Joshi Spotlight: The Jumping Bomb Angels

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“The Jumping Bomb Angels were very popular at the time, and my friend invited me to the show – and I went to the first show without any prior knowledge- and then I thought ‘oh, THIS is what I have to do’. That was about ninth grade.”
-Manami Toyota, via a translator, about why she became a wrestler, at the Chikara Joshimania show.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS:

NORIYO TATENO:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’5″ 165 lbs.
Career: 1981-2010

ITSUKI YAMAZAKI:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’5″ 137 lbs.
Career: 1981-1991

Among the only classic Joshi known to North American fans, the Jumping Bomb Angels are somewhat famous to workrate snobs for coming on WWF TV and blowing minds with offense that looked straight-up futuristic for the time, throwing out crazy double-teams and top-rope moves that NOBODY was doing at the time. Popular in Japan, neither became a true megastar, and they were always subordinate to the Crush Gals (who were over to the point of being a cultural phenomenon at the time), but I think they were definitely more noticed by people who wanted to see fast-paced action- hell, I think it’s fair to call the JB Angels among the most influential wrestlers of all time!See, in the end, the “Crush Gals” style faded away save for a few wrestlers using it (Yamada, Hotta and a few others use variations), the “Atrocious Alliance” brawling style faded away when Bull lost the WWWA Title… and a modification of the “Angel Style”, with their distinctive breakneck pace and high-flying, along with crazy double-teams, became the new standard, as it was used by Manami Toyota and her contemporaries to great effect. Watching ancient AJW shows of the ’80s, it’s the *JBA* who look most like the ’90s of AJW & JWP (Kyoko, Ozaki, Cutie, Takako, etc.), not the Gals or Alliance. It really wasn’t until Chigusa Nagayo’s GAEA Japan became the ultimate joshi promotion that things shifted back, with her trainees like Meiko Satomura hitting it big and the “Kicking & Submissions” style took back over again. But I think if you go back and watch 1980s wrestling, the four people whose style most resembles the styles of today are Tiger Mask, The Dynamite Kid, and the Jumping Bomb Angels.

Their influence is simply a step above- a ninth-grader named Manami Toyota gets dragged to an AJW show, sees one Bomb Angels match, and is like “Well that’s it- that’s what I have to do for the rest of my life”. Toyota even explains that Yamazaki was her mentor in the company- both were active at the first Wrestlemarinepiad in 1989, where a Baby Manami had her breakout performance (using Yamazaki’s Walk-Up Armbar Takeover, too), and she based her feminine, long-haired appearance off of those of the Angels.

Both Angels wrestled a similar style and had the same hair & gear for the most part, but you can spot some differences- Yamazaki is more slender, while Tateno has more of a “Molly Holly” figure. Yamazaki was lightning-fast, with even Jesse Ventura calling out that he’s never seen a ladies wrestler move as quick as she did. Though Tateno tended to get the big “crowd-pleasing spots”, Yamazaki worked at a breakneck pace that would become hugely influential, as you can see her style reflected in ’90s Joshi, even more than Tateno’s. Yamazaki had a much shorter career than Tateno, retiring pretty well when expected to and never coming back, though as mentor to Manami, arguably had a greater overall impact on Joshi. She’s probably one of the wrestlers of the ’80s whom I could see getting over in ANY era of wrestling- she could debut tomorrow and still be over. Hell, there’s a WCW PPV from 1991 in which impresses a frickin’ Southern wrestling crowd probably used to Moolah-style crapfest women’s matches- she wins them over in all of thirty seconds!

They are easily most well-known to North American fans for their run in the *WWF* of all places, touring North America in 1987-88, usually only fighting the Glamour Girls, Judy Martin & Leilani Kai. Both AJW-trained women, the Girls were deft enough in the ring to keep up with the “AJW Pace”, throwing out crazy stuff to match them (Martin of all people debuted the POWERBOMB on WWF television, years before Sid would do it in WCW). This all circled around the mothballed WWF Ladies Tag Team Titles, and the Girls would take on the Angels repeatedly, with the AJW team having a great showcase at the first inaugural Survivor Series, in which they threw out some of the most remarkable moves in the business in 1987, causing Gorilla Monsoon AND Jesse Ventura to straight-up mark out on commentary, and immediately winning over the crowd.

It’s hard to define just HOW CRAZY their offense was for the time. I mean… I love 1980s-90s WWF. It was great fun, with wild stuff and great angles. But the WWF was definitely not a “workrate territory” at this point- I’d put Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage against anyone’s best, but the company was focusing on huge, bizarre characters and big angles over workrate and inventive offense. This was a place where a ***1/2 Bossman/Barbarian PPV match still gets talked about almost 30 years later. So to have someone like Tateno come out there and do an impossible bridge-out of a pin, then do an armdrag from the TOP ROPE was absolutely insane. The Angels got to showcase themselves on two major shows (the Survivor Series & Royal Rumble) before ultimately disappearing.

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A young Tateno in a 1984 match.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
-Noriyo Tateno had a much longer career than Yamazaki overall, and seemed to have more credibility in solo bouts. A “Pretty Girl” wrestler, she defeated Chigusa Nagayo in 1982 for the AJW Junior Title, holding it until Jan. 1984, losing it back. Yamazaki actually defeated Tateno in Feb. 1984 for the vacant AJW Title (the third-tier belt, meant for young stars), holding it for an entire year before vacating it in Feb. 1985 after she was aged out of contention. In January 1986, the Bomb Angels defeated Dump Matsumoto’s subordinates, Bull Nakano & Condor Saito, to win the vacant WWWA World Tag Team Titles. Unfortunately for the Angels, this was the era of the Crush Gals, and so Chigusa & Lioness managed to defeat them only a couple months later, on March 20th. This would shockingly be their only run with the belts, though the Angels still pulled out big wins here and there.

In a highly unusual string of events, the Bomb Angels would tour the WWF in 1987 as the rivals to the heel Glamour Girls, Judy Martin & Leilani Kai. After a few short matches, they got their TRUE showcase at the inaugural Survivor Series, in which they were the sole survivors, lasting out the rest of the babyface team, being left against the Girls in the end. The Angels took out both Glamour Girls that night, dropkicked Jimmy Hart off the apron (causing him to take a huge bump onto his head in the process), and were an immediate sensation. Both Monsoon & Ventura were incredibly impressed. They all went around the States wrestling only each other for a year- nobody else was gonna keep up.

The Angels then took on the Glamour Girls at the first ever Royal Rumble, defeating them in another great match (I went ***1/2 or so, as did Scott Keith) for the Ladies Tag Team Titles, which they defended a few times more. Unfortunately, it would soon be the end of their run- the Angels lost the tag titles in Japan, with the Glamour Girls defeating them by count-out on June 8, 1988, ending a 136-day reign. The Angels were never seen again in the WWF, and even WrestlingData has no other contemporary matches from the team. Yamazaki would, however, take a young Manami Toyota under her wing, becoming her mentor (“senpai” in Japan; a major deal full of cultural honorifics there).

In 1989, Tateno defeated Bull Nakano for the All-Pacific Title, the secondary belt of AJW, and held it until April 1990, losing it to rising star Aja Kong after 186 days. She lasted in AJW until the mandatory “Retirement Rule” forced her out when she hit 26, and Yamazaki followed left AJW in 1989 and wrestled in JWP before calling it quits in 1991 (but not before making a *WCW* Pay-Per-View, impressing American crowds with her high-flying again at WrestleWar ’91!). However, while Yamazai never returned to the ring on a regular basis, Tateno was only gone for a couple years, returning in 1992 in Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling, a rival company to AJW. I’ve only seen her on a tiny handful of shows from this time period, as she oddly didn’t wrestle very much in the “Interpromotional Era”. She wrestled in a Survivor Series-style match against AJW that saw her as a “filler” wrestler when LLPW ultimately won with Eagle Sawai being the dominant star, and she lost to Bull Nakano in a very long match in the undercard of the AJW/LLPW super-show Nagoya Super Storm in Sept. 1993. I found it a trifle dull, with wayyyyyyyy too much “lying around in submissions that don’t matter” and sloppiness, and the former WWWA Champion subdued her with a Moonsault after the Guillotine Legdrop failed.

After a while to shake off the ring rust, however, Tateno actually got a huge-ass push- one of the bigger surprises in my joshi research was discovering that she beat SHINOBU KANDORI of all people, becoming LLPW Champion in Sept. 1994, holding the title for 175 days before jobbing to the new Ace, Eagle Sawai in early 1995! Seeing Kandori’s credibility showcased in the 1993-94 Interpromotional shows, I’m a bit stunned that Tateno was ever able to beat her- Akira Hokuto practically had to leave half her soul in the ring to score a pin over Kandori, and lost all the subsequent matches! How did TATENO do it?!? She wrestled a lot during the mid-90s, not slowing down until 1999 or so.

The late ’90s seemed to feature Tateno in a subordinate role, as she held the LLPW Six-Man (yes, it’s called that) Tag Titles twice, first with Rumi Kazama & Yasha Kurenai for 277 days, then with Harley Saito & Keiko Aono for 254 days, defeating the Eagle Sawai, Lioness Asuka & Shark Tsuchiya (… that’s a weird team) team that had unseated her first squad. Then, very, very late into her career (Cagematch only lists her wrestling 5-7 matches per year at this point), Tateno would team with Eagle to win the LLPW Tag Team Titles, an oddly new set of belts, defeating Sayuri Okino & Aiger in 2004, holding the belts for 530 days (!!), before vacating them in 2007. She’d wrestle a little more, going fairly frequently in 2008-09, but would finally call it quits in 2010, ending a 29-year wrestling career, outlasting her original company.

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Yamazaki & Tateno with Takako Inoue in 2008. Both Angels are in their 40s here.

YAMAZAKI’S MOVESET:
Running Double-Arm Strike, Running Dropkick, Figure-Four Leglock, Sunset Flip (OH GOD SO MANY), “Walk Up the Body” Short Arm-Scissors, Jumping Bodyscissors Takeover, Butterfly Suplex, Flying Armdrag, Missile Dropkick, Flying Turning Cross-Body (Finisher)

TATENO’S MOVESET:
Running Double-Arm Strike, Running Dropkick, Running High Knee (usually does two in a row), Figure-Four Leglock, Bodyscissors, Bridge-Out From a Slam, Bridging Butterfly (Double-Arm) Suplex, Flying Clothesline, Missile Dropkick, Flying Kneedrop (Finisher)

THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS vs. THE CRUSH GALS
(1987, possibly 14.09.1987)
* Yes, it’s the two biggest-name Joshi teams of the ’80s. The crowd chants the Gals’ names to the tune of their theme song, and I swear to God it’s louder than the actual music- I daresay these girls are over. The Gals are wearing cub scout shirts complete with badges (how many forks to the head do you gotta take to earn one of THOSE?). Both teams are wearing matching uniforms, mostly in black, which is gonna make this awful tape transfer fun to watch. Chigusa’s got red bits, Asuka blue, Tateno pink & black, and Yamazai black & pink.

The entire hard camera shot features a line of little girls running the full length of the screen shrieking “CHI-GU-SA!” while waving pom-poms- a partisan crowd this ain’t. The Gals catch Yamazaki with a lariat sandwich, and Asuka fires off Tatanka’s finisher of all things- Tateno won’t break her bridge, so Asuka starts spitefully hammering on her ribs and drags her across the ring. Never seen THAT spot before. Kick sandwich misses and the Gals fire off a storm of dropkicks, including a double-set. The crowd reacting to this Cruiserweight offense and restholds like the Gals are being murdered by vicious shitheels is hilarious. Asuka hits a great belly-to-belly on Yamazaki and tears into her arm with some fantastic stuff. Demolition Decapitation-style knee gets two, and Chigusa keeps trying for the count, hits her own belly-to-belly, and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Yamazaki squirms out and gets her own leghold- I love fighting for holds like that. Tateno does an interesting running knee to Chigusa’s held-out leg as the worried chants grow louder. Perfect Plex gets two, but Chigusa tags out and Asuka takes Tateno’s double high knees and a Hart Attack-style dropkick off the second rope (nice touch as Yamazaki shouts for Tateno to move further forward to give her more room). Asuka escapes and Chigusa lands a German on Tateno for two, but Tateno hits an even better one as the crowd SCREAMS in horror.

Bridging butterfly suplex and now the HART ATTACK gets two. Yamazaki does some running stuff but gets outwrestled and Asuka blasts her with a Flying Clothesline. Chigusa kicks her in the face to set up Asuka’s nine-revolution Giant Swing, too! The Gals hit piledrivers & a backdrop suplex, and now it’s stereo Flying Back Elbows! Yamazaki eats a roundhouse kick, but keeps fighting out at two, and now they SANDWICH her with two of them! She stumbles over to Tateno, who walks right into a DRAGON SUPLEX (!!!), rolling over at two. Snap bridging suplex gets two, and Tateno kicks Chigusa right in the gut following a Northern Lights Suplex, and takes the Sharpshooter & powerslam for it. Yamazaki reverses a cross-corner whip with a Run-Up Flying Cross-Body, but misses. Vertical suplex for her and a roundhouse kick for Tateno, and now it’s the GALS who throw out a Hart Attack, this time with one doing the lariat off the second rope! That doesn’t work, so they try their Lariat Sandwich again… and lariat EACH OTHER as Tateno ducks while running!! The Angels climb and nail Stereo Missile Dropkicks, and Asuka’s left alone in the ring- Yamazaki’s Flying Headbutt and Tateno’s Flying Splash finishes her at (16:45)!! The Gals lose!! The fans scream long and loud after the end, but the Gals are good sports and shake hands, impressed with the Angels.

Absolutely spectacular match, with a ton of great psychology- the Gals weren’t as flashy as the Angels, but I loved how they kept trying for pinfalls after every single move they tried. That shit wears people down, and really made it look like the Gals wanted a win. The Angels were fantastic on offense as you might imagine, scoring great double-teams that were state of the art for 1987, and you can’t ask for better sellers than the Gals once they’re in the mood for it. They had the raw toughness with those big band-bending suplexes, but couldn’t match the JBA’s speed. Tateno diving under that Lariat Sandwich was a work of art, never even breaking stride, and it led right to two awesome tandem moves that finished off Lioness Asuka- no mean feat in 1987. The pace here was FIRE, as they never sat in a hold for longer than thirty seconds, and nearly every move either involved running or someone pulling off a full bridge. These girls were all nuts and their cardio is on another level.

Rating: ****1/2 (one of the best examples of face-paced team action you’ll see)

THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS vs. THE GLAMOUR GIRLS (Judy Martin & Leilani Kai, w/ Jimmy Hart):
(24.11.1987)
* This is the only JBA/GG match televised by the WWF that I haven’t reviewed already, and Manji says it was the best one. Gorilla Monsoon, Lord Alfred Hayes and NICK BOCKWINKEL of all people do commentary, and completely put over how quick the Angels are, and how great their teamwork is. They’re both wearing American Flag singlets, oddly- Tateno’s a bit thicker and hers is red, while Yamazaki is more slender and hers is black, complete with black stripes.

Yamazaki IMMEDIATELY blows the roof off by forward-flipping out of Kai’s clothesline and scoring a running smash and a big dropkick, and Tateno follows with a pair of high knees to Martin- like 30 seconds have gone by. Yamazaki does the Flying Armdrag and the Girls take a breather so the crowd can let it sink in. Tateno gets beaten up as Martin readies herself, but BOOM- she does that insane bridge-out from a slam, leapfrogs her and catches her with a sunset flip and the crowd’s right back into it. Yamazaki adds a monkey flip, and teases another before sunset flipping for two and Martin bails. Kai overpowers Yamazaki and celebrates after a fireman’s carry toss, but Yamazaki just lands on her feet and dropkicks her when she turns around! Tateno’s Flying Knee gets two, and they work over Kai before Yamazaki misses a Senton off the second rope- the crowd “OH!”s at that one pretty hard, as a flying back bump like that was huge for 1987. Finally, 4:30 into the match, the Glamour Girls take over, stepping on Yamazaki and Moolah Whipping her around, then doing some good, down-home cheating, then distracting the referee for Yamazaki’s comeback- tremendous.

Nick notes that Yamazaki’s punches have been weak since she took that big bump, and Gorilla adds that Kai losing 15-20 pounds has helped her, then rescinds that when she misses a legdrop, owing to lack of padding- hee hee. The ref misses obvious missed GG tags and MSG gives him shit, then Yamazaki can’t make the tag after a comeback. Crowd goes apoplectic when she DOES and the ref doesn’t see it, but she still does the “Fuck YOU!” bridge out of the pin from a double-team dropkick. Nick theorizes the JBA were planning on winning quickly, and their game fell apart when I didn’t- I love tactical discussions like he’s doing here. Yamazaki’s helpless selling is great, though all her comebacks are coming from sunset flips to excess. But FINALLY the Girls collide on their double-bearhug-sandwich thing and it’s the hot tag! Tateno fires away with three running moves in a row, and hits a clothesline off the second rope for two on Martin, lighting up the crowd. Kai actually KICKS the referee (Monsoon can’t believe that’s not a DQ), and Martin uses that to make the comeback, and the JBA miss stereo dropkicks after a do-si-do. Stereo covers… and stereo bridge-outs!! The Girls get thrown into each other, and it’s DOUBLE MISSILE DROPKICKS to Kai!! In 1987!! The ref misses the pin, tossing Martin out of the ring, however, and then he of course gets Yamazaki out of there long enough for Martin to interfere with a POWERBOMB (again- 1987!), and that gets the pinfall at (13:59). The incensed JBA beat the shit out of the Glamour Girls for revenge, and then blow the roof off the place by aiming for JIMMY HART, but he scampers out like the hugest wussy who ever lived, sending the crowd home happy regardless.

Tremendous old-school heeling from the Glamour Girls after that huge 4-5 minutes of Bomb Angel dominance, thus giving us the best to both worlds- Joshi flying around and then measured, character-filled American heeling. And then well-choreographed double-teaming in the end, with the Angels getting screwed by bad officiating- a CLASSIC call for “one more match” without being an actual Fuck Finish. Just great stuff. Maaaaaaaaybe the heat segment on Yamazaki went on for too long and had too many of the same comeback move, but overall it was great, and went for a good, long time as well.

Rating: **** (unheard-of stuff for the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era- futuristic but down to earth with good American heel behavior)

THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS vs. BULL NAKANO & CONDOR SAITO:
* Tateno’s in blue, and Yamazaki’s in yellow, and the Angels are teaming up against Dump Matsumoto’s top subordinates, a young Bull Nakano and one of the many, MANY other animal-named punkers in the Atrocious Alliance, Condor Saito. About her, I know nothing. Wrestlingdata indicates she was active between 1985-87, won the AJW Junior Title quickly, and won the WWWA Tag Titles with Bull, but appeared to vacate quickly and was replaced by another AA member- I suspect a quick injury. She’s in a striped singlet, has a LOT of makeup on, and has her hair dyed blonde with brown tips. She continues the odd trend of Dump’s subordinates all being oddly attractive for ladies named after wild animals and dressed as violent punks. Bull herself has half her head shaved, with the rest dyed blue, and has her nunchucks already!

The Alliance attacks immediately, but Yamazaki gets PO’d, launches herself over the ropes with a kick, then butterfly suplexes Bull, looking WAY tougher than I’ve seen her elsewhere! Bull comes back with a Sharpshooter and choking while the commentators namedrop the WWF, Judy Martin & Leilani Kai. Condor tosses both Angels around, but takes two high knees from Tateno and stretching, but comes back and does some basic stuff of her own (usually just “grab & pull” stuff to indicate brute force). The heels keep using various means of strangulation, this time on Yamazaki, who takes a few minutes of that before leaping over the ropes off a whip and slingshotting back in with a cross-body, then hitting a 2nd-rope dropkick on Bull. Oh yeah, Manami was a Yamazaki fan, alright. Butterfly Suplex, but Tateno misses the Flying Knee. Bull takes a double-dropkick before bailing, and Condor brawls, but gets caught in a Figure-Four, backdrop and a Flying Cross-Body for two. Bull takes over on Tateno, hammering away with the nunchucks and doing her big dramatic martial arts pose with them. She leaps to the ropes for her facecrusher thing, but Yamazaki dropkicks her from there and you can almost see Bull go “NOPE” to taking the huge bump to the outside that would entail, so she just hops down and brawls. Yamazaki’s caught in a double-choke, but tries a Missile Dropkick, hitting only mat, and then it turns into a brawl outside, Bull choking Yamazaki with the nunchucks while the count rapidly starts and gets everyone Counted Out at (11:15).

Match was pretty decent, but a far cry from the JBA’s usual advanced stuff- Condor & Bull appeared to have that “barely know the basics” feel to them, doing only simple brawling and getting a bit uncoordinated once the Angels started moving too quickly for them.

Rating: **1/2 (okay match, but the Alliance kids weren’t up to the challenge)