Joshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix 1993 (Part Four)

The best match of the show! As always, ya gotta search & paste in Ringstarfield’s YouTube channel to get all the matches in succession.

AJW GRAND PRIX 1993 (Part Four):
* Part four away! 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.

“TL; DR- What’s The Big Deal?”- One of those nights when almost every single wrestler is gunning to steal the show, so there’s multiple great matches all evening. Also, a BAT YOSHINAGA match nearly gets four stars.

* The one-sided “Numacchi/ASARI as unskilled rookies” feud continues, this time with partners- Ito, in her Peter Pan gear, joins Numata, while Masami/ASARI’s partner is actually Kaoru Maeda, who debuted with the Class of 1986 (also featuring Aja Kong and others), but retired earlier- she’s now back in a Luchadora get-up. Masami debuted a new move last time, and seems to be slowly moving up, but so’s Ito. KAORU’s in purple, Masami’s in a fire-covered suit, Ito’s in green, and Numata’s in purple.

The flying team does stereo cartwheel elbows into the corner to impress the crowd right away, but Ito flattens Masami with a dropkick and they commence to bullying. It’s pretty plodding and clumsy, and poor KAORU gets zero reaction when she tags in later- everyone’s kinda stumbly today. Masami hits her new Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks on Numata, but Numata uses her facecrusher and Russian Leg Sweep to come back for two, and Ito spams stomps on the poor kid. KAORU finally gets back in and does a weak plancha out to both opponents- Frankensteiner on Ito gets two, but a Moonsault misses and she takes a NICE German for two. Ito screws up her leg when Masami breaks the bridge, though, and BADLY sandbags KAORU as a result- KAORU quickly finishes with an Armdrag off the top for three (10:26).

Rating: ** (total anemic, heatless match, though the Frankensteiner, German, and a couple other moves were great)

* The Lower Main-Eventer Kyoko goes up against the highly-credible, slowly-rising Bat. Their tiers here are quite far apart, but Bat’s always in that “would win in a real fight” zone of perma-credibility. Bat has upgraded her gear into something more than “tights + pants”, as she’s now in tights with actual detailing on them- still her signature black & yellow/white. Kyoko’s once again wearing every color ever, plus yellow tassles. And of course the video description spoils the ending, lol.

Bat does her brutal kicks to start, Kyoko counters with the utterly-pro-wrestling Mongolian Chops, and so Bat counters with THE CLAW, and this is awesome already. Kyoko gobbles up her offense to come back, but Bat fires back with BRUTAL knees and kicks, Kyoko now selling them like nuts. Man, some woman in the crowd is yowling so loud I legitimately thought somebody brought a dog into Korakuen. Bat works crabs & strikes to wear Kyoko down, but eats the Slingshot Backsplash. I like how Bat keeps throwing forearms even while hurting, filling empty spaces in the match with SOMETHING- good instincts. Kyoko’s charge is reversed to a powerslam for two, but she counters a second Thesz Press to her own for the same… and gets kicked in the ass on her next Backsplash- nice reversals & psychology! Bat tries a FLYING Thesz Press, but Kyoko just powerbombs her out of that for two. Now THAT’S a counter!

Run-Up Flying Back Elbow gets two as Bat’s in trouble, but she fights out of a Niagara Driver and wipes Kyoko the fuck out with her spinning heel kick. Kyoko bails, but eats a Thesz Press off the apron! Bat keeps going for more heel kicks and hits a knee-assisted facecrusher off the top for two! Then she pulls up the mats and does the same move from the apron to the floor! Spinning Heel Kick- two!! Two more! Another two! Kyoko’s flopping all over the place as Bat gets two. Kyoko hits a slingshot dropkick to come back, but keeps going for the Niagara Driver and can’t get it. Another try fails, but a great Bridging German gets two. Kyoko tries the Driver AGAIN, and Bat spin-kicks out… Spinning Heel Kick! One… two… THREE!!! BAT YOSHINAGA BEATS KYOKO INOUE (16:14)!! Holy shit, what an upset! Bat is stunned and doesn’t even buy it for several moments, and stable-mate Bull Nakano marks out on commentary.

Okay, this has to be Bat’s best match ever- Kyoko sold a TON for her, and Bat’s offense looked amazing and scaled up as the match went on, looking more and more credible each time. Kyoko’s dead-fish flopping all over the mat every time she took that wicked Spinning Heel Kick is some of the best “ping-pong ball” selling you’ll see this side of Shawn Michaels, and you even bought the finish- Kyoko outranks Bat by so much that she just gets arrogant going for her finisher again and again, and one of those damn kicks finally puts her down. Shit, even I want to see a big midcard push for Bat after seeing this. Kyoko definitely carried a lot of the day, but Bat’s offense was KILLER.

Rating: ***3/4 (really awesome come from behind victory, making the most out of Bat’s limited moveset thanks to Kyoko’s selling)

* The Marine Wolves EXPLODE! Hokuto is by this point a main eventer, and just flattened Yasha Kurenai in two minutes, while Minami is now a “solid upper-tier midcarder” of sorts. Minami’s in lime green, while Akira’s in black.

Minami WANTS THIS, as she divebombs Akira before the bell even rings (thankfully she waited for her to put away the sword…), hitting a dive and a powerbomb on the floor! Akira comes back with brawling, a piledriver, and submission torture (great “little thing”- slapping Minami’s thigh so she can bow & arrow her). Minami comes back with her specialty (the spinning backbreaker), then a samoan drop and a double-arm backbreaker- this kind of showcases her general moveset and style- The Basics Done Well. Nothing really fancy or mind-blowing, but solid, reliable stuff, and nearly PERFECTLY applied. She dumps her and a Perfect Plex gets two, but she charges and ends up on the floor.

The next bit is funny, as Minami uses a LOT of bailing and keepaway to hold Akira off (drawing a pop for a chase around the ring), eats a suplex to the outside in a huge bump for both, then the Tope Con Hilo. In the ring, Minami dodges a missile kick but gets Rana’d out of a powerbomb and Akira lands on Minami from another. Akira climbs, but NOW Minami lands one, hauling her off from the top, then hitting a PERFECT Powerbomb and a Ligerbomb for two! Akira catches her with a superplex and a Tiger Suplex for two each, then they piledrive each other on the floor like crazy people! Flying suicide kick and a suplex on the floor by Minami! Flying Senton looks to finish, but only gets two! Akira counters with a pair of sick folding Powerbombs for two, Minami rolls her up for the same out of the Northern Lights Bomb. She makes the mistake of whipping her, though, and BAM! Northern Lights Bomb finishes at (16:20).

A great, spirited little match, kept very smartly-paced with a minimum of B.S. Hokuto’s amazing selling, “crumpled” falls and vicious moves looked great, and Minami’s stuff is as fluid as always. Minami played things extremely smart, “zoning” Hokuto like it was a fighting game and countering all her best stuff, but there’s only so long you can last before she spikes you with that Northern Lights Bomb- that last one was BRUTAL, as Hokuto hung in the air to get her balance before just DRIVING Minami into the mat at full force.

Rating: ***3/4 (great, great fun- these two have excellent chemistry despite vastly different styles and the outcome not being in doubt)

* Interesting match-up here- I don’t think I’ve seen these two wrestle singles before. Takako’s on a higher tier, being a tag title contender, but Sakie’s not actually that far behind yet, and managed to upset Yamada last show! But can she repeat that success?- Joshi doesn’t do flukes that often. Both are in the usual gear for the time- Sakie’s blue singlet and Takako’s white & light blue outfit with the cut-outs.

Sakie attacks before the bell and hits her Savate Kick, but oh boy, pissing off the Demon Sadist Idol is not a good idea, as Takako slaps the shit out of her and slams her head into the mat repeatedly with the most pissed-off look ever on her face. Takako hits butterfly suplexes, but Sakie gets her rolling variant, hitting three. They do a good job chain-wrestling, actually, Sakie working the arm, even hanging on after getting backdropped out! That’s some Steamboat/Flair shit, there! But Takako finally comes back by targetting Sakie’s kneebrace, wrenching it in the tree of woe, then doing Doink’s Stump Puller finisher- don’t see THAT in Joshi very much. Takako then tears the kneepad off and commences to standing on it on the floor- see, this is why you don’t attack her before the bell. Takako is evil as fuck.

Sakie finally gets back into the ring, and in a fun bit, misses her Savate Kick but boots Takako in the back of the head, but… goes up for a plancha and hits her knee on the floor. Oh jeez, kid. Takako spikes her with a pair of Tombstones for two. Sakie manages an Uranage and reverses other stuff, but faceplants BADLY coming off the top. She Flair Tosses Takako off the top, then slowly climbs herself (still selling the leg) and gets Super Armdragged- great stuff. Backdrop reversed to a nice bridging German for two, and now it’s Savate Kick Spam time! Takako pinballs like crazy from it, even doing a standing splits to flip upside down in a Shawn Michaels-level oversell. Sakie tries some running kicks, but takes a Backdrop Hold coming off a fourth for two, and the Super Chokeslam nearly kills her- nearing the end, now. Sakie rolls up out of an Aurora Special (shoulder-seated backdrop) for two, Takako rolls back for two, and Sakie rolls her forward again… for three (13:31)!! SAKIE WINS AGAIN! Her obvious joy at getting these wins is amazing.

Holy shit, another star-making win for Sakie! Yeah, this is about when it became REALLY clear they were gonna be pushing her to the moon some day (though that day sadly never really came). Beating Yamada AND Takako on succeeding shows is nuts for someone on her level. The match itself was fun, with good counter-wrestling at first (though eventually Takako used the injured leg to sit in some basic holds), Sakie messing up her knee with great selling, and Takako being a sadist out there. All the top-rope stuff was a little weird given the knee injury, but Sakie at least climbed gingerly. Nice to see a “Bret Hart Match Ending”, too- Joshi doesn’t do those that often.

Rating: ***1/4 (good, solid wrestling with a good story in it via the underdog coming back from injury to win it)

* Jesus Christ! Now THIS is a trios match! Tomoko’s the only weak link, though this also isn’t “Full LCO” here, as Mita & Shimoda are still getting out of their JTTS phases. Toyota’s in black, so is Mita, and Shimoda’s in red, while Aja’s in purple & green, Bull’s in the Grateful Dead shirt, and Tomoko’s in that horrible purple & orange thing.

Mita gets a pop for hitting an airplane spin on BULL before the bell, and her team throws boots before they’re brutalized on the outside. Mita comes back with biting, but Bull suplexes both Tokyo Sweethearts and Manami gets clobbered for several minutes. Tomoko eats the comeback, as Manami gets the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body and Shimoda tears into her with falling clotheslines and a flying lariat & splash. Tomoko lands one of her better slingshot cross-bodies, judo flips, a Perfect Plex and a Moonsault Press of all things two two each. Bull decapitates Shimoda with a lariat & legdrop for two, then slaps on Bull’s Angelito, then a fucking Brock Lock while Shimoda’s partners keep having to save. Tomoko & Aja add elbows while she’s in a crab, but Shimoda keeps bridging out of stuff until Aja just splats her while Bull holds her arms. Yikes. The Kaiji flatten Shimoda and Aja adds an avalanche (“SHIMODAAAAA!”) and Tomoko wears her down, but finally, after FIVE MINUTES, Shimoda escapes by hook-clotheslining Aja and running off.

Manami hits a picture-perfect Manami Roll and fires off dropkicks like nut, but Bull slugs her down and Mita takes a beating from the nunchucks! Manami Rolling Cradles Aja, who then misses cross-bodying Manami & Mita, then gets tricked into ramming Bull! LCO dives & Manami planchas out, but Aja shoves over all three from a double-assisted dropkick in a fun power move. Bull keeps getting rolled up, but kills LCO with a double-lariat and Powerbombs Shimoda for two. Bull climbs, but eats a Double Superplex for two! She victory rolls out of Mita’s electric chair, but Mita powerbombs Tomoko out of a Rana for two. Blazing Chops and an electric chair leads to twin splashes from the Sweethearts, but Tomoko kicks out! She avoids a triple-dropkick, but Aja’s swinging Uraken blasts her by mistake! Manami Moonsaults her, so Bull has to save, setting up Tomoko’s Rana for two. Manami tries for revenge, but Bull somersaults her with a lariat and finishes with the Guillotine Legdrop at (20:14).

Fun match that’s not QUITE as awesome as I was hoping for- lotta Tomoko filling time with holds and Bull being very sparse, and a finish that kind of came outta nowhere. Still, everyone was trying hard and doing all their fun spots, and then the mandatory sped-up super-finish with all sorts of moves flying around, and we’re back to awesome again. Tomoko even did some good stuff later on!

Rating: ***3/4 (this combination is probably incapable of falling anywhere below that, even in 1993)

* Hotta & Fukuoka have met periodically over the interpromotional era, typically with Hotta bludeoning JWP’s rookie, but a solo match is a new one. Hikari, in black, has this look on her face in the pre-match interview like “Yeah, so Hotta’s gonna no-sell all my shit and then drill me with shoot kicks”. Hotta, in white & blue (sharp look, actually- top-tier for her), is on such a higher level at this point, going toe-to-toe with the Ace of Hikari’s promotion.

Hikari gets a Bridging German right away, but soon we’re into two minutes of kicking her all over the ring. Though I do like how she tries her “No-Selling” taunt, but Hikari just keeps throwing dropkicks until she staggers and falls over, faking no-selling (like “OWWWWWW haha I’m not really hurt, OWWWWW”). Hotta no-sells some legwork and boots Hikari out of the ring, drawing the ire of Dynamite Kansai, acting as a second, and THAT gets the crowd interested (though they’re loving Hotta’s disrespect to the rivals). Hotta throws even more kicks, tosses her, then barely sells the Popeye Punch and stuffs every attempt at a comeback- jeez, this is really putting Manami flattening Hikari earlier into perspective. Like, Hotta immediately reverses a corner charge with an elbow and blocks the Rolling Cradle, and will only sell flash pins.

Hikari reverses a whip with a Moonsault tease and hits the Cradle, but the just stumble backwards- is Hotta sandbagging her on purpose? This is awkward as shit. Hikari gets hung upside-down outside the ropes and kicked repeatedly, but gets a revenge spot when Hotta climbs and gets knocked into that exact position! Okay, that’s good. Hikari hits a plancha and a Moonsault gets two, and now Hikari’s out of big moves. She hits a DDT & German, but tries a Cartwheel Elbow and gets wiped out with a kick, and that’s that. They butcher the Pyramid Driver (Hikari was probably supposed to sunset flip out of it but just falls and collapses), so Hotta blasts her and tries it again for the three, Hikari taking a NASTY bump onto her shoulder from that (14:03). Hikari sells that like death, finally awakening and thanking the crowd profusely for having her, drawing a nice reaction.

Well, chalk this up in the “Hotta is a selfish worker” category- Manami sells a ton for Hikari, Kyoko goes THIRTY MINUTES, but Hotta has to no-sell nearly everything she tries, makes her moves look like shit, then crushes her easily after resisting her finisher? Jesus- this is one of those matches that makes you think less of the person performing (made worse with a later match against Plum having the same stuff happen). This had a solid story (arrogant vet taunts JWP by dismantling their up & comer who isn’t on her level), but the wrestling was pretty ugly outside of Hotta’s kicks.

Rating: **1/2 (enough stuff for a solid rating, but a pretty selfish, one-sided beating with a lot of ugly moves)

* KICKY WRESTLER TIME! With two UWF-style wrestlers who both altered the style into a similar kind of highly-athletic Cruiserweight-ish format instead of focusing on deathblows. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen these two work before, so this is interesting. Harley’s gear is weird as ever, looking like white & aquamarine ’80s wallpaper designs on a one-sholdered fabric… over top of a black t-shirt… with a mesh sleeve. Yamada sticks to the cool green.

They beamspam out kicks to start, then trade holds- Yamada controls, then Harley, each doing tome stiff kicks to the back to establish rivalry. More holds until Harley whips out a great roundhouse kick to pop the crowd. More running kicks bump Yamada all over the place, but she comes back with snap suplexes and some shots of her own, then the “leg over the neck” submission kills some time and they’re going long. Yamada gets dumped but slides back in before Saito can do anything, then hits Enzuigiri Spam for two, and a flying elbow smash for the same. She goes up, but Saito ninja-kicks her in the ass and hits a pescado, then dumps her to kill time before they settle back into leg stuff. I mean, it’s well-wrestled and the fans are still invested, but holy hell.

FINALLY something happens, as Harley goes for a splash and hits knees, re-injuring the ribs that Takako destroyed in her last big match. Yamada follows up with the most horrific-sounding kick EVER, and Harley bails then takes more shots. Stretches & chokes follow, but Harley lands an enzuigiri, then a couple more, and dodges a kick and plants a roundhouse to stay on offense. They both miss kicks and Harley lands a German for two. They kick each other’s legs, but Harley catches her with a superplex, and a Flying Headbutt gets two! BIG enzuigiri from Yamada puts Saito down, then nails one backdrop suplex after another and STILL only gets two. Time’s running out, so Harley kicks her in the gut while she’s flying off the top rope and horrifies the crowd with a Tiger Suplex… two! Another Flying Headbutt, but Yamada dodges, goes for a desperation pin, then finally hits the Flying Enzuigiri… and we out of time at a one-count (30:00)! Another draw!

yeah, I dunno- this one was SO OBVIOUSLY just killing time till the end, with submissions that didn’t even work consistent limbs or “matter” later. It’s kind of odd how Takako Inoue, an inferior worker to Yamada, got ****1/2 with the same opponent with the same result- just goes to show you how character, sadism and a much hotter finishing sequence can work. Both of these girls were awesome in the ring, and maintained equal cardio the entire time (neither even looks tired), but they didn’t do nearly enough cool stuff to justify the time, and the hot finish only lasted a minute or so instead of the Finisher Surge.

Rating: **3/4 (good enough, but way too long and clearly drawn out)

Match Ratings:
Ito/Numata vs. KAORU/Masami: **
Kyoko Inoue vs. Bat Yoshinaga: ***3/4
Akira Hokuto vs. Suzuka Minami: ***3/4
Sakie Hasegawa vs. Takako Inoue: ***1/4
Manami/LCO vs. Aja/Bull/Tomoko: ***3/4
Yumiko Hotta vs. Hikari Fukuoka: **1/2
Toshiyo Yamada vs. Harley Saito: **3/4

-Yeah, three ***3/4 matches on one card is definitely enough for the plus column- that was a really kickass night of wrestling. Though the latter two matches had all sorts of problems to me, they were still okay-ish, but Kyoko/Bat in particular was great fun. I was confused why they needed THREE DRAWS in this Grand Prix so far… but I think I figured it out- going thirty minutes prevents your important wrestlers from having to job. Since these are rival promotions in all three of the draws, and they MIGHT balk at jobbing out #2-3 wrestler Harley Saito to AJW’s upper-midcard, I can see them drawing things out for an “impressive” tie to show off both wrestlers and make fans want to see a more decisive bout later. But overall, great show- I particularly dug the Kyoko/Bat match- easily Bat’s best one ever.