Joshi Spotlight: Takako Inoue vs. Mayumi Ozaki


* Doing these Joshi Spotlights kind of piecemeal, then trying to go in order, certain things kind of stand out. Little feuds here and there, or people who take special relish every time they’re in the ring against each other. Takako Inoue in particular tends to hate other pretty girls- every time she’s in the ring with another “Idol wrestler”, she acts like a mirror just told her that girl was fairer than she. Mayumi Ozaki, too, seems to delight in tormenting and bullying all of her rivals, especially the pretty ones.

But when it’s Takako VERSUS Ozaki? Every time they step into the ring against each other, thunder crashes and you can hear horses whinny in the distance.

Over the course of these Spotlights, a few wrestlers stand out, character-wise, over others. As I don’t actually speak Japanese and don’t know the history of many angles, I kind of need “in-ring charisma” to showcase some of that stuff, and some of the few to REALLY come off as notable on that front are these two- AJW’s Takako and JWP’s Ozaki. A lot of wrestlers throughout the years have pulled off the “sadist” thing, but very few exemplify the sheer joy in causing agony in others as these two.

That it’s two of the “Pretty Idol” wrestlers doing it makes it all the funnier. “Buy my calendar and beach video… and also watch me sneer like a fucking lunatic while I strangle this poor rookie!”.

By 1993 or so, Takako was on her way up in All Japan Women’s, doing rather well for herself- she and Yumiko Hotta were a successful tag team, challenging for top belts quite a lot, and she leapfrogged in credibility by having competitive matches with Kyoko Inoue & Manami Toyota- second-tier Main Eventers. Ozaki, over in Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (JWP), was on a higher level, just below the Ace, Dynamite Kansai, and veteran monster Devil Masami. Both portrayed kind of similar characters- in matches, they tended to revel in hurting their opponents. They’d smirk and taunt while wrapping people in submissions, and sneer and snarl when taking the same- both acted like they were Monster Heels despite being pretty small (Ozaki in particular is REALLY tiny). They’re nasty, vicious, bullying brutes. This makes their matches against each other REALLY fun.

The relish in torturous submissions is an underrated aspect- so often, the AJW style is “Fill time with five minutes of stretching” and it doesn’t matter to the rest of the match. But with these two smirking their way through everything, it feels like it’s much more a part of the story of the bout.

The two opposed each other in the first big AJW/JWP interpromotional match, Takako & Yumiko Hotta defeating Ozaki & JWP rookie Hikari Fukuoka during the “I Know You” mixed show. They met again at the first Dream Slam in a tag match (Takako & Kyoko Inoue faced Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki), then met up in a singles match on a JWP match (reviewed below). They’d meet again at the famous Thunder Queen Battle, in which Takako was a giant pain to the JWP girls, constantly breaking up pins and showing a shitty attitude. Ozaki finally paid her back at match’s end, scoring her Tequila Sunrise finisher and getting the last fall to win the match for her promotion just before the time ran out! They’d meet up at random in other matches over the years, including a great 1996 one I also caught below. I don’t know exactly how long they kept this going, but they had remarkable chemistry and it’s always a treat.

Quick Tale of the Tape:
Takako’s Big Moves: Tombstone, Super Armdrag, Super Chokeslam, Aurora Special (Waistlock Backdrop Suplex)
Ozaki’s Big Moves: Cannonball Dive, Turning Splash, Powerbombs, Tequila Sunrise (Tiger/Half-Nelson Bridging Suplex)

* This match is a prelude to their scrap at Thunder Queen Battle, and would be a pretty exciting singles match, as they occupy similar concepts as Sadistic Idols. Ozaki’s actually wearing a different outfit for the first time in all the bouts I’ve seen featuring her- a red singlet with long leg parts, detailed with black lines and fishnet portions on the back and sides. I like it a lot better than her “Red Big Bird” look- very sleek and futuristic-looking.

Interestingly, Takako’s powerhouse style actually makes her look like one of the only Joshi who realizes that Ozaki’s a midget and can be easily overpowered. She absolutely CRUSHES Ozaki with a trio of Tombstones, then just stands on her damn head while posing. The brutalization continues until Ozaki kicks out and starts Moolah Whipping her all over the place and makes her eat chairs- love how she keeps slapping herself awake to put over the beating. Takako gets back in, so Ozaki just knees her, takes her down with repeated punch flurries, then chokes her out. And BITES her. To the cheers and adulation of the pro-JWP crowd, which is fantastic- I love “we cheer heelish behavior if it’s OUR hero!” reactions. A pieface takedown leads to a LOT of stretching, Ozaki reveling in sweet, sweet revenge. Great bit as Takako reaches for the rope, but Ozaki’s all “noooooooo!!” and pulls the arm away from it while shaking her head. Then digs into her head while doing a double-chickenwing with her legs- the casual, relaxed pose while Takako screams is what makes it.

Ozaki does the “Samoa Joe” dodge of a dropkick and hits a pair of Powerbombs, but misses a Pescado. Takako’s hilariously-ungraceful dive also misses, but she eventually comes back with a Tombstone & Auora Special before settling into a few minutes of restholds, interspersed with a move or two to keep it “active”- pretty smart how Ozaki times a lariat or running kick that way, and a superplex gets two before Takako snags a one-minute leghold. Super Chokeslam is reversed to a judo toss, but two Tequila Sunrise attempts end up in another Aurora Special, but then Ozaki literally walks up the ropes out of a Dragon Sleeper to hit a Tiger Suplex for two! Now THAT was fucking cool!

Cannonball misses but Takako gets dumped and suplexed on the floor, but the Turning Splash ALSO misses! They scrap viciously with kicks but a Backdrop Hold gets two for Takako. They fight like mad over German Suplexes, Ozaki FINALLY reversing a charge to one, but her bridge fails! She aims for the Tequila Sunrise, but Takako reverses out and gets her OWN! Finisher stealing! In 1993! I mean, that looked like shit, but it still counts! She adds a proper one just to be a shit, but an Aurora Special is reversed to a flash pin and now TAKAKO takes the Tequila Sunrise- two! Ozaki climbs and Takako follows, but now OZAKI starts copying moves, and hits Takako’s Super Chokeslam- two! Ozaki climbs to finish, but Takako gets revenge with her own Super Chokeslam, and hits a Cross-Armed Aurora Special for the three (26:24)!!

Absolutely OUTSTANDING match, getting a ton of venom out of basic holds, keeping the “stretching phase” interspersed with some random slams and kicks, then ending things with a great set of Finisher Stealing (in 1993! That’s how advanced Joshi was!), then people hitting their PROPER finishers, then Takako just landing one big move too many and finishing with a modified arm-trap version of her finisher for the win. Some of the move application was iffy by the end, but given that it’s a TWENTY-SIX MINUTE MATCH, that’s more than understandable, and kind of helps play it off as scrappy and awesome. And their constant desire to end things with top-rope moves ended up with both repeatedly getting caught, and ultimately lost Ozaki the match. Totally a lost classic.

Rating: ****1/2 (I like it even more than the Toyota/Ozaki match from later in the year- absolutely great booking in the final stretch)

* Okay, now THIS fascinates me. A bit after the peak/end of the Interpromotional Era comes a bizarre tag match that splits up two big teams from that era, putting an AJW & JWP wrestler on each team! Dynamite Kansai now teams with Takako Inoue against Takako’s “Double Inoue” partner Kyoko, and Kansai’s rival/partner Ozaki! Three of the four here are among the best ever, and Takako’s way underrated due to a lot of factors, so I’m expecting this to be fun. Takako’s in the black gear she’d wear for most of the rest of her career, Kansai’s in green & white (with her hair bleached blonde and that ridiculous, beautiful, hideous green jacket with the fake pipes all over it), Ozaki’s in the red as usual, and Kyoko’s in all the colors and all the tassles.

Kyoko gets the worst of Kansai in an exchange, but snap-fallaway slams Takako and tags out. Ozaki’s sheer delight in Takako’s pain as she rips her hair out is amazing. Hair-assisted X-Factor and a DDT bump her around, then Kyoko adds the fireman’s toss and the surfboard, and of course Oz just LOVES that, smiling maniacally and adding slaps and stomps. Takako armdrags out and Kansai just kicks the SHIT out of Kyoko, but Ozaki does better with kicks, then catches a counter-kick with a snap submission! Kansai fights out and Takako gets revenge on Oz. Ozaki tries to bite her way out of an STF, so Takako chomps her on the side of the face- this is like hyena matriarchs fighting. Fun bit as Double Inoue hit defiant DDTs on each other, Kyoko winning that battle with her run-up DDT out of the corner. Takako gets stretched, dodges Kyoko’s missile kick, but gets Perfect Plex’d anyways for two. Kyoko then lands it for real (was the miss an accident?), but climbs again and is taken down with the Super Armdrag for two! Takako tags out after five straight minutes and Kansai does a slow beat-down, but Takako stops Kyoko’s run-up DDT comeback and gets lariated by Kansai when Kyoko ducks. Three lariats put Kansai down for two!

Ozaki hits a cannonball off the top and a crazy Manami Roll into an armdrag, ducks a lariat and hits a German… then gets lariated anyways! Great sequence! Ozaki dodges Takako off the top and tries the Tequila Sunrise (half-nelson/tiger suplex), but Takako counters with the megaton slap (“Bakayero!”). They kick and slap each other, but Takako counters a running Oz with the “knee them in the face repeatedly” Tombstone for two! Kyoko grabs Takako from the apron and Ozaki scores a powerbomb and tags out- Kyoko’s own powerbomb is reversed to a Manami-esque sunset flip from Takako. Impressive! Kansai’s in, but Kyoko nails them both with the slingshot backsplash! Run-Up Back Elbow attempt… but Takako catches her with a one-armed Powerbomb for two! Kyoko tries to catch Takako, but that’s always a terrible idea- Super Chokeslam for two! Kansai adds kicks and a nasty Backdrop Driver, but tries to fill her “SmackDown Meter” and gets caught with an elbow and a German. Kansai kicks her head off, resulting in a “dead body sell” from Kyoko. They both sell the damage… and a double lariat just makes it worse. And then, while they sell the beating, Takako & Ozaki do a 120 mph Joshi “Go Go Go!” sprint like crazy, firing off clotheslines, boots and rapid-fire punches!

And only NOW do they slow things down, then brawl outside… but Kyoko PILEDRIVES KANSAI THROUGH A TABLE!! Kansai sells death while Kyoko hits her Run-Up Flying Back Elbow on Takako for two, then they try a DOOMSDAY DEVICE, only for Takako to roll up Kyoko for two. Kyoko tries to hold her back from a tag, but she Germans out and Kansai adds a lariat and a huge kick when Kyoko tries to stop her from climbing. Ozaki interferes to stop Kansai’s finisher, so Takako hits the Takako*Panic (flyine knee) to her spine! Kyoko nearly gets counted down from that kick while Takako takes a powerbomb on a table outside, and Splash Mountain hits… for two!! Damn Kyoko and those last-second kickouts. Kansai preps a top-rope version, but Oz kicks her and Kyoko hits a SUPER Rollover DDT for two- jesus. Ligerbomb… two! DOOMSDAY DEVICE POWERBOMB… but Takako saves! Kansai scores a kick & backdrop driver, but Ozaki Tiger Suplexes Takako and hits a Ligerbomb for two each. Tequila Sunrise… and Takako rolls over at two! A SECOND one gets two! Kansai kicks Oz and Takako hits a Takako*Panic to the HEAD for two! TAKAKO*PANIC/SPLASH MOUNTAIN COMBO, and Kyoko saves! I thought that was it! Now they do a SUPER Splash Mountain/Super Chokeslam, which is the most devastating-looking move I’ve ever seen… and Kyoko STILL saves! Kansai just forces Kyoko down while Takako elbows a dead Ozaki and desperately holds on for the three (28:41).

This was just AWESOME and a total mystery, as I’d never heard of it before and only found it at random while looking for 1993 stuff. Great chemistry between most of the fighters, with oddly Kyoko standing out the least. It barely ever slowed down, and they even played the “filler” moments correctly (ie. lots of character; Ozaki threading submissions together so they’re not just lying around). The only flaw I noticed was that they started just Beamspamming a little too much near the end, hitting finisher after finisher, so countless awesome moves seemed diminished. Seems like they were deliberately chasing that “Dream Slam 2 Ending” high with all the big moves, but just overreaching a tad. But seriously, a SUPER CHOKESLAM/SPLASH MOUNTAIN combination move? That’s completely insane. Kinda/shoulda been the finish, but at least the next move (a generic strike) was.

Rating: ****3/4 (an exceptional piece of work that should be way more famous. Turns into a spotfest at the end)