Joshi Spotlight: Zenjo Is Dream- Last Night’s Explosion

The Main Event.

(20.03.1993, Korakuen Hall)
* It’s the second of two “Zenjo Is Dream”-titled shows (“Zenjo” = the nickname for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling), both with a similar purpose- helping to elevate the lower-card wrestlers. Tomoko, Ito, Takako, Bat & even Kyoko are fighting from underneath tonight, and a “good showing” against veterans is worth a lot in puro. This show is notably only about twelve days before Dream Slam 1, which means everyone is gearing up for a MAJOR offering.

“TL;DR- What’s The Big Deal?”: A very interesting card in terms of “Who’s getting pushed”, plus a lot of established people slowly putting over the up & comers- the baseline match is exceptionally good tonight.

* Rookie mayhem with the future Numacchi & Chaparita ASARI at war. ASARI’s in her Canadian flag black singlet again, while Numata’s in purple with a lightning bolt on it.

Numata mostly powers Masami around, as I note that Numata herself is usually undersized in her bouts, really putting a point on how tiny ASARI was. They actually fight amateur-style for a while, so it’s not nearly as bad as most rookie matches are, but Numata finally throws on a bunch of long holds. Masami fights back with Rookie Dropkick Spam and her standing backdrop, but Numata fires off three facecrushers in a row and a lariat- Masami bridges out, but Numata powers her down, amateur-style, for the three (7:01).

Rating: *1/2 (actually not bad for rookies, as they fought for most moves and did an “amateur wrestling” thing. Masami is already superior to her elder, though)

* Interesting team there, as Minami teams with her ex-partner’s other subordinate, up against the “Jungle Jack” lower-tier duo. Shimoda’s in the red gear with white tassles, Minami’s in a black singlet with yellow corners, Terri’s in the black outfit with the cutouts again, and Ito’s in the yellow & white singlet. Ito’s still on the low end at this point, but Terri’s position’s always in flux. Everyone in here has a totally different style, which should make this interesting.

Minami REALLY tears into Ito to start, really being “sorta-LCO”. Power does an interesting “legdrop to backwards roll to elbowdrop” and it actually looks really cool. Minami goes from “deliberate power wrestler” to “speedy victim” against the different opponents- extremely versatile. Ito fires off Rookie Dropkick Spam on everyone, and Terri pulls off a facecrusher, snap suplex & sharpshooter on Shimoda, suddenly looking like a good worker all of a sudden, then press slams her, Warrior-style. Some flying moves put her down, and Ito takes Minami’s backbreakers.

Shimoda works a figure-four & her falling clotheslines on her, then a Perfect Plex. Ito SAILS across the ring trying a slingshot backsplash out of the corner, but Minami slides under her in a cool bit. Ito USES THE ASS to come back, and her corner somersault senton gets two. Power hits a powerslam on both opponents and lariats Shimoda around- Shimoda does her flying headscissors on Ito, but missile kicks Minami, who takes the Running Stomp Spam for two. Power gets her third powerslam reversed and misses two double-lariats, but hits the third after skinning the cat back in while Ito holds them- nice bit. Flipping slam gets two on Shimoda, but Minami stops the count after a Flying Stomp. Ito misses another senton, but gets a superplex with Terri’s help, and looks to finish- but Minami dropkicks Terri off the top, Shimoda Germans Ito, and Minami uses the GREATEST LIGERBOMB EVER, completely wowing the crowd and getting the pin at (17:53).

Interesting match dynamic, as everyone had to shake up their style based off of who was in the ring- Terri had some good-looking power moves, Ito had beamspam, Shimoda scrappiness and Minami “the basics, done perfectly”. I noticed that all Ito’s bits of offense were against Minami, probably part of her “work with the up & comers” role, because she was so credible and a good, basic seller. There were nicely-choreographed moves throughout the match, though, often involving Terri doing running moves, making me think some careful planning went into this. After a lot of leg-hold filler things got pretty slick, though not much of a “story” develeoped beyond Ito repeatedly trying and the elder team just getting a bit too smart for them.

Rating: ***1/2 (another unusually-good Terri Power performance, but the standouts here were Ito & Minami. Holy SHIT that Powerbomb)

-Unfortunately not included among the stuff kept on Ringstarfield’s YouTube channel. Kamiya was one of the more forgettable wrestlers of AJW by 1992, despite being a classmate of Aja Kong & Bison Kimura- she was one of those people neither good nor bad enough to be memorable. She had some very “1980s” moves like a dramatic “Standing Karate Punch”, and did the basics well, but by late ’92 was jobbing to up & comers like Shimoda who needed some credibility. She would return as “Cooga” (which I am 96% sure means “Cougar”, as some YouTube translations indicate as much), but still never really stand out.

* These two are from the Class of ’89, with Tomoko taking the longest of her crew to develop, and Sakie the least- her push was active even by ’92, while Tomoko was a jobber. To elevate Tomoko, she beat Sakie for the AJW Title in September, but jobbed a month later to Kaoru Ito, who herself needed a push. So everyone from that class is kinda hovering around, and I think AJW is smartly treating them all like they have a bit of a chance. Sakie’s in the usual Steiner gear, while Tomoko’s got her white pants and black & white shirt on.

They work a lot of holds to start, but Sakie does her Rolling Butterfly Suplexes. Tomoko hits a Slingshot Cross-Body, starting that era where she tries to fly around the ring (which would later lead to an infamous series of botches on some prominent Joshi collections), and spams vertical suplexes to stay on offense. Sakie sells the ankle outside the ring, but that doesn’t go anywhere (legit injury?) and she instead controls with chops and restholds until Tomoko lands two of her judo throws to come back, and a bridging vertical suplex gets two. Perfect Plex gets the same, but she misses her next slingshot move and takes kicks.

Sakie catches her off the ropes with a powerbomb for two, then Tomoko “Super Calos” a slingshot sunset flip, just squashing Sakie instead. She misses a missile dropkick and Sakie keeps trying her injured partner’s STF, but nearly gets caught in a Superplex to the OUTSIDE, drawing screams of horror from the crowd. Finally she hoists Tomoko inside, but gets landed on for two- nice reversals there. Sakie gets her foot in the ropes, and a Rana gets two for Tomoko. She goes for her backdrop-to-powerbomb finisher a couple of times, but Sakie fights out, hits an Uranage, and pulls her up for a Rolling Savate Kick for the win (16:00).

Very long, dull match with a lot of lying around on the ground interspersed with little bits of offense. Sakie’s stuff looked good, but Tomoko Calo rears her ugly head and blows a couple things, and we get a real “stop and start” kind of match. The longer, hard-fought match is probably to help elevate & train Tomoko, while establishing that Sakie, despite her past loss, is still ahead.

Rating: **1/4 (boring and kinda sloppy for much of it)

* Idol vs. Idol! They say so beforehand anyways. Recent shows have seen Takako getting into matches with the top stars & best workers, as I suspect they want her elevated NOW. Manami’s in black & Takako’s in blue, with long silver gloves all the way up her arms.

Takako attacks Manami before she even hits the ring- Toyota, royally pissed off, fires back, and does a PLANCHA off a higher series of steps, hitting a ring girl! Takako misses a dive, but PUTS UP THE DUKES and does her hilarious boxing stance thing again, Manami even selling the punches! Haha, Takako rules. She hangs Manami in the tree of woe and stands on her leg with a hilariously-arrogant pose, then smirks as she tortures her opponent with a series of hair-pulling-tinged legholds. Manami gets back with that standing inverted figure-four she did against Bull weeks ago, plus her back-arching deathlock/bodylock thing. They botch setting up a weird submission (Manami sitting on Takako’s back and stretching her arms while locking the legs) and re-do it- I think Manami only did that move briefly. Rolling Cradle lasts a solid 30 seconds, and the bridging double-overhook suplex gets two! Octopus Hold, but Takako fires back with her armdrags and a dragon & bodylock sleeper. Toyota does a sunset flip at 90 mph, but Takako avoids a dropkick and does a rollup.

Takako’s Aurora Special (shoudler-seated backdrop) is reversed to a flash pin, but Manami climbs and earns a Super Armdrag! Manami reverses a German to her own, but tries a Tombstone (the fu–?) and we learn why, as Takako does the Tombstone Reversal Spot and gets her own! Takako climbs, Manami meets her there, and Takako INVENTS THE GODDAMN SUPER CHOKESLAM!! The crowd SHRIEKS as Manami barely slides out after “2”. Takako nearly cries with frustration as the fans sense an upset, but the Manami Roll and Double-Overhook Suplex out of the corner ends her flurry. Moonsault- two! Takako blocks the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex and actually blasts her with a Backdrop Hold for two! Takako, running out of shit to do, aims for a Dragon Suplex, but Manami mule kicks out, Moonsaults her, hits a Quebrada into the ring, and lifts a dazed Takako right into the double-hammy- Japanese Ocean Suplex gets three (22:17).

This was the most unexpected sort of match- Manami’s “Beamspam” fighting style and Takako’s snideness instead resulting in a long, drawn-out technical battle with stretching. No real work on any particular body part, but they kept it moving and were always “acting” even if it was obvious padding, and the fans responded accordingly. To the point where the pace didn’t pick up at all except for the opening and closing minutes, yet it still came off as fine. Takako’s Super Chokeslam spot was AMAZING, and totally put the move over instantly, and it came off like she was getting increasingly desperate at the end, trying to hold down Manami with whatever she could use. Manami, though, just spammed the shit out of her specials and overwhelmed her with offense. This is the second big singles match in a row where Takako took on a Main Eventer and held her own for most of the match, though.

Rating: ***1/2 (There were execution problems- none of the moonsaults hit flush, and the bridge failed on the finish- and… 22 minutes is a bit much to hit three moonsaults in a row, but Manami Gonna Manami)

YUMIKO HOTTA & BAT YOSHINAGA vs. DREAM ORCA (Toshiyo Yamada & Etsuko Mita):
* Really weird match, as Dream Orca hadn’t been a thing for years, and nobody’s with their regular partner- comes off as more of a random arrangement of stars, but 3/4 of this match is Kick Demon. Hotta is the highest-ranked, while Yamada’s the tag champ & Mita’s a midcarder. Bat’s on the lower end but has some real-life credibility. Mita’s back in the “less makeup” look for some reason, and is in the black gear. Yamada’s in a wicked-looking canary yellow shirt & pants combo. Hotta’s in purple & white, and Bat’s in black with yellow stripes on her shirt.

Haha, the gargantuan 5’8″ Mita has to do the “Regal Stoop” to fight the squat Bat- that’s pretty funny. Hotta & Yamada have a good little Mirror Match going, and Yamada kicks the absolute SHIT out of Bat. Bat gets stretched, but comes back on Mita, who sells her ass off. Hotta nails a HUGE kick to the jaw that look like it legit KO’d Mita, who gets to the count of “8” before stumbling up and getting beaten on again. Yamada controls Bat with running kicks and her methodical stuff while her partner sells death on the apron. Two minutes of legwork and Mita wakes up and it’s BLAZING CHOP time! Northern Lights Suplex gets two, but Hotta kicks her around and Yamada has to save again, wiping out Hotta with a series of highly-mobile attacks.

Dream Orca set up the “hold them for the chest-kick” spot, but instead HOTTA kicks Mita by running in, and Bat scores the chest-kick instead. Mita dodges a flying attack and NOW they land that chest kick! Haha, but now Bat grabs Yamada for HOTTA’s chest-kick! Okay, that’s cute. Yamada lands a spin kick on Hotta to come back, then spams Enzuigiris. Mita dropkicks Yamada by mistake, but gets a dive on both opponents, then a Flying Blazing Chop into a shitty German gets two on Bat. Hotta interferes, letting Bat’s spin kick get two on Yamada. Everyone interferes, and a Tiger Driver on Mita gets two- Yamada breaks it up. Another Driver is stuffed, but Hotta catches Yamada and tries the Caribbean Splash (Straightjacket Super German), but Mita reverses with the Electric Chair Drop! Hotta ducks and MITA eats the Flying Enzuigiri, though, and that’s the ballgame- Pyramid Driver (straightjacket powerbomb) finishes Mita at (22:26).

Interesting, solid match, seemingly there to elevate Bat once again, as Mita sold like nuts for both her & Hotta, putting over their strikes like crazy. Yamada had to repeatedly come to her rescue, coming off as a speedier kind of fighter who can handle either opponent. Mita’s offense felt like it wasn’t quite there yet, either- too many “Fireman’s Toss” moves (she’d improve her “doing moves from a fireman’s carry” game within a month, though, don’t worry), too much generic punching and slamming, etc. The match went a bit too long and had a lot of dead spots with restholds, but did the mandatory “great final minutes”, with excellent booking with all those “hold for the chest-kick” spots that happen in Kick Demon matches, great reversals, and finishes that kept you guessing until the end.

Rating: ***1/2 (fun, stiff contest held back only by some dead spots. Great ending)

* The champ gets her first big public defense! Fascinatingly, the normally-spunky Kyoko is DEADLY serious during the pre-match festivities, not even getting the crowd going when they start their “*clapclapclap KYO-KO!” chant. Aja’s in the purple shirt & pants this time, while Kyoko’s in… wow, that’s not the usual gear. It’s BRIGHT red and yellow, instead of that pink stuff, with all the tassles making it look like someone merged Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior together and made them a lady.

Kyoko actualy psyches out Aja outside the ring, trapping her out there and hitting a crazy run-up-the-ropes ropewalk Flying Thesz Press! Aja quickly takes control in the ring and things slow wayyyyyyyyyyy down for a long-ass time. Like nine straight minutes of crabs & clutches. Aja does some running stuff, but Kyoko gets a spirited comeback before being flattened again. Kyoko ducks the Uraken (spinning backfist), charges again, but gets splattered by a snap-powerslam. STF, avalanche & backdrop driver puts Kyoko on the ropes, and Aja dumps her & it’s a chair-tossing beat-down in the stands of Korakuen. THAT goes on for a couple minutes, and finally Kyoko mounts an immediate comeback in the ring, and now AJA gets dumped and eats chairs, but she slams Kyoko upside-down on a damn open chair. Kyoko slips out of a butt-drop and fights for a solid minute trying a Surfboard & Wheelbarrow Hold, but both fail due to Aja’s mass.

Vader Attack swats Kyoko, but she slaps Aja and does her “corner dodge” in the chase, but tries the Slingshot Backsplash… RIGHT into a snap German for two! Nice move, there. Aja pulls out the Manami-Slaying Chokeslam for two. Aja tries to finish, but NOW eats the Slingshot Backsplash, but Mountain Bombs out of the Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb) attempt for two. Kyoko snaps off a DDT and hits the Run-Up Flying Back Elbow for two, though! Niagara fails again, Aja’s Uraken is blocked, and Kyoko HAULS her up for a Ligerbomb as the crowd explodes! Aja comes back, but Kyoko reverses the Chokeslam to a flash pin and tries her headscissors for two, and tries a whip- CRACK! Uraken!! Kyoko slumps over, but manages to grab the rope at “2”. Flying Back Elbow finishes her at (26:05), though. Kyoko appears tearful, but Aja congratulates her on a hard-fought match, then draws everyone from the back into the ring for a rousing “Zenjo!” chant, gearing up for Dream Slam!

Jesus, what do you do? This was AGONIZINGLY slow for the first 12+ minutes, then they wasted time on outside brawls and got into “sitting in a hold” AGAIN, but then boom- hot ending minutes and we’re back to a good match from something that was barely over **. This gives me the impression this wasn’t so much about “having a great match” (I feel they could EASILY break ****) as it was about “establishing dominance” for the newer Champion, as Aja barely gave Kyoko anything except the occasional reversal. I liked the end, though- a flash Uraken was a legit killer, but since it was a surprise and a “grazing shot”, you can buy Kyoko not being dead… but she’s got nothing left for the follow-up.

Rating: ***1/4 (stupidly long for what it was, but ugh- better to have a good ending than a good beginning, you know?)

Match Results:
Saemi Numata vs. Masami Watanabe: *1/2
Minami/Shimoda vs. Power/Ito: ***1/2
Sakie Hasegawa vs. Tomoko Watanabe: **1/4
Manami Toyota vs. Takako Inoue: ***1/2
Hotta/Yoshinaga vs. Yamada/Mita: ***1/2
Aja Kong vs. Kyoko Inoue: ***1/4

-This was a very interesting night of wrestling in terms of elevation- The Class of ’89 all get focus as Sakie & Tomoko received a ton of time and Tomoko looks like she can hang, and Ito is in the ring for almost all of her tag match. Numata of 1990’s class gets a solo Jobber Match to showcase her, Takako gets an ultra-competitive VERY long match against “Big Match Manami”, Bat features heavily in the tag match, and sub-main Kyoko gets a WWWA Title shot. I can only imagine most of this was set up to showcase the younger crowd of wrestlers and make them look better, which will be key going forward. The Interpromotional Era kind of “froze” many of them at one level, but stuff like this gave them more credibility (credibility Hotta gained by murdering poor Mita so badly all match long).

As for matches, though, nothing really got out of the wheelhouse of “really good”, with nearly every match suffering from “going long for the sake of long” syndrome. I was a bit weirded out to see that be so universal, because I completely forgot this was so close to Dream Slam! But with that show being so soon, I won’t blame anyone for doing safer, slower matches ahead of time. Everyone was much more liable to just sit around in holds instead of chain-wrestling or working really hard to match the action segments top-tier, and shaving five minutes off of every bout here would create a card full of **** matches, but in those circumstances… you save your best shit for the best show, ya know?

Here’s my reviews for the Dream Slam shows, to keep “current”:

Joshi Spotlight- All Star Dream Slam I (Part 1)

Joshi Spotlight- All Star Dream Slam I (Part 2)

Joshi Spotlight- All Star Dream Slam II (Part 1)

Joshi Spotlight- All Star Dream Slam II (Part 2)