AJW OTA-KU CHAMPION’S LEGEND ’92:
-More AJW time! This one is nearly all Championship Matches, with most of the top stars defending- it’s the AJ Tag, AJ Title, All Pacific, WWWA Tag, and even Bull Nakano defending her CMLL World Women’s Title against Akira Hokuto! This show is named for the “Tokyo Ota-ku Taiikukan” building in which it’s taking place, not anything to do with anime fandom (“Otaku” is a decidedly NOT polite way to refer to someone in Japan, especially in 1992).
“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: It’s an interesting much of matches tonight- one of the greatest talent disparities you’ll ever see in a major title match, as Kyoko Inoue has to do something with TERRI POWER. The invincible Toyota/Yamada team faces their hardest challenge yet when AJA KONG is their opponent, and gets to pick the opponent she wants. Also, it’s Bull Nakano vs. Akira Hokuto! And LCO takes its final form tonight!!
YUMIKO HOTTA, SUZUKA MINAMI & CINTIA MORENO vs. ETSUKO MITA, KAORU ITO & MIORI KAMIYA:
* Oh man, they stuck injured Mita in with the rookie and the nearly-done vet? Against one of AJW’s top teams and the luchadora? I’m sensing Ito’s gonna take the fall here.Moreno’s in white with a ribbon, Hotta’s in blue, and Minami’s in light blue again. Mita’s still in her “six-eyed” black top, Kamiya’s got a hideous green outfit with a giant sash on it, and Ito’s in a light green, blue & white outfit.
Moreno gets drubbed for like three minutes to start, but comes back with lucha stuff on Ito, who takes a beating. too. Flying knee hits Kamiya, but Mita ends up getting thrown around a lot, looking MUCH better than she has all year in the process, going down for a Rana pin. She comes back with an airplane spin, and then Minami takes Ito’s ass to the face a few times- Flying Double-Stomp gets two. Hotta throws Kamiya around, but she hits Moreno and Mita fires off the Electric Chair Drop on the luchadora. Ito tries, but Hotta pummels her and gives her nothing, then enzuigiris Kamiya. Moreno does her Double Springboard Armdrag, which is a bit too cliche to do EVERY MATCH, but an Asai Moonsault Press to Ito impresses the crowd greatly- that gets two. Hotta & Minami double-team Mita and Hotta nails the Tiger Driver, ducking the other two’s lariats to do so, and that’s the end of things- they blast Mita with an Assisted Powerbomb and Minami pins her at (13:44). Huh, so MITA took the fall- I’m surprised, as she wasn’t worked on that much.
Not a bad filler match, with Ito REALLY fighting like she wanted a push- she was blazing around at a hundred miles an hour and hitting her stuff with authority. Most of the bout had either she or Moreno in the ring- probably for experience/exposure. Mita is finally starting to look better, even though she did the job here- as she was still kind of on JTTS duty in ’93, I’m guessing she takes a while to come into her own.
Rating: **3/4 (perfectly acceptable match, with plenty of action and no resting)
ALL JAPAN TAG TITLES:
MARIKO YOSHIDA & TAKAKO INOUE vs. DEBBIE MALENKO & MIMA SHIMODA:
* More wrestling from the “lower ranks”, as Yoshida & Takako’s low-tier tag team is still a thing, and now they’re wrestling the sometimes-combo of Shimoda (rapidly improving by getting meaner) and Malenko (hovering around the “promising newbie” territory). Takako & Shimoda showed the early form of their eventual mid-90s characters in a match against each other recently, so we’ll see what they have. The champs are in their color-coded outfits, with Yoshida’s mostly blue and Takako’s mostly red, while Debbie’s in pink Steiner gear and Shimoda’s in a generic white & purple deal.
The challengers hit do-si-do dropkicks and dives in the first five seconds, but Takako eventually takes control. Shimoda finally comes in to turn it, and Debbie uses a bridging deathlock/headlock and a Northern Lights Suplex, but gets dumped and the champs hit stereo dives. The impact has Debbie screaming in pain and holding her ankle, which is perilously close to the actual injury that ended her career. And she’s either the greatest seller ever or legitimately agonized, because she’s out there a WHILE and looks a wreck getting back into the ring. Mima wails in leg-holds for like 3-4 minutes before tagging out, and Debbie manages to limp up and hit a Northern Lights Superplex on Takako for two, and Yoshida tries the cartwheel dodge but gets caught and Backdrop Superplexed by Shimoda. Falling clotheslines get two, but Takako hits Aurora Special (Bridging Waistlock Backdrop Suplex) on Debbie for two after a brawl, then they double-backdrop her and hit a Butterfly Superplex/Run-Up Flying Splash combo for the pin (15:02). Man, the challengers got CRUSHED here, Shimoda taking a ton of leg-work, Debbie ACTUALLY hurting her leg, and then an emphatic finish where the champs just hit a bunch of unanaswered stuff in a row for the win. Overall, it came off very disjointed (probably because of the leg thing), with only a handful of hope spots.
Rating: **1/2 (good enough and well-wrestled, though poorly laid out, probably for reasons beyond their control)
ALL JAPAN TITLE:
MARIKO YOSHIDA vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA:
* These two just barely fought in the Grand Prix, and went to a half an hour without a victor in a bout I gave ****1/4 to, so there’s some real drama here- anyone could win. Yoshida seems primed for a “next level” push, and a loss here (however flukey or not they wanted to go) would free her up for that push… and have a good excuse, as she literally just finished a match.
Sakie attacks Yoshida right when she gets into the ring- doesn’t even wait for the damn streamers to get dragged out of there! The shot of her landing a Rolling Savate Kick in all that chaos, with people throwing left-behind streamers into the ring and the flower girls trying to escape, is amazing. Sakie tries to roll up the champ, still wearing her ring robe and the AJ Title, and the ref finally gives up and starts the match proper. Sakie works the arms but gets caught by the cartwheel dodge… but Yoshida’s too hurt to capitalize! She finally hits a bunch of leg stuff, even catching a Savate Kick to throw on another leghold- they’re doing a great job of working limbs and selling them consistently (always iffy in AJW). Sakie finally comes back with the Savate Kick and a Butterfly Suplex. Covered in sweat, she now beats on the shoulder and uses simpler stuff while Yoshida sells death. She finally dodges a move and knocks Sakie outside, following with the Run-Up Crossbody- Sakie sells like nuts and finally gets into the ring after a minute, but eats Dropkick Spam- a Run-Up Missile Dropkick counters Sakie’s comeback, and a Perfect Plex gets two. They counter suplexes and Yoshida’s sunset flip thing gets two, but the Run-Up Cross-Body gets rolled through… for two! Poor Sakie is like “COME ONNNNNN!” and the crowd completely bought it. Yoshida actually bows to the ref when he reassures her it was only “2”, haha. Sakie, desperate, plasters her with five Savate Kicks (the first two sucked, the last two were FLUSH), then does a pair off the second rope. LONG-ass pause, and a third one hits, but a bloody-mouthed Yoshida rolls her up! That gets two, but she makes the mistake of whipping Sakie into the ropes… it’s reversed for ANOTHER Savate Kick, and that finally keeps Yoshida down for the three (15:57)! New All Japan Champion!!
They came into this like Sakie HATED HER, but I sense it was just a pathological desire to win and get that belt- she ripped into Yoshida’s shoulder, Savate Kicked it, STOOD on it, and more- it was some of the most intense limbwork I’ve seen from this era. They really played off the rivalry and Sakie’s thirst for victory, and made the most of Sakie’s limited moveset- it’s a very “rookie move” to hit the same thing eight times in a row for the win (she didn’t have the Uranage at this point). Yoshida, ready for a push, doesn’t look so bad for losing, because she’s badly hurt AND just finished a match. Sakie would hold the title for only a short time before moving in to more tag stuff, while Yoshida would soon be injured and miss 1993 entirely.
Rating: ***3/4 (these two have great chemistry, and the emotions run rampant even while it was mostly matwork)
ALL PACIFIC TITLE:
KYOKO INOUE vs. TERRI POWER:
* Kyoko’s now up against the big gaijin, who is getting her first singles showcase. As Kyoko is one of the best sellers, and strongest wrestlers in AJW, she’s probably an ideal opponent for Terri in some ways, but her penchant for “yeah no more selling, time for MOVEZ!” and frenetic pace might be issues- Terri isn’t really good or experienced. The interviewer touches her arm and goes “ooh- nice body” while she flexes in her black leotard with all the cut-out bits, lol- guess we found the Japanese Jab! The gulf between talents in this match, with Kyoko Inoue and the WWF’s Tori in her early years, might quite possibly be the greatest I’ve ever seen in a wrestling match, so I’m really actually quite interested in this.
See, they keep it VERY slow and steady right away, with Kyoko doing chain-wrestling and holding Terri down, when the “standard”, especially in the West, would be for the big powerhouse to dominate to start, throwing Kyoko around. But that’d blow her up quickly and make a mess of the match. The crowd mostly sits on their hands until Terri does one of her two good moves- skinning the cat back in and doing the headscissors out of that. Back to restmissions until Kyoko flies back with the Slingshot Backsplash and her Helicopter Slam- Run-Up Flying Back Elbow gets two. Terri catches Kyoko’s next Backsplash attempt and drops her on her ass, but Kyoko slides out of an Oklahoma Stampede. The crowd is reduced to “random person yelling” (you know the sound) as the pace is SO slow, with Terri doing moves 40 seconds apart, then she eats the Backsplash off the apron. A second Back Elbow misses and Kyoko takes a Snap Powerslam for two. Two Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb) attempts get reversed, a second Powerslam gets rolled through, and Kyoko hits a Run-Up Missile Dropkick, but Terri hits the Frankensteiner (her other good move), but her weak cover gets two. She attempts another one, but gets Powerbombed, and the Niagara Driver gets the three at (15:13). VERY weak bump by Terri there- she’s gonezo thanks to the match length.
This match was interesting, but boring, in that it showcased all the ways Kyoko had to carry the rookie through a match, with both the strengths and the weaknesses of the puro style. See, puro fits Shitty Gaijin sometimes, because the longer match time and stop & start pacing can let their cardio recover, and a bad worker can be made to look better with the more precise move application and longer selling segments (look at Albert/Tensai suddenly “get really good” in NJPW and then return as bad as he ever was soon as he had to adopt WWE pacing again), as well as a great worker to help them pace out a match. But the puro style ALSO typically requires big, long matches, especially for top belts, and so you have this green rookie going FIFTEEN MINUTES when she should probably stick to tags or eight-minute sprints, because now she’ll do one impressive move… and then flop right into a hold for a couple minutes so she doesn’t get tired or overloaded. So the entire thing is just way too long, with too much resting. There was good psychology (every time they tried a move again- the Backsplash, Powerslam, Frankensteiner & Back Elbow- they missed), but WOW, such a slow match.
Rating: **1/4 (just way too slow for what they had)
CMLL WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE:
BULL NAKANO vs. AKIRA HOKUTO:
* So now Bull Nakano is also CMLL Women’s Champion, as they’re getting women’s stuff going, and Akira, who was in Mexico a couple months back, is challenging for it. Akira is seconded by Etsuko Mita, and suddenly here’s Mima Shimoda out there, begging for something and doing the full bow! Ah, THIS must be the show where she asked to join Las Cachorras Orientales! And yes, she begs and pleads, Hokuto seems to act all snarky, and then the fans clap and Shimoda bows, and takes her place alongside Mita, while Bull is seconded by her Gokumon-To allies (Kyoko & Tomoko)! The full LCO is born!!
Hokuto lands a German Suplex right before the bell rings, then spikes Bull with a floatover double-arm DDT. She bites away in a chinlock but gets beaten on and Bull dives on her… and yup, right there she seems to land on Shimoda (who tries to eat the dive for her, alongside Mita), and she holds her ribs in agony outside after Bull tosses her around a bit. Her bleeding forehead gets bitten back in the ring, then Bull tortures her ribs, Akira managing a Bridging German for two, but slumping back down in pain afterwards. Akira chomps into Bull’s leg to halt the ass-kicking, then cheats some more and uses a cane to blast away on the champ. Northern Lights Bomb attempt, but Bull falls back on her for two. Bull tries her facebuster off the ropes, but gets dumped and now AKIRA dives, and LCO beats on Bull to hold her steady for a slingshot Somersault Senton and the Tope Con Hilo off the top! Back in the ring- NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB!! That gets a narrow two, as Akira’s got such a good hold that she nearly shoot-pins Nakano. A frickin’ Head-Drop Pedigree gets two as well. She unwisely goes up, and sure enough- Flying Splash hits knees and she SCREAMS from the impact, then takes a Powerbomb and the Guillotine Legdrop… for two! The crowd erupts at that, but she’s fucked. Bull actually goes up for the MOONSAULT, but Shimoda throws ineffectual five-year-old flail-punches at her to stall while Mita demands the ref call for help- a doctor runs into the ring and the match is called off at (11:59). Bull goes through the award ceremony while Akira cuts an impassioned promo while mascara tears streak down her face in a great visual.
Damn, they were going full-tilt for the whole thing and had largely skipped the intermediate phases of the match, making it very hot but ultimately ending early- very good for the abbreviated nature and non-finish. It almost looks like they planned that, given the speed of the bout, but Hokuto’s so good at selling you’d never guess a legitimate injury from a kayfabe one. I mean, if this were Steve McMichael or Test, we’d know for sure. The two would IMMEDIATELY be set for a rematch, as only two weeks later sees a semi-famous Steel Cage Match between the two, with a mandatory Huge Cage Spot.
Rating: ***1/4 (even short as it was, and with Akira’s injury affecting the finish, it was good)
WWWA WORLD TAG TITLES:
TOSHIYO YAMADA & MANAMI TOYOTA vs. AJA KONG & MYSTERY OPPONENT (Kyoko Inoue):
* Oh shit! Aja lost the Tag Titles to this squad, but her partner’s now done. It becomes clear to me that Aja is the sole challenger and gets to PICK an opponent, as she screams out “KYOKO!” into the mic and Kyoko, bedraggled and makeup still half-wiped off, runs out to act as her new partner. Bold move given she’s spent fifteen minutes carrying Terri Power’s ass barely twenty minutes ago, but it fits the stories perfectly- Kyoko still hasn’t beaten Toyota in their long feud, and she’s been shopping for top-tier partners ever since, and Aja wants a rematch for the Titles, but is sans partner as well! And now they’ve JOINED FORCES? The champs are in dire trouble.
FALL ONE: Aja’s jovial way of letting Kyoko into the ring is great, as is Toyota swiping at both of them before the match starts. The champs kick Kyoko in the face a bunch to start, but Aja kicks Yamada’s ass (literally, a couple of times). Yamada’s methodically tortured as I realize that now we have the fully-formed AJA KONG here- moving exactly like her later self, with all the same mannerisms. Kyoko adds more stuff, like a release Powerbomb and CLUBBERING, and it’s weird to see Yamada be the one doing the selling. Manami finally gets tagged in to stop restholdamania, and fires off Dropkick Spam and a weird Straightjacket Northern Lights Suplex thing. Bridging Deathlock/Bodylock and the Snap Butterflylock/Leghold thing as Manami shows off her insane submission skills, but Aja hits a Bubba Bomb of all things and squashes her flat with elbows. Brutal Stuff Piledriver, and then they do their recurring spot of “Manami tries the Rolling Cradle like an idiot and gets emphatically hiptossed out”- Aja’s kicking so much ass the crowd is marking out.
Manami snaps off a shock German and KYOKO ends up taking the Cradle, however. She goes to the eyes on the champs, but SLIPS trying something in the corner, so they divebomb her but get the Slingshot Backsplash- good recovery. And then they re-enact the last Aja/Manami match- Aja goes for the Super Mountain Bomb, but Manami aims for the Sunset Powerbomb reversal! Only THIS time, she slips out and hits the mat, so Aja Banzai Drops her from there! So they DID do that reversal earlier than ’94! Kyoko accidentally nails Aja with her flying elbow, but they recover, breaking up the champs’ Super Double Backdrop and instead hit dual Flying Elbows on Manami for the win (15:06). Manami sells that like death for a couple solid minutes, too, and they tease another early end as she gets her ribs taped up.
FALL TWO: Aja defiantly powers through Yamada’s kicks, but that proves a mistake as she gets waffled in a great bit. Yamada beats her down while Manami sells on the apron and gets her ribs taped, but Aja takes out both champs and Kyoko fires off a Giant Swing when Manami tries her dropkick reversal. Kyoko slips trying her Run-Up Back Elbow, so Manami dumps her, but Aja knocks her off the apron from her Walk-Up Moonsault bit, but ends up squashing her own partner coming off the apron herself. Manami NOW hits her Moonsault, nearly killing herself in the process, as these ropes are apparently covered with bacon grease tonight- that was a slip and then an ugly flip. Kyoko lands on her feet from the Double Flipover Backdrop, but tries the Backsplash again and NOW they hit it- BOOM! Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Bridging Straightjacket Electric Chair Drop) gets the pin at (5:51). Aja just now stumbles back into the ring- I guess that moonsault messed her up.
FALL THREE: Manami hits Dropkick Spam on Kyoko again, but Aja runs in with her metal can and drags Manami out for a beating. After some chair-tossing goodness, Kyoko goes for the Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb), but a Manami Roll reverses for two. FINALLY, though, someone decides to work on Manami’s (probably legit) injured ribs. Aja rips the tape off and they work the back- Aja clotheslining Toyota onto Kyoko’s knees looked awesome. She folds Manami with a chokeslam and a backdrop gets two, but she misses a sit-splash and gets killed by Yamada, then Enzuigiri Spam knocks Kyoko around while the crowd senses the end coming. Moonsault misses when Aja interferes, and the Niagara Driver gets two! Yamada has to save, and does a flying thing to Aja, but gets KILLED by an Uraken! Toyota yanks her off a Super Mountain Bomb attempt and holds her for the Flying Enzuigiri, which gets two. Stereo Flying Headbutts… eat mat! The champs get splattered in the corner by Aja, but when she tries again… they back body-drop her into the “Super Backdrop” position for their finisher, like the Jungle Jack match! Only this time Aja elbows Toyota off, but YAMADA still completes the move, and successfully holds Aja down for the three (12:30)! Huh- well that was unexpected.
Very… not quite as amazing as I was expecting give who was involved, but definitely very good. I think Kyoko’s stamina was flagging, and everyone seemed to be working too loosely, as moves would slip, big spots would get botched, etc. A few slips on the ropes I can accept (it’s called “high risk” for a reason), but three is a lot when combined with all that other stuff. The submissions went on FOREVER, too, with two minutes of crab-holds in the last ten minutes of the bout. It’s been a long tour so far, with a TON of 30-minute matches for everyone, so I think they’re just flagging a bit. Then you add in Manami getting her ribs hurt but that not really mattering except for one bit ten minutes later, and the finish that came off as a bit anticlimactic (they can’t hit their finisher, but Yamada scores half of it and still wins?)- I dunno. Still good, but not their best.
Rating: ***1/2 (all in all it had a lot of great stuff in it, but wasn’t close to the best from any of them. Given the talent here it could be ****1/2+ easy with fresh wrestlers- Manami’s hit ***** against every person in the goddamn ring but the referee!)
A much bigger to-do happens right at the end of the match, however, as Crusher Maedomari & Erika Tsuchiya, a team from *FMW*, come down the ring to challenge the champions to an interpromotional match! And Bull Nakano, who is the champion and thus represents the company, is like “THE FUCK IS THIS!?!” and raises hell at ringside while the ring girls try to exile the invaders. And this would lead to another brazen challenge of a much bigger kind, and therefore lead to the Interpromotional Era and the Boom Period of “Mid-90s Joshi”. And now you know… the REST of the story.
Hotta/Minami/Moreno vs. Mita/Ito/Kamiya: **3/4
Mariko/Takako vs. Debbie/Mima: **1/2
Mariko Yoshida vs. Sakie Hasegawa: ***3/4
Kyoko Inoue vs. Terri Power: **1/4
Bull Nakano vs. Akira Hokuto: ***1/4
Toyota/Yamada vs. Kong/Kyoko: ***1/2
-So this was a really weird show, full of “disappointing” matches, in the sense that bouts that’ve hit ****+ before and since are suddenly struggling to hit ***1/2, but it was a night of really bad luck- Debbie Malenko & Akira Hokuto got hurt in the middle of their matches, Kyoko & Mariko were bagged from double double-duty (in 15+ minute matches AND tag matches on the same night), and the Main Event kind of got botchy and had a lot of submissions for any number of reasons. One title changed hands, as Sakie now has the “Rookie Belt”, and we’re only a month from losing Yoshida, but better things are on the horizon.