Joshi Spotlight: Dynamite Kansai

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Real Name: Chieko Suzuki
Billed Height & Weight: 5’8″, 205 lbs. (varied significantly)
Career Length: 1986-2016
Trained By: JWP Training

-Among the bigger stand-outs when watching Joshi cards in the mid-90s is the Ace of JWP, Dynamite Kansai. Probably the most underrated of the top-rated workers in Joshi, she’s been in a shitload of ***** matches (including the set of three with Mayumi Ozaki as her partner, against Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada), has wrestled in two matches at ****1/2 in one night (in the TOKYO DOME, no less!), and more, yet is far, far less known than Toyota, Aja Kong or Akira Hokuto at the top of the mountain. Why? Probably because she was the Ace of the smaller promotion.

Her look has to be mentioned- a big, tall, brawny woman, she gave off an aura of legitimate, credible menace, and yet dressed like a frickin’ Power Ranger. Her big neon yellow bodysuit marked her as an “entertainer”-type wrestler despite the “Shooter” vibe she somewhat gave off, and was a great look that made her stand out on cards featuring some pretty flashy women. Later variations involved a lot of green, too, but her “worn to the ring” gear was equally remarkable, looking like some shit out of Robot Restaurant (look it up)- giant art installation pieces hanging off of her ring jackets, reflective mirrors pasted all over the place, etc. Dynamite Kansai looked awesome.

But still, Kansai is incredible to watch. A tall, androgynous power-kicker, equal parts dominating killer and vulnerable champion, she’s a great combination of traits- her kicks and lariats are positively VICIOUS, and mark her instantly as a Main Eventer who can beat anyone. It seems like part of her gimmick was that she was O.P.- her hits just did so much more damage than anyone else’s that she would win through a statistical advantage. But then she’d do this stuff where even a midcarder would catch her, and she’s get the cobwebs in her head and look like it could be an upset at any moment- even Aja Kong never did that.

I have to say Kansai, having seen her at the first Dream Slam against Yumiko Hotta (an AJW wrestler so similar to her that she comes off as the “lesser copy”, like Moon Knight to Batman), and in multiple matches against Aja Kong, is the best seller of strikes I’ve ever seen. She’s KAWADA good. That dazed, glassy-eyed stare just gives off this impression of “FUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKK…” as if she was caught, and the next moment could end it. Against Hotta, she spends a good half the match in a daze, looking ready to keel over constantly. In many bouts against Aja Kong, she does the best sell of the Uraken (Spinning Backfist) ever, falling around the ring and looking dead to the world. In the Thunder Queen Battle, she has to go five minutes with Aja before the real match starts, and she gets caught with an Uraken IMMEDIATELY, and not only sells it for the ten-count K.O. spot, but if you catch her on the apron, she’s STILL SELLING IT up to 20 minutes later, shaking off the after-effects! Now THAT is selling!

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How she looked during most of the Interpromotional Era.

Kansai seems exceptionally generous in most of the matches I’ve seen. I adore the one she fought against Sakie Hasegawa, where she’s a thousand times better than the up & comer, but “gets caught” repeatedly, actually gets choked out once by the desperate-to-win kid, and more, finally getting her shit together and scoring the pin. She does match-types like that often- despite being so tough, she comes from behind to score wins against Yamada, Devil Masami and others.

Overall, her style feels very UWF inspired, like the Crush Gals, Hotta, Yamada, and others- the “Kicky Wrestlers” who specialize in big kicks to an opponent’s back, lots of kicks to the face, roaring comebacks involving lariats & junk, etc. That kind of “this is a more REAL kind of wrestling” before we knew that real fights typically didn’t involve a Running Spin Kick into the corner. And I honestly have to saw she’s the best at it- Yamada’s faster but lacks “Main Eventer” power. Hotta’s great but obviously worse than Kansai in every way, to the point where it hurts her legacy (another Zhou You/Zhuge Liang situation). Even Asuka, who was the best Gal between the ropes, wasn’t as good- Kansai has a tremendous legacy in every respect. Kansai could also make the crowd roar like few others, drawing pops for merely pulling her arms forward to escape a Surfboard against Kyoko Inoue, or haul Aja Kong up into their air for her Splash Mountain finisher (a sit-out Razor’s Edge)- that move, accomplished at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, might be the greatest Powerbomb I’ve ever seen in my life.

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She did the “long side-bang” anime hair look in her later career.

Kansai got her start in the early formation of Joshi Women’s Pro-Wrestling (JWP)- it’s inaugural “Rookie Class” of 1986, as “Miss A”, having failed her audition for AJW (jesus, they had such high standards that KANSAI didn’t make it!?!). As Miss A, she did rather well, slowly being built up, to the point where only three years into her career in 1989, she was made the UWA International Women’s Champion (their top belt), beating the legend Devil Masami, holding the title for 116 days (dropping it to Eagle Sawai). She also held it for a month in 1991, dropping it to Harley Saito just as the big JWP/LLPW split occurred- she went off with the “entertainers” (alongside Mayumi Ozaki, Plum Mariko, Cutie Suzuki, Masami & others) as their one, true Ace. Being crowned the JWP Openweight Champion, and holding the title for a positively ridiculous amount of time.

Kansai’s two runs with the JWP Title, split up only by a one-month run by Devil Masami (as a facepaint-wearing demonic heel), adds up to a friggin’ 1,197 days, surpassing even Bull Nakano’s run as WWWA Champion in AJW! She was THAT legitimate in her company. Along the way, she won the JWP Tag Titles with Masami, holding them for 256 days, beating and losing back to Ozaki & Cutie. She & Cutie formed the world’s least likely tag team (the most macho and most adorbz wrestlers on the roster), beating Ozaki & Hikari Fukuoka for the belts in a 266-day reign in 1995, losing to Fukuoka & KAORU. Her last run was with Cutie again, winning them back in 1996 for 142 days, jobbing to Fukuoka & Masami (their tag runs are… mostly the same bunch of people, as you can see).

It seems like by the time 1992 rolled around and the companies were willing to work together in the “Interpromotional Era”, each company had a dominant, macho, credible, strong “Ace” wrestler on top- physical credibility being more key that Idol looks, flashy moves or anything. It’s not for nothing that the three big champs were Aja Kong, Shinobu Kandori (a legit judoka), and Kansai- they looked the toughest, and carried themselves off as the toughest. Kansai represented her company during this time, engaging in the legendary trio of ***** tag bouts alongside Ozaki that Main Evented three major shows (Dream Rush, Dream Slam & St. Battle Final) between late ’92 and late ’93. Along the way, she & Ozaki won AJW’s top belts, the WWWA World Tag Titles, losing them back in the final match of the trio.

Kansai’s generous selling paid off well, as she put over Hotta, Yamada, Hasegawa and other AJW stars even while beating them, and in 1994, she went to the Big Egg Wrestling Universe show’s V*Top Tournament, featuring most of the top wrestlers. In her first round match, she went to a ****1/2 classic with Kyoko Inoue, and then in the semi-finals, hit that same number AGAIN with Aja Kong, having what many consider the best match under 15 minutes of all time- though they still engaged in some slow warfare and stretching, at a certain point they just started blitzing each other with their biggest strikes, killing each other until one fell. Kansai ultimately dropped the fall to Aja, who went on to lose to Akira Hokuto in the finals.

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Kansai may have the best gear of any wrestler in joshi. This shit is right out of “Power Rangers”.

Though she scored other wins (her team won the Thunder Queen Battle– an 8-woman tag Iron Man Match), Kansai was ultimately given the biggest reward, possibly as a “thank you” and cap-off to the Interpromotional Period, as she defeated Aja Kong for the WWWA World Title– the top belt in women’s pro wrestling- in the summer of 1995! Holding the title only for a few months, she was herself defeated by Manami Toyota (who’d beaten and lost to Aja for the Title earlier in the year, in a rare instant of “hot-shotting”), finally walking out with a loss. Finally, in 1997, after a struggle with Collagen Illness (related to lupus and such), which kept her out for a tour (thanks for the info, Manji!), Kansai lost the JWP Openweight Title to Hikari Fukuoka, who’d finally been raised to the pre-destined level of “Ace” they’d always assumed for her, and she left JWP, possibly fearing “being put out to pasture” like other past top stars.

Kansai moved on to Chigusa Nagayo’s GAEA Japan, wrestling in “Joshi’s Retirement Home” for over five years, along the way winning the AAAW World Title in 2003 from Toyota (who’d beaten her for the WWWA years earlier), holding it for 42 days and dropping it to Ayako Hamada, herself a “New Hotness” like Fukuoka had been. Ten years into her career, she apparently lost a few steps (reading what others have written about her), settling into more of a “Legend” phase. In 2006, she joined old partner Ozaki’s Oz Academy, winning their inaugural Oz Tag Titles in 2008 with Carlos Amano (yes that’s a woman), holding them for a month before dropping to Ozaki & KAORU. She became the Oz Openweight Champion in 2009, beating Ozaki and holding the title for 175 days, dropping it to old rival Aja Kong. Years later, she’d win it again in 2011, beating Amano and losing to Ozaki after a 28-day reign.

In 2012, Kansai was diagnosed with lung cancer, but wouldn’t even job to THAT, being declared cancer-free after a four year fight (bet she coulda beat it in two, but didn’t want it to look bad). Finally settling down in 2016, she won her retirement match against Ozaki.

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Super Splash Mountain- one hell of an MDK finisher.

Back Kick, Spin Kick, Kick to the Brain, Dive Through the Ropes, Running Roundhouse Kick, Running Lariat, Sharpshooter (Weardown hold; typically steps on their head while turning them over), Powerbomb, STF (Stepover Toehold Facelock), Northern Lights Suplex, Dangerous Backdrop, Flying Headbutt, Splash Mountain (Sit-Out Razor’s Edge-Style Crucifix Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb- Finisher), Die Hard Kansai (Super Splash Mountain- MDK)

(AJW Legacy of Queens, 25.08.1993)
* In a HUGE Main Event, it’s the two promotion’s Aces against each other! Aja was typically in the “sub-main” portion of the Interpromotional Feud, oddly, as she typically fought the Eagle Sawais and Megumi Kudos (ie. people who were stars, but weren’t gonna win the title), while Manami Toyota, who’s thing was “have the most awesome matches”, typically fought in mains in tag bouts, often against Kansai’s team. But Kansai was usually the winner in her OWN solo bouts, crushing Sakie Hasegawa, Yumiko Hotta & Kyoko Inoue, though giving good fights to each. But a big-time Main Event? Ace versus Ace? Now THAT was a rarity, even here.

The stage here is bitching, as the Nippon Budokan has this royal gate thing, like a more ostentatious version of WWF’s King of the Ring. Great bit as the ring girls offer the champs flowers in the corners, but they’re too busy staring each other down to notice, locking eyes as they grab the flowers and toss them aside.

They Hogan/Warrior it immediately with dramatic lock-ups and short flurries, to the point where the crowd marks out when Kansai starts overpowering Aja during a test of strength- a testament to how over both of them are as credible warriors. They trade leg-kicks, then get into a HEADBUTT WAR, Aja winning that fight and piledriving Kansai, then they trade legholds until Kansai kicks the shit out of Aja and piledrives HER. She works the back until Aja fires up with a HUGE slap and a head-kick for two, then does her own holds. Kansai finally ends the “wear-down” phase with a boot out of the corner and a huge Lariat, then Aja does the same back at her. Corner avalanche, but Kansai reverses the next, dodges an Uraken (Spinning Backfist), tries a Backdrop Driver, then reverses a running move to a powerslam for two. A dive and a Flying Headbutt get two, but Aja backdrops out of Splash Mountain. Aja’s still wobbly, so Kansai tries again, but gets run into the corner and fires back with a lariat again, then goes to the well a third time… URAKENNNNN! Kansai is FUCKED UP, so Aja recovers and then demands the ref count Kansai down (reflecting their Thunder Queen Battle situation, where Aja scored a TKO that way). Great callback there, as THIS TIME, Kansai fights back up to her feet at the count of nine.

Aja pounces immediately, hitting a splash off the second rope for a close call, and when Kansai counters her next attempt with a kick… Aja just lands on the damn leg! Like the standard kick counter doesn’t work because Aja’s just so heavy and strong! I’ve never seen that before! Backdrop driver gets a close count, and then, in a kick-ass bit, Aja misses the Uraken, Kansai ducks a second, then kicks the hand on a third try, kicks the arm again, then lands her OWN Uraken before flattening Aja with a standing enzuigiri! And now KANSAI demands a count from the ref! Aja’s stumble when she gets up at 9 is tremendous, and then she fucking counters a running attack with the Mountain Bomb! But Aja climbs… and Kansai stops her there, turning that into a crucifix- SPLASH MOUNTAIN! HUGE two-count as the crowd roars in approval. They’re way into her second try, but she can’t lift the champ, so settles for an STF. Kick-Spam staggers Aja, but she reverses one to a Bridging German for two- Backdrop Driver! URAKEN!! Aja staggers back and sells the pain of hitting her, and that sets up ANOTHER Uraken. Kansai sells that while Aja takes off the gloves to fully unload her power, and does TWO MORE Urakens, Kansai popping the crowd by now getting up after each one. Aja has to settle for something bigger to get the win apparently, and sets Kansai up on the top- Kansai fights back from there, but Aja has to Uraken her twice MORE to set it up, and the Super Mountain Bomb finally puts her down at (22:54).

Fucking fantastic “Warring Gods” style match, where they do a slower, reasonable pace that turns into a methodical, vicious fight, each milking huge strikes. Them repeating each other’s offense came off as a great case of one-upsmanship, and both carried their role as “Over-Powered Monster” spectacularly-well. Aja’s first Uraken nearly killing Kansai was sold perfectly, and the repeated ones later (once Aja was tired and her arms were hurting from the previous kicks) made for a great ending, as Aja had to put over the JWP Ace by needing to uncork her most devastating move, the Super Mountain Bomb, for the finish.

Rating: ****1/2 (these two have phenomenal chemistry and tons of credibility- a great combination)

(AJW WWWA Champions Night, 30.08.1995)
* So in the interim, these two had fought twice more, Aja winning after the “best match under 13 minutes ever” in the V*Top Tournament at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, and Kansai again failing to stop her at a 1994 JWP show. Now it’s one year later, two years after their last WWWA Title bout, on a card full of all the top titlists defending- it’s a huge deal. Aja had only recently won the 3WA Title back, after losing it to Manami Toyota at Wrestling Queendom ’95. Both have their hair dyed blonde now, and Aja’s in a pimp coat and a red version of her gear, while Kansai’s now covered in a look you have to see to believe- a mirrored yellow jacket with weird tubes sticking out all over the place. She looks like a Power Rangers villain. Her in-ring gear is now that neon green/yellow with white look.

They have an epic staredown before the bell, Aja attacking first and slamming Kansai in the corner immediately! But when she charges in for an avalanche, Kansai pops up and rears back with a fist, halting Aja to a crowd pop. But Aja headbutts her and scores a SUPER MOUNTAIN BOMB- the finish from their first match! haha, that’s great- of course it’s only a two count at this point, so Aja kicks the shit out of her. They get into a dramatic slapfight, Aja trying to no-sell and Kansai responding like “Oh YEAH? Take THIS!”, then they start headbutting like crazy, Kansai stopping that with some kicks and the Sharpshooter, then an STF. Aja makes the ropes but does a “TKO” spot when Kansai brutally head-kicks her from there, then takes a backdrop and a sleeper. Aja carefully protects her head once she makes the ropes (good psychology there), then fires back with a storm of headbutts and her OWN head-kick to buy herself some recovery time. A pair of HUGE enzuigiris nearly kill Kansai (complete with a wide-eyed “killshot” stare on the mat), but she dramatically leaps up at an eight-count and does a martial arts pose to be awesome. Aja’s clear “aw, shit” disappointment is great.

Kansai attempts to fight back, but gets her leg caught on the top rope from a missed kick, so Aja just BOOTS it and then stands on the leg, as they work an injury angle out of it. 2nd-Rope Splash misses, but a Mountain Bomb off the ropes hits for two. Kansai dodges an Uraken, but gets brained again- when she’s finally up, she takes a backdrop suplex and Flying Back Elbow for big two-counts. Aja slaps Kansai around for the full-bore Uraken, but in a great counter, Kansai legsweeps her to dodge, then it’s AJA’s turn to get kicked in the brain. Aja fights up at eight, looking much better off than Kansai’s struggling ass was, and Kansai runs in for a lariat… URAKEN!! Aja uses the count to recover herself as well, then puts a dazed Kansai up top for another Super Mountain Bomb- now, Kansai’s wise to the “Uraken them on the top rope” bit, so dodges it, then leaps to apron to avoid Aja’s climb and kicks her square in the face from there! The crowd is ROARING with all of this. Kansai signals Splash Mountain, gets run into the ropes, then catches Aja up top… Splash Mountain from the corner! HUGE two-count! Kansai puts Aja up for a SUPER Splash Mountain, but Aja fights her off easily- she gears up an Uraken, but Kansai pushes her away then decides to break the arm into a million pieces with a score of kicks. Well THAT’s one way to block that move.

Aja sells it so much she goes outside the ring to scream as one of the seconds physically wrenches the shoulder back into place while they use the Puro Spraycan Of Recovery on the limb. Finally back in, Kansai crushes the arm repeatedly, and Aja’s desperation Urakens are blocked three times in a row with big kicks. She signals SPLASH MOUNTAIN again, but can’t lift Aja twice- once turning it into a slam as she drops her. In a great way to use botches to enhance the story, Kansai tries to pin her off the slam, then sets Aja up on the top rope- yes, it’s the rope-assisted version of Splash Mountain for the win (18:08). NEW WWWA WORLD CHAMPION!!!

Absolutely great match, reflecting the last ones they had, but pulling the “War of Strikes” stuff out even more. Milking their big shots for ten-counts puts over those moves as devastating, as well as putting over the beatings, as both used the time to recover in the ropes rather than taunt. And MAN was the crowd into it- both were so over and credible that the people BOUGHT those kicks to the skull as major death-moves. And then they boosted the psychology aspect, and referred to all their past matches, as Kansai finally countered all the Urakens that’d killed her in previous bouts by shattering that punching arm, using that (and further counters) to wear Aja down enough for Splash Mountain again. The botches don’t hold it back much for me, as like the match where Toyota won (where Aja’s size also “wrecked” the planned finish), the resulting moves still hurt, and left Aja weakened for the top-rope version of the move that finished her. Hell, my only real issue here is the long counts and Aja’s injury causing so many repeated pauses in the match.

Rating: ****1/2 (I liked the previous matches better, but this was still a great cap-off, with Kansai finally getting her big win after all those losses. And the psychology was tremendous)