Joshi Spotlight: Korakuen Super Charge

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Manami Toyota- Not just Meltzer Hype. She actually IS that good.


-Going back to the early days of AJW’s mega-cards, I figured this’d be a good place to start if I’m going to review the rest of AJW’s stuff (that I can find online, anyways). This one seems to have the theme of the stars of the future wrestling each other- the top acts aren’t here, but the #3-10 ones seem to be. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada keep their rivalry going, and Akira Hokuto tries to prove again that she’s one of the best in the world against Kyoko Inoue.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of the card is un-findable on YouTube (even translating the names into Japanese and searching THAT gets nothing), but the final two matches are the real stand-outs anyways. So instead I found the only match I could find from ANOTHER show and threw that one in. This is an interesting time, as the “Interpromotional Era” hasn’t started yet, and Aja’s still rising up the card, so people are kind of… jostling for position. Manami’s also using the offense she’d soon drop, as I see that odd Butterfly Lock/Leg-Trap move all the time.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Three matches, all at **** or better. Meltzer rated one at *****, too!

* The story with these two, which I’ve mentioned before, is that they have been eternal rivals since they both debuted at the same time in 1987. They’ve been booked as equals ever since, usually fighting to draws- their famous Hair vs. Hair Match is coming later in the year, driven by this same rivalry. And despite all that, they’re the reigning UWA Tag Champs at this point, and are challenging for the top belts later on. Manami’s in a very plain version of her black leotard, while Yamada’s in a Killer Bees-esque variant of her singlet.

They start off at a fast pace immediately, but settle right into fighting over submissions, Yamada generally controlling- it’s actually very “catch wrestling” with very little resting/dragging to the ropes, as is usual- very nice. They also milk “circling the ring” spots several times, making it look important (and killing time in a way that isn’t resting), and Manami finally throws out Dropkick Spam and leg stuff to take over. Yamada comes back with kicks and throws Manami into a submission hold I can barely begin to describe (they’re face to face, but Manami’s legs are bent in a “crab” position by Yamada’s- you can see it in the thumbnail view above). She works the leg for a few minutes, Manami comes back, and both miss dropkicks, but Yamada’s kicks take over and she hooks a Reverse Gory Stretch and when she gets tired, drops Manami right onto her head! Oh Jesus. A very methodical beat-down follows, and a few minutes later, they get the crowd back into it by tossing out quick pinning attempts (Manami hitting a Northern Lights & German Suplex). Dropkick Spam & a weird Straightjacket Northern Lights Suplex get two for Manami, then she slaps on that weird Snap Double-Arm/Legscissors thing- Yamada hits a Roundhouse Kick once she lets go. Twenty minutes in, and Yamada starts kicking the shit out of her, booting her off the top- Manami kills time and runs in with a Dragon Screw & Flying Thing. German & Bridging Butterfly Suplex get two each- Yamada kicks to come back, hitting some more restholds and they trade dropkicks & regular kicks and a few quick pin attempts until time runs out at (30:00) in- their standard ending. BUT WAIT! Manami argues her case before the referee, and they’re granted an additional 5 minutes! The crowd chants “Zenjo!” repeatedly (the nickname for AJW- “Zen Nihon Joshi Puroresu“), getting very into the idea.

Manami IMMEDIATELY hits a Moonsault for two, but wobbles and hits a weak back elbow off the ropes. Yamada hits a Flying Kick, Backdrop Driver and two Enzuigiris, however, but Manami rears back and hits her with a fucking GANSO BOMB for two! Like, Powerbombing her right onto the back of her neck! And then she does ANOTHER one! Yamada backdrops out of a third, but is so messed up Manami hits kneeling version for two- they fuck up a tilt-a-whirl but Manami’s Flying Thing misses and Yamada’s finisher is countered, but she launches Manami onto her face instead. Rollup gets a close count, and Manami runs to the corner for a weak Moonsault for two as time expires (35:00). And they just decide they’re fighting still, though Manami faceplants BADLY off that “walk up the ropes” Moonsault thing. Yamada hits a bunch of strikes as the crowd is now REALLY into it (popping for the announcement that there’s five more minutes, then chanting “TO-YO-TA!”). Manami Germans her to reverse, but misses a Flying Headbutt. Kicks & Piledrivers look to finish, but Manami dumps her and FINALLY does a proper “Walk Up Moonsault”… but of course she splats on the floor. They’re so bagged they just start flopping all over each other and can’t get anything together, and time runs down just as Manami hits a Japanese Ocean Suplex (the Double-Hammerlock German one), Yamada kicking out after time expires for good at (40:00).

The true story here is that it’s putting over both women because they wrestled for FORTY MINUTES and were still fighting desperately until the end- their cardio and perseverance made them look excellent (and showed fans they were “next level” ready). They were obviously fighting more for “long match” than “hotly-contested war” at first here, and it showed- they cleverly killed a lot of time, circling around, catch-wrestling and more, and never QUITE got ultra-boring, but did indeed spend a lot of time in restholds near the end. At no point did I pick up on any “GOTTA WIN THIS!” urgency from either until 30 minutes had passed (Yamada’s kicks didn’t have any of their usual stink on them, for example), and their move application was getting VERY sloppy by the last few minutes, as “Germans” were more “heave them over while falling backwards”. But the overtimes were a true “Finishing Surge”, fitting most of their big moves to an insane degree, what with Manami hitting an insane three Ganso Bombs. Only reason I’m not docking for that is the damage wasn’t really done beforehand to justify those being killshots. It was great fun, though after all that time, their move application was either AWFUL (Manami) or very slow & steady (Yamada), so none of the kicks had much impact. That neither wrestler was quite as good as they’d be by the end of the year didn’t help. So overall, I liked it a lot more than I would most people trading holds for 30 minutes, but not so much that it matches their other bouts.

Rating: **** (a bit too slow in parts, and by the end they were so bagged that all their stuff looked terrible compared to normal, but a very impressive showing nonetheless- great submissions and suplexes)

* WHAT TH–?!? Despite being in 1992, very close to the peak era of Joshi, this features both women in very dated looks- Kyoko in her weird mask and a gold bodysuit, and Hokuto as a sporty-looking normal chick with short hair. This is an often-forgotten series, apparently- these two had quite the feud in the early ’90s until both moved on to other things.

They start off at a million miles an hour right away, Kyoko drawing an ovation for a jumping headscissors and Akira for a forward flip (!!- This MUST be before her “walking wounded” thing started), but Kyoko revels in adulation and gets backdropped over the top and hit with a Plancha. They exchange holds for a while, shaking it up every 20 seconds or so, Akira impressing by walking up the ropes to reverse a Dragon Sleeper- Kyoko cleverly tries the same thing (kicking off the ropes instead). Kyoko gets her leg worked on, while Akira’s arm is Kyoko’s target, then they both reverse Tombstones and Akira rolls Kyoko up from that. She hits a Piledriver and a Flying Cross-Body, but Kyoko rolls through for two, Fallaway Slams her over the ropes, then does her Slingshot Backsplash move… to the outside! She pounces Akira when she gets back into the ring, then hits a long Run-Up Flying Elbow for two! She works the back with stuff, but Akira fires back with Spinning Heel Kicks and Missile Dropkicks, selling all the while. Frustrated when a DDT doesn’t work, she slams repeated elbows into Kyoko’s head and works her arms. Both eat dirt when they go up top, but Akira slides out of the Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb). Akira gets a weak German, then dropkicks Kyoko right in the back when she tries another Backsplash, sending her outside- Tope Con Hilo! They do the “All Japan Sell” outside, and Kyoko comes back in with a Springboard Lariat and a Bridging German! But then Akira traps her arms in a Mongolian Chop attempt and hits a bridging suplex from that double-underhook! Kyoko’s foot’s in the ropes, so Akira hits a motherfucking TIGER DRIVER ’91 and only gets two! Both look absolutely dead, but Akira manages to hoist Kyoko up again and SPIKES her with a lethal Kneeling Powerbomb, but rolls too far forward and they flop over! Weak Tiger Suplex loses the bridge, but Akira hits a Tope Con Hilo in the ring, but misses a second! Kyoko throws on a Texas Cloverleaf version of the Giant Swing for only a couple revolutions, and uses that minor advantage to finally hit her Niagara Driver- three count (19:56)!! Kyoko wins! Though Akira did the “Fuck you” ending of kicking out at 3.01 seconds, to the point where it looked like the referee screwed up.

Very, VERY fun contest, based almost entirely on reversing each other’s stuff in a logical sense- a TON of holds were traded, but at least sold well, but I found them threading moves into other moves, reversing stuff that’d worked before, and doing cool shit like Akira’s reversal of that Mongolian Chop Kyoko always does. The selling was beyond excellent, as by 20 minutes, they were sort of crawling over each other trying to hit moves, selling the impact of everything. And saving all those killer moves for the end really put them over, though we get the usual “Kyoko needs a howitzer to bring her down” thing where she kicks out of finisher after finisher, but at least that was the only real series of them Akira had tried so far. Akira being too weak to do proper pins hurt her, and the accumulated back damage paid off when a final missed Tope Con Hilo got Kyoko to slam her with that powerbomb for the win.

Rating: ****1/4 (a lot of fun, and better than the last match in less time)

Fun fact: the very next night features a Akira Hokuto & Mima Shimoda vs. Manami Toyoda & Etsuko Mita match, which is COMPLETELY INSANE given what Hokuto & Toyota just pulled off. Alas, I can’t find it online.

* Toyota & Yamada defend their titles (won that January; they’re sorta from Mexico but not really, and UWA itself folded in 1995) against the Hotta/Minami duo, which by this point would be a team of respected, legitimized veterans who just got skipped over for the “next level” push for whatever reason (Hotta’s been around longer than Aja Kong!). The champs are in matching black gear, while Hotta’s in blue and Minami’s in yellow & black. Meltzer apparently rated this match *****.

They start of amazing IMMEDIATELY with Suzuka & Yamada trading awesomely-applied shit, then Toyota hits Dropkick Spam on Hotta. They work over Hotta’s back & legs, and man it’s weird not seeing her dominate early with stiff shots. Toyota manages to hit a bridging deathlock with an inverted full nelson, because of course she can. Suzuka manages better with some awesome-looking regular stuff, and they stretch Yamada out for a while, switching up the restholds every 20-30 seconds so they keep it interesting and mobile- Toyota comes in after 7-ish minutes of that, firing off her dropkicks, a German & a Rolling Cradle on Suzuka, then does her ’92 offense that she later dropped, like the Weird Bridging Butterfly Suplex and the double-arm/leglock thing, then Yamada adds a flurry of kicks and the Gory Stretch. She dropps Suzuka on her face from there, then adds a Million Dollar Dream of all things. Snap Suplex and Manami flies in for two, but she gets caught with a Superplex and Hotta decides to leave Manami teeth all over the ring with some kicks and adds an overthrow powerbomb. Inverted F-U and a Perfect Plex get two, and Suzuka nails two flying boots and a trademark backbreaker- “Fuck YOU!” bridge by Toyota, so Suzuka just German Suplexes her while trapping the arms for two. Hah- Bridge out of THAT! Big Powerbomb, but Yamada saves and Toyota does her “Reversal Dropkick” spot to escape.

Yamada runs straight into an Owen Hart Enzuigiri from Hotta, then gets Roundhoused- Tiger Driver! Toyota saves, Hotta German gets two, and Yamada hits Enzuigiris on Suzuka to finally get the offensive. Manami Roll! Suzuka grabs her from behind, Yamada blasts her off the top, and then she runs straight into a Flying Roundhouse Kick from Hotta! Suzuka’s Flying Senton hits mat and she’s sandwiched with lariats- Double Flipover Backdrop!! Hotta manages to save from the finisher. Moonsault misses! Hotta attempts a Tiger Driver, but gets lariated by Yamada- Toyota’s Plancha hits Yamada, but Suzuka’s dive hits Hotta! Walk-Up Moonsault by Toyota to the challengers! She tries to finish, but Hotta Front Suplexes her off the top, but misses a flying elbow- Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex gets two! Toyota, frustrated, goes up again, but Suzuka grabs her and Hotta hits a SUPER Overthrow Powerbomb- Yamada saves, so they hit a goddamn Tiger Driver/Flying Headbutt combo because THIS IS INSANE. Yamada saves again, and Manami mule kicks out of a Dragon Suplex attempt and the champs hit a Double Backdrop Suplex and Toyota’s Walk-Up Moonsault, and Yamada’s Flying Head Kick finally scores the pin at (22:48), with Suzuka still on the apron and apparently not realizing she needs to get in.

Dear God this was like Dave Meltzer’s wet dream out here- Japanese people flying around at a million miles an hour, never sitting in a hold for more than 30 seconds and blitzing each other with incredibly innovative, rare offense. This was all about picking an opponent and murdering them with tons of moves in succession- Joshi doesn’t usually go for that much offense on one person without a reversal. It was violent, amazingly-choreographed and I loved every minute of it. This was so, SO close to *****, and the only reason it didn’t get there was because A) I’ve seen the better Toyota/Yamada stuff surpass it, and B) Toyota took a fucking TIGER DRIVER/FLYING HEADBUTT and two seconds later she jumps up and is hitting running moves and a complicated Moonsault? That’s shameless MOVEZ-y no-selling.

Rating: ****3/4 (damn near a perfect match- this read like a “Template” for the legendary Kansai/Ozaki matches to follow- all the intricate double-teaming, Escalating Finishers, and huge rescue spots)

Bold Statement: Manami Toyota is pretty good at wrestling. Though YouTube only having mostly Toyota, Kyoko & Hokuto stuff from ’92 AJW is kind of giving an uneven look at the promotion, making it look like they’re all ****+ workers.