JWP THUNDER QUEEN BATTLE:
* And now we come to what is possibly JWP’s biggest show ever- the Thunder Queen Battle! I actually reviewed the Main Event early last year, as it’s one of the most famous bouts in Joshi history- an 8-Person Tag Team Iron Woman Match! It’s one of those things that’s just ***** or you’re wrong and that’s that- it’s that good. But hey! There’s OTHER matches on the card, too! Every match on here features JWP’s stars in a “home field advantage” show against AJW stars- still big business as this was a brand-new thing. Everything on here is a never-before-seen spectacle as a result, drawing a lot of attention.
Everyone comes out for the match announcements to start the show, mixing up business casual (Ito, Minami), “Fashionable Teenager” (Sakie), ’90s skateboarder (Hotta), “Peter Griffin” (Aja), or just “company t-shirt and shorts” (most JWP wrestlers). Whatever Ito says cracks up everybody, while Minami positively TOWERS over people in the most 1980s suit ever- a red business top with huge shoulder pads and stark-white pants. JWP’s rookies (Candy & Sumio) look positively terrified to be doing promos in front of a live crowd- their eyes are wide as dinner plates. Aja & Kansai get the biggest reactions- it’s weird to see Kansai kind of smiling and snarking given how serious she normally is.
“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: Pretty much every Joshi fan automatically gives the main event *****, and it’s the most unique, once-only match stipulation I’ve ever seen. And there’s another **** match in the middle! Otherwise, it’s good old-fashioned interpromotional mayhem, with a lot of one-time-only matches.
AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
NUMACCHI (AJW) vs. SUMIO TOYAMA (JWP):
* IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII… have no idea who Toyama is. Wait! I just checked- I’ve seen her as a jobber in ’92 JWP matches! She actually debuted for AJW’s Class of ’88 (alongside Kyoko Inoue), but left due to injuries and re-trained with JWP, re-debuting in 1992 and going on for four years, not making much of an impact and quitting for GAEA in the meantime. And here she’s wrestling AJW’s Saemi Numata, now recently reimagined as a Comedy Wrestler named Numacchi. She recently won the AJW Junior Title, and is decked out in a yellow shirt and black & white pajama pants, and still has normal hair- not the patchwork stuff she’d have later. Toyama’s in a pink, black & white bodysuit thing, looking like an LLPW wrestler, actually. Their gear all kinda resembles that.
They actually get mean and scrappy immediately, Numacchi using her goofy plastic shovel as a weapon to choke out Toyama to a chorus of boos! They proceed to “Rookie Stuff” so basic that they fight over Russian Leg-Sweeps (Numacchi’s finisher), Toyama dominating with crab-holds. Numacchi works simple stuff and chokes away, playing heel tonight. Running face kicks in the corner actually wow the audience, Toyama selling them like killshots, but Toyama outgrapples her again. The brawl outside turns ugly (the shovel gets used again!), but Toyama works the arm back in the ring for minutes until she WAY overjumps on Numacchi’s German, folding onto her knees! She counters a whip to an absolute SPAMMING of the Russian Leg Sweep, just to be a snot to Numacchi, I guess, then spams chokeslams of all things! Numacchi reverses one to a Fujiwara of her own! She then hits a Rock Bottom and her OWN Russian Leg Sweep Spam for two. They try flash-pins repeatedly, getting increasingly nuts over it, but BAM- (20:00) time over, so we have a draw.
Wait- a GOOD Numacchi match?! That went twenty minutes?! I don’t know what to believe in anymore! Okay, so it’s shockingly long match given the experience/talent level here- this is a JWP card, alright. The psychology and wrestling actually wasn’t bad, though, as they fought for stuff and told a story of Toyama outgrappling, but Numacchi kept spamming running attacks and strikes instead. Toyama proved herself with a lot of good technical wrestling, keeping the match moving despite the extended length and limitations of her opponent. Given how bad most Numacchi matches are, this is pretty crazy in that it was never awful- just a bit limited and way too long.
Rating: **1/2 (like… it has a good final stretch, a lot of desperation, and some decent technical wrestling! It was like a 20-minute **** epic, but with shittier workers so it was only “pretty good”)
INFERNAL KAORU (AJW) vs. BOLSHOI KID (JWP):
* So KAORU is a once-retired AJW old-schooler returned as a midcarder dressed as a blue dragon, and Bolshoi is JWP’s undercarder on the way up, doing comedy stuff but also being tiny and fast. Her outfit’s this bizarre half-spotted/half-striped concoction, with the standard clown mask. This is kind of weird, as both are on similar “tiers”, but KAORU has much more established cred.
The match is immediately played for comedy, doing a routine over flowers. This goes on for TWO MINUTES, and I can practically hear the late ’90s tape-traders complaining from here. Bolshoi avoids KAORU and does the “Tiger Feint”, then they trade some decent (if slow-motion) mat stuff, before settling into some unemotional filler that completely silences the crowd in a bizarre way- like they went from laughing, to appreciative and attentive, to just DONE. Some antics and cross-bodies from Bolshoi get them into it a little more, and she hits a flying chop but eats a Stunner. Slingshot kick and a springboard plancha mark Bolshoi’s comeback, but KAORU throws out a plancha of her own, hurting her knee in the process. This kills a ton of time, and she tries her Thesz Press but eats a powerbomb for it. They fuck up a super armdrag from KAORU, but Bolshoi hits a Super Rock Bottom of sorts for two. She does a ton of forward-rolling flash pins, but KAORU’s German gets two. Both miss Moonsaults, and KAORU gets La Majistral for two. She collapses on a bodyslam, selling the knee, but gets another, and two straight Moonsaults get the three (13:18), thank GOD.
WOW. The crowd just DIED and there was no getting them back. Shows you what happens when you don’t bother to put some effort into your matwork and just “do holds” when you’re the lower-card people. It came off really slack-ass and clueless from KAORU, who’s a veteran, and Bolshoi had to start wrestling around her. They fucked up a big Super Armdrag (she kind of just “hops” backwards and Bolshoi can’t get over her), then KAORU collapses on a body slam at another point, just coming off as stiff and very clumsy the whole way through.
Rating: *1/2 (a couple nice Moonsaults and that Super Rock Bottom was cool, but it was one of the most anemic, boring wrestling matches I’ve seen in a LONG time- I can accept incompetence if there’s effort, but KAORU didn’t give a single fuck out there)
SUZUKA MINAMI & KAORU ITO (AJW) vs. DEVIL MASAMI & CANDY OKUTSU (JWP):
* This is a really interesting “Random Grab-Bag” tag battle, as nobody here are regular partners, and it’s “Rookie/Vet” teams, with Devil FAR outranking Minami in tiers, but Ito’s above Candy so it all evens out. Minami’s in her green gear (but with a technicolor robe to start), Ito’s in the green Peter Pan shirt over blue tights, Masami’s in her usual black gear, and Candy’s in blue with white & black linework all over it. It’s good gear (better than anyone’s but Minami’s), but she still looks like a total jobber- the “short hair and tiny size” thing is like an AJW rookie.
A good showcase of how much of an effect presence has on a wrestler- Devil isn’t any taller than Minami, yet looks like she’d completely eat her alive out here. By contrast, Minami looks enormous compared to Candy. However, she gives generously to the rookie, while Ito gobbles her up. Masami just crushes Ito in turn, though. Devil keeps powering everyone down and setting them up for Candy in a fun storyline- Masami blocking Ito’s flying ass and lariating the shit out of her is great. Ito counters the Powerbomb with a DDT, but Minami gets the lariat, then double-teamed for another lariat in a slick bit. Devil tries to overthrow powerbomb Candy onto Minami, but she splats onto the mat, and AJW score a Powerbomb/Flying Stomp to Devil for two! Jesus- that’d be a finish in any Western wrestling match around this time, and they’re just getting into the thick of it.
Stomp Spam and Minami’s great Flying Senton get two each on Devil. Minami dives, but hits Ito. Devil uses that to front suplex Minami onto a table and powerbomb Ito in the ring, and she fires off a GUILLOTINE LEGDROP, but Minami saves at 2. Candy comes in for what looks like Jobber Offense, only to ram in ROLLING GERMANS of all things for two, rolling over Ito’s body to do so- they double-team in a Samoan drop from Devil and Candy’s flying cross-body, but a double-team ends with Ito trying to German Devil… only for Minami to whip Candy into them, Devil backdropping her into a sunset flip on Ito for two!
The rookies go, but Ito hits her rolling senton from the corner into a body attack on Candy, then tosses her off the top and onto Devil on the floor! Ito does an apron AND a top-rope Stomp out there onto Devil while Minami tries to finish Candy inside- Perfect Plex and an Assisted Powerbomb get two, but Devil’s already back! Still selling the ribs, though. Ito tries a superplex, but Devil Release Germans her off the second rope. She tries to press-slam Candy onto Ito, but Minami trips her up so Candy lands on her… so Devil does the same thing to her when she tries a Powerbomb! Hah! Devil harries Ito with lariats, but nearly gets rolled up, reverses another flash-pin, and then it’s a Powerbomb/Flying Stomp to Ito! Followed up with a Flying Stomp from DEVIL! Crowd goes “WOAHHH!” at that kickout, rightly so. But Devil lariats Candy by mistake and eats a German, and Ito’s Corner Senton gets two- Doomsday Device Cross-Body finishes Candy at (14:28), Devil just a second too late to save.
Holy shit, what a hidden gem! There was some really good veteran/rookie storytelling here, and great double-teaming that made me think they planned this carefully- going from the missed overthrow to the Powerbomb/Stomp to stomps & senton to the dive- it was REALLY tight. And then there’s that Rockers/Orient Express-level thing with the sunset flip out of a dosey-do! And then dueling “trip you so Candy lands on you” moves, the revenge spots with the Flying Stomps, and more. This was four people looking to SHOW OFF, and so they booked all kinds of teases and made sure the match had no filler (total “wasting time in holds” was about a minute, MAYBE).
Rating: ****1/4 (Incredibly-paced and thought-out stuff- even Candy was perfectly used as the “plucky rookie” and Ito as the “unusually-tough low-ranker”)
The late Plum Mariko, who only rarely appears on these shows, oddly enough. Injuries would tragically mark a lot of her career.
PLUM MARIKO (JWP) vs. YUMIKO HOTTA (AJW):
* Interesting match-up! Kind of an “Upper-Midcard Dream Match” right before the main event. Yumiko’s in her white & black singlet, and Plum’s in her more pastel-colored leotard with the garter-belt leggings, making her gear look like frilly ice-cream-colored lingerie.
Hotta powerbombs her right out of her High Thesz Press thing right away, then blasts her in the back with a kick. Plum comes back with her speed, Hotta brutalizes her some more, but finally Plum locks on her submissions and takes advantage. Hotta returns fire with a pair of Rolling Kicks and a Piledriver, then dumps Plum after a botched attempt at a slingshot from the corner. Hotta starts pulling her “No-Selling” act, even against running dropkicks, which seems kinda shitty, but a Missile version puts her down. Plum takes more kicks, but throws a bunch of Release Germans, then reverses a running boot to a Heel Hook Leglock, dramatically exciting the crowd! DAMN those moves have credibility with her. She hits two Missile Dropkicks, but gets dropped into a Powerbomb from a third. Hotta fails to hit her finisher twice (the Pyramid Driver- a cross-armed Ligerbomb)- one mighta been a botch and the other’s reversed- and takes a Straightjacket Suplex, but reverses Plum’s “Goldberg rolling legbar” submission with a kick to the face, and drops Plum with the Pyramid Driver for the win (14:19).
An interesting, odd bout, with Hotta being a bit unprofessional/selfish with the bullying kicks and treating Plum like a Jobber, but with Plum doing those fun reversals and getting the crowd into it, even though she didn’t hit any of her big moves. There was some botching & clumsiness you can chalk up to nerves, unfamiliar co-workers and Hotta having that tendency in big matches (MAYBE because she insists on no-selling her opponent’s stuff…), but it was good overall.
Rating: *** (not great, but good enough)
A clip of just this match- one of the best puro matches of all time.
THUNDER QUEEN BATTLE:
AJA KONG, KYOKO INOUE, TAKAKO INOUE & SAKIE HASEGAWA (AJW) vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI, MAYUMI OZAKI, CUTIE SUZUKI & HIKARI FUKUOKA (JWP):
* I remember hearing about this match, or another with the same rules, years ago, and I totally fell in love with the idea. It’s basically an “Iron Man Tag” with eight people, but with a twist: The match starts out with two people in the ring, going for five minutes. Then another two start a match. Then another two, and finally the two Team Captains wrestle for five. Any falls counted in there count towards the total. And then the remainder of the bout is a forty-minute tag team bout, all falls again counted.
It’s a really amazing idea- the four separate matches to start act as “filler” and give the audience something different to look at (a 60-minute multi-tag match would get tiring no matter how good it was- too many bodies), and the Joshi style LOVES “early pinfall flukes” in matches where it wouldn’t be a disappointment, so there’s some real drama. And then it’s 40 minutes of balls-to-the-wall action. The Joshi tag style is all about pinning someone and dealing with their partners running in, so it gets some good psychology going (you can’t just MDK someone; you have to MDK them AND have your teammates hold off three other people). And this match features bragging rights, as it’s three top names from AJW and JWP (rival companies), with each one sporting a Good Young Rookie Future Star.
I already reviewed this legendary match here, so this will be a summed-up version.
FIRST ATTACK: So it’s four separate matches to start, with Takako/Cutie and Kyoko/Ozaki being fine but unimportant- the real deal is Hikari managing to finally pin Sakie after dropping two matches earlier in the year (including a huge loss at Dream Slam 2, which say her begging forgiveness from the JWP owner). Meanwhile, it’s Ace (vs) Ace with Aja & Kansai, and Aja scores a lucky Uraken and DEMANDS the ref count Kansai down… and he does! And Kansai sells that move for like twenty minutes, going “fuuuuuuuuuuck” for half the match! So we’re tied (1-1)!
SECOND ATTACK: So it’s now 40 minutes of an “Iron Woman” match, with the game tied. Team AJW scores a quick one right away, with Aja hitting her Flying Back Elbow at (23:06) while her team runs interference, thus establishing how much football-style “blocking” will come into play. Then it’s a series of REALLY fast tags to show off, Sakie gets dusted by Kansai the Ace, and more- every time you think there’s a “heat segment”, somebody tags out and there’s new people in there, constantly keeping things fresh. Ozaki gets rammed into the corner by Aja, who then throws every member of her team into her before avalanching in herself. Kyoko gets busted up hardway when Aja saves her from Ozaki, and remains a bloody wreck for the rest of the match in a great visual.
AJW keeps interfering in top-rope stuff… and then, in one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, Team JWP begins throwing out top-rope moves to Kyoko, while doing a coordinated blocking effort with each person doing a move and then joining the team-block! Once the crowd picked up on what was happening, they started losing it, too. Takako Inoue makes good use of her shitheel act, constantly saving AJW from falls and taunting the JWP fans over it. Then everyone cycles through saving Kyoko & Kansai from each other’s Powerbomb finishers until finally it’s just the two in the ring, and Kansai is able to hit Splash Mountain (Sit-Out Crucifix Powerbomb) for the pin while Cutie AND Hikari hold back the huge Aja on the outside (50:09)!! Absolutely spectacular sequence. This ties it up at (2-2).
With it all tied up and ten minutes left, they all desperately try stuff- Sakie gets targeted as the weak link. Ozaki shows incredible resilience as Aja murders her with a series of deadly moves (Super Powerslam!), then it’s finally the two Captains in the ring, with Aja eating a bunch of lariats until she Urakens Kansai out of desperation and bails immediately. Then the AJW girls start going through their Finisher Sequences on Kansai- Spinning Heel Kicks & Uranages from Sakie! Backdrop Hold from Takako! One minute left as Kansai tags out! Cutie hits a pair of Dragon Suplexes on Kyoko, and Takako Backdrop Holds Cutie, but interference prevents any pins. And with that, AJW dives in on JWP while Takako Cross-Arm Backdrop Suplex Holds Ozaki for a very close two! The big mass of bodies pushing around in the corner trying to break up that pin was a great visual. But it BACKFIRES, as Ozaki’s able to get a quick reversal and Dragon Suplexes Takako (who remember, has been a giant bitch to the fans all match long) literally SECONDS before the bell rings (59:55)!!! TEAM JWP WINS!!! (JWP 3-2)
Holy Hell, what an amazing match. Absolutely perfect booking throughout, with only a couple of slow spots over an hour (arguably less stretching than a normal 30-minute match). Fukuoka the rookie makes up for her Dream Slam disappointment on Sakie, while her Captain fails in her own bout and is utterly screwed up. Then AJW (as heels/invaders in JWP territory) score the first fall thanks to interference. That becomes such a “thing” that teams repeatedly send out people to interfere with the interferers, until Team JWP is standing in the ring with their arms out just to prevent anything from happening, while later holding Aja back on the floor. Kansai makes up for her fall by stopping Kyoko (who’s bloodied so badly she looks like an Austin-level warrior), and then they pull out some insane timing as invulnerable Ozaki kicks out of everything and luckily manages a shot on Takako for the win. Amazing timing and spots throughout, often involving a half-dozen people. One of the most fun, fast 60 minute matches you’ll ever see.
Rating: ***** (another perfect score from me & Meltzer- some of the best in-match booking & team psychology I’ve ever seen)
Numacchi vs. Sumio Toyama: **1/2
Infernal KAORU vs. Bolshoi Kid: *1/2
Minami/Ito vs. Devil/Candy: ****1/4
Plum Mariko vs. Yumiko Hotta: ***
Thunder Queen Battle: *****
-yeah, this was an incredible night of wrestling for the main alone, but then that tag match kicked all kinds of ass, too. Every match but one was at least “good”, and as a **1/2 Numacchi match, it’s like finding a seven-leaf clover. Interesting seeing AJW score all the wins until the Main Event, which may be why they agreed to that. But yeah, a ****1/4 and a ***** match on one show will automatically score a thumb’s up. Go out of your way to see this one.