LEGENDARY GODDESS I- TAKAKO INOUE:
* So the “Legendary Goddess” tapes are an octet of VHS releases at the tail end of 1993, each about an hour long, featuring a spotlight on one particular AJW wrestler. The top eight stars of the company at the time each had their own, with the UWA Tag Champs having theirs first. These LG tapes feature an odd thing where some tag matches have a laser-focus on only one wrestler- one camera man follows only the focus of the tape around, even if she’s just on the apron. Having watched most of them by this point, I notice that almost every single match is taken from the same handful of shows, as I recognize the unique arenas (“bright one with low-lying balconies”, “one with the giant stage behind a see-through curtain” and “outdoor arena one with dirt in the stands” being the most notable ones).
“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: These tapes are a quirky look at some wrestlers, showing tours of their apartments or shots of them eating, and some of the matches are high-quality “House Show Effort” performances that give you a better sense of what a typical show from AJW is like. Also I toss in a recap of Wrestling Queendom I.
This being Takako’s, it features her in a variety of costumes at first (the less said about her dressing like a little girl, the better- JESUS, JAPAN!). She models a wedding dress (quick! someone check Tyler Harding’s pulse!), even wearing it to the ring. Later, Takako, Yumiko Hotta, Aja Kong, Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada all go for dinner on some dining ship (Yamada’s red jacket and black tie look is rad). Takako eats dessert at some place, then Yamada & Kyoko Inoue visit her at her TINY-ASS Japanese apartment.
TAKAKO INOUE & TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. THE TWIN TOWERS (Suzuka Minami & Etsuko Mita):
* Takako’s in white & blue, Yamada’s in orange/pink, Minami’s in lime green, and Mita’s in the rare red & black gear. Nobody’s with a regular partner here- it’s just a random tag match.
We’re Joined in Progress, and it’s immediately clear you won’t get a “rate-able” match, really, as during Yamada’s sequence, it’s just a close-up of Takako as she recovers on the apron, or her boots or whatever. Man, this shaky-cam is worse than Kevin Dunn’s directing. Mita works Takako over, but she armdrags Minami around. Mita hits her with Blazing Chops after other stuff, then a piledriver & fireman’s toss. Now we get a close-up of Mita trying to tear Yamada’s ears off, but a snap suplex wakes up the crowd. Takako does some flash-pin attempts (great shot of her going “THREEEEEE!” after one, then “O-kayyyyy…” after told no), but gets superplexed by Minami. Yamada hits Enzuigiri Spam on Minami, but Mita electric chair drops her & Minami’s Powerbomb gets two. Takako saves, then drags Mita outside the ring, blocking her so Yamada can score the pin with something (12:30). Weird way to watch a match.
TAKAKO INOUE & KYOKO INOUE vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & SAKIE HASEGAWA:
* Interestingly, this is before either pairing was a regular team- they actually hit ***** at least once against each other a couple years after this! Takako’s in white & blue, Kyoko’s in red & yellow, Manami’s in black, & Sakie’s in blue.
We’re Joined in Progress- Takako controls, but Manami fires off Dropkick Spam. We’re clipped to Manami dropkicking her off the top, but Kyoko hits a giant swing. Takako takes the rolling cradle and Sakie reverses her backdrop suplex, then hits Uranages. Takako Uranages her off the top, then we’re clipped to assorted double-teams and such. Takako saves Kyoko, but gets dumped and is blocked so Manami scores the pin (6:10 shown).
TAKAKO INOUE, TOSHIYO YAMADA & SAKIE HASEGAWA vs. SUZUKA MINAMI & LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda):
* Finally a real match, as it’s a “House Show” type thing, with a disparate trio against a combo pack of the Twin Towers & LCO (Mita is the common partner). Takako’s in white & blue, Yamada’s in pink, Sakie’s in blue, Minami’s in green & pink, Mita’s in red & black, and Shimoda’s in red & white. The match graphic actually has the wrong names for Yamada & Shimoda, calling them “Y. HOTTA” & “B. YOSHINAGA”.
Sakie does some interesting stuff with the heels, getting worked over, but Yamada hits the face kick, dropkick & snap suplex on Shimoda. She hangs Shimoda upside-down in a half-crab and has Sakie fly in on the knee, then Takako adds her own stuff and stands on the knee in the tree of woe. Sakie gets the JB Angels armdrag from Minami, but scores Savate Kick Spam for two-counts. Takako throws nasty-looking restholds on Minami, but Mita ends up hitting Yamada with Blazing Chops, and LCO’s Electric Chair Drop/Flying Splash get two. LCO work her over and hit the Bitch Pose, but Takako runs in… and eats the Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker and a 2nd-rope dropkick. Backbreaker gets two, and a six-way brawl outside sees Takako try to strangle Minami with the chair. Takako finally reenters the ring, powering over Minami and sending Yamada in for kicks and her side suplex for two- Sakie hits a flying cross-body for the same, then uses her Rolling Butterfly Suplexes for two.
Shimoda throws Sakie into the corner, and just SAILS over Yamada with a missed falling clothesline, and the crowd pops BIG for that bump, lol. She reverses a whip to one out of the corner, then a regular one, and then a FLYING clothesline gets two, ramping up the tempo. Everyone does some basic double-teams, Shimoda hits another flying clothesline, and it’s triple stereo dives to the outside! Yamada reverses a superplex to a Flying Headbutt for two on Minami, and hits a spinkick & two enzuigiris, but Shimoda cross-bodies both her partners at once. Yamada holds her up top so Takako can hit a Super Armdrag. Minami reverses Takako’s backdrop, takes Yamada’s flying clothesline, reverses ANOTHER backdrop and hits the Powerbomb for two, as Takako’s partners BARELY save! LCO & the others brawl outside as Minami hits a perfect Ligerbomb for the pin (19:51). haha- so Takako doesn’t even hit her best stuff and takes the pin on her own VHS? Who edited this!?
Mike Lorefice of Quebrada.net watched this one and mentioned how even though they’re clearly working what I’d call “House Show Mode”, they still had a fun, well-wrestled match with a lot of good stuff. It was just… clearly wrestled in the way you don’t see on major shows- too many restholds, everyone’s running through their trademark spots, and no “story” develops- it’s just people doing stuff. Sakie sat out for a lot of the match, and Minami worked most of her team’s by herself- as the best seller and worker, this was probably for the best. Yamada ended up looking the best, with all that crisp, high-speed offense- doing both strikes & slams perfectly. The speed ramped up in the last 4-5 minutes, really getting the crowd into it, as the spots weren’t quite “Major Show” intricate, but definitely had a lot of great teases and reversals.
Rating: ***1/4 (even their “House Show Efforts” that leave a ton of big moves in the tank and are mostly the basics end up really good)
LEGENDARY GODDESS II- YUMIKO HOTTA:
* We start off with Hotta jogging to something off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie soundtrack. Later, she eats stuff while wearing a Hawaiian shirt! Then she eats stuff outside while looking mindfully at her surroundings! And goes to a toy store and plays with traditional antique-looking toys while circus music plays- nice studded denim jacket there, Miss ’90s. Takako and her poodle visit Hotta in her spartan apartment and laugh at a secondary TV sitting on a piece of cardboard. Though the pillows with a cartoon image of her looking smug are pretty rad. And then she… pilots a swan pedal-boat around a lake?
YUMIKO HOTTA & MANAMI TOYOTA vs. LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Akira Hokuto & Mima Shimoda):
* Oh damn- this looks like a guaranteed ****+ match if it wasn’t a house show. Hotta’s in blue & Manami’s in black, and they’re facing black-clad Hokuto and Shimoda in her red & white gear. Unlike the “LG” for Takako, it’s not a close-up of one person, but zoomed in on whomever’s fighting. Mostly. It’s just odd direction- faraway shots segueing to a close-up.
Toyota takes a piledriver and liontamer from Akira, but Hotta kicks Shimoda all over the ring- you can tell it’s a house show because she can still walk afterwards. And because Manami only fires off ONE dropkick before doing her bridging bodylock thing. Shimoda bites her way free to be awesome, but they work her leg over, Hotta doing kicks at 1/3 speed- that is so weird to see. Hokuto throws her roundhouse kicks at Manami and a northern lights suplex, but Hotta pushes the surfboard over. Shimoda works her back, but Manami hits a PERFECT Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body, showing she’s nuts even in low-tier matches. Hotta does overthrow powerbombs on Akira and everyone throws everyone else into stuff outside, but LCO comes back with the DRAPING STAFF STRIKE, Mita on the outside helping then kill Hotta with the stick!
Shimoda’s hooking & flying clotheslines get two, but NOW it’s time for Dropkick Spam, as Toyota comes in! She does an octopus hold, but Akira counters the Manami Roll to a powerbomb for two… but it’s a Rolling Cradle for Hokuto! Flying splash hits feet and Shimoda does a Superplex, but it’s a “Fuck YOU!” bridge out. Everything breaks down, but Hokuto hits a German for two. Rocket Launcher misses but Shimoda backslides out of a Tiger Driver for two- double-lariat leads to a double-facebuster and NOW Hotta gets that Tiger Driver, Hokuto pushing them over at 2. Manami accidentally dropkicks Hotta out AND does the Mulkey Bump, leading to Shimoda flying out onto both of them. But back in the ring, Hokuto hits Shimoda with a missile kick by mistake, leading to Manami scoring a Moonsault for the victory (15:57).
Huh, well I’ll be damned- I was thinking “obvious House Show Match” with slack effort, and it kinda WAS, but they started doing their fun spots, cool bumps, and more, and didn’t even lie around in holds like I expected! Doing cheating spots, revenge bits and reversing things was really good, and it ended up a breezy, very solid match as a result.
Rating: ***1/2 (again, you put enough great workers in one match it’s gonna be good even if they’re not swinging for the fences)
YUMIKO HOTTA vs. SAEMI NUMATA:
* Oh man, RIP Numacchi in this one. They’re wearing the same shade of blue, but Numata looks like a dwarf compared to Hotta here. They’re in that weird gym where that JWP show was, with the monster stage off to one side with the wooden curtain drawn down. Thing looks like shit, too- there’s big prominent tears in it.
As expected, Hotta sells absolutely nothing and squashes Numata like a bug to start, kicking her around and not reacting to grapples. Numata scores some holds, but they’re sold like minor nuisances at best. Hotta powers Numata off of a half-crab with only the one leg and throws more kicks, but Numata decides to commit suicide by slapping Hotta repeatedly and doing running attacks- Hotta talks shit while in a leg-hold, casually gets out of it, and throws on some “whatever” stuff, does the Overthrow Powerbombs with no effort and pulls her up, but pays for the cockiness by missing an enzuigiri. Numata scores her finisher, the Russian Leg Sweep (yes, really), but Hotta just smirks and gets up like it’s nothing, takes some bulldogs and a flying cross-body, but reverses a whip to her Rolling Kick and a friggin’ VERTICAL SUPLEX gets the pin (6:56). LOL why was this on the tape?
Rating: 1/2* (I’ve seen less generous showings, but I can’t remember when. Hotta laughed off everything and only sold her own mistakes, then finished with a transition hold. Well, you gotta eat up the jobbers)
YUMIKO HOTTA vs. MANAMI TOYOTA:
* Hotta’s in the blue and Toyota’s in black in our final match of the tape.
Manami misses a dropkick and sells kicks like NUTS, bouncing all over the ring on her knees and grimacing in agony- instantly, the fans are into it just from that. They either screw up the JB Angels armdrag or Hotta yanks her off on purpose, and it’s more kicks, but Manami scores a dropkick, butterfly suplex & bridging bodylock, then inverted-nelsons both arms and invents some weird standing figure-four/sharpshooter variant. Loose figure-four and other weird stuff and this comes off as “House Show”-tier again, but Manami wailing through everything at least gives the impression of effort. Hotta bails but comes back with the stiff kicks, Manami selling one as a tooth-shattering mouth shot and slowly recovers… and bam- Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body and Dropkick Spam! She hits some of her trademark submissions to wear Hotta down, and they trade some soft reversals until the Rolling Corner Kick & Overthrow Powerbomb get two for Hotta.
Hotta works some holds, then throws more kicks and beats Manami’s ass outside the ring, then they reverse stuff until Manami hits the Rolling Cradle for two. Hotta drags her off the top, then Manami dropkicks her off the top and hits a dive to the outside. Bridging German gets two but the Flying Headbutt hits knees, then the Tiger Driver is reversed to a backslide for two from Manami! Manami then fucks up the Running No-Hands Springboard so badly I figure it has to be deliberate, and Hotta pounces with a Tiger Driver for two. Hotta aims for the Caribbean Splash (Straightjacket Superplex) but Manami knocks her back and hits a Moonsault Press and Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex for two counts- Moonsault misses but she reverses the Pyramid Driver (straightjacket ligerbomb) to a Manami Roll for two. Hotta gets her foot on the ropes, and Manami goes to the Moonsault well one too many times, and gets caught- CARIBBEAN SPLASH! She actually does the “Fuck YOU!” bridge out from that, but she’s got nothing left- Pyramid Driver finishes at (20:06).
Such an interesting, fascinating match. In that I’ve seen these two hit ****3/4 before, but here they’re wrestling a very well-practiced, but medium-effort, style that fits more what they’d do outside of one of the major shows or even TV tapings. They did a lot of their standard spots (No-Hands Springboards, stiff kicks, finishers), but none of it had that DRIVE or desire to win behind it, and you could tell throughout. The ending surge had a bunch of good stuff and big moves (minus that probably-botch that nonetheless fit the match’s story), complete with people trying and re-trying moves until they either worked or it cost them, and Manami finally gets beat trying her Moonsaults too often. So smart psychology, even if the match lacked the will to excel.
Rating: *** (I mean… an obvious lack of effort for most of it, but how do you hate all those awesome moves thrown in at the end?)
So yeah, these tapes are weird. Some interviews, a couple photoshoots, some odd “Wrestler-Cam focused matches” in a fish-eye lens, and one random house show match at the end. I guess you didn’t wanna double up on big matches for the collectible tapes, but it’s still kinda weird.
This short review allows me to also do a mini-recap of a big show that happened in late November- the first Wrestling Queendom!
Wrestling Queendom immediately replaced Wrestlemarinepiad as the premier event in AJW- though there were other, bigger shows, they were one-offs like Dream Slams, St. Battle Final & Big Egg Wrestling Universe– Queendom happened every year. This show was four hours long and had a ton of Interpromotional Matches, which had become the rule by then. When I first started these Spotlights, I just reviewed all the big shows separately, so I’ll do a quick recap here to follow the continuity of “all the ’93 shows”.
CANDY OKUTSU (JWP) vs. TOMOKO WATANABE (AJW): A very nice little match, with Tomoko playing the bullying, dominating vet, while Candy’s very good basics let them work a good match. Tomoko hits the Screwdriver at 12:30, ending a potential comeback from Candy. ***1/4 (miraculous for Tomoko at the time).
CHIKAKO SHIRATORI (AJW) vs. HARLEY SAITO (LLPW): An absolute squash- Harley takes a smidge of offense and then destroys the rookie with only three spinkicks. 1/2*.
AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
MIZUKI ENDO (LLPW) vs. CHAPARITA ASARI (AJW): A shocker of a match, as ASARI was only barely good at this point (more sizzle than steak), but had a fantastic match with Endo, who was very limited to the basics, but had good match control. The bout never stops moving (no wonder Meltzer gave it ****), and all of ASARI’s botches (then a recurring thing) were handled by Enzo with pro-level tactics (liking throwing sudden kicks or “reversing” them), even though she was only a year into the business. ASARI hits the Sky Twister Press for the win at 13:00, bringing the AJW Junior Title back home (for a week). ***3/4.
KYOKO INOUE (AJW) vs. YUKIE NABENO (FMW): The match starts out promising, but soon devolves as Nabeno is not very good and doesn’t have much offense or cardio. Kyoko hits her Run-Up Flying Back Elbow after an easy comeback at 12:28. **.
JAPANESE TAG TEAM TITLES:
KAURO ITO & SAKIE HASEGAWA (AJW) vs. MIKIKO FUTAGAMI & YASHA KURENAI (LLPW): A very odd, but exciting, match, as Sakie throws a shitload of disrespect to her LLPW opponents, slapping them, SPITTING on them, etc. AJW’s team sells very little and often ignored offense entirely for their own, but then LLPW made a surprise comeback, nearly getting the win with a Doomday Device Chokeslam. The champs finally throw all of their finishers in succession to plant Yasha at 16:45. ***1/2.
BULL NAKANO (AJW) vs. HIKARI FUKUOKA (JWP): One of the better one-sided matches you’re going to see, as Bull was OF COURSE going to win against the JWP up & comer, but Hikari had a lot of speed and courage, and was able to hold the advantage while Bull could only slowly wear her down. There was a great brawling spot- Hikari came off like a rookie too full of piss & vinegar, but she turned it to her advantage. And so Hikari’s goofy-ass Popeye Punches came off as this awesome Rookie Comeback, paid off by all of Bull’s no-selling and brawling dominance. They tease an upset with Hikari’s big comeback finisher, and only then can Bull reverse something and kill her with a series of things- Jacknife & Guillotine Legdrop end it at 13:49. ***3/4.
AJA KONG (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW): Aja seems delighted to meet a fellow “Monster”-style powerhouse wrestler. Aja, the Ace of AJW, was clearly going to win, but they went out of their way to put Eagle over, having her absorb an Uraken backfist WITHOUT EVEN FALLING OVER, and Aja needed three in a row, then the Super Mountain Bomb to score the pin at 18:02. Eagle can’t work the fast pace of others, so it was slower than usual for Aja and had a TON of restholds in the middle. Great finish, though. **3/4.
EIGHT-WOMAN ELMINATION TAG MATCH (Captain’s Fall Rules):
SUZUKA MINAMI (c) & LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Akira Hokuto, Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) (AJW) vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI (c), DEVIL MASAMI, MAYUMI OZAKI & PLUM MARIKO: A mega-crowdpleaser, as it features a bonkers pace with tons of great spots (a Quadruple Superplex, Quadruple Flying Headbutts, and a four-person “Bitch Pose” on Kansai, pointed right at the JWP President). Hokuto vs. Kansai was treated as the major showdown it was. Plum gets taken by a quick Ligerbomb from Minami and Devil is rolled up by Hokuto after missing her finisher, putting AJW ahead, but Shimoda falls to Ozaki’s Tequila Sunrise and Mita dies from a Dangerous Backdrop from Kansai. Kansai & Ozaki then use the move that won them the 3WA Tag Titles, the Doomsday Device Splash Mountain, on Team Captain Minami for the three (20:33). Literally the only weak point is that the rules called out the finish- clearly done to protect Hokuto from the job. *****.
UWA WOMEN’S TAG TITLES:
TAKAKO INOUE & YUMIKO HOTTA (AJW) vs. MIKI HANDA & SHINOBU KANDORI (LLPW): Interesting match, as Kandori is a mega-Ace and can easily beat Takako, but acts like a bullying ass, and Handa is the weakest person, so there’s a lot of psychology here. Kandori bullies Takako, but both AJW girls can murder Handa, so it becomes a game of isolating her- finally, Kandori is trapped in the Tree of Woe and Hotta shatters Handa’s neck with a Pyramid Driver at 21:47. ***1/2.
ALL PACIFIC TITLE:
MANAMI TOYOTA vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA: And then, cleverly, AJW finishes their big show with a Star vs. Star match from their own stable- the two women teaming for the 3WA Tag Titles in one month, mind you. The two had a phenomenal feud, with a legendary Hair vs. Hair Match, in 1992, making both of them huge stars, and this is over the vacant All Pacific Title. Going thirty minutes, they work a slower pace than usual, and Toyota’s stuff in particular gets a bit “loose” and lends credence to “Manami is sloppy” doomsayers, but they pulled it out in the end with a lot of great stuff. Yamada, who lost the big cap-off last year, and has been a “Token Jobber” to Kansai earlier in this one, is made to look great by pinning the future Ace with her Reverse Gory Bomb finisher at 30:53. ****1/2.
-The 8-Woman Tag was the day’s show-stealer, but this was another “Joshi is the best thing ever” kind of a show, even though people weren’t even putting as much effort as they would for St. Battle Final, coming up in only a handful of weeks!