Joshi Spotlight: Kanaami Death Match!!

* Okay, so this review will be a little bit different, as I can’t find the whole AJW tape (mostly featuring a Fuji TV Tag Tournament of random partners) on YouTube featuring this match, and what DID make the tape was either cut to shreds or had some bad injuries wreck things. So instead I’ll take the one match I can find, and combine it with some AJW TV shows recorded by Roy Lucier’s YouTube account! Dude actually has a couple of AJW’s shows… OH MY GOD WITH COMMERCIALS!! Japanese commercials from the early 1990s!

The other matches in the show:
Fuji TV Tag Tournament: Etsuko Mita & Takako Inoue vs. Mariko Yoshida & Sakie Hasegawa (7:20 of 14:37 aired).
Fuji TV Tag Tournament: Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda vs. Bat Yoshinaga & Tomoko Watanabe (10:09). I would imagine Toyota’s team won. Shimoda apparently got a bloody nose.
The Kanaami Death Match goes here.
Fuji TV Tag Tournament: Akira Hokuto & Toshiyo Yamada vs. Marikyo Yoshida & Sakie Hasegawa (2:44). Stopped by a back injury to Sakie.
Akira Hokuto vs. Mariko Yoshida (0:23). Restarted as a singles match, which Hokuto immediately ruins by using a weapon.
Bull Nakano, Bat Yoshinaga & Tomoko Watanabe vs. Aja Kong, Miori Kamiya & Kaoru Ito (9:01). Bull pins Ito after Aja accidentally Urakens her. Despite their long-standing fued, the two titans apparently “buddy up”.

This show was taped on June 5th, 1992, in Hokkaido’s City Gymnasium, and aired on the 22nd. The ads here are great, with rival perverts accidentally stripping a lady to advertise… something, a thing about predatory starfish (maybe??), a nightclub advertisement, and a trash reduction intiative! Later, there’s a Vitamin Lemon Water that’s as close to Bill Hicks’s routine about what advertising will lead to as you can get (“Yeah, so I’ll totally just slip out of my workout clothes and drink this thing passionately”). There’s even a “Miller Time!” commercial! And Shroeder selling an Omni-Top Speaker. There’s actually WON reviews for this show, with Dave giving all three matches here **** or above- I wonder if he saw them live, or these clipped versions?

* An interesting grab-bag of the company’s midcard talent, with only Yamada doing solo Main Events at this point. She’s in black, Mariko’s in light blue, and Takako’s in her weird red/black bodysuit thing. Suzuka’s in black (looking like Manami Toyota with this terrible tape transfer), Hotta’s in blue, and Debbie’s in a pink Steiner Bros. singlet.

Debbie bumps all over the ring to start, with EVERYONE getting stuff in on her. Christ, I think that’s the most back bumps I’ve ever seen someone take in a row before. They do a five-minute call two minutes into the bout, so whoever’s editing this is INSANELY good- I can’t even spot the cuts. Minami & Takako go next, and the veteran makes Baby Takako look like a champ, flying around to armdrags (one off the top) and selling in a leghold. Yamada gets beaten on by Hotta’s strikes and two Overthrow Powerbombs, but she whups on Debbie, who dodges Takako’s Flying Kneedrop and Suzuka nails a SWEET Bridging German for two. Takako sits on her from a Powerbomb attempt, but she dropkicks both juniors and Yamada Enquigiris Yoshida and this is now ENTIRELY action. Tiger Driver attempt, but Yamada runs in with a missed lariat, catching Hotta on the return… is she using Outback Jack’s finisher? Hotta finally gets the move (a SICK vertical version) for two, as Takako saves. Suzuka’s Senton misses, as does Hotta’s back elbow off the 2nd, and Yamada Belly-To-Bellys Suzuka off the top, leading to Yoshida following with the Run-Up Flying Splash at (7:59 of 17:43 shown).

Jesus, this looked like it was 100% action- a very smart, slick, crowd-pleasing opener, in that it was all moves and zero selling from anyone but Yoshida- everyone just popping up to hit more stuff. More proof that Joshi is the most influential form of wrestling in the world, lol- this is like the US Indie Scene in a nutshell! I mean, this is the kind of thing you put on TV to show off your style to people, and make them wanna buy tickets. And they even put over rising star Yoshida, and without overly hurting Minami, who’s very credible- Yamada ran in and interfered with that Superplex, so it’s “tainted” while also giving the junior a big win!

Rating: ***1/4 (all action, zero selling, and great double-teaming and getting all their shit in!)

Takako, Kyoko & Mariko now advertise the upcoming AJW Grand Prix ’92 Tournament, with a list of the performers, while music plays like something out of early ’90s Cinemax Soft Porn! I mean… probably.

LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Akira Hokuto & Etsuko Mita) vs. THE TOKYO SWEETHEARTS (Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda):
* !!!! Now THIS would be a huge deal even a year or so later, and even bigger after that, but at this point, Mita & Shimoda are still very low-level. But the presence of Hokuto & Toyota make it a big deal nonetheless. LCO is utterly brand new at this point, and haven’t picked up any wins with their new Mexico-born rudo personas, while the Sweethearts haven’t been a thing for an age, so this is a random teaming (AJW does that a LOT on throwaway bouts). Akira’s in black, Mita’s in white, Manami’s in black as usual, and Shimoda’s in her lavender outfit.

LCO brutalize Shimoda to start, choking the shit out of her and even doing a proto-“Bitch Pose” in the ropes while Akira bites her. Mita’s learned “brazen choking” by this point, but hasn’t learned to add the delighted smile that would MAKE that character. Weird spot as the Sweethearts come back and climb, but Akira shakes the ropes from her corner, causing both to fall down off opposite sides of the ring. Haven’t seen THAT before. Manami dropkicks Akira off the top and the Sweethearts dive out, Manami taking over on Mita with three flying moves in a row (only THREE? Damn, TV shows ARE House Show Mode!). Rolling Cradle and Shimoda adds falling clotheslines, with Akira actually PUMMELING her own partner for sucking, so Mita comes back with the Electric Chair Drop, then another, and Akira adds a splash off the top.

Akira does a German, but the bridge fails- Manami comes in with her Roll, but Akira does the Powerbomb counter. LCO wishbones her a couple of times, then Akira dives onto the Sweethearts with her Tope Con Hilo. Mita’s Missile Dropkick & Akira’s Dragon Suplex nearly get Shimoda, Toyota saving, then dropkicks Mita out from under Shimoda (who’s up in a fireman’s carry), then Germans Mita out of German-ing Shimoda. Moonsault looks to finish, but Akira comes in with a Singapore Cane. Shimoda snaps off a German, but Akira barrel-rolls Toyota off the apron and tries to finish with a weird Arm-Trap Backdrop Suplex, but her bridge totaly falls apart, and she instead murders Shimoda dead with the Norther Lights Bomb at (9:15 of 16:44 shown).

Likely abridged, and it felt very much in “House Show Mode”, even from Toyota (who was at half-speed… about as fast as any other wrestler), but it was still all action. The characters are clear- Hokuto & Toyota are dominant, while Mita’s okay and Shimoda has zero chance, so Toyota kept trying to save until she got knocked off and held down by Mita. Hokuto of course had little trouble putting Shimoda away. Oddly enough, Meltzer gave this ****1/4, having presumably seen a full match or something, so I wonder what I missed.

Rating: *** (just fine- even half-assing it these women can really put a match together)

* An actual Title Match on TV! Bison Kimura is near the end of her first run here, probably being meant to put over Kyoko (who’s had trouble beating Toyota all year) in a big match. The best thing here is Bison’s insane ring gear, consisting of a giant Barbarian Queen cape, spiked shoulder pads, and an armored breastplate. She’s in her complicated ’90s gear- the blue, black & yellow criss-crossed one-legged outfit.

Kyoko starts fast but gets Bison Chopped. Long beatdown and a Superplex follow, but Kyoko nails the Slingshot Backsplash to reverse, only to try the same move again immediately, and get Chopped in the back of the head, ending that rally. They trade beatdowns on the outside, Bison throwing chairs like crazy, but Kyoko does a standing victory roll to come back. Some ugly rollups are mostly no-sold, and Bison chops her around in the corner and lands a full one for two, with Kyoko selling death so hard she collapses on a whip. Bison attempts a Flying Headbutt, but Kyoko gets something up (bad camera angle- was that supposed to be feet and she missed?). Run-Up Flying Back Elbow and a Ligerbomb get two. She goes for the Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb), but eats Chop Spam instead, a final one being reversed to a German. She goes up, but meets a Chop on the way down, but manages a Run-Up Missile Dropkick when Bison tries to capitalize. That leads to a quick Giant Swing… followed by a Ligerbomb for the three (8:48 of 23:20 shown)!! Wow, didn’t expect that one so quickly. Kyoko is thus awarded the “White Belt”- AJW’s secondary singles championship, probably as a reward for doing so well against Manami in all those classic matches, and to give her something so it’s clear she’s getting a push and isn’t just “the one who jobs to the next big star”.

This was again all action, with Bison using her limited offense in the best way possible, picking her spots and Kyoko selling all the Chops like death (instrumental to a “Bison Match” is that those Chops are unrealistically more devastating than regular strikes). It was a lot of the usual “Kyoko sells like she’s dying but fires off perfect offense”, and some sloppy rollups, but they did a good come-from-behind story here. Meltzer MUST have seen a full version, because this was barely eight minutes long and cut out 2/3 of the match, and he gave it ****1/4, which is huge for a Bison match.

Rating: ***1/4 (energetic, wild and fun from what they showed- probably much better in full).


* So after Akira got hurt in her CMLL Title match against Bull, they had a rematch in a Steel Cage! This is the longest version I can find, and is almost certainly clipped.

Bull reverses the roundhouse kick to start, then press-slams Akira into the cage. Akira gets bashed into it several times (bleeding at one point), but fights back and starts kicking Bull’s face into it, holding herself up by gripping the cage, in a great spot. Bull climbs in the corner, but takes one of those ugly backwards bumps, sandwiched between the ropes and the cage. She tries to fight back, but Akira backdrops her and starts beating the shit out of her with a cane, Bulls screaming and getting choked, then Akira grinds the tip of the cane into her face, also drawing blood. For a monster, Bull definitely was good at selling her ass off. Hell, both are stumbling around and selling absolute DEATH (so they probably cut ten minutes or so by this point, about 4:00 in).

Hokuto throws out some desperation headbutts to reverse a comeback, then keeps the champ down with some Missile Dropkicks. She climbs, but Bull drags her down, and fires off the Guillotine Legdrop! And then Bull horrifies the crowd by going for it OFF THE CAGE- the very move that stopped Aja Kong in 1991! She smiles, nods at the camera, and dives… and Akira MOVES!! Selling all the while, she drags herself up using the ropes, grabs Bull… Northern Lights Bomb! While her LCO underlings cheer, she picks Bull up and does it again! Another, shittier one, follows, and then Akira climbs: “Think you’re gonna hit a CAGE MOVE on me, motherfucker?! Fuck you!!” MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE CAGE!! Bull gets launched across the ring while Akira flail-climbs over, hitting the floor at (9:34 aired of 18:16). Hokuto cuts an impassioned promo while covered in blood, and part of me thinks that a light-bulb went off over her head, as she realized how to become a true legend.

This looked like it kicked all kinds of ass, with two of the best sellers in the world of 1992 flailing around, collapsing while hitting moves, and struggling to reach their feet. Only nine minutes aired and I’d go to nearly **** off of that, and a full match probably crosses it easily. Hokuto was on another level at this point, and as her body fell apart she’d only get better. It felt like they bumped less and used fewer weapons, instead limiting both to make them more memorable, which is probably more respectable work than Bull/Aja, though kind of loses a bit of the spectacle.

Rating: ***1/2 (this is super-abridged with probably most of the early work cut out of it)

There’s another show from August (08.1992) I can’t find, featuring these matches (mostly clipped, though only a bit):
Sakie Hasegawa vs. Kaoru Ito: Ito apparently looked better, thanks to Sakie’s “can’t quite hit the Savate Kick” thing that she took a while to fix. Not sure who won, but probably Sakie, as she was getting the push.
Las Cachorras Orientales vs. Tomoko Watanabe, Saemi Numata & Cynthia Moreno: Obviously a total squash match, as Hokuto in particular was eons beyond Tomoko or Cynthia- the top-ranked women on the other side.
Aja Kong & Terri Power vs. Kyoko & Takako Inoue: A pre-“Double Inoue” appearance by Kyoko’s team. I think Aja’s team probably won.
Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada vs. Bull Nakano & Bat Yoshinaga: Bull taking her lethal “legit martial artist” teammate into a WWWA Tag Title match sounds interesting. Toyota’s team won after a 22-minute match.