Joshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix 1993 (Part Three)

The Main Event 6-Woman Tag.

AJW GRAND PRIX 1993 (Part Three):
* Part three of this series of shows! I actually reviewed Part Two a year ago, not realizing a more full set was around at the time: Once more, the tournament includes JWP’s Hikari Fukuoka & LLPW’s Harley Saito on different sides, meaning there’s a lot of never-before-seen Dream Matches here. Hikari/Kyoko, Sakie/Yamada and a big-time 6-person tag await! Oh, and a super-famous joshi match…

“TL; DR- What’s the Big Deal?”: This contains what is easily the most famous squash in Joshi history- a true unexpected gem. Also every match but the squashes is at least “very good”, there’s a few pairings you’ll literally never see again, and a kick-ass main event! Actually a hell of a show!

* A rematch from only a short while ago, with the two top rookies fighting over the Rookie Title. Numata’s in her usual purple singlet, while the future Chapparita ASARI’s in new gear, dropping the Canadian flag one for a white/red fire/blue line & star/black bottom singlet. Both look like total green nobodies at this point.

Numata acts like a shit to start, so Masami charges in with dropkicks until she’s powered down with a crab, clubbing, and a Texas Cloverleaf. Masami gets a short comeback, but we’re back to a billion rest-holds as Numata bends her in half. Masami gets a backslide and some dropkicks again, but then just like that she debuts the CARTWHEEL HANDSPRING MULE KICKS, completely stunning the bored crowd! Alas, she’s got no real finisher yet, so the Rookie Bodyslam Hold of Finishing fails, and Numata powers her around and throws out facecrushers and a Russian Leg Sweep (after blowing the first one) for the win and the 1950s Kitchenware Title at (10:19).

Rating: * (dreadful resthold-fest for the entire thing, but Masami’s comebacks were spirited, and she blew the roof off with the impressive Mule Kicks before Numata’s clumsy running crap finished her)

You know when it’s only one clip long on a 10-year old YouTube video that it’s gonna be a short match.

* Oh, this’ll be ugly. Shimoda is slowly getting a mini-push as the lowest-tier person in Las Cachorras Orientales, and she’s up against a rookie jobber in the future Chikako Shiratori. Chikako’s in green Jobber Gear, while Shimoda’s in the usual red, black & white tassled gear. The injured Mariko Yoshida gets a bigger reaction than either as the announced referee, notably.

Chikako hits a jobber flourish with three running cross-bodies in a row, but Shimoda soon completely destroys her, alternating bludgeoning, hair-pulling and stretching her out. Like, every YouTube comment (aside from the guy drooling over Chikako) is on how one-sided this is. Shimoda using dirty tactics like biting to beat a JOBBER is hilarious, and so LCO. Chikako gets a three-move comeback out of simple stuff and a Japanese-style arching cradle, but Shimoda immediately fights back and near kills her with a Tombstone botch (Chikako’s legs fall WAY back and she folds at the waist, so Shimoda has to improvise a slam), and a flying splash gets the three (5:23).

Rating: *1/2 (barely even a match as much as a slaughter, though that part was fun)

THE TWIN TOWERS (Suzuka Minami & Etsuko Mita) vs. KAORU ITO & TOMOKO WATANABE:
* Hilariously, I was attempting to call Mita & Minami “The Twin Towers” as a gag on how tall 5’8″ is for Japanese women, and then the announcers LITERALLY FUCKING CALL THEM THAT. Their team continues (even though Mita got her first huge solo win over Minami on the last show, debuting her Death Valley Driver finisher in the process), and they’re up against the Class of ’89, both of whom are slowly rising up the card. Minami’s in black & yellow, while Mita’s in black & red. Ito is in her gloriously hideous green Peter Pan garb, while Tomoko’s in a torn-up purple shirt over orange. The fashion disaster that is this team cannot possibly be overstated.

The giantesses attack first, but soon get overwhelmed, giving a ton of offense to the tomboy brigade and bounce around the ring selling. Ito moves with such velocity with the dropkicks and stomps that I can’t help but suspect she’s in “Give ME a push!” mode. Mita scores Blazing Chops on Tomoko, who slingshots onto Minami, who tilt-a-whirl backbreakers Ito in quick succession. Mita does a delayed suplex and controls well, then Minami whips Ito off the top in a Flair Toss, but holds her all the way down for two. Ito USES THE ASS to come back and Tomoko slams and judo flips Minami around- Perfect Plex gets two. Bridging vertical suplex gets the same, but the Towers come back until Tomoko superplexes Mita and Ito spams stomps onto her.

Flying Stomp misses, but Ito slickly bounces to the corner for her somersault senton- nice. Tomoko’s Rana gets two, Minami’s flying attack misses, but the Towers toss them and hit dives anyways. Electric Chair Drop/Flying Splash gets two- Ito saves! Tomoko avoids the Powerbomb and Ito dives in for two, but Minami uses a MONSTER Kneeling Powerbomb for two. Mita tries stuff, but gets caught with the Flying Stomp for a close two (Minami saves), but gets caught- Tomoko accidentally moonsaults her, Minami adds a missile kick, and for the second time ever, people lay eyes on the DEATH VALLEY DRIVER, which gets the obvious three for Mita at (14:47).

The Twin Towers gave the juniors a lot of shine here, with Tomoko getting a ton of moves on Minami in particular, but the end result is the same. Interestingly, the offense was spammed out onto them, so all their offense had to come from reversals. Mita in particular only got a handful of moves before the end, but WHAT an end- the DVD was an otherworldly finisher back in 1993, looking like absolute death.

Rating: *** (It’s funny- very little in the “Escalating Finishers” or great back-and-forth, but since the match was kept shorter and was almost literally all action, it equals many longer, more finisher-happy matches because it gets right to the point)

* An interesting bout, in that Yamada’s the lowest-ranked of the top wrestlers, while Sakie’s the highest-ranked of the lower wrestlers. Yamada’s in the lime green again, while Sakie’s in the usual Steiner gear.

Sakie attacks right away with the Rolling Butterfly Suplexes, but Yamada soon takes the fight out of her with strikes, the snap suplex, and her stretch muffler. Sakie finally fights back with running stuff and mimics some of Yamada’s moves to wear down the leg in a cute bit. Yamada unleashes a HUGE kick from the mat to a big “oooh!” reaction, but this just gets Sakie all fired up, and she rifles off machine-gun slaps to an even bigger reaction! A bloody-nosed Sakie now takes a THUNDEROUS ass-kicking, defiantly trying to power through, but Yamada eats her alive with kicks. Sakie smears her own blood all over her face while in a crab, which HAS to be deliberate. Gasping and panting, she finally charges out of a whip and hits her Savate Kick Spam! That gets two, but she immediately eats a running kick to the face. She still Savate Kicks Yamada to the apron and planchas out, but the Uranage is blocked, so she hits another kick and THEN does it, getting two!

Sakie ducks a lariat and goes for the Uranage, but Yamada judo flips her out of it! Rolling Kick squarrrrrrrrrrrrrrre in the face, and Enzuigiri Spam gets two. Sakie catches Yamada up top, but gets tossed and eats a flying elbow smash for two. Sakie tries her own flying move, but gets kicked in the stomach, then rolls through on a flying cross-body for a big tease near-fall. Yamada bludgeons her and a German gets two, but Sakie dodges a kick, eats an elbow from an Uranage attempt, but jumps up from Yamada’s next German and rolls forward… for the three (15:54)! Huge upset win for Sakie!! Both girls sell the fall exceptionally well, with a manic Yamada in disbelief, and a stunned Sakie not comprehending it until the ref literally has to hold three fingers in front of her face.

Sakie’s “more energy than skill” thing was on full display here, as she kept trying comebacks and big flurries, wildly flailing about, and it made for a fun match, especially as Yamada could keep up with the pace, but also slow it down like a good vet, making Sakie look overwhelmed (the blood was a BIG help). Yamada sold her ass off as well, and I can’t speak enough for how much an upset win like this helps Sakie. Even though it’s a flukey flash-pin (pretty rare in Joshi), it establishes tiers- Sakie’s rising and Yamada has somewhat plateaud. The shot of Sakie, still with blood patching her face, slowly realizing she beat an elder was terrific.

Rating: ***1/2 (Sakie solo matches are usually always fun, and Yamada carried her very well here)

I love it when the match description spoils the ending, don’t you?

* Another big interpromotional match- Manami demolished Hikari handily enough a few weeks back, but in the Grand Prix, anything can happen, as we just saw. Kyoko’s gear is MUCH more tassle-y than usual, covered in yellow bits, with splatterpaint design on what part of the tights you can see- Hikari’s in the usual black leotard. Kyoko’s shoulder is taped up.

Kyoko dominates to start with running stuff and her fireman’s toss, then works her fancy submissions. She does the Mongolian Chops, but Hikari winds up her fist- POPEYE PUNCH~~!! And another one! Too many missile kicks see her in a thirty-second Giant Swing, though, then it’s restholds until suddenly she dodges the Slingshot Backsplash! Kyoko keeps stuffing her offense, however, even running away from a flying move after getting knocked to the floor. A few moves get messed up (Hikari seems to slip off a static Kyoko), but Kyoko’s dropkicked out and finally takes that plancha. Hikari clears some space and actually does a Rolling Cradle on the FLOOR, which is… inventive and actually looks painful to take.

Kyoko AGAIN stuffs a cradle in the ring, but Hikari catches her with a Powerslam in an unexpected spot, then gets it. NICE Moonsault gets two. Kyoko sells that like nuts, so Hikari goes for another, but Billy Kidmans her knee into Kyoko’s face, and is shocked to get only two. Hikari, at a loss, aims for a super powerslam, but Kyoko reverses to her own powerful one for two. So weird to see that killer move always used 2/3 the way through a match. Double-KO spot lasts until Kyoko gets the Run-Up Flying Back Elbow for two. That KILLS her arm, though, and a one-armed Niagara Driver fails, so Hikari hits a RUNNING Popeye Punch but falls to a lariat. Kyoko tries to play through the pain, but another Niagara Driver attempt earns her a snap submission- Fujiwara armbar! Naturally, that’s sold huge. Kyoko reverses a suplex and gets caught in ANOTHER, and the crowd completely explodes. Cross-Armbreaker!

Hikari dominates with arm stuff, then stuffs Kyoko’s one-armed comeback with a Handspring Back Elbow! Kyoko dodges the second and hits a run-up back elbow, but tries her Backsplash again, and gets German’d off the ropes! Three missile kicks in a row and a flying cross-body all get two, but Kyoko hits a slingshot dropkick and another flying back elbow one for two. Superduperplex gets two! Both are pretty wiped, so they can’t maintain serious offense, but Hikari gets a bulldog and a bridging German for two. Moonsault hits knees and we’ve got a minute left! Hikari reverses a German to a Straightjacket Suplex for two. With nothing left, she tries ANOTHER Moonsault and eats the mat, so Kyoko finally hits that Niagara Driver… and time expires as soon as they land (30:00).

They were Resthold City for the first ten minutes, as you might expect, but things soon picked up a lot, recovering from some botches to see Hikari get some good offense, then turn Kyoko’s injured arm into a big story, making you BUY those submissions. This ended up MUCH better than I expected given other reviews, with a lot of drama near the end.

Rating: ***3/4 (Maybe it’s because I can totally gloss over all the bullshit in the first ten minutes of the latter bit is hot, I dunno, but I dug the hell out of the underdog struggle of Hikari, and liked it even better than the Hikari/Toyota match from before)

Holy shit, this video has been viewed over three MILLION times in the ten years it’s been on YouTube! And you’ll soon see why!

* This match is fairly infamous among Joshi fans, as two of y’all have commented on it to me before I ever saw it, and other reviewers have shaken their heads over it. So Yasha is LLPW’s vicious, street-thug-acting tough-girl, frequently carrying around her Singapore cane… but here, Hokuto looks like the hugest star ever, gets a monstrous reaction from the fans, and completely rips Yasha’s entire act to shreds by smirking the entire way through introductions. Like, I love Hokuto, but this is the kind of “Cool Heel” thing that destroys credibility- like what Mick Foley said HHH could have done to kill the famous Cactus Jack return right out of the gate if he’d been an asshole about it.

So it’s simple- Akira mocks Yasha’s pre-match squat pose, takes a bunch of cane shots, then eats three chokeslams in a row, popping up after each one. Yasha freaks and hits another, then one off the 2nd rope, which Akira finally sells, but Akira gets her feet up on a flying splash and we’re done- Northern Lights Bomb finishes at (2:19). One of the biggest squashes in Joshi history, and it’s against a “name” opponent. Kind of weird for LLPW to leave one of their wrestlers out on a limb like that, but HOLY SHIT the crowd comes unglued with that- something they’ve probably never seen before.

Rating: 1/2* (Hokuto no-sells almost everything and hits one move for the win- like rating a Goldberg squash)

* And now five of the biggest stars in AJW are in the same match, along with legit tough-girl Bat! Aja is the dominant champ at this point, with Bull as her former rival/now ally, and they’ve been crushing all comers for months. Bat is the AJW Martial Arts Champion, so she’s got cred. Meanwhile, Hotta & Takako have been a second-tier tag team doing well for months, and Manami is a Main Eventer in her own right. This is anyone’s ball game here, though I don’t see Aja or Bull taking the fall. Aja’s in white & black with red pants, Bat’s in the black with yellow, and Bull’s in the Grateful Dead shirt. Manami’s in black, Hotta’s in white & dark blue, and Takako’s in white & light blue. 

Hotta’s team tees off on Bat to start, with even TAKAKO gaining an advantage, but soon the Monster Squad beats on the Idol and then Manami does a 1.2 Jannetty sell of Bull-sama’s lariat, tries to scrap with her, then does the “Tony Mamaluke” sell off another one, and gets MURDERED by a vicious kneeling powerbomb! Bat takes a turn, but Manami hits the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body and escapes! Takako & Hotta hit a flying elbow/backdrop combo and they all work Bat over with stuff, but she gets flying headbutted into Aja’s corner and a Vader Attack stops Manami’s offense in a hurry. Manami gets tortured in some horrifying stuff (Bull yanking the leg over her own back, then an inverted figure-four and a deathlock/dragon sleeper), then Aja catapalts her into Bat’s chest-kick. Manami scores a very difficult Manami Roll on Bat (who is REALLY short and stocky), then dropkicks out and Takako hits a chokeslam and her armdrag. Hotta tries another back elbow off the 2nd rope, but misses and Bat kicks her around, getting some revenge from before.

Suplex on the top rope, and Bull tosses around chairshots outside. Hotta immediately makes a comeback in the ring, as usual, now kicking Bull all over the place. Manami adds seven running dropkicks in a row, but misses a flying one and the monsters score three avalanches in a row! Aja Backdrop driver and Hotta saves, then Manami dodges a splash and Takako eats a chokeslam into what looks like a Bubba Bomb. She knocks Bat off the top rope and dodges Bull’s tope, making her hit Aja & Bat, and then Manami planchas out onto all three! Takako’s backdrop hold gets two on Bat, and Bull saves after Hotta’s Tiger Driver. Hotta dodges a double-lariat and facecrushers both kaiju, but Manami runs straight into Aja’s Mountain Bomb- Aja sets up the Super version, and it’s the mandatory Sunset Powerbomb Reversal spot for two. Manami does the Mulkey Bump off a dropkick, but Aja’s tope runs straight into Hotta’s foot! Crowd loved that!

Manami’s Moonsault gets two on Aja, but Aja flips her out of a Rolling Cradle, only for BULL to take it! Bull lariats both idols, but Hotta halts the Guillotine Legdrop and Takako armdrags Bull off the top! Bull elbows out of a backdrop and hits her own holding version for two, but Takako shoves Bat into Hotta’s back elbow. Hotta whips her, but Bat hits her SWEET spinning heel kick, and hits another pair for two. Aja’s second-rope splash gets two, so she sets Hotta up top… but takes a FLYING Spinning Heel Kick for two! Hotta gets too cocky, though, missing a ground version and eats the Uraken right to the face and that’s the ballgame- Bull’s Guillotine Legdrop & Aja’s Flying Back Elbow finish her while the partners run interference at (25:29).

Very well-executed match- all action, minimall bullshit and even the stretching looked awesome (Manami’s back-arching deathlock bodyhold thing is INSANE, and she sells like nuts when the monsters fold her backwards, too)- it’s hard to hate a match that gives you tons of crowd-pleasing spots and non-stop motion. What’s astonishing is how many moves were left in the tank- they really left you wanting more, with the “Oh, we just wanted to hit ****- we’ll REALLY put some effort into it later” kind of thing you only get from wrestlers this good.

Rating: ****1/4 (25 minutes flash by in what feels like fifteen, with tons of fun spots and all-action)

Match Ratings:
Saemi Numata vs. Masami Watanabe: *
Mima Shimoda vs. Chikako Shiratori: *1/2
Twin Towers vs. Ito/Tomoko: ***
Toshiyo Yamada vs. Sakie Hasegawa: ***1/2
Kyoko Inoue vs. Hikari Fukuoka: ***3/4
Akira Hokuto vs. Yasha Kurenai: 1/2*
Hotta/Manami/Takako vs. Aja/Bull/Bat: ****1/4
-Hard to hate a show like this, in which every match but three squashes is good, and one in particular is truly great. Hokuto/Yasha is the most-watched video on Ringstarfield’s YouTube channel, likely because it’s so legendary a squash, too.