Joshi Spotlight: Cutie Suzuki

“They definitely made the right call- it wasn’t Ugly Suzuki.”
-someone during a livewatch.

Real Name: Yumi Suzuki (now Yumi Harashima)
Career: 1986-1999

Word of Advice: Do not translate the comments left on Cutie Suzuki videos into English. Just trust me on this.

-A somewhat controversial element of ’90s Joshi is Cutie Suzuki, one of the more prominent “Idol Wrestlers” of her day. While this wasn’t exactly a rare thing, as model/wrestlers pushed for their looks and sold modeling tapes/magazines on the side were a thing in the ’80s, and Takako Inoue was a prominent one in AJW at the time, few were as “on the nose” as Cutie. I mean, Takako’s music implied She’s a Knockout, but her outfits weren’t overly fanservicey and she wrestled like anyone else. Cutie, meanwhile, had her looks mentioned IN HER NAME, and wrestled in a ballerina outfit. Her whole schtick kind of overwhelmingly seems made to appeal to the stereotypes about what Japanese men find attractive. And because of that, and the push she received for it, it’s fairly popular to trash on her as getting an oversized push. Truth be told, she’s not BAD, but is certainly not in the same “Skill Tier” as most of the other women on her level. But I find she’s rarely a hindrance in any particular match, and has some in-ring skills that are definitely underrated.

Cutie was one of the top five acts of Joshi Women’s Pro Wrestling (JWP; AJW’s rival as the top joshi promotion in Japan), staying with the company during the split with the “LLPW” wrestlers in the early ’90s (as one of the “Entertainers”, this is probably unsurprising- the more “legit” wrestlers went with LLPW). Her looks earned her an “Idol” push, to the point where she was arguably the #4 person in JWP- Dynamite Kansai was the Ace, Devil Masami around that level, Mayumi Ozaki below them, then Cutie, then Plum Mariko, then the up & coming Hikari Fukuoka. Cutie being placed ahead of Plum, who was clearly superior as a worker, kind of rankles some Puro fans (the most in-depth bio of Plum positively rips into Cutie over this, pointing out it’s only because of her looks). And despite never winning major singles gold in JWP, she was put into big-time spots in solo matches, won the Tag Titles numerous times, and was one of only two women wrestlers in Japanese history (Dump Matsumoto, her opposite in every way, is the other) to have a VIDEO GAME named after them- the 1993 Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel.

Image result for cutie suzuki ringside angel

Actual gameplay footage. Everyone’s got the same body and skimpy outfit on from the looks of things. And one of the commentators is a Stegosaurus, I guess.

But despite the backlash against her, Cutie was hardly BAD in the ring. She just… clearly wasn’t that great. While her moveset was advanced enough to include Missile Dropkicks, German Suplexes, and even a Bridging Dragon Suplex, she often came off as more clumsy and ungraceful while doing those same moves, so they weren’t as impressive. They rarely hit as flush, nor looked as pretty, as when others did them. Her moves lacked a lot of “oomph”, and she just couldn’t compete at the higher level. Hell, looking for exemplary singles matches, I found mediocre stuff against some very good workers, and “well that was pretty solid” stuff against top-flight ones, at best until I got to the Ozaki one.

But she still had a lot of moves, had cardio as good as just about anyone’s, and was one of the top sellers of her day- her best talent by far was at “playing Ricky Morton”. Screaming in pain to earn audience sympathy is a valuable trait in a wrestler, and she was one of the best at it. This made her really good in tag matches especially (her and Ozaki have a *****-ish match against Las Cachorras Orientales utilizing this), and even pretty good in singles. I think her peak in a solo match is around ****, which is hardly BAD… it’s just nowhere near as good as what about a dozen other women active at the same time were doing. But I mean, she got over in two appearances in 1995 WCW and had countless tag bouts way over ****- that’s something.

That said, the nature of the “Idol” wrestlers has been argued to have had negative effects on Joshi as a whole. One of the theories of the end of the “Golden Era” of Joshi was that the influx of new talent who got into wrestling because of the regular-looking Crush Gals or athletic Jumping Bomb Angels led to a new boom in the industry… but that a greater focus on “buy swimsuit albums of this wrestler!” stuff turned off that same audience, which killed the “talent pipeline” that AJW and other companies relied on, as teen girls left the product and stopped applying to be wrestlers. This would naturally be combined with things like “the old stars never retired so the younger ones couldn’t get ahead”, “the Japanese economy died”, and “the shift to workrate built a male audience, not a female one”, and is mostly theory, but there’s no real getting around that looks are more important than ever today, and current Joshi as a whole is far diminished from its peak.

Image result for cutie suzuki

Cutie and her AJW counterpart/rival, Takako Inoue.

-Cutie Suzuki debuted in 1986, and about her early days I know nothing (I’ll edit it in if Manjiimortal tells me some, lol)- she was in JWP for pretty much her entire career, and six years into her run she fought Dynamite Kansai in the finals of the JWP Openweight Championship tournament, losing to the company’s Ace. When the “Interpromotional Era” began, Cutie was placed into numerous matches as a second-tier JWP star- great matches at the Dream Slams featured her in multi-person bouts that drew a ton of acclaim- Double Inoue defeated her & Mayumi Ozaki, and the next show saw her in a team with Bolshoi Kid & Plum Mariko, losing to Double Inoue & Yumiko Hotta. A feud developed between her and AJW’s top Idol, Takako Inoue, who seemed to take particular delight in torturing the more innocent-looking Suzuki- Takako won the first match on an AJW card, but Cutie defeated her on home turf months later (I rated both bouts around ****). Meanwhile, 1992-1998 saw her as a constant fixture in JWP’s tag title scene, winning it five times with three different partners!

She & Mayumi Ozaki were the inaugural JWP Tag Champions, holding them for 224 days in 1992-93, losing to Devil Masami & Kansai before winning them back in late ’93. That year saw her performing in the all-time classic “Thunder Queen Battle”, wrestling alongside JWP’s stars against AJW in an Iron Man-style 8-Woman Tag, but she & Ozaki lost the titles to the invading AJW wrestlers Las Cachorras Orientales in a classic tag bout (many on the Blog gave in *****), ending a 115-day reign. At Wrestlemarinepiad 1993, she led a JWP team to beat an AJW squad in a good lower-card bout. At St. Battle Final that same year, she, Plum & Hikari were crushed by Bull Nakano & LCO in another fun match. At Big Egg Wrestling Universe in 1994, she participated in an “All Idol Match”- a throwaway before the Main Event showing her & Takako putting differences aside and wrestling Hikari Fukuoka & Megumi Kudo- FMW’s Ace (Kudo) pinning Takako.

Ozaki & Hikari Fukuoka would win the Tag Titles back from LCO, but the odd team of Cutie & KANSAI would defeat them shortly thereafter for a 1995 reign lasting 266 days, dropping them to Hikari & KAORU. Cutie & Kansai beat them back in 1996, holding them for 142 days before losing to Hikari & Masami. She & Ozaki made an odd appearance in WCW of all places, wrestling the dominant heel team of Akira Hokuto & Bull Nakano at the World War 3 Pay-Per-View, and the Monday Nitro the next night. Their role was like Taka Michinoku’s against Great Sasuke in the WWF- highly-skilled people to put the big act way over. The matches impressed, but the WCW women’s division never took off. She also voiced the character Iczer-3 in the animated series Iczer Reborn, and appeared in a couple of films.

Iczer-3, apparently.

Cutie’s final Tag Title reign came in mid-1998, teaming with Devil Masami of all people to beat Hikari & Tomoko Kuzumi, holding the titles only 47 days before losing them back, right before Cutie’s retirement. Exactly why she retired, I’m not sure, but she wrestled a LOT in the prior years, in a very violent, punishing style, and as an “Idol” banking on cuteness (I mean, it’s in her name), her years were possibly more numbered than those of her contemporaries.

Flying Clothesline, Missile Dropkick, German Suplex, Dragon Suplex, Dragon Sleeper, Flying Double-Foot Stomp, Flying Knee Smash (sometimes finisher), Cutie Special (Bridging Fallaway Slam- Finisher)

* Cutie’s wearing a white & gold outfit, while Kansai’s in her usual yellow gear from around this time. Kansai would be reigning JWP Champion at this point.

Cutie attacks before the bell, hitting a German, but gets lariated and beaten on the inside. She makes a quick comeback, but then gets DESTROYED with a leg-sweep and a backdrop driver, but kicks out at only one, shocking Kansai & the crowd. Superplex gets another one-count, so Kansai uses a ton of kicks and a sharpshooter to torture her, Cutie screaming for the duration. A slam on a table and suplex on the floor brutalize her, but she makes a quick comeback in the ring, doing some weak submissions. Finally, Kansai boots her square in the face out of the corner, then catches her with a Northern Lights Suplex. Cutie reverses a Backdrop Superplex by falling on Kansai, then does a Flying Double-Foot Stomp! She misses a dive, but sunset flips out of Splash Mountain in the ring. Kansai levels her with strikes & slams while the crowd chants for Cutie, who manages a couple mini-comebacks with stuff like a DDT and rollups, finally hitting a Dragon Suplex out of a lariat for one! Another, but Kansai still slides over at one. Both struggle to their feet, but Kansai manages to lift her up into a backdrop… then slickly spins her into Splash Mountain position, firing her downwards for a high-angle Razor’s Edge, getting the pin at (11:58).

Not a bad little match, as much as it suffered from the usual “Cutie Problems” on offense (she had no power or urgency on her submission work)- the comebacks were well-timed, with many being short teases and others being more extended. I’m a sucker for a good Powerhouse Veteran versus Plucky Rookie match, and this had many of the qualities of that style. Cutie never had so much as a chance, and Kansai was still kicking out at one to make that more obvious, but it was okay.

Rating: *** (almost an extended squash, but with good selling and Kansai’s usual good offense)

* … oh my god, what is Hikari wearing? With the pink outfit, garters and cinnamon-roll bra, she looks like one of Bender’s robot girlfriends on “Futurama”. This match is sorta the resident “Sorta #4” with the rising star whom JWP clearly wants to push in the future. This is circa the Dream Slam shows in time, and takes place at Korakuen Hall.

Humorously, the two idols play it up like Hogan/Warrior with dramatic lockups to start, but it turns into dreadful, zero-effort stretching until Hikari wakes them up with a cartwheel and dropkicks. But then it’s resthold city again until Hikari hits a bulldog and continues to dominate, but she gets caught in a nasty-looking armbar and now Cutie holds the advantage. All the previous stuff took TEN MINUTES. Now it’s lots of arm stuff, some good and some “Cutie can’t really do a Bomb Angel walk-up armbar but tries anyway”. Hikari Germans her then overshoots a Flying Sunset Flip (the crowd laughs), but hits a Powerslam for two, then a DDT and a dive, still selling that arm. German gets two, and they switch on attempts until Hikari gets the Rolling Cradle.

An Argentine Backbreaker turns into a spinning toss (looks like she was going for a Powerbomb but realized she didn’t have the lift for it), Missile Dropkick misses, and Cutie gets caught with a Super Powerslam- “Fuck YOU!” bridge! Hey, the crowd’s awake! Frog Splash misses, so Cutie hits the Flying Double-Foot Stomp, then does another off the apron to the floor. Hikari reverses to a Straightjacket German in the ring, but they fuck up a backdrop and Cutie takes a Moonsault for two. Cutie reverses to pins a couple of times, then reverses to a shitty Backdrop Superplex and does a Dragon Suplex for the win (20:34).

MAN this was dreary. Korakuen was either sitting on their hands or just ogling, and the action was uninspired. They couldn’t transition for shit, did the “picks them up and Germans them” rather than wrestling into it, and stuff like that. This was CLEARLY two people being told to wrestle 20 minutes and not knowing how to do that, so they did “filler” for 15- neither seemed to have ring smarts or ability to read the crowd. After most big moves, instead of capitalizing, they’d just kind of stand around and wait to come up with something else, for example, and there was a lot of hesitation. Few things are more dull than a match that’s way too long for its own good, either.

Rating: **1/4 (unacceptably long, disjointed and with not even that many cool moves)

(15.10.1995, Korakuen Hall)
* So JWP’s top title had been vacant for a year, right during the Interpromotional Era for some reason, and here’s the final match in the tournament to decide the winner. Cutie somehow reaching the finals over Mayumi Ozaki or someone seems to lend credence to the idea of her being over-pushed, I dunno. Cutie’s hair is now MUCH longer, while Ozaki has her signature red gear, covered in ribbons and cut-out bits. Her curly hair, dyed somewhat red, indicates her hooligan/heel nature.

Big staredown to begin, and they do some dramatic, growling reversals, with Ozaki’s pint-sized brawler act winning out. She’s such a great shit-heel, digging her foot into Cutie’s head during a submission attempt. Cutie gets a DDT to come back, stretching Ozaki and getting revenge by yanking on the hair in the ropes and doing a dragon sleeper over them, with Ozaki just smirking and snarling. They keep it steady with some choking, running attacks, and reversals, but Ozaki plants Cutie with a Ligerbomb to take the lead. She goes for the Tequila Sunrise (Half-Nelson/Hammerlock Suplex), but Cutie grabs the ropes and eventually hauls her over with a bodyscissors. Ozaki takes her out there, though, smashing her around and hitting her Senton Attack off the apron, then hitting a Powerbomb and Turning Splash back in the ring for two! Damn, she’s dominating- Cutie tries some Dragon Suplexes to come back but earns a Stone Cold Stunner for her troubles. That gets two, but she brings Ozaki off the top with an electric chair drop, then fires off THREE Flying Double-Foot Stomps and a missile dropkick- oh, joshi.

Straightjacket German gets two, then Cutie knocks Ozaki out of the ring and dives onto her! Cutie gets even with chair-swinging on the outside (Ozaki’s selling is amazing- punching her own back to deaden the pain), too, then hits Ozaki with a trio of Dragon Suplexes! She gets caught celebrating, though- Ozaki drags her to the mat with a vicious armbar, then JUMPS OFF THE TOP onto the arm- jeeeeeeeeeeeezus. How do you even fake that? Another armhold and a Tiger Suplex get two, but she tries a Super Thesz Press slam and Cutie spins her around for a goddamn SUPERBOMB! Now that’s a comeback! Cutie, still selling the arm, runs in but gets Ligerbombed for two. She manages a knee out of the corner, hits the Flying Knee Smash, but a second gets her swatted down for two. Tequila Sunrise! That gets two, and Ozaki looks to finish- she drags Cutie up top for some weird thing (a neckbreaker?), but Cutie grapples out of it and hits a Super Victory Roll (sounds better than it looked)… and manages to hold her down for the three (17:29)! Cutie beats Ozaki!! A big shock for the time, I bet.

This is one of those matches that really showcases how good Ozaki really is- with a sinister charisma, she comes off as conniving, awful and cruel despite being smaller than all her opponents. Her selling has this annoyed-looking quality to it as if she’s offended at being hurt, and her sneering adds a lot to even simple stuff like kick exchanges or running attacks. Cutie sold the arm stuff like dynamite, getting this great agonized look on her face, and made it seem crippling. This match was great, albeit with the “eats several huge moves, but starts a comeback with a series of huge moves” syndrome that affects a lot of joshi, but at least Cutie kept selling during her offensive comebacks, like she wasn’t at 100%. So it ended up being kind of a MOVEZ match, but with way better selling than normal. The finish wasn’t pretty, but was set up by all the comebacks Cutie was making.

Rating: **** (elevated a lot by the selling of both women, and there were some awesome moves and comebacks)

(15.10.1995, Korakuen Hall)
* And now we’re right into the final match in the JWP Title tournament. Cutie has her “serious face” on during introductions, staring down Kansai despite wearing a lil’ frilly white balerina outfit, while Kansai’s in her TMNT Super-Villain gear covered in tubes.

Cutie attacks before the bell and fires off five Release Germans in a row for two- good ol’ joshi. Octopus Stretch, but Kansai lands a backdrop that has Cutie selling it like a fatal blow. The usual Kansai stuff (kicks, backdrops, sharpshooter) lends to a big heat sequence, but a nice kick-reversal bit sees Cutie hit a DDT and Dragon Suplex for two. Cutie gets caught on a dive to the outside and is TKO’d to hell with a kick… but gets off a snap German reversal on the floor! This buys her some time, and they brawl on the floor for a while. Kansai slooowwwwwwlllly dismantles her with kicks & stuff, Cutie just WAILING. Interesting spot as Kansai signals Splash Mountain, Cutie struggles out and hits the corner, Kansai tries it off the TOP, but Cutie turns around for a Dragon Sleeper and drags Kansai off the top and to the outside! Plancha off the top, then THREE Flying Knee Smashes put Kansai on the ropes… except she kicks out at ONE and then does her “power-up” no-sell, then gets immediately dropkicked to shit. Cutie eats a lariat but fights out of Splash Mountain with a Dragon Sleeper & Dragon Suplex, but a final Flying Knee earns her a kick in the gut. Kansai confidently wipes her out with the mother of all kicks to the face, and sets up Splash Mountain for the emphatic three (11:07).

Interesting bout, with a LOT of filler added in the end, there, but it fit the story of Cutie and her never-ending attempts at a comeback. Also, she just wrestled earlier. The dynamic here is so strongly in favor of Kansai that these bouts have little drama to them, though. Especially once Kansai decides to power up and no-sell three flying knees to the head, then casually reverse a shot and slowly walk about and land a few kicks before her finisher. Granted, these women are on two very different “tiers” and a champ has to be credible, but… don’t put Cutie in the finals, I guess?

Rating: ***1/4 (a bit more fun than their 1992 bout, but some random Kansai no-selling and filler hold it back)