Joshi Spotlight: Hiromi Yagi

Hiromi Yagi

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- HIROMI YAGI:
Statistics:
Real Name: Hiromi Yaginuma (aka HYAGIE, Masked Angel Rosetta)
Billed Height & Weight: 5’0″, 117 lbs.
Career: 1994-2004

-One of my favorite things about doing these Spotlights is the occasional “found surprise”- much as I love looking up the best matches of the biggest stars that I knew about already, it’s great to discover someone I’ve never heard of who turns out to be a really good wrestler, too. On most of the big AJW shows around a certain point, you’ll see token “Rookie Matches” in the beginning- often way too long for their own good, they feature five-foot-tall rookies trading basic jobber offense until one wins with like… a body slam or something. They’re filler and meant to be a learning experience, and audiences are patient with them, but they’re generally pretty bad.

So imagine my surprise when the obscure throwaway shrimp Judo Flips someone right the fuck off the top rope and puts on an OUTSTANDING performance in what should have been a throwaway slot! One of those “okay, who is THAT and what’s their best stuff?” moments.

Such a performer was Hiromi Yagi, who had a ten-year career mostly in Japan Women’s Puroresu (the rival to AJW) and ARSION. I immediately had to research this total unknown and figure out what became of her, and who she’d wrestled- one of those things where one bit of research led to another. Her style is just really cool- being tiny but trained in judo, she used a lot of judo-type moves and great technical offense (GOOD grappling is something I love; joshi can be criticized as doing it as superfluous time-filler, the way New Japan’s Juniors often did in the ’90s, but Yagi actually fought for stuff and did unique holds). The biggest eye-opener was her finisher, a wicked Super Judo Flip, just WHIPPING her rival off the top rope and slamming them down. Overall, her style was grapple-intensive, and high-speed with great precision, as opposed to the high-flying of most girls her size.

While I saw very few **** matches from her (though I’m a bit picky with ratings, and the technical style usually as a “peak” to me, especially with a “flash choke out of nowhere” finisher style), I was astonished to find out how good she was so quickly- in 1994, I have her in a ***1/2 match against Rie Tamada, who was a barebones rookie, too- given that Yagi hadn’t been in the ring a year by that point, that’s crazy. It was kept entirely to submissions for the most part, with every hold fought for like crazy. The ARSION stuff I’ve seen was a lot of fun, with her being a little slower the further her career went along, but her credibility being higher-end. The grapplefuckery (I believe that’s the scientific term for it) style of ARSION was really ideal for her, as she was great at fighting for holds.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
-As someone with a fairly minor career, who largely peaked outside of the Boom Period, there’s not a whole ton of major stuff to go on. Yagi debuted in late 1993, becoming a “thing” in ’94, wrestling as a rookie for JWP until 1997, when she appears to switch to ARSION, which was founded by Aja Kong after AJW lost most of its talent due to financial problems. Already good in her rookie year, she wrestled Rie Tamada in a match I found very good at Wrestlemarinepiad ’94, getting to a (15:00) time over. She & Fusayo Yochi lose to Tamada’s team at JWP Super Major Queens Flash later on. She & Hiromu Sugo face Chapparita ASARI & Bomber Hikari at Big Egg Wrestling Universe in the Tokyo Dome, actually opening the eight-hour show with a rookie match! It was mostly just okay, but they were new. She was one of eight JWP women who stole the show at the interpromotional Bridge of Dreams show (also at the Tokyo Dome), hitting her big spots there, too. At Wrestling Queendom 1996, she’s in a tag match in a losing effort to Rie’s team- seemingly they encountered each other a fair bit, being on similar “Tiny Rookie” tiers.

Within JWP itself, she often feuded with similar-aged Candy Okutsu- she beat Candy to become the second-ever JWP Junior Champion in 1995, but had to vacate it immediately (injury?). She was the next champion anyhow, holding it for 82 days before losing it back to Candy.

She retired in 1997 owing to getting married- something that usually spelled the end for a female wrestler’s career- however, 1998 sees her all of a sudden pop up in ARSION, wrestling most of her matches there! She still does a few shows for JWP, as the companies still worked together, but I’d imagine she saw more of an opportunity for a push in Aja’s company, as Aja was big on creating new stars. Plus, her judo offense was a better fit for ARSION’s grappling style. She and old AJW rival Rie Tamada, who’d also jumped ship, formed the first Twin Stars of ARSION title-holders, holding the belts for 205 days before losing to the superstar duo of Ayako Hamada & Mika Akino. She even got to wrestle at a J-Cup, fighting in the Michinoku Pro J-Cup 2000 against ASARI over the WWWA Super Lightweight Title in a 9-minute losing effort that I don’t think made the commercial tape.

Suddenly, however, she’s gone in 2001 (ARSION had some… BAD management), and then she’s wrestling mostly for Jd’, NEO Ladies, and JWP again. She briefly changes her name to “Masked Angel Rosetta” and joins Masked Angel Fleia in defeating Drake Morimatsu & Fang Suzuki for Jd’s Tag Belts in 2001, holding them for 105 days before long to Fang and “The Bloody”. From around 2002-03, she’s called “JYAGIE”. Yagi actually finishes her career back in JWP, ending it in 2004, making only a few scattered performances since then.

Overall, she’s a pretty obscure wrestler I’d never even heard of until last year (though a few, like Mima Shimoda, Suzuka Minami, and others had eluded my earlier research into Joshi, so I was hardly that thorough), but part of the fun of these is even looking up the really minor stars.

MOVESET:
Judo Flip, Cross-Armbreaker, Flying Armbar, Flying Plancha, Stepover Toehold Facelock, Missile Dropkick, Buffalo Sleeper (sleeperhold with arm bent over the shoulder), Super Judo Flip (finisher)

MATCHES:

HIROMI YAGI vs. MAYUMI OZAKI
(JWP Korakuen Special, 03.03.1996)
* Interesting! This is a 2-year vet Hiromi, in a match that looks VERY long judging by the video length here. Ozaki’s in a much more elaborate get-up than usual, with lots of tassles and black bits, while Yagi’s in that “yoga shorts & sports bra” look. Ozaki has that unusual ability to make everyone look both credible and good, so let’s see what the unusually-gifted rookie can achieve here!

Yagi actually dominates to start, using limbwork to keep Ozaki down, but Oz comes back with a DDT and beats on her in and out of the ring, getting a Powerbomb for two. She works various armbars, leading to a great Powerbomb Hold for two. Cannonball off the top oddly leads to Yagi just turning it into submissions on Ozaki with zero transition. Yagi missile kicks the shoulder and works Ozaki’s side (that’s a new one), biting and kicking at the ribs, then firing off a running dropkick, backdrop suplex & flying splash to keep up the offense. Ozaki brawls to fight back, and Yagi fails the judo flip, but elbows her in the ribs to help complete the move- nice bit. Then it’s dropkicks, a plancha and a Joshi Chairfest outside as Oz is giving a TON to this rookie.

Missile kick & flying armbar keep it up, but Yagi goes up to finish and that’s enough- Ozaki catches her with a backdrop superplex, then a Ligerbomb gets two! She goes to the corner, but now Yagi catches her- Bridging German gets two, but Ozaki reverses another and is caught up top again- Super Judo Flip! Two-count, and Yagi follows with a Flying Stomp! And one to the back! That gets two, and Yagi’s at a COMPLETE loss and you can see it- she tries some running bullshit because she’s desperate, but Ozaki catches her with a sleeper, strangling her down. Yagi gets one more hope spot, but a Dragon Sleeper and another sleeper get the ref to call for the bell at (20:40).

Gotta love the booking, here- everyone knows that Ozaki isn’t going to lose, so she just gives 15 minutes of offense to the kid to help put her over anyway, thus looking better for taking all that and surviving, too. I liked how Yagi kept going to the arm AND the ribs, getting moves from both, and kept up the punishment until a whole Finisher Surge didn’t work- getting desperate, she then gets caught, and finally strangled down after a series of chokes.

Rating: ***1/2 (going 20 minutes with a rookie at still having a very good bout is more proof of Ozaki’s skill. Good psychology and a logical finish, if not as wild and MOVEZ-happy as is usual for joshi)

“FINAL TWINSTAR” FINAL:
TWIN STARS OF ARSION:
HIROMI YAGI & RIE TAMADA vs. AYAKO HAMADA & TIGER DREAM:
(ARSION, 07.12.1998)
* This is the final match in a tournament to determine the first-ever “Twin Stars of ARSION” (the tag titles for the upstart company). Tamada is an AJW rookie who never got a push and made the jump to Aja’s company, joining Yagi & Candy Okutsu, here as the Tiger Mask-inspired Tiger Dream, the first female Tiger Mask lineage member. Because Japan, the Tiger outfit is OF COURSE bright pink. Hamada is the hot new rookie of the company- with her looks and in-ring potential, she was considered an obvious “star of the future”. She’s in white & pink. Yagi & Tamada are in matching leopard-print.

Hamada immediately tags herself in and throws elbows, then LIONSAULTS both opponents, does a ropewalk into a flipping armdrag, then leaps straight the top rope and does a QUEBRADA onto everyone. Wait, she was THAT gifted? This is her rookie year! Dream is left doing a Tiger Feint and weakly jumping off the apron like a doofus. Yagi joshi-rolls Ayako for two, but Rie gets headbutted and Dream hits a lariat, DDT & Moonsault for two. Well this is more spritely than I was expecting. Rie uses a Rana but Yagi gets missile kicked twice- Hamada’s in but gets outwrestled and they work the arm- assisted DDT gets two. Yagi hits her judo flip, then works Dream’s leg, who hits a run-up cross-body for two. Man, Korakuen is giving this NOTHING- ARSION was kind of a “rookies + some vets” league, but they’re treating these girls like scrubs.

Rie works a sleeper on Ayako, but Yagi takes Dropkick Spam (is Ayako deliberately evoking Toyota here? I mean, they’re Western-style sideways dropkicks, but still), then reverses and lands an arm-trap backdrop suplex and works the leg. Rie adds Dragon Screws but misses a missile kick, Dream oddly hitting one while she’s sitting down selling. Ayako adds a Lionsault, but Rie just pops up and gives her a German. Rie & Dream trade lariats, and then Rie dropkicks her right out of a run-up cross-body, which is one of the spots I used to love in WCW. Rolling Elbow gets two. They each do Flying Double Stomps on Dream, then add a DOUBLE-TEAM version- Dream somehow does a “Fuck YOU!” bridge out of that, drawing our biggest reaction so far, so Yagi & Tamada pepper her with missile kicks and do Stereo Arm-Trap Chokes for the tap-out at (14:28), becoming the first Twin Stars of ARSION!

Fun match with a lot of high-spots, but a minimum of selling- Ayako was looking like a huge superstar for the opening minute but just settled into “makes a comeback after taking some moves”, lacking much more flash. Like she had the athleticism but hadn’t learned match construction yet. Everyone else came off fine, but like… obviously sub-tier high-fliers compared to AJW’s best. Rie & Candy are hardly ASARI, ya know? Never mind that NOBODY sold very much- people would take a Lionsault and just do their own move next. And then the final minutes are just Rie/Yagi eaisly beating the shit out of Tiger Dream and knocking Ayako off the apron a bunch, then scoring a tap-out with something that hadn’t been worked.

Rating: ***1/2 (I could see some potential here, particularly from Ayako & Yagi, but matches like this have a ceiling)

QUEEN OF ARSION TITLE:
MARIKO YOSHIDA vs. HIROMI YAGI:
(18.02.1999)
* Well hell- Yoshida at this point had upgraded from “slender high-flying rookie on her way up” to “Swole Goddess of Death”, now sporting huge arms and the most bitching gear in wrestling history- a big Spider-Woman deal with a red spider on the chest and a spiderweb on the back. Yagi has very “2000s Joshi” gear, being a two-piece sporty outfit with shorts and a smaller top, both with a lot of details.

They square off and tease grappling for a bit, and then, in the very first move of the match, Yoshida nails her Air Raid Crash (behind-the-back Death Valley Driver)! Well THAT’s an unusual choice! Yagi bails to sell for a while, re-entering to hit a German for two, and they grapple on the mat for a while, using ARSION’s signature style- GRAPPLEFUCKERY~~~! I really like how the style involves fighting for limbs and rolling around on the mat, instead of just “they grab a limb and magically apply a complete hold” to sit in for a minute until the rope break. Yagi uses her speed to jockey for position repeatedly, but Yoshida finally takes the leg and hits an STF. Yagi fights to the ropes, but eats a DDT & a Boston crab, but escapes and controls until Yoshida uses brute strength to toss her out of a corner leap. Yagi manages a judo flip and works the arm, but gets drilled with a knee, only to bridge out of a move and go to more arm stuff. Yagi tries another judo flip, but gets garroted in a choke and slides to an armbar- Yoshida rolls through into a Dragon Sleeper in a cool bit.

Yagi finally makes the ropes, and does a great flying armbar out of a lariat. Yoshida bails to sell, but takes a plancha on the outside! Yagi dramatically fights for a Cross-Armbreaker all over the ring, Yoshida desperately struggling against it. She finally escapes to applause, treating it like a big deal, but Yagi hits a backdrop hold for two. Missile dropkick & Flying Stomp get two, as we’re escalating the big moves. Yoshida finally hoists her up and slams her out of another cross-armbreaker to buy some time, then chokes her in a crazy “over the back” move that uses gravity to hang Yagi. Yagi tries the armbreaker again, but Yoshida deadlifts her right into a Powerbomb and adds a German, then counters a lariat to a release side-grapple suplex! Air Raid Crash is reversed to a flash pin, but Yoshida tangles her into a Cobra Clutch then a thigh-assisted neck choke for a solid minute until finally Yagi taps at (20:36).

Very interesting bout! ARSION’s grappling style is definitely unique- my preference for technical stuff is in cases like this, where every hold is fought for. The match flow was a bit deliberate, with Yagi controlling the vast majority of it with arm stuff, then Yoshida slowly managing more and more power offense to counter. I liked a lot of it, but the length was a bit much, it got a tad slow, and the ending was a bit flat- ending things with a very, very long struggle all over the ring in a single hold until someone just taps? Maybe, I dunno, a more theatrical, desperate struggle?

Rating: ***1/2 (Not what I want ALL wrestling to be like, but a good use of technical wrestling to make a 20-minute match with few highspots get a rating this high)