Joshi Spotlight: AJW May Storm ’94

* From Korakuen Hall is the next big AJW show, with a lot of really, REALLY long matches, possibly to fill time and “justify” the ticket prices, and also to put over the resiliency of the athletes, I think. This show seems to have a theme of “rookie showcasing”, as the opener is massively long and between two of their smallest young stars, and the next two feature Kumiko & Sakie, a rookie and up & comer respectively, being murdered by their elders. This Korakuen crowd is hot as FUCK and stays that way all night long, giving even the rookies a huge ovation for big moves. As usual, you have to track through one guy’s YouTube channel to find these multi-part matches.

“TL;DR: Why Should I Care?”: The show ends with two fantastic matches, and nearly every bout is a testament to either joshi’s insane cardio or their invincible spinal cords. Also, a crowd that’s into EVERYTHING. Also, proof joshi invents everything with wrestling’s first-ever One-Winged Angel. By accident, but it counts!

* Tamada beat ASARI on the last show, so this is a rematch, and the finals to some kind of tournament. ASARI’s in the neon yellow with silver puffy bits, and Tamada’s in black & orange.

Tamada starts off working the arm, launching ASARI all over the ring, but ASARI uses some basic submissions until Tamada puts on some SICK Boston Crabs, just folding the kid into a sphere at points. The crowd reacts big for those, and a HUGE running dropkick from Rie. Ten minutes in, ASARI finally gets another comeback with dropkicks out the wazoo, but she soon gets folded up again. More dropkicks. ASARI hits her Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks for two… and dropkicks. Tamada comes back with… dropkicks. They each do more until the bell rings at (20:00) as the audience applauds. But this match MUST continue! They fight for pins and do more dropkicks, trading off repeatedly, but another (5:00) goes by and the bell rings again. The judges off to the side inform the ref (Bat Yoshinaga) that Tamada is the winner, I guess because there has to be one!

I swear to god there were a hundred dropkicks in this match. Holy shit that was insane. Rie’s submissions work is actually pretty tight and doesn’t come off as lazy as much of AJW’s stretching does, but HOLY SHIT this was all dropkicks because they lacked other stuff, and it was awfully same-y. Though I have to say the crowd enjoyed it- they pop big for fast dropkicks in Korakuen, and they were applauding the girls’ longevity in there. And really, hitting THAT MANY DROPKICKS is physically insane, especially in a match this long. Part of impressing people in Japan is going long, it seems; as much as the match reviewer in me wants to dock points for “going too long”, stuff like this plays a big part in putting people over and making them “legit”.

Rating: * (A testament to their cardio and recovery skills with an insane number of back bumps and dropkicks. But OH MY GOD I never wanna watch that again)

* Suzuka & Tomoko team up again, but this time they’re up against the former Ace and… a green-ass rookie. Maekawa is still brand-new at this point! I’d imagine she’s taking the fall here, but you never know when Bull’s involved. Tomoko’s in green & blue, Minami’s in red & black again, Bull’s in the red fire-shirt, and Kumiko’s in blue & white, looking jobbery as hell.

Fun start, as Kumiko’s misses the Rookie Cross-Body, so Bull just executes Tomoko, who then dekes them out and Minami flies off the top onto them. They toss ’em around a bit, then play “Kill The Rookie” for a while, Kumiko doing a good job of desperately crawling for the ropes and trying to find any way out of a figure-four. She gets desperate and pulls the hair, so Minami just VICIOUSLY slaps her, drawing a big “ooh” from the crowd. Yeah you SHOW that rookie she’s slime! Tomoko hits a pair of slingshot moves but Kumiko FINALLY tags out, and Bull rips Tomoko’s head off with a lariat before she throws some clumsy shots and escapes, but Bull suplexes BOTH opponents in one of her trademark bits.

Kumiko tries again, but Minami just no-sells a dropkick and they’re on her again- Tomoko’s judo flips get two. Bull comes in with the nunchucks, but Tomoko hits a Rana with Minami’s help. Bull lariats both and hits a powerbomb for two, but Minami knocks her off the top rope and hits a dive onto her & Kumiko. Bull gets her knees up on a splash, but both nail cross-bodies on her for two. Bull hits a powerbomb on Minami, stops to lariat Tomoko, then has Kumiko run interference so she can hit the Guillotine Legdrop for the three (14:37). Yup- the former Ace can bridge the gap even when her partner’s green.

More or less a “kill the rookie for ten minutes, then Bull mops up” kind of a match, which is pretty unique. Puts over Kumiko’s toughness even though her entire offense was basically rollups, then gives Bull the win. Kind of makes Minami look a bit weak to be beaten so handily with little else done to her, though.

Rating: ** (some good moves, but mostly just effortlessly beating on a rookie and tossing her around. Bull did good stuff as always, but was used sparingly)

* Aja teamed up with Sakie for much of last year (like in the Tag League), but now Sakie’s gotta up up against the Ace, who as we’ve seen from the “bloody hand” match against Hotta earlier in the year… is a merciless sick fuck in a lot of solo matches. She even demolished Akira Hokuto, whom she respected deeply- though at least she had the decency to feel guilty over it. Sakie’s in the rainbow singlet, and looks like she’s jogging towards her execution- Aja’s in blue & white.

Sakie wisely jumps Aja when she steps onto the apron, hitting a bulldog from their and a butterfly suplex on the floor. She even jumps her when the bell finally sounds and Aja enters the ring, but Aja soon machine-gun slaps her and smashes her into the turnbuckles from a running start over and over, then piledrives her on the bare arena floor. Sakie gets stretched out a bit, but hits Aja’s taped-up shoulder to come back. Aja hauls her up out of a cross-armbreaker attempt, but Sakie just SLAPS HER in a moment of sheer suicide, so Aja squashes her into the corner and starts her methodical wear-down stuff. Aja works the knee and does an STF as I note something a friend pointed out- Aja puts ALL her weight on people in even simple stuff like this, making it look excruciating. Sakie stands up and tries chops, but Aja no-sells and levels her with a single one, then hits the “Hasegawaaaaaaaaaa!” Avalanche. Piledrivers ahoy!

Sakie desperately tries dropkicks to keep the monster down, but Aja ain’t having it and hits some STIFF kicks to the chin and chest. She tries another piledriver, but Sakie rolls out and hits the Rolling Savate Kick, dropping Aja! Uranage is easily stuffed, however, and Aja reverses another kick and climbs- Sakie catches her up there, and tries a Superduperplex, but Aja dumps her off and both take bumps in an odd bit (was that a screw-up?), and a vicious second-rope splash gets two- big ovation for that kickout. Aja tries the Super Mountain Bomb, but we get the standard Sunset Powerbomb Reversal, but Sakie over-rolls her and can’t get a count. Savate Kick Spam gets two. Aja whips her, but Sakie hits another one for two, then the Uranage is stuffed again and Aja mountain bombs her. Sakie keeps making mini-comebacks, so Aja gets sick of this shit, lights her up with a gigaton slap, and hits a hugs Backdrop Driver… for two! Aja ducks a millionth Savate Kick… but misses the Uraken and swings right into the Uranage! FINALLY Sakie gets that! Finding her moment, she hammers out two more, getting two. Aja resists a fourth with a big chokeslam, Sakie struggling to get out after two. And Aja’s finally had enough- huge Uraken sends Sakie flopping to the mat, and a Backdrop Driver (with a knee-on-the-chest pin) makes it emphatic at (15:59).

A horrifically one-sided brawl, and that’s what it was meant to be- the Ace taking apart the up & comer to test her resolve and put over her toughness, like in the last two matches. Sakie took some VICIOUS shots to the face and chest, and looked completely out of her league, which made the bits where Aja started to sell mean a lot more. Sakie finally landing her Savate Kicks and ESPECIALLY the Uranages were great moments, and Aja sold the moment perfectly, acting as if those landings were killing her bum shoulder and just MAYBE could get the pin. But Aja’s a professional heartbreaker at this point, eventually getting the momentum and taking the kid seriously, which means it’s time for a half-dozen killshots and the pin.

Rating: ***3/4 (I’m a sucker for good Big/Little one-sided match- a little too long before they hit the “meat”, but you needed that methodical stuff to set it up first)

* LCO defend their recently-won JWP & UWA Tag Titles against a former UWA Tag Champ (Hotta) and her new partner, Kaoru Ito. Ito’s in green & blue Peter Pan gear, Hotta’s in red & black, and LCO are in black & gold again.

LCO try their Assisted Dive move 10 seconds in, but they only hit the ring girls, so Ito dives onto both and buries them under chairs. Hotta kicking Mita’s hand off the ropes (to break a resthold) actually draws a huge reaction from Korakuen. Hotta teases the fans and milks the Assisted Chest Kick as long as humanly possible, which is great. Shimoda keeps cheating during the restholds, drawing great heat, and Ito gets over by pulling the hair and teasing the ref by just switching hands. Mita FINALLY hits a Blazing Chop to escape and Shimoda tears Ito apart- LCO does Double Bitch Poses on her and yank her around by the hair. Mita accidentally invents the ONE-WINGED ANGEL by tripping while Ito’s trying to do a victory roll- amazingly, she’s like “Hey, that counts as a move- why not?” and goes for the pin, getting two. Ito finally USES THE ASS to come back, and Hotta boots Shimoda around, Shimoda doing her great “spread-eagle down to the mat” selling. There’s an outside brawl that sees Ito hit her stomp off the bleachers onto Shimoda, and that’s great, but Mita hits Blazing Chops and vicious hair tosses. Shimoda adds falling clotheslines from all over.

Shimoda lands badly on her flying headscissors so they sell that as a move, but Mita interferes with a Super Electric Chair Drop on Ito, and the Tiger Suplex gets two- Hotta kicks Shimoda’s leg out of the bridge. Flying Blazing Chop & missile dropkick gets two. Assisted Splash/Dive! Electric Chair/Flying Splash! But the Splash MISSES and Ito spams running stomps- Flying Stomp misses but she hits the corner senton and a Flying Stomp to the OUTSIDE on Mita! Flying Stomp back in gets two on Shimoda- close one! Hotta tries to finish but Shimoda keeps rolling out and falling clotheslines BOTH opponents like a superhero! Hotta kick-deflects the Blazing Chop from Mita, but Shimoda clotheslines her out of the Tiger Driver. Another finisher-reversing sequence sees her finally hit it for two- Shimoda saves. Straightjacket Superplex is stopped but Mita flies right into kick- Pyramid Driver fails so she settles for a backdrop for two. Ito hits feet but reverses the DVD for two- she reverses more stuff to a German for the same. Hotta back elbows her by mistake, but she again reverses a DVD. Another German gets two, but she charges like an idiot and gets DVD’d for two- Hotta saves! But that’s that- Shimoda deals with Hotta outside, leaving a dead Ito to be positively murdered by the Death Valley Driver at (26:44).

Mita, scoring the pin, has the HUGEST smile on her face when she realizes she’s won, hair completely messed up and leaving only one eye peeking out. Then Shimoda apparently talks some AMAZING smack on JWP’s President when he awards them the Tag Titles

This started ultra-slow but got GREAT, with Mita taking a shitload of restholds, then Ito, but ultimately they start throwing crazy stuff and doing unexpected reversals. LCO’s tandem double-teams got dodged by Ito, there were three “we got it the second try” spots, and two “it doesn’t work the second time” spots, and Shimoda made one hell of a comeback against crazy odds in there. Ito’s Flying Stomps make for some great highspots, and then LCO took the advantage when the late-game started, as their double-teams were more on point and they could even deal with Hotta, leaving the junior Ito vulnerable. Mita going for three DVD attempts, hitting the “reversal DVD” that never pins anyone, and the emphatic “Second DVD that always works”… that’s some good, classic stuff.

Rating: ****1/4 (good use of filler with nasty stretching for 10+ minutes, then escalating crazy shit until LCO just tears into them too much and gets the win)

* A very weird one, as everyone here would normally be paired up with the other person in 1994- the Tag Champs are split up again here! Double Inoue aren’t a “thing” yet, but they soon will be, and they’re fighting each other, too. Toyota’s in black, Kyoko’s in some new kind of neon paint-splatter variation of her tassled gear, Yamada’s in white & silver, and Takako’s in white & grey.

Kyoko & Yamada get into a strike war immediately, so Kyoko & Toyota hit two double-teams, haul their opponents to one side of the floor, and Toyota hits the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body onto both of them. Oh, Joshi. Toyota does the JB Angels armdrag but gets lit up with kicks and the running face kick- she tries another No-Hands move on Takako, but slips and falls right back, so Takako just hauls her upside-down and knees her in the face like six times before landing her tombstone. Takako was PROBABLY supposed to just reverse that, but hey- nice improv (especially Manami grabbing the leg like that was to blame for the slip). The Idols talk some shit to each other, and Yamada hits the snap suplex and stiff kicks. The dropkick reversal sees Kyoko take on Takako- Takako hits the armdrag, but Kyoko does her “lead them around the ring and let her partner dive onto them” spot, and it’s a Double Dancing Deathlock! Always love Toyota getting roped into those- she’s such a dork. Kyoko does her flashy submissions while Takako cries like a baby, and Toyota heels it up with hairtosses and nose-ripping, so Takako hits a snap DDT and does the same to her. Man, I wasn’t expecting this to get so nasty, but I forgot- every time Takako meets another pretty girl, she acts like a mirror just told her that girl was fairer than she.

Takako whips Manami to the ropes, but boom- Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body, actually STANDING on the top rope just to prove she can. Just nuts. Takako catches Kyoko with the Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop), but Kyoko Slingshot Backsplashes onto her & Yamada. Yamada halts her Run-Up Elbow & Takako hits ANOTHER Special for two. Kyoko just makes her own comeback with a lariat and hits that Flying Elbow for two, going SAILING across the ring. Takako hits a Chokeslam out of a Niagara Driver attempt, and Yamada hits Enzuigiri Spam. They screw up a pop-up superplex, Yamada completing the bump off of nothing, so Kyoko just does a Northern Lights Superduperplex for an insane bump- two! Kyoko & Yamada reverse stuff, so Toyota comes in with a German. Kyoko hits that submission that won her the All-Pacific Title from Yamada, but Takako breaks it up. Kyoko aims for another Niagara Driver, but now Takako hits her FLYING KNEE to the back of her head, and a backdrop driver gets two- Toyota saves.

They fight over a superplex, so Yamada just hits an enzuigiri up there and falls down. Takako hits an Aurora Special on the floor, leading to another backdrop getting two. Kyoko hits a slingshot dropkick to come back, but a slow Manami Roll gets Toyota powerbombed. Takako eats the full move, however, and then a Rolling Cradle gets two. Kyoko does the Giant Swing, but Manami misses the Moonsault. Manami reverses a double-team attempt with a German for two. Yamada stops another Moonsault, and a Backdrop Hold gets two. Reversal sequence sees Manami Straightjacket Suplex Yamada for two, then FINALLY land that Moonsault for two. Yamada reverses the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex with a German for two, but climbs and gets taken off- Takako catches Toyota with a HUGE Super Chokeslam, Manami taking an insane bump off of that! Flying Enzuigiri- Kyoko saves! Toyota reverses the Reverse Gory Bomb for two, but Yamada scores a big enzuigiri and actually manages to hit it, falling down first but forcing Manami back up and completing the move for a neck bump for the three (20:29)!

Very typical match starring these four, as they cram so much shit into 20 minutes that I need three paragraphs instead of two. More or less a spotfest with minimal selling, with every comeback being a running or jumping move, or some kind of MDK. Manami’s bumping was off the chain here, taking “fold up onto her neck” bumps at least twice, including for the finish, and Yamada gets a big win to keep her a bit relevant.

Rating: **** (A few blown spots here and there hold it back a tad, but it’s GREAT for an “all spots” match)

Match Results:
Rie Tamada vs. Chaparrita ASARI: *
Bull/Kumiko vs. Minami/Tomoko: **
Aja Kong vs. Sakie Hasegawa: ***3/4
LCO vs. Hotta/Ito: ****1/4
Manami/Kyoko vs. Yamada/Takako: ****

-So despite them elevating some rookies up a notch with EXTREMELY long matches, we also get a very good pair of final matches, making this show another thumbs-up. LCO gains more credibility (albeit by focusing on the weaker partner), Yamada maintains some cred, Bull helps a rookie beat two elders, and Sakie tries hard but comes up short against the Ace. The only big downer is a 25-minute match between rookies, but the crowd straight-up loved that one, so who knows?