Joshi Spotlight: AJW Beat Power Oh-Mi-Yah!

(27/06/92; Omiya Skate Center)

-Time for another full AJW show- this one 2:30:00, and hailing from the… Omiya Skate Center? That’s apparently in Saitama, Japan. The arena is dark and the sound blows on this tape, too. We’re right in the middle of the AJW Grand Prix (with a few matches tonight), Las Cachorras Orientales has formed, and Toshiyo Yamada just defeated her partner & friend, Manami Toyota, in a big part of their long rivalry. And part of what makes that interesting is tonight… they defend their WWWA Tag Titles against two of AJW’s top wrestlers- Akira Hokuto & Kyoko Inoue! THAT’S gotta be awkward. Meanwhile, it’s another shot in the Aja/Bull feud (they’re in a 6-Woman Tag), Mariko Yoshida defending the “Rookie Belt”, and tag partners Sakie & Debbie fighting on the lower card! Actually, it’s a lot of interesting match-ups tonight.

LOL and the video’s opening straight-up gives away the finish of the Main Event. This is like those anime episodes where it’s like Dragon Ball Z: Cell Kills Android 18 And Takes His Final Form, And Also Yaumcha Dies! This country doesn’t appear to have much of a thing about spoilers.

* Ito & Watanabe are from the Class of ’89 and eternal rivals so far, with Moreno as AJW’s best example of lucha influence… Numata is Jobber City, being a 1990 graduate, so I’m getting I can guess the finish. Tomoko’s in a black top & white pants, Numata’s in a spackly singlet, Ito’s in white & green (before she started dressing horribly), and Moreno’s in black & blue.

Numata sells for all of her sequences, with her best move being… running directly into the opponent like that’s offense. See, this is why she ended up wearing a plastic hat and carrying a shovel. Moreno does decent enough lucha, but has to dumb it down for this bout, with a Thesz Press off the apron & springboard armbar to Tomoko being her peak. Tomoko controls Ito mostly, and does her Slingshot move to both opponents. Numata does a Running X-Factor, but takes a Victory Roll, then Moreno does her arm-flip to both opponents and a Rana to Tomoko, but Tomoko gets one of her own to Ito. Ito uses the Ass Attack out of the corner for two, but Tomoko hits her Judo Flips and a Jackhammer for two. She misses her next Slingshot move, and then takes a Flying Double-Foot Stomp from both opponents, netting them the win (15:03). ENORMOUSLY long for what it was, with a huge chunk just involving filler with Numata.

Rating: ** (Tomoko & Ito were decent opponents for each other, but this was a lot of time for nothing)

* More Grand Prix stuff, with two mid-tier wrestlers in need of a push and a personality. Shimoda now has curlier hair (a sign of hooliganism in Japan, and a look she’d keep for ages), her trademark disingenuous smile, and a pink & black outfit more out of Suzuka Minami’s closet. Takako’s in her blue & red bodysuit from before.

Shimoda blitzes Takako with kicks before the bell, and yes, she FINALLY adopts her well-known persona here! She controls with some arm stuff, Takako doing Noriyo Tateno’s bridge-out and yanking on the hair to come back, showing some fire of her own. She tortures Shimoda with stretching, throws knees into her back, and even BITES THE LEG, so it’s not just Shimoda who’s introduced a new character. She tears into the leg while Shimoda whines and pleads like a good heel. She finally mounts a comeback with her falling clotheslines and flying moves, then tortures the leg until Takako fires back with her armdrags and a bridging suplex for two. Shimoda misses a dive, but avoids both of Takako’s finishers, dodging the Flying Knee and falling on her out of the Aurora Special (Shoulder-Seated Backdrop Suplex), and then nails a huge Backdrop Superplex for the pin (17:22)- easily the biggest win of her entire career up till this point!

This was really interesting- after spending the first half of 1992 as impossibly-generic “Pretty Girl” wrestlers, both suddenly emerge from this cocoon as vicious, scrappy, biting psychopaths, and it’s a wonderful revelation that would earn both of them great careers. Takako’s glee in chomping away and ripping at Shimoda’s leg really played a contrast to her idol looks and photoshoots, that’s for sure- pretty much every other girl in her position was this demure, polite “Ideal Japanese Woman”- Takako was sadistic (“HEE HEE I like it when people cry while I break their limbs!”). The match itself was almost ENTIRELY stretching, which seems to be the purpose- to show off the new evil characters of both, with Shimoda getting a narrow victory by reversing stuff only at the end of all that.

Rating: **3/4 (pretty much entirely “Stretching & Selling”, but with great character bits and selling- the agony in the close-ups was GREAT)

* The tag partners are now opponents. Sakie went to a Time Limit Draw with Mariko Yoshida earlier. Neither is doing particularly well in the tournament, though. Debbie’s in an animal-print singlet, while Sakie’s in her regular gear.

Sakie tries the “Joshi Sprint”, but gets caught in arm stuff and Ace Crusher’d, then Piledriven. This is ALL Debbie for the first 6+ minutes, as she locks on restmissions and big stuff alike, ending up with a bridging deathlock and surfboard. Sakie FINALLY makes the comeback with Savate Kick Spam, but throws that horrible 2nd-rope version and ends up missing completely, hitting Debbie with her ass instead. She wisely retired that one eventually. She hits a proper version later, but ends up in a neckbreaker & dragon sleeper. Rude Awakening-style neckbreaker and an STF, then Debbie flies off the top and adds a great Northern Lights Suplex, completely dominating, and then Sakie throws a lariat… and gets caught in a HUGE Uranage, Debbie spiking her right on the back of her neck! Big reaction for the kickout, too. Sakie manages another 2nd-Rope Savate Kick, but takes an Ace Crusher & Flying Back Elbow for two. They try a bunch of pins and collide on dueling cross-bodies, but Sakie gets launched off the top in Debbie’s Super Overhead Belly-To-Belly. Debbie’s running out of shit and getting increasingly frustrated, through a 2nd-Rope Elbow and some other stuff, but Sakie reverses a lift to a small package for the flash pin at (15:32).

Interesting, well-wrestled little match, largely built around Debbie COMPLETELY dominating, but Sakie firing back with quick comebacks. As a result of that, it came off a bit flukey, especially as Sakie was getting absolutely crushed in the end, but at least you can buy that Debbie’s string of big offense had left her tired and vulnerable to a flash pin. All of Debbie’s stuff looked good, though Sakie never really sold a submission as anything but a “health drain”, just popping up for another running move.

Rating: *** (pretty good stuff from these two, built around comebacks)

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Mita: Ever so slowly getting a push.

* Mita’s “LCO” run continues to alter her, as she drops that ugly blue gear for the black two-piece in the style she’d use for the next couple of years- the gold trim and eye designs all over it, though the top’s much bigger here. This bout’s interesting, because she’s up against Yoshida, from the class AFTER her- kind of a sign she’d stunted after a point. The giant kneebrace she’s got on means she’s probably losing, as the limp is legitimate.

Mita tries to brawl immediately, countering attempts at legwork with some HARD kicks and then launches Yoshida out of the ring for a huge bump. Then it’s a chair beatdown outside and Mita kills time waiting for Yoshida to return. The defiant champion actually spitefully returns WITH a chair, dragging a streamer from one foot, which makes her look totally bedraggled, but unfortunately Mita rips it out of hands and lays waste, working over Yoshida’s arm, which was hurt in the flurry outside. She works on it with simple stuff (Mita’s more of a brute than a technician), eventually just standing on Yoshida’s shoulder while the champ wails. Yoshida finally dumps her and hits the Run-Up Flying Plancha, and now it’s HER turn to start throwing chairs, as she tears into Mita’s injured leg outside. The crowd always loves “revenge” spots like that. Mita’s “counters” to the arm submissions are great, too- it’s all slapping, clawing and kicking.

Yoshida gets her foot bit in a submission, but manages a flying splash for two. Eventually Mita takes the arm again and wears away at Yoshida, hitting big dropkicks, the Electric Chair Drop, and three Piledrivers in a row, but Yoshida does her cartwheel dodge out of the way and lands a flash pin- Mita’s long reach lets her get the ropes. Yoshida gets caught in a Rolling Fireman’s Carry Drop and Superplexed, then gets kicked in the back of the head trying her Cartwheel Handspring Elbow. Mita misses a dropkick and gets caught in a Victory Roll trying another Electric Chair for a VERY close two. Flying Cross-Body misses, and Mita nails that new Straightjacket Perfect Plex… for two! Running out of stuff to do, Mita climbs… and gets caught with a SUPER DDT, setting her up for the Run-Up Flying Splash at (18:26)! REALLY long match this time around!

Wow, this got way, WAY better as time went on. I was all “eh, barely ***” because they were clearly working around Mita’s fucked-up leg and 90% of their moves were just “tear at the limb in a basic hold”, albeit with good selling… and then they turned it into a Reversal War, with nobody getting more than two moves in a row before getting killed again. Yoshida was SO friggin’ good in 1992- we lost a TON of classic matches having her miss out on 1993-94.

Rating: ***3/4 (Yoshida largely carried Mita, who is still rapidly improving her “Heel Game”. Tremendous selling throughout and great reversals)

* Interesting 6-Woman Tag, with Aja teaming with a fellow ’86 classmate Kamiya (she’d be back in joshi later as “Cooga”, but retired shortly after this) and the newbie powerhouse, Terri Power, up against her biggest rival- the WWWA Champion, Bull Nakano. Bull’s partners are a top-tier tag team in upper-midcarders Hotta & Minami. Power gets a short interview earlier about living in Japan, training with Brad Reingans and coming from LPWA, and her friendship with Debbie Malenko. Terri’s in a black singlet with a white top underneath, Aja’s in her “Dudley Boyz” camo, and Kamiya’s got her face painted green (not with any design, just… green) and has a white & black singlet on. Bull’s got her Megadeth shirt on again, and her partners are both in light blue.

Bull’s team jumps the heels to start, but Aja knocks Minami all over the ring anyhow, then Hotta destroys Kamiya easily and Bull flattens her with a lariat. They kill her for a solid few minutes until Aja’s tagged in against Bull… and EVERYONE goes “oooooh” as the top two wrestlers in AJW square off. They play it like Hogan/Warrior, pushing each other against the ropes, grappling slowly, and no-selling each other’s running shots. Terri gets tagged in and is made to look good as her big lariats knock Bull around, but Kamiya gets a lariat to the back of he head to end THAT. I sense a weak link, here. As I type that, she starts winning against Minami by throwing out goofy “1980s Karate” spots (with a big, dramatic wind-up punch to the gut), and gets a shitty German.

Aja cross-bodies Minami & Hotta, then piledrives & stretches Hotta for a while. The faces come back, Bull hitting the kneeling powerbomb on Kamiya, but Aja uses her metal can to break up the pin- this leads to a brawl outside, but Bull wins and hits the Guillotine Legdrop on Kamiya. Aja again breaks it up, so Bull whips out the nunchucks on the hapless veteran and then both powerhouses- Minami almost scores a pin with a powerbomb, but now Terri runs in. Bull lariats down Aja & Kamiya, and Hotta enzuigiris Aja, but gets backdropped out of a Tiger Driver. Minami misses her Flying Senton and so Terri hits her Frankensteiner, and then Aja climbs to meet Hotta, bringing her down with the Super Mountain Bomb for the win (13:20).

Just fine as a match, though it was largely fought in “House Show Mode”, as Bull’s team mostly beat on the weaker Kamiya, and Terri was in minimally to keep her looking good. Aja was dominant throughout, again showing the threat she was becoming- after killing her best friend last week, this was her follow-up; easily pinning Yumiko Hotta with her big finisher.

Rating: **3/4 (perfectly fine and well-booked, though they never got out of second gear)

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Kyoko Inoue has spent much of this year trying to take every belt possible from Manami Toyota, her biggest rival. She’s grabbing different partners constantly now.

* The Toyota/Kyoko feud continues, but with Kyoko grabbing a huge top-tier parter in Hokuto (who practically beat Kyoko half to death only a week ago, because AJW is weird that way). The champs are both wearing red, which is again SO WEIRD to see on Toyota, whose black outfit was her gear for like ten years.

Fall One: Manami hits a Flying Splash on both opponents five seconds after the bell rings, Because Joshi, but the challengers drag them outside for a beating and take over in the ring. It’s more of a FIGHT than a “match” at this point, ending in a clever bit where Akira threatens a dive and the champs run out of the way… into Kyoko cannonballing them off the other apron. Then a staggered Manami walks right into Akira (still on the top rope) hitting a Missile Dropkick. Akira tries Kyoko’s Giant Swing, but isn’t strong enough, so hollers out “Kyoko” and they double-team her into it- hee. Kyoko does a better version, but Akira misses a Senton and the champs miss their Stereo Flying Headbutts and take Stereo Dragon Suplexes. Then the challengers do Stereo FINISHERS… but each OTHER’s finishers! Kyoko drills Yamada with the Northern Lights Bomb, while Akira pulls out the single worst Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb) ever, falling on her ass while Toyota lands beside her… for three (9:29). haha, well okay then. They even replay it, with the commentary team going “Chotto” (“She didn’t quite get ALL of it, Brain”).

Fall Two: Manami recovers fast, and takes only a Missile Dropkick before Yamada does a running kick to Akira and tags herself in, then throws her with a release Dragon Suplex and hits a half-dozen MORE suplexes until Toyota Missile Kicks Hokuto into a final one, then the Flying Enzuigiri gets two as Toyota boots Kyoko off the apron! And Yamada scores her new finisher- the Reverse Gory Bomb- for the finish at (1:37)! Oh, Joshi tags and their “token quick fall”. Way to get that new finisher over in a hurry, too!

Fall Three: The champs assail Hokuto with their giant manner of ways to place their feet into the human face, but Kyoko gets a lucky tag… and takes MORE of them! The ’92 Double-Arm Suplex Bridge takes Kyoko off the top for two, and Yamada stretches her out until Toyota knocks her back into the corner, and Hokuto reverses the Manami Roll with a Powerbomb. Manami does something weird off the corner (like, a backflip attempt that went horribly wrong? Akira was holding her for too long and so a “flip” looked like she just crashed and burned), but manages the Rolling Cradle for two. Double Backdrop sets up the Moonsault… for two! Manami blasts her with a Bridging German for two, but Akira gets her own out of a lariat attempt for the same! Kyoko’s Helicopter Slam and a splash gets two, and the Run-Up Flying Back Elbow does too, so Akira flies in with a cross-body and a Double Superplex gets two.

Yamada finally gets tagged in and hits a ton of kicks on Kyoko, who tries the Slingshot Backsplash… and ends up kicked in the spine (though Manami got some of it). Double Backdrop, but she no-sells and lures them into Akira’s Double Missile Dropkick and a Top Con Hilo… but Kyoko’s Slingshot Backsplash off the apron misses and HITS THE RAILING, which is a terrifying blind bump to take (like how Rollins ended Sting’s career times five), but Akira was kinda in the way and it’s Kyoko, so she’s fine. Manami hits her Walk-Up Springboard Moonsault to the outside (!!), but the Super Double Backdrop is reversed by Akira and Kyoko flies off with the Backsplash, FINALLY hitting it after three tries (it’s a Coffin Drop from that position, too). Japanese Ocean (Double-Hammerlock) Suplex gets a CLOSE count when Manami reverses a whip, and then they hit the Super Double Flipover Backdrop and Manami finishes her with the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Bridging Straightjacket Electric Chair Drop w/ Bridge) at (9:04). Yes, they crammed all that shit into NINE MINUTES.

Jesus, that got good. Kyoko & Manami are the biggest show-offs in wrestling in 1992, so they were flying around with MOVEZ, but Yamada & Hokuto have elite fundamentals and still kept things grounded, while Manami sold her ass off. I liked how the first fall was this hate-filled strikefest ending in Finisher Swapping, while the second put over Yamada’s new finish, and the third fall was the usual Finisher Storm we’re used to seeing in joshi tags. Like, the final 9 minutes had about 45 seconds of stretching and then it was entirely Huge Moves, as Manami & Kyoko kind of did their thing and started sprinting into every move, using only a modicum of “healing time”.

Rating: ****1/4 (Fun brawl, then a great spotfest of sorts, though with better selling than the usual)

Match Ratings:
Ito/Moreno vs. Tomoko/Numata: **
Mima Shimoda vs. Takako Inoue: **3/4
Sakie Hasegawa vs. Debbie Malenko: ***
Mariko Yoshida vs. Etsuko Mita: ***1/2
Kong/Kamiya/Power vs. Bull/Hotta/Minami: **3/4
Toyota/Yamada vs. Hokuto/Kyoko: ****1/4
-A very solid show with a kick-ass Main Event that’s great if you want to see how phenomenal these women were even in ’92. Most everyone on this show was weaker than they’d be later, so it’s a lot of ***+ instead of ****+, but considering this is a lower-tier show with most everyone in tags and midcarders in the Grand Prix, that’s an incredible score.