Joshi Spotlight: JWP Midnight Special

* So I have no idea what the backstory is for this show, but this is one of the only extended shows I can find for AJW’s rival promotion, Joshi Women’s Pro-Wrestling Project, in 1992, so I figured I’d show what they were up to around this time. I believe the company has only recently split up at this point, continuing on after many women quit to form LLPW (including Shinobu Kandori, Harley Saito and others), so it’s a big show for a company that has to be a bit endangered at this point. And MAN is the setting weird- it’s like a High School gymnasium, with only four rows in the bleachers on the hard camera, and two rows on the floor on another side! Yeah, only two sides of the ring have an audience! I could literally count the paid attendance here- I’ve seen Nickelodeon Game Shows in front of more people.

This show appears nowhere on CageMatch, nor WrestlingData, so I couldn’t tell you anything else about it. Like why the YouTube video is a 2-hour show with an hour of dead air after it. Quebrada calls it “JWP Pre-Stage Studio Match” and mentions the setting as TV Asahi Studios.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: You get to see a whole ton of people work an ungodly amount of time in a single night- a truly remarkable case of stamina from all involved. And nearly every match is around ****.

* WELL THEN. Looks like they’re just tossing their #1-4 biggest stars into the same match, probably as an ideal showcase for all of them. Kansai was the Ace, but Masami was on her level, and a huge legend from the ’80s. Cutie was an idol, but had a measure of cred, and Ozaki is like a brawling super-heel on the 2nd tier in the company. Ozaki’s in red cut-out gear, Masami’s in a black one-legged singlet, Kansai’s in a neon yellow & green bodysuit, and Cutie’s in her white ballerina gear.

haha, Team Mean attacks before the bell and Masami Overthrow Powerbombs Cutie right onto Kansai’s prone body- I love Joshi. Cutie gets stretched out, and Kansai gets bludgeoned and bashed around. She tries some kicks, but just earns a Dragon Screw & Sleeper from Masami. Kansai finally gets a comeback and they work over Ozaki’s back, Cutie standing on her head while Kansai locks on a crab. Kansai tosses Ozaki around outside, giving us a look at the venue, but Devil shows off for the crowd by dropping Cutie with a press slam onto a table right in front of the fans. See, now SHE knows how to work a crowd! Another dramatic press slam in the ring leads to a rib-breaker, a body attack, and a further beatdown- Cutie’s selling is just so tremendous. Her best attribute as a wrestler is easily that sympathy-getting pained look. Ozaki whups her ass outside the ring, but Devil calls out “Powahbomb!” and Kansai rages in and lariats the shit out of her, letting Cutie finally make a tag.

Ozaki hits a DDT on her, but gets kicked square in the face and backdropped, then kicked around until she hits a snap leglock that’s sold as a serious move by the crowd. Kansai takes more stretching before tagging out, but Cutie gets MURDERED by a Steiner-level lariat by Devil. Front suplex, but Cutie sits on her from a Powerbomb for one, Kansai lariats her, and then a double-whip turns to Ozaki & Cutie slamming into each other, but Cutie lands on Devil from a backdrop while Kansai Superkicks Ozaki out. Kansai hits a Tombstone & a Flying Headbutt for two, then dumps both opponents and Rocket Launches Cutie onto them on the floor! She misses a follow-up dive, however, then Devil bashes her around with a chair and hits a big Powerbomb in the ring following an Ozaki Missile Dropkick! And she tags right to Ozaki, who lands the Turning Splash for two! Tiger Suplex gets two, then she does a Dragon Sleeper & Devil flies in with a Rolling Senton off the top for two. Kansai lariats out and tags, but Cutie gets caught jumping around too much and Ozaki Powerbombs her for two. Cutie gets a snap fallaway slam and tags out, but Kansai’s Powerbomb is reversed to Ozaki’s armdrag- but Kansai just lariats Ozaki and Powerbombs her for three (24:55) while Cutie deals with Devil.

Interesting little match that took a LONG time to get into the last gear, but was still very solid all the way through, with Devil/Ozaki controlling for the vast majority with very simple offense, but never resting too much despite the match length. And once they hit the final gear, it got pretty good, though mostly full of Kansai just ignoring prior damage and hitting her big lariats & Powerbombs.

Rating: ***3/4 (Everyone clearly had a tier beyond this to reach, but the match was still good, solid fun)

Bolshoi Kid (JWP) vs Mima Shimoda (AJW) Clipped - YouTube

Bolshoi Kid, most hated Joshi of the 1990s reviewers. I swear Puro snobs into it only for the workrate HATED comedy wrestling and saw no place for it.

* Plum is the #5 wrestler in JWP, of sorts, and here is wrestling the Comedy/High-Flying wrestler Command Bolshoi in her first identity- I’ve seen a lot of these two paired up, owing to their status as prominent midcarders in the company. Kid is a lot lower on the card, and wearing her early ’90s gear, which is a big, baggy clown outfit covered in diamond shapes (and coming down to the same music Doink used, but with Japanese words added!). Plum’s in a frilly violet singlet I’ve never seen before.

Plum hits a leaping Victory Roll before the bell, which I’ve never seen before, but Bolshoi does some acrobatic tosses before Plum just stuffs her with headlocks. They chain-wrestle for a while, actually doing a good job of it (Bolshoi’s very green here, yet dominates), countering to other stuff and rarely just “sitting in a hold”. Bolshoi does a Tiger Feint and Plum makes a comeback, but takes a huge bump over the ropes and takes a while to make another one, hitting high Thesz Presses and tossing Bolshoi around. Stretching follows, but Bolshoi reverses out, runs up Plum’s back, then hits a slingshot press and bows to her, finally showing some of the comedy that used to make her SUPER-hated among grumpy ’90s Joshi reviewers. She hits a running dropkick, flying overhand punch and a sleeper- that goes on for nearly a minute, but Plum soon does one of her trademark spots- reversing a whip attempt to a rolling arm & leghold (the thing Goldberg did in WCW). Plum tortures her with another leghold as she finally keeps the advantage.

Plum uses a cool bridging leg-capture suplex for two, then counters Bolshoi’s second Tiger Feint, charging in with a kick to stuff the move… then a Springboard Cross-Body Suicida! Woah- did not expect that. She charges across the apron with a running Thesz Press to the floor, then tosses Bolshoi around… but her Tombstone is reversed to Bolshoi’s own on the freakin’ floor! I know piledrivers were bullshit in Joshi at that point, but jesus that looked brutal. Bolshoi manages a Springboard Cross-Body of her own (walking up the ropes), then hits a Moonsault Press for two- “Fuck YOU!” bridge by Plum! Bolshoi cross-bodies out of the corner but Plum hits a LIGHTNING fast bridging fallaway slam- that was astonishing speed and hit perfectly, better than any time I’ve ever seen that spot. Bridging German gets two, as do a backdrop suplex and a vicious Missile Dropkick. Bolshoi falls on her from a backdrop and mounts a comeback- backdrop suplex & a Moonsault get two, but she tries a whip and Plum snaps her into a Straightjacket German, holding her down for the three (16:35).

Decent little match with a hot start that REALLY reved up in the last third of the bout- I was dreading it because I saw it was 20-ish minutes and Bolshoi was VERY new here, but Plum bounced around for her, got dominated by the early submission work, and looked good hitting her comeback- like the last bout, it was a very good use of time. And then when they started getting to the near falls and bigger moves, it felt “earned”, like they’d justified that past work and could hit the cool moves.

Rating: **** (put that on WWF or WCW in this same time period and we’d still be talking about it)

Cutie Suzuki / HIkari Fukuoka vs Dynamite Kansai / Sumiko Saito ...

Sumiko Saito, in blue & white- career lasting from 1990-93, but she’s already good here.

* oh hey, it’s Sumiko Saito! I only know her from joshi fan FLIK and his reviews, as he briefly touched upon her career, saying she was quite good, but retired super-early. She didn’t even make it through 1993 as a wrestler. Hikari is a “Future Star” getting a slow-burn push, meant to be a far-reaching star. Fukuoka, in her black leotard, is so clearly trying for a “Manami Toyota” vibe. Saito is more of a Sakie Hasegawa-type from what I can see here (hair short but not tomboyish), in a blue & silver singlet. For some reason, both get streamers. Is there a Rulebook For Streamers that I’m missing out on? Why did Plum & Bolshoi not deserve streamers?

Hikari strikes first before the bell, but Saito does the Tateno Bridge-Out (not Angel-level, but still remarkable) and takes over with leg stuff and a great Reverse Surfboard thing where she locks up both legs and does a back-bending necklock, then a double-arm. Hikari lands a SWEET headscissors and a running bulldog that pop the crowd, and damn, she looks like a star already. Hikari bullies Saito for a while, but Saito dives onto her outside the ring to come back. They trade restholds for a few minutes until Saito does a crazy Toyota-style leap RIGHT onto the top rope in the corner- she steadied with her hands so it’s not the same, but holy shit. Cross-body out of that and the crowd gasps at her athleticism. Hikari tries stuff, but gets caught in a Fujiwara Armbar (I finally got the name!) and Cattle Mutilation of all things (in 1992?!). STF and the commentator’s namedropping Chono, but they’re clearly just lying down right now.

Saito does that corner-leap again, but misses- she still manages a Bridging German for two. Joshi Basics (backdrop, missile kick, etc.) and a bridging slam get two. Saito hits a Frog Splash (apparently “finishing technique-u” according to the commentator) for a delayed two-count. Hikari does a small package, powerslam reversal and two DDTs to come back, then a bulldog & missile dropkick, dodging Saito’s own but getting caught in a flash pin. She fights out and hits a running Rolling Cradle in a slick move, then they trade pin attempts until Hikari holds her down with a weak rollup off the ropes for three (22:06).

This would have been a GREAT match if it was shorter, but they padded it out ludicrously given the experience level and shallow movesets- they could NOT maintain a bout for this length of time without tons of resting, often just lying down on each other. It’s really frustrating to see a match that’d be **** if 13 minutes given over 20. That said, both looked REALLY GOOD when the match turned “on”, with Saito impressing me immediately and doing frequent awesome things. Both actually had perfect move application, which means they must have been trained remarkably well for rookies, so that’s a good showcase for JWP here. Really too bad Saito didn’t stick around.

Rating: ***1/4 (would have been SO much better if shorter. Some great stuff, but a lot of resting- the point here was probably more to showcase their stamina than their raw skill)

They go into an odd side thing talking about FMW, Universal Pro & LLPW, complete with an LLPW training class and talking to the people there (I recognize Harley & Kandori). It’s weird because the LLPW/JWP split was very acrimonious, I believe.

9-PERSON SUBMISSION ONLY BATTLE ROYAL (last two wrestle normally… apparently):
(Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki, Cutie Suzuki, Devil Masami, Plum Mariko, Command Bolshoi, Hikari Fukuoka, Sumiko Saito & Sumio Toyama)
* Okay, now THIS is hella-weird. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand it explains why all the other matches went so heavy on the stretching- everyone’s working twice. We’ve got everyone who wrestled earlier all re-entered for a Battle Royal, like it’s one of those WWF house shows that needed a “Filler” thing at the end. Bolshoi has taken her other identity and is wearing yellow tights and a golden mask. Also there’s some short-haired girl in a singlet I don’t recognize. I had to ask Manjiimortal who she was- Sumio Toyama actually debuted for AJW’s Class of ’88 (alongside Kyoko Inoue), but left due to injuries and re-trained with JWP, re-debuting in 1992 and going on for four years, not making much of an impact and quitting while in GAEA Japan.

The number of entrants actually pays off immediately, as the “four singles matches” thing splits them up, but somebody’s always getting kicked in the back of the head by the leftover ninth person. Devil/Plum and Ozaki/Bolshoi are things, with Ozaki looking super-annoyed to be wrestling the clown. Devil ends up in a leglock from Saito and a cross-armbreaker from Kansai at the same time, while Kansai is headscissored by the rookie, who’s headscissored by Ozaki, popping the crowd. This kind of spot would get over in the American Indie scene like 20+ years later, and here they’re doing it in 1992! Hikari adds one to Saito but then it’s all split up. Kansai & Cutie just shred Devil out there, and then Plum & Bolshoi join in and she’s fucking DRAWN AND QUARTERED, screaming bloody murder and refusing the tap. Haha, jesus christ. The crowd goes nuts for her raw durability.

Plum flies onto Cutie and Ozaki flying headbutts Kansai, then Devil drags poor Saito into the goddamn bleachers and chokelifts her while the fans mark out- damn, what a pro. Asai Moonsault Suicida by Bolshoi onto Kansai, so she cranks both her and the rookie with a chair, only for Devil to cry out “Kansai!” then press slam Ozaki onto her on the floor. That’s for the quartering! Devil hits two Powerbombs to Plum while Toyama submits to a half-crab by Ozaki (9:95), then Saito submits to a leg thing eight seconds later (10:03). But then Devil press-slams Ozaki right onto the connecting cable between the turnbuckles and the post! JE-SUS. Then they quarter Kansai and take turns leapfrogging over Devil onto Kansai’s ribs- and then Plum kicks Devil in the ass! But everyone in the ring blames Cutie, so Devil chases her around the ring! This is great, especially when Kansai trips her up and Devil powerbombs her. But Cutie gets revenge by Fujiwara Armbarring Ozaki and actually submitting her (12:59).

Bolshoi submits at (13:17) to Devil’s surfboard, then Plum takes Kansai’s lariat and Northern Lights Suplex, then Kansai submits Cutie with a huge backdrop/Sharpshooter combo (16:14). Devil gets triple-teamed by the remaining girls, but Kansai misses her flying headbutt, and Hikari & Plum actually wrap her in a Double-Surfboard under Devil’s orders… and she finally submits (19:01)! Devil suckers Plum into teaming up on Hikari, but lariats her out of a figure-four attempt, but misses a flying senton and the girls floor her with dropkick spam, then actually submit her with a brutal double-half-crab (like, both grabbing the same leg) at (19:46)! Then Hikari tries to do a forward-roll pin on Plum, but she just sits down and gets a flash pin immediately at (20:02)! Um, so pinfalls count in the end, I guess (edits match header)! Plum wins!

Haha, okay, I was thinking “this sounds dumb” and it was full of restholds, but it turned into almighty chaos and I LOVED IT. A Joshi Centipede Submission hold, Devil getting pulled apart by all four limbs, then press-slamming one onto another after doing a run of the bleachers- this is the fun part of wrestling. It kind of settled into a lot of restholds and randomly brawling around because of the conditions (joshi don’t submit very often- I think there were more in this one match than all the AJW I’ve seen combined!), but was fun in parts and had some inventive spots. High marks here.

Rating: **** (battle royals are hard to rate, especially when they combine “ridiculously awesome” with “too long and full of restholds and aimless brawling”, but there you go- **** just for the quartering and the press slam onto the cable- that was wild)

Match Ratings:
Kansai/Cutie vs. Devil/Ozaki: ***3/4
Plum Mariko vs. Bolshoi Kid: ****
Hikari Fukuoka vs. Sumiko Saito: ***1/4
Submission Battle Royal: ****

-A very interesting, if low-budget, show. The tiny audience looked kinda bush-league, but the show itself demonstrated that the talent could ABSOLUTELY hang in AJW, their biggest rivals, which was probably the entire purpose here. They put their four biggest stars in the same match, then put four up & comers in matches against each other, proving that their Mains were equally as good, and that the next generation was going to be just as great! You can’t buy stuff like that in terms of credibility, so if anyone saw this show, they’d probably be impressed by the girls, if not the setting. This was a whole lot of matches that were very good, but all had the same kind of flaw- lots of “padding” to extend the match length, which was doubly-so because everyone was working twice. But that’s gonna happen when you book Plum, Devil, Kansai & Hikari to all work forty minutes in a single night, so I get it. Great show overall!