WEEKLY PRO WRESTLING “BRIDGE OF DREAMS” (02.05.1995):
* This is a semi-legendary, monstrous 6-hour pro wrestling event at the Tokyo Dome, made weird because of all sorts of vague Japanese political shenanigans that I only barely understand. So “Weekly Pro Wrestling” was a wrestling magazine with a lot of name value in Japanese wrestling, and they put on a massive Interpromotional Show at the Tokyo Dome on the same night as WrestleMania XI. The idea was to put on a match from every big promotion in Japan for a true “Supercard”. Wikipedia says that Dave Meltzer says that it was supposed to have 8 promotions, but 13 ended up applying. Notably absent is Genichiru Tenryu’s WAR promotion, as they had an event the same day at Korakuen Hall, which was reviewed by another mag called “Weekly Gong”.
The show was a big thing among tape traders because only two versions were ever made available- one was a fancam pointed at the arena’s big screen, and the other was a very low-grade recording (the All Japan match has no audio for most of it). It turns out that New Japan, who I guess had the rights to distribute the tape, was like “HELL NO!” for reasons that, if true, are absolutely hilarious. Read on!
“TL;DR- What’s the Deal?”: 4-5 all-time classic matches, the women showing up nearly everybody, worked shoots, bloodbaths, spotfests, comedy- something for everybody.
Note: I’ll include bits I’ve researched about the promotions and wrestlers involves, because I think historical context is important I wanted to know who these people were. Unfortunately, my knowledge of men’s puro is largely “half-remembered third-hand information from 20 years ago” so I had to look at Wikipedia & Cagematch for everything, so if I’ve sold someone short or messed something up, that’s why.
Mayumi Ozaki- Tiny Demon Bully.
DYNAMITE KANSAI, HIKARI FUKUOKA, CANDY OKUTSU & FUSAYO NOCHI vs. DEVIL MASAMI, MAYUMI OZAKI, CUTIE SUZUKI & HIROMI YAGI:
* JWP Project is the offshoot of the original Japanese Women’s Pro Wrestling company, which started up in the ’80s as a rival to All Japan Women’s, using wrestlers retired due to AJW’s “Retire at 27” rule, and people who couldn’t get into AJW. They split with a bunch of other wrestlers who formed LLPW in 1992- the more “entertainment”-focused wrestlers stayed with a rebranded JWP, which only had like nine people at one point. By ’95, they were a tad healthier.
The Wrestlers: Kansai (in yellow) was the Ace of JWP, and their inaugural Champion, using a kick-based style and a Sit-Out Razor’s Edge (Splash Mountain) as her finisher. Fukuoka (in…. Tarzan gear) was seen as a “future star” right from the get-go, having looks and athleticism, and was slowly moving up the card. Candy (in black) was SUPER low-tier in most of the stuff I’ve seen, and was super-tiny- she became the female Tiger Mask known as Tiger Dream. Nochi (in red), another rookie, matches her gear, making them look like a WWF Tag Team. Devil Masami (in purple, looking like a supernatural monster) was a huge star in AJW in the ’80s, using a power-wrestling style, but was forcibly retired and promptly joined JWP as their other Main Eventer. Ozaki (in red), acting like a brawler & a bully despite being like five feet tall, is a very effective heel who can do just about anything in the ring. She’s a rival to Kansai. Cutie (in white) was an “Idol Wrestler” (though JWP seems to have a lot of those) with a focus on looks, but was also treated like she could fight. Yagi (in purple) is a pint-sized rookie with a lot of potential and some kick-ass moves. I would say the Ace’s team has less star power here.
And the crowd is introduced to the “Joshi Pace” immediately, as there’s a million tags and a four-person boot on Kansai, but she clobbers Yagi. Funny spot as three people alternate kicking Hikari in the head while she crabs Yagi. Candy giant swings Hikari, but this pisses off Devil, who swings Nochi in revenge- oh yeah, they’ve got this crowd already. Ozaki Powerbombs Nochi, then snaps an armbar on Kansai, who stuffs Cutie’s attacks and backdrop drives her to death. Hikari botches a corner move, but recovers with the POPEYE PUNCH that Yagi sells with an “ass over teakettle” bump- lol. I love that ridiculous, stupid, wonderful move. She lands a Rolling Cradle on Cutie, but eats a Dragon Suplex off another Punch. Double DDT, then a Doomsday Device Senton Attack from Ozaki gets two! Powerbomb gets two, but Ozaki eats mat on a Turning Splash and takes Hikari’s Moonsault! Kansai kicks her to hell, but Ozaki reverses Splash Mountain with the Tequila Sunrise (half-nelson/tiger suplex) for two! Powerbomb gets two, but Devil’s Guillotine Legdrop misses and Kansai TRUCKS her with an unbelievable kick. The whole crowd “oohs” as Ozaki sells that perfectly.
Devil slips out of Splash Mountain, so Candy Germans her in a cute bit, and a Northern Lights Suplex gets two for Kansai. Nochi hits a missile kick, and the giants annihilate the corner midgets and lariat each other in a great spot. Devil Overthrow Powerbombs Yagi ONTO Kansai, then hits a regular Powerbomb while Ozaki & Cutie do stereo flying headbutts! Yagi Flying Splash off Devil’s shoulders for two! Yagi gets cute and gets killed, but then everyone brawls and it’s QUADRUPLE PLANCHAS from Devil’s team! Yagi takes a flying splash from Candy, but tears into her leg and hits a judo flip and climbs- Pop-Up Northern Lights Superplex from Candy! She hits Rolling Germans (!!) until Cutie interferes to save Yagi’s corpse, and Devil & Kansai lariat each other again. Double Flying Stomp from Cutie & Ozaki, then Devil launches Kansai off the top with an inverted Fameasser (!). Every pin is getting blocked by a swarm of teammates, which is great. Devil climbs again, and catches Candy and LAUNCHES her when she tries another pop-up move, but that costs her- Kansai moves in and hits SPLASH MOUNTAIN OFF THE TOP!!! That gets the easy three-count at (17:29).
Good GOD- what a great showcase of the “GO GO GO” Joshi style, with a match that never slows down. Ozaki led the match because she rules, Masami led the crowd-pleasing spots and character bits, and Kansai got all those “I’M THE ACE!” power bits, and ended with the flashiest MDK in JWP. Then you get all those inventive double-teams, the great counters, the crowd-pleasing spots (quadruple planchas, etc.), and more. Again and again you saw epic moves delivered and callbacks to earlier, until Kansai took a major shitkicking and reversed one move for the win. And hell, look at Candy- making herself a STAR, there!
Rating: ****3/4 (I hope they walked into the back and were like “Beat THAT!”)
MIXED STYLE MATCH:
SHINOBU KANDORI vs. HARLEY SAITO:
* Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling is the other offshoot from the original JWP, and was the “serious wrestler” group, for the most part. They’re still sort of around in diminished form.
The Wrestlers: Kandori is by far most remembered for her legendary ***** match with Akira Hokuto at the first Dream Slam, and was the Ace of LLPW, treated as an ungodly submission death matchine who could kill you at any moment. She had an arrogance to match, and… well, she’s Brock Lesnar before Brock Lesnar. Saito is a small, fast, high-flying kicker who usually dresses as a spraypainted dental hygienist. Her style is so similar to X-Pac’s that I’d swear Sean Waltman saw her ’92-94 stuff and copied it directly. This bout, however, is a Worked Shoot.
Nothing much to this one, as they work it so quickly you can’t tell whether or not it’s fake. Saito gets a head kick and Kandori’s up at “5”, then she does some judo choke attempts (why are their counts AND grappling?) until the punches get too overwhelming, and Saito gives up at (1:12).
Rating: DUD (I mean, I guess they wanted to show women could do fake shoots, too?)
“God made the devil just for fun- but when he wanted the real thing, he made Aja Kong!”
MANAMI TOYOTA & BLIZZARD YUKI vs. AJA KONG & KYOKO INOUE:
* All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling is of course the biggest women’s promotion in history, and was still going through a Boom Period here. Bad business decisions nearly killed them in 1997, and they limped along until dying out in the 2000s (before either of their rivals, mind you).
The Wrestlers: Toyota is Meltzer’s favorite worker, and a total “Beamspam”-type wrestler with the best flying stuff around, and is a huge star at this point, and holds AJW’s top belt. She’s wearing some leveled-up version of her regular black gear- now sporting tons of cut-outs and shiny metal bits. Yuki is Sakie Hasegawa in a masked manga character identity meant to help her get a “next level” push- she would retire before getting it- she’s in blue here. Aja (in pink) has only recently been unseated by Manami, and is a Monster-type wrestler- imagine Vader but better at literally every aspect of wrestling (and that’s not a knock on Vader). Kyoko is another main star, dressing like Ultimate Warrior and fighting like an All Japan wrestler- tons of big moves. Manami defeated Aja for the WWWA World Title only a short while earlier, so makes sure to hold it up at the end of the ramp, right where Aja can see it- OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!
Manami fires off a missile dropkick immediately, but the bigger team bowls them over and hit stereo running lariats all the way down the ramp and over the ropes- HAIL JOSHI! Aja beats Manami all over the ring and Kyoko throws on her crowd-pleasing, wacky submissions, but Irish whips her to the ropes, so Manami does a RUNNING LEAP onto the top rope, springboarding off for a cross-body! Goddamn, how many people in wrestling could ever do that? Yuki throws on Rolling Butterfly Suplexes, but soon gets overpowered and they slug her around. Manami gets the Rolling Cradle on a second attempt on Kyoko, and Dropkick Spam gets two. Kyoko slingshots off the ropes with a dropkick of her own, Aja sits on Manami from a sunset flip but misses a splash, then catches her coming off the top and slams her, only to eat the dropkick reversal! Aja kills Yuki with a Vader Attack, piledriver & Backdrop Driver. Yuki takes a surfboard from Kyoko but manages two Savate Kicks on Aja, then Manami eats a fireman’s toss from Kyoko. Manami gets bent like gumby, turning a series of restholds into a crowd-popping bit, then they splatter her with avalanches in the corner.
Aja Powerbomb & Kyoko’s Run-Up Flying Back Elbow get two, but a Manami Roll (an insane somersault up the body into a rolling sunset flip) gets two! Yuki gets killed by lariats for two- Manami flies in to interfere, but Kyoko nails both with her Slingshot Backsplash move! Toyota/Yuki knock their opponents out of the ring and hit Suicida-style moves that the camera TOTALLY misses, then Manami uses her insane top-rope Quebrada on both. Doomsday Device Dropkick on Kyoko gets two! Yuki climbs, but it’s a Pop-Up Belly-To-Belly Superplex for two! Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb) attempt, but Yuki rolls out, dodges a lariat and hits a BEAUTIFUL Uranage! And AJA gets one! Kyoko gets three more, but BARELY kicks out. Manami goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (straightjacket electric chair drop suplex w/ bridge), but Kyoko snaps off a German Suplex hold for two. Manami dodges Aja’s Uraken (spinning backfist), but tries another Manami Roll and they do the “Powerbomb Reversal” spot out of that. Then it’s ANOTHER Toyota/Aja spot, as Aja aims for the Super Mountain Bomb finisher, but Manami rolls out and hits a Sunset Flip Powerbomb from there, for two! They absolutely crush Manami with a Doomsday Device/Run-Up Flying Back Elbow for a… “Fuck YOU!” bridge! Manami is insane! Aja’s Uraken is blocked again, and Manami hits the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex… but can’t hold a bridge! Manami charges, but eats a HUGE Uraken, and Yuki has to save her. Kyoko hits the Niagara Driver on Yuki while Aja lands the Super Mountain Bomb for the win (17:46) to deflate the crowd.
This was a very typically-great AJW style tag match with a fast start, slower early period, then rapid double-teams and reversals as time went on. The precision wasn’t exactly there (Manami & Yuki slid out of a fair bit of moves before they hit “flush”), but you could tell they were showcasing a “Greatest Hits” of all their big moves and spots, mostly with Manami & Kyoko showing off all the cool shit they could do that nobody else could match. Kyoko’s incredible Pop-Up Belly-To-Belly Superplex and Toyota’s “jump right onto the top rope without using my hands” thing are just… I mean, this is why you watch AJW. It felt like there was still another gear or two in there (Manami didn’t even hit her finisher, and Yuki felt like she was barely a part of the match), but it was still high-tier.
Rating: ****1/4 (your everyday amazing AJW match- ho-hum)
Lou Thesz comes out to an instrumental of “My Way” and talks about how rad Japanese wrestling is.
ALIEN DEATH MATCH:
RYUMA GO vs. UCHI MAIJIN SILVER X:
* Go Gundan is… nothing I’ve ever heard of. “Indie Sleaze” is the old-school parlance, I believe. Goofy-wrestling, comedic characters and tongue-in-cheek business-exposing stuff.
The Wrestlers: Ryuma Go is an old star from the ’80s, wrestling for something called International Wrestling Enterprise, then New Japan, then All Japan, then taking years off then popping up on random shows in the mid-90s. He looks like a generic Japanese Dad Wrestler, in black trunks. He passed away in 2009. I dunno the other guy (Edit: Goro Tsurumi, an “Indie Sleaze God”), but he’s decked out in horror movie monster gear (and the lead vest they make you wear at the dentist’s office!), with three guys dressed in the same. And they’re coming down to Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War”, which is an EPIC wrestling theme. But then Go beats him with “Eye of the Tiger”, so there.
Doing a stand-off after picking the leg draws an ovation- I guess this Go dude is over. He keeps going to an armbar to control, but soon the masked hillbilly guy attacks him and it’s 4-on-1 on the outside. X keeps using what looks like a silver dildo, which is better than his offense, as he moves with the grace of Ed Sullivan. Go delivers a ton of headbutts (but the MASK!! Where’s the psychology!?!), then submissions, but the seconds keep beating on him. He ends up making his own comeback, using the dildo to wipe out all four guys, then does a wind-up dildo strike on the ramp! But the heels overwhelm him again, and a powerslam & flying attacks get two, but Go makes a comeback with a hundred lariats and finally gets the pin at (15:11). Why did the other guys not help X that time?
This seemed to be ironic goofy comedy stuff so the crowd could cheer for this dude doing basic ’80s stuff then raising his hands, and went on for a thousand years longer than it should have. Would have been fine if it was short (Go seems to have the skills to lead a slug through a basic match), but yikes. The crowd was definitely in on how dumb this was, though.
BARBED WIRE BOARD MATCH:
CACTUS JACK & THE HEADHUNTERS (Headhunter A & B) vs. SHOJI NAKAMAKI, LEATHERFACE & TERRY FUNK:
* The International Wrestling Association is known to me only from grainy black & white photos of dudes soaked in blood that you’d see frequently in “PWI” and “The Wrestler” back in the day. This is the “Deathmatch Company”, created as a successor to W*ING as a rival to FMW. The promotion lasted from 1994-2014, but was largely in decline since 1996.
The Wrestlers: Cactus Jack of course you know- this is between his WCW & WWF runs, about when he’s in ECW & IWA Japan making himself a legend through the Deathmatches. The Headhunters are a pair of 400-lb. black twins who did most of their stuff in Japan- I only recognize them as the “Squat Team” from their Royal Rumble appearance around this time. Terry Funk is another wrestling legend, reinventing himself from an NWA-style guy into a violent, middle-aged crazy person who does blood & guts wrestling. Leatherface was ’80s WWF guy Corporal Kirschner reinvented as a violent horror dude- he had a rep for toughness and insanity that is likely no joke if even half the stuff I’ve heard is true. But this dude is apparently Canadian journeyman wrestler Rick Patterson, who took over the role temporarily. Shoji is a Japanese Dad Wrestler, and quite popular.
The match, as expected, descends into a wild brawl immediately, with Shoji bleeding inside of two minutes. The Headhunters are much more spry than you’d think given their corpulence, and they jump from the ramp to the floor quite easily. There’s a ton of great spots here, but they’re all just interspersed with “they walk around punching and hitting with chairs”. Cactus & Funk go at each other with a barbed wire bat while a Headhunter chokes Shoji with a chain, then they dig the bat into his face while he just SCREAMS in agony- okay, Japanese Dad can sell. Leatherface has bailed after a beating- Cactus Clothesline over the barricade and Terry’s in trouble, then he starts trying to fight a ringside dude in his stupor while a Headhunter hits a Guillotine Legdrop onto the RAMP on Shoji. Cactus Elbow on Terry! Flying Splash for Shoji! Cactus does his signature “head caught in the ropes” spot that cost him an ear in Germany. Shoji makes the DAD COMEBACK, but gets crushed and Terry takes dives into the barbed wire boards.
Flying Elbow gets two on Shoji, so they sandwich him between barbed-wire boards and then MOONSAULT him, which is the spot of the match! Unfortunately, it’s like halfway through instead of ending on that note. Thankfully Leatherface is back, with a CHAINSAW, which is obviously gimmicked by makes lots of sparks- the crowd freaks out as Kirscher destroys the heel team. He does a Moonsault & flying elbow for two counts, then everyone walks around, but Funk is so good that he gets a huge reaction just for standing there and taking Jack’s punches (“Motherfucker!”) before lighting him up with his own. Jack tries to light a board on fire, which would apparently have caused the entire show to get cancelled if it worked, but it fails to light. Terry throws chairs indiscriminately, Leatherface gets superplexed by a Headhunter, and then one of the twins does a fucking TOPE CON HILO (!!!), but only hits his brother. Cactus Clothesline to Terry, then Foley & a twin hit the goddamn Steiner Doomsday Bulldog to Shoji from the top TO THE FLOOR. Foley gets launched off the top and to the floor, and Terry follows with a Moonsault onto a pile out there, because of course he does. That leaves only one Headhunter left, and Shoji reverses a whip into a board in the corner and rolls him up for the pin (18:28).
Complete mayhem from start to finish, in the BEST way. It’s an obvious spotfest, with all the “transitions” being “grab the guy and punch each other until the next spot happens”, but the spots were great. The Moonsault Sandwich woulda been better later on, but maybe they figure they’d only have it in them earlier in the bout. Foley & Funk came off as suicidal lunatics, and the Headhunters were used PERFECTLY- their mass meant that all their moves looked devastating.
Rating: ***3/4 (the best kind of gory spotfest)
Suzuki had some magnificent-ass hair.
MINORU SUZUKI vs. CHRISTOPHER DEWEAVER:
* Pancrase is an early MMA promotion founded in 1993 by Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki, and was quite popular for a time, but pretty much destroyed its credibility by having a few obviously fixed outcomes, meaning ALL fights were now questionable. Its rules included rope-breaks (but only 3-5) and no punches to the head.
OH MY GOD DEWEAVER USES “IF I ONLY KNEW” AS HIS THEME! That’s spectacular!! Suzuki’s pop song theme is actually almost better than his current one, too! And… wow, is it me, or was Minoru Suzuki a pretty handsome dude when he was younger? He was Pancrase’s superstar during his time there in the ’90s, and moved on to freelancing, All Japan, New Japan, NOAH & New Japan again, where he acts as a beloved “Evil Old Dude” wrestler who is a constant threat to others. I’ve seen very little of him, and definitely nothing from this time. DeWeaver looks so tall and lanky (a head taller than Minoru) that I can barely see him as a threat, but reach is a big thing in fights. This dude’s record is so short I swear he’s a tomato can, though.
DeWeaver uses knees and his reach to maintain distance, but gets taken down- Suzuki maintains control and switches to a kneebar, getting the tap-out at (1:50).
Rating: N/A (I mean, it’s a real fight, and a short one)
CARL GRECO & DON ARAKAWA vs. YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA & YUKI ISHIKAWA:
* Okay, I’ve never heard of Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi (Gumi means “group”, but is also used to denote a criminal organization) in my life. It’s a shoot-style company formed by Fujiwara (the guy who invented that armbar that’s always treated as hot shit in puro) in 1991, using the guys from the first UWF, lasting until 1996, when all its dudes quit to form BattlARTS.
The Wrestlers: Fujiwara was a longtime New Japan guy who became a big star in the ’80s, but quit to join Akira Maeda’s UWF. He later created his own splinter promotion, seen here, and fashioned himself as a criminal gang boss. He debuted in *1972*, which explains why he has a body that would shame an AEW jobber. Ishikawa debuted in 1992 for New Japan, and moved on to PWF-GUMI, then BattleARTS. Don Arakawa debuted when Fujiwara did, and is more of a broad, squat Japanese Dad Wrestler. He wrestled for New Japan in the ’80s, moved to SWS, then did this company until he mostly retired but for the occasional bout. Greco seems young and in shape- he wrestled for Fujiwara, then BattleARTS until mostly retiring around 2000.
So the “Shoot-Style” here is very grapple intensive, as guys keep fighting for holds UFC-style, but without finishing (like a heel hook will just cause a desperate rope-grap instead of a tap-out). Until Arakawa gets into the ring, at which point it turns into goofy comedy with silly posing, fake-looking punches, Giant Baba spots, and more. Yeah, puro snobs hated this kind of comedy interjection in wrestling back in the day, and Meltzer & others savaged this. At one point, he jams his fingers right into Fujiwara’s taint to break a hold on Greco! The crowd eats this up, though. Greco gets a NICE face-kick on Ishikawa for an 8-count, but Arakawa takes a comically overdramatic bump off a shot into the post and takes Baba Chops (leaning back over the ropes and getting chopped on the chest). Greco has some nice belly-to-belly suplexes- really good “pop” to those. Ishikawa takes a knee to the eye and an Uranage, but reverses a third belly-to-belly to a double-overhook suplex and fights into an arm & neck-scissors for the tap-out (16:30).
Okay, it’s a weird mix of two guys trying to have legit MMA-style stuff, Fujiwara doing a more-fantastical, slow version, and Arakawa cracking people up with goofy shit. It would be fine if it was short, but why go 16 minutes with it? The Gumi/BattlARTS style is actually pretty interesting, though- like someone doing a fixed, fun version of MMA, and I liked the psychology of reversing the third suplex. And the comedy stuff wasn’t THAT bad, just out of place.
Rating: **1/4 (… I mean, the crowd loved it. Not everything has to be about getting stars, I guess. But the Faux-MMA style is okay)
That’s all for now! Part Two comes on Monday!