Joshi Spotlight: AJW Zenjo Mania Spring ’94

AJW ZENJO MANIA SPRING ’94:
(04.03.1994)
* More Joshi from early 1994! Now, from Korakuen Hall, we get another major AJW show that looks like it has a ton of matches on it. Curiously, they’ve kept the Interpromotional stuff off of this one, and filled the card with mostly singles matches, which is a rarity on AJW shows. Here, we see a Rookie Mayhem bout, Tomoko killing another rookie, Ito trying her best against an elder, a Spotfest Tag Match, a Hoss Match (Reggie vs. Bull!), and a brutal KO-style Main Event. So sneakily, this one is a bit of an “elevate the younger wrestlers” show, with mostly lesser stars going up against bigger ones. This is one of the older “Ringstarfield” uploads, so all the matches are piecemeal to fit under old YouTube requirements- just search “全女マニア 後楽園SPRING’94” in their channel to find the full show.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Care?”: A FANTASTIC six-woman tag match surrounded by other very good matches, including surprisingly-good performances by up & comers. Also, I think they must have released the AJW Theme Song CD around this time, because “Knockout” and “Jungle Emperor” make their debuts tonight (“God made the Devil… just for fun!  But when he wanted the real thing, he made Aja Kong!”).

KUMIKO MAEKAWA vs. RIE TAMADA:
* Another match featuring two of AJW’s lowest-ranked wrestlers, both in their “getting experience” phase. Kumiko of course became the Ace in the future, while Tamada was a “good hand” in various companies. Rie’s in white and pink, Kumiko’s in black & white. Surprisingly, neither are really in Jobber Swimsuits anymore.

Rie throws Kumiko around and does a cross-body for two, doing some good stretching and not the “basic” stuff so many baby wrestlers do. Kumiko comes back and gets revenge with the same moves. Her crab-hold lasts forever, then she slingshots Rie twice, but she’s advanced too far for the Rookie Bodyslam to finisher her! Rie avoids a Cross-Armbreaker and works the arm- flying headscissors, then a leapfrog and dropkick spam put Kumiko on the spot, but she fights out with a backslide and hits dropkicks, then does ANOTHER Rookie Bodyslam, and that’s too much for Rie- she fights out at one, but is held down, struggling, for three (6:57).

Rating: * (typical rookie bout- too long, too full of basic stuff, and ends with a transition move, but they used some effort)

TOMOKO WATANABE vs. CHIKAKO SHIRATORI:
* Standard “This is a rookie who will be something eventually, but here’s where we establish dominance by having the last person to move up the ranks kick her ass” bout, with the future Goddess Shiratori set up against rookie bully Tomoko. Tomoko’s in the green, blue & orange, while Chikako’s in the pink floral. The announcer here is particularly disinterested.

Chikako attacks before the bell, but gets pummeled down in short order. Tomoko hits lariats in the corner, then chucks her outside and javelins chairs at her like a crazy person- you can always count on Tomoko to make “Bully The Rookie” matches at least a little bit more nasty. Crab, Lion Tamer and more stretch her out- Chikako manages a neckbreaker but we’re back to stretching and a Slingshot Elbowdrop gets two. Chikako actually manages some consistent offense, mostly stretching, but Tomoko does the “Samoa Joe Walk Away From The Attack” dodge from a dropkick. She dodges a cross-body too, but misses her next Slingshot Elbow and takes more flash-pin attempts. Tomoko hits a Slingshot Cross-Body, judo flip & suplex, but she misses a Moonsault! Chikako runs in with a head of steam, but gets KTFO’d with a BRUTAL lariat, and the Screwdriver (backdrop to one-armed powerbomb) is academic at (10:59).

Typical bullying, non-competitive match, and Chikako doesn’t really sell or move well enough to pull these off well, but HOLY SHIT that lariat and Powerbomb- she went right onto the back of her neck there. Now THAT is how you establish dominance.

Rating: ** (boring and too long until the great ending)

TAKAKO INOUE vs. KAORU ITO:
* Interesting bout, as Takako just lost the UWA Tag Titles, but is still getting focus, while Kaoru is in that “does a ton of offense to veterans, then loses at the last second” thing. But OH MY GOD THEY DEBUT TAKAKO’S NEW THEME SONG HERE. “1-2-3- Go- KNOCK OUT!!” A song about a beautiful woman who mercilessly beats on the guy who adores her. The greatest cheeseball theme in wrestling history. Takako’s in the white & black gear, while Ito’s in the green Peter Pan look tonight. Jesus, she’s looked like this for more than a year already!

Ito USES THE ASS to start, but Takako actually catches her in mid-air and hits a German from that position- god I love it when the idol plays “Hoss”. Super Armdrag less than a minute in, and she works the leg with her usual sadistic facial expressions, making the “filler” count. Ito escapes an STF and works the leg, and I see we’re into the “Ito only knows the half-crab” era already. Ito dropkicks her out of the ring and hits the “Bury them under chairs” spot to show even more Rookie Defiance, and Takako gives an appropriate “angry rich girl” look afterwards. Takako eventually snags her armdrag reversal to come back, throwing knees until she hits the Tombstone for two. She chokes away and hits a release Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop), but gets caught by Ito’s ass out of the corner. Running Stomps & Sentons! Takako rolls through a flying cross-body for two, but still sells the ribs like a champ, allowing Ito to fire off an Ass Attack FROM THE TOP- never seen that before. Looks pretty dangerous, which is probably why.

Takako takes a few more Ass Attacks until snagging Ito and dumping her, but Ito’s out of position for a dive, then reverses a backdrop and hits a German out on the floor. FLYING STOMP SUICIDA!!! Big move there, but Takako avoids one in the ring, and Ito’s Rolling Corner Senton misses in an ugly “not planned” way. It’s sold anyways, and a Flying Stomp gets two. Takako reverses a suplex to a DDT, but Ito reverses another Aurora Special with a rollup, then foolishly chases Takako up the ropes, but YOU CAN’T SUPERPLEX TAKAKO- Super Chokeslam gets two. Ito avoids one Backdrop Hold but another gets two. Takako, sick of this shit, lowers her kneepad and scores a HUGE Flying Knee, Ito selling it like an absolute killshot. Yet Takako climbs the ropes and hits ANOTHER one, ensuring the three count (15:04).

So… yup- more “Ito gobbles up all the offense but loses in the end”. Who was her friend on the booking committee? Sakie had to sell her ASS off when she was this level. Though I tease, this was a very good Rookie/Vet match, with Ito throwing out absolutely every big move she had, often earlier than a vet would, then Takako ripping her apart with all HER moves in the last moments- the crowd was with Ito until the end, chanting her name and hoping for the upset. Though they AJW-style “get up after every strike so they can hit you again” thing is unnecessary with Finisher-Tier moves like the Flying Knee. The Quebrada review indicates they had to “re-do the finish”, so I think it’s because she hit the knee to the SIDE of the head instead of the back (it’s called an “Enzuiknee” for that reason), and they’re big on precision… but that’s dumb- that move looked like a killer, with Ito sailing across the ring in a heap.

Rating: ***1/2 (very good “fighting uphill” match, with the usual Ito tendencies and bad habits, but at a much faster pace and with Takako doing her excellent selling to tie it together)

MANAMI TOYOTA, KYOKO INOUE & CHAPARRITA ASARI vs. SUZUKA MINAMI & LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda):
* Hot diggity- now THIS looks like a “Workrate Match”. The three fastest workers in AJW up against three of the best sellers in the company. Manami’s in black, Kyoko’s in pink & yellow, ASARI’s in ’90s hot pink w/ gold trim, Minami’s in a hideous neon leotard, and LCO are in their black & gold variant. Shimoda in particular gets a big ovation for her laundry-list of Titles (she has the AJW Title at this point, too).

LCO’s trio attacks right out of the gate, but Kyoko ducks under a triple-team, leads them on a chase around the corners, then hits a Slingshot Backsplash to all three! But Mita kicks her in the ass when she tries it again, and it’s a three-woman Bitch Pose, Minami flipping off Kyoko’s corner! Oh, AJW, how I love thee. LCO beats her ass and Suzuka adds the butterfly backbreaker, but Kyoko hits a slingshot dropkick on Shimoda and Toyota comes in, gets bitten, then hits a JB Angels armdrag on Suzuka. ASARI tries stuff and has to be helped out by Toyota, but Shimoda just drags her to the corner to force a tag, and LCO tear into Toyota with hair-based offense for a minute or two, just being nuts. Mita tests the limits of human flexibility with her prey, then Suzuka swipes Takako’s “knee them in the face repeatedly” Tombstone, only to whip Toyota to the ropes and eat the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body!

Kyoko wins a brawl and does her fireman’s toss- Dancing Deathlock time! Toyota’s goaded into doing the same dance, and hits her bridging bodylock! Suzuka escapes, but Toyota them makes Shimoda pay for all that hair shit, then yanks away at her nostrils like a psycho- always love these two being nuts with their hatred of each other. Shimoda manages her falling clotheslines on Kyoko, but she eats the Giant Swing trying a dropkick! And Toyota catches her crawling away and adds the Rolling Cradle! Shimoda FINALLY escapes, and Suzuka hits her tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a big missile kick for two. Mita screams bloody murder and hits FOUR Blazing Chops, then LCO dig all their fingers into Toyota’s face and just PULL. Then it’s a Hanging Choke AND they add dropkicks in the corner! Northern Lights Suplex gets two. Toyota rolls out and tags ASARI, who immediately gets murdered- like, they just CRUSH her, immediately stuffing the kid- Kyoko finally grabs her off a whip and Toyota flies in on Mita & Suzuka. Double-dropkicks for all! ASARI hits the Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks on Shimoda! Standing Moonsault gets two! Mita halts Kyoko’s Run-Up Flying Back Elbow, but the heels are shoved outside the ring- Kyoko launches ASARI onto two of them, then TOYOTA onto all three! NOW Kyoko hits the Back Elbow on Shimoda, getting two.

Kyoko goes for the Niagara Driver, but Suzuka nails her from the top, Toyota dropkicks MITA off the top to prevent a double-team, but Suzuka grabs her from another No-Hands Springboard to the outside and whips her to the mat, hitting a tope on Kyoko instead! Assisted Plancha/Dive from LCO (Shimoda fell pretty short, though). Triple Flying Headbutts to Kyoko- two! Kinda messy, but alright! Mita hits the Electric Chair Drop, but Shimoda’s follow-up Splash hits feet! Shimoda nonetheless gets a Tiger Suplex, but Toyota kicks her leg out of the bridge. Kyoko gets her headscissors on Mita, but ends up in DVD position- Manami saves, but Kyoko’s Niagara Driver is stopped by Shimoda! Kyoko’s tossed to the corner and tries to climb, but Mita snags her with a SUPER Electric Chair Drop- close two! DVD & Blazing Chop are foiled, so Kyoko hits a German & Toyota flies in with a Moonsault… but misses! But Suzuka misses her Flying Senton and eats ASARI’s flying cross-body! The faces try a triple-team, but Toyota’s left alone and eats a Kneeling Powerbomb for two. Shimoda tries the Death Lake Driver (Tiger Superplex), but gets knocked off the top, and Kyoko stands on her hair so the Moonsault DEFINITELY can hit this time- that gets two. They set up the ultimate highspot- the Sky Twister Press- but ASARI goes wide again! So they repeat the spot, but she’s again sorta “off”, so Toyota aims for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, Shimoda gets out, Suzuka missile kicks her by mistake, and Toyota finally hits it for the three (22:44).

This was AWESOME. Just a nasty, scrappy, messy spotfest where we had revenge spots galore, the heels being vicious bullies, but the faces scoring a bunch of stuff in return. Toyota gave as good as she got, everyone got their flashy stuff in, and the multi-person nature made up for the lack of selling. The move application was wild and all over the place, with a lot of sloppy positioning, but that kind of adds to things in scraps like this, except for things like the Triple Headbutt and Shimoda’s Dive, which felt a bit mistimed and that stifled the audience’s reactions a bit. And things got worse with the multiple attempts at finishers in the end, with ASARI going wide on her finisher twice and the fans getting teased by the Ocean Cyclone Suplex before she finally hit it. I feel like this was a ****1/2 match that just fell too short at a couple of intricate moments, probably because people were going too fast or too ahead of themselves. Still awesome most of the way through, but held back a bit.

Rating: **** (SO CLOSE to a major classic except for some important stumbles here and there)

BIGGEST BATTLE SEMI-FINAL:
BULL NAKANO vs. REGGIE BENNETT:
* Thicc vs. Thicc, as the kids would say! Okay, I wasn’t expecting them to give something like this away so early, but I guess it’s the Semi-Final of whatever “Biggest Battle” is. Reggie has been around for several months now, largely in tags, so going up against the former Ace is a rarity. Reggie’s in her orange shirt but now has dark blue Daisy Dukes on, while Bull’s finally started wearing her “fire shirt” over the black leotard.

They do Hoss Spots to start, no-selling clubby forearms and throwing each other around. Bull hits a crab, then a Sharpshooter, putting a lot of effort into hefting Reggie over, but she makes the ropes and actually rams Bull chest-first and sends her sliding across the mat! Slam & splash get two, and she does a weird arm thing and stays on it. She seriously does Shake, Rattle & Roll to a silent audience (Japan doesn’t seem to understand neckbreakers in wrestling, from what I’ve seen), but Bull kicks out at two and tosses her around outside the ring. NUNCHUCK TIME! Reggie immediately comes back after two shots and avalanches her, and a spinning slam gets two.

She actually goes for her Argentine Backbreaker, spinning Bull all the way up, but the thiccness is just too much and Bull drops in what was probably a botch but just looks like another slam- they managed to adjust safely. Bull hits a lariat and Reggie impresses by only moving back slightly, so Bull just TRUCKS her with another. And another, but Reggie ducks under a fourth and hits a javelin-like dropkick to Bull’s hips- Second-Rope Splash gets two! Bad Powerbomb gets two- looked like Bull was thinking it was a piledriver and had to swing her way up. Bull shoves Reggie off the corner and hits a dive. Guillotine Legdrop… gets two! Big “ooh” for that one. But Reggie’s done- Bull goes up again, and BOOM- Somersault Double-Legdrop (the MDK finisher) gets three (9:43).

Fine Hoss Match, though they were working extremely short by joshi standards and the result didn’t make Reggie look super-great as a result. Reggie has some sloppy, but devastating-looking offense, but Bull’s mass didn’t really make her moves look the best. She at least survived the Guillotine Legdrop, though.

Rating: **1/2 (perfectly fine, short match by joshi standards)

COMBAT FIGHTING (K.O. or Give Up):
AJA KONG & TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & SAKIE HASEGAWA:
* Interesting-looking bout, as each side has a Kick Demon, but the Aja/Sakie team is split up. Aja recently crushed Hotta (and her poor hand) in a ****3/4 WWWA Title match, so there might be some drama there. Aja’s in red & gold and Yamada’s in white & silver, while Hotta’s in black & red and Sakie’s in her neon rainbow singlet. And OH MY GOD IT’S THE FIRST TIME WE HEAR “JUNGLE EMPEROR”! I haven’t seen it in this watchthrough yet! “God made the Devil… just for fun! But when he wanted the real thing, he made AJA KONG!”

Sakie gets cute with Yamada to start, so Yamada just MURDERS her with a pair of neck-shattering backdrop drivers straight away. She controls with a front facelock, then Yamada/Hotta is largely a tease. Aja with the machine-gun slaps and a choke on Hotta, who starts taunting at AJA’s kicks and gets slapped around and bludgeoned with feet till she’s down. Aja hits a piledriver, but Hotta enzuigiris Yamada and escapes. Sakie does very “pro wrestling” stuff that feels like a deliberate contrast to this match style- she doesn’t do well, but Aja gets kicked RIGHT in the face by Hotta to stop a crab, and then Yamada decides to leave bootprints on every square inch of Hotta’s face. A series of weardown holds slows us down again as we’re clearly going long. Avalanche in the corner from Aja and she bloodies Hotta’s lip with kicks, getting “8”. Yamada adds a backdrop, but Hotta escapes and Sakie hits a Savate Kick and a desperation sleeper, then a butterfly suplex and a boot to the head, stopping after each one to re-apply the sleeper- I’m digging her “I only really know one hold for this and will keep using it” thing, actually. Hotta keeps up that move and throws kicks, too, Yamada really selling the brutality.

Yamada finally scores a pair of enzuigiris on Sakie and escapes, and Aja hits a Dangerous Backdrop on her subordinate. Another one and a German right on the neck (jesus, no wonder Sakie eventually retired from neck injuries) interspersed by sleepers, but Hotta stuns her by running in and kicking her. Sakie’s Savate Kick gets caught and she sells that with desperation, but Hotta & Yamada just have this interesting scrap where they keep catching each other’s shots. Hotta facecrushers both opponents and hits a Tiger Driver on Yamada, then aims for a Pyramid Driver (cross-armed Ligerbomb), but they both kick each other down simultaneously. Savate Kick misses, but Aja’s URAKEN misses and Sakie slaps the champ down for the biggest pop of the match! Savate Kick Spam! She goes for a pin, then is “oh shit, right” and sleepers Aja, hitting an illegal choke and releasing at “4”. Uranage reversed to Uraken to Uranage, but Aja DDTs her and repays that sleeper. A dying Sakie barely slumps into the ropes, then gets put up top- Yamada saves her but she flies right into a kick to the chest. Backdrop! Another! Sakie’s up at “9”, and reverses another to Savate Kick Spam, staggering around the ring. Hotta’s in and avoids an Uraken with a back elbow, and Aja sells a casual-looking kick to a “9” count. Hotta runs straight into a Mountain Bomb and Sakie runs in to help, but Aja reverses a double-team to an Uraken! Hotta staggers into the corner at “9” and the ref allows it, but Aja blasts her with another, then slaps on a sleeper and he calls the match at (27:51). Wow, I was expecting Sakie or Yamada to take the fall here.

Interesting sort of match, as it seems like it’d support the brutal style used by Aja & Hotta, but was mostly slow and steady, very “pro-wrestling” with lighter kicks that weren’t nearly as stiff as you’d be expecting, probably because they were going so long. But then Hotta got bloodied anyways and they kept up on her, but SAKIE of all people was the one getting the “push” in this match, where she hanged with the champ and hit all sorts of cool “desperate rookie” stuff to make her look like she was giving her all, even though she didn’t have enough “oomph” to bring down Aja. Little stuff like that goes a long way to make a future superstar, and it’s great to see. The match itself was a bit full of “let’s hit a sleeper” or “leghold-fu” to kill time, but I kind of got the impression this was more about a story and a push than star ratings.

Rating: ***1/2 (slow and steady and with a lot of long holds or time-killing, and probably too much kick-trading, but a good story with some good comebacks)

Match Results:
Kumiko Maekawa vs. Rie Tamada: *
Tomoko Watanabe vs. Chikako Shiratori: **
Takako Inoue vs. Kaoru Ito: ***1/2
Manami/Kyoko/ASARI vs. Minami/LCO: ****
Bull Nakano vs. Reggie Bennett: **1/2
Aja/Yamada vs. Hotta/Sakie: ***1/2

All in all, a very good night of wrestling, albeit with a lot of matches that felt like they’d be better with a few flaws sorted out. But it’s hard to hate ***1/2 (twice) and ****. And like I said, today was about elevation first and foremost. Takako made Kaoru Ito look good, ASARI got to fight some elites, Reggie faced the Guillotine Legdrop and lived (though she still lost in under ten minutes), and Sakie got some heat on top wrestlers.