Joshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix ’92 (Part Two)

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Ever wanna go on a backstage tour of Korakuen Hall? This show lets you do that!  By proxy of an Attitude Era-style brawl!


(07.05.1992, Tokyo Korakuen Hall)

-The second of three tapes devoted to the AJW Grand Prix, which lasted for three months and had a bunch of tapes between it. The last tape is only from the week before, so most of these people are well-travelled already. This is one of the lowest-rent of the tapes, though, as many of the matches are cut down by half.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Ever wanna go on a backstage tour of Korakuen Hall? This show lets you see it! Via Aja Kong & Manami Toyota inventing the Attitude Era Main Event Style! The early matches are clipped to death and not very good, but the latter bunch are great, though not the classics we’re used to seeing weekly at this point. Also, a joshi handicap match, further proof that great things were expected of Mariko Yoshida, and more!

* Hasegawa is the future Chikako Shiratori, here a baby rookie in pink & black- Christ, she wasn’t even good in *1997*, I can’t imagine how bad she’d be five years earlier. Actually, everyone but Tomoko has zero experience. Numata is in super-90s wallpaper tights, Tomoko’s in a black top with white pants, and Torisu’s in black & yellow. The YouTube video isn’t split up in Ringstarfield’s library, so I imagine this’ll be short.

We’re Joined In Progress with the rookies all doing “running grab & slam” moves, as Numata sells well, but Torisu & Chikako have the most unconvincing offense over, only lightly bumping into people. Tomoko hits a flying thing and her judo flip on Numata, but misses the Slingshot attack, but the next one hammers both her foes. A pair of hard judo flips and one off the top rope finish Numata at (10:23, 5:28 shown).

Rating: DUD (nothing match- pretty embarrassing amateur-hour, even for rookies)

* AJW’s flirtation with lucha continues with Moreno. Shimoda JUST developed a personality on the last show, becoming her modern angry, growling scrapper. Kamiya’s the wily vet who never really got a push (and seems like SUCH meaningless card filler on these shows), and Ito’s a rookie still coming up in the ranks. Moreno’s in pink & black, and Shimoda’s in her Suzuka Minami-like purple & black singlet. Kamiya’s in green & black, and Ito’s in her white & green thing.

Again, JIP- Moreno does some good flips against Kamiya, but takes Ito’s ass to the face a bunch of times. Kamiya does a lucha-style armdrag to Shimoda and the dramatic “1980s WWF” karate punch to her stomach, then throws her around a bit and Ito uses the running foot stomps. Shimoda messes up a crucifix and uses Falling Clothesline Spam on Ito. Flying Headscissors off the top and Moreno adds a great Frankensteiner for two. Ito comes back with an Ass Attack out of the corner (I keep wanting to write “____ eats ass” during all Ito’s spots, but it’d sound wrong) but takes Kamiya’s flying knee by mistake. Running Senton by Kamiya and a Flying Double Foot-Stomp finish Moreno at (10:10, 5:44 shown).

Rating: **1/4 (seemed decent enough, but we only saw a little bit of it)

* Oh geez, now this one is interesting- the two gaijin (who have been interviewed as friends, as Debbie has the experience in Japan) versus an established team that are serious contenders. Power seems to be in line for a “Strong Gaijin” push, but this is a tall order. Power’s in her black outfit with the white top, Debbie’s in her Rick Steiner “tv static” outfit. Minami’s in pale blue, and Hotta’s in dark blue.

Not JIP, but clipped of about three minutes. Minami does some basic stuff, but takes a delayed vertical suplex from Terri, who then takes some kicks from Hotta, who kind of gobbles up the offense. Terri again doesn’t look great, as she sells a kick that misses by a LOT, right on the hard camera. They stretch Terri a bit, but she comes back with a Frankensteiner on Minami, but Debbie misses an elbow and takes Hotta’s Tiger Driver! But then it’s a scramble and Debbie rolls Hotta off the ropes and bridges for a flash pin (9:13, 6:25 shown)! REALLY surprising result, putting over Debbie’s speed and smarts, though the elders took most of the offense.

Rating: ** (too little to really rate, with Terri looking bad)

An, um, uncharitable look at Terri’s joshi work.

* Interesting bout, as it’s the top two wrestlers of the Class of ’88, with Kyoko rapidly jumping up the ranks owing to her feud with Manami Toyota and being one of the best workers on Earth four years into her career. Yoshida’s rise was a tad slower, but she was definitely getting a big push this year, as her own promise (particulalrly with high-flying and match-carrying) was incredible.

The fans chant for YOSHIDA to start, hurting Kyoko’s feelings, and so she threatens to bail until they start the “*clapclapclap*- KYO-KO!” chant. REALLY cool wrestling sequence to start, doing repeated armdrags, monkey flips, landing on the feet from monkey flips, move-copying and Kyoko leaving Yoshida on the outside of the ring after bailing. Kyoko ultimately gets launched to the top rope, but a celebrating Yoshida therefore eats the Flying Back Elbow to the back of the head. Kyoko runs the corners to avoid Yoshida, then psyches her into taking the Mongolian Chop, and then tricks her into monkey flipping the REFEREE, even counting the fall from an embarrassed Yoshida and celebrating with her. Oh Jesus, this is great. Yoshida sneaks under the ring after getting dumped, and fires off a dropkick before Kyoko decides to bail ENTIRELY and they chase each other around Korakuen Hall in a wide shot.

Yoshida finally takes over in the ring, hitting the Run-Up Plancha to the outside- Flying Splash & Super DDT (!!) get two each. Run-Up Splash misses, so Kyoko hits the Run-Up Back Elbow. Yoshida does some flash pins and a Super Brainbuster to come back, but a splash hits knees. German gets two, and now they’re finally doing extended selling of all that insane stuff. Long extended stretching sequence as Kyoko becomes much more methodical- after about five minutes, Yoshida comes back with leg stuff and a German, then her Run-Up Cross-Body. Both try great flash pins, and Kyoko hits a pair of dropkicks off the ropes, but a second try at that Elbow misses. Kyoko reverses the Handspring Back Elbow to a German, then signals the Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb), which Yoshida reverses and goes back onto the offense. Each get two off of bridging suplexes, then Kyoko does a helicopter slam for two but eats a dive. Yoshida tries to finish, but only has her “Jobber Lite” offense, and so misses a dropkick and takes the Giant Swing as time runs down… Kyoko finally manages her Niagara Driver… but the clock strikes (30:00) at the count of one! OOH- so close! Yoshida picks up another “Draw”, while poor Kyoko probably had the match won.

This went from a funny comedy match to murder very quickly, with the girls spamming out moves off the top rope like nuts for several minutes until they finally got tired and settled into stretching 16 minutes in. That slow portion lasted a good seven minutes until they sped it up again, as repeating moves proved an issue in their strategies. They played up the reversals, did some good stuff, and made use of their 30 minutes pretty well, since the first 9 or so was goofiness- this pleases the audience and prevents boredom (always a risk with long bouts). All in all, I liked it, but it wasn’t a clinic like many others of this length are, with an odd situation where head-dropping killer top-rope moves happened in the middle, and stretching followed them.

Rating: ***1/2 (very fun comedy mixed with death moves, stretching and a good finish)

* !!! I’ve never seen a Handicap Match in joshi before!! This features the Ace, Bull Nakano, teaming up with an “upgraded” Mita against Yamada (upper-midcarder), Takako (midcarder) and Sakie (sorta-midcarder; more of a rookie with potential). They’re going 3 on 2 because Akira Hokuto is hurt- pretty much a regular feature of joshi post-1992 is Hokuto being held together by medical tape and hatred. Sakie’s in the usual white & black, Takako’s got a new white outfit with a pink heart shape on top, and Yamada’s in her black karate gear.

Bull throws the babies around to start, and then kills Sakie and Mita adds in her array of choking. Bull throws on a piledriver but Sakie rolls under a lariat and hits the Rolling Savate Kick, and Takako runs in for a double-surfboard to cheat. Soon as Takako’s alone, though, she’s lariated to hell (great sell of the throat impact, sticking her tongue out) and Powerbombed. Mita throws her around and uses the rolling fireman’s carry, but Yamada comes in and wipes out her former partner with lariats, kicks, and those great snap suplexes. Sakie adds Savate Kick Spam after Yamada works on Mita’s injured leg with the Stretch Muffler, and now the heel is screeching in Takako’s leghold. Mita throws such good slaps to counter that they’re legit near-falls, then the faces get dumped and beaten outside until Yamada comes in with a bunch of spin-kicks to knock Bull down. Flying Enzuigiri and Sakie adds her Flying Savate Kick, but Bull counters with a lariat off the second rope that folds Sakie in half.

Mita uses an airplane spin and then gets a singapore cane to beat on the faces, while Bull comes in with her nunchucks and hammers away! A pissed-off Yamada grabs the hair from the apron to allow for some more Savate Kick Spam, then they do a TRIPLE Suplex on Nakano (Yamada sneaking under with a backdrop so they can all get in on it), but she no-sells the Triple Dropkick and then hits a Double Guillotine Legdrop on Takako & Sakie!! One leg for each while they’re head-to-head! Yamada breaks up the count- damn, that would have been a great finish. Yamada does a bunch of kicks to pulverize Mita after she misses a splash on Sakie, and all three add flying moves to Mita while two hold back Bull, but it only gets two! Great psychology there. Sakie missile kick into a German gets two as well. Mita gets a swinging neckbreaker & electric chair drop to come back, but Bull misses the team-up Guillotine and takes the kids outside for a beating. This leaves Mita alone with Yamada, who scores a Flying Enzuigiri, but HOKUTO runs in to break it up! Yamada gets one last Dragon Suplex for the win (15:40).

Pretty wild match, though came off more as an “exhibition” and “best of” in some cases, because you could see neither Bull, Yamada nor Mita going at “full power”, as it were. They threw out their big spots and told a story, though, with the trick being the numbers game- Bull was invincible, but couldn’t help Mita against triple-teaming. Yamada ended up looking the best, and they still managed a ton of false finishes.

Rating: ***1/2 (good, fun match)

* Oh shit, it’s Manami vs. Aja, right before the end of the tournament! These two are diametrically opposed- the Jungle Emperor versus the Flying Angel- with Manami skyrocketing up the card over the past year, with a ton of ****+ matches and generally Main Eventing in some way or another. Aja dropped the Tag Titles to Manami’s team months before, but is herself a more dominant singles wrestler- they’re on utterly different tiers of credibility. And of course the uploader, who writes down all the matches in Japanese so searching them is a pain in the ass, makes sure to write the result of this match- in English- in the description, lol.

Yeah, it’s a Toyota match alright- she does a rollup, eats a Mountain Bomb, then kicks Aja off the top and to the floor, then follows her out their off the top and hits her Walk-Up Asai Moonsault off the middle of the top rope. 20 seconds have gone by. Aja suplexes her off the apron and beats on her outside, throwing chairs, those big metal things, and then slams her on the concrete to a horrified crowd. Then she shoves some fans out of her way and waits for Toyota back in the ring. Haha, the bespectacled scrawny guys in the crowd all grinning as Manami walks by them. Toyota is hesitant back in there, but Aja still beats her all over the ring, rakes the back, drags her across the top rope, then does a ton of hairpulling before settling into restholds (though, as usual, they’re good enough to move around periodically). Aja’s just enjoying the deliberate beat-down, doing shit pins and taunting. She gets too cocky, however, and now it’s DROPKICK SPAM time!

Alas, she can’t lift Aja to do any significant moves, so Aja just tosses her outside and then whips her off the stage in the back of Korakuen Hall. And then she starts dragging her through the HALLWAYS, ending up by the vending machines and merch-tables! Well shit, now I know what the inside looks like. Okay, I think this is the longest “Attitude Era Walk” I’ve ever seen- did Austin & co. see this match or something? This shit’s like a travelogue of Korakuen Hall. Oh god now she’s trying to throw her off the goddamn upper balcony! The ring girls have to stop her! After like FIVE MINUTES, Manami finally crawls back into the ring to meet an impatient Aja, and immediately gets avalanched into the corner and brained with Aja’s ubiquitous metal can.

Aja grabs for another can, but Manami DROPKICKS her and then grabs it herself! Aja is unfortunately immune to her own weapon and headbutts her down, but when she headbutts the corner as a taunt, Toyota just runs in and Germans her for two! Two more, and now the Moonsault gets two! Crowd wasn’t buying it, either- Aja’s too strong. Aja gets the feet up on a splash and counters a sunset flip, but gets landed on trying a Superplex, for two. Flying Cross-Body, but Aja catchers her and SPLAT. Manami catches her up top and tries her OWN Superplex, but now Aja lands on HER. Aja’s body attack is matched with the Rolling Cradle- Moonsault misses and Aja lariats her for two after Manami lands on her feet and stumbles. Second-Rope Splash… and it’s a “Fuck YOU!” bridge out! Aja’s sick of this shit, so she preps her big finish- the Super Mountain Bomb, sets Manami up top, lifts her… and it’s the Sunset Flip Powerbomb!! 1… 2… 3!!! (20:41) MANAMI TOYOTA DEFEATS AJA KONG!!! Aja can’t believe this shit- she just got cocky, and got caught.

This was wild. Barely a “match” after a point, as they make extended sequences of Aja dragging Manami around to murder her in various exciting places, touring Korakuen in the process for several minutes, but then suddenly it’s GO-TIME in the ring and Aja’s suddenly taking a ton of offense as Manami fights back. All Toyota’s best moves couldn’t get it done, and Aja still seemed to have things well in hand (nice bit repeating the Superplex spot), but BOOM- one big reversal and we’re done. And that’s the same move Manami does in pretty much every Aja match thereafter- countering a big move with a devastating stun that temporarily paused the heel. Aja was just too arrogant and cocky the whole time, and an important lesson was learned.

Rating: ***3/4 (more like Rick Steves touring decrepit Japanese fighting halls, ending with an Escalating Finishers portion, which makes it interesting. It was very one-sided, which is why it isn’t higher)

Match Ratings:
Tomoko/Akemi vs. Numata/Chikako: DUD
Shimoda/Moreno vs. Kamiya/Ito: **1/4
Power/Malenko vs. Minami/Hotta: **
Kyoko Inoue vs. Mariko Yoshida: ***1/2
Bull/Mita vs. Yamada/Takako/Sakie: ***1/2
Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong: ***3/4

-Interesting little night of wrestling, though all the clipping of the first three matches is unfortunate, and makes this release come off a lot more like a throwaway. Worth it for the comedy in the Inoue/Yoshida match, and the novelty of Toyota & Kong having a weird Attitude Era Main Event in 1992 Japan, and giving us a screaming tour of Korakuen Hall. 50% of the matches over ***1/2 is pretty good odds, I guess, but very low for AJW.