Joshi Spotlight: AJW Champion Legend 1994

 

AJW OTA-WARD CHAMPION LEGEND 1994:
(01.24.1994)

* And now, with 1993 complete in my Joshi runthrough, here’s the first big event of 1994- the Ota-Ward (I assume that’s a region, since the arena’s called “Tokyo Ota-ku Taiikukan”) Champion Legend show, headlined by Aja Kong defending her WWWA World TItle against AJW’s toughest wrestler, Yumiko Hotta, in a super-disgusting fucking match that involves a BLOODY HAND. And also Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada defend the World Tag Titles against LCO! Read on!!

“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: This is an unsung candidate for “best short show ever”, as it’s three ****+ matches in a row- the shittiest match on this card is ****1/4. Aja/Hotta is also a must-see in terms of brutality, and this is LCO’s first TRULY awesome tag match in a long, legendary career full of them.

Looks like this version cuts out a bunch of highlights of matches from a Jan. 3rd Korakuen Hall show, which would feature one of the only major clashes between Manami Toyota & Bull Nakano at the height of their ability! Goddamn, if they’re not in “House Show Mode” in that one, that’s an absolute dream match at this point. We also skip out on:

“CAPTAIN’S FALL” ELIMINATION TAG:
NUMACCHI, CHIKAKO SHIRATORI, MIKI YOKOE & AKIKO ABE vs. TOMOKO WATANABE, RIE TAMADA, KUMIKO MAEKAWA & MIHO IKARI: Numacchi’s team wins in this battle of the nobodies (only two people here- Tomoko & Kumiko- ever got any good).

MR. BUDDHAMAN vs. TOMEZO TSUNOKAKE: Standard midget match- no winner listed.

SUZUKA MINAMI & TAKAKO INOUE vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA & KAORU ITO: Pretty random teams- Takako’s team wins.

BULL NAKANO vs. KYOKO INOUE:
* Now this is a pretty sweet mega-match at this point, with Kyoko & Bull both having pinned Devil Masami in 1993 and Kyoko’s star clearly being on the rise. Both are in “leveled-up” versions of their regular gear, like AJW got a budget increase, as Kyoko’s ’90s Warrior gear is now sparklier and more tassled- yellow & pink. Bull’s black leotard is now covered by this bad-ass purple & yellow shirt with flared plumage on the sleeves, like some sort of murderous neon bird-of-paradise.

They actually do a sweet stalemate to start, Kyoko’s Mongolian chops & Bull’s lariat being effective but Kyoko stopping the “throw them off the ropes” move and pointing to her head… then Bull blocks the chops, Kyoko blocks the lariat, and THEN Bull launches her off the ropes, from all four corners of the ring, just to establish dominance! Kyoko comes back, and there’s more good psychology as she fails to hit moves, then successfully does them, drawing a huge reaction by holding the friggin’ SURFBOARD on kaiju Bull. But she gets overconfident and Bull reverses a suplex to a ton of DDTs, including the Scorpion Death Drop variant (in 1994!), and drops the leg across Kyoko’s neck, which looks devastating. Lariat gets two and she punishes the neck with a series of restholds, a leg-assisted facecrusher off the ropes, and Bull’s Angelito (with a chinlock instead of the nelson!). Kneeling Powerbomb (as usual, her first “big move” of the match) gets two, but Kyoko dodges the lariat and hits the headscissors for two, then slingshots off the ropes TWICE, hitting a shoulderblock AND the Backsplash!

Kyoko, still hurting, fires off missile kicks to keep on Bull, and actually fights her way into the GIANT SWING, then starts a series of restholds for way too long. Bull punishes her with more lariats, a piledriver, boots, and a series of odd “martial arts” kicks, hitting Kyoko from all sorts of angles. I think that’s a one-off move. They do the “hit Kyoko off her slingshot” spot, but she gets her ankle caught in the ropes, causing a panic at ringside while the seconds get her out, and Bull immediately follows with a thunderous tope suicida! Kyoko manages to knock her off the top and hits a huuuuuuuuuuge lariat, tearing down the aisle at full speed! Suplex off a table! Kyoko’s back in the game- Run-Up Flying Back Elbow gets two! And she signals the Niagara Driver! Bull resists in a great bit, but Kyoko ducks under her lariat and hits a running one!

Kyoko now tries the Driver again, but Bull rolls back and hits a HUGE Bridging German for two! An exhausted, limping Bull (the table bump hurt her bad) tries to finish with a Powerbomb/Guillotine combo- TWO!! She tries the Guillotine again and misses, so Kyoko hits a release German and staggers around, hitting a bridging one for two! NIAGARA DRIVERRRRRRRRR!!! Bull kicks out at two, breaking Kyoko’s heart- you can see it in her face. She’s just like “oh NOOOOOOOOOO…”. She tries another, but Bull hauls her down for two. Kyoko gets whipped into the corner, but runs right up, turns around, and flies off with a shoulderblock. But she tries another Backsplash and gets German’d for two. Oh, Kyoko, that was dumb. Bull senses the end, and hits a fucking Guillotine while Kyoko’s getting up, effectively a Flying Fameasser at that point, then executes her with an extra Guillotine Legdrop at (26:34).

This was “methodical” at first yet also excellent, as the slow pace was more Bull dismantling Kyoko’s neck and stayed focus on that for a good while. It helps make the period where they’re just lying on the mat MEAN SOMETHING. And of course we see the contrast immediately because KYOKO just settles into many to kill time so they can reach 26 minutes, lol- can’t win ’em all. So with 5-6 minutes of restholds in the middle, they manage a great final third, hitting all sorts of cool shit, Kyoko crossing the gap between them with outside the ring stuff, while still selling her ankle from the rope-catching bit. I loved Kyoko failing her finisher, but reversing a lariat to a mother-lode one of her own. Bull looking like she’s dying while Kyoko kicks out of her first-tier finishers was a great “coming of age” bit for her, making it look like Kyoko was catching up. But then Bull just rips her heart out by kicking out of the Niagara Driver, then crushes her as she’s making rookie mistakes and trying the same shit- that’s Pro Wrestling Storytelling 101, and makes the eventual Kyoko Push seem all the better.

Rating: ****1/4 (fucking awesome in the beginning & end, and a true sign of how far Kyoko’s moving up the ladder- only thing holding it back is the boring middle third)

TWO OF THREE FALLS:
WWWA WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda):
* Oh man, I didn’t know this was a thing. LCO weren’t their Main Event selves at this point, but it’s pretty wild to see them pushed into a title match, especially as the Champs finally defeated the JWP squad a few months prior. Adding to this- this is the entire AJW Class of 1987. Manami’s in black and Yamada’s still in the white & silver singlet. Mita’s in a white two-piece with less flare than usual, and Shimoda’s in red & silver.

Fall One: Shimoda gets slappy immediately, but gets tossed around and a JB Angels armdrag sees her away. Mita leads a grapple with her teeth and just starts tossing Manami around, suddenly forming the “Giant Mita” dominating heel she was born to be. “Let’s Bend Manami” time! They hit a Spike Piledriver, but of course it’s AJW so it’s just a basic two-count. Toyota’s comebacks are all short and easily-stuffed until she finally hits a missile dropkick. Yamada hits the Spinning Stretch Muffler immediately, then Manami does the Rolling Cradle for a FULL MINUTE, getting two. Yamada snap suplex & stretch muffler works over Shimoda until she’s kicked into her own corner, and Mita hits a Northern Lights Suplex for two after some double-teams fail to work out.

Double-teams fail AGAIN as Shimoda nails Mita, then Manami hits the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body on both LCO members! The champs climb, but LCO snag them and Shimoda’s Butterfly Superduperplex splats Manami- “Fuck YOU!” bridge! Yamada assists, but the Moonsault misses- Bridging German gets two! Manami reverses a whip to the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex, but Mita knocks the bridge out at two. Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex attempt, but Mita doubles her over into a victory roll from Shimoda, and that gets two! A frustrated Manami finally hits it while Yamada deals with Mita at last, and that’s the first fall at (12:27). Wow, she needed her biggest finisher just to end Fall One.

Fall Two: Shimoda sells the move like she straight KTFO’d to start, but promptly recovers and hits falling clotheslines for a quick bridge-out, and Mita hits Blazing Chops on Yamada. Like, a billion of them. Superduperplex! LCO double-teams her and Shimoda hits dramatic sleepers and Mita hangman’s chokes her in the corner, finally just STANDING on her. Piledriver, front sleeper and now she just starts choking the shit out of Yamada, REALLY enjoying it to the point of cheering herself on- gentlemen, we’ve reached Full LCO. Shimoda even stands on the hands so Yamada can’t protect herself.

Manami finally comes in with a running kick to the face and Dropkick Spam- Shimoda hits a missile kick on a sneak attack, but Mita gets German’d for two. Manami climbs, but gets snagged so Mita hits a Super Electric Chair drop for two. Flying Double Headbutt (the champs’ finisher!) for two! Mita goes for the DVD, but Yamada kicks her into a forward roll from Manami for two. Manami dodges a Blazing Chop and does her insane “from the inside to out” Moonsault Suicida on Shimoda. Moonsault to Mita- Shimoda dives in at two! Flying Double Headbutts to Mita- Same result! Everyone’s in and reverses stuff, but Mita catches a charging Manami and hits a Death Valley Driver in one fluid motion! Both are KO’d, so Shimoda holds down a desperate Yamada and cheers Mita on, and the crowd goes wild as Mita hits ANOTHER Driver… for three (9:58)! LCO beats the champs!

Fall Three: LCO immediately pounce and attack the champs outside, throwing scores of chairs! Multiple piledrivers on the floor! Yamada at one point tries to cover Manami’s body with her own, but ends up dumped over the commentator’s table, so LCO hits the Electric Chair/Splash combo for two! Shimoda Perfect Plex, but Mita’s powerbomb is reversed to a Manami Roll for two, and Yamada just wastes Shimoda with hard kicks and a lethal backdrop driver, then ANOTHER horrendous bump as the Double-Backdrop finisher just splats her on her neck- how the fuck is that woman still wrestling today? Mita saves, but Shimoda’s comebacks are easily stopped. Toyota fires dropkicks into both as their stamina flags, but they dump the champs and hit the Assisted Plancha/Dive combo! EC/Splash combo again, but that NEVER works twice- Shimoda hits feet! Enzuigiri Spam! Mita interferes and Shimoda hits a Tiger Suplex for two- Manami saves! Spinkick & German- two!

Yamada goes up to finish, but Mita grabs her, dodges Toyota (who does her Mulkey Bump as a result), and Shimoda aims for the Death Lake Driver (Tiger Superplex), but gets tossed off… and she rolls through a cross-body for a cloooooossssssssssssse two-count! Crowd bought that one. Mita stops a Reverse Gory Bomb and tags in, but walks into an enzuigiri & German, but double-teams are stuffed repeatedly until a kick nearly finishes a fading Mita. Manami’s second J.Ocean Cyclone Suplex is countered, so she tries the move that won them the WWWA Titles back (that arm-trap Alabama Slam), but Shimoda dropkicks her over. Flying Double Flipover Backdrop- Shimoda saves again! Missile Dropkick Suicida FINALLY deals with her, and the mother of all finishers hits- DOOMSDAY Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex/Flying Spinkick kills Mita dead- 1…2…3 (13:18)!

Very, very awesome match with very little resting, despite going 35 minutes total. It was fought at a slightly slower pace because of that, but they gave us the big crowd-pleasing spots EARLY in an odd bit. There were a few odd things like insta-recoveries (Shimoda takes Manami’s MDK finisher but is up flying around with lariats right away?) and the sheer exhaustion clear from LCO as they sloowwwwwllly took some of the stuff after 30+ minutes, and started getting really loose with their moves. This was a REALLY good use of the “LCO Formula”, with Mita giving and Shimoda taking, as Mita gaining credibility instantly made her a much better worker because people were now flying around for her, and Shimoda’s one of the best sellers you’ll ever see, looking dead with each move. I was seeing them flag and prepared for a slightly lower rating, but then the great Finisher Surge hit and they wouldn’t stop reversing stuff and hitting cooler and cooler moves until the champs pulled out a Mega-MDK after slaughtering Shimoda to FINALLY keep the brats from one-upping them and breaking up pinfalls. Excellent psychology and use of move-spamming.

Rating: ****1/2 (phenomenal example of long-form matches and tag-team counter-wrestling. Peak “Toyota-Style Match” and the LCO Template combined)

Aja Kong vs. Yumiko Hotta, AJW (1/24/1994) | HANDWERK

The infamous “bloody hand” match- Aja doesn’t get any “Cool Heel” heat THIS time!

WWWA WORLD TITLE:
AJA KONG vs. YUMIKO HOTTA:
* This is easily Hotta’s most famous match- a challenge against the Ace of AJW, Aja Kong, in the midst of the Interpromotional Wars. Hotta’s in red & black- a very “Chigusa Nagayo” look, which was probably not lost on anyone. Aja, in red & gold this time, just saunters up and drops the Big Red Belt at the feet of the ref, then talks shit on the mic, and the two get in each other’s faces about it. Aja doesn’t do her “running fist-pump” pre-match thing, either- she just does the “you’re dead” motion across her throat and then flips Hotta off. I sense this will be ugly.

They divebomb each other right away to start, spamming out the “jab” button as they pieface the shit out of each other with open hands, Aja cramming Hotta into the corner and throwing the ref out of the way when he wants to stop it. He finally holds her off for a second… so she spinning backfists her in the opening goddamn minute- Uraken! Hotta’s obviously staggered, so Aja kicks her in the face a bunch and takes her outside, where Hotta’s piledriven on an Invincible Japanese Table. The ringside furniture is turned into projectile weapons, but Hotta comes roaring back in the ring, defiantly no-selling thigh-kicks and blocking another Uraken! And now they’re just slapping each other as hard as they fucking can, with everything looking like a killshot as the crowd goes nuts, until Aja takes some kicks and fires back with headbutts as her mouth bleeds. Hotta counters a kick with a MONSTER slap and they end up in a clinch to finally slow things down. Hotta gets out and starts kicking like someone forgot to tell her wrestling was fake, turning Aja into a mess, but the champ grabs a camel clutch and makes sure to pull Hotta’s hands out of the way for an unobscured kick to her face. See, this is why Aja is the best- who else would think to break the guard?

An example at the kind of strikes we’re seeing in this match.

Aja’s about to start her “methodical beatdown” but eats an Enzuigiri when a foot gets caught, and a Flying Heel Kick gets two. Aja lands a couple of restholds for a few minutes while her blood ends up smeared all over Hotta. She hits the trademark corner avalanche (“HOT-TAAAH!!”), then starts working the hand of all things, spreading out the fingers and punching the palm. The ref calls the ring doctor over to look at it, while Aja keeps on the attack, finally getting on the mic to talk more shit while Hotta has the hand wrapped… so Hotta just whips the bandages at her! And now Aja demands a test of strength on an agonized Hotta… refusing to use the good hand and DEMANDING the injured one lock up first! Oh fuck. Then she stomps on it. And flips off the booing fans. Okay, I think leaving a literal bloody handprint on the mat from a double-stomp upgrades this match a star or something- someone tweet Meltzer and ask.

Aja tortures the hand some more, even BITING IT, but when she goes up… Hotta snaps her into the Straightjacket German Superplex!! Aja takes a sick head-bump off of that and it gets two, so Hotta blasts her with a brutal kick to the mouth, but can’t manage the Pyramid Driver (straightjacket ligerbomb). Rolling Kick hits, but she gets caught in a Mountain Bomb after trying the Pyramid Driver again. Flying Rolling Kick misses- Aja hits a Dangerous Backdrop for two. Uraken misses, but another backdrop hits. Aja then acts like a TRUE shitbag, stealing the Pyramid Driver to boos… and Hotta gets out and URAKENS her!! Hah!! Best! And she signals for the Pyramid Driverrrrrrrrrr… which results in Aja landing on her. Damn. Both do the “All Japan Sell” for a good 20 seconds, but Hotta’s up first… and eats a vicious Uraken. Aja prepares the Super Mountain Bomb, but Hotta fights her- Aja has to pull out the “Dynamite Kansai Killer” move, the Uraken to a seated opponent, and gears her up… but Hotta threatens a fucking SUPER TIGER DRIVER, Aja luckily backdropping her from the double-underhook, squashing her in the Bomb for the three (19:34). She flips off the heartbroken crowd as she gets up to accept her belt.

Amazing match. I’m in awe of Aja’s ring smarts and character work- not a lot of wrestlers would know how to base a match around working someone’s HAND, but here you have this big, squat brawler doing it and making it work. Aja had a kind of “we respect her power” vibe and was rarely booed, but here she was drawing tremendous heat for these unsavory actions, the crowd just DISGUSTED with how merciless and violent she was being. And Hotta was at her best as this defiant warrior, now in the odd position of underdog (she typically dominates all of her matches, even against Aces like Kansai & Kandori!). Hotta’s attempts to fight back made her look awesome, the hand stuff was horrifying to watch (Aja trying to separate the fingers and occasionally dropping her full 240-ish pounds on the palm), and Aja still looked dominant because she can resist everyone’s grappling-based moves by sheer strength and weight.

Rating: ****3/4 (pretty clearly Hotta’s best match ever- I’m not even a “brawl fan” and I was way into their lethal shots to the face, the character work, the slap-war, and the escalating finisher attempts)

Match Ratings:
Bull Nakano vs. Kyoko Inoue: ****1/4
Manami/Yamada vs. LCO: ****1/2
Aja Kong vs. Yumiko Hotta: ****3/4

-I mean, I… I was expecting GOOD, especially since I’d already reviewed the Main Event before, but HOLY SHIT. Everyone went all-out to have the best match possible, at it shows- the only flaw was that the first two had to go 26 & 35 minutes, respectively, causing some pacing issues. But I can’t imagine any show with matches this good not going over extremely well- the fans definitely got their money’s worth with three bouts in the “Best Matches of the Year” category all in a row!