Joshi Spotlight: AJW Tag League THE BEST ’92 (Part 2)

AJW Tag League THE BEST ’92- Part Two:
* Taped about two weeks after Part One, Part Two of Tag League THE BEST involves an interesting batch of midcard bouts with obvious winners (if I hadn’t looked at the match time for one, anyways), LCO’s subordinates in a pair of them, and one hell of a Main Event on paper- Aja/Kyoko vs. Akira/Bull! This is the last “Tag League” show I can find from ’92. This takes place at Hakata Starlanes, which is a REALLY bright, very small set for something like this, giving it a whole different “look” than other AJW shows. I mean, it’s a damn gymnasium. This is like watching joshi cards after 1997, complete with a crowd that’s 90% male.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: Another night of fun wrestling matches- not as flashy or showy as a Grand Prix card tends to be, but with some fun midcard singles matches (actually a rarity in joshi) and two very good matches to end the show!

* Our opener features the luchadora JTTS up against Las Cachorras Orientales’ #2, Mita. Moreno’s wearing a hideous “1980s wallpaper” floral singlet. Mita’s in her red gear with the six eyepieces on the front.

Mita uses tossing and biting to start, and I’m pretty sure just bit Moreno on the breast to break a pin (I believe that would be a first). More dominance as she tosses her around outside, showing off just how small this gym is, but Moreno luchas her around and throws out Dropkick Spam to come back. Mita tosses her off the shoulders a couple times, but gets bitten on the leg in revenge and that’s worked for a bit before tossing Moreno AGAIN, and they’re probably just doing “house show filler” at this point. Mita even swigs some water from the ring girls while she’s waiting for Moreno to get back in. Blazing Chops get two, as does a piledriver, but Moreno hits an Asai Moonsault Press to come back. Rana gets two, and Mita stuffs a jumping attack and throws out the airplane spin… for the PIN (11:33)?!? Man, ’90s fanboys watching this would probably be declaring Moreno an all-time great and Mita lazy at this point, with those great flippy moves countered by Moolah Offense. Neither seemed to be going for the gusto here- just a simple opener with Mita picking up another solo win over a lower-tier wrestler.

Rating: **1/4 (very basic stuff, with little extreme effort, but the occasional nice move)

* Shimoda was also in LCO as the subordinate member trying to prove herself, and on the last show she lost a tag bout against Kamiya’s team. Kamiya is definitely on the way out by this point- retiring soon- so this’ll be interesting. Shimoda’s in the red & white LCO gear, and Kamiya’s in her green & black singlet.

They start off with ’80s wrestling, as per Kamiya’s norm, but Shimoda uses her speed and scrappiness, including using the Bushwhacker Head Ram into the corner. Yeah, Shimoda using Luke & Butch offense- there’s something I never expected to see. So Kamiya just kicks the snot out of Shimoda and tosses her, then throws chairs just like in the last match, showing a lot more fire than normal. Shimoda gets her back stretched out, but finally manages to fire back with her falling clotheslines and some flying around to take over. She works the leg, but gets caught in a nifty “leap-over” armdrag that I once saw Jerry Lynn do, then takes the ’80s Karate Punch. And another! Kamiya knocks Shimoda off the top and whips her around outside again, even using a fan’s BACKPACK as a ranged weapon, then dodges a flying cross-body and gets a Joshi Rollup for the first close two-count of the match! Kamiya launches her for two, then dodges another clothesline, but Shimoda reverses a whip to a snap backslide (something I’ve never seen before) and catches her for the three (14:02)! Huh- interesting fall there!

This bout actually ended up being really solid, largely thanks to Kamiya, who never stood out to me until now. She just centered the bout with good, solid offense, and seems more skilled at solo bouts than the tags she’s normally stuck in. The stretching generally was limb-focused so was fine, though there was too much dumping people to waste time outside. But I liked the “Bret Hart Ending” of someone jobbing to a flash pin. This probably sets up Shimoda’s emphasis and has Kamiya “Doing the honors” on her way out of wrestling.

Rating: **3/4 (solid effort and good showing from Kamiya)

YUMIKO HOTTA & SUZUKA MINAMI vs. GOKUMON-TO (Bat Yoshinaga & Tomoko Watanabe):
* The semi-elite team fights the Jobber Duo of the tournament, with everyone in matching gear- Minami’s in a black singlet with yellow corners, while Hotta has the “Caution Tape” one again. Gokumon-To’s in the black shirts & white pants again, looking more like a WWF team because of the same outfit.

Man, the 5’8″ Minami looks absolutely giraffe-like next to the short, squat Yoshinaga. Minami actually pinballs around for her to start, but then Hotta’s in against Tomoko and you don’t have to ask HER to start bullying the subordinates. Both take turns stretching Tomoko out, hitting a lot of double-arm stuff and a big back elbow. Bat takes over on Minami, though, knocking her around with basic stuff, a facecrusher out of the corner, and some stretching- Minami selling it like a champ, as always. Hotta finally gets in and hits two Overthrow Powerbombs on Tomoko, stretches her, and then FINALLY throws her into the corner to tag in Bat, giving the fans the martial arts-fight they’ve been craving. It starts simple, but Bat tries to power through some shots, so Hotta rewards her by kicking her flush in the head a few times. Minami hits a pair of Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreakers & Hotta adds a Flying Rolling Kick. Tiger Driver & Minami’s Folding Powerbomb kill Bat, but Tomoko saves both times.

Tomoko tags herself in but walks straight into another Folding Powerbomb for two, but manages a big Slingshot Cross-Body to both opponents, getting her hope spot of the match! Hotta flattens her with a rolling kick, Minami misses a Flying Senton, but Bat accidentally wipes out Tomoko coming off the top, but Minami’s German is reversed to a flash pin by Tomoko for two. Bat stuffs another comeback and blasts Minami with a rolling kick. A few more teases see Minami avoid stereo dropkicks but get hit by Hotta’s elbow, then Tomoko’s Rana gets two. Finally things break down as Minami dropkicks Bat off the top and flattens Tomoko with a German Suplex Hold for three (13:09).

So this entire bout was largely “Minami sells for Bat” and “Hotta destroys Tomoko”, until they finally did a Bat/Hotta sequence, but Hotta just gobbled up the subordinate after all of 20 seconds, so yeah- more fuel for the “Hotta is Selfish” fire. It was heading into *** territory despite Gokumon-To both being pretty bad at this point, with some good stuff from the dominant elders being awesome, but I think it got a bit TOO cute with the endless reversals and breaking things down until they lost the flow.

Rating: **3/4 (Minami looked spectacular as always, nearly carrying the whole day by herself, but Invincible Hotta & the pacing hurt things)

* The sudden story of the final third of 1992 sees Kaoru Ito suddenly pop up as a name to watch (luckily starting right before Mariko Yoshida goes down to injury, freeing up a spot on the card)- she’s scored upsets against Mima Shimoda & Bat Yoshinaga since the summer). But Takako Inoue stands to benefit from Yoshida’s injury, as she’s “next in line” for a bigger push and occupied the same tier. So what would have been a blow-out is now quite interesting. Takako’s in black & white, and Ito’s in yellow & white.

High-speed “yell & run” joshi opening to start, Takako playing her favorite game- “Torture the rookie”, with Ito getting the occasional comeback with speed. I swear to god three leg submissions in a row last exactly one minute each (crab, leglock, figure-four), but she misses a dropkick and Ito gets a fun revenge crab on her. Ito them throws on a LIONTAMER, then a pair of Ass Attacks and the Flying Double-Stomp for two! Takako whips her into the corner, but Ito launches off with a backsplash for two- she argues with the ref and gets caught with that armdrag Takako does. Super Armdrag, butterfly suplex and another Bushwhacker Ram into the corner (who agented this show?) do some damage, but now it’s just more restholds until Takako gets tossed off the top, Ito misses a splash, and Takako tries a superplex but gets cross-bodied for two. Ito spams out Running Stomps for two, then reverses a move to a good Bridging German for the same. Rolling Senton outta the corner gets two, but she tries another Corner Backsplash and Takako’s wise to it this time. Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop suplex) is reversed to a flash pin for a near-fall. Takako, looking gobsmacked, tries a desperation pin for two, then dramatically fires off another Aurora Special for the three (15:33).

Solid psychology but WAY too much stretching to pad out the time- it came off like another in their attempts to put over Ito as the new “pushed rookie”, as she went through several minutes of holds and got to look good by reversing stuff. Takako even pulled off getting desperate in the end! So it’s one of those “Solid but not really exciting” matches that suits a purpose.

Rating: **1/2 (solid core, but way too full of slow back work)

* The WWWA Tag Champs are back, but lost a shocker a couple weeks back to Minami & Hotta. Now they’re taking on AJW’s up & coming rookie team, again decked out in Steiner Bros. gear. Toyota’s in black & Yamada’s in yellow, just like last match.

The rookies work Yamada’s arm, but Toyota fires back on Sakie and does her Deathlock/Bodylock combo move and more submissions (including the best Surfboard I’ve seen in joshi- she actually holds Sakie up for a while!). Debbie hits a swinging neckbreaker on Yamada and works her over in their segment, though, but soon takes some kicks to the head and Toyota’s butterfly-lock/leglock combo. They’re working a TON of holds here, obviously going long. ’92 Inverted Full Nelson Suplex gets two, but Debbie keeps getting these cool snap-armbar reversals for some drama (the crowd ALWAYS buys that as a potential match-ender). Sakie does some big running kicks and slaps Toyota around, but gets caught in the Rolling Cradle & Yamada kicks her ass and throws those awesome Snap Suplexes of hers. Sakie takes the Stump Puller after a fight, then both her & Debbie take face kicks. Toyota adds Dropkick Spam to Debbie, but Sakie tags in, misses a Rolling Savate Kick, and dodges a cross-body before getting hit by a Run-Up Moonsault Press. The champs do stereo dives and the Double Backdrop to Debbie, who then kicks out after a German… AND the Double Flying Headbutt! Moonsault hits, but Sakie saves and drags Debbie to her corner while Manami recovers on the outside.

Sakie takes the Manami Roll back in the ring, but manages Savate Spam on Yamada! Resthold, then Toyota’s in and fires off three 2nd-rope dropkicks and a Northern Lights Suplex for two, then that ’92 Suplex thing while Sakie’s seated on the top rope for two- Debbie saves and lands a great Northern Lights for two. Superplex, but Manami reverses a corner thing to a rollup and Yamada scores the Rolling Front Kick and Enzuigiri Spam! Jesus. Toyota eats a back elbow off the top when Debbie takes a whip, and then takes a HORRIFYING Evel Knievel bump off of a missed dropkick, deflecting off the ropes and ragdolling all over the place. CHRIST, the botch of her “Mulkey Bump” spot looks even more painful than the planned version. Stereo dives from the rookies! Double facecrusher gets two, and Toyota’s reversal sees her splat Yamada by mistake! Debbie locks on a pair of dramatic STFs to a big reaction, but Yamada breaks. It’s a scrap as time is running out, and the champs FINALLY do their “backdrop a running foe onto the top rope to do their finisher” move without fucking it up… so of course Debbie just yanks them off the top instead. Rocket Launcher on Yamada gets two! Sakie lands the first-recorded URANAGE… but Toyota saves! Toyota earns one, then Debbie grabs her while Sakie desperately grabs a second on Yamada… for two! And that’s it- there’s no way to score a fall now, and time runs out at (30:00). Toyota absolutely can NOT believe this bullshit in the post-match interview.

Wow, this was a really well-done use of time, as while there were a lot of holds, most of them went 20-30 seconds and worked consistent limbs or were wrestled into, and then the pace picked up with a ton of big moves to Debbie in particular. I mean, this didn’t feel even CLOSE to thirty minutes, despite time-killing stretching, because they shook it up so well with frequent tags. It was pretty even until about halfway, at which point the champs kept murdering them with bigger and bigger moves, and you got the impression that the rookies were only saved by resiliency, spunk, and the champs’ inability to deal with both at the same time. And then they grab the advantage and an upset looks possible right before the heartbreaking bell-ringing! Scoring a draw here makes Toyota/Yamada again look vulnerable for the upcoming major Interpromotional show against JWP’s top two stars. Well, I’m sure Sakie & Debbie will have better luck the NEXT time they meet this team! Why, I bet they *checks notes* Oh. Oh NO.

Rating: **** (I was leaning below that, but they deserve it for making thirty minutes feel like eighteen- the crowd was into it all the way, too, applauding at the end)

* This is called a “Special Tag Match” and is not part of Tag League THE BEST. Bull & Akira are teaming up again despite their summer feud, and this is also the final meeting of Bull & Aja in the ring before their WWWA Title Match at Dream Rush! Also, Kyoko & Akira are fighting for the All Pacific Title at that same show, so this is champs and challengers on each side. Kyoko’s in the usual, Aja’s in white & black with red pants, Akira’s in black, and Bull’s in the usual Megadeth shirt.

Everyone does strikes to start, and Akira immediately does her Tope Con Hilo onto both opponents- yeah, they’re just wanting to send the fans homes happy. Bull legdrops Kyoko while flipping off Aja, then they do the “Lariat in the ropes while the partner keeps flipping them back up” spot. Kyoko tries the Slingshot Backplash, but Akira kicks her in the back (they do that spot in all their bouts, I think), only to be caught in the Giant Swing… for 23-24 revolutions! Okay, this is turning into a “greatest hits”. Aja drops a ton of elbows while taunting Bull, then a Vader Attack, but now Bull’s in and they take turns dramatically no-selling major strikes and throwing headbutts to the crowd’s awe. Aja finally nails machine-gun headbutts and a piledriver to take down Bull, and Kyoko actually manages her wheelbarrow hold and a surfboard on the Ace! Bull actually does Booker T’s swinging spinebuster finisher, then backdrops Kyoko onto Bull to reverse a powerbomb… but Bull puts her head down and gets caught in the Helicopter Slam!

Bull manages her lariat on Aja to come back, and Akira adds her Roundhouse Kicks for two. She stretches Aja for a minute, but gets caught with some big kicks and gets tossed around & stretched by Kyoko. Akira slaps on a backdrop & Kyoko’s caught in Bull’s Angelito and some pretty mean-looking other stretching, too. Aja smashes Bull with the metal can and Kyoko now lands her Backsplash on Akira AND Bull, but Akira gets whipped to the corner and dropkicks Aja off the top, then her team lands a Powerbomb/Flying Splash combo on Kyoko… for two! Missile Dropkick gets the same, but Aja halts the Guillotine Legdrop until Bull finally struggles into it for two- Aja saves. Kyoko finally tags out and Aja bowls over both enemies and hits a 2nd-Rope Splash on Bull for two, but Akira hits a great Bridging German for the same. Akira gets caught trying a flying cross-body on Aja like a dumbass and eats a Backdrop & German Suplex in return. Kyoko’s Run-Up Flying Back Elbow gets two, and the Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Ligerbomb) gets the pin broken up by Bull at the last second! Aja finally deals with her, then sets up Akira… Doomsday Device Run-Up Flying Back Elbow! That gets the three on Akira at (18:19)! Great finish there.

This came off as a fun exhibition match, throwing out the big crowd-pleasing spots early on, then settling into one-upsmanship before killing some time with stretching. But then the second half was all legit, with Kyoko getting murdered for a stretch, then everyone trading killer stuff until someone could no longer save their partner. Aja having to run in and deal with things so Kyoko could get the win made her look tough, which is important given what’s coming…

Rating: ***3/4 (came off like they were half-assing it and doing “exhibition” stuff… but they were so good they nearly hit **** anyway)

Match Ratings:
Etsuko Mita vs. Cynthia Moreno: **1/4
Mima Shimoda vs. Miori Kamiya: **3/4
Hotta/Minami vs. Gokumon-To: **3/4
Takako Inoue vs. Kaoru Ito: **1/2
Toyota/Yamada vs. Debbie/Sakie: ****
Aja/Kyoko vs. Bull/Akira: ***3/4

-So overall, this was a fun little “exhibition” show, not hitting the peaks of many other big AJW cards (almost every match was a mismatch on paper), but was excellent at solidifying “tiers” (LCO rises, Gokumon-To jobs, Ito jobs but looks good in the process, the rookies tie the Tag Champs, etc.) and nothing overstayed its welcome- even the half-hour match! I kinda like seeing stuff like this- lower-key nights of wrestling where you don’t have to see everyone going berserk trying to have the best match, or see a pushed wrestler doing a job because she’s the lowest one on the totem pole in a tag match- Mita & Shimoda scoring wins over “name” competition has been a long time coming.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I can’t find the Finals of the show, featuring Toyota & Yamada (who won all their non-televised matches, thus “cheating” by making us think they were uber-vulnerable) versus Aja & Kyoko. Here’s a very long review by notable Joshi fan FLIK: Apparently Aja & Kyoko dominated the entire match, squashing Toyota like a bug in the process, leaving her dejected. Akira Hokuto beat Takako Inoue on the undercard, and Gokumon-To surprisingly won the vacant Japanese Tag Team Titles in a match with Sakie & Debbie!

-Notably, this is the final show I can find set before Dream Rush on Nov. 26, 1992. This was the first big Interpromotional Card, pitting AJW’s stars against each other, but also including a couple names from elsewhere, thus setting the stage for the next three years straight of Joshi. My review here.

On this card:
* LCO defeat Miori Kamiya & Chikako Hasegawa, Mita using that Arm-Trap Perfect Plex of hers for the win (before she’d drop that move in 1993). So LCO establishes themselves again.
* Kaoru Ito defeats Tomoko Watanabe to win the AJW Title, which Tomoko had won from Sakie not long before. I’m not sure why Sakie jobbed, unless it was to emphasize her tag stuff while also giving credibility to two lower-carders who are due pushes.
* Suzuka Minami & Yumiko Hotta beat Takako Inoue & Terri Power.
* Akira Hokuto defeats Kyoko Inoue for the All Pacific Title. This finally emphasizes that Akira is top-tier and getting pushed in the future. Kyoko had beaten Bison Kimura earlier in 1992 for the belt.
* Bison Kimura retires due to injury. She would be gone for a couple of years, missing out on the Joshi Boom.
* Bat Yoshinaga beats Kyoko Kamazaki in a b.s. clusmy kickboxing bout.
* Sakie Hasegawa & Debbie Malenko defeated AJW’s honor against FMW invaders Shark Tsuchiya & Crusher Maedomari. Awkwardly-wrestled by the weak FMW team, but Sakie fights with REAL fire, as if demanding the “Yoshida Push” (from injured Mariko Yoshida), kicking Maedomari repeatedly to get the win.
* Aja Kong ends her year-long push towards the Main Event by FINALLY defeating Bull Nakano to end their three-year feud over the WWWA World Title. The two stars have a heart-to-heart in the ring, bowing to each other out of mutual respect, burying the hatchet and becoming friends in a fantastic moment. And Aja Kong is the new Ace in the promotion as it enters a new era, and wouldn’t lose for ages.
* And finally, in the Main Event, struggling WWWA Tag Champions Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada successfully defend AJW against the top two stars of JWP- Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki. Manami looked highly vulnerable to start (and her team had lost on TV repeatedly right before this, and failed to beat the Debbie/Sakie team in thirty minutes as well), fighting a 40:00+ classic that started off a legendary trio of matches.