Joshi Spotlight- Rumi Kazama

Akira Hokuto (AJW) vs Rumi Kazama (LLPW) - YouTube

Rumi Kazama! Google carefully.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- RUMI KAZAMA:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’0″ 136 lbs.
Career: 1986-2003

-Rumi Kazama is one of those “hey, who is that again?” wrestlers, rarely appearing on big shows and typically lacking a lot of extraordinary showings or a huge push in most of the Interpromotional stuff I’ve seen in the mid-1990s. She’s probably most recognizable for her weird ’80s-style gear, like leopard-print shoulder pads and chest-piece on a bright purple jacket, an all-tiger-print set of tights, and a purple leopard-print set with black epaulettes. Not to mention her hilarious “Soccer Mom Hair”, sporting this GIANT teased mullet on a few ’90s shows I’ve seen.

To be fair, she was in promotions (typically LLPW) that didn’t get a lot of TV time or VHS releases, and thus lacked the credibility that AJW or even JWP stars got during Joshi’s biggest boom periods, and didn’t win major titles until the “Joshi Dark Age” of the early 2000s, right before she retired (making it seem like a last-ditch kind of thing, like she was the only credible star left- a 15-year vet finally getting a top belt?). Her career highlight is probably her big feud with Akira Hokuto during the third quarter of 1992, as Hokuto was on a HUGE run around this time, and made a show out of feuding with LLPW’s wrestlers, beating most of them until Shinobu Kandori finally put a stop to that. Rumi fought her in a prominent AJW card, as well as an LLPW one, losing a big Hair (vs) Hair Match in the main event.

Having seen her in the ring a solid number of times against high-level competition, she’s definitely a good worker, albeit I find she uses “tough-chick” offense a little too much for someone who’s barely bigger than Chaparrita ASARI. At five feet tall, she was hammering around 5’8″ Etsuko Mita & Suzuka Minami at Dream Slam like she was on an even keel with either. I guess that’s because she had legit kickboxing credibility, but it looks weird- they barely looked like the same species! The fact that this, the most prominent Joshi card for Westerners like me, featured some of the very few prominent botches during her moves, probably didn’t help her rep- a series of German Suplexes & Powerbombs on Mita looked HORRIBLE, like Rumi didn’t know how to correct for a person of greater height (though this could have easily been Mita’s fault for overshooting her jumping).

From what I’ve seen, though, she’s very solid. Good kicks, good speed, good cardio, and most of what she hits looks effective. She’s probably held back by her tiny size and the fact that the ’90s was kind of SUPER-stacked in terms of talent- I can’t conceive of any world where she should be beating the top five stars of any of the Big Four Joshi companies. Hell, her best match ever is probably a measly ****!

Wrestler Rumi Kazama (Rumi Saito) – Wiki, WWE | AllWrestlersList.com

One of Kazama’s less bizarre outfits.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
-Rumi debuted all the way back in 1986, wrestling for the early incarnation of Joshi Women’s Pro-Wrestling (JWP), which seemed to be more of an “adult” promotion- it was hiring retired Joshi stars who had “aged out” of bigger promotion All Japan Women’s (AJW), and apparently had Rumi as one of the first “Idol Wrestlers”- one who sold “gravure” tapes (ie. cheesecake stuff; google at your own risk) and got a push due to that. I can’t find much about the early era for her, but the Japanese version of Wikipedia has some poorly-translated stuff that Manji informed me about: an incident where she may have broken ranks by appearing before the fans to implore them to reject a plan to make JWP a mixed-gender promotion (and thus push the women down the card), and her role in the split between JWP & LLPW:

In 1992, she split off and formed Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling with Shinobu Kandori and the other “athletes” of JWP, splitting off from the “entertainers”- this is implied to have started when three women quit or were fired, and Kazama lead an exile that included Kandori, who became the big star. LLPW was typified by a less-flashy, more gritty style of technical wrestling, and was the least-popular of the four big joshi promotions as far as I can tell. Rumi is said to have founded it with Kandori, and represents it as the leader during interpromotional shows. From what I can tell, the early years involve her in a midcard role- often teaming with Kandori or Miki Handa and trading wins and losses- she’ll beat rookies, but most of the time she’ll lose to a big star.

Rumi takes an odd position in the “Interpromotional Shows”- she appears the second-least out of the LLPW stars (of the bigger names, only Noriyo Tateno, the former Bomb Angel, appears less). She shows up in a pair of tag matches at the huge Dream Slam shows- she and Miki Handa defeat the Twin Towers (5’8″ Mita & Minami) in what I’d call a near-upset, as AJW was slowly pushing those two in the midcard at the time- the match was very well-received, and is typically given **** or so (I went with 4.25), albeit Rumi is involved in a number of botches in the finishing series, as I’ve mentioned before. At Dream Slam 2, the same team loses to Bat Yoshinaga & Terri Power (who were DEFINITELY on a lower tier than either of DS1’s opponents). At AJW Legacy of Queens, she loses a match to Akira Hokuto that is considered Rumi’s best solo bout- given **** by Dave Meltzer. This would lead to a rematch one month later on an LLPW card, in which Rumi would put her hair up for grabs. Hokuto defeated her once more, resulting in Rumi’s prominent mom-hair being shaved into a buzzcut.

1994 sees her appearing in a LOT of Wrestle Association R (WAR) shows, always in tag matches, winning about 60% of them against other LLPW midcarders. The only prominent singles wins I can find are over Harley Saito & Tateno. Her push seems to have not really properly started until the late ’90s, oddly enough- her first title listed on Cagematch is the LLPW Six-Man Tag Titles (yes it’s actually called that), holding it first alongside Noriyo Tateno & Yasha Kurenai for 277 days. She’d next hold them in 2000, teaming with Eagle Sawai & Carol Midori for 106 days, then finally with Eagle & Takako Inoue in 2002, holding them for a massive 651-day reign. Their three-woman stable was called “Black Joker”, which is a pretty rad name. The late ’90s are where you finally see her pick up wins against Eagle. 2001 would see her oddly win the AJW Title (their lowest-tier singles belt), beating Miho Wakizawa, but having to give up the title promptly- it vacated immediately.

As LLPW faded into dissolution, Rumi was finally given their top title- she defeated Carol Midori in March 2001 for the LLPW World Title, holding it for a huge *714 days*, before finally dropping it to start Eagle Sawai’s fourth reign. Then, on LLPW’s last official show, she and Mako Ogawa became the last champions, as Mako beat Eagle, and Rumi defeated Mako, then the title retired on the spot. Rumi’s career ended at that moment, I guess as a “thank you” for being LLPW’s last big star. LLPW kind of revived itself later in a “travelling indie” kind of way, but it’s not entirely the same company, and the Title never came back.

MOVELIST:
Kickboxer-Style Kicks, Spin-Kick, Perfect Plex, Flying Roundhouse Kick, German Suplex, Tiger Suplex (double-underhook German suplex), Flying Senton, Dharma German Suplex (Arm-Trap German Suplex), Powerbomb, Panzer Bomb, Swinging DDT, Dragon Sleeper

THE MATCHES:

ALL-PACIFIC TITLE:
RUMI KAZAMA vs. AKIRA HOKUTO:
(AJW Legacy of Queens, Aug. 25 1993)
* So this is the pre-Main Event on the big AJW card, featuring Hokuto, who’d won the AJW Grand Prix only four days earlier, fighting LLPW midcarder Rumi Kazama. Their tiers are vastly different, but Akira’s knee was kicked into powder for the duration of the preceding tournament, evening things up a little. Hokuto is such a big star at this point that I can’t imagine there was any question as to who would win, though- I think the uniqueness of an Interpromotional Title vs. Title Match would be enough of a draw. And hell, the Main Event was Champion vs. Champion between Aja Kong & Dynamite Kansai. Kazama’s leopard-print jacket is a sight to behold, and then she takes it off to reveal TIGER-PRINT all over her pants & shirt. Oh jesus. Hokuto’s in the red variant of her gear.

Akira slaps Rumi’s hand away pre-match, so Rumi takes her down and just DRILLS her in the back of the head, drawing a chorus of boos. Akira crushes her with her pair of short piledrivers and spinkick, then strangles her and hits a LETHAL backdrop for two. Jesus, right on the back of the head. Rumi finally dodges an attack and takes control with kicks and MMA-style submissions, countering Akira’s stuff- good way to use psychology here, establishing that she’s got the better technique but has to fight smart. And, Because Akira, it’s now a hairpulling, snarling slapfight, so Kazama rolls her outside and destroys the leg with kicks. Akira finally gets back into the ring, and her big counter is to just kick Rumi in the forehead repeatedly, because when you’re awesome, that counts as epic strategy. But Rumi counters a charge with a bridging German to come back, but a flying splash hits feet.

Akira tries a missile kick but gets her feet slapped away as the counter-game continues, and Rumi sells her ribs and hits more offense at a deliberate pace- kicks, a Tiger Suplex, and a Flying Roundhouse Kick get two. She tries a plancha, though, and only hits a ring girl, and so Akira hits her mandatory Tope Con Hilo into the mass of people outside. Northern Lights Bomb is attempted, but Rumi kicks free, Akira selling even THAT like it was shockingly painful, but a whip into a roundhouse kick is reversed to a Backdrop Hold for two! Dangerous Queen Bomb is reversed to a rana for two, and a flying attack results in a kick to the gut that Akira sells as an unrecoverable gunshot wound.

A reversal series sees Akira in a desperation leghold that the audience actually kinda buys because her selling is so exceptional, but then she pulls off a snap Dangerous Queen Bomb for two! Rumi gives her this dead-eye “I’m done, but I hate you” stare and takes a vicious missile dropkick, but reverses the N.L. Bomb to the Dharma German Suplex for two! Kneeling Powerbomb gets two! Akira & Rumi now both sell death, sloowwwwwlllly crawling to their feet, with Rumi up first- but Akira SLAPS her and hits that dragon sleeper/backdrop suplex hold for two! Rumi’s completely done, hollering but unable to move, and so Hokuto rallies herself, lifts Rumi up, and spikes her with the Northern Lights Bomb for three (15:52).

This was slow-going for a lot of it, but turned INCREDIBLE, with a shit-load of hate and spite, as Akira was repeatedly befuddled by Rumi’s reversal-game and took a lot of damage near the end, causing the crowd to buy near-falls and get really into it. Great character work from both, as they showed a lot of aggression and call-outs to the fans. This was a great showcase of a carry-job, as Rumi was solid, but Akira gave her a ton of offense and made her look more credible than was probably believable. It was kept at a very deliberate pace to keep Rumi’s cardio intact, too. The pacing felt weird, though- like they were going through molasses because it was half the pace of regular AJW.

Rating: **** (I was like “well I don’t really see THAT rating…” until like, the last three minutes, because of course Hokuto saved all the best stuff for then)

Yes the video’s thumbnail is literally the loser cutting their hair.

HAIR vs. HAIR MATCH:

RUMI KAZAMA vs. AKIRA HOKUTO:
(LLPW Women’s Sparkling Fireworks, Korakuen Hall, 11.09.1993)
* So now, on LLPW soil, in the main event of an Interpromotional Show, Rumi Kazama has challenged Hokuto one more time, putting her HAIR on the line in the process! And given how much of a giant mop of ’80s hair Rumi has, you know it’s serious. I would imagine this would create a ton of drama- the last Hair Match in joshi was at the Midsummer Typhoon the previous year, which saw Toshiyo Yamada get her head shaved. The pre-match thing sees a plainclothes Hokuto talking some shit on a sobbing Kazama, presumably after a losing effort against Suzuka Minami & Bat Yoshinaga. Follow-ups see Akira talking a LOT of smack until Kazama finally challenges her again- looks like this was a pretty nasty feud. Akira’s in black for the match, and Rumi’s in PURPLE leopard-print this time.

Quoth YouTube: “When the first move of the match lays BOTH of them out, you know it’s gonna be good”- indeed, Akira fires off a backbreaker that destroys her own knee, but leaves Rumi rolling around on the floor, as both sell this as a crippling pair of injuries. Akira slams her on a table while Shinobu Kandori brawls with Akira’s seconds at ringside, and NOW the bell rings! Akira hits a piledriver, torture rack and sharpshooter to rip the back apart even more, and Rumi’s selling is EXCELLENT, just screeching in the last hold. Akira hits a lethal backdrop driver and picks her up at two, completely turning the crowd on her, and her taunting from the top rope pays off in spades, as Rumi beats on her up there, then leaves her hanging by the injured knee! Kneecrusher on the table buys Rumi some recovery time, and she kicks the knee apart in the ring to the joy of Kandori on the outside.

Perfect Plex gets two, hooking that knee, and more stretching keeps up the punishment- Rumi’s character work is great, just tasting blood and loving every minute of it. Flying Rolling Kick impresses the crowd, but Rumi can’t capitalize, having hurt the back again! Psychology! This lets Akira recover first, and a sickening Inverted Brainbuster gets two. Akira calls for the Northern Lights Bomb, but Rumi reverses to a Tiger Suplex for two! A good Flying Senton keeps up the hurt, but she goes for one too many and misses- Akira responds with a Missle Dropkick right to the spine that Rumi sells like a sledgehammer blow, shooting across the ring on her face! Akira sells the pain for a bit, but staggers to her feet and killshots Rumi with a Dangerous Queen Bomb on the FLOOR! She milks the count, Rumi barely getting in at “18”, and pounces again- Dangerous Queen Bomb… for ONE, as Rumi rolls forward for a flash pin! 1…2… KICKOUT! Akira’s “Oh, holy fuck” reaction and desperation sleeper are excellent, and she calls out the judoka Kandori and finishes with another choke in the dead center at (13:47), Rumi passing out.

Akira refuses to release the hold, so Kandori comes in for a fight, and finally things settle down- Rumi awakens, and calmly sits in the chair, cutting off a few chunks of that soccer mom mane. In a great scene, a ring girl tries to block her from using the scissors, Rumi insists on doing it herself, then she offers Akira the winner’s right to chop some off, but Akira cuts a promo and bails instead. Rumi thus asks her second, Kandori, to do it, but a shaken Kandori has to call in the barber, who gives her a buzzcut before she gets taken away.

This was a GREAT scrap, showcasing Akira’s selling and carrying abilities, as they work around Rumi’s obvious lower status by getting Akira hurt good and early (and it’s easy to buy, because she’s always hurt), and this makes all the stretching very important, and makes Rumi seem like she has a chance, especially main eventing an LLPW show. Hokuto was wonderful, snarling in pain and never building sympathy, sold like a champ, and only won because Rumi perhaps got TOO ahead of herself and missed an important shot. Rumi’s own selling and character work was great, too, as she maybe got too cocky and aggressive, thinking this was her shot, before Akira reminded her what a Main Eventer truly is. But then AKIRA got too arrogant, calling out her moves or taking her sweet time, getting stuff reversed on her and nearly losing her hair! She sold those reactions like gangbusters, and the sleeper was a perfect finisher, Akira calling out Kandori one more time by finishing an LLPW wrestler with a choke..

Rating: ***3/4 (one of the better carry-jobs you’ll ever see, but Rumi looked great, too)

RUMI KAZAMA & UTAKO HOZUMI vs. MEGUMI KUDO & NURSE NAKAMURA:
(LLPW vs. FMW Relentless Fierce Fighting, 07.02.1994)
* So I found this oddity, with FMW’s ace and her #2 up against the LLPW JTTS Squad- Hozumi in particular is super-green. Kazama, post head-shaving, is now decked out in some kind of S&M look, with a black mask, leather hat, red leather jacket and a whip, like if Demolition had a Japanese valet. She’s still in the same purple gear, but her hair is more “short and styled” now. Hozumi’s in one of those ugly “floral-print bathing suits”, looking like a total jobber, while Kudo’s in white & pink as usual, and Nurse is in white & red with “clown-print” diamonds cover her sleeves.

Rumi & Hozumi dominate Nurse, but Kudo takes over on Rumi easily. Rumi does the “arrogant kicky person” act on Nurse, who slaps her hand away, SPITS ON HER, then starts a brawl outside the ring, but LLPW handily wins that. Nurse gets bludgeoned again repeatedly, even Hozumi fighting dirty, and a lift into Rumi’s Flying Roundhouse Kick gets two- Kudo saves. The crowd only really seems to be into the Rumi/Kudo fights, as both are obviously much more elite- Nurse tags out and Kudo flies in with ass attacks and cross-bodies at high speed to applause, then catches a roundhouse and backdrops her viciously. They brawl outside for the third time this match, which is getting excessive, but Kudo hits the fucking Tiger Driver ’91 ON THE FLOOR, which should be fatal, but after Rumi makes her own comeback, Hozumi comes in all fired up and hits a rana for two, thirty seconds after that MDK. Okay, so NOW she’s selling it, I guess.

LLPW cheat their way into a Northern Lights Superplex from Hozumi for two- Kudo saves, and a double-KO spot leads to Kudo coming in hot and wiping both out, then teasing Rumi by holding Hozumi’s arm out for the tag. German gets two, but Hozumi backslides her from a Ligerbomb attempt and Rumi brawls with Nurse outside- Kudo slaps on a Stretch Plum and the crowd immediately buys that as a finisher- and sure enough, that’s it at (20:05, 12:19 shown)! Well okay then!

Interesting “smoke and mirrors” match, as Rumi & Kudo were the only two good ones, and kind of hid the weaknesses of their #2s, while also threading their lack of ability into the match, as the vets repeatedly had to make saves or do the damage for them. They kept going into the crowd to hide weaknesses or match-flow issues, but had a few good character spots.

Rating: **1/2 (perfectly fine match that came off more as an exhibition, but good team psychology in terms of using the “tiers” appropriately)