoko Dragon Screws her a couple times and they go to work on her legs & back. She manages to catch Maekawa’s foot and locks on some really cool shit, though. She & Takako do some cool cheaty double-teams, but the crowd’s just dead for this. Tomoko hits her judo flips on Yoshida, who reverses the second to a great hold- damn, that’s awesome. Good falling kicks by Maekawa impress the crowd, but Takako comes in with a backdrop hold. Tomoko lets her partner hit an awesome falling knee that drives Takako’s face into the mat- Maekawa adds an Ax Kick, but a second one smashes her partner! Takako*Panic and a Doomsday Device Chokeslam get two. Man has THAT move ever been devalued. Weak Double-Superplex gets two. Tomoko reverses the Air Raid Crash to a wicked Dangerous Backdrop, and a Doomsday Thesz Press gets two- Takako saving. Blue Thunder Powerbomb- kickout! Takako saves after a second one. A fourth Takako*Panic and Yoshida hits two La Majistrals, hilariously getting the hottest nearfalls of the match with these rollups. AIR RAID CRASH! That only gets two, and a second is reversed to a third B.T. Powerbomb, and Yoshida kicks out again! Finally, a HUGE high-angle Tiger Driver finishes her at (26:07). The U*Tops retain!

That was REALLY weird, overall. The first two falls came off more like an exhibition of finishing moves than a match with any kind of a story- like what Joshi’s, ROH’s or modern indie wrestling’s detractors accuse them all of being. Like, normally you start out with basic stuff, counter-wrestling, dropkicks and strikes to wear the opponent down, but instead they’re hitting finisher-level moves inside of two minutes and never stop. It was all MOVEZ until the third fall, which magically settled into the “joshi formula”, with submissions, double-teams and false finishes. So many pins were simply kicked out of, though- proper Joshi Tag Formula has the false finishes come from partner interference, not “your Doomsday Super Chokeslam isn’t good enough”- that really devalues big moves. Takako hit FOUR of her Flying Knees (once a finisher), and Tomoko landed three Blue Thunder Bombs. And the last several minutes was all Tomoko & Yoshida, ignoring the other two. I think the match was really good all in all, but poorly planned and overly-spammy for much of it. Yoshida & Maekawa actually looked really cool here- I’m not as familiar with post-97 Joshi, but this was ABSOLUTELY like looking into the future, as things developed more “Shoot-Style”, and so Tomoko & Takako almost looked like relics while their partners were launching cooler moves.

Rating: ***3/4 (hard to say, almost. The first two falls were meaningless Finisher Spam, but the last fall was great except for all the move repetition thanks to “we ran out of moves” syndrome. It was like they were aiming for 5, and almost hit 4- very good but you still thought they could do better)

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Kyoko Inoue, now undergoing one of the biggest “God Pushes” in Joshi History, winning three major belts at once. So like Triple-H, except the run was a failure and damaged the business. Wait.

WWWA WORLD TITLE, IWA WORLD TITLE, ALL-PACIFIC TITLE:
KYOKO INOUE vs. AJA KONG:
* Kyoko’s mega-push started last year, and culminated with her winning THREE top titles- AJW’s #1 and #2 belts, plus Toyota’s old vanity belt. But oddly, her opponent tonight is Aja Kong, the former Ace who lost at Queendom ’95. Aja, following old booking, would have been de-emphasized, but lack of a Mandatory Retirement kept her around, and I guess they needed a new opponent? Aja’s now in black & silver, and Kyoko’s wearing a white, purple, orange & yellow variant of her usual gear.

They play it like Hogan/Warrior at first, which is cool- makes it feel important. The test of strength lasts a couple of minutes, Aja kicking away, but Kyoko Slingshot Backsplashes her and slowly wears her down, but Aja lays in some beats of her own, headbutting the shit out of her and methodically working away. This is slow as hell but I love it- a real “big match” effect. Aja literally steps on her face as an attack, but Kyoko FINALLY comes back with a DDT out of the corner, then adds one on the floor. She tries another, but Aja headbutts her and KILLS her with a brutal chairshot, and takes back over with further beating. In the ring, a 2nd-rope splash and Flying Back Elbow have Kyoko moaning in agony. A sleeper leads to a brief comeback, then Kyoko comes back for real with a Lariat and her own Flying Back Elbow. Kyoko tries her Run-Up Belly-To-Belly and gets tossed off, but dodges Aja’s Missile Dropkick- Kyoko’s hits, but she’s dumped outside, gets hit with Aja’s metal box, and then Piledriver THROUGH A TABLE on the floor!

Aja continues terrorizing her by hitting her with a broken chunk of table, throws her into the ringside seating, then hits her with SOMEONE’S UMBRELLA. Kyoko stumbles into the ring, but gets booted right out and killed with a dive (!), as this just gets more and more one-sided. Missile Dropkick gets two, but Kyoko whips her off the top (probably supposed to be the Belly-To-Belly, but she slipped and so it’s a suplex-adjacent thing), then walks right into a Dangerous Backdrop because NOTHING is working for her tonight. Finally, she’s able to use her Run-Up Headscissors off the top- Aja sells this like nuts and eats three lariats, but reverses to a German out of desperation- she goes up, but Kyoko whips her off with a Release German. A pair of Powerbombs get two each, but Aja rolls out of a Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb) and KILLS her with an Uraken (Spinning Backfist)- laaaaaaaaaaast second kickout by Kyoko there. She blocks three more, but Aja switches to the other hand! Two-count! Kyoko reverses with a German & Powerbomb for two, but eats a Brainbuster for 2 and a double-K.O. spot- both are barely up at 9. Kyoko Lariat & Aja Dangerous Backdrop, and that sets up the Super Mountain Bomb!! Shockingly, that only gets two and polite clapping- did they have people kick out of that a lot before this? That used to be her MDK. They fuck up a top-rope thing, but Kyoko pulls Aja off the top for what looks like a Burning Hammer- the Victoria Driver! Holy shit, she actually invented that and Kobashi took it! That only gets two, so Kyoko hops up and hits two Powerbombs in a row for the final pin (29:31).

Interesting bout here, as they go completely the opposite of the “Joshi Stereotype Match” by doing a very long, slow burn, consisting of a methodical beatdown, with each kick or stomp separated by several seconds. It came off like it was big and important rather than lazy and “they can’t do their moves anymore”, and I liked it. A lot more than the “fast moves, then restholds” stuff in the Toyota/Ito bout. It made 30 minutes breeze by a lot more easily, because instead of restholds it was a deliberately-paced thing (so ironically the slower pace made the match go by faster). The only issue I had was they didn’t really “stick the landing”- a few too many “Aja goes up and Kyoko tosses her off” moves, endless Powerbomb spamming, and the only routine issue with Kyoko- the “Finishers don’t work on me” thing where nothing you do will work, like she’s got a cheat code or something. All in all, a terrific title defense, though not up to the old “****1/2 at least or you’ve failed” stuff in the Peak Era.

Rating: ****1/4 (very good, deliberately-paced bout- could use a better ending)

Match Ratings:
Momoe Nakanishi vs. Nanae Takahashi: DUD
Emi/Shiina vs. Tanny/Tamura: *3/4
Nagashima/Sato vs. Genki/Endo: **1/4
Tamada/Fukawa vs. Chihiro/Numao: **1/2
LCO vs. Hotta/Yamada: N/A
Manami Toyota vs. Kaoru Ito: ****
U*TOPS vs. Takako/Yoshida: ***3/4
Kyoko Inoue vs. Aja Kong: ****1/4

-So this is a bittersweet experience- the final Wrestling Queendom (AJW’s falling fortunes would kill their large arena shows forever- this one was poorly-attended as well). And with a tape release featuring a ton of clipped matches, with only the bottom three remaining intact. The wrestling was ultimately mostly good, with the final three being REALLY good, but in the “around ****” wheelhouse, not hitting the ridiculous peaks of prior years. A uniform problem seems to be the never-ending “Arms Race” of finishers, which was mostly kept under control beforehand (finishers in 1992 were still killers in 1996), but by now is resulting in people spamming out once-legit finishers repeatedly (like WWE would do in the late Attitude Era, and, well, what a LOT of wrestling does now- Joshi is ridiculously influential, even in SHITTY ways!). Takako hitting four of her flying knees, endless Powerbombs from Kyoko, kickouts of former killer moves, tons of Doomsday Device-style moves in the tag match, and move-spam in the Toyota/Ito one- it sets a bad precedent, and may be why later matches “disappointed”- Meltzer never gave joshi another ***** match after 1995, and he’s not alone.

Next up… some Spotlight bios! And I’ll probably go back and review the other arena shows & Grand Prixs they’ve done!