Joshi Spotlight: Tag League THE BEST 1993 (Finals)

How many cards have had back-to-back ***** matches on them, anyhow?

AJW Tag League- THE BEST 1993 (Part 2):
* And so we come to the last big tape release of 1993, and the capper on Akira Hokuto’s remarkable year, as Flying Dangerous (her team with Manami Toyota) have neared the finals, facing off against two of the other top workers in AJW- Kyoko Inoue & Toshiyo Yamada. Looks like much of the card wasn’t uploaded to YouTube, but the two big ones are. The original tape is apparently only 2 hours 30 minutes, making me suspect there was a lot of clipping.

This show is suuuuuuuuuuuuper famous (among puro nerds) because of the two matches at the end, which are the only time any wrestlers have ever wrestled back-to-back matches that got ***** ratings from Dave Meltzer. And of course, ALL FOUR people earned that honor.

* Rookie Mayhem starts us off! And of course is this the only other match on the show I can find. Chikako was a total jobber this year, with Kumiko having some legit credentials but also being a rookie, as you can tell by her Jobber Swimsuit.

Jobbers Tosses and Jobber Half-Crabs away! Slender idol Chikako totally griefing the legit karateka is pretty funny for how unrealistic it is. Standing Backdrop! Jobber Dropkicks! Defiant Rookie Bridge-Out of a Pin! Kumiko hits some big elbow smashes that look kinda weak, but Chikako mainly controls as the “elder”. Chikako impresses with a JB Angels (but worse) bridge-out of another standing backdrop, then hits a bunch of dropkicks, and finally the Jobber-Killing Bodyslam & Struggling To Hold Them Down Pin gets the win at (12:50).

Rating: 1/4* (Jesus that was a LONG MATCH for two rookies whose best offense was “awkwardly run in to each other”)

So here’s the matches we missed:
MIDGET MATCH: LITTLE FRANKIE vs. TOMEZO TSUNOKAKE: No idea the result- Cagematch never says who wins these.

TAG LEAGUE ’93: LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. KAORU ITO & TOMOKO WATANABE: This is long before their great rivalry, but apparently was okay. LCO wins at (19:09).

BULL NAKANO & CHAPARRITA ASARI vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & SUZUKA MINAMI: Holy shit, what sadist put tiny, rookie ASARI up against HOTTA in the ring?! That had to have been brutal. Hotta & Minami win at (15:32).

TAG LEAGUE ’93: AJA KONG & SAKIE HASEGAWA (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI & YASHA KURENAI (LLPW): Both teams are tied at 8 points apiece. Aja/Eagle Hoss Fights are usually pretty fun, and Sakie & Yasha HATE EACH OTHER going by literally every matched they’ve ever fought. I suspect this might have ruled. Team AJW wins at (21:23).

* Famously, we start off with the final Round Robin match, between the two top-seeded teams… and immediately following, they have to pick up and wrestle each other AGAIN, because it’s the finals! Kyoko & Yamada are in their matching black gear again- Manami’s in the same, but Akira’s in white. Adding to this, Flying Dangerous may be the two best workers in the company, but the opposing team are Manami’s biggest two rivals ever… and Yamada is her usual tag team partner! In fact, both won the WWWA World Tag Titles not more than a month before this!

Manami hits warp-speed immediately on Kyoko, throwing dropkicks with Hokuto’s help, and then BOTH girls throw one at her! Octopus Stretch, Akira comes off the top, and now hits jumping piledrivers and her sharpshooter, just CRANKING it on, too! Kyoko whips Manami and throws a snap fallaway slam, and Yamada blitzes her normal partner with face boots, the snap suplex, back kicks and a roundhouse right to the face. Yeah, this ain’t House Show Mode, that’s for sure. Yamada folds up the leg with stuff, and a recovered Kyoko uses her inverted fireman’s toss and a crab, while Manami just HOWLS in agony. Huge ovation for the rope break. Double-boot and a double-freaking-STRETCH MUFFLER swings Manami back and forth until they just dump her on her face. Wild stuff. Yamada tortures the leg some more, and Manami scores a brief rollup, but Yamada wisely grounds her before anything else can happen and hits a brutal hair-grabbing slam. But then OH SHIT, Toyota does her “jump-up dropkick” reversal and NOW BITCHES GONNA DIE.

Hokuto combines clapping to get the crowd into it with roundhousing Yamada in the head, Yamada doing her “TKO’d” sell and barely getting her foot on the ropes. Sick backdrop gets two, and she cranks a chinlock and has Manami do a thunderous running boot to Yamada’s chest that draws an “OOHHHHHH!” from the crowd. The swap positions and Akira hits the damndest running kick to the face I’ve ever seen- jesus christ. But Manami misses her missile kick and so Yamada does the same move to HER, and then Hokuto gets dragged into the ring for HER receipt. Backdrop & running dropkick on Manami, but she Manami Rolls Kyoko for two! Dropki— no- Giant Swing! Kyoko laria– no- Rolling Cradle! Yamada stops a Moonsault and hits a German so Kyoko can get two. Manami nearly reverses for a Japanese Ocean Suplex (double-hammerlock suplex), but Kyoko’s in the ropes and Manami takes the Mulkey Bump off a missed dropkick!

Yamada teases a dive, but Hokuto knocks her off and tries the Top Con Hilo, but stumbles and they escape… so Manami comes sailing across the ring with a Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body Suicida out there, and NOW it’s the Tope Con Hilo! Jesus Christ this match rules. Missile Dropkick Sandwich in the ring for two! Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (bridging electric chair drop) attempt, but Kyoko All Japans her onto her neck with a German! Akira tags herself in, knocks Yamada off the apron and tries the Northern Lights Bomb… but gets rolled up for a CLOSE two! Yamada in with Enzuigiri Spam, but Toyota grabs her after two, then gets knocked to the floor. Double Missile Dropkick on Hokuto gets two! Yamada tries the Reverse Gory Bomb, but Manami flies in with a Missle Dropkick, and the Dangerous Queen Bomb… gets two! They prepare a Moonsault to finish… but Manami lands on Yamada’s feet! Kyoko levels Flying Dangerous with lariats, then tries the Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb)… but it’s a Manami Roll for two, and a reversal for two! They try a Double Powerbomb but Manami fights out, and her Ocean Cyclone Suplex attempt results in Kyoko crushing her head with a high-speed weight-shift, and then FINALLY the Niagara Driver hits… for three (15:46)!!

Holy shit, that was the fuckingest pace I’ve ever seen. Just non-stop action with like two tiny restholds that were sold as brutal. LOVED the receipts with the four face-kicks in a row, then Kyoko & Manami one-upping each other with signature spots (Giant Swing, then “receipting” with a Rolling Cradle), and the move application of everyone was dead-on. I thought Hokuto fucked up the Tope Con Hilo… but it actually just set up the rivals for the damndest high-speed Running No-Hands move ever, THEN Akira hit it. And then the FINISHER REVERSALS! Nobody could hit their shit, as either there’d be interference or a slick reversal, and everything was perfect- it even pays off when Kyoko becomes the first person to hit a legit finisher and scores the pin with it! One of those matches with perfect choreography.

Rating: ***** (I was totally prepared to go for less just to not be like Meltzer and because I knew the match-time was short, but holy shit that was perfect)

* And so with that ***** match out of the way… both teams have to wrestle again!

They pounce on a dead Toyota, Yamada spamming backdrops like crazy. Akira saves Manami from the pin, so Kyoko dumps her, leading to a DRAMATIC near-fall in the ring, which Manami bridges out of to show her defiance! Akira & Kyoko run through concessions in their fight (Hokuto swinging a garbage can like a crazy person), but run back to the ring, where Kyoko tries the Slingshot Backsplash… but Manami snags her and hits a German, tagging out! Hokuto hits a German, too, but Kyoko keeps flopping to her side. Northern Lights Suplex gets two, and suddenly Kyoko pounces on the leg with terrifying ferocity, desperately trying to cripple the Dangerous Queen. And that of course sets up Yamada’s Spinning Stretch Muffler- the absolute worst move ever for Akira Hokuto to take. They take turns shredding the knee as I note this match has now switched the FD member being murdered to Hokuto instead of Toyota.

Manami finally tags in and hits Dropkick Spam, a bridging suplex, her inverted bridging full nelson suplex, and a backdrop suplex on Yamada. Akira tries her roundhouse, but eats the Spinkick to the face, then an Enzuigiri AND a face kick one after the other- a flying elbow smash gets two. Akira ducks a double lariat, sending Toyota flying in with a missile kick to both opponents! This sends everyone outside, where Flying Dangerous get their shit reversed and end up in Stereo Tombstones on the floor! And these must be magical piledrivers indeed, because they’re actually SOLD! In fact, both girls have to console each other on the floor and try to cajole each other back to their feet… and Kyoko runs up to the top and planchas them just because! They haul Akira in for Yamada’s Reverse Gory Bomb, but she hooks the arms and forward rolls for a two-count- Yamada tries again and hits it for real! Toyota BARELY saves at the last second.

Kyoko hits the Run-Up Flying Back Elbow- two! Akira barely avoids the Niagara Driver and tags out, then Manami reverses a whip with a delayed Lionsault, and hits a Moonsault Press for two! Regular Moonsault- again two! Akira dives onto Yamada outside while Manami hits the Japanese Ocean Suplex… for two! Flying Dangerous try the Missile Dropkick Sandwich again, building the crowd’s anticipation… but it MISSES! Yamada tags in and hits the Flying Enzuigiri on Toyota… who bridges out! That was PERFECT, with Akira desperately struggling but being forced down and unable to save. Yamada’s like “I can’t believe this shit”, so they whip Manami into the ropes… RUNNING NO-HANDS SPRINGBOARD CROSS-BODY! How in the FUCK is that possible after all this action? Kyoko saves Yamada from the Northern Lights Bomb, and they try a Double Superplex, but she reverses and lands on them! So Manami Moonsaults Kyoko to the floor as Yamada kicks out- Northern Lights Bomb to Reverse Gory Bomb to backslide- two! Yamada tries a kick, but Hokuto ducks under, shoves her down, and then FINALLY hits the Northern Lights Bomb- 1… 2… 3!!!! Flying Dangerous wins the Tag League at (14:49)!

And this one adds to the story of the prior match, with Toyota dead to start, then AKIRA starts getting murdered, turning Manami into the “Hot Tag” person, and boy does she make the most of that. The Lionsault almost looked like a botch (I literally said “that’s asking a bit much after this much action”, but then she hits a perfect one 5 minutes later anyways, lol), but it looked legit anyways. And suddenly everyone starts HITTING their finishers and all the misses from Match 1 are paid off, since we know they can score pins.

Rating: ***** (held on its own merits its not as good as the prior one, but you take them as a whole and it fits easily, since it even pays off the PRIOR match- great stuff as Flying Dangerous manage to fight through all the lethal stuff done to them and come back)

Finally, Akira & Manami are awarded the giant trophies, Manami literally BAWLING as Akira congratulates her (and tries to make sure she’d not deceased- she’s STILL selling death). It’s weird seeing Akira console someone instead of just slapping them around and calling them weak. She even shakes the hands of her opponents, then the other Tag League wrestlers come down to thank the fans (Hotta leading a “ZENJO!” chant), and Akira & Manami are STILL just held in a deep bow to the fans (the 90-degree one- the bow of Most Respect, as taught in guidebooks everywhere!) and haven’t really left that pose. Finally Manami takes her leave, and Hokuto, who’s sorta promised inevitable retirement, hangs around to bow AGAIN, then cut a tear-filled promo like this is the last time she’ll ever see these people. And of course Mita & Shimoda are seen, eye-level on the canvas, Shimoda’s eyes filled with tears, too. GODDAMN UNIVERSAL STORYTELLING!

Well this is just an immensely-awesome show. The missed matches are too bad, but HOLY HELL, hitting two back-to-back ***** matches with the same wrestlers is something that’s virtually unheard of PERIOD, much less with exhausted wrestlers simply scraping themselves off the mat and wrestling each other a second time for that rating. This night, and 1993 as a whole, is why Joshi amassed so much “Workrate Respect”, with Toyota & Hokuto in particular being goddesses. Hail Joshi.