Joshi Spotlight: Tag League THE BEST- Part One

AJW TAG LEAGUE THE BEST 1993- PART ONE:
(10.10.1993):

And as we wind down the crazy-ass 1993 in Joshi, here comes the end-of-year Tag Tournament once again! Except this time… it’s totally random-ass. Like, NONE of these people are regular partners! Except for LCO, I guess. The top teams in AJW are Toyota/Yamada, Hotta/Takako & Bull/Aja, and now they’re all split up. But now we get the debut of a NEW Big Gaijin star in AJW (the incomparable Reggie Bennett), and a trio of tag matches so random they look like a WCW “Lethal Lottery”- except all the wrestlers are good so it should be rad.

“TL;DR- What’s The Big Deal?”: The best wrestlers in the company putting their “big show” efforts into their matches, producing some of AJW’s better stuff.

PS I love that their sashes all read “TAG LEAUGE”.

REGGIE BENNETT vs. NUMACCHI:
* Yes, the Thicc Queen Reggie Bennett makes her AJW debut, replacing Terri Power as “The Preposterously Muscular Gaijin Woman”, and her first opponent is wimpy Comedy Jobber, Numacchi. Numacchi cuts a weird promo at the camera and brandishes her shovel, while Reggie stumbles over her words while dressed as a construction worker. It looks so low-rent (like something out of GLOW) when they both have gimmicks, lol. Numacchi’s in the white & black PJs and a pink top, while Reggie’s wearing tight jean-shorts and an orange top. Looking like the child of Scott Norton & Caroline Rhea, she drastically outsizes Numacchi.

Haha, this video is only 4:37 long. And they play it PERFECTLY, too- Numacchi attacks with the shovel, which Reggie only barely sells, then she acts like an immovable wall while Numacchi bounces off of her. A single lariat is treated as a killshot, sending Numacchi scrambling out of the ring. Back in, she scores some shots and her Running Kick in the corner, but Reggie just casually stuffs the next one with a smirk, tosses her down, and then whips her into a Torture Rack for the submission at (1:31), dumping the rookie to the mat like a sack of garbage. And just like that, you have an over Power Wrestler.

Rating: 1/2* (total squash, but fun)

MANAMI TOYOTA & CHAPARRITA ASARI vs. KAORU ITO & TOMOKO WATANABE:
* Now this is an interesting mix! The two highest-fliers in AJW versus the two up & coming rookies! The match dynamics are quite interesting, as Toyota is as Sub-Main Eventer while her partner is barely above Jobber status, and the other two will lose to the former and crush the latter. So I really have no idea who’s going to win, which is always fun. Manami’s in the black “Hostess roll” leotard, ASARI’s in the ridiculous bright yellow leotard with silver gloves and “Max Moon” piping, Kaoru’s in a yellow Peter Pan tunic with pastel blue boy-shorts, and Tomoko’s in that green/purple/orange atrocity, the only person who can compete with Ito for “Worst Dressed” on these cards.

ASARI gets caught and dumped on her head, then they bully the shit out of her like good upperclassmen. After six minutes of torment & GAEA Girls-level dropkicks, Manami gets the hottest of hot tags and hits the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body on Tomoko for being such a shit-ass,  then both girls hit flying cross-bodies. Manami’s all “Go to it, kid” and ASARI hits dropkicks, but their double dropkick soon leads to Tomoko no-selling and she elbows the kid down. She steps on ASARI on her way to tag Ito, who gets all defiant and demands Toyota! Manami’s amused “oh REALLY, now?” reaction is great- she takes the worst of it, though, feeling the brunt of Ito’s ass attacks and some double-teams. She fucks up a Manami Roll but just punches Ito in the face to a great reaction. Tomoko punishes Manami with judo flips and a Perfect Plex, but ASARI’s cross-bodies fail on both and soon it’s bullying time again- we get a big crowd-pleaser as Manami WAILS in support of the kid, and she bridges out of Tomoko’s Slingshot Back Elbow. ASARI avoids Ito’s stuff and there’s a funny bit where she throws a wimpy nothing dropkick, by contrast to Manami, who pretty much leaves boot impressions on Ito’s ribcage. Ito tumbles backwards off the top during a superplex attempt in a scary bit, and everyone stumbles around and goes to the floor and tosses chairs to bide some time. Manami literally rubbing ASARI’s hurt head like an “owie” is really making the “Angry Mom” aspect of this match all the more obvious.

And then, just to show her rage, she outright punches Tomoko straight in the fucking head, then hits a running boot to the face. Tomoko slingshots onto her and hits a rana, and they reverse all Manami’s stuff and Ito spams stomps until missing a Flying one and takes a huge Rolling Cradle- ASARI hits her Handspring Backflip Mule Kicks, standing backdrop & standing moonsault for two, but Tomoko slingshots both opponents and they beat on ASARI, Tomoko literally throwing her into Ito’s ass for a hilariously vicious strike. Manami has to save her, so it’s a big moment when Ito does her Rolling Corner Senton and ASARI kicks out at two, legit. And then, in a great bit, Ito climbs for a Flying Stomp, so Toyota rifles her off the top with a dropkick, and wipes out both girls with a plancha! And so ASARI triumphantly gears up her Sky Twister Press… and MISSES! Oh jesus, the crowd felt for her on that one. So Manami either brilliantly improvises or that was the plan the whole time, as she Moonsaults Ito and tags herself in for a Japanese Ocean (double hammerlock) Suplex for the three at (23:28). Manami bowing to the audience with ASARI’s dead body draped over her back is great stuff.

Yes, they built an entire match around Manami Toyota being an “Angry Mom” defending the hapless rookie against these two big, mean bullies. Ito & Tomoko did a good job of being unsympathetic shitasses, while Manami was generous as usual in selling- almost TOO generous, as I rarely felt like the ’89ers were getting their proper comeuppance. This was a match with a great story and some really amazing moments, though the actual wrestling left much to be desired, with several prominent botches (the Sky Twister was probably NOT supposed to clearly miss- the crowd was SO into that attempt, too) and three of the four being highly limited workers at this point. Never mind going 6-8 minutes longer than it probably should have. But it’s one of those “Match as Story” things where that’s the important bit.

Rating: ***1/4 (a tough match to rate- A+ story with C- wrestling- great fun with awesome moments, but also botchy and long)

TAG LEAGUE THE BEST 1993:
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI & YASHA KURENAI (LLPW):
* Oh snap! It’s LCO as a true pair and a team from LLPW! This is a good match-up since LCO’s mentor is feuding with all of LLPW at once, while they act as minor subordinates and back-ups. Eagle is the #2 star of LLPW, while Yasha (with the permanent shoulder-tape) was treated like a jobber by Hokuto recently. Eagle’s in the usual red & black “Queen of Hearts” gear, while Yasha’s in a white shirt with black pants instead of the usual red. Mita’s in a white white variant (but not the Rising Sun one that rules) and Shimoda’s in purple & red of all things- never seen that look before. Yasha’s such a nasty brawler that she mixes perfectly with LCO’s “Evil Demon Waifu” act, so I’m looking forward to this.

Yasha brawls to start, so LCO double-team her and do the Bitch Pose immediately, working that into their routine offense! Mita bites away and works the injured arm, but Eagle bumps them around. Shimoda unwisely tries brawling with the monster babyface, and ends up splattered on the mat after one shot. She pinballs around for the LLPW team until Mita comes in and overpowers Yasha, and they work her over and toss chairs outside- Yasha sells that to Shimoda’s amusement, but Shimoda some facecrushers and Eagle’s Vader Attacks as it becomes clear Shimoda is now REALLY good at selling. That gets two, and Shimoda FLIES in with a hanging lariat with great timing, and Mita throws out Blazing Chops like crazy. BIG Piledriver, taking three tries to do it, gets a crowd pop and a two-count. Shimoda’s flying lariat gets 2 and she eats a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and Yasha attacks with her staff, using the hanging choke in the corner with it!

Yasha misses with a swing and Mita hits a Flying Blazing Chop, then LCO double-backdrops Eagle. Assisted Plancha to LLPW! Mita adds her dive! Electric Chair Drop & Flying Splash! LCO finally debut their “LCO Signature Spots”! That gets two, but Eagle flattens both with lariats and Yasha hits her Super Chokeslam on Shimoda for two- Mita breaks up that pin and Eagle lariats Yasha by accident, but Shimoda’s finisher is stopped by Eagle, then Yasha’s flying splash meets knees. She reverses Mita’s DVD for two, but takes a German. Super Electric Chair Drop, but Eagle saves at the absolute last second- that was great. Shimoda tries a Tiger Suplex, but Eagle wipes her out with a lariat, Shimoda locks it on HER, and Mita adds a boot to send her over! Okay, that was the ugliest Tiger Suplex ever, but Eagle’s a big gal and the crowd appreciated the effort. Eagle swats away a missile kick and lands a chokeslam, but nearly drops Shimoda on a powerbomb-to-rana spot, barely going over for two. Two lariats and an assisted Super Chokeslam by Yasha get two each, Shimoda saving- Eagle finally plants Mita with a Kneeling Powerbomb for the win (12:18).

Well this was a delight- somewhat short by Joshi standards, but LCO has finally nailed down their “LCO Template”- the simple match plan by which they can slot in anyone in the world and get a good match out of them. The plancha/dive/electric chair/splash combo is epic wrestling timing, and LLPW’s team was game for everything. Eagle looked dominant with her power charges, and they played it perfectly when Mita would get her up- her piledriver & electric chair were treated like Herculean displays of strength, with two failed attempts before each huge lift. Unfortunately, the match kinda fell apart later, Eagle’s limited offense (lariat city) and heft (Shimoda just couldn’t lift her at all) holding things back. Unfamiliarity perhaps led to some ugly double-teaming and scrambling around.

Rating: ***1/4 (was looking excellent until the last couple of minutes kinda fell apart)

(oh good, here’s a full video of it)

TAG LEAGUE THE BEST 1993:
BULL NAKANO & SUZUKA MINAMI vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & TAKAKO INOUE:
* Hotta/Takako are the new UWA Tag Champs and a recurring team, but they’re facing the former Ace and Hotta’s ex-partner. Bull’s got a fiery shirt on, Minami’s in super-80s blue splatterpaint, Hotta’s in white & black, and Takako’s in blue.

Takako hits a GIANT slap on Minami to start, then immediately gets whirled around in a backbreaker, but Hotta lands her Rolling Kick on Bull, who gives her a look at hits a lariat & legdrop for two. Takako gets locked in a bunch of leg stuff and her selling is just otherworldly, making this look like the worst pain anyone’s ever felt. Bull slaps on the Angelito and even more stuff, and Takako FINALLY escapes after several minutes of torture and Hotta takes over on Bull. Takako throws Minami all over with armdrags (the leg injury is now gone after a minute on the apron), and hits a pair of Tombstones for two. Hotta does Muay Thai knees to the head and a double-facecrusher & assisted flying back elbow get two, but a defiant Minami “Fuck YOU!” bridges out and finally tags out as Bull kicks Hotta’s ass, then Takako’s. Minami lands her underhook backbreaker on Hotta, but Bull misses some lariats and gets lured into Takako’s flying cross-body, Bull counters her next thing, then Takako counters Minami’s powerbomb but takes a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker!

Everyone either misses or reverses stuff until Minami dives onto both opponents, and Bull’s Kneeling Powerbomb gets two on Hotta. Minami missile kicks her by mistake, but Takako can’t lift Bull for a backdrop… so Hotta comes in and completes the move, lol. DOOMSDAY DEVICE CHOKESLAM! Minami saves and Bull double-lariats out, but Minami hits knees on a splash and takes a backdrop hold for two! Minami and Takako reverse each other’s finishers, Hotta misses a Flying Rolling Kick, and Bull takes the frickin’ Straightjacket German off the top from Hotta when she tries to climb! Minami has to save that, and Hotta drags Bull up by the hair but the Pyramid Driver (straighjacket Ligerbomb) gets reversed and Minami flies in with a Senton for two! Kneeling Powerbomb gets two, and Bull’s taken off the top trying a Guillotine Legdrop, so Hotta fires off a Tiger Driver on Minami for two. Bull tries the Guillotine again, but Takako stalls her so she misses, Takako follows up with the Flying Knee to the head, and Hotta immediately grabs her finisher- PYRAMID DRIVER!! 1…2…3 (20:57)!! Holy shit! Hotta beat the former Ace!!

HOLY SHIT that got awesome! It was a standard issue “*** TV match” that was going well, but then they just hit this extra gear in the final five and made it a ton of fun. This was an interesting one, as it was “mostly holds” at first, but everything was sold like NUTS, as they didn’t wanna just be lazy about it. But it leads to that weird thing where Takako looks like she’s having her leg tendons shredded and then after a 1-minute rest on the apron she’s in fresh as a daisy hitting stuff like normal, so the holds become meaningless as anything but a stamina drain. But the match was kept at a steady pace so all of this “filler” still ended up fun, and then they start this intricate set of reversals and counters until everyone’s tried all their best shit and then the UWA Champs figure out how to take down BULL of all people- that finish, with her missing the Guillotine then taking twin finishers, was a thing of beauty.

Rating: ****1/4 (incredible match featuring four people at the top of their game with excellent reversals, spot progression, and all the team-ups paying off in the end)

TAG LEAGUE THE BEST 1993:
AJA KONG & SAKIE HASEGAWA vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA & KYOKO INOUE:
* Yamada/Kyoko is a hell of a “Superworker” team, both having had ***** matches with Manami Toyota in 1992, and now they’re up against the Ace… and Sakie! Sakie’s a huge future star in the making but still a midcarder at this point, but had a fluke win against Yamada during the Grand Prix, while Kyoko’s kinda struggled this year. Oddly, Aja & Sakie are in adorable matching red & white “mirror color” tights, as I recall that Sakie is still probably in the “Jungle Jack” stable. Oh, and even Yamada & Kyoko are in matching gear, too, decked out in shiny black variants of their typical stuff! Kyoko’s tassled tights actually look rad this way. And for the first time in history, Kyoko doesn’t have the worst tanlines on her team.

Sakie’s “more spunk than skill” thing is in play right out of the gate, as the vets beat her around, but Aja outbrawls Yamada and methodically pounds away for several minutes, Yamada doing her best “collapsing sell”. Aja leads Sakie in chopping her, then the kid adds her Rolling Butterfly Suplexes at high speed. Funny spot as they do the “hold them for the other person’s kick”, but SAKIE sells the impact of Aja’s kick to Yamada, going flying back- haha! But sure enough, Team Black rallies and fires off a revenge kick- and another! And another! Kyoko tries her Slingshot Backsplash but goes right into Aja’s boot, but another try gets her! Kyoko tries SO HARD to get Aja into the fireman’s toss that the crowd totally marks out when she finally gets it, too. LONG fights over surfboards and suplexes keep the time going, and Team Red works Kyoko over. Sakie misses a thing and Yamada works her over with awesome kicks and suplexes, then kicks her SQUARE THE FUCKING EYES when she resists a stretch muffler. Jesus CHRIST, woman.

Team Black continues the beating, adding missile kicks and a snap suplex while Sakie attempts an Uranage to escape- Aja prevents a Flying Enzuigiri, but Urakens her partner by mistake and has to stop the pin after a Bridging German! Kyoko scores the mother of all lariats, but steadies another one, and eats an Uranage reversal! Aja suplexes the shit out of Kyoko, then everyone interferes to reverse stuff and a 2nd-rope splash gets two. Snap DDT saves Kyoko, and now it’s an Enzuigiri from Yamada… but Sakie kicks her to stop the next! Spinkick gets two anyways, and a Flying Enzuigiri needs Sakie to save the Ace! Aja misses an Uraken and a German gets two for Kyoko, but the Run-Up Back Elbow misses and Sakie hits her with Savate Kick Spam. Kyoko reverses an Uranage but gets backslid out of a Niagara Driver, but Kyoko nearly nails it the second time… but Aja URAKENS her! Sakie gets two off of that in a REALLY close call. Aja scores another one and Yamada saves, then interferes on the top rope- Sakie has to deal with her, then Aja hits the Uraken to stun Kyoko, and finishes with the Super Mountain Bomb at (24:55)! Aja’s joy and congratulations to Sakie is adorable and such a great touch on her part.

Hey, that actually got really good! It was a bit chinlocky and “let’s kill time with methodical beatings” to start, to the point where I suspected a draw, but they started pulling off some really fun stuff with Aja’s credibility carrying the day against both opponents, while Sakie could only mount short comebacks. The psychology of tag team matches played into it a lot here, as people just kept saving each other and interfering in moves, until Aja just overwhelmed Kyoko with repeated Urakens and made her too vulnerable, and Sakie was able to hold off Yamada for the finale. Aja beating two big names with only Sakie as backup is further proof of her dominance.

Rating: ***3/4 (slow start but they got into a really good groove by the end)

Match Ratings:
Reggie Bennett vs. Numacchi: 1/2*
Toyota/ASARI vs. Ito/Tomoko: ***1/4
LCO vs. Eagle/Yasha: ***1/4
Bull/Minami vs. Takako/Hotta: ****1/4
Aja/Sakie vs. Yamada/Kyoko: ***3/4
-Very good show, with a fun squash to start, a good “character wrestling” thing with the Toyota/ASARI tag duo, and no bad matches otherwise! Bull’s tag match is definitely an underappreciated classic in the late going, and the last match kicked ass, too.