AJW Grand Prix- Finals

Toyota vs. Hokuto- two of the best ever fight for 17 minutes!

-And now, after four LONG shows and several months’ worth of random GP matches taking place on AJW’s events, we get the finals. And of course because I can’t find it on YouTube, I can only produce a couple of matches, lol. Stupid Ringstarfield! Four of the five shows and the FINALS he’s missed uploading?

“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: So even though I could only find two matches… they’re both at least ****.

Here’s how the event shook down:
Wrestler: Points: Wrestler: Points:
Akira Hokuto 6.0———-Yumiko Hotta 6.0
Harley Saito 5.0———-Manami Toyota 5.0
Toshiyo Yamada 4.5———Bat Yoshinaga 5.0
Suzuka Minami 3.0———Hikari Fukuoka 4.0
Sakie Hasegawa 3.0———Kyoko Inoue 3.5
Takako Inoue 3.0———-Mima Shimoda 2.5
Etsuko Mita 3.0———-Kaoru Ito 2.0
Tomoko Watanabe0.5——Saemi Numata 0.0

SEMI-FINALS: Akira Hokuto (vs) Manami Toyota; Harley Saito (vs) Yumiko Hotta

-This means that Hokuto & Hotta both beat all but one of their opponents (Hotta defeating Manami Toyota), and Kyoko had a really bad few months- she’s way above Bat & Hikari on the pecking order, yet only scored 3.5! Probably owing to her 30-minute draw with Hikari and Bat defeating her in an upset. Harley Saito also did very well, but lost to Hokuto and scored two thirty-minute draws.

So here’s what we miss, according to Mike Lorefice of Quebrada.net:

HANDICAP MATCH: CHIKAKO SHIRATORI & CHAPARRITA ASARI vs. TOMOKO WATANABE: Yes, this is the debut of Masami Watanabe as ASARI (which apparently literally means “cute little clam”). Tomoko dominated both opponents.

MIMA SHIMODA & NUMACCHI vs. THE TWIN TOWERS (Suzuka Minami & Etsuko Mita): Apparently quite good.

BULL NAKANO vs. BAT YOSHINAGA: Bat’s “fighting the uppercard wrestlers and looking strong while doing it” continues here. She dominates the first 11 and a half minutes, gaining a ton of credibility (Bull was VERY generous as top stars go). Apparently Bull drops the mother of all powerbombs, like a Tiger Driver ’91.

AJA KONG, INFERNAL KAORU & KAORU ITO vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA, KYOKO INOUE & TAKAKO INOUE: This is just “getting the other big wrestlers all into one match”, then sticking the two Kaorus in there as filler. Mikey liked it! “Very good and exciting match”, with Aja & Yamada being the standouts. He rated it ***3/4.

AJW GRAND PRIX 1993- SEMIFINAL: YUMIKO HOTTA vs. HARLEY SAITO: Saito’s “Cinderella Run” ends here, apparently in a very stiff kick-based match-up with a lot of mirror spots. Lorefice says “Hotta didn’t look good here”.

* The two best workers in joshi (hell, possibly ON EARTH at this point) fight each other in the semis. Akira has HANDILY defeated both Toshiyo Yamada (Manami’s partner) and Harley Saito on her way to the Semis, while Manami did the same to rival Hikari Fukuoka. Manami’s in black, and Akira’s in unusual red gear- looks pretty cool.

Manami complete unloads with dropkicks at the bell, counters a counter to a Fujiwara armbar, then gets caught in a tree of woe in the middle of the ropes, with Hokuto literally yanking her hair back and pushing Manami’s spine with her own feet! Then she adds a piledriver, surfboard and some bizarre “Manami is Gumby” stretch that looks pretty, um, graphic. Akira keeps up the torture with a backdrop and a sickening crab that makes a Liontamer look soft. But then she whips Manami to the ropes, and BOOM- Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body and Manami flat-out HULKS UP, hitting dropkicks like nuts and shreds the injured knee, exhibiting an unusual brutality for her. Hokuto manages to finally take her down and they just do an ugly scrap in that kinda “uncoordinated tangle” kind of what that legit fights end up being, then she powerbombs Toyota out of a Manami Roll for a near-fall.

Manami counters the Northern Lights Bomb with the Rolling Cradle, but immediately takes the Mulkey Bump out of the ring on a missed dropkick and eats a Tope Con Hilo! Jesus, that timing. Akira manages a pair of sick piledrivers on the floor, but Manami gets whipped to the railing… and leaps right onto a table, springing back for a cross-body! Hahahaha- she did the No-Hands thing out THERE! Suicide Dive! Flying Cross-Body! Moonsault to the floor! Korakuen Hall is chanting her name and she plants a Moonsault in the ring for two! She goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but Akira rolls forward for two! Akira charges, but eats a Dragon Suplex for two, but counters Toyota with a Bridging Backdrop Suplex for the same. Missile Kick goes off like a gunshot in Toyota’s face for two- Northern Lights Bomb is beautifully reversed to a Bridging Double-Hammerlock Suplex for a HUGE near-fall that the fans absolutely bought, but the Moonsault hits feet and the Dangerous Queen Bomb finishes at (16:36).

See, they fought at an even, steady pace for a while and used more venom and hatred than “filler”, and then kicked it into an otherworldly gear for the end-run, and it turned out fantastic even with ten minutes cut off of the typical “Main Event Time”. Toyota going from “selling like death” to “hitting four flying moves in succession” is something I can only really buy with her. Akira’s Missile Kick looked DEVASTATING- stiff as hell and Manami shot back like nuts. Loved all the near-falls at the end, as they keep aiming for their big stuff, and sliding out for reversals as they get increasingly desperate.

Rating: ****3/4 (probably the “worst” match they ever had at that rate- these two have tremendous chemistry with their “high-speed; low toughness” style of wrestling)

* So the final bout, as Hotta tries to see if her “Main Event Toughness” credibility can carry her to the crown, or Hokuto’s crazy run this year can pay off here as well. They’re kind of/sort of on different “tiers”, but Hokuto had the higher-level opponent (Toyota) tonight, and is hurt. Hotta, however, just wrestled. Hotta’s in white & black, while Akira’s in red.

Hotta attacks before the bell and kicks the knee into powder, just in cause you were curious as to how this would go. Akira reverses a second Rolling Kick in the corner and uses her own spinkick, but a second one results in a backdrop and Hotta now COMPLETELY dismantles the knee in cold, calculating manner. Akira’s “WAAAAGGGGHHHHH!” selling is she’s the master- she turns what is filler bullshit in most AJW matches into an epic struggle of durability. She finally sneaks in a sharpshooter to hold Hotta down, the fires off kicks to the face- Hotta does her “I’ll fight through it!” yelling thing, so Akira just elbows her in the face and holds her down to stop the inevitable surge. Restholds follow, though Akira at least pulls Hotta’s mouth open and yanks the hair. Hotta is tossed, and Akira sits on her from an Overthrow Powerbomb in the ring, but she gets dumped off the top trying a superplex.

Hotta dodges a plancha to the outside and hits a strange back elbow from the second rope out there, but Akira backslides out of a Tiger Driver for a close call. Hotta manages a kneeling powerbomb for two, but misses her Flying Rolling Kick and takes that nasty Backdrop Hold for two. Akira tries a missile kick but Hotta kicks her in the knee in MID-AIR, but reverses a Pyramid Driver (straightjacket Liger Bomb) and tries the Northern Lights Bomb, but Hotta knees her in the head on the lift! Tiger Driver- two! She tries a whip, but gets caught- Dangerous Queen Bomb gets two! Both are selling death now, Akira getting caught up top and hit with the neck-destroying STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN SUPERPLEX. She barely flops over before the three- damn, that was a terrifying bump. Another horrible neck-drop from a release Pyramid Driver, and STILL Hotta only gets two! Desperate, Hotta climbs, and of course gets caught with a Backdrop Superplex. Both sell like crazy, with Hotta doing the “I don’t know where I am” punch-drunk thing, and Akira ends it in spectacular fashion by whipping her to the ropes and catching her on the backswing with the Northern Lights Bomb for the three (19:55). Akira is thus crowned the 1993 Japan Grand Prix winner, matching Aja Kong’s achievement last year.

Well that got REALLY good- the beginning was fun and made Akira look vulnerable but tough, but the middle ended up kind of “filler”-y, but then you get that AJW Finisher Surge and things are awesome again. Hotta made sure to come off as confident and dominant, almost like she was underestimating Akira, who can always out-crazy you and come back with whatever. Nearly all of Akira’s big moves came from reversals, notably- both she & Toyota do that “permanent underdog” thing so well, and she ended up taking most of the offense but outperforming her opponent anyways.

Rating: **** (great comebacks and reversals lead to a dramatic finish)

So the tournament overall has been a multi-month venture, producing some great classic matches. Harley Saito & Hikari Fukuoka being involved provided some fun changes, with Hikari largely being a JTTS and getting bodied by Manami and Hotta, while both Harley & Hikari had (30:00) draws with a few wrestlers, keeping people strong. Harley still jobbed to Hotta & Akira in the end run, though. Sakie Hasegawa had a pair of GREAT underdog wins (each JGP seems to have some flukes), marking her as the person to watch in the future, too. But now, after a year of classic performances (seriously, how many people hit ****+ twice in one night?), Hokuto is bigger than ever.

And now, because this show was relatively short, I’ll toss in a Joshi Spotlight on Friday, detailing a pair of matches between people who always produce venom- Takako Inoue & Mayumi Ozaki!